Written by Tara Duncan
**** DISCLAIMER This is a personal story. This is not meant to encourage anyone to lose weight. Everyone should do what is best for their own body and mental health. This is also not written by a medical professional***
Hi, my name is Tara… and I’m a closet binge-eater.
Okay, I’m clearly a big girl, so this may not really be a huge shock to you. I mean, I got this way somehow, right?
I’ve written about this before but I feel like so many of us struggle with weight loss it’s worth repeating.
When I started powerlifting, I did it partially because I figured I’d always been a bigger girl and if I wasn’t going to be tiny, at least I could do some impressive s***. (Sorry for the language, but that’s literally the phrase that got me into it and I’ve repeated for years now.) I was tired of being frustrated by the scale. I had started CrossFit before I got pregnant, did it through my pregnancy, but gained 94 lbs. Yes, I gained an entire small adult during pregnancy. Like a whole adult, so that was cool. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, if I ate homemade low-fat chicken meatballs and spaghetti squash or if I ate cheeseburgers and shakes, I gained 10 lbs. per month. I never had any health concerns, no pre-eclampsia, no gestational diabetes. All my labs and health indicators were textbook healthy— I just packed on the pounds. Yay?! ?
This was especially disheartening because I’d basically been a big kid and big girl my entire life. I was bullied, I hated my body. I can remember praying that God would just help me lose weight. I was maybe 7 years old when I taught myself to suck in my stomach and I have been doing it ever since, it actually is uncomfortable if I don’t. I remember fantasizing as a kid, and I’m talking less than 10 years old, that while I was in the shower, the hot water would just melt some of the fat off my body. Over the years, I tried multiple times to be anorexic, but I couldn’t go too long without eating. I also tried to be bulimic, but I couldn’t get myself to throw up. Then I was even more depressed because even though something in me knew those weren’t the best ways to be thinner, I even failed at that— what good was I?
I don’t really know why I felt this way about myself. I had and have wonderful, supportive parents. I had an otherwise happy childhood. We weren’t rich by any means and had periods of struggle— but I never wanted for anything and my parents took great care not only to provide things and experiences for my family, but to also teach us to be independent and to work hard so we could also get those things for ourselves. I was taught the value of hard work and watched my parents do what they needed to do to make sure everyone and everything was taken care of and I can honestly say I hope I’m half the parent they were to me to my child.
So I really don’t know why I struggled so. I know I was pretty heavily bullied when I was in kindergarten and first grade— I don’t remember much of it but now, I can only assume it affected me in a deep way. My parents did everything they could to make it better and enrolled me in a private school after that, and everything got much better. But I guess maybe the damage was done, because I can remember being home alone after school and literally scavenging in the fridge and cabinets. I was not under-fed, I wasn’t even hungry. It was obsessive, it was something I just had to do. I’m talking climbing on cabinets, eating, being ashamed and trying to arrange the remaining items so that it didn’t look like I’d eaten any. And then when my parents got home, I’d eat dinner. And probably dessert. We know weight gain is calories in being more than calories out and seeing as I’d eat anything that wasn’t nailed down, it’s really not a surprise I was a chunky kid.
As I got older, I was a swimmer for a few years… then did drama with dancing, etc. I was never really an athlete but I eventually started to try to get better eating habits under control. I no longer scavenged the way I once did, but I found myself making terrible choices at school so that no one at home would see how poorly I ate. You know, hiding the “bad foods”. I guess it wasn’t a really well-kept secret because I was still big, but I was ashamed, I didn’t want anyone to know. My mom got me a trainer for while and I tried Weight Watchers with her. I loved training but the nutrition part, would always be some success and then I’d fall off.
It wasn’t until I was a senior and graduated a semester early that I finally lost a bunch of weight. Over the course of spring and summer, I went from roughly 220 lbs. to 180 lbs. by changing my eating habits. I went to theatre school in New York City and lost another 20 lbs. It was great! I was so proud of myself, I no longer hated my body, although it was still big for an actress, but I looked so much better. That would last for a few years. But not long before I turned 21, I gained again and the cycle started all over.
Eating just to eat, depriving myself of the “bad” food just to eat something else, have it not satisfy the craving, and then eating way too much of the original bad food in the end. So in essence, a million more calories than if I’d just eaten the damn thing to begin with. Even to this day, I struggle with this some. I’ll get into a rut where I’m finding myself doing this a lot and I have to really try hard to break out. Sometimes it’s tied to stress or when I’m particularly upset, but other times, I don’t know why I’m even doing it, and those are the times that really bother me.
