first steps


I lost the weight. Between 2012 and 2013, I lost 16 kgs by eating three meals a day, cutting out snacking, and going to the gym at least twice a week. Throwing out all the oversized, billowy clothes I had accumulated to cover up the weight gain was liberating. Fitting back into the the sizes I wore when I graduated highschool felt incredible. After having a rough, emotional 2011, starting graduate school and losing the weight was my way of showing the universe I was back on track, back on top.

But: I didn't do the emotional work. I didn't face all the emotions that had triggered my unhappiness in 2011, didn't deal with any of the underlying issues that had made me always reach for food in the first place. So three years later, after a stressful master's program, a new job with a long commute, failed online dating, not being able to find the right therapist, and living alone, I've gained back half of the weight. And it feels shitty.

Food has always been a coping mechanism for me. Happy? Celebrate with food. Sad? Have a treat to cheer yourself up. Success? Enjoy some Sour Cream and Onion Pringles as a reward. Nervous? Angry? Lonely? Bored? Hurt? 

Food is a lot easier than dealing with emotions. For a short amount of time, cream toffees and Pringles make you feel better, all the empty carbs wrapping you in a warm hug. But the guilt will kick in, and the emotions will come back. Maybe not right away, but the underlying emotions are always there beneath the surface. The longer you ignore or try to cover them up, the stronger the current gets, until the undertow drags you away and slams you into a wall. Hard.

As I looked into the mirror this weekend, I realized that something's gotta give. This eternal spiral of feeling bad, eating something unhealthy, then feeling bad and guilty about that only to lather - rinse -repeat has got to stop. Food should be what it has always been for me: a source of happiness. Something that allows me to express myself, and calms me down, and brings me an immense amount of joy when I share it with others. By using food as a floatation device that enables me to keep paddling just above all the real, raw stuff, I've unwittingly taken something from myself that I want back.

More than that, though, I want to be healthy. For most of my life, losing weight and being fit has been about looks, about wanting to be thin rather than doing what is best for my body. If I'm honest with myself, though, I know that my hips are never going to magically turn into Gisele's slim ones. I know that my body bears the marks of growing way too fast way too quickly, and that I will never not be as tall as I am. My thighs will always be sturdy, my calves will always be musculuar, and I will always have a double chin when I throw my head back with laughter. And that's okay. Great, even. Looking good should be a side-product of feeling good and being healthy, not the other way around.

I don't want this life to be one where I fill my holes with bad habits I have not managed to kick yet.

The incomparable Hannah Brencher shared this revelation on her blog a little while ago, and it hit me like a sledgehammer. I don't want that, either. I don't want to cover up and hide and run. I want to have the courage to face even the ugly parts of myself instead of filling them up with Bailey's and Nutella.

Last night, I went to the gym. That may not be the entire answer to my problem, but it sure as hell felt like a step in the right direction.

Here's to many more steps.