Within 48 hours of saying “yes” in 2006, I signed up for a meal plan that eventually helped me lose 70 pounds from my 208-pound self in six short months. I hit the gym every morning. Daily weigh-ins were routine. I’d even take my engagement ring off in the hope that its absence would result in a lower number on the scale. Come hell or high water, I was determined to be a noticeably thinner bride.
In other words, what should have been the happiest time of my life, spent focused on honeymoon plans and bridesmaids’ dresses, revolved around working out and avoiding salad dressing. Still, I was happy as any bride-to-be. But looking back, I ask myself: was I in heaven because I was getting married? Or was I in heaven because getting married lit a fire under my Snickers-eating butt to get in shape?
- Losing Weight As Revenge on the Past
My pre-wedding preoccupation with weight loss continued into the first years of my marriage. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my husband, our home, and our life, but something darker cast a shadow over it all: My obsession to remain that svelte bride and undo the painful past. While we had many wonderful times in our marriage, it also coincided with a change in me that I wasn’t ready for, and found difficult to understand.
My life before losing weight was filled with cruel comments from high school classmates who’d giggle after telling me to “throw my weight around” during a group assignment, and later, judgmental stares from coworkers. Now, post-weight loss, I had more energy. I could wear almost any fashion. In the six short months that followed my proposal, I had undone all the mean comments from my past. Or so I thought.
In a strange way, losing weight made me feel that I was “getting back” at those rude people from my past, like the man in the early 2000s who said I had a nice smile for a fat person, or that boy in the mid ‘90s who made the “you’re fat” puffer fish face in the car next to me. Or maybe I lost weight for my Aunt, who once looked me up and down and told me to exercise.
I’d started losing weight so I could feel like a beautiful bride, but my obsession colored my married life. On our first anniversary, when it was time to eat that frozen slice of wedding cake, I chewed it with a smile that hid inner panic. One year later, cake was still forbidden.
- Living with an Unhealthy Obsession
My unhappy relationship with food led me to periods of low iron, hypoglycemia, near-fainting episodes and general grumpiness. Didn’t the world see how hard it was to keep the weight off? Yet they still dared to eat pizza in front of me. Those ideas pervaded my daily thoughts, and looking back, I realize that I was resentful of those folks who weren’t on a perpetual diet. Turns out, they were just doing it right: eating in moderation (yes, even pizza) and exercising.
But for me, at the time, it was all or nothing. A lifetime of puffer fish faces and cutting comments could only be erased by keeping most foods far, far away. Like I wished I could do to those rude fat-shamers, I kept food at a distance. It was a hard way to live.
- Gaining Happiness Back
Flash forward to 2013. I’d been divorced one year, had begun meeting with a nutritionist and done lots of self-exploration. I’m happy to say that since then, while I still go to the gym and am careful about what I eat, I don’t obsess. My weight has gone up slightly from my size 2/4 days, but guess what? I look and feel normal, which I can’t say was true in my anti-food days. My energy level is fantastic.
It’s been a long road, but I’ve learned that I have to maintain my weight loss for no one other than me, and for no other reason than to feel strong and be healthy. Otherwise, life becomes an ongoing war between yourself and the past, and if you're not careful, happiness will be the first casualty.
Jennifer Lilley is a health/wellness and relationship writer who enjoys having her camera and the company of kind-hearted people close at hand. She blogs on her own weight loss and health site, Flabby Road. Find her on Facebook, and on Twitter: @JenSunshine.