By week’s end, I’ll have my 2020 wrap up blog published. But this one is to reflect on a year of gaining weight and subsequently losing it. Strap it, this is an honesty-laden blog. There’s lots to unpack.
In 2019, I opted to quit smoking and go on a self-imposed 90 Day Challenge with the YMCA of Kingston. The purpose was to get into shape, lose weight and inches. Cure my sleep apnea. Start to feel like the girl I used to be. I was 185 when I marched into Kingston at the tail end of 2017. I was adamant to drop down to the 150 I longed for.
Things started commonly enough. I was motivated and ready, so I quitting smoking for a stunt was far easier than for any other reason. I had the weight of the challenge staring at me. Failing was not an option. I used a fidget spinner – as recommended by my dearest Sheldon – and that was all it took to get me off ciggs for good.
I weighed in faithfully. I trained faithfully week after week. I strapped into my Nikes and walked and made time. I went to classes and swim lessons and – I wasn’t losing any fucking weight. I was perplexed. Was muscle really heavier than fat? Was I gaining muscle fast enough that I was packing on the pounds instead of taking them off?
I made a call to my family doc. She was immediately concerned by my thyroid and sent me for tests. At 36, I suppose it’s just always going to be a hormone thing. Adult women inching towards 40 must always have a hormone imbalance of some sort. So when the blood work came back and I was hovering around an inactive thyroid, I was put on pills. Right away. Without question. And dutifully, I took them.
By the end of the summer, not only had I not lost any weight, I was now around 197lbs. It was baffling. I was still going to the gym. I was still pretending to mind what I ate. I implored my family doctor for help. She increased the dose.
After moving in with Jan, and him watching me heave an entire buffet dinner’s worth of the Mandarin over the side of Taylor Kidd Blvd, he decided it was time to see an allergist. The eczema on my hands and legs was evident that I was building an allergy somewhere. Clearly shellfish was causing some serious intestinalis flare ups, but was gluten contributing?
In February, my allergist and I stripped breads and pastas, and all things gluten completely out of my diet. And I gained another fucking ten pounds. By this time, I had swung the scale well over 200. I was miserable. And worried I wouldn’t last on my 65km challenge in Kitchener for the homeless. A feat that weather ultimately canceled. I couldn’t travel back home because of a snow storm, and I’ll never know if I would have made it the whole challenge through.
Headed into the lockdown, I began feeling faced with my own mortality. As the coronavirus cases began to surge, and the pandemic settled over of the country, I became very aware that people were dying. And what happens when we die? Where do we go?
Max out the stress of being afraid to walk outside with the inside chaos of having children who were also scared of the coronavirus shadow, losing weight became a secondary thought. I ended up on a two-day mental health break from work. Being in radio, we were tasked with bringing light to the listeners, with well-informed updates. I was buckling under the stress of trying to care for my home life, balance my work life, and try to virtually care for my oldest who had only recently moved out and was now caught trying to survive in a lockdown.
My weight went up. My family doctor spent an hour on the phone with me one idle afternoon in May. We increased the dose of my thyroid medication. I was increasing the numbers of the scale.
By the time I turned 38 in June, I was over having my photo taken. Unless it was a selfie with magic filters, I wasn’t sold on what I was seeing. I tried so hard to believe in my own mantra of self-love and appreciation. I tapped into my confidence by posting my annual bikini picture. I dutifully wore that two-piece all summer. I did not want my daughters to see me cower from my body.
But I also knew something was wrong. Really wrong.
At one point in July, our youngest patted my belly and said someone in our family had become disturbed by the weight I’d gained all year. I was so embarrassed. But her child-like innocence was the warning bell that I was headed in the completely wrong direction. And coronavirus be damned – it wasn’t COVID that would threaten to kill me. It was gaining 50lbs in a year with no signs of slowing.
I had a conversation with a weight loss studio in town, and with Jan’s support, I joined the program and decided that enough was enough.
On the day Jan and I took the first photo, I threw away the thyroid medication. I had spent some time reading articles from men and women – and even some doctors – that talked about the over-medicating misdiagnosed thyroid hormone conditions. Not once in my blood work did we find that my thyroid actually wasn’t working, but rather it was bordering on being “sluggish”. Despite the increased doses in medication, my thyroid counts never changed. According to everything I read and watched – medicating for a misdiagnosed condition can lead to adverse reactions. In my case – I gained weight. Steadily. And once the boulder started down the mountain, it wasn’t stopping. When I gave up the thyroid meds and started the weight loss program, the results were nearly instant. In a week, I’d lost my first 5 lbs. I hadn’t lost weight in a year.
The first photo was snapped on the Thursday night before I started the program. That weekend, I celebrated. On my first day of the program, I was 230lbs. It’s been nearly six months since this picture was taken.
