From Denial to Determination: How I Overcame Denial and Shed 130 Pounds
Hello, there. I’m glad you’re here with me. My name is Tessa White, and I want to share my story with you. I plan on talking about different aspects of my journey to health on this platform, and I hope that you’ll follow along with me as I make myself incredibly vulnerable to an unknown number of strangers on the internet. Like ya’ do. I’m a little scared, but I’m going to do it anyway. As a good friend once told me: there is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is no comfort in the growth zone. This is very true, as is the beauty of the reward when you get to the other side. So, let’s do this together, shall we?
To start, I want to talk about denial. Denial is an incredibly powerful thing. You are probably familiar with it, as most humans are. I am all-too-familiar with it, and the influence that it can wield over rational thought. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to face those unpleasant realities that heighten our anxiety, so our nifty little brains swoop in and help a sister out. It was never truly helping me do anything other than being and staying unhealthy, though, which is at the crux of its nature. Cover up the anxiety/pain/truth, and pretend like it’s not there. BUT IT IS THERE, and you will eventually have to deal with it. After many years of not being so, I am most-gratefully healthy now, and I want to share my story with you. I’ve posted frequently throughout my journey to health on my social media, as it has been a great way to hold myself accountable. I feel compelled now to extend the reach in the hope that anyone else in a similar predicament may read this and start to walk towards a path to health. It is completely doable, once you get your mind in the right place. Doing that, however, is ever so more easily said than done. You will never hear me say that this has been, or is easy. The pay-off is worth it.
Denial has worked its way into how I have gone about my life in different iterations over the years, and to varying degrees. The one that takes the proverbial cake, however, is how deeply in denial I was for the majority of my life about the fact that I was so overweight that I was sick. My weight fluctuated back and forth throughout all of my adult life. For small pockets of time, the denial wasn’t completely overpowering my rational thought process, so I’d get it together to lose weight for a little while. I’d start to feel cute, confident, and then I’d slowly start to justify missing a workout here, or over-indulging in crappy food there. I’d eventually get all the way out of the consistent healthy habits I had formed, and denial was happy to jump back in and take over.
I’m 38 years old. For most of my adult life, I was obese. At my heaviest, I was morbidly obese. I knew I was sick, somewhere deep down. I knew I needed to lose weight the whole time I was in denial, but the power of that denial won over that distant awareness of the truth for too many years. I didn’t go to a doctor from around the age of 18 to 36. I went to urgent care doctors if needed, but I hadn’t gotten myself a Primary Care Physician until I was 36 years old.
I remember one urgent care doctor I saw for a horrible ear infection referred me to a physician’s office to have my blood tested to see if I was at risk for diabetes, solely based on what my weight was at that visit. I don’t even remember what my weight was because denial blocked it out. I blankly nodded at the urgent care doc and told her I’d set that up right away, and promptly never did. I always told myself that it was because I couldn’t afford health insurance, or I felt fine, so why did I need a doctor? Looking back, I just shake my damn head because I was in my mid-20s. I could have started my health journey right then and there by just making that appointment and facing the facts. I could have prevented years of struggle, traipsing around NYC, huffing, and puffing and sweating up and down all of the stairs and sidewalks, out of breath and out of shape. I could have prevented hypertension and morbid obesity diagnoses I’d eventually receive. I think about how much better and different my life would have been during that time, instead of the struggle I experienced, but going down that rabbit hole of thought is futile. I didn’t get it together then. Denial ruled those days.
And so, I sweat in the bitter cold. You don’t even want to know about the sweat in the heat. I had to take breaks when climbing multiple flights of stairs, while my friends sweetly waited with me, and I’d make some type of joke to deflect from the embarrassment. I experienced the humiliation of people either objectifying me in private because of my size or chastising me in public. None of that was enough to take power over my denial.
I knew I had a problem that I needed to fix, but I didn’t want to face it. So, I didn’t. I embraced my “big girl” self and made sure people knew I was confident in my big body, even though I never truly was. I told myself I was just fine the way I was. I had convinced myself of that so thoroughly, that it wasn’t until I had moved away from NYC, started a new life chapter in Texas, and was in a relationship with a doctor that I felt obligated to set up a PCP for myself. I thought “Well, if I’m going to be dating a doctor, I probably should finally get one of my own.” So, I made an appointment. And then we broke up. Ha! Oh, life. Always keeping it interesting.
I was pretty bummed. That breakup was in the middle of May 2017, and my doctor’s appointment was at the end of May. It would have been easy to cancel the appointment and fall back into my unhealthy state, given the heightened emotional place I was in. I thought about canceling it. I thought about just staying in that sadness and falling back into using food to cope, and not exercising, and not facing the truth I’ve always known. In that sad moment, though, there was a louder voice in me, louder than the denial, that told me to keep the appointment. “It’s time, Tessa. Go and find out what’s going on in your body.” I listened to that voice, and I went. What I learned changed my life forever.
I’m 5'9", and when I stepped on the scale at my new doctor’s office, I was thinking that it may say something around 250–260 pounds. I hadn’t weighed myself in years. The last time I recalled being weighed, I was around 240 and I thought I had likely gained, as I’d needed bigger clothing over the previous couple of years, but I couldn’t imagine I had gotten up to what the scale actually said: 322 pounds. HOLY SHIT. Sorry for the profanity, Mom, but that’s the only way to properly articulate what I felt in that moment. I then went into the room to get my blood pressure taken, and it was 168/90. That’s when the panic set in. My new doctor, who I now have complete trust in and am very grateful for, was matter-of-fact and gentle with me about what I needed to do to turn this around. After a follow-up appointment two weeks later to confirm the blood pressure problem, I was diagnosed with Hypertension and Morbid Obesity. I was put on medication. Now that the denial was gone and I was facing the truth, the anxiety set in, and I had many moments of feeling short of breath and overwhelmed with how serious my health condition was. The anxiety was present, but my determination to change took control.
I completely changed my lifestyle. I researched what foods were best for high blood pressure and healthy eating in general, and ate only that (except for one cheat meal a week). I started drinking a LOT of water, and no sugary drinks. I cut back on booze. I started working out 6 days a week. I knew that I needed an exercise structure that included cardio, strength training, and variety, and while searching the web for free resources, I found HASFit. More to come about the amazingness of them in my next post. I started doing those videos at home, alternating between cardio and strength every other day, and low and behold, the weight started coming off! I maintained that consistency (still do), and it kept coming off (still is). I remember being about 15 pounds into my weight loss (which took about 2 months) and thinking “Oh, I can TOTALLY do this for the rest of my life.” What had felt unachievable before, I was realizing was and had always been completely achievable. I just needed to get my mind in the right place, free from the grips of denial.
I’ve kept my mind in the right place ever since, and from then until now, I have shed 130 pounds of fat. I no longer have Hypertension and am off the medication. I am no longer on the Obesity chart. I’ve gained an amazing amount of strength, both physically and emotionally. I have a deeper connection to my spirituality, and I feel infinitely more capable of figuring out life. I’m not perfect, and never will be, but I finally know what it is to live healthily. I’m beyond grateful for finally coming to that realization and living it every single day. I’m grateful for my Mom, for making the food changes with me, and joining me in the discovery of how delicious and rewarding eating healthily can be. I’m grateful for all of my friends and family, for encouraging and supporting me along the way. I’m still going on this healthy path, and I always will be. I’m grateful to you for reading, and I hope that you are well. If you aren’t, I hope that you will make the changes necessary to be well. Take it from me, it is worth the work.