(EDIT: Sorry it is so long and I hope there aren’t too many grammatical errors as I wrote this out very quickly on a whim!)
This is my story. I am currently twenty-four years old so I still have so much room to grow and learn new things. This is simply my journey so far. I have not, in comparison to many others, had a hard life. I have had two loving parents with respective loving partners. A wonderful sister who has always been my best friend and countless other friends that have stood by me through thick and thin (quite literally but we will get to that).
My purpose for writing this out is in hope that others will hear my story and get conversations going that will inspire messages of positivity and good. We live in a world dominated by communication platforms that build walls blocking true connectivity. I believe through sharing our stories we can begin to become a community of support that allows honesty and love to be prominent forces instead of selfishness and bitterness.
For most of my life, I have been overweight. I first noticed this in Year Five of primary school. I remember sitting in the front row for a class picture. Upon seeing the printed photo, I could see my calves were larger than my fellow female classmates. My face was chubby and often filled with rosy cheeks. My belly also stuck out a little in the polo shirts. At this stage I was not too worried. Nobody told me I had a problem yet and quite a few children go through the “puppy fat” stage where they will thin out as they grow.
In Year Six and Seven I was moved to a different primary school so my sister could attend a certain high school. I was able to make new friends relatively well but I do remember in those two years becoming more aware that my weight was not normal. My Father was a very active man and heavily encouraged my sister and I to play sports. We played netball for a few years. I was the chubbiest in my team and it made me feel inadequate. I became a shyer person and the other girls in my team ignored me quite a bit. Not to say I did not kick ass in netball, I was very good at defense and won two trophies for being Fairest & Best.
When I started my first year of high school I quit Netball. I can not remember a solid reason why except that I was tired of training alongside people I was not friendly with. Being Thirteen your world is your social life and I had an intense focus on how “uncool” I was. I lost a close friend of mine because she found a better group to hang around with and it took me a while to create a solid group of friends.
It was during these five years that I developed a very harsh self-loathing. I was highly critical of everything I did. I hated the way my body looked. Other people around me were flirting and dating, meanwhile I felt like I was the most disgusting girl in my year and that nobody would ever find me attractive. I find it so sad now that I let things like that disrupt a time of my life that could have been so enjoyable.
I also developed a very unhealthy relationship with food. I was putting so much extra sugar into everything I ate without realising it. It was an addiction. On Weetbix cereal I would dump multiple tablespoons of raw sugar. On nearly any meal that was prepared for me for dinner I was smothering it in barbecue sauce. It was no wonder I kept putting on weight.
I still remained a little active. I did hip-hop dance for a while. I was in the school’s production of Grease which involved weekly dance rehearsal. I did outdoor education as a subject in Year 10 which involved kayaking. I did not hate being active, but I was so self conscious that I found myself saying “no” to things more and more.
I was never an obese teenager. I was definitely overweight. I did not need anybody to tell me because it was constantly on my mind. Dad kept making small digs here and there about how I should go outside or go throw around a ball with him. It just made me hyper-aware that my weight was making him feel uncomfortable. I could see it on his face that he was disappointed that a daughter of his was chubby. Now I know he was coming from a place of love and worry but at the time it hurt me. I resented him. My Mum was more understanding and gave me much needed space. I became reclusive, spending hours in my room. Wallowing in hate and depression.
I was lucky enough to go to a school where bullying was not a big issue. There was only one incident that struck a chord with me and I will never forget it.
I was in Year Ten. I was a part of a group assignment for English where you had to present a speech with two other people. I was kind of friends with one of the girls. The other girl was really nice but she was a part of a group one would label “popular”. Popular meaning good-looking and rebellious I guess? I did not know any of them well enough to make assumptions or judgements, but of course at that age one is always envious.
Anyway, it was the day of the speech. It was going to take place in the period after lunch. My friend and I had to approach the popular girl during lunch to coordinate the paperwork. This meant walking over to her side of the quadrangle. I immediately felt intimidated. Walking up we got glances straight away, things ran through my head like: “what are they doing over here?, “they aren’t friends with her?”.
We get to the girl and she’s grabbing her paperwork out of her bag so she temporarily leaves and we are standing there awkwardly surrounded by these popular people who for the most part are happily ignoring us and going about their usual lunchtime activities. Except for two boys who are standing there and looking at us, or should I say me.
