Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ten Years: Fifty Pounds

Today is my personal celebration. This May marks 10 years since I lost weight and have kept it off.* This is the picture I keep on the fridge at eye level to remind me of where I came from.
Kindly forgive the cruddy pictures - these are all digital pics of actual photos
Yes, that is me in the cream dress (and that's L in the purple tie!). This picture was taken in June 2006 at L's birthday party. I am fat, close to 200 pounds.

When I look at this picture, I see a woman who is pretending to be brave, pretending to be fabulous. I'm also sucking in everything I can for the camera, and glad that L's hand is covering my stomach.

How did I get to that place?

I was always skinny as a child, more curvy (boobs!) as a teen, but when I hit my 20s, I started gaining weight. I kind of lost myself, who I was, in my previous relationship, and ate and drank my way through that. I made it out the other side okay, slightly more confident. I lost weight for the first time during this period in my 20s - I had to measure myself for a bridesmaid's dress and seeing the numbers gave me a reality check. I switched to the diet version of everything, cut back on the beer, and did a Kathy Smith workout VHS tape 2 days a week.
OMG, that brings back memories!
It was the mid-90s, that's what we did! And it worked. I lost 6 inches all over - I kept track of my progress with a weekly check with a measuring tape - and then I stopped. "All done," I thought, "I can go back to my real life now."

So I did. And I met this guy, one of the best things that ever happened to me. L helped me find the confidence in myself to quit working retail, go back to school and get my degree, and to find 9 to 5 work.
 This is right around the time we got married, 20 years ago, so in late 1996 or early 1997. We'd just gotten back from our trip to Scotland (I bought the orange skirt at Etam in Edinburgh). I had gained back some of the weight, and wore a lot of black to hide the parts I didn't like (my torso). I can see in my eyes that I don't like how I look.

This is 4 years later, around 2001. I've graduated from university (2000), and although I'm all smiley, I'm going into a very low period here. I wasn't happy in my job, I didn't like who I was.
The body language is a dead giveaway
 I have struggled with depression for much of my life. Never felt good enough, never felt like I could please anyone. I didn't understand myself very well - I have a tendency to push those feelings down and eat/drink them away. I didn't want to face the world, face anything at all.

My friend Tammy and I went to Vegas in 2001. Note that I've always had a flair for drama, and I've always loved to dress up.
 Even at my heaviest, I've tried to fake it to the world. I felt so incredibly ugly and unlovable on the inside.

Now, when I look at these pictures, and I don't see an ugly woman. I see an unhappy woman, but she still has beauty.
I like my hair at this length, too
 Vegas was unbearable - whatever possessed us to go in August? I was horribly uncomfortable in this large, bulky body. My legs rubbed together and chafed, my boobs sweated. It was like wearing 10 heavy, thick sweaters that you can't take off. I hated it.

L and I went out every Friday night for many years, to our old pub, Swans. I always dressed up.
 Always with the dramatic pose (intended to stretch me out and not make me look fat). I have always liked my leather (real or fake)!

But I never did anything about my weight. And I kept gaining.
 This is for our friends' wedding. I bought this dress at Jacob, the shoes at Aldo, and I don't remember where I got the satin shawl. It was getting hard to shop in "real" stores. This is around 2001 as well.

We went to New York in 2002. This picture was hard for me to look at. There aren't many pictures of me after 2002 - I didn't like having my picture taken.
 Again, I remember how much I hated being in my body. I pushed L away from me, and I didn't have my supportive group of girlfriends that I do now. I turned inward and withdrew, putting on a good face for the world.

Although there are very few pictures of me from 2002 to 2006, by the time this party below happened, I was starting to take control of my life again. I went through several job changes (mostly bad), and then found a good one that I stayed at for 5.5 years. I also started writing poetry again after many, many years, which helped me delve into myself. Writing poetry is like opening a raw wound for me - although it is cathartic, I just can't go there now. I wrote a lot over a two-three year period, and sorted out a lot of sh*t in my head.
 I started to accept my body as it was, and started to believe that I was a good person, a person with value. I began to see what L has always seen in me: I'm a smart and beautiful person. I am not my outside.

