The Road Ahead

I’ve been looking forward to this day, as well as dreading it. It’s the first day of what I hope will be the last time I start a diet. I want this time to be a success like no other.

I have that desire every time I start. It’s a mix of high hopes, dread, anxiety, shame, and cynicism. I think it’s often the cynicism that does me in; I want this to be the time when everything changes for me, when I finally lose all the weight I need to lose, when I finally regain my health and can do so many of the things that fat has kept me from doing. But I don’t have faith; and why should I, really? Every single previous attempt has failed. What right do I have to believe that this effort will be any different?

And yet, I really do want it to be different. I’ve come close, before, and given up. I don’t want to give up, this time. I keep changing what I’m doing in hopes that this time I’ll find the key.

“So, this morning at 4:40 am, I got up with the intention of driving to the gym. Not to exercise, mind you; to weigh, so I’d know a starting weight. Our home scale will not weigh above 300, and I know I’m easily above that number. The gym has an old doctor’s scale, so I drove there — only to find that the scale stops at 350, and — you guessed it — I weigh more than 350. I admit there’s part of me that expected that; and part of me that’s shocked, dismayed, and embarrassed.

I was faced with a choice. I have sworn to myself that this time I would make myself accountable in a number of ways, including knowing my starting weight, knowing my measurements, taking photos, blogging, videoing, and yes, this blog. I can’t tell you how many times I start with good intentions of doing those things, and then don’t. When I don’t weigh or measure, I deny myself ways that reinforce to me that my body is changing, and while I might be embarrassed now, I know I’ll regret it if I don’t document.

“And here I was, immediately faced with the knowledge that I don’t have a way to document a very important number: my weight. That happened years ago, when I first went on Atkins; I recorded my starting weight as 337 pounds, because that was the first weight I was able to see on a scale, several weeks after I began. I don’t know what my starting weight was. I console myself, now, that I was heavier, then; I wore size 32 jeans from Catherine’s, as well as a 4X jacket. I still have them.

Still. I swore to myself I’d document, and the first thing I’m faced with is no reliable way to document. I told myself that I’d make weekly trips in to weigh until I lose enough weight to use my home scale, but how many times can I stand to make that drive, only to find out I’m still not within range? Talk about self-defeating.

I sucked it up and ordered a fancy new scale that weighs to 400 pounds. And just to make sure it’s not a waste, I got one that also calculates body fat percentage and keeps up with my stats. I plan to be less than 300 pounds in a few months; I didn’t want to buy a scale just for the time difference between now and then. That’s one big dragon, slain.
The second was when I actually sucked it up and took measurements. I recorded them in MyFitnessPal. My plan is to take monthly measurements.

That day was Day 1 — 2,921 days ago today. My initial weight, taken after new scales came in, was 371 pounds.

The road ahead is a lot smoother, now that I know where I’m going.

September 3, 2013, was a Tuesday immediately after Labor Day. It had a lot in common with previous times I’d decided to go on a diet, including a lot of mental preparation, nervousness over whether I could actually do it, and a long holiday weekend of eating anything I wanted, and as much as I wanted. A series of last meals, because, you know, that helps so much right before you commit to changing what you’re gonna eat.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d be on a diet. I’d been on a million of them, after all; some lasted a few years. Others lasted until the next time I was upset or tempted. I know I’m not alone; I started out every single effort with good intentions — and a ton of doubt — but still hoping for the best. I’m glad that I made the decision not to give up the moment I finally saw my starting weight. I can assure you, I cried ugly tears.

In the 8 years since then, I’ve learned an astounding amount about my body, my brain, my own thinking, what works, what doesn’t work.

I’ve done lots of stupid things. And lots of really smart things that I didn’t realize were smart at the time.

I’ve gone from barely being able to walk to the end of the driveway back to the house, and even then, with a cane — and using a wheelchair if distances were much farther than that — to walking 4 miles daily with the capability for much more. I can ride a bike, again. I can hike, again. I can dance, again. It doesn’t take me minutes to get up out of my seat, and I don’t have to stop and scan a room for the sturdiest chair, for fear what’s there won’t hold me.

I don’t have to wait anxiously while a flight attendant finishes her safety talk at the beginning of a flight, and then ask for the seatbelt extension she used in her demonstration. I don’t have to use the smallest store in town to do my shopping or worry about whether there are places to sit down if I’m in a larger store. I don’t have to scan the store to find the plus-size section, and I don’t have to worry about what the biggest size is they offer, and if it’ll still be too small for me. And when I’m clothes shopping, I can buy cute things instead of the leftovers of whatever’s available in the biggest size.

I can test drive a car without worrying if I’ll fit in the seat behind the steering wheel. I can sit in a restaurant and place an order without having people sneer at me, or “forget” to serve my dinner in a group setting. Or, heaven forbid, suggest the low-fat options on a menu without me asking for that information. I don’t break down in tears of frustration and embarrassment every time I enter a doctor’s office.

These are all true, all my experiences, and far from being a total list. So much has changed since that day 8 years ago when, instead of enthusiastically claiming “I’ll lose the weight this time!”, I just faked it until I made it. Proudly claiming every bump in the road 8 years later has been a victory I never thought would be mine, but it’s not over, yet. There’s still a road ahead, and I’m happy to walk it.

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