From an upcoming Shape mag slideshow…! (And I know my form sucks – this was from the blooper reel.)
Mr. Miyagi would be so proud of me. I just caught a mosquito – the Minnesota state bird, woot, woot! – mid flight with only my thumb and forefinger (fingers: like chopsticks but for monkeys).
This feat of athletic prowess got me thinking about how far I’ve come. People who read this site and/or only know me from 2004 onward think I’ve always been this crazyobsessed with health and fitness but the truth is I do have a “before.” And since I’ve gotten quite a few e-mails lately asking me about my weight-loss story, here it is. (Hint: There is a happy ending and it isn’t measured in pounds!) While I’ve never been above my BMI range for “normal” (BMI measurement: like a real health assessment but for monkeys), I have definitely been in a position where I had to lose weight. 6 times actually. Any woman who has had a baby has been there.
In September 2001 – yes, that September – I gave birth to my daughter Faith who immediately died of complications due to Turner’s Syndrome. In October, only one month later, I got pregnant with my first son. I did not lose the pregnancy weight in that one month. Obviously. But we had more important things to worry about like mourning our daughter’s death while at the same time celebrating, i.e. totally freaking out, about our son’s impending birth. What can I say? It was a weird year. Thankfully my son was born happy and healthy in July of 2002. This was me when he was 5 months old:
I had not lost the pregnancy weight – a solid 46 pounds – in those five months. Obviously. Strangely, despite weighing the most I’d ever weighed, this was the only time in my life that I completely didn’t care what I looked like or what I weighed. Blissfully happy just to have a baby after two years of trying and a miscarriage and a stillbirth, the scale didn’t even come out of the bathroom closet. I ate what I wanted. My baby was a butterball. We were all happy. I was – dare I say it? – fat and happy. (Albeit with a really messy kitchen. Eek!)
Then I got pregnant with my second one when my first was just nine months old. Those nine months – due to no fault of my baby – were the most hellacious of my life thanks to the court case against my ex-boyfriend for sexual assault that lasted, oh yes, nine months. (My ex was sentenced and the very next day my baby was born.) Eating disorder? Back with a vengeance. Body hate? Totally. At the brink of the pit of utter despair? Indeed. It was after my second son’s birth that I got into healthy eating and exercise. And despite the few jaunts back into ED-Land (hello, compulsive exercise!), it was a really good thing.
While most people measure their fitness success with before and after shots (Look ma – here I am dumpy and frowny and now here I am svelte, tan and smiley!), my real success story has nothing to do with my weight loss and everything to do with the change inside me and in my abilities.
B.F. (before learning to love fitness and nutrition) I shied away from group sports of any kind. Now I love nothing more than jumping in on a pickup game of Frisbee or kickball. And it wasn’t that my athletic ability increased to superstardom – seriously, I still suck – it was that I gained confidence in my ability to play. It also helped that I could now run a few laps down the field without keeling over from lack of oxygen.
B.F. I used to look for people at Costco to help me pick up the heavy stuff and get it into my cart. Now I enjoy showing off all the big stuff I can heft around with ease.
B.F. the only thing I knew about healthy eating was that fat was very very bad for you. As were calories. Now I know that I need fat and calories to live and that just because a rice cake is only 50 calories doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”
B.F. I felt scared and vulnerable all the time. I’d been attacked before and didn’t defend myself and so I was convinced that I was just a sitting duck waiting for the next psycho to come into my life. Now I’ve taken control (for the most part) of those feelings. The nightmares are gone. The PTSD is gone. I look strangers in the eye. I walk with my head up. (Although I do not carry my keys in my fingers – I have it on good authority that actually doesn’t work well.)
B.F. I thought that having the perfect body would make me beautiful. Now I know that when you are beautiful on the inside it radiates out of you, no matter what you weigh or if you have stretch marks or cellulite. Now I know that “after” is a myth and progress is everything.
I could go on and on about all the positive effects eating right and learning to love exercise have had on my life and not one of them would have anything to do with a bikini. What I really wish is that there was a special camera that could take an “after” picture that would do all the changes I’ve been through in the past 5 years justice. This is as close as I could get (about a year after my second son was born):
Also, B.F. I never caught a mosquito with my bare hands. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear a cricket chirping in this room somewhere and it’s driving me nuts. I don’t have any chopsticks but my garlic press is handy…
What has changed for you from B.F. to A.F.? Do you take “before” and “after” pics? What would your ideal “after” picture look like? Anyone else have a fat and happy phase?