Before I left for the conference that I attended in early January 2005 I had been inspired to read Dr Phil’s – 7 Keys to Weightloss Freedom. The book touched me in a different way than others had been able to. I planned to start a diet sometime after I returned home from my upcoming trip. I sat on the plane to Nashville with my arms folded over my enormous tummy/chest so as not to disturb the person next to me. I just barely fit in my seat and was thankful to have the aisle to lean into, I was mortified and thought everyone on the plane must be judging me. Upon arriving in Nashville I realized that it was one hilly town! I struggled walking place to place because of how out of shape I was (huffing and puffing, sweating, the whole bit – it wasn’t pretty). While negative thoughts about my weight were never far from my mind the trip was positively life changing. The conference was put on by well known Christian speakers and the most popular Christian artists. It was amazing to be in such a giant space with thousands of kids my age worshiping God together. During my time at the conference I embraced God in a way that I had avoided for so long. Before then I had convinced myself that due to my weight not only could the people in my every day life not love me, but neither could I, and more importantly neither could God. My thoughts shifted and I had a true realization that God made me special, he chose all of my uniqueness, my gifts and talents, and my weaknesses. I accepted that he loves me and therefore I began to believe I was worthy of being loved. Maybe for some people this idea comes easy, but for me it was a major hurdle of self acceptance. I had clarity and peace that I had never experienced before. It was amazing. I left the conference having 110% confidence that I could be successful in whatever I set my mind to, and next on the list was a major slim down.
I decided that because I had been on so many diets before, I would keep this one a secret from everyone except my parents whom I was living with at the time. I didn’t want anyone to know I was trying just in case I wasn’t successful. So Sunday morning January 22nd 2005 I stepped on the scale and saw the numbers 290… I couldn’t believe how close to 300lbs I was. I promised myself that would be the last day in my life I would ever see a number that high on the scale. So I set to work. By using Dr. Phil’s plan I was able to eat very sensibly and controlled without having to put too much effort into measuring and counting and all of those things that became tiring after a week or two. I decided to skip the exercise portion that goes with most diets for a while to allow myself time to get used to the new eating plan. The first week I lost 11lbs! The second week I followed with 6 more! I was on a roll. It was as if I was melting from the inside out. It took time for people to even notice that I was losing. When you are thin losing 5 or 10 pounds is very noticeable. When you are nearly 300lbs it takes at least 30 before people question if you’ve lost weight. It only took about two months (maybe less) for me to drop nearly 40 pounds.
And that’s when things got interesting…
**I am struggling with this next part of the story…1. to make sure I tell it fair and from as honest a place that I can, 2. to explain it clearly and concisely and, 3. 7 years later it is still painful to rehash – bear with me, I will do my best.**
So there was this guy. His name was (still is) Chris. We had known each other for several years. We were JUST FRIENDS. I had the biggest crush on him. We hung out pretty regularly before I started losing weight. In fact he and I talked about my desire to get healthy and he was really supportive of my efforts. We had a really goofy, no boundaries kind of friendship. Like I said earlier I didn’t tell anyone I was dieting, especially him. I wanted him to notice that I was looking thinner. He noticed. In fact he noticed sooner than anyone only 3 or 4 weeks in. He was very excited and supportive of how well I had been doing and only encouraged me to keep going. So we continued to hang out. Then one weekend we were out together and he kissed me on the cheek. I knew it! He liked me, it was clear. So the next time we were alone I asked him about it. I recall saying something like “I probably shouldn’t be asking you this right now” and proceeded to ask him if he was interested in me and if my weight loss had anything to do with it. We had never kept things from each other before so he was honest. I thought that’s what I wanted – I did want that, I just didn’t know the effect his answers would have on my self worth over time. He did like me but was hesitant to date while I was still losing weight to be sensitive to my process and for selfish reasons on his part. We spent weeks discussing the status of our friendship/relationship. I was so excited at the idea of dating him – dating someone I felt so connected to mentally and spiritually that I pushed really hard for him to get over the weight loss thing and start dating already. I knew he was not 100% sure he was ready but I was 130% so I rationalized that it kind of evened things out (and patience is not my strong suit). Around the time of our first date I had hit the 75lbs lost mark. I felt so good about myself. When I got dressed up to go on dates I felt truly beautiful. I bought products for my hair and new makeup and perfume. I even wore heels!! It was magical. He took me on your standard dinner dates but nothing about dating him felt “standard”. I convinced myself I was living a fairytale. We were happy but I spent a lot of time in lala land feeling so excited I had found my soul mate (I thought we were one evil step mother away from being a Disney movie…).