One of the guys approaches, a tall white guy and says: “Do you want to know what my friend just said?”
The two of us look at each other very taken aback. I don’t remember replying to him, maybe just saying “huh?” or “what?”.
He then proceeds to death star my planet with one sentence: “He said, who’s that ugly chick?” He looks back at his friend, a muscly guy of middle-eastern descent and they both laugh. He walks off and I am left stunned, humiliated and I just want to die.
My friend says to me: “Huh, what did he say?” pretending out of kindness to mishear him. He clearly was not talking about her, she was very slender with a pretty face. I was chubby with braces.
It was then that my self-loathing escalated, having it being confirmed out loud that I was physically undesirable. I look back now at that comment and can see that those two boys were young, stupid and probably dealing with their own problems that they used putting me down as a way to make themselves feel better. Yet, a fifteen-year-old could never perceive such a complex irony.
I would continue the next two years hiding my body away. Wearing mostly long track pants or tights as my legs were, and still to this day, a big insecurity. On hot days I would sometimes still wear a jumper, ignoring people telling me how “hot it was” and “why don’t you just take it off?”. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t just tell them I felt fat.
The Year Twelve ball comes around and of course nobody had asked me to be there date because who would want me as their date? Most of my friends look back on the night with fondness but I just see it as a reminder of me being undesirable. I wore a great big puffy red dress to hide in, but my arms were completely exposed and I hated that.
My exams were done, I did very reasonably and I decided to study Creative Writing and Screen Arts at University the following year.
My depression would only worsen with University. I was surrounded by people who were outgoing, who spoke up in class and who had already so much confidence in what they were doing. I love writing but film was just something I thought I might be good at. Turns out you have to be extremely driven to make it in film and due to my anxiety and lack of confidence from my body issues I barely made friends at Uni.
I began to date people when I was eighteen due to the influence of alcohol. It allowed me to be unencumbered and have that confidence. Alcohol became a big problem for me. I would binge drink just as I would binge eat. I could escape being this anxiety riddled person and be loud and fun. Little did I know I was just making a fool of myself over and over. I would spend nights completely black out drunk and not remembering anything. It was extremely unhealthy and extremely dangerous. It took me a while of doing this to realise I was not getting any happier. I believe it was early 2013 that I felt like I hit rock bottom. I drank a whole bottle of red wine to myself alone in my room. I was also self-harming. My mental state was suffering heavily and I wanted to hurt myself because it was what I thought I deserved. I was fat and felt like I was unsuccessful at University. I never hurt myself too badly but to this day I still have one great big scar on my leg.
It was around then that I got my first taste of weight loss. My sister and I committed ourselves to the 12 week Michelle Bridges Nutrition and Exercise program. It involved severe calorie counting and regular exercise. I actually got very good results and by June I was 70kg, the lightest I had ever been before. Previously I must have been 80kg something but it has been so long I can not remember. I felt amazing. My confidence grew ten fold. My weight loss coincided with meeting Matt, my current boyfriend of five years running. We instantly clicked and started dating. I moved in with him at some point that year, after I finished my University degree of three years.
Unfortunately, I experienced what a lot of people do when they fall in love. Weight gain. We would spend many nights drinking together and just binging on all sorts of takeaway meals. Pizza, thai food, chips, cake you name it, we ate it.
Matt is 6 ft 2 and naturally with a muscular build. He was working as a brick layer and warehouse picker at the time so he was still active. When I would eat with him, he would eat so much and for some reason it made me feel like it was okay to eat as much too. When in reality as a 5 ft 7 girl, there was no way I could eat even close to the amount he could eat. My weight fluctuated like it had never before. I was in denial of it too, until I started seeing it in photos. My heaviest was 94 kg. I was on a Contiki holiday in New Zealand and they had to weigh me for a canyon swing. I was shocked, I did not even know I was over 90. I felt so horrified.
So began a slow journey to now. I began by getting a gym membership with my friend who was very supportive and we would work out together. My progress was minimal as my diet habits were missing important information. Matt put on a little weight too and so we both saw a Nutritionist to help us. I started seeing some results then. A personal trainer approached me at my gym one day and helped me see that having one on one training would benefit me greatly. I had been too nervous to entertain the idea before as I was afraid they would push you too hard to the point of throwing up.
