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How I dieted my way to gain 120 pounds

Even as a child I was aware that being on a “diet” was something adults did regularly. I remember my Dad having weight loss challenges with friends, my Aunt being a Weight Watchers coach, my Mom dieting when I was a child. I also remember the first time someone pointed out to me that I was chubby. I was probably 11 or 12, and had just gotten a new outfit that I was so proud to have picked out. It had a slight midriff top, and a friend pointed out my “fat belly”. I’d never thought of myself as fat until that moment. The first time an adult made me think about my body was when a teacher commented how I’d slimmed up over the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, asking if I’d gone on a diet ( no I’d gone through puberty). And I will never forget when my beloved German teacher commented about my senior picture – that the pose chosen was bad, made my arms look fat. I have been hyper sensitive to the size of my arms since.

It was probably in college when I first started “dieting” I remember have a sign in my dorm room that said “Remember 128”. The reference was to getting to the magical 128lb weight on my 5’7”frame. In hindsight I’m not sure when I was actually 128lb, but by college I was around 140pounds. The next few years led to things like the cabbage soup diet, skipping eating for days, and other less healthy attempts. I bounced around up and down between 140-160 pounds throughout my early 20’s. At one point a combination of stress, not eating, working too much, partying too much and overall generally bad lifestyle, did get me back down in the 120s. I was thrilled. Could not believe I was wearing a size 6, could borrow clothes from my petite friends. Looking at pictures of me at the time, I was the classic example of skinny fat. No muscle definition, bone thin legs, squishy in the middle. But I was a size 6, dammit.

That didn’t last for long. Within 4 years I was in the 180s. I will never forget visiting family in Hungary and one of them pantomiming gestures about how much weight I’d gained since my visit 2 years earlier. By thirty, I’d lost a bit and was bouncing around the 160s. Then the 170s. Enter the switch in conventional wisdom that said fat was bad, whole grains were good. Pasta was the healthy thing. Skip the bacons and eggs, eat bagels and muffins. I remember thinking even back then that if I ate a carb loaded breakfast, I was hungry and often binge ate the entire day. But, hey, that was the healthy way to eat. So healthy that by my mid thirties I was over 200 lbs and gaining. I began having random signs of what I now know were auto-immune related. My doctor just said I was getting older, and that some weight gain was normal (while ignoring my TSH at the very top of the “normal” range). At 38, I weighed 235lbs.

And discovered fen-phen, Atkins and Jane Fonda videos.

90 days of drugs, high fat low carb, and daily or twice daily aerobics with Jane, I was down 65 pounds. This was amazing. Then stories of adverse affects of the fen part of the equation started hitting the news. My doctor stopped prescribing it. I stopped the videos, the Atkins…after all why bother without the drugs. In an incredibly short period of time I was back at 200 pounds.

A few months later I was pregnant with my son. Got up to 250lbs during the pregnancy. Was relying on breastfeeding to lose the “baby” weight. Began to accept I was older, post pregnant would just have to accept gaining. After all it was what my doctor seemed to think was inevitable as I aged.

At 40 years old, being in the 200s was my new normal. As was shopping at Lane Bryant, or in the “women’s” department. Remember dreading teaching my son to ride a bike because at 250 lbs and out of shape I couldn’t run after him and push the bike. I made some half hearted attempts to lose weight. Bought a treadmill, surely that would be the answer. Tried the Seattle Sutton meal service. Tried Nutri-system. Back to weight watchers. Another round of Seattle Sutton. Each thing would knock off a few pounds and then it would stop. Nothing seemed to work. All the while, I became more and more sedentary.

And before I knew it I was pushing 50 years old and 260 pounds. Each time I dieted, I lost some, but then gained back more. Since college I’d been on and off diets nearly all the time. And somehow I’d dieted my way from 140lbs to 260lbs. I just knew something had to change.
Even if I wasn’t quite finished with dieting…..

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