Yes, L, here's to you for believing in me all along. I put that man through hell with me for many years.
 Once I believed in myself, it was like something let go. I didn't need to lose weight. I was fine how I was. I liked myself for the first time in years.

But I knew I was unhealthy. My dad died of a heart attack when he was 55, and my doctor had warned me that I was going down that same path. In the summer of 2006, when I was nearly 39, I joined my work's WW meeting* with the goal of doing a marathon in my dad's honour before I turned 40. My dad was an ultra-marathoner when he died - he also used to be heavy, and he lost a lot of weight through running.

I was focused on my goal of doing the marathon, but I also LOVE pretty clothes, and I wanted to fit in the sample sizes (mostly 8s) at Dots. I was motivated and I lost steadily. I had L take these series of pictures over the course of the 9 months that it took me to lose the weight.
 One of my favourite Dots dresses - I've lost about 10-15 pounds here, and I'm feeling good.

I was so excited about losing weight, that I bought this dress months earlier, hoping I would shrink into it by Christmas. At this point, I've lost about 25 pounds.
The dress was a size 10, and by Christmas I'd shrunk out of it! I only wore it once. Maybe I'll find it in a thrift store one day? It was so pretty.

I had done an interim clothing shop when I was at 25 pounds gone. These clothes were getting loose on me too. This is early 2007 and I'm down 35-40 pounds.
 I still have that necklace and earrings, and those are my beloved leopard pumps (last worn here, 2nd outfit, in July 2016) that I bought in San Francisco, where we went for my 39th birthday.

And here I am at my goal weight: 138 lbs, down 50 pounds, from 188 lbs. Looks like me now, doesn't it?
I pose better now!
L bought me that dress in Vancouver on our anniversary trip that year - that was our 10th anniversary! I'm wearing a pair of shiny red Fluevogs (I've since gotten rid of them - too high). I cut my hair short to signify my fresh start.

And yes, I did the marathon! I race-walked it 3 days before I turned 40. It was proof to myself that I could do it, and I could do it for ME. It was hugely satisfying (and I've no desire to do it again).

It's been 10 years since I lost my fifty pounds. It's been a struggle sometimes to keep it off, but I've done it, I keep doing it, and I'm proud of myself. I take care of myself and put myself first. I look after my mental health and my physical health. I've learned a lot about myself, and I'm still learning. Aren't we all?

I saved only piece of clothing from when I was at my heaviest - my jeans. This week, I took them to work and showed my coworkers my "fridge picture". Many of them didn't recognize me in the picture, and were agog that the jeans had ever fit me.
Those are size 16.
I took them to my WW meeting tonight and put them on over my pants to show my group.
It was emotional - it brought back so many of those feelings of being worthless and unhappy. But it also reminded me how much this journey has taught me.

I'm worthy of this. I deserve this.
As the great Bif Naked sings (this is my theme song - link, go listen, it's a rockin' song):


 "I love myself today, not like yesterday. I'm cool, I'm calm, I'm gonna be okay."

This gal?
She's gonna be okay. I'm taking care of her.

 *Full disclosure: I lost my weight and have kept it off through Weight Watchers, and I have now been a leader employed by them for over 6 years. Weight Watchers bears no responsibility for anything I say, and I don't ever talk about the company on this blog except in passing, as in "at my WW meeting tonight", etc.

56 comments:

  1. You look beautiful in every single picture. I'm happy for you, you are an inspiration ... What an amazing testimony!

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    1. Thank you so much, sp! I really appreciate your kind words.

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  2. And they called it the Merry, merry month of Month! Happy Anniversary Sheila...celebrate yourself!!!!

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  3. These words seem inadequate, but thank you ever so much for sharing your personal, inspirational story. Happy anniversary!

