One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

ASK RONI Q&A

Ask Roni: Finding the Motivation and Confidence to Get Started

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Hi Roni!  

My name is Liz and I am a huge fan!  I read all of your blogs and think you’re a wonderful inspiration.  I’m writing because I need a little advice/inspiration/I’m not sure what to call it.  You’ve answered a question of mine before (about tips for eating in a dorm) which was great, so thank you so much for that.

I guess my question/situation is how did you get the self confidence to start.  In your posts and videos, you talk about accepting yourself at your original weight when you first started Weight Watchers before your started losing weight.  I just can’t seem to do this.  I guess I’ll give you a little history about myself to help you understand.  I’m 21, a college senior (eek!), very very overweight, have tried many diets (including Weight Watchers a few times), I have poly cystic overy syndrome (pcos), and I’m a bulimic/binge eater.  I’ve struggled with bulimia since I’ve been a teenager and been in various stages of treatment such as impatient to now individual therapy.

Anyways, all of this information does have a point! This summer I was doing weight watchers and I had some success (I lost about 14 pounds in 2 months).  I wanted to lose weight by the time graduation came around but that didn’t happen because coming back to college got me off track.  I have a hard time because I live by myself in a dorm so it is very easy to binge and no one will know.  I feel so uncomfortable when I’m on campus and when I’m in classes.  If I’m sitting in class and people are laughing behind me, I’m worried that they are laughing about me.  I’m always worried about what I’m wearing and how it fits.  I guess I just want to be normal like other students and have fun and date and go out and not worry about how I look all of the time.

When I read your posts about exercise or about dieting, I think like oh wow that sounds awesome! Or I wish I could do that, but than I don’t ever think I will be.  I don’t want to have to get surgery to lose weight, but I’m afraid one day I will have to.  My therapist, my parents, everyone around me seems to think that I can do it, but I don’t think I can lose weight and exercise.  I just start plans and they never seem to really go anywhere.  I guess when you have more than a hundred pounds to lose, it feels like never ending.  I hate exercise because it’s just hard and embarrassing (especially in my college gym when most of the people are like tiny or super athletes).  It’s hard to feel motivated to work out again when I want to cry when I leave the gym because I’m so embarrassed that I can’t work out more or harder.  I just don’t know where to find the motivation or confidence to start to start on a healthy path.

Sorry this is so long and I hope it’s not too depressing!  I just feel like maybe you might have some advice and I would really appreciate any advice you have.

Liz

Hi Liz,

First let me say I am SO sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I came across your email while pulling questions for my latest video and when I read it I knew I had to answer you by writing. This subject is way too emotional for me to do "live."

In my opinion self-acceptance is the hardest part of this journey. I know for me it was and although I didn’t have 100 lbs to lose I felt all the same feelings you are describing. If people were giggling I thought they were giggling about me. If I was on the beach I thought people were whispering about how bad I looked. If I was eating I thought people were judging me.

All these feelings made it very hard to stick to any kind of weight loss plan and actually caused me to gain more and more weight. I’d start off really strong. Then get depressed which inevitably would lead me to lose all motivation and ultimately, I’d binge.

I’m guessing it’s a pretty common cycle many find themselves in. As always, all I can give you is my personal experience. I’m by no means an expert or professional, just a girl that can totally relate.

My first HUGE step in ‘getting over it’ was breaking out of my comfort zone. It’s so easy to type now but 5 years ago it was so hard to do. I was "famous" for wearing big baggy jeans and over-sized t-shirts all through high school and college. I hid in these clothes. I avoided sleeveless dresses, tight pants and shorts for more years then I’d like to admit. Then one day I decided to test the waters. I had a good, long heart-to-heart talk with myself and I came to the conclusion that the world would not end if I wore a tank top. That people would not point and laugh at me on the street. That I was just not that important.

That sounds a little harsh but think about it. Who gives a $hit what I look like? Those students who sit and giggle behind me or the strangers on the beach could care less about me. Who am I?

Really… Who am I?

I’m nobody to them but I am everything to me.

Think about it. I was letting these feelings of how I thought other people perceived me to sabotage myself, my goals and my happiness. That’s ridiculous and as ludicrous as it sounds, the day that I had that talk with myself and wore that tank top was the first physical step on this healthy journey I am on now.

Of course 70lbs didn’t just fall off me because I put on a tank top but it was the beginning of a shift in my thinking. I am by no means "cured" of all fat thoughts and body image issues but I’ve been learning to navigate them much better these last 5 years.

You say, "…when you have more than a hundred pounds to lose, it feels like never ending" and I totally get that. I’m going to be brutally honest here. It’s IS hard and it is, in a way, never ending. BUT–I had to throw that but in there real fast cause I didn’t want to scare you. :) — that’s not what you need to focus on.

When I took that first step and then started Weight Watchers I really didn’t have a goal in mind except to stop the yo-yo dieting cycle of hell. I picked a goal weight, of course, but I didn’t focus on that. If I did I don’t think I would have made it too far. 100, 70, 50, even 25 lbs can sound so daunting. SO impossible. So hard.

