Heavy on my mind

HEAVY ON MY MIND By Terri-Lynne Waldron

"Why are you so heavy?" asked an acquaintance over the phone.

The question hit me in the not so funny bone. Harsh, cruel and delivered without an air of genuine concern, the person soon fell into a fit of laughter.

My head was spinning with thoughts of the events in my life that lead me to become "heavy." But I digressed and decided to give an appropriate answer that would hopefully put an end to the interrogation.

"I am diabetic."

"That's no excuse, Halle Berry is also diabetic," came the response.

Great. Throw that in my face. Yes, Ms. Berry just happens to be one of Hollywood's sleekest and sexiest women, whose diabetes has not prevented her from staying in shape.

But how could I delve deep into my psyche and regurgitate the issues that are responsible for my becoming overweight?

Words do hurt and having my weight problem highlighted by someone else, opened up fresh wounds.

People often assume that when you are heavy, you cannot see yourself for the size that you really are. They think that overweight people live in a sort of bubble and that our mirror image is reflecting something that we choose to ignore. Not true. We sometimes have a negative body image even after we have slimmed down.

I have first hand experience with this.

Twelve years ago I melted the pounds away through dance classes and healthy eating. Compliments from others about my new physique gave me a sense of pride. But I still did not know how far to take my weight-loss because I continued to have a distorted view of my body. Every pound lost was never enough as I strived to take things to the next level.

The looser my clothes fit, the more those last 10 pounds I wanted to loose became the last 20 pounds. There was never an end in sight.

I stopped eating junk food for a long period of time and convinced myself that I had conquered my cravings for those types of empty calories.

But my lack of will power eventually surfaced.

Over the next couple of years my weight fluctuated and I struggled to find my way back to my former slimmer self. But I soon 'discovered' a way to drop pounds with very little effort.

I got the flu one day and despite feeling weak, decided to continue exercising instead of treating the illness. A trip to the bathroom cut my workout short as I was overcome by the need to throw up. The flu did little to sideline my workouts over the next couple of days. I continued to throw up before, during or after my workout but I prided myself on my efforts to stay motivated with my fitness regime. By the end of the week, the scale revealed a 10 pound weight loss rendering me both shocked and fascinated.

But that quick fix gave me a false sense of security that encouraged me to try to throw up voluntarily even after the flu went away. I stood over the toilet one day, struggling to purge myself of any food that had settled in my stomach. My efforts were futile, as I fell back on the floor too weak to continue and ready to pass out.

I felt like a failure as I never expected that it would be such a struggle to throw up this time. In a momentary lapse of weakness, thoughts of suicide permeated my mind. How could I face the reality of a normal weight-loss routine again, after discovering the seemingly effortless way that had worked before?

I had become prey to the yo-yo dieting for so many years and the 10 pound weight loss aided by throwing up, seemed to be the easy way out. There were so many stories in the media about girls and women who controlled their weight by throwing up on a daily basis.

Why was I having such difficulties with it this time around?

Over-eating became the alternative, as I continued my feast down a self-destructive path. Eating my way towards feelings of guilt became the way of punishing myself for my lack of control. It was a vicious cycle that continues to this day.

Until now, my secret was safe with me, but I never recognized that I had any type of problem. Disassociating myself from words like 'eating disorder' and 'bulimia', I casually used those terms to describe other people, like celebrities or guests on talk shows.

But I know better now. I have an eating disorder.

Being diagnosed with diabetes five years ago should have been the wake up call. Unfortunately it was not. My weight continued to balloon, but then I would exercise the pounds away. There are good days and bad days. Healthy living is still a priority, but sabotaging my progress by occasionally munching on a giant bag of chips continues to stunt my growth.

Realizing that I have a problem was the first step, but not dealing with it can have lasting ramifications. I have been on an emotional and physical roller coaster for a long time but I struggle every day to plant my feet firmly on the ground.

If only it was as easy as it sounds.