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  4. thanks for sharing your story!, I'm so glad that you made that important change, taking control of your life, and you decided to believe in yourself, to love yourself as you were. So moving that you see yourself in old pictures as an unhappy women, even if you were so beautiful and lovely. That's the Big Difference for me!
    Really lovely post!, and you're very brave!
    besos

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    1. It has been a slow process, both losing the weight and changing my internal self. Thank you, my dear. *hug*

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  5. Wow what an incredible feeling it must be to see how big those jeans are on you now Sheila - a wonderful way to remind yourself how much all of your hard work is paying off. I'm so sorry you had such a tough time over the years but I'm so proud of everything you've done for yourself and that you're happy with where you are now. You are an inspiration - not that I'm looking to lose weight (I've accepted the 'baby weight' is now just my weight, ha!) but that you're focusing on what you need and making sure you are taking good care of yourself. That's inspiring.

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    1. It's pretty weird, Mica. It feels unreal - it is hard to remember or even conceive that I was that size once. Taking care of myself is the hardest thing - it's so much easier to NOT to. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind comment.

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  6. Thank you for being so open and candid about your depression. Your blog is one of the reasons why I finally went and got help for my anxiety. So, thank you from a wee suburban corner in Minnesota :)

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    1. Erin, that means so much to me - thank you for telling me that. I think it is so important to talk about our mental health issues - it normalizes them instead of us feeling stigmatized. Good vibes to you, and wonderful to see you!

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  7. My story is very relatable!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing yours now :)

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  8. Thank you for sharing this incredible journey...it is so inspiring and you deserve all the credit.
    Weight Watchers works and the support is so helpful, but ultimately YOU are the one who did the work.
    Congratulations! Happy Anniversary Sheila.
    XO

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    1. You are so welcome, Leslie! Aw, you are too kind, thank you. Yes, I remind myself that - *I* did this...such an empowering feeling.

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  9. I think this is the first time I’ve ever commented on your blog, but I’ve been a silent reader for many, many years. I remember when you were still pseudo anonymous, didn’t reveal where you lived, L’s face was always obscured, etc. I also remember when you had two kitties before Vizzini, Inigo and Othello, so it’s been at least 7-8 years!

    But, after you writing such a heartfelt and moving entry I had to comment.

    Congrats on the weight loss and also I’m glad that you’ve also found happiness and joy in your self! I truly look forward to reading your posts every single day, and especially hearing all the details about your life. (My favorite posts are the long weekend ones or when you take a trip somewhere or have closet posts, etc. You’re truly a joy to read and I hope life continues to be wonderful for you, L, and Vizzini.

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    1. Jez, first of all, thank you so much for reading all these years. Aw, our old kitties Inigo and Othello, and ha! yes, L's face obscured! Gosh, how the years fly!

      Secondly, I hugely appreciate you commenting (and reading!), Jez. You will have a nice big post this weekend to read. Thank you again for visiting my little part of the world. :)

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  10. Man of us have been on a similar journey! It is encouraging to hear from fellow "travelers"! I thought I couldn't like you better than I already did, but this post has proved me wrong! Congratulations on the loss AND maintaining. You ROCK! ♥

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    1. I know! And I know how hard it is - it can feel very alone at times. Aw, thank you so much, Rebecca! Hugs to you, my dear.

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  11. I'm sorry you had such a hard time, Sheila. I thought you looked rather wonderful in those old photos, but congratulations to you for all your hard work and effort in becoming the you you are comfortable with. L clearly loves you whatever size you are!

    You must certainly be an inspiration to your WW group and to many other women who are unhappy with their size/weight/body.

    Hope your weekend is fab.

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    1. It was just...what it was, Veronica. I had a lot of good times in there as well, but my overall unhappiness lurked behind everything. I look at the pictures now, and I like them better than I did at the time. Yes, L has always been supportive of me.

      Inspiring others at my WW group is part of what keeps me going. :)

      Happy weekend to you too, my dear.

