The Hardest Post

What I'd become by July, 2010 - Gaithersburg, MD

What I’d become by July, 2010 – Gaithersburg, MD

This may be the hardest post I’ve ever written in the few years I have intermittently been sharing my private life so publicly. The joy of writing for strangers – the appeal even – is the knowledge that you only have to share what you want to share. You can share some of the ugly, but you choose how ugly that ugly is. Strangers reading about your life in the privacy of their living rooms or offices can only see what you allow them to see, so you can shape an illusion of who you are, without ever allowing them to see all of who you are.

I won’t pretend that suddenly with this post, I’m revealing the most important parts of me, that suddenly with this post you, and you alone, are sharing in some secret I haven’t shared with anyone else. But I am promising this – I will always be as honest as I can be in regards to this: I am fat. And I used to be much fatter.

And here’s the thing – I’m not alone. More than 37.5% of Americans are, too. Which I guess is why I feel the need to write this.

I wasn’t born fat. Up until I was about nine years old, I was a scrawny kid. I remember my grandmother always telling my cousin she needed to stop eating and “get skinny like Dorothy.” But around the time I turned nine, a few things changed – my biological mother, morbidly obese for as long as I can remember, decided she was no longer going to cook for our family. I don’t remember there being an announcement (the way she announced around this same time that she would no longer be doing my laundry because I was old enough to do it myself), but I do remember that suddenly I was left to fend for myself when I got home from school while she sat in her Lazy-Boy recliner watching soap operas and munching Ritz Crackers from the paper tube she kept on a side table next to her. There weren’t too many things I knew how to cook, but I understood noodles (with lots of butter), Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe (the kind with the creamy processed cheese sauce), and Hormel Chili (served over more noodles to heat it up). A steady diet of large amounts of carbs and processed food had the pounds piling on pretty fast, and soon I could no longer zip up the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans with the red stitching I was so proud of. It wasn’t long before the kids started teasing me, too – “Dorky Dig” and “Fatback” were favorites through elementary and middle school, and continued until 1988, my junior year of high school, when, a few months after visiting a Nutri-System facility (where I was 218 pounds at first weigh-in) the weight was finally coming off. I would never be skinny again (I plateaued at about 178 pounds), but I was tall (5’7″), and strong, and no longer getting teased.

Still, the weight came back. By the time I got married in 1992, I had gained back the weight I lost and then some (235 pounds). And as my marriage failed, my weight would continue to balloon, then drop off again, balloon with a pregnancy, drop with the birth, rise, drop after my divorce, then rise, then fall – you get the picture.

The tough part is – I never could see it. I always had in my head a sort of warped picture of what I looked like, and somehow, my picture never looked “fat”. Of course I could pick myself apart and know that parts of me were flabby where other people weren’t, but I always had an excuse: “Oh, I have those Schroeder arms,” I’d say of the cellulite hanging off of my upper arms, or, “Well, that’s what happens when you have two kids,” of the belly rolls that hung over my jeans. I’d buy Spanx and believe they hid the worst of it, continue on with my “You’re-not-that-fact” picture of myself in my head.

But then in December, 2010, my world was turned upside down with the death of my stepmother, who died during complications arising from a hip-replacement surgery – a replacement that probably would never have been necessary at all if her own weight had been under control.

This was the second parent I’d lost to the disease of obesity – my biological mother, after having battled with numerous heart attacks (once having even been technically dead on the table before being revived) and finally having to have emergency tracheotomy surgery to allow her to breathe through the fat tissue closing around her windpipe – died in August, 1996. Her autopsy listed a few reasons for her death, but number one was shocking and simple, “Obsesity”. Our relationship was such that I felt little grief, only a crushing relief that she was gone from mine and my father’s lives.

But losing my stepmother – the woman I truly thought of as “Mom” – that was … well, I still don’t have the words to describe how hard that was.

