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My weight-loss journey

November 28, 2010

The last time I was happy with my body, I was 16, taking diet pills, eating virtually nothing, and doing a lot of exercising.  I remember one morning weighing in at 139.  My lowest all-time weight, and all I saw at the time was a fat girl who still needed to lose another 10 lbs.  I’d just lost a bunch of weight but it wasn’t the first time I had done so.  I have yo-yo’d around for most of my life. 

My weight has always been a touchy subject with me.  A constant source of embarrassment and shame and something I’ve always let make me feel like I was an inferior human being.  I cannot remember a time when I could just put some clothes on without first looking at myself from all angles in the mirror, including sitting down, to see if I looked fat or not.  Some outfits were for standing only or for only underneath a big coat to hide the muffin-top while sitting down.  I’ve spent countless hours crying and feeling sorry for myself and even resentful towards my sisters, who are all naturally thin.  I have missed out on a lot of social activities because of my negative self image.  I never go to pools or beaches (not that there are any of those in central Illinois!) and until this past summer, I would rarely go to any kind of summer event because I would get too hot in my jeans and oversized shirt.  I refused to wear shorts or tank tops because I was just so uncomfortable and disgusted with myself.  I would stay in instead of go out because I didn’t like how I looked in any of my clothes.  I’ve felt too uncomfortable to make friends because I’ve been so nervous that no one would like me because I didn’t really even like myself.  I’ve had a very lonely last couple of years.  I haven’t really even felt comfortable talking about it til now.  A year ago, there’s no way I would have posted any of the pictures I’m about to post.  Some are extremely embarrassing and hard for me to look at and others just make me want to go back in time, knowing what I know now.  I’m finally at the point where I can share with the world where I’ve been and how I’ve gotten to where I am now.  I feel like I am ready to share my story, both because it is cathartic for me and for anyone who is curious or who may have had a similar experience.

I didn’t start off as a chubby kid. 

and I really can’t pinpoint what really went wrong or what happened since I do not remember those early years very clearly, but I think it all started with my love of books.  I loved reading and I’d spend all my free time curled up with a new book.  Of course, I also got in the habit of eating while I was reading.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home from school and eat a whole bag of microwave popcorn or two or three different processed, fatty snacks.  I wasn’t getting any physical activity anymore and I was definitely taking in more calories than I was putting out.  So the weight gaining began.  When I got to 7th grade, we moved to a new town and I left a pretty big, diverse school in Normal, Illinois for a very tiny one where everyone had known each other since kindergarten and some since they were in diapers.  I was the new girl and right away, I was the outcast.  At least that is how the other kids made me feel.  I wasn’t pretty and thin like everybody else.  I was chunky.  I remember one girl in particular who had at first be-friended me, then turned around and made fun of how fat I was.  I was devastated.  I remember coming home crying frequently in the first year of middle school.  It’s hard enough for a girl to get through those years without the added stress of being the new fat girl.  I started hanging out with a different crowd after that.  I wanted so bad to be friends with all the popular, pretty girls but I found a new best friend who never treated me like a second-rate person because of my weight.  I couldn’t have gotten through middle school without her.  The only problem was, the people we surrounded ourselves with were not the ones I wanted to be associated with.  I still, to this day, have never smoked a whole cigarette (I think I tried it twice and both were one-puffers) or tried pot even once.  It’s just not my thing, and not anything I care to be around while others are doing it.

Then it was time for high school.  I started off freshman year still being a chunky girl. (p.s.- remember those zig-zag headbands?!  sooooo 1999.  lol)

I still felt so socially awkward and very uncomfortable in my own skin.  I was very shy.  Some people mistook this for being stuck-up or bitchy.  They still do.  Then I started a crash diet.  I lost 20 lbs by not eating and exercising religiously to my mom’s The Firm tape and I remember very well one of my teachers telling me that she noticed I had lost weight and how good I looked after I lost it.  I started feeling a little self-confidence for the first time in a long time.  I ditched my middle school bff for one of the girls I never thought I had a shot at being friends with.  To this day, I still feel awful for the way I treated my former friend.  She was nothing but great to me and I turned my back on her to help my social standing.  If you are reading this, I’m sorry.  I have a lot of regrets from high school and this one is a big one.

I felt like I needed to make a positive change in my life and become more active so I joined the track team freshman year.  I was NOT a runner.  When I first joined, I could barely make it four blocks before I had to stop running.  But through my coach’s persistance, I was molded into a mid-distance runner.  My races were the 400m, 800m, 1600m, 3200m, and the 1600m and 3200m relays.  By the end of the year I was running the 2-mile races at meets.  I never finished as a medler, but I could finish, which was a major accomplishment in terms of my personal fitness.

