Most of my childhood I was an average size. I was neither thin nor fat, but around 8th grade I realized I wasn’t as slim as most of the popular girls. I also wasn't as rich, but that wasn’t something I could control. My weight was something I could control. By the time I graduated high school I had been in Weight Watchers a couple times, did a few random diets from the pages of YM and Seventeen, and various restrictions and fastings of my choosing. When I went to senior prom, I was my smallest – a size 2 and 104 pounds. I got there by starving and restricting and often heading to the basement bathroom where no one could hear as I threw up my dinner.
The summer after college I grew curves; I went from a B cup to a D cup in a matter of months. Freshman year my friends and I would hit the convenience store in the quad and gorge ourselves on Tostidos with queso and wash it down with Solo cups of Amaretto and Sunkist. That first year of college I made friends and lost friends, Karl left for bootcamp, my dad had a heart attack, and I finished the year at 135 pounds.
That summer, I lifeguarded at a country club and was inspired by my coworkers to be more fit. I took aerobics classes, worked out to recorded episodes of Body Electric on the VCR, and did crunches almost every evening. Even though I had enough confidence to wear a bikini to the pool, I still felt I was overweight and hated myself for the lacking self-control or willpower to be thin. I'd go between gorging on snack bar food and drinking beers on the gold course after hours and spending weeks eating hardly anything but salad and grilled chicken.
Sophomore year, I moved off campus into an apartment with a friend. Together, we encouraged one another’s bad habits. We took money parents gave us for groceries and spent it on alcohol, subsisting off the giant bag of rice my roommate’s parents gave us, cans of tuna, food my roommate brought home from her waitressing job, and vodka. I learned to make myself throw up at the end of the night to both not get a hangover and not gain weight. I joined a sorority where I knew that I got in not because of my GPA, but because I seemed fun and likely because I looked cute. And I knew part of being cute was being thin.
My weight was all over the place the rest of college; sometimes I tried to eat healthy and exercise and be inspired by my health-minded sorority sisters, but often it veered into territory where I was eating only tuna and lettuce and walking around Cole Field House 50 times with arm and ankle weights. And then I’d get over it – I’d get sick, I’d feel tired, I’d hate myself and next thing I’d be off the rails drinking and eating anything and everything I wanted. Senior year I broke up with Karl, got into a new toxic relationship, was drinking far too much and smoking pot. One day I was extremely hungover and on a fast and passed out in the hallway of my apartment. I decided I was going down a dangerous path and moved back home mid-semester to focus on my health, my education, and my family.
Things didn’t change; I bounced up and down with my weight feeling as though any problem in life was due to not being thin. Every time my weight creeped up on the scale I hated myself even more. I was lazy, I wasn't strong, I was a loser. Every time I lost weight I celebrated for a moment, but then began criticizing myself for not losing it fast enough, not being committed enough, not being strong enough. Atkins, Grapefruit Diet, Diet Fuel, Metabolife, Tae Bo, Weight Watchers, TrimSpa, Jazzercise, Bio Aerobics, South Beach… I did it all and didn't stick with a single one of them.
Soon after Karl and I married, we hit a breaking point. We were working opposite schedules and both hated our jobs. We ate out a lot, drank a lot, never got enough sleep, and were miserable. Karl up and quit his job and went to Mexico for a month to become a certified yoga instructor. He returned a vegetarian and I joined him. We began practicing yoga almost daily, regularly riding our bikes and hiking in the woods. I also changed careers and the combination helped me lose weight without even trying. This was a first in my life, the first time where I wasn't blaming my body and waiting for the future. I was living in the now and truly happy. I kept this up until I got pregnant.
I started Weight Watchers again in 2010 because I was having a hard time losing the baby weight, but was still nursing and didn’t want to do something unhealthy again that this time could affect another body. Weight Watchers helped me re-learn how to eat healthy, and get back on the right track. And I don’t want to knock Weight Watchers because it’s a very reasonable program that has brought many people great success. But I quit it when I caught myself worrying more about points than nutrition. I started thinking, if I were thinner would my blog be more successful? I caught myself heading in that terrible direction of the past and decided to quit Weight Watchers; I'd rather be overweight than caught up again in that cycle of self-loathing and yo-yo dieting.
So I cut down on refined carbs and increased my veggie intake, cut out diet soda and diet foods, and tried to move more. I came to terms with my body and decided any weight loss would be for health, not for vanity. Last year I did Whole30 not because I wanted to lose weight, but because I felt sluggish and toxic. I spent months of 2014 being sedentary, consuming all sorts of prescription medications, dealing with surgeries, physical pain and mental anguish. After reading It Starts with Food I felt Whole30 would be a way to nurture my body and rid myself of many of my food addictions. And it worked. After 30 days I felt better – lighter, stronger, healthier, and not chained to the foods I would sneak eat in the middle of the night or when I went to put the dishes in the sink at the end of dinner. Now that Emerson is older, I can no longer use her as an excuse for me not eating properly or exercising. I went into a hole for a good portion of this winter, but have crawled out and am again regularly walking and exercising and making better choices as to what I put in my body.
A reader asked in a recent post’s comments who is the Real Allie, and I think that's a great question. The real Allie is a woman who continues to struggle with her weight, and with her relationship with food. The Real Allie however has learned that a certain dress size or number on the scale does not bring happiness. She has seen people wait on life and have that life end before getting the chance to realize dreams and she doesn’t want that to happen to her. She’s experienced growing up surrounded by women and images in the media who hated their bodies and doesn’t want to do that to her daughter. The Real Allie wants to live a full Life with a capital L no matter her size. And she wrote a previous post and this current post because she knows she isn’t alone in this struggle.
This topic is relevant to Wardrobe Oxygen because Wardrobe Oxygen is all about choosing quality over quantity. This is in regard to what you put in your closet, what you put in your mouth, and what you put in your heart. Quality for your soul, not for outside approval. Quality to nourish, to feel fulfilled, to be strong, to feel beautiful. And such quality can be found at any age, any pricepoint, with any lifestyle or personal style, and at any size.