So I set out to change my own life. I’d been making changes in my diet for a long time (I’d peaked at around 295 pounds the year previous, but was around 265 or so by this point), but I still hadn’t made any real effort to take off the weight I’d slowly put back on over the years. Now though, I was determined not to wait until it was too late. I wouldn’t wait til walking was so painful I was dragging myself around on two canes as my mom did, or being wheeled around in a wheelchair (as my biological mother was). I hired a personal trainer, reasoning that the cost was the same to me as eating out once a week. An expense well-worth the outcome. And once again, the weight began coming off – and with it the aches and pains of joints that had been carrying around too much for too long started to disappear.

After a couple of months, my trainer pointed out I would see better results if I got disciplined and started adding cardio to my daily routine, so on vacation in San Francisco, I decided to make use of the hotel’s gym, and I started running on their Adaptive Motion Trainer (sort of like an eliptical, but so much better) – after 5 minutes, I thought I was going to die. But I made it 10 minutes.

Soon I was running for 20, 30, 45, even 60 minutes at a time – it became a zen occupation for me, and I still love it to this day. While I had started this endeavor with the idea that I wouldn’t worry about the weight, I’d just focus on living, I was still losing weight, finally dropping over 60 pounds (plateauing around 209) and 5 sizes (I was a solid size 12). I was as strong as I’d ever been – by the scale, I was still “overweight”, but as for myself, I was thrilled. I couldn’t stop looking at myself in mirrors, I reveled in the feeling of my body as it moved, strong, healthy, pain-free.

My best friend since high school texted me a picture at some point during this odyssey. She’d never thought much of it when she took it, but now, given the pictures I was texting her (at the time, I was living in Hawaii, and she was in Maryland), she thought it would help me to see the change. I opened the attachment when it beeped in on my phone and started crying. (Posting it here, along with my weight…that is the the hardest thing to be honest about. Women learn to lie and obfuscate about our weight from the time we fill out first drivers license application, for Pete’s sake.)

I’d never realized how bad it was until that moment. I was so delusional I had no idea how heavy I had let myself become. Tam quickly texted back when I told her that: “I thought you were beautiful then. I think you’re beautiful now.” And I know she meant it, but I was horrified at what I had been. Because what I was looking at…was my biological mother. A woman who never took care of herself, who lived to eat, who had her first heart attack at the age I was when I was holding the phone looking at that picture, 38. I made Tam promise she would never ever let me go there again, and she did.

Still, as I moved back from Hawaii to Maine, things slipped. Old bad habits creeped in, my exercise started to lag (especially without my partner-in-crime Jared-the-trainer, still on Oahu, to push me), and a few pounds crept back with it (26 to be precise). Which brings me to why I’m stripping myself so achingly bare to write this.

I made a promise to myself never to be the person in that picture again. To never again look away from what is happening with my body, or what I need to do for my body again. But I’m not perfect. I eat things I shouldn’t, in ways I shouldn’t. I talk myself out of exercise. I talk myself into breaking my own rules time and time again. But the biggest change over these last two years is that I haven’t lost my focus – I will never be that person again, and I’m going to document that here. And maybe help someone else stop being that person, too, in the process.

So my commitment is this – brutal honesty. And I will consistently record my battles and struggles with keeping my body in line (and getting the last 17 pounds I’ve put on back off) here, however hard that may be at times. And while I can not claim any formal credentials, I can tell you that I am a fabulous cook, and I will share what I have learned about the right way to eat, along with pictures and recipes. And I hope you’ll share your own battles and struggles with me, too. Let’s help each other – whether you’re struggling to break out of your own unhealthy cycle, you’ve already broken it, or you’re helping someone else, let’s help each other.

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Categories: Honesty is Healthy:

Author:Dory Diaz Photography

Dory is a professional wedding and portrait photographer, writer, and social media addict.

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19 Comments on “The Hardest Post”

  1. Clairede
    January 28, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Bravo. Be fit and healthy girl. you are in my prayers. I do understand.

  2. January 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Thank you for your honesty in this post. It’s beautiful and I wish you the best on your journey.

  3. Carrie Kiser
    January 28, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Dory–I remember so much of it and I feel so deeply for you. I remember that little 3 year old, wiser-than-wise little girl and know that you have always been able to figure it out. I didn’t know you had to cook for yourself at so young an age . . . and I do remember the Lazy-Boy chair and the food all around it.

