Up and Down and Up

I posted the first installment of my story here:  This is Part II.

The theme of this part of my story is up and down.  At the end of high school I was somewhere around 130-135, always thinking I needed to lose just a little weight (mostly in the tummy area).  Yet, I was still within a normal weight range for my height.  During the next few years as I went to college, my weight fluctuated up and down a few pounds but not a lot of change.  Part of that was because I was still living at home attending a nearby university so not much changed in my eating habits.

I don’t have a lot of photos from this time period, but here are a couple around the time I graduated college.

I think this was around the time I graduated college

Around the time I graduated college.

I think this one was about a year after I graduated college.

Then, having graduated I went away for even more school, finally living on my own.  I started out in an apartment with another student.  This was my first time away from home.  I had no clue really how to eat or what to cook.  And, I was busy and not inclined to spend much time on food.  Still, I gravitated to convenience foods, fast food and snacking.  I remember going to class, and each day taking with me a candy bar and a Coke from the vending machine.  Yes, a Coke with sugar.

Slowly, I started to add a few pounds.  After the first couple of years, I was up to about 145 pounds.  I wasn’t happy that I gained had weight, but I didn’t do anything to change it. Well, I didn’t do anything good to change it.  My last year of school I lived alone in an efficiency apartment.  I was stressed by school and wasn’t in a good place having gained 10 to 15 pounds over the past two years.  At some point, I just sort of gave up and ate with abandon.  I remember that every day I would stop at the grocery store and buy half a dozen donuts with cinnamon sugar on them.  I felt embarrassed to do it.  I wondered what the lady in the bakery thought as I would go in each day and ask for six donuts.  Occasionally, I would even order a dozen.  Still, I kept doing it.  I felt almost compelled to do this every day.  By the end of my last year I was up to 155 pounds.  In some ways, it is amazing that I only gained 10 pounds eating that many donuts!  The thing is that I wasn’t eating much else other than fast food.  I wasn’t much of a cook.  Looking back my diet was really, really horrible.

At 155, I was overweight even under modern BMI standards.  Again, I don’t have many pictures from this period.  This is the only one I could find (this starts a period where my hair color seemed to regularly change):

About the time I finally got out of school, weighing about 155 pounds.

Taken about when I finally got out of school, weighing about 155 pounds. See the tiny double chin?

Having graduated, I found a job and things quickly got worse – much worse- with my weight.  I wanted to get down from 155 pounds back to where I was when I graduated high school (by then, that weight seemed pretty thin).  But, instead, the pounds kept piling on.  I got a job in a small town.  I had always lived in a city, so small town life was new to me.  The big problem was that food choices for eating out were very limited.  In this town, there was exactly one fast food restaurant, which was a Dairy Queen.  Every work day, I would go to Dairy Queen for lunch and buy a cheeseburger and fries, with a Coke.

I could have gone home to eat and cooked my lunch, but I still didn’t know much about cooking.  Also, I didn’t even have a microwave.  Couple the bad eating habits with a very sedentary life and my weight was only going up.  I also had nothing to do.  There weren’t many single young adults in this small town. So, I went home at night and ate and watched TV. I was also very unhappy in my job, which didn’t help.

After I had been there almost a year, I went to a meeting involving my work where I was photographed from the side, my whole body being shown.  The photograph was shown on the front page of the local newspaper.  I was mortified as I just looked enormous.  For years, I kept a copy of the photo since it wasn’t every day that I was in the paper.  But, finally I couldn’t stand to look at it any more and threw it away.

At the time the photo was taken, I weighed about 180 pounds.  Today – this very day – I would be happy to be at 180 pounds, since weigh more than that now.  Back then, it was a different story. 180 pounds for someone at my height wasn’t just overweight.  It was obese.  I’m not sure I had heard of BMI back then, but the bottom line was that I knew that 180 wasn’t just needs-to-lose-10 pounds territory.  It was, to be polite, obese.  Somewhere in my head, I heard that whisper of “fat.”  I didn’t want to be there.  And I realized that I had let it all go too far.  Too much eating, too little nutrition, too little activity, too much junk food, too much of a bad thing.

After about a year, I knew that I was a big city girl and I moved from the small town to a big city, larger than I had ever lived in.  I did make a real effort to lose weight.  After awhile, I was still overweight, but wasn’t obese.

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I’m the one holding the cat. I had lost some of the 180 pounds, but I remember struggling to close these jeans!

But, this started a period of time when my weight would bounce down, then up:

In my late 20s.  This was an "up" period for my weight.

In my late 20s. This was an “up” period for my weight.

And down, again:

I was down a little bit here, but still had a little double chin.

I was down a little bit here, but still had a little double chin.

Somewhere in there I did change some of my more egregious nutritional deficiencies.  I started drinking diet Coke, giving up sugared drinks entirely.  If I went to a restaurant, I would often make efforts to watch what I ate.  I would order my salad with the dressing on the side, dipping my fork into the dressing as I would eat each bite.  I started eating Lean Cuisine and would, sporadically, cook my own meals.  I would sometimes try a diet that I had read about and would cook as necessary for it. But, nothing stuck for very long.  I was still in that looking for a diet that would work mode.  And, yes, I thought of as mostly going on a diet, losing weight, then getting off the diet.  Long term change of eating habits wasn’t part of my thought horizon at that time.

I also knew that I should exercise.  I would stop and start different things.  Once I was going to be a runner.  So, I bought some expensive running shoes and decided to run in my neighborhood.  I ran for about 2 blocks, then walked home gasping.  I never even tried again.

I joined a health club a couple of times.  I would go a few times, then give it up.  At some point, I got interested in strength training and bought books about weightlifting.  I bought a weight bench and some weights.  I watched videos to teach me how to do it.  What I didn’t do was lift very many weights.  Oh, I did it occasionally.  I would work out to the videos, but as soon as it got hard I would give up.  I ended up spending more time learning about weightlifting than I did actually doing it.

When things were going well, I would get down to about 155 pounds, which was where I had been when I got out of school.  But, I always would seem to be stuck there.  I would hit a plateau at that point, and could never seem to break through it.

Eventually, 30 came and I was still going up in weight:

I was about 30 years old here.  I look like I was about to burst out of my jeans. (Let's just discreetly avert our eyes from my hair).

I was 30 years old here. I look like I was about to burst out of my jeans. (Let’s just discreetly avert our eyes from my hair).

I was still bouncing up and down between 155 pounds and about 165 pounds.  Nothing seemed to change.  At some point, my best friend suggested that we go to a weight loss resort.  It was only a couple of hours away.  We both went for a week.  I went with high hopes that I would go there and come out losing 10 pounds.  That’s what always seemed to happen in the magazines that I read.

Well, it was a big bust.  The food was very sparse, although tasty.  My big issue was that I found out just how out of shape that I was.  We were supposed to be doing exercise class after exercise class.  I would start out with everyone else and within a short while would be gasping for breath.  I did my best, but my best wasn’t very good.  I think I only a few pounds for the whole week.

I didn’t know it, but things were about to change in a big way. One of my co-workers told me she had joined Weight Watchers.  I was in my 160s, getting close to 170 and knew I needed to do something. I had heard of Weight Watchers, but knew nothing about it.  Well, I had heard at some point that you had to eat liver and that was a deal breaker for me.  My friend told me that liver was no longer required. So, maybe Weight Watchers was worth trying.

To be continued


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