Today, I want to talk about something that’s kind of personal. I actually don’t really want to talk about it, but that’s the challenge of this blog. I’ve got to write something! Not only that, but I have to write something with the goal of challenging myself and challenging the assumptions I make about myself and about how I fit into certain moulds.
I want to push the notion that nobody cares what I’m struggling with. I’m full of first world problems, and sometimes I am ashamed of them because compared to what other people (some of my friends, even) are dealing with, they’re minuscule. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t problems. I’m not suffering from anything, but I struggle with some things; it’s a very deliberate word choice, and I think it makes a difference in contextualizing what I’m going through.
I’ll start not quite at the beginning, but in the middle. In my first year of University I started using the school’s mental health services because I was having trouble making decisions: I couldn’t even choose what to have for breakfast some days, let alone decide whether I would stay in Montreal or move to Florida for the summer. I did NOT like the first counsellor I saw. She was intimidating. It didn’t last long. But she said one thing – very emphatically, might I add – that has stuck with me in a weird way. She didn’t diagnose me with anything (not that I expected her to) but she did tell me that I hated myself. Self-loathing, self-hatred; I don’t remember exactly how she said it, but I was shocked. Was that ever alarming to hear coming out of someone else’s mouth! But…she wasn’t wrong.
I think there are certain things that I’ve disliked about myself consistently since I was a kid, and one of them is my body. I was big, and then I was little, and then I started getting bigger and bigger again. Recently, I hit the 200lbs mark, and I thought, “This is it! If I’m going to change something, it’s going to be now!” In the past year I’ve tried passively recording my food, I’ve tried eating more vegetables, but mostly I just felt sorry for myself as my weight crept up and up.
Surprisingly, it’s relatively easy to tell all of you, dear readers, that I hit the big 2-0-0. But here’s the part that’s hard for me to say: at the end of May, I joined Weight Watchers. Again. For the second time officially and maybe the fourth unofficially. And I’m only 25. In my first week I lost 7lbs, and I thought of it as my body screaming, “About fucking time!” Now I’m seeing the number on the scale steadily go down, which is encouraging, but the most rewarding thing is that I’m starting to feel a little bit more in control. I don’t feel like I’m on a diet; I feel equipped with more knowledge about how much I can eat of certain things. In the past few weeks I have had French fries, I’ve had popcorn, I’ve had alcohol, pizza, and burgers – just not as much of those things as I was having before.
There’s a great tool that comes when you join the Weight Watchers app called “Connect”: it’s basically a Weight Watchers social media. Everyone there is so supportive of one another, even though they only “know” each other online. The posts that I’ve made have received very encouraging replies, and I’ve tried to leave kind messages to other people. It’s so important to connect with people who are going through the same thing as you and can relate to your experience. Of course, I have my real support system – my parents, my partner – but my virtual one is pretty great, too. And when it’s so hard to come out and say, “I’m doing Weight Watchers” in real life (or even over the blog, like I’m doing now) having the Connect group has made getting support a lot easier.
The strange thing to me is how easy it is to reveal how much I weigh(ed), and how, in contrast, I feel so much shame surrounding the fact that I’m doing something about it. In the past couple of years I’ve tried to beat people to the punch, regularly making not-so-funny quips about my own weight to let other people know I knew what they were thinking – even though they probably weren’t judging me as harshly as I was judging myself. Still, I resisted changing my lifestyle: “I enjoy this food too much,” “I don’t eat that badly,” “I’m too young to have to watch what I eat”… the most convincing one was, “I’ve done this before, and I’m afraid to become obsessive about losing weight again.” There was something matter-of-fact about my weight, but there is something weirdly shameful about acting on it and about self-care. Taking care of yourself can feel like a very selfish act. My efforts to be healthier will affect my friends and my partner, and that’s hard for me: I won’t want to indulge as much in restaurants or bars, I may ask friends to go for a walk instead of for coffee, and I will probably need to plan my days a little more carefully. I want so badly to please others all the time, but I need to focus on the fact that I’m doing this for me. This is for my own health and happiness, and the people I love (who truly love me back) will respect and embrace that.
I’m sure you all have diet and exercise hacks that have made it easier for you to achieve a happy, healthy and balanced life. If you’d like, I invite you to share some of your tips and tricks in the comments. Melanie and I hope that this can be a place where people can be supportive of each other, and we are all part of that mission!
Whatever you’re going through, even if it seems small compared to other people’s struggles…you got this.
Sending love and healthy vibes out to you all,