By: Pennie Hale – October, 2011
I used to be morbidly obese. How did that feel? On a consistent basis, I felt depressed and tired. I had low self-esteem and felt isolated. I never really wanted to go anywhere because I couldn’t find clothes that fit well or looked attractive. I always wore my hair up because I was always hot, even in the winter. My cheeks were always red. Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to go to my kids’ bus stop because I didn’t want to embarrass them. My kids didn’t seem to notice that their mother was fat and didn’t ever protest when I was outside with them. They love me! I just wanted to spare them from any possible comments their peers might make about their fat mom.
When I was that overweight my physical body always ached. I had pain in my joints, my hands and feet were always swollen, my back always hurt, I had deep grooves in my shoulders from the straps of my undergarment, and I never felt comfortable in my own skin. The process of choosing an outfit was frustrating. I would always try to find something to minimize the size of my body. Nothing ever worked. On most days, I would end up wearing an over-sized t-shirt and sweatpants. They were the only items of clothing that fit and were comfortable enough to wear.
Every once in a while I would make attempts to exercise. I got a gym membership. On my first day there, I was only able to walk on the treadmill. No less than four people came over to me and asked if I was okay. I answered, “Yes”. When I went in to the ladies’ room afterwards, I looked in the mirror. My face was bright red and I looked like I was about to have a heart attack. It was then that I realized why those people were showing concern for me. I never went back to that gym. Any further attempts at exercise were done at home, where I was most of the time anyway.
Perhaps at that time I was agoraphobic. I definitely had the fear of leaving my home and having people see me have a panic attack. Sometimes when I did leave the house, my heart would race and I feared that I would be gawked at or made fun of. I never wanted to be out with my children and have them see their mom full of anxiety. I remember a trip to an amusement park when I was very heavy. I actually had to sit in the test seat to see if I could fit on the actual roller coaster. We had to walk up a flight of stairs to get to the platform, and when doing so, a young boy looked at me and said, “look at the fat lady, she’s never going to fit in the seat”. I did. However, that moment was quite humiliating.
My family members told me to just forget about the young boy’s insensitive remark but I couldn’t. I was embarrassed. But months later, I used that memory as motivation.
Losing seventy-five pounds is a great accomplishment. I achieved that through hard work, dedication and motivation. I have gained 9 of those pounds back but I believe I will never, ever be that overweight again. It was neither healthy nor sensible. Weight maintenance will always be a part of my life. Every day, I am faced with temptation. Every morning I must make a commitment to myself to remember how I used to feel, how I feel now, and how I wish to feel in the future. I have received lots of feedback from people who have read my column.
My last column was about carb addiction. Many people responded to that topic. Carbs are comfort foods! It’s what I craved. It’s what I still crave. Many others say they have the same addiction. Overeating is what got me to the state of morbid obesity. Eating carbs comforted me but only temporarily. Using food for any other reason than nutrition is not healthy. Overeating on a consistent basis and choosing high-calorie, high-carb, low-in-nutrients foods leads to obesity. I’ve been there.
Am I thin now? No! I still have 20 to 25 pounds to lose. However, right now weight maintenance is my goal. I am focusing on not gaining weight. When the time is right I will start the weight loss process again. And I will share every step of that process with you.
If you struggle with an addiction of any kind, I urge you to seek support. If you struggle with a food addiction or disorder, know that I understand. I would like to hear your story.
What I know for sure is that several things help me with my struggles with weight. Talking about it is at the top of that list. Talking about food addictions, disorders, obsessions and unhealthy thoughts about food is a common daily occurrence for me. Discussions about healthy food recipes and exercise routines are also common. What I would like to do with this column is to offer you, the Valley Patriot reader, the opportunity to share your own personal stories with me. I am not a food, weight loss or eating disorder expert. I am not someone who is qualified to offer advice or tips. I would, however, love to read your story and possibly share it with other readers and continue my own personal story in a monthly column. If you are interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Pennie Hale, Methuen resident.