After months of working with the program, and shedding more than 50lbs, I elected to leave the program. It was propelled by financial reasons, but I justified by understanding the mechanics of eating. Based on my insane work schedule and and responsibilities, my check-ins with the studio had dwindled to a mere five or ten minutes per week. Feasibly, I could no longer make myself believe that I needed to be spending what I was to continue with the program. Despite their disappointment in my leaving, I stuck to my guns, held my head high. I’m sad for the severed friendship I thought I’d built, but I am hopeful that in the future we can find our way back to each other.
That leaves me now on my own. I’ve been without the program for a couple of weeks – and of course, it had to fall over the holiday season. The season I’d inevitably afford myself the flexibility of “cheating”.
So let’s dig into this week. This week that I’m up five pounds and two inches.
We’ll start with the fact that I dropped my last fuck on the porch. I’m more than alright with my current gain, save for the fact that I’ve triggered my IBS. I had largely solved my bowel issues with clean eating this year, and of course the weight loss, but loading up on carbs and salt and sugar and sweets for the last week or so has plagued my intestines. As of writing this, I’ve barely gone in three days. I’m on a steady intake of clear fiber to try and stimulate something, but even Jan told me today I appear bloated – like he gets when his diverticulitis flares up. I’m easily carrying around a few pounds of waste in me. On Thursday, I weighed in at 177. Today I’m 185. I’ve written 183 on today’s check list, because that’s probably where I’ll be by the end of the day.
It’s really important to note here that when you’re on weight loss programs, you’re genuinely cutting off a lifestyle of food you’d been cultivating most of your life. And when you go back to even entertaining some of those former foods, you are going to gain weight back. It’s obscene that it takes me a week or two to lose 5 – 7lbs, but a weekend of Christmas goodies to gain it. I’m not kidding when I say this – prepare yourself for inevitable weight gain. Less you’re intending to eat like a rabbit for the rest of your life, you will gain some weight back after you leave an extreme eating diet or plan or fad. And not just the eating plan I’m on – which I’ve found to be the most well-rounded of all those available. If you’re on Keto, or trying Beach Bod, or shakes, you will absolutely gain something back once you’ve exited the program. The idea isn’t to fool you into thinking that you will stay at your goal weight the rest of your life. The plan is to teach good eating habits that if you do suddenly fluctuate, you can right yourself back on your axis. Which is what I now I have to do going into the new year.
While I’m doling out the advice, can I give you another slice?
Eat. When it’s Christmas, or birthdays. Or you’ve left a shitty job, or you’ve been promoted. When you are celebrating. When you’ve conquered. You’ve got to eat. You’ve got only this one little life. Remember what I said earlier about coming to grips with my mortality? It’s also recognizing that we gotta make the most out of the short time we have here.
I am never going to advocate for excess, nor will I ever “fat shame”. I am only after one universal truth – the quest for happiness. You have to be fully satisfied with your lot in life. You’ve got to make the most of what we’re given. I am not satisfied to be strapped to a CPAP machine every night, threatened with a stroke in sleep. Unable to crash at friend’s houses because my snoring may wake them up, or not able to hit up a hotel without my travel machine. This existence fucking blows. And if losing weight is going to make me feel better, and take away from that burden, then I’m going after it.
This is where I have to interject to mention that much of my success goes to having a supportive partner. While some people are fortunate in their own inner strength, I don’t know if I had enough in me to have gotten this far without Jan. While he pisses me off with reminding me I’ve “already cheated” on the program, he’s the guy who has helped me develop the recipes. Installed a home gym. Takes care of the grocery shopping. Prepares food as per the program. Listens every weigh in. Takes the progress photos. Leaves motivating notes. Shares the blog. Encourages, inspires, and raises me up when it’s the hardest of the hard. When I am so ass backwards inside my own head of self-loathing or panic, he’s the light that reminds me life is worth living another day. I have found myself inside him, and while the program and the lifestyle change has taken want, desire and strength, virtually none of that would have been possible without his hand in mind. I’m the luckiest because I found an equal.
While the holidays were largely quiet – my babes are in Kitchener with Dad – it wasn’t a total bummer. I ate. I ran on the treadmill. I binged Netflix. Jan reno’d the basement, and together, we’ll start assembling everything he’s worked so hard for the last nine months.
It’s surreal that this is the final fitness blog of 2020.
Here’s a few links for you for the New Year:
The final weigh in photo of 2020:
I love that I look like a colossal dork in this photo.
Here’s how I’m capping 2020, loves.
Trust your instinct. Trust your body. When something seems off, it might just be. I was gaining weight rapidly, and I knew it wasn’t right. I advocated and figured out what it was. As I wrap up the first six months of this chapter, and head into the New Year at 180lbs – ish – I’m going at the weight I was when I had intended to begin this whole thing anyway back in 2019. Do I have resolve for 2020? Yes. I resolve to keep pursuing health, and happiness. Working my way back to my core. Finding myself. Working on love. Working on my love handles. And working on how I’ll continue to handle with care.
You can if you want to.