We have been asked to share our journeys today. My journey is pretty typical. I was born and raised in Southeast Idaho, the oldest of five children. I grew up in the church. I graduated from high school, went to college, met my returned missionary husband in an Institute ward, got married, and started having babies. And here I am today.But what makes my journey untypical is my weight. I have been pretty chubby most of my life. And I’ve also suffered from chronicdepression for most of my life. These two things definitely played off each other and created a vicious cycle that did a number on my self confidence.
A couple of times in my life I kicked the cycle and managed to lose weight in very healthy ways. Once when I was 17 and again when I was in my early twenties, right before I met my husband. Each time that happened, I would declare, “This is IT! I am NEVER going to let myself get fat again”. But eventually I would.After we were married I began to gain weight rapidly. I can’t even blame pregnancy and babies because I was gaining it even before I got pregnant. But then I did get pregnant. And then I was busy trying to figure out how to take care of a baby. And then I got pregnant again and taking care of two little ones that were only 18 months apart. Before I knew it I had gained almost 100 pounds from my wedding day weight.
It was humiliating. I felt so ugly and worthless. I hated going home to Southeast Idaho for visits because I would bump into people I knew from high school or church. I didn’t even enjoy being with my family. All of my younger siblings are thin, as are their spouses, and I was so much bigger than all of them. I was just sure they thought I was ugly and stupid and embarrassing.
I didn’t like leaving my house. I had no confidence around people. I felt anxiety at meeting new people or meeting up with old friends. I often made excuses and skipped out on events. And then I would sit at home and devour a bag of chocolate candy. Because somehow that made me feel better.
And I lived my life like this for the next eight-ish years. I would always try to lose weight. Every New Years. Every birthday. Every Monday. I had my lists of goals and big plans. Maybe I’d lose a little, but something would happen to derail my efforts and I would fall right off the wagon and gain it all back, plus some.
My husband was gaining weight right along with me, but he didn’t seem to care. We enjoyed eating together, especially late at night after the kids were in bed. He seemed to still love me. Eventually I just resigned myself to being fat. Oh well. It’s too hard. I’ll just be fat. And I even worked to love myself just the way I am. Fat and all. I had friends that were overweight and I loved them. I didn't care that they were fat. But I couldn't seem to extend the same courtesy to myself. I never could learn to accept and love myself, rolls and all. Deep down, I loathed myself. I was disgusting and out of control and repulsive and not worthy of anyone’s love or attention. At least that’s how I perceived myself and projected that other people felt about me.Because of all this, I was not truly enjoying my journey. I was only enduring.
In the Spring of 2011, a perfect storm happened.We had just had our fourth baby and were thinking we were done having babies. Now, gone was the excuse “Well, I can’t lose weight now. What’s the point? I’m just going to get pregnant and fat again in a little bit.” Stupid reasoning, I know.
Shortly after, in April 2011, my little brother flew into the SLC airport returning from his two-year mission. I remember being in the airport feeling emotional from the pure joy of seeing my brother again but also emotional with embarrassment of how I would look to him after two years and at my heaviest weight.
Afterwards, I tried to convince myself that I was just being dramatic and it was all in my head. And then I saw the pictures someone had taken at the airport. Not only was it bad, it was way worse than I had even thought. And you can even see in the pictures how I missed out on the joy of the moment. In many of the pictures I’m hanging back while my family rushes in to hug him. I even have a pained look on my face in several of the pictures.
As if this wasn’t enough I got some bad health news. To make a long story short, a couple of doctors discovered I had a "fatty liver". That was the actual name of it. Well, that’s just awesome. Not only is my body fat, but so is my liver. It was humiliating. My weight was not only affecting the outside of me, but also the inside. I remember sitting in my car after the doctor's appointment and just bawling with shame. With frustration that I couldn’t get my life in control. With hopelessness that it was never going to change.And then I drove home, stopping at a gas station to buy a couple of candy bars to scarf down before I got home. Because that made everything better.
