Humans are excellent storytellers, we fabricate ideas, formulate story lines, interpret and analyze every little detail, of what ever is happening before our eyes just to make sense of it in our the picture of the world we create for ourselves. To date, I am not aware of any other species that does this, so in this regard, as a species we are remarkable, exciting, undoubtedly brilliant. We are also very cruel, we are demeaning, paining for something better or different, without realizing the beauty that surrounds us. If I were an experimental scientist, I’d probably dedicate my life to understanding the ambiguity in our actions, but I am not, so I just observe this and move on with other things that occupy my mind.
So, what’s been occupying my mind as of late? I haven’t shared this with many people other than my family and some very close friends, but to be honest, in a very selfish way, all I’ve been thinking (or rather obsessing) about lately has been the way I look. I won’t talk about this often, especially not in a public setting, but I hope that me sharing my story will inspire you to take stock of your own story.
So, here it goes: I’ve gained a lot of weight over the last ten years, in case you’re wondering, that’s about 70 lbs or 32 kg, so that’s 7 lbs each year or 3.2 kg each year. The average weight gain after 30 (because of metabolism decreasing) is 0.6-1.7 lbs, that’s less than a kg a year. And I was in my early twenties when I started gaining weight. You get the picture, at this rate, and if I don’t do anything now, by the time I’m 40 I’ll be seven thousand times heavier than I am now (or at least I’ll feel like that anyway).
It’s really easy to justify the weight gain, I’ve been ridiculously stressed, especially while doing my masters. Commuting to and from my university took a lot of time that I would have “otherwise used to exercise” (that’s one story I often like to tell myself…). Working in academia can be very rewarding, but honestly, most of the time I crave rewards from other sources (i.e. chocolate), so I told myself very often that I deserved an extra piece (or an extra bar) of chocolate. While it left me satisfied for a few minutes, it was never enough though, so I told myself, another piece wouldn’t hurt. On the (very) rare occasions, where I would actually manage to go for a run, I’d tell myself that running once a month is better than nothing and as a reward I could eat whatever I wanted (recognize a pattern?).
So, very slowly and gradually (even before my masters for a million other different reasons) the numbers on my scale went up, pants just fit a bit tighter, shirts were a bit more revealing, and – without realizing it – I created a pattern of only taking flattering pictures from a specific angle, to hide what was going on physically with me. While I have no idea what other people saw when they looked at me, I started to create a picture of what I thought I looked like and I started to believe that picture. It’s a coping mechanism, when things were obviously very wrong, we create an alternate story line in our own mind, to make sense of it.
Here’s the real kicker though, I never felt like anything was wrong with me and I certainly did not see any physical flaws, I loved myself the way I was (and still do) and would never allow anyone to make me feel less than, just because of the way I looked – and I stand by that. Of course, when people around you express concern, it’s mostly because they have your health in mind, but that sometimes can feel like a personal attack and I’ve been body shamed enough in my life where I just can’t take it. I’d almost go as far to say that I’d have an allergic reaction to someone saying the smallest thing about the way I looked. See, the thing with being fat is that it’s not like wearing an unflattering color. If a color doesn’t suit you, you go change your clothes. Easy peasy. Losing (and gaining) weight, however, takes a lot of time and commitment and by no means is it easy.
Any time you try to change physically, it is ridiculously difficult, you have to train your mind that it’s okay not to enjoy something, but you’re also signaling yourself that it all will be okay, and that this is for your own good. Long story short – I’ve been on a weight loss journey ever since July 20th, 2019 and I’ve been steadily but painstakingly slow shedding pounds. Each little lost half pound, each dropped dress size, each shirt that now fits better than it did a week ago, they’re all just small changes but feel like huge victories to me. Every now and then I still reward myself with chocolate, I still have days where cheat meals take over, I still have days where I move about as little as a sloth, but then there are other days where I’d run for an hour before doing some strength training, where I’d chew salads like my life depends on it, where I take a double take before stuffing myself with cake and then decide not to have the cake after all. It’s all part of my story, the one where I tell myself that I am strong, and persistent, and that I am able to achieve whatever I put my mind to.
I’ve given myself a year to reach my ideal weight goal (starting July 20th, 2019), because gaining it took almost 10 years, so losing it will also take time, but hopefully less than 10 years… I allow myself to fail, to stumble, and to fall, and I allow myself to get up no matter how shaky my legs. It’s been only 2 1/2 months (which feel like a lifetime) and I still have a long ways to go, but I’m getting there. I’ve changed my diet, I try out different exercise programs in addition to keeping my weekly pilates, weight lifting, and running going, and really, most importantly, I just try to enjoy the journey. This is, after all, my story, and I’d hate to tell everyone that all I did was suffering, that’s not true. All I did, and really continue to do, is being in awe of the human body and how awesome we as a species are…
Anyways, I still don’t like full-body pictures of myself and I still prefer a very specific angle when I take pictures, and mostly I take a lot of selfies when I’m close to the ocean. But I also see a difference already, even after only 2 1/2 months (also, I better be seeing a difference, I’ve lost 33 lbs, or 15 kg already). But I want to leave you with one last parting thought, before I go back to chewing salad and wondering how I could make salads taste like caramel chocolates.
My weight gain (or loss) story is but a minor footnote in a lifelong story book. How I look has very little to do with the legacy I want to leave behind. In fact, in everything I do, I know that I am but a pawn in a bigger scheme. I work tirelessly to ensure that we take care of the oceans, a lifeline that we all depend on for better or worse. Any chance I get, and to anyone who listens, I talk about the beauty that is the ocean and the need to take care of it, as if it was in our backyards, because it is, it always has been, and it will hopefully continue to be so for a very long time. I talk about all the glories of the deep blue, the magnificent beauties that life in it, and how lucky we humans are to have such an amazing vast resource available to us. And while I could go on for years about the marine resources and ways of addressing climate change, food security, safe drinking water, job creations, sustainable development, marine mammal protection, etc. The story I most often tell, rarely touches on these issues.
My story is one about wonder and awe and natural beauty, one that we all can observe, if we just choose to look. We need to do better and bolder by ourselves. We need to act, we need to change and demand it of others, we need to do. And most importantly, we need to be able to celebrate small victories along our journey. We need to tell our stories, so that others share theirs, and we need to be okay with changing the trajectory of our stories. Most importantly, we need to listen, because we as humans are remarkable storytellers, but honestly, the ability to listen and being enchanted or inspired by the words, that’s where we as humans really shine. (- That being said, don’t believe everything you hear or see…)