Shortly after we started seriously dating I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I had not faltered one day, one meal, in the previous 5 months but I was heading to another country to serve and didn’t feel like my diet could take precedence over respecting our hosts. That mindset sounds all good and innocent, but as soon as we landed in Miami (our layover) I gave myself permission to go off my diet – but not permission to fall off the wagon – however I felt like I did…I had a turkey and cheese sub sandwich with mayonnaise and a bag of chips and real pop! Then I bought a small bag of candies and a small bag of teddy grahams for the flight (the fact that I can remember exactly what I ate and recall devouring all of that “off limits” food just tells me how obsessed with food and my diet I was then, and how restrictive I was). The slope was slippery!! When we landed in the DR our host was waiting to take us out for pizza. The pizza wasn’t that good but I ate far more than a controlled portion. We went to our hotel and about an hour after I went to sleep I woke up feeling like my chest was on fire. I thought maybe I was having some indigestion from the drastic shift in diet. (damnit megan why did you do this?!?) Then I thought the pain was too severe to be indigestion and it must be a heart attack (oh sweet jesus don’t let me die in another country!!!). I was rushed to the nearest hospital, was asked a bunch of questions, got a chest xray, an EKG, and an ultrasound all to find out I had gallstones. I was told that it is common for extremely overweight people to have stones and even more common that a gallstone “attack” occur as you are losing and then have a largely fatty meal (damn you pizza!!). So I was laid up for the rest of the trip and got my gall bladder removed a month after returning home. The whole thing was an ordeal and something inside of me got shut off on that trip – my self discipline.
Chris and I continued dating. He even came to visit me after my surgery (I think I basically begged him to come and even was an ass about making sure he sent me flowers – I had expectations and a fantasy he had to live up to!). It became very obvious my weight loss from week to week (I shared in detail with Chris every week) was slowing down. I went from averaging 4lbs a week to 1 or 2. And Chris didn’t get it. I made excuses and at times lied about what I was eating but I began to feel a bit defensive with all the questions. I started to wonder why the 75lbs weren’t enough. Our relationship continued to get more serious we said the ‘I love you’s and talked about spending our lives together. I was drunk on love. It was bad. I was blind to the scary dark undertone that developed in our relationship. This ‘weight thing’.
We spent Thanksgiving together and I thought I was looking good, somewhere around 90lbs down. A week after we got home from visiting his family I got the question I’d hoped to avoid that week – “so did you lose any weight last week? I forgot to ask?” I knew it was coming because we celebrated my successes together every week. “no. I gained 4 pounds…but some of it was probably from traveling and I’ve been working really hard this week and by Sunday I will have lost it all so its ok…right?” There was a clear and painful shift between us from that moment on. My diet went from being something we both celebrated for me to it being an expectation for the relationship to continue for him. By the end of the following week we had decided to “take a break” to see if I could get back on track with my diet and such.
**Now this part of my story is hard to tell for so many reasons, but one of the very important reasons is because I don’t want all of the blame to end up on Chris. He and I can share it 50/50. I defended him at the time to all my friends because I was not willing to look at some of it without my ‘drunk on love’ goggles on. Then after coming out of that I spent years being furious with him for it. None of it has done me any good and I think the only way that telling this story is of any use is if I own my half of the destruction of the relationship 50/50; but this is my story and it can’t be skipped over because of its profound effects on my motivation, self worth, and relationship with food.**
I wanted to get back on my diet as much as he wanted it for me. I shared his viewpoint that I didn’t want to be with someone who would just accept me the way I was. I wanted to be with someone who loved me enough to want me to live as long as I could and not live overweight and die young. This part of it is so confusing and tough to work through in my mind. I wanted to be loved for who I was on the inside – but I didn’t want to be loved as is because it wasn’t my best me, or the me I needed to be in order to live a long and healthy life. Additionally I had already started to fall out of love with myself the moment that I “cheated” at the Miami airport and then continued to binge and “purge” with exercise and minimal calories – so expecting someone else to love me felt unrealistic. When we went on a ‘break’ I was devastated. I wanted to be with him. I had already committed in my heart to spend my life with him. I made choices in our relationship based on that internal commitment. So I cut my calories down to the minimum and went running, a lot. Within a couple of weeks he and I decided that we would continue with our plans to spend Christmas with each others families and see where things went. I sent an email to his mom letting her know the small amounts of rabbit food I would require while we were staying with them (I was consuming on average 800 calories a day – less if I could bear the hunger). Things were looking up for our relationship but I had entered dangerous territory in my relationship with food and my weight and how those defined me). I weighed myself the day before Christmas Eve and I had dropped 100.5lbs total!!! I was 189.5! I was so proud of myself. And I knew he would be proud of me too.
We officially decided to get back together on Christmas day. I was so happy. On New Years Eve morning we had a small fight that turned into the ugliest fight I had ever been in by that night. We were done (again). I was devastated. I had worked so hard; under eating to reach a goal I thought would make me worth hanging onto and within a few days it was all over.
I cried for days, weeks, I cried so much I nearly lost my voice. I regularly went to work/school with wet, swollen, red eyes. I could barely hold it together. My friends were angry with him. I was angry with me and then him. It was all really confusing.
I binged. Often. We saw each other every Sunday due to a shared commitment we both had so I would binge the first half of the week and be “really good” (aka, starving myself) the second half so that I didn’t have a gain on the scale by Sunday. I was in so much pain. I said a lot of hurtful things. I convinced myself he wasn’t hurting because my pain was too intense to believe he would hurt like I did by choice. It was awful. A few months later I found a job in Atlanta, GA that started three weeks after I finished school. All I wanted was to get out of Chicago and start over. I abandoned my Bachelor’s degree and the opportunities it offered to be a live in nanny in Atlanta, GA so that I could get as far away from him as possible. What I didn’t realize is that you can’t run away from yourself no matter how far away you go…