By the start of my sophomore year, I had maintained my weight-loss and even continued running throughout the summer.  I joined the volleyball team which had practices starting in the summer.  My coach, who was also the track coach, decided it was time our school started a cross-country team.  So the cross-country team was formed, and I was a founding member 🙂

Between volleyball practice every day after school with an hour of extra cross-country practice immediately following, and cr0ss-country meets on the weekends, I lost a little more weight and was still able to maintain my previous weight-loss.  This is a time where I wish I could go back in time, knowing what I know now.  I was still pretty soft and I still had my trouble areas, despite being only 16 and extremely active.  We’d stop at McDonalds on the way home from an away game or meet and I’d have the large-sized double cheeseburger meal with a Dr. Pepper, followed by a chocolate sundae.  I never realized how important nutrition is.  I wasn’t really focused on my running, either.  I had my priorities.


That’s me on my 16th birthday with my drivers’ license.  I was also working a day or two per week as a waitress at a local restaurant so I could fund my two loves of clothes and hair changes.  I had an image to keep up now with my new friends and my parents weren’t going to buy me $80 jeans or $100 Doc Marten shoes.  But I was so convinced I HAD to have them all so I did what I thought I had to do: work.  I also had it in my head that I needed to be a blonde.  (my hair is naturally light brown) I spent a small fortune on highlights and hair cuts during my high school years.  Looking back, I never really looked very good as a blonde.  Or with really short hair.


 The rest of high school is really a blur.  My schedule was so jam-packed with things to do.  Besides cross-country and track and working 20 hours a week, I was a member of AFS ( I only joined because it meant going to Six Flags for a day), Spanish National Honor Society, National Honor Society, Curriculum Council, Student Council, and I was a class officer.  And I was also active in my church’s youth group.  I had a full social calendar and I went out every weekend and I went to every prom and Homecoming dance and activity.  I was a busy girl. 

And just when I thought I couldn’t get any busier, senior year came.

I had a pretty tight group of three other friends throughout high school.  And by friends, I mean we would all be nice to each other’s face and then talk major shit about whoever wasn’t in the room.  And of course we were all probably naive enough to think that we were all the exception, that the others didn’t do it to us, but of course we all did.  I was finally confident enough with myself and my appearance to want to start dating.  I never really dated anyone seriously in my earlier years of high school.  Not only did I not have the time, but there was also a serious lack of selection at my school.  My class had 66 students in it when I graduated so you can just imagine the slim-pickin’s.  I was convinced that I would have to wait til college to find someone.  A couple of girls in my inner circle were dating pretty seriously and we slowly started drifting apart.  We didn’t have time to hang out all the time anymore and then there was always the competition of all of us wanting to be top-dog.  At least for sure with me and my best friend.  I feel so stupid for the way I behaved in high school both towards the people who were supposed to be my friends and everyone else.  I didn’t give most people the time of day if they weren’t approved by my friends.  If there could be one thing I could tell high-schoolers, it would be that life is so much bigger than anything at your school.  Nothing that I thought was so important really matters.  Now it does not matter how my hair looked a certain day or who my friends were or what I wore.  I wish I could go back with the self-confidence and self-worth I have now.  I’m sure it would be an entirely different experience.

But I digress.  My friends were all getting boyfriends and I was really feeling that void from my life.  The second semester of senior year, I had signed up for a blow-off class:  Foods.  It was 8th hour at the end of the day and it was a nice break from all the college prep classes I was taking.  I ended up sitting by my friend Lindsey and her boyfriend’s best friend, Pete.  It was Lindsey’s idea for Pete and I to double date with her and her boyfriend. 

That one date lead to another, and we’ve been inseperable ever since.

I had been contemplating going away to college in Des Moines, Iowa, but my budding relationship with Pete made me want to stay nearby.  Because I had good grades, I got an academic scholarship to my local (and by local I mean 45 min away) community college.  I lived at home and commuted to school and I worked part-time at a local pharmacy.  Enter the Freshman 15.  Or 30. My new life was very busy and very inactive.  I was a year ahead of Pete in school so he was still in high school and I’d see him the nights and weekends when he wasn’t working.  I went to the Homecoming dance with him looking quite different than I had during my senior year.

Then Pete graduated, and we moved in together.

It was 2004.  I think we both can refer to 2004-2005 as THE FAT YEARS.

We were young, we were stupid, we were busy, we ate large quantities of frozen pizzas, ramen noodles, mac and cheese, and McDonalds.  And it showed.

I hit my all-time highest weight of around 210 lbs.  Again, I wish I could go back in time and do some things different.  I was busy, but I didn’t have kids and I still found the time to watch movies and tv.  I had time but I had nothing but excuses.  I had no idea how to eat healthy.  I thought “healthy” meant anything low-carb, low-cal, low-fat, and in packaging that told me it was so.  Or if it was in a salad, it was okay.  I ate a ton of Caesar salads during this time.  Also lots of homemade Hidden Valley ranch packets, along with lots of cheese, meats, and croutons.  My toppings always outnumbered my actual lettuce, which was always the bastard of all lettuces; iceberg.

