My name is Madeline Jackson and I am twenty-one years old.
This blog will document my weight loss journey over the next 365 days. I have been overweight for some time now and have grown thoroughly sick of it. My weight has held me back in so many aspects of my life. It has affected how I interact with people and the manner in which I view myself. I think that in order to change yourself for the better, you have to reflect back on the decisions and circumstances that led you to a point of dissatisfaction. So if you are interested in learning more about me, feel free to read while I reflect.
I was raised in a family of five children. My two brothers and two sisters are all very athletic and trim, two adjectives that don’t fit me well. I have struggled with my weight since middle school. Growing up, I had an innate distaste of anything green or naturally nutritious. As an active child, my poor eating habits did not appear to affect me physically. I am 5’10”, a height that was achieved in the sixth grade. I was the tallest girl in my school and was only surpassed in height by the tallest boy in school. My growth spurt up prevented me from growing out. This all changed as I entered the seventh grade at a new school. This school did not have recess, something that my body was used to having two to three times a day. My new physical activity was volleyball in the fall, basketball manager in the winter, and softball in the spring. Now while this might sound like a somewhat reasonable replacement, it wasn’t. Middle school volleyball consisted of standing in line to serve a ball and maybe take a step sideways to pass, and I mean maybe. We had not acquired the skills or the motivation to make a usually rigorous sport even resemble physical activity. My time as basketball manager meant that I swept the gym floor once a day and then sat through practice and watched as other girls got their sweat on. I chose to be manager over joining the P.E. “class” that only catered to two other girls. And softball allowed me to stand in right field, only to hope and pray that the ball wouldn’t come my way when a left-hander stepped up to the plate. I was so good that they even let me start. I was the best useless player on the team. Needless to say, in those two years of middle school I packed on some weight. My body matured much faster than the other girls my age and my curvy hips and voluptuous breasts were an embarrassment. To add insult to injury, my older sister was at the height of her athletic ability, a senior, and homecoming queen.
As I entered into high school, I became more and more aware of my body. This was both good and bad. I learned to dress myself in the most flattering way, but this meant that I was dressing old for a freshman in high school. High-waisted jeans and sweaters were my friend. I became more and more aware of the differences between me and other girls my age. All of the other girls still had their boyish bodies, while mine resembled the bodies of women in Greek art. I turned to my older sister to talk about my weight. Filled with the best intentions but unable to fully empathize, she began to draw attention to what I ate in front of the rest of my family, and soon everyone felt that they could comment on the lack of color on my plate. She also began to include me in her running and aerobic exercises. And by include I mean encourage. And by encourage I mean insist. Due to these changes, I began to lose some weight. I was a cheerleader my freshman year of high school, and I noticed that the uniform that I had been measured for the year before was suddenly loose. I don’t think that I really drew a connection between these events in my life. I was running up to two miles a day, but I didn’t feel that this exercise would make a difference in my appearance. I was only running because my sister wanted me to, and this healthy habit soon fell away when she left for college.
I gained the weight back and entered my sophomore year of high school. I was playing volleyball competitively year round at this point, and though I was never good enough to actually play on varsity, I had earned myself a place on the bench during their games, an honor that lost its significance over time. My exercise for that year consisted of volleyball practice and a front row rotation in junior varsity games. My eating habits and weight did not change.
As I entered my junior year, I realized that I was uncomfortable wearing a t-shirt without a jacket. I attended a small, rural private school, so the building was always unbearably hot in the fall and spring, and freezing in the winter. Girls actually carried blankets around with them from class to class. My always-wear-a-jacket policy was really only convenient for one season out of the year. So I began to watch what I ate. Equipped with years of observing my sister and mother, I only had grilled chicken at dinner. It is important to note that my mother is an amazing cook. Anytime she cooked a meal for a school event (which was often), her name was advertised in order to ensure maximum turnout. To my mom, food is love. Feeding us is how she expresses that love. This might be okay if my mom was overweight, but she’s not, she’s actually the opposite. My mom runs four miles everyday and does not eat anything that she cooks. She is the picture of health and has been nothing but supportive. She will bend over backward in order to meet the rules of any new diet I try. She is really the only one in the family that can fully empathize, because she herself was overweight in high school. It definitely takes willpower to abstain from the rest of the family’s menu. So instead of choosing the chicken fried steak, I had grilled chicken and forced myself to eat spinach salad and broccoli. With the change in my diet, I may have lost some weight but it has always been hard for me to tell.
My senior year, I decided that volleyball was no longer a good fit for me. As a senior, I would not be allowed to play on JV, and I knew that my place on varsity was on the bench. So Instead, I went out for the cross-country team.
