A photo that amazing photographer Erin Summerill took of me at the recent LDStorymakers annual conference inspired me to put this post together. Even with my goofy facial expression and hand waving (I can't teach without using my hands), I've got great before and after pictures.
The really short version:
For some unknown (then) reason, I got fat, sank into a horrid depression, and otherwise was miserable. Now I'm, well, not all that. The end. Oh, and this is what I looked like. The picture was taken at the 2010 UVU Book Academy conference. I may have gained a few pounds more in the following three months.
The longer version:
For most of my adult life, not counting pregnancies, my has weight stayed in about a seven-pound range. Ideally, I would have liked to have been around 10 lbs lighter and at my marriage weight, but I was at a healthy weight and felt decent about myself.
Then, a few years ago, the pounds began creeping on. I wasn't doing anything different in my life, as far as I could tell. Okay, I could have exercised more than I was (although I didn't stop altogether). And sure, I ate chocolate here and there. But that wasn't a change. Nothing significant had changed in my lifestyle.
But hey, I knew how to lose weight, right? I began watching my diet carefully, cutting here and there and eating much healthier. I exercised more.
Result: More weight gain. The scale just crept up and up. I'll clarify here that my weight gain wasn't in the realm of anything you'd see on The Biggest Loser, but it was still way more than was healthy, and I hated feeling like a beached whale. I hated not fitting into my biggest clothes and having to go to the thrift store to find stuff to wear. I rarely wore anything that didn't stretch.
At first I was in denial. Sure, the scale was up, but I didn't look that bad . . . right? I inherited my mother's frame, so I really can carry a little extra weight without it showing up. When my chocolate cookbook first came out, I had people asking how I could write it and stay so thin. That was before the weight gain. So when those comments stopped altogether, I had a clue what it meant. I was fat. I cringed at every photo of me. My usable wardrobe shrank and shrank.
I started to suspect I had a thyroid problem, but I didn't want to be one of those people making excuses for being fat. ("Oh, it's glandular . . .") I brought it up to my doctor, who ran a blood panel. My TSH and T4 were normal, so I was told not to worry about it; I wasn't hypothyroid.
But the results didn't sit right with me. I had plenty of symptoms of hypothyroid beyond unexplained weight gain, including a low body temperature (97.1), brain "fog," fatigue, depression, headaches, brittle nails, and a bunch of other things.
After doing a bit more research, including talking with a good friend who has a thyroid condition, I was convinced that something wasn't right. My original doctor, while a great guy, was a GP and likely didn't know how complex hypothyroid issues are and which panels to run, or how to read them. Finding a doctor to take me seriously and who knew enough to run the right tests took awhile, but eventually I did, thanks to the referral of a friend.
And waddaya know, but my T3 (the one that really matters) was in the toilet. So was my progesterone (which helps with stress, sleep, and mood), and a few other things, including Vitamin D, which was also contributing to my depression. I was indeed hypothyroid, among other things. My body was whacked out.
Almost as soon as I began taking the supplements I needed, my life, and my body, began to change. While the weight didn't come off in a flash, it did come off, slowly and steadily.
Here's a key point: I still had to do the work.
I had to exercise, stay hydrated, and watch what I ate. But at least losing weight became possible, where before, it wasn't.
Something to note here: It's a horrid myth that to exercise you have to find something you like to do. I hate exercising, but I love having exercised. If you're waiting to like huffing and puffing and sweating like a pig, and you're using your dislike of exercise for not doing it, then you'll never have success. I often go running even when I hurt all over and I feel like someone's taking an ice pick to the back of my head. I go because it's something I have to do. I force myself to do it. I don't go to the gym when I feel good. I go to the gym and work my tail off so I'll feel good.
Another aspect in my success was that I started reading blogs of people who'd managed to lose weight and keep it off to learn more about how to fuel my body properly for weight loss (which takes more than cutting calories, of course). I grew up in a nutritious home, but there was still a lot to learn.
I'm now within (count 'em!) 9 pounds of my marriage weight. I'm solidly in the healthy range for what my weight should be, and on the low end of my old range. (I think I can actually hit that old marriage weight yet!) I sleep better (didn't even know how messed up my sleep was until it was fixed). I can exercise more. My chronic headaches are still around, but they're more manageable. My depression isn't the dark sink hole it once was.
No, life isn't all unicorns and rainbows. I still have chronic headaches. Depression of some kind just runs in my family. But things are so much better.
Losing the weight hasn't been an easy road. Like I said, it's still work. But now I can fit back into my skinny clothes, and my fat clothes are a thing of the past.
In my before picture up there, I hated myself.