Weight / Wait

I started 2015 being unable to look at myself in the mirror. I was the biggest I had ever been. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t also the worst I’d ever felt. Outwardly I had been on top of my shit (school, work) but really I felt myself spiraling out of control.

Ever since my teens, I have been 10–15 pounds overweight (I call it “Hannah Horvath weight”). I’m not going to lie, it’s always been a struggle. It’s been the default target for bullies. It’s why I don’t like beaches. It’s killed my self-esteem. But somehow in between 2013 and 2014, I internalized my fatness in the worst ways. As Shonda Rhimes says in her book Year of Yes, “if I say yes to fatness” then “I need to embrace who I am as I am.” The problem was not the weight. The problem was that I was not embracing myself for who I was. The problem was I felt like I was putting my life on hold because I didn’t weigh a certain amount or look a certain way. The problem was my complete lack of self-respect, my shame and disgust and hatred towards myself. I mean, I couldn’t even look at myself. I became dependent on food in a way I never had before. I used it to celebrate, to drown my sorrows, to keep myself preoccupied, to praise myself, to punish myself. And I didn’t know why or how I got to this point.

It didn’t happen all at once. It happened slowly, pound by pound, until one day my skinny jeans no longer fit me and the dress I once looked great in now made me feel like a sausage casing. It happened while I was getting good grades and working awesome jobs, because I justified it to myself that I didn’t have the time to be healthy. Really, I was afraid. I hid myself under baggy sweaters and leggings. I tried so hard to keep up toxic relationships because I wanted a reminder of the person I used to be. I searched for validation in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways, from everyone except for the most important person: myself.

I saw my weight as my own personal failure. That I didn’t have self-control or willpower or discipline or just needed to learn to love salads and running. I call bullshit on that. I have plenty of self-control and willpower and discipline in my life. Kale will not solve my problems. For me, I was at a loss for what more I could do. It was not that I hadn’t tried. Trust me, I have. I have tried so hard for so long. I have tried different diets, workout regimens, fitness apps. At one point I even tried those sketchy diet pills you can buy in Walgreens that aren’t FDA approved because I was so desperate. Though not nearly as desperate as trying to make myself vomit and sitting on the bathroom floor crying because I couldn’t. I felt so weak. I felt powerless.

2015 was about getting that power back, and then some. It was looking at myself and liking who I saw. It was about not being afraid to be seen.

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I can honestly say that 2015 has been a big, life-changing year for me. I addressed an eating disorder. I went to therapy for the first time. I read 52 books. I started going to the gym regularly (I admit I’ve learned to love running but I still don’t love salads). I started going on dates. I went to hackathons and built things. I wrote 750 words every day for 100 days, and when that was over I turned those words into blog posts (one even got cross-posted to Thought Catalog). I got up in front of an audience and gave talks. My sister and I wrote each other 30 letters for 30 days. I stopped holing myself up in my apartment under the guise of “work” and learned how to better divide my time between work and play.

For the first time in a long time, I feel content. Sure, I have a few specific resolutions for this year (run a 5K, learn to use my slow cooker, write more creative nonfiction). But I am not doing the Big New Year’s Resolutions like I have in previous years. For me, that’s not how change works. Change is not the wishful listing of things I want to achieve. Change is small moments of courage and hard work added up over time. For me, it started with picking up the phone and calling our counseling and psychological services. It was taking therapy seriously week after week, even when I slid back into old behaviors. It was not beating myself up if I did slide back, but focusing on doing better in the future. It was rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning to go to the gym even though I really wanted to just lie in my cinnamon roll of blankets until noon. It was knowing that no matter how bad things got, I was not alone and that I had the power to get better.

And because of it, I am lighter. Not just 18 pounds lighter. Lighter in the sense that I just feel better. Better at discerning which relationships are working and which are not (and being okay with letting those go). Better at finding a balance and not indulging in an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs. Better at relieving stress in ways that don’t stress me out even more. Better at knowing which aspects of my life carry more or less weight. Better at being kind to myself even if other people aren’t. More confident, less afraid. Maybe lighter is not the right word. Maybe I just know what kinds of weight to carry.

This year has been defining my own metric of progress (not necessarily success) and doing things for the right reasons. Otherwise I’m just aiming at a moving target. There is no magic number on the scale that will instantly transform who I am or what I think of myself. Some signs of progress have been more obvious. Where I could barely wheeze my way through one mile on the treadmill at 5 mph, I now can run three miles at a time at 6.2 mph, sweating profusely and feeling great at the end. Others are just a change in feeling, like how I enjoy shopping even though I still have to stand on my tiptoes to reach my size of jeans at Abercrombie and Fitch.

I think taking on these insane numbered challenges and meticulously documenting them has been my way of kickstarting my life. When I give myself a goal and a deadline, there is no waiting around. I have to find a way to break something unimaginably large or difficult or intense into steps that I can take one at a time. One book, seven hours of therapy, and working out 3 times a week. One letter and 750 words a day. Because the days add up. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, I am here. I am happy. I can look at myself in the mirror, maybe even indulge in a selfie. I am genuinely excited for this year. And all I really want for myself in 2016 is to just keep doing what I’m doing.