    You have been successful on your own (knowing when to ask for help is key!!) and you can do it again.

    I’m rooting in your corner.

    Love you!

    Carrie

    • January 29, 2013 at 1:59 am #

      Thank you so much for the kind words (and others that came through Facebook as well). They mean more than you know.

    • February 11, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      And Carrie, this one meant so much because it helps to know my memories are valid. Love you, too!

  4. Shar Stephens (Ivy)
    January 29, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    I love this post, and I love you. I have my own weight struggles, and have had them all my life. At 5’3″, 165 is a lot on my frame, and I am a full size 12. Like you, I think I don’t look so heavy in the mirror, but then I see photos and am shocked and distressed at how the camera (and others) must see me. My husband and I are working on reducing our weight together – we just started at the first of the year and it’s a slow process, one that is not always rewarding when I weigh myself each Friday (I have limited my self-weighs to once per week). But, it *is* a process, one that I am dedicated to and will stick by.

    I support you in your journey! ❤

    • February 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that, Shar – I’m looking forward to hearing more from you as this blog grows!

  5. Lance M.
    January 31, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    Great post. Some of the best blog posts are the brutally honest ones. I too know the struggles with obesity, and its a real battle sometimes! I admire your courage for sharing your story. It inspires me to do the same for my health. Just know that who you are on the outside will never “outweigh” your beauty on the inside.

    • February 11, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

      Thanks, Lance. I hope you’ll keep posting how you’re doing on your own journey. 🙂

  6. February 12, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    My dear friend, I topped out at 333 during the days of being sick. It’s a struggle for us, and you know I have been working at it, too. But, always remember something I say all the time in chats and at shows… you are a very beautiful and talented! Beautiful and talented people can do anything they set their minds to, can’t we? 🙂

    • February 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Thank you, Eff – and you ARE gorgeous, inside and out! My goal definitely isn’t to take away from the idea that beauty doesn’t involve size. I just want to be as healthy as I can be (and take as many of all of you with me as I can in the process, hehe 🙂 Hugs you!!!

  7. thehonestypath
    February 13, 2013 at 2:48 am #

    WOW! Congratulations on getting back on track, there may be (but I hope there isn’t) more set backs in the future, the important thing is never, ever give up no matter how hard. Looks like you’ve got a lot of support from here, keep it up!
    Cheers – Lou @ The Honesty Path

    • February 13, 2013 at 2:50 am #

      Thanks, Lou! That’s the idea – doing this helps keep me motivated and hopefully will help motivate others to start or keep on their own journey. 🙂

  8. Mauren Mureaux
    February 13, 2013 at 2:57 am #

    I too, share your struggle! I have much farther to go. Nothing had ever worked for me in weight loss until a couple years ago when i started following the eating plan for my body type according to The Six Week Body Makeover (more like 506 weeks for me!)…i had lost around 100lbs in 9-12 months and have since let it all slip back on. Ugh! I need to get my butt in gear!!

    You are beautiful at any weight. I only know you in SL…and your spirit shines there! I can only imagine our beauty to those whole hold you as Dear to them in RL. 😉

    We can do this!!

    • February 13, 2013 at 3:13 am #

      Mauren! Hugging you hard – I know how hard and frustrating it is to watch it comeback, but don’t you dare give up. I know you and you can do it. We’ll do it together!

  9. February 13, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Many things against us and our children. I cover as much as I can at http://www.badfoodchoices.com. I have the which diet this time,? Followed by being held prison to my conditioning and eating habits, basically being miserable. Workout programs, diets, fad diets, pills, still temporary results and back to misery. I have made comments like “I have gained my weight back”. It is dreadful and intimidating, but I have now realized changing my lifestyle and identifying the forces against me has been and is going to remain my success. i eat for nutrition and not calories, If I want to cheat I do but this is rare and I no longer feel like a hostage to my taste buds.

    • February 14, 2013 at 2:31 am #

      I definitely agree that the key is eating what is good for you, not necessarily what makes you feel good. I found when I stopped worrying about what the scale was doing, I was at my most successful for the first time in my life. I wish you well on your journey, and thank you so much for sharing your blog and personal experience.

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