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  12. Sheila,
    Thank you for writing this. Such a fitful life you endured, yet so much beauty and design savvy is always there. I am so glad that you are in the place you are in, healthy, slim and beautiful. You do everyone a service when you share a part of your lovely self.
    Self confidence is hard for women, and it is not easier now, i fear it is worse.
    I did laugh at the way you lost weigh, for a second, as it hit me, how we date ourselves. A video tape and a tape measure, now it would be a fitbit and a youtube video or something.
    Life is a journey , thanks so much for sharing part of yours,
    it is wonderful to know more about you.
    XX, Elle
    http://www.theellediaries.com/blog/

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    1. Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Elle. It has had its ups and downs, and I'm still figuring stuff out. I am in a good place now, where I feel good about my mental and physical health. Yes, self confidence is so hard - I try to boost all the women in my life, both in my personal life and at home.

      I know! So dated - to think that even 10 years ago, not everyone had digital cameras too!

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  13. Congratulations on all your hard work! I'm so glad you acknowledged the mental health side of things. That's always the hardest.

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    1. That's been the biggest hurdle for me, Charlotte. Acknowledging my own mental health issues has been a big deal - I'm not there, but I'm getting there.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting - I hugely appreciate it.

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  14. You are a success story wrapped up in fab clothes. So glad you are feeling better, having fun, and living a good life. You deserve all that and more! Thanks for sharing your love of good clothing with us, and showing us your newest purchases. I love how you love your clothes!

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    1. Thank you, Gerrilyn! It wasn't easy getting here, and I'm nowhere near "fixed." Aw, thank you for your kind words!

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  15. Congratulations on your accomplishment! It's great you've learned so much about yourself over the years. That picture of you inside the jeans is a great visual to see how much weight you lost.

    I wish you many years of continuing good health and happiness.

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    1. Thanks, Danielle - it helps to look back and reflect on the whole journey.

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  16. wow. what a story! thank you for being vulnerable and sharing yourself in this way. i appreciate your dedication to your blog. i turn to it frequently for inspiration and entertainment. thank you for this amazing story. be well.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kathryn. I'm so glad that it spoke to you, and thanks for reading!

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  17. Awesome post, Sheila, if only for the sheer work it must have taken to get all these time era photos together. What I so love is how you identified the cause of your unhappiness and went full steam ahead to remedy it. Huge applause. You always looked fabulous but I'm glad you fixed that unhappy part.

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    1. Nah, I have a few handy albums around - my source for all the oldies! It wasn't quite that straightforward, getting to where I am, but thank you, my dear!

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  18. I totally appreciate the shift this post took, where you learned to love yourself and because of that love for yourself, you took steps to become healthy. That is so important. It takes a lot to love yourself and even more to love your body, at any size. I am a naturally slim person but I've had my weight go up and down over the years, never loving it when the weight was higher and never loving it when the weight was lower. And now post-babies, where I barely got my body "back" after the first before having the second, it's really hard to look at it with love. My brain doesn't go for the "this body made two babies so it's beautiful" stuff. But healthy. Yes. My body, as it stands here before me, is healthy. And while I'm not quite at the love thing yet, health is at least something I can respect.

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    1. Yes, that was one of the biggest things, Cara. I wasn't really ready to lose weight until I liked myself as I was first.

      You have TWO babies now?? Holy smokes, congratulations! Hugs to you!

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  19. Thanks for sharing your journey, Sheila -- wonderful accomplishment! You are fierce and brave and wise and beautiful.

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  20. Your story made me cry; you are such determined and wonderful person; to be able to tell all of us your story is amazing; I am in the middle of my weight loss journey right now and I am hoping your story will encourage me to stick with it; you did it and you have kept it off and that is such a story; it is so difficult to keep the weight off once you have reached your goal; but, you have shown us it can be done..I love you even more today for telling your story..Congratulations!! Sheila....xxxx

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    1. Aw, hugs to you, Pam! Thank you so much (I cried writing it, it's okay). Hey, I noticed you live in Ladysmith - drop me a line if you make it down to Victoria, and we can meet up! :)

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  21. Wow, what an amazing story, and woman you are, Sheila. I am so in awe, so inspired, you are just so cool. Thanks for sharing such an important part of your life with us. yea.