Pete proposed to me in early 2005 and we decided to get married later that year.  I wanted to look good in my wedding dress so I started following Weight-Watchers and doing a lot of walking.  I lost about 25 lbs, which was good, but not nearly enough to look as good as I wanted.

at the rehearsal

Then, three short weeks after we got married, Pete left for Basic Training.  He lost 60 lbs during that time.  I, however, did not.  A small gym had opened up in my town and I had started going there but it was short-lived.  I found out I was pregnant in January 2006 and my workouts bascially stopped.  I was also very excited to experience the preggo rite of passage–EATING FOR TWO!  I ate anything and everything and I thought I was doing okay because I did not gain much weight initially.  Unfortunately, it all caught right up with me and I ended my pregnancy right at 230 lbs.

Becoming a mom really changed my whole outlook on life.  My world was suddenly much bigger than just me and my actions.  I was responsible for this little person, to mold and teach him and instill values in him.  I didn’t want him to remember me as a fat and unhappy mom.  I didn’t want to raise him in an unhealthy environment.  I didn’t want him to grow up struggling with his weight.  So I started to eat less junk and I started walking for 1-2 hours a day.  I lost 30 lbs.

Then Pete came home from his 15-month deployment.

We became pregnant with baby #2 shortly after.  And once again, I ballooned up to 230 lbs.

After my daughter came, I knew for sure I was never going to be that big again.  Ever.  I had a nasty soda habit that I was able to kick after a few months and I first learned about how to eat whole, real, un-processed foods from the Abs Diet for Women by David Zinczenko.  It was also the first time I ever realized the importance of strength-training.  Up til that point, I had been strictly a cardio-only girl.  I didn’t want to bulk up.  I didn’ t know that lifting even light weights with high reps could rev up my metabolism and speed up my weight loss while also making me better at my cardio.  I hadn’t done any running since high school but I decided to take it up again (much to the shock of my former coach!) after I had my daughter because it was something I could do without a gym and at a very low cost.  I bought a pair of running shoes and a double jogging stroller and never looked back.  I started Clean Eating at least 75% of my meals and my body started transforming. 

I’m not perfect and I am still not where I want to be.  But I can be happy now with who I am both physically and as a person.  I don’t see my weight-loss journey as something that has an expiration date or a certain dress size attached to it.  I’m more than a stupid number on the scale.  I want to push the limits of what I can do physically.  I want to see just how toned and sculpted I can get my body to be.  I want to eat foods based on how they make me feel and the nutrition they provide me versus what is convenient or traditional.  This blog is going to be about my journey to get there and stay there.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. ann mcmullen permalink
    November 28, 2010 7:32 am

    Wow, looking at all those pictures! memories. We did not eat the best, when you kids were little. I needed to feed alot of people, cheaply! And that means, crappy food! I have discovered it’s also a mental game. Even after my almost 50 lb. weight loss, I still look in the mirror and see a fat person. It is a constant battle. It’s also how you feel inside. I feel so, so much better eating clean/raw. I have so much more energy! I have my moments, my weaknesses, but most of the time, I eat very well! I look around me, at the other women my age, and hear about all the meds they are taking. And they are very content to live like that. I am not!!! I would rather change my eating, my life, than live the rest of my life taking meds, for things that can be corrected, at least helped! That’s my goal, to live healthy as I can, free of any medication. So far, so good.
    Good job Tangy! You are looking so good these days! And I’m proud of you for raising your kids eating clean and healthy! They will benefit greatly!

    • November 28, 2010 10:34 am

      It is super hard to eat right on a very tight budget. I don’t blame you for doing what you had to do to make sure we all got fed! I’ve been eating a lot of the same things every day that I can buy very cheaply–oatmeal, eggs, and peanut butter (all-natural!) all come to mind!

      I absolutely do not want to be dependent on any medications if I can prevent taking them via diet and exercise. I don’t want to be having a heart attack when I’m 40 or be suffering from type II diabetes my whole life. Being in your 40s and 50s doesn’t mean what it used to mean and I plan on enjoying those years and being healthy enough to do so!

  2. thedailyoatmeal permalink
    November 28, 2010 10:02 am

    I’m very glad you shared your story. I understand it takes a lot to lay it all out there– the photos, the feelings, etc. But it really is a journey. You wouldn’t be where you are today, with your great attitude and beautiful family, if you had not come through some of those things. There are some parts of my history that are still hard for me, and I still struggle with some of my fat kid demons, but the blog and running have done so much to liberate me from that. I hope you find the same 🙂

    • November 28, 2010 10:27 am

      thanks for the feedback! I have always felt so ashamed about all of it and I am glad I can finally talk about it. I am learning so much from a lot of other bloggers with similar goals and values and experiences!! I think blogging will really help me stay accountable and continue to grow in my personal fitness!