With all of these things happening around the same time, I decided to take yet another stab at weight loss. Only this time I was going to go big and make myself accountable to someone. That someone was the whole world.On May 9, 2011, I started a blog. I already had a family blog but this was going to be completely devoted to weight loss and health and fitness. I called it "The Jolly Green Giant", a name I had earned in my youth, and I tried to put a positive spin on it with adding the subtitle of "Getting a little more jolly, a little more green, and a little less giant". I made a list of goals and posted them in the side bar with the intention of crossing them off as I accomplished them. They started off very simply. Workout one day. Workout three days in a row. Lose 10 pounds. 20 pounds. 30 pounds. All the way up to 100 pounds. Fit in my wedding dress. Run a marathon.
And then I did something really crazy. I shared THE number with the world. 281.5 pounds. Almost 300 pounds! That’s as much as people on The Biggest Loser weigh, at the beginning of the season! A show I would watch, while eating pizza, and think, "I’m never going to get THAT big."I started posting on the blog at least once a week with my weigh-in numbers and updates on my exercise and healthy eating progress. It was humiliating. It was terrifying. And it was exactly what I needed. Knowing that people could see my failure, I decided I COULD NOT FAIL. My blog was a place I could vent and whine. I could talk through my chocolate cravings instead of giving in. It kept my fingers and mind busy so I wasn’t running to the fridge. It kept me company when my husband was out of town. And then there were encouraging comments made by people I knew and people I didn’t. That was very motivating.
In only two weeks, even with some food mess-ups I lost over ten pounds and even started finding that exercise felt good instead of just something to be endured. Little by little, the weight started coming off. Some weeks I lost 7 pounds. Others I lost 0 pounds or even gained a pound. But each week I gained new confidence, self control, self awareness, new knowledge about health and fitness.It wasn't all roses and rainbows. I failed SO MANY TIMES. I would have a bad day and run to the loving embrace of my refrigerator doors. The next day I would confess to the blog and try to move on.
As time went on I changed and adapted my goals. I started exercising longer and doing different workouts.One month in to my weight loss process, on June 9th, I was walking with my four children, two in strollers and two on bikes. We were just going to walk around the block a couple of times and call it good. My oldest fell behind and started whining because he has to be the leader. I wanted to teach him a lesson so I started jogging to stay ahead of him. We were going downhill so that helped. But even when it leveled out I kept jogging. I chanted out loud to myself, “Just to end of the block. Just to end.” And I made it! At that very moment I changed our plans. We went left to the school instead of to the right. The kids played on playground while I “wogged” little laps around them. Wog. Walk. Wog. Walk. I was so proud of myself afterwards! That was the day I discovered running and a seed of love for running was planted. It was a victorious day and I am so glad that I have that day recorded on my blog.
I started running more and longer distances. I began celebrating holidays with miles ran versus food eaten. A month after my first "wog", our wedding anniversary was celebrated with one mile ran without stopping instead of a box of Mrs. Sees chocolates. Running became about more than just weight loss. It was my time to be alone, to work through thoughts and feelings. It became very therapeutic and I found myself working through feelings I had been struggling with for years. One day I was running by a rose bush and the smell of it triggered a memory I had of my parents. During that run I realized I was holding on to a lot of resentment for my parents, worked through it, and felt the power and release of forgiveness. I have that day recorded as well.I had the best running cheerleaders in my neighborhood. Every time I ran by the Tolmans, Nate would ask me “How many miles today, Evelyn?" and offer me a glass of water. The Ferrin girls would give me power fists in the air as they drove by. Michelle would express amazement at how many laps I did around the block.
Since that first long “wog” to the end of the block, I have ran a 10k, a half marathon, and now I’m training for my first full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles of pure running! It blows my mind to think how far I’ve come from that day in June 2011.
Because of my weight loss journey, my entire journey has changed. My family’s journey has changed. Hopefully my children won’t have to deal with some of the heartaches I struggled with because they will be learning young how to be healthy, physically and mentally.
My journey is hardly over. I still have weight to lose and lessons to learn. I still struggle with looking at myself in the mirror and being repulsed with what I see. Now days, it's more about loose skin and lumps rather than chub and rolls. I had actually been asking myself what I needed to do about my journey when I was asked to speak at this meeting.
To be continued...