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    1. Thank you, Pat! I so appreciate your kind words. :)

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  22. I love your candor here! Congratulations on finding a lifestyle that clearly works so well for you. I know quite a few people who feel happy and healthy at your "refrigerator picture" size, but that was not where you were, and it's so great that you found a way to build a body that was right for you and for your health.

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    1. Thank you, JS - this was a hard post to write. I completely respect bodies at all sizes - if the person is happy with it - but I was so NOT happy. I am proud of myself for doing this. Keeping it off is the hardest part.

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  23. Oh Sheila, this post made my eyes tear, I am so proud of you ! and so happy to see where you are now.
    What a heartfelt post, if I could just hug you!

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    1. Aw, thank you, sweetheart! We have to meet one day - real hugs then! Thank you.

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  24. Congratulations my darling! How hard you've worked at this and how you deserve this success. Your story will strike a chord with so, so many women out there. I love your honesty for showing the story with all the pictures giving a blow by blow account of the battle. Ever stylish no matter what size you were, I applaud you. You have grown in my esteem today.

    Much love
    Anna x

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    1. Thank you, Anna! It is still really hard, but I have to celebrate this and myself. I shared this with my WW meeting (the picture, my story, my jeans), and it was so rewarding to see them appreciate my journey. Aw, thank you - I so appreciate your comment. Hug!

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  25. Bravo to you for sharing the story of your weight loss and self-love journey with us. It's hard to admit that our lives are not always happy and shiny, but I think we inspire people more when we show our not-so-pretty side, and talk about how we've made it through. Congratulations on keeping the weight off - I know from friends'experiences how hard it is to maintain your goal weight. I'm glad you found the real you in the process.

    I've struggled with depression all of my life, and if people would have talked about it more when I was younger, it wouldn't have taken so long for me to realize I could get help. Here's to sharing our stories, whether they be dark and scary, or shiny and happy.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Shelley. I agree about sharing our stories - the more we talk about it, the less we (and others) feel that we're not alone in dealing with our issues. Hugs to you, my dear!

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  26. Dearest Sheila, congrats to you on ten years, and keeping the weight off! And guess what--my ten year anniversary of hitting goal at WW was about a week ahead of yours! I lost 30 pounds. I joined WW on January 2, 2007, realizing on New Year's that I'd be turning 50 that year and didn't want to carry either the weight or the emotional baggage that went with it into my next decade. I am sure glad I've kept the weight off. I still attend meetings regularly. And it is way more fun to get dressed than before. Even better, as I now head towards 60 in less than three months, I feel strong and healthy. Daily exercise keeps the weight off--and the blues away.

    Keep up the great things in your life, Sheila, my soul sister!

    All the best,
    Linda in AZ

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    1. Linda, thank you so much for this heartfelt comment! Congratulations to YOU - that is fantastic! Weight is so much more than the actual pounds, isn't it? It really is so much emotion and identity - it is incredibly hard to shed all the ties we have, and to create new, stronger ones. Hugs to you, my dear. :)

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  27. Catching up on blogs after being away for a while, and oh I am glad I found this post. Thank you for sharing your full story and baring yourself this way. I've finally started back on weight watchers after gaining all my weight back and then some, and hitting what will be my highest weight ever. I'm just starting my journey again, and this was a perfect moment for me to read this. You're a strong, brave woman who I am proud to know.

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    1. Aw, Kristen, so nice to see you. Good for you - hang in there, and remember that you don't have to be perfect. Hugs to you!

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  28. Wow,I never knew all this.And what a help it has been to me in my weight loss and self love journey. Thank you so much! I love getting your emails and seeing the fab way you put an outfit together. Love Pamela-Marie,London,UK

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    1. Aw, that means a lot to me, Pamela-Marie, thank you. I very much appreciate you reading - thanks!

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Comments are so incredibly special, and I love them and hug them and treasure them forever. Please feel free to tell me what you think! I try to respond to every one, so please check back!

Cheers,
Sheila