My trainer was Ange Stannett, an incredible girl who really helped me learn that I loved exercising (look her up if you want an excellent PT!). I was beginning to notice certain exercises were becoming easier. I loved feeling stronger. In April 2017 I was initially able to lose 8kg to become 82kg. Still a long way to go but I was around the weight I was throughout University again.
I really think what made the difference was that Matt was alongside me trying to change his habits too. We tried to absorb any new information on food as much as we could. We tried out lots of new things. We also learned something very important. That weight loss is never a quick fix. That was the problem with the Michelle Bridges program for me but I’m sure it works very well for many others. The diet aspect felt too restrictive. The portions were smaller and I was not enjoying the food.
We had to make a lifestyle change in order to lose weight. No cutting corners. Some say it takes three weeks to form a habit. Personally, I think it took over a year. It has now almost been two years since I began my journey. Through regular exercise and the right kind of exercise (interval cardio and lots of resistance!) and eating lots of food but the right kind of food, I have lost a total of 30kg from 94kg to 64kg. I’ve lost a lot of fat and gained a lot of muscle. I feel fantastic.
Has this changed my mental state? Yes and no.
Of course I feel a lot less self conscious because I’m not carrying around so much weight. I can look in the mirror, see a flatter stomach, a smaller waist and I am satisfied. It allows me to be far more active which means I say yes to more things. I went back to New Zealand again but this time I kicked ass! I went walking up many hills, went zorbing down a hill and trekking for kilometres through mud. I can safely say I feel much happier.
Is there still things I don’t like about myself? Absolutely. After years of looking at my legs in scrutiny I don’t think it is possible for me to ever unsee them in a certain way. I am constantly trying to improve them and to this day I still do not wear shorts (unless at the beach when I’m forced to).
My food addiction has also never faded away. I think about food 24/7, what my next meal will be and whether I can have some bad food during the week. This will always be a battle for me. I am a lot better equipped to deal with it though. If I have a bad day, I don’t let the next day be bad as well, or the entire week for the matter. As long as you treat each day as a chance to become the best version of yourself, you can’t go wrong. Don’t give up.
I have also found my improved confidence has improved other aspects of my life. I was able to get my drivers license, something I lived in fear of for far too long. I have started taking steps for my career. I have decided after everything I have been through that I want to help others in their weight loss journeys. I will be studying fitness full time at Tafe next year.
The point that I really want to emphasize is this. When I was overweight, I should never have had such dark thoughts and feelings towards myself. Our society pushes certain concepts upon us. On the one hand, fashion and social media praises thin body types. You have to look a certain way to feel beautiful, movies and tv-shows only used to cast certain types of attractive woman in pivotal roles. It makes you feel less of a person if you are fat. On the other hand, media is also selling us fast food in enormity. Drive through Krispy Kreme doughnuts? Uber eats so you don’t even have to leave your house? And now the newer concept of Body Positivity. People like Tess Holliday being on the cover of Comsopolitan while being morbidly obese. What is it then? Do you want me to be fat or thin!?
The most important thing is being healthy. Physically and mentally. If you are overweight and it is causing you unhappiness, be good to yourself and take steps to change it. If you are overweight but satisfied with your body that is also fine just make sure you are being mindful of your health. You might already be healthy, nobody can know for sure just by looking at you! There is no right or wrong way to live your life as you are in charge. For me, I knew I wanted to be more confident and active but was a very angry and confused person who did not know how to implement change.
If there is someone in your life that is unhappy, please approach them from a place of love. Let them know that they are beautiful no matter what they look like and if they want to change, it has to be for themselves and not for anybody else.
I wish I could go back in time and let the old me know that I was important. That I was loved just the way I was and that I had the power in myself to be happy. I feel like now that I have lost the weight, all that people can say now is WOW, look how skinny you are! Look how successful you are! You look great! These are all lovely compliments but why wasn’t I receiving the same amount of love when I was fat? It shouldn’t matter what I look like, I’m still the same person on the inside. Now when I look at my Father’s eyes I can see he is proud of me, I just wish I could have seen that a few years ago.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. In summary, try not to rush change. Begin taking steps no matter how small they are. I heard a great quote from watching a video with the actor Terry Crews in it: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”