Pictures say 1,000 words. Unless, of course, there aren’t any pictures around to talk. This is where my journey of improving my health begins.
In elementary school, I often lagged in PE, which many attributed to what my family thought was asthma. My younger brother struggled with asthma, and sometimes needed regular breathing treatments. So naturally, when I would tire out after just a few minutes of playtime or PE, everyone assumed that I had the respiratory disorder. However, in mid-2001 when I was at the doctor, he noticed a louder than normal heart murmur. After multiple echocardiograms (ECGs) and visits with the fine medical team at UK Children’s Hospital, I was diagnosed with a complete heart block and mitro valve prolapse. In short, the left side of my heart was delayed in beating in accordance with my right side and one of my valves sloshed blood backwards occasionally. Once I was diagnosed, we all understood why I was always so exhausted. My heart rate only reached 60 BPM, and that was on a “good day.” Fortunately, in November 2001, I underwent a minor operation to have a pacemaker implanted. Now my heart rate can beat normally when I workout and I can get through metal detectors/security at amusement parks quicker than you can.
However, in the past 9 years since my operation (though I had been blessed with life-saving, modern technology) I failed to take care of myself. Sure, now I could run, jump, and the like, but I just didn’t want to. Especially in college. Sure, there is a center with access to exercise equipment, but I was busy. No, really, I was. I was writing papers, reading textbooks, and studying. I barely had time to sleep, much less walk all the way to the fitness center and get hot and sweaty for 30-45 minutes. I had more important things to do.
After my freshman year, I knew that I had gained a little weight. I watched myself give speeches on tape for a class, but I assumed that “the look” on the tape was due to the ugly sweater I wore that day or the camera angle. Certainly, I hadn’t gained that much weight. It had to be the camera.
During the summer, I worked sitting/standing jobs and caught up on catching all the sleep that had escaped me during the academic year. I had little to no activity and I ate whatever I wanted. I knew that it wasn’t healthy, but I did it anyway. My pants may have been getting tighter, but it was probably because they were stuffed in the drawer all summer and needed to be stretched out. I was in complete, ridiculous, and full denial of my weight situation, and I had the awesome excuses to prove it.
This is where the pictures come in (finally). By the time my sophomore year began, and I moved up a pant size, I realized that “Yes, Sarah, you have gained weight.” Though I may have “realized” this, I didn’t change my eating habits, but I did stop taking pictures. If there was a picture to be taken, I would have the person take the photo of me behind something such as a table. After a while, I convinced myself that if I didn’t have to see how much I had gained, then it probably didn’t happen. I seriously believed this, and thankfully, there weren’t any pictures around to say any different.
However, when New Year’s rolled around, I received a call from a family member that lives near my campus asking if I wanted to attend a Weight Watchers meeting with her, “just to see what it was like.” So, on January 2nd, we walked into a meeting, and I found myself on the scale after registering for the program. After seeing my weight, I wanted to cry. I had let myself gain almost 40 pounds since my first day of college, and this was the first time I had been on a scale in months. All of the denial and ignoring my health had culminated into this one, awful moment. So after the meeting, I walked out of the building not for sure what to do, but I knew that after seeing the number on the scale that I had to do something. And now.
I began counting my points and drinking more water. Then, I did something that I hadn’t done regularly in almost a year: exercise. I would pop in a walk-at-home DVD and “walk a mile without going anywhere” as the fitness expert says every time I exercise. As the weeks went by, I began to lose not only weight, but inches off of my waist. I felt like I had truly accomplished something (which was true!). The Saturday after Easter 2010, I had lost a little over 10% of my body weight, the most weight I believe that I have ever lost. However, for about two months after that wonderful day, I struggled with the same 5 pounds. I would go back and forth, fighting it. I know others had warned me about this “plateau,” and that it would happen eventually, but once again, I denied it. When I would register tiny losses at the scale, I would beat myself up for not working out more or underestimating my food points.
Regardless, I have learned that a loss is a loss. Sure, I would like “three-pound weeks” every week, but the biology and science of weight loss doesn’t work that way. Though I have been on my journey of health for a little over six months, I am still learning the ins and outs of weight loss. Weight Watchers has been an excellent program that holds me accountable and teaches me how to live in a world that isn’t always health conscious, and I am grateful.
In addition, as of today, I am 32.6 pounds lighter than I was on January 2nd. Has it been hard? Yes. Rewarding? Immensely. Have I learned to completely eliminate denial about the food “mishaps” in my life? No, but I’m still working on that. If all my problems had been solved, then I wouldn’t be on a journey towards good health like I am today. After all, the best part of arriving somewhere, such as a healthy weight, is getting there.