Have you seen these pictures yet?
Here, take a look.
This first image is me around age nineteen. I was always heavy throughout childhood. That’s why the childhood obesity epidemic is so close to my heart.
Not sure exactly how much I weighed here. Some of the specifics elude me now and I wasn’t hanging out with scales very much at the time.
I peaked somewhere around 19-22 years old. Maybe all of the above. When you’re at that point in your health and well being, you’re not exactly making benchmarks to review against later. Every so often I would glimpse the bathroom scale, mostly to see which level or degree I should hate myself today. Disappointment at the “E” for error. Too heavy to measure. Doing everything I could to be invisible. Hiding in plain sight.
It’s my fat picture. My before picture. Although I hate those phrases and I haven’t reached “after” yet, my peak was somewhere over 110-pounds ago. A photo taken when my body was at it’s biggest.
I was living in a heavy, unhealthy body. Eventually the scale showed me 312-pounds, so I know I weighed more than that. Let’s call it 315, although I think that estimation is conservative. I was killing myself. I had missed 6 months of my menstrual cycle. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and was likely pre-diabetic. All this in my early 20s.
Through a series of small, incremental lifestyle changes, and jumpstarted by joining Weight Watchers in 2003, I slowly shed that suit and reclaimed my life.
By 27 I had gotten down to 229 and then back up 245 midway through my 30th year. That’s around when I started GirlEatsBike, and these pictures in front of the red wall were taken.
Today, at 36, I weigh 197-pounds and am in the best physical and emotional shape of my life. But it took so long to get here, and the journey is not over. Infact, if you have been fighting chronic obesity, body-image issues and the depression caused as a result – there is never an end to that journey. Some of us know that it will be a life-long process. We who have been in that dark place know that we will never arrive at a finish line – it will always be a part of us that we reconcile.
This will be a lifelong endeavor, but by virtue of pushing, I am making my life longer and oh-so-much more enjoyable as a result. I’ll take it. I will absolutely take it.
I’m still heavy, but I’m strong, and you know what I love? Living.
And to me, going on a bike ride feels like living.
Somewhere just under my peak weight, I remember seeing a travel channel show about bike touring Tuscany and it reminded me of a time my father’s friend, Chris, rode his bicycle over to our house. He was probably a good 30 miles from his home. I thought that was rad.
And I remember, fondly, my bike from that time. A ten-speed lavender something or other with curly drop handlebars. I remember my neighbor – a woman who sometimes picked at me a little because of my heft and laziness. We were riding bikes one sunny day, and she was winded. I was quite strong. I remember clearly it was the first time in my life when I felt like I could be both the size I was and strong at the same time.
I remembered this inspiration and truth when I bought my first undersized Schwinn mountain bike from Target in 2008, and then a proper-sized Specialized Crosstrail the following year.
Now I’m ready to upgrade to a bike better suited for touring. Heaven knows I’m not the lightest or fastest, but sure I am strong and determined – and I’ll take that combo any day of the week.
I could hate my body – trust me, I’ve spent years doing it – but this bag of bones and fat and muscle and guts and fight has brought me back from the brink of hell. I’d rather love my body instead. It does remarkable things when I treat it properly.
I want to show you these pictures so you will understand that you can overcome and move through anything you want.
It does not happen at once, and I think that is the biggest challenge for us to remember as we take the first shaky steps on any journey of self-improvement. Whether it’s quitting smoking, losing weight or finding fitness. There is a disconnect between the work and effort we do today and the manifestation of the outcome we desire. That’s the hardest part. It takes energy NOW. It takes dedication NOW. But we don’t see the fruit of that labor for some time.
None of this is to shame people living in bigger bodies. I’ll always be there in my mind. (Thanks for keepin’ me grounded, body dysmorphia?) It’s about getting real about where we are, where we’d rather be, and the effort and hard-harvested energy required to move in that direction.
It’s one million incremental baby steps. Small changes add up to big results. I’m not the only proof of that. Evidence is everywhere. But you cannot compare where you are starting today to where anyone else is on their journey – myself included.
This has been 15 years of inch-by-inch gains and setbacks, but it all starts with a single step.
You have to have the courage to take one single step.
Please share this with someone who you think might need it.