Before we get started, I want you to know that when I am talk about health I am never talking about size. For some people there exists a relationship between size and health, but many people are healthy independent of size. This is important to keep in mind, as there is a great deal of sized-based discrimination in the world.
Now then, let's go back to the beginning. When I was 20, I put on weight. A lot of weight, really fast. A few things piled up all at once to cause this. I had reconstructive surgery on my right shoulder, which caused my activity level to plummet from reasonably active to not at all active. It took about six months after surgery to learn to lift my arm over my head again, and I used it as an excuse to do not much of anything. I was living in Victoria, BC, at the time, studying creative writing at UVic. I lived in a big student house, skipped classes to play Nintendo, and phoned the convenience store down the street to make sure they had what I wanted before I could be bothered to walk there to get it. I was lazy. I definitely didn’t understand nutrition; a big bag of licorice didn’t contain any fat, so I could eat the whole thing, right? I practically lived on peanut butter M&M’s and Doritos in those days, and frequently made meals of plain white rice. That girl turned into a nutritionist?!
I got away with living like this for a little while. Then, suddenly, my clothes didn’t fit anymore. I remember one night getting dressed to go out to a nightclub with my roommates and going through half of my wardrobe before piecing together an awkward outfit. And I remember a particularly humiliating moment not long after when, as I was paying for some candy, my then boyfriend literally took the candy out of my hand at the cash register, picked up my money, and marched me out of the store in front of a long line of customers. Though my parents were never anything but graceful about my weight gain, I do remember the shock when I returned home after several months away and was, well, big.
How big? Honestly, I don’t know. It would be nearly four years from then before I stepped on a scale, and by the time I worked up the nerve I had already lost some of the weight. What I do know is that when I did finally step on the scale and then entered my height and weight into a BMI calculator I was overweight (BMI is a flawed tool, we’ll be discussing it more later). I also know that from what I believe my biggest weight was to what my current weight is, I reduced my body weight by nearly 20%.
I don’t remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to change. I do remember plugging my height and weight into a calculator on the Weight Watchers website and being incensed at the amount of weight they suggested I should lose. Then I told that number to a co-worker who just kind of shrugged.
My first attempt at weight loss began then. I photocopied the Weight Watchers Points booklet and began keeping track of what I ate in a journal. I lost about 10 lbs, felt incredible, and promptly went back to my old ways and put the weight right back on. Some time later I decided to have another go at it, and mentioned it to a friend who told me she had joined Weight Watchers online. Going to meetings had never appealed to me, but the online program gave me much more cohesive tools to track my diet and exercise than going at it on my own did, and I became a part of a supportive online community. After six months of seriously working at it I lost 25 lbs and reached my goal weight.
Around that time I started dating this cute triathlete I had had my eye on at the pool. We moved in together after around half a year, and started cooking and eating together. I’d find myself sitting down to dinner with a plate of food the same size as this guy who worked out for 4 hours a day. Yep, the weight came back. Not all of it, but enough of it that I didn’t feel as good anymore.
So I got back to journaling, and the third time was a charm. I learned portion control. I learned that I could fill up on healthy foods and feel great, or I could blow my points on junk and still feel hungry. I got back down to my goal weight once more, and then started running. I became fitter and leaner still when I started running, something I had only viewed as an awful sort of punishment when I was bigger, but suddenly was enjoying. I loved how I went from feeling lethargic and slow to energetic and strong. That was about eight years ago, and while my weight naturally fluctuates a bit, I’ve maintained it ever since.
I think the total amount of weight I lost is somewhere around 40lbs, but really, I can’t be sure, and really it doesn’t matter. To Live Well isn’t about a number or a size, it’s about being healthy and feeling good. To Live Well is a journey, this is mine.
For a while now I’ve wanted to talk about nutrition as well as other aspects of health and wellness in ways not necessarily attached to recipes. I’m really excited about this series, Live Well. I'll be posting in this category about twice a month and will be including some guest posts from some really fabulous people.