  3. November 28, 2010 11:43 am

    You’ve been my inspiration for a long time on all things exercise, eating clean, and healthy related. I know it was probably hard to share some of this, but I’m glad you did. I felt like I could have written the entire thing — word for word. Our “journey” has been a lot the same and I can’t wait until I can get in the mindset where I say something like this ” I’m more than a stupid number on the scale.” 🙂

    You look absolutely GREAT and you’re an inspiration to a lot of people!

    • November 28, 2010 1:24 pm

      wow thanks Brandi 🙂 I never knew you were keeping tabs on me, lol. I have only very recently stopped being an obsessive weigher. I’m not really certain what number, if any, will ever make me happy. I’ve never looked really good (by my standards) so I really have no numbers to compare! And I weigh a LOT more than what people think. They are usually a good 20 lbs off. Which makes me think the number is even more meaningless.

  4. Cher permalink
    November 28, 2010 3:19 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing Tangy. I never realized the struggle you’ve had. And I appreciate the perspective of someone who has struggled with their weight and body image to that degree, I’ve never fully understood it. I appreciate the insight.

    • November 28, 2010 3:45 pm

      I guess I don’t know what it is like to not have those issues, you know?!

  5. November 28, 2010 4:27 pm

    Do you ever measure your body fat percentage? Many people say BF % is a better measure of health than weight. That may give you a better sense of where you stand and how far you are from your goals!

    • November 28, 2010 4:48 pm

      No, I’ve never had that measured before. I’ve done the at-home calculations but I’ve always heard it is best done at the gym with a caliper…since I don’t have a gym right now, I haven’t had it done!

  6. November 28, 2010 5:23 pm

    Tangy, Thanks for sharing all of this. It helps to have a place where you can let it all out, doesn’t it? I can see myself, as I’m sure others out there can, in your journey. As a busy mom with a full time job, a son playing travel hockey, a soccer playing daughter, and a little one with special needs, my life overwhelms me and I can rarely find time to do anything for myself, much less exercise. Thank you for giving my motivation a boost and helping me remember that I am more than a dress size! Much love in your journey! KC

    • November 28, 2010 7:26 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to read it!! Good luck with juggling it all! Finding the right balance can be so hard. I’m still working on it myself!

  7. November 29, 2010 11:08 am

    I know it wasn’t easy to post this. Way to go! Good for you for not worrying about what the scale says. Eating to be healthy and feel good is so much easier to keep up (for me anyway) than eating for the soul purpose of a number on the scale or the reflection in the mirror – because if either of those return a bad result one day it is easy to let go and eat terribly out of self pity. But if you eat healthy because you actually feel better by doing so, if you’re having a rough day, you crave kale instead of sugar because you know it will make you feel better! 😉

    • November 29, 2010 6:19 pm

      Thanks Emily! No kale cravings here yet but I’ll keep you posted 😉

  8. Danielle Barton permalink
    November 29, 2010 12:21 pm

    Tangy, this is AWESOME. Thanks for sharing! You are such a stong, motivated person! When I was where I wanted to be physically, it was because I was eating under 1000 cals a day, taking diet pills, and stepping on the scale 5 times a day. Coincidentally, it was also the darkest time in my life! Shocker! I, too, discovered the hard way that it’s not just about the number of calories that you consume, but what “power foods” make up those calories. The Abs diet is great stuff!!! I really do enjoy hearing about your recipes, healthy snacks, etc. Please keep it up!!! You’re an inspiration to more people than you know. : )

    • November 29, 2010 6:20 pm

      Thanks for reading Danielle!! I never realized you had any body image troubles. I have always looked at you and thought, whoa, she looks great!! Just goes to show you don’t need to be 200+ lbs to not love your body!

  9. November 29, 2010 4:15 pm

    Wow what a story! So glad you’ve made it to such a happy, healthy place in your life!!
    I was totally nodding during your highschool story. If only we could go back and talk to our former, high school selves!!

    • November 29, 2010 6:23 pm

      Thanks 🙂

      I think if I went to talk to my high school self, I would have just rolled my eyes and it would have gone in one ear and out the other. Some things I have to learn the hard way!

  10. November 29, 2010 7:08 pm

    Tangy, thank you for being so honest. I am glad that are able to be honest with yourself. I have a very similar story, ( I am glad that i found your blog and look forward to following your story. Have a Great night

    • November 29, 2010 7:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I feel better knowing I’m not alone with my past!

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