My name is Noel and I am originally from Florida. I moved to Northern Virginia after finishing my undergrad degree and am now working on my Masters full time while working as a software developer, however my most important job is being a mother to my 18 month old daughter, Lillian. Fitness and healthy living are an essential part of my life, but under my slender physique, still beats the heart of a fat girl who can always go for some ice cream.
I have really never liked khakis. I went to a rather conservative high school where khakis and popped collard Polos were the norm. However, I, being the “rebel” that I was felt it necessary to wear the exact opposite (boots, black jeans, and oversized band shirts), in order to establish my “individuality.”
I was not forced to buy khakis until I was 19. I remember stepping into the specialty store I shopped in at the time and feeling defeated before I even walked through the door. This new job that I had just landed was going to steal my individuality by forcing me to wear beige pants. I begrudgingly grabbed a pair of the soul crushing, establishment loving, slacks and headed for the dressing room.
I remember squeezing them on and looking at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t even button them up. I looked like a sausage whose casing was far too small. This simply couldn’t be right, I remember thinking. This is the size I was the last time I bought pants, right? I tried to remember back to the last time I had purchased pants and couldn’t even remember. I was not a real fan of shopping for clothes. I always felt that it was really just a waste of time anyway.
I put my clothes back on and left the dressing room, bewildered. How could this be? Maybe they were mislabeled? Maybe I grabbed the wrong size? I looked down at the tag and sure enough it was the size I thought it was, but was I still that size? Apparently not.
A very sweet shop attendant saw the look of confusion on my face and offered to help me find the size I needed. She handed me the replacement pair and I looked at her with tears in my eyes. “It’s OK, honey,” she immediately said sensing my on coming melt down, “the number really doesn’t matter. How they fit does.” I remember nodding slowly and heading back to the dressing room. Defeat was palpable as I slide on the larger size.
They fit. I should have been happy. I should have taken a moment and smiled and sighed with relief, but I didn’t. Instead, I cried. I cried as I started at this stranger in the mirror, this girl that had to wear these stupid pants. In that moment, I realized that all of the baggy shirts and dark jeans were not to prove my individuality, but to hide myself from the world. I sobbed for what seemed like hours, until I took off what would become my first pair of khakis, size 22.
Although I did not realize it at the time, this became one of the defining moments of my life. That evening, I went home and told my mother that I could no longer bear being fat and that it was time to change my life. I began attending Weight Watchers meetings religiously and working out 3 to 4 times a week. I also began running, a passion that would become a lifelong love.
Within 8 months, I had lost over 90 pounds and was wearing a loose fitting size 14 jean. It changed my life. I was happy to shop and happy to be seen. I wanted to enjoy this world that I had been missing out on. I was on cloud nine every day and felt better and better with each pound I lost.
Then, at a routine eye exam, my ophthalmologist discovered a tear in my retina. Upon closer inspection, he found that my retina had been over 90% severed from my eye. I could go blind in a matter of weeks, if I did not have immediate emergency surgery. I was scared and bewildered as I rushed to the retinal surgeon’s office.
The procedure was done quickly, with little pain, but I was out of commission for weeks. At my follow up appointment, the surgeon said the words that were almost more frightening than the possibility of losing my sight. “You won’t be able to exercise for awhile,” he said. I remember asking how long that was. A week or two, right? I couldn’t lose this feeling, this awesome self worth I had found. He wouldn’t do that to me, would he? I remember him smiling and shaking his head, “No, more like a few years.”
I sat there, flabbergasted. He continued to talk about how my eyes would not be able to handle the constant jarring of running and most aerobic exercise, but that perhaps with time, they would heal that I would be able to work out again, but it was too soon to tell. The words were of little comfort to me. I felt defeated. I could see myself in that dressing room mirror, those khakis laughing at me.
Over the next year, I tried to keep up my diet and healthy living routine, but without the exercise, it felt worthless. I slowly began to put weight back on and in a matter of months, I had gained 20 pounds. Within 5 years, I had gained almost 60 pounds.
I had slipped back into so many of my old habits. I stopped recording what I ate and how much I ate. I started “grazing” out of boredom and found myself on the couch watching TV more than anything else while I was home. I was happy, yes, but I was also depressed, every time I looked in the mirror. In many ways, it was so much harder now, since I had seen what I could be. The former, healthier me, shook her head every time I looked at my fatter, unhealthy self.
At my next routine eye exam, a marvelous thing happened. I was given the opportunity to have my retinas photographed, to see how they had progressed since the surgery. I had hope, once again. I remember anxiously awaiting the results as the doctor analyzed my scar riddled tissue. “Your eyes look great, “he said with a smile. “You should be all set to do all the things you were doing before the surgery.”
I was ecstatic! I could finally get back to that amazing woman that I was becoming before. What an amazing opportunity. I remember being full of excitement and dedication, initially, but that feeling soon faded. The weight did not come off nearly as fast as it had (I was much older at this point). I had many weeks when I would weigh in at my new Weight Watchers meeting and wonder why I simply couldn’t lose more weight and faster.
I found myself wondering if I was destined to be fat. I wondered if this was just who I would be. Then, while going through a box of old photographs, I found a picture of myself from when I was thinner. I could see the joy in my eyes and the confidence in my smile. It reminded me that I am not destined to be anything other than what I want to be.
I attacked my weight loss goals with a new found zeal. I began running again and started to realize that feeling good had much less to do with my weight or pants size than with my ability to be healthy and focused on my goals. Weight loss became about more than just looking good, it became a journey of feeling good and treating myself with respect. I finally started to see that all of the junk food and inertia was a product of me not feeling like I really deserved to be truly happy with myself.
I had finally done it. I was a full 100 pounds less than I had been when I started my weight loss journey and I couldn’t have been happier. I shopped all the time and felt the need to try on more daring and exciting outfits with each visit. I revealed in my size 8 pants and Medium shirts. I couldn’t believe the woman that I saw in the mirror each day was really me.
Then, in the midst of my new found zest for thin, I found out I was pregnant. Although, I was very happy to be expecting, the idea of having to gain weight, on purpose, scared me to death. I would have nightmares about me looking pregnant even years after the baby was born. I would wake up at night shaking. The fear of being that person again was so real and palpable; I wondered exactly how I would be able to quell it.
My daughter was born in January of 2011 and at the time of her birth; I weighed nearly 240 pounds, a total of 80 pounds heavier than I had been when she was conceived. I remember hoping that I would just lose all the weight as she was born. It was all just water weight, right? Sadly, as we headed home four days later, I had only dropped a mere 15 pounds.
I was determined to become the woman I was. I gave myself a year, not to get back to the weight I was necessarily, but back to feeling like I did. It was a new kind of goal for me and one that I have adopted ever since.
I am now healthier, happier, and in better shape than I have ever been. Next month, I will turn 30 and I will do it wearing my pre-mommy “skinny” jeans. I exercise six days a week and still run as much as I can. I do my best to eat well and take care of myself, but I also give myself the opportunity to eat the foods I love. Moderation has become my key to maintaining.
Now, I look back on that day in the dressing room and smile. That girl who was so scared of living her life and being better has no become a woman that I am proud to be. I hope that I can pass on the lessons I have learned to my daughter, in the hopes that she will never have to live attaching her self-worth to a number on a scale or sown into a pair of khakis.