I fluctuated throughout my 20s, gaining and losing, gaining and losing. I was arguably the best shape in my life when I got pregnant— 194-198 lbs. but had muscle, was more fit and active than I’d ever been. I was finally starting to actually love my body, not just not hate.
And then I got pregnant.
Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is 100% worth it and I would do it over and over again to have her every time. But I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me to “get my body back.” I mean, she’s going to be 5 next week and still don’t have it back.
So now we’re full circle to starting powerlifting. After she was born, I transitioned to powerlifting instead of CrossFit because it was really the barbell I loved. A lot of female powerlifters will talk about and post, “Oh, I just started lifting heavy and look, my body just magically became my dream body!” So besides loving lifting heavy, I thought that would happen to me, too.
HA HA HA HA HA.
Spoiler alert: that did NOT happen.
Yes, I’ve put on a lot of muscle. Yes, my body has recomped a lot and the weight I am now looks a lot different than it did right after my child was born. But if we are being honest, although I don’t hate my body because of all it can do, I am not currently satisfied with where it is. It’s gotten a little out of hand and I’m looking forward to an off-season here coming up to be able to focus on dropping weight.
But even though powerlifting didn’t magically just give me my dream body, what is HAS done is greatly improved my mental health and mindset. I may be bigger right now, but I’ll still wear my shorts. My two-piece bathing suit. God gave you a neck, you don’t like it, don’t look. The reason I want to lose fat, sure, I’d like to look better, but I want to FEEL better. I want to have a little more energy, feel a little more like an athlete and it wouldn’t be terrible if I could move a little more like one, too. Being a little more competitive on the platform would be pretty cool, too.
So the point here, other than a word-vomit of a mini-memoir no one asked for ?… is that if you’re here like me, struggling with losing weight (fat, really), looking around on IG, seeing all these amazing women who can manipulate their weights no problem, started lifting and immediately look like fit models, and you’re not one of them— it’s okay. You’re not lazy, you’re not weird, you’re not necessarily doing anything wrong. Not everyone’s body works the same way, not everyone has the same relationship with food, not everyone likes the same food, not everyone has the same past that has even subconsciously influenced their habits.
We, as women, spend a fair amount of time comparing ourselves to others, but we have to stop. Nothing good comes from it. Nothing good comes from comparing our photos to someone else, our weight, anything. I mean, even if you feel you look better than someone else, that satisfaction isn’t really real. It doesn’t make you actually feel better unless you accept and believe in yourself.
So I propose giving yourself a little grace. Changing your mindset to stop beating yourself up and becoming your own cheerleader will go a long way. Okay, you went over your calories today, but you DID drink all your water. Or you didn’t complete your workout but you DID hit your macros. Finding something positive to note about the day, every day, about your efforts. So even if it wasn’t perfect, you’re not compelled to feel you failed and throw it all away.
Take photos. I know for a lot of you, that’s hard. I mean, I have plenty of unflattering photos. But there’s two reasons for this. 1. It will help you track small changes in your body even if the scale isn’t moving. (Ideally, take some every 2-4 weeks to compare, wearing the same outfit in the same poses). 2. Take regular photos with your friends and family. Especially if you have kids or grandkids, you may hate a photo and see only your flaws, but they’re going to look at those photos and see Mom, Grandma, Aunt who they love so much. And God forbid anything should ever happen to you, they still have those images of the person they love so much.
Remember “fat” isn’t a bad word. It’s a descriptor, not a definer. I regularly describe myself as fat. People get all bent out of shape, “I’m being so mean to myself”, etc. No, I’m taking the power out of the word. Okay, yes, I’m fat. I’m also beautiful and strong and kind and funny and I can do a whole lot of amazing things. You can’t hurt me with that word if I own it.
Push yourself a little more every day. Wear the shorts, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Add 5 lbs. to that lift. Drink 2 more ounces of water. Try a new vegetable. Try a new way to meal prep. Challenge yourself to keep from being bored and from being complacent and you’ll be surprised at soon some changes become habit.
And finally, understand you’re not alone. I am writing this not only in hopes of helping someone else… but because I need to get myself under control and listen to my own advice. I’ll be right here, along with you, struggling along this journey, together.
And it may not be tomorrow, next week or next month— but we will get there.
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