I can honestly say without a hint of sarcasm in my voice, that this was one of the best decisions of my life. I absolutely loved it. My friends were on the team, and for the first time in my life I enjoyed running and I was decent at it. My time improved at every race, and eventually counted toward the varsity girl’s team. I was a varsity athlete, something that had never before been true in my life. Sure, I had always been on the varsity volleyball team, but I only ever played when the coach was angry at the front row middle. I was running six days a week, some days as far as five miles. I’ll be honest; my diet wasn’t wonderful because I was hungry all of the time. The foods that I was eating were not productive enough to satisfy my new active routine. But exercise was enough for me to lose ten pounds by Christmas, an achievement that amazed me.
I had not been trying to lose weight. I didn’t even see a scale for those three months, and I knew what I had been eating. Suddenly I started to understand what people had been telling me since middle school. Losing weight is calories in and calories out. If running overcame the calories in while I wasn’t trying to lose weight, what would happen if I did try? And I mean really try. What if I revamped my diet and added exercise to the mix? Around this time I had been nominated to be on Homecoming Court. As a senior, I was the student council president, a varsity athlete, and a nominee for homecoming queen. It seemed that my life was finally coming together just like I had always envisioned. The only problem that I could name was dissatisfaction with my body. My dad took me to try on dresses and I remember looking through the racks of evening gowns when a sales associate approached me. Once she realized that I was shopping for myself, she told me that the dresses that I was looking at would be way too big for me. I will never forget that moment. She proceeded to pull options for me to try on. I loved the dress that I chose, but I couldn’t help thinking how it would look if I were thirty pounds lighter.
At that time, I was probably around 170 pounds, twenty-eight pounds lighter than I am now. I remember telling my mom this, and she told me if I kept working, that I would get there. By this time I discovered that running solo is not nearly as fun as running with a team, so I decided to join the local YMCA. No one in my family went to a gym, because they didn’t have to. I worked out for hours every day, and by graduation I weighed in at 157.
I had lost close to thirty pounds in about ten months. But I didn’t see the weight that I had lost, I only saw the next twenty that I wanted to lose. I became discouraged and I really do believe that I did not view my body the way that others did. Body dysmorphia became very real for me. My weight loss had happened over a long period of time, and no one seemed to notice. I thought that if other people couldn’t see it, than it really must not be significant. I had earned those pounds, but I couldn’t appreciate them. After graduation, my parents allowed me to take my older brother and sister backpacking across Italy.
Our total trip lasted about twenty days, and in that time we ate our way from city to city. We reasoned that all of the walking that we were doing would justify our eating. I literally ate a large pizza by myself at dinner most nights. And the pizza was amazing. I joked that the Italian calories wouldn’t transfer back over to America.
I was delusional and disheartened. When I got back, the scale read 170. What had taken me months to lose, was gained in one trip. At that point I completely gave up. It is only through hindsight that I can even appreciate how small I was and how much I had accomplished.
By the beginning of my freshman year, I had gained another five pounds and was at 175. I joined a sorority, went to class, and took advantage of my huge meal plan. The freshman fifteen became a reality that I have accepted every day since then. I still went to the gym, so my weight stopped increasing, but I didn’t have the mental stamina to really go for it again.
All of my attempts since my senior year of high school have been half-hearted. I have never had a boyfriend. I don’t even have guy friends. I literally do not talk to boys. I save myself from rejection on a daily basis, or at least that is what I tell myself. This last year I was a sophomore in college. I attend a lot of parties, but I don’t allow myself to participate. I just try to blend in and avoid drawing attention. All of my friends are small. And I mean small. They are 5’5’’ and slim. I tower over them at 5’10’’. Being tall really hinders ones ability to go unnoticed. My sophomore year passed without any significance and my weight inched up to 190.
I am currently in the second semester of my junior year. Last semester I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. Those four months were the opportunity of a lifetime and I will always treasure them. I truly became a braver person, but there were still many instances when I was held back by my weight.
After returning to the States, I spent all of Christmas break taking in all the American cuisine that I could. Four months without my mother’s cooking lead to a month long binge. By the time I returned to school, my weight shot up to 198. That number is far too close to 200 for comfort. It became very clear that I needed a change.
I spent this last semester waking up at 5:20am on weekdays and heading to my University’s gym with my older sister. Although I didn’t always eat right, I managed to lose nine pounds over a three month period and widdled my weight down to 189.
My plan is to fully commit myself to weight loss over the next year.
I’m going to break the next 365 days up into four 90 day periods:
First Period: June 1st-August 30th
Goal: Lose 15 Pounds and be at 173
Second Period: August 31st – November 29th
Goal: Lose 15 Pounds and be at 158
Third Period: November 30th – February 27th
Goal: Lose 15 Pounds and be at 143
Fourth Period: February 28th – May 29th
Goal: Lose 8 Pounds and be at 135
I’m tired of these negative feelings about my body and ready for a change.