I am really interested in reading your thesis! I believe artificial sweeteners are deceiving to the public and I would love to read some science backed information about it. Thank you!! Georgina
Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand
Katie, thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to so many elements of your post. My hubby spends lots of time at the gym and so the volume of food prepared tends to be larger than the average amount! Consequently, I pile on the weight. Couple that with experimenting with different types of recipes and food...my waistline is ever expanding. So pleased you got comfortable with your weight. For what it's worth, I thought you looked a glowing picture of health when I met you at FBC 🙂
Thanks Jacqueline, that is kind of you to say! It can definitely get tough with all of the recipe testing and bigger portions. I miss having a deep freezer to stash the excess away in these days!
Beautiful post. Inspiring to me. Thanks so much for sharing what you did.
And your dad is so very proud of you. You have slain all your dragons.
Not slain, but I've leashed them up pretty good.
Thank you so much for this post and I'm really excited to read more in this series. I did the reverse of most people at lost a lot of weight when I went to university (not particularly healthily I admit). My weight stabilised for a good few years but in the last year or so a combination of living with a boy and joint problems has meant that I've given myself excuse after excuse to let me eating habits slide and sit on the couch rather than go for a run. I'm trying to get back to living well (a concept which I love) but it's been a slow process so I'm hoping to learn a lot from these posts.
Ugh, living with boys! Okay, they're pretty fun to live with some times, but what is with the portions?! Sorry to hear you've been having joint problems. I've had my fair share of those over the years from shoulder problems to shoulder surgery recovery to low back issues. Never fun, and always hard to get moving when you're hurting. Luckily I've got two people on board with these series who I think will be able to help with those sort of issues. I hope you'll get something good out of it! Take care of you 🙂
Gad... I hope you smacked that boyfriend!
Smacked, no, but upgraded considerably 😉
Thanks for sharing this personal story! I have been following the MM for a while now, and love this new addition to your line up! Just from getting to know your blog personality, I would have never expected you to have struggled with weight. It's a challenge that so many of us can relate to, and I appreciate your honesty and commitment to Living Well.
One of the reasons I wanted to tell that story is precisely because when people meet me to day or read the blog they assume, for some reason, I haven't struggled with weight. But I have, and I learned a lot along the way. It's one of the reasons I decided to study nutrition! Thanks for the kind comment, I really hope you enjoy the series (and the rest of the blog too!)
Great post, Katie-- thanks for sharing your story. Knowing you personally and having been a MM reader since I originally stalked you back in Nov of 2010, it's a bit hard to imagine a "non-nutritious" you. The person you are today and the commitment and passion you've invested to get there is such an inspiration. Cheers to Living Well! Looking forward to this series.
Thanks, Alison! I'm looking forward to it too. And yes, there was (and is) a non-nutritious part of me. It's all about balance, right?
I wish I could give you a big hug now-- thank you for sharing such a personal story! It's brave of you to do that. I had a similar experience in my early undergrad days, and I gained 40 pounds, as well; my reality check came when I saw a photo of myself-- my bosoms were MASSIVE, and I didn't realize how thick (for a lack of a better, nonjudgmental term) I'd become until I saw that photo. I'd always been thin and sort of took it for granted ... what, you mean being vegetarian doesn't guarantee you stay thin and fit? I admit that, at the time, I changed my ways more out of vanity than wanting to be healthy, but that has changed over time. (Though I am the first to admit I'm still kinda vain.)
I have a quota system rather than a calorie counting system-- I drink enough water, eat at least five servings of fruits & veggies every day, and walk everywhere I can. I found that this helped me get back on track without feeling guilty every day. Because I love my cookies.
Anyway, rant over! Thanks for the post. And I also hope you smacked that boyfriend. There is a kinder way to say such things. Glad you married that cute triathlete instead : )
Leanne, I never woulda thought! Yeah, that 'but I'm a vegetarian' logic is a good one. I know plenty of unhealthy (and plenty of healthy!) vegetarians, and since I've been vegetarian for nearly 20 years now, I went though all the various stages eating veggie. I'll admit vanity definitely kickstarted the change for me, and it pops up every once in a while, but health is what feels so good. 🙂
I agree ; you don't need to be the size of a twig to be healthy , and you're proof of that 🙂
No... like I said, size isn't necessarily an indicator of health.
I am looking forward to more of these and the different ways individuals live well!!! - I just look outside!!! You know what I look at - it a big part of my living well!!
And mine as well! Can't wait to be looking out there again soon 🙂