BUT :)

Focusing on today or this week is very doable. Committing, to say, food journaling for 1 week for example. Most weeks I could do that but if that got too hard I’d focus on the day. TODAY I will do the best I can. I even started a group on BlogToLose called The 1 Day Challenge (since inactive as I have’t been able to keep up but you get the idea.)

Well guess what…. Days do turn into weeks and weeks into months and months into years. I’m approaching my 5 year anniversary and still have to remind myself that every day I have a choice. Is it still hard? Sometimes. But by focusing on the small things and reaching short term goals you can accomplish great things. My commitment to food journaling and counting points led to a 70 lbs weight loss. My attempting to run that first 5k lead to a finishing a marathon. Great things are possible if you give yourself a chance. You can’t give up before you even get started. Looking back that’s what I used to do all the time.

So my advice? Pick one thing. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the amount of weight you need to lose. Don’t try to do it all (eat perfectly, exercise, etc) Don’t set yourself up to fail. Don’t beat up on yourself. Most importantly, DO NOT underestimate yourself. You appear to have a great support system. They believe in you. YOU need to believe in you.

I hope this helps, Liz. Know that you aren’t alone.

{{HUGS}}



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Discussion

There are 23 comments so far.

    Mehgann

    May 6, 2010

    This brings tears to my eyes, because it is so true. I have felt all of those feelings you described and am now trying to make the best choices, one day at a time. Sometimes it does seem insurmountable, but try not to focus on that. Liz, I hope you are able to find the self-acceptance that Roni talks about in your heart. It is hard, but it will change your life for the better! Best of luck to you.

    Sarah

    May 6, 2010

    You’re exactly right, Roni… ONE day has turned into 19 weeks, 25 pounds, 10 miles, 1/2 marathon and a couple 5K’s! I always tell myself, it’s just ONE day to journal, or it’s just ONE hour at the gym… you can do it Liz! I was the same way, thinking about what everyone else was thinking of me… As Roni said, we’re not that important to them. The people that are important are the circle of support standing next to you, not giggling at you.

    girliefriend

    May 7, 2010

    Wishing you much success Liz!

    I try to tell myself, I only have to focus on losing the next pound, and not the many pounds I have yet to go. One pound is doable. I can do that and so can you.

    The goal line is just that…one pound at a time.

    Amy

    May 7, 2010

    This totally brings me back to my college years (only a mere 3 years ago!). I was totally the secret binge eater too and was OBSESSED with everyone around me– what they thought/looked like, uncomfortable in my clothes.. you name it. The first thing I did was accept myself. I think if you can’t do this, you can’t move on. This was what I struggled with in college, I couldn’t accept myself. I thought if only I were skinnier, prettier, whatever then I would be happy. Well, why couldn’t I be happy in the present? Because I thought I was fat? Even though I was in my eyes “fat”, my friends and family still loved me, I was still doing things, I was still Living Life. I think what got me going was, like Roni mentioned, pushing youself out of your comfort zone. Mine was shopping alone. Yeah, maybe that’s weird. But I felt lame shopping alone. For clothes, food, whatever. But then I tried it. It wasn’t so bad! Tried it again, even more not bad! Another huge thing was wearing yoga pants. Ohhh my! How I wanted to be one of those girls who wore yoga pants. I hate my legs more than anything, always have, sometimes feel like I always will. But one day, I bought a pair, said “screw you world! I’m wearing these!” And like Roni said- the world didn’t end! GASP! It’s the fear that holds us back from working on our goals. What if we fail? well… WHAT IF? What’s going to happen? Try it again! No one says there’s a magic number of how many times you can start over. Everything is a decision. What if you make a bad one? Well, the next can be a good one!

    Ahhh and the college gym. I can’t even begin to tell you how much my college gym intimidated the heck out of me. All those athletes? Skinny b*tches on the treadmills and stairsteppers? Oh I hear ya! The gym STILL scares me. But my thinking- we’re all there for the same reason. Big, little, short, tall… it’s about health. For me, I would rather be fat and gettin’ my fitness on, than ever *think* about what people would think if I didn’t. A big intimidation piece of the gym is “what if everyone is just starring at me?” Um.. Given that I was obsessed with how I looked in comparison to other girls, at the gym, that seemed to subside. It was the only place I didn’t 100% compare myself. Yeah I think people look at each other, but are you *really* looking at someone or is it just scenery and you’re just blindly looking? Does that make sense? Point being- I dont think people judge others all that much while working out, because they’re too into their own head to bother giving much thought to others.

    whew, I’m probably writing a novel here…. But I really just wanted to say you’re not alone. If it’s confidence you want right now- find one thing. ONE thing. What makes me feel confident is my favorite pair of shoes or a fun fashion ring on my hand or even just a song that gets you all pumped up. Those are some things that got me in a good mood to be motivated to be a better me. I try to never use foods as rewards either. It’s too dangerous to me and acts as a trigger for more bingeing.

    ok. I’m done. Good luck! if you’d ever like to email- hit me up at ap5719@gmail.com I’m a lifestyle coach, so goals and getting started is what I do all day. I could go on and on about this stuff :)

    I agree with not trying to do everything at once. At least, not at first! I only changed my diet for the first few months. It’s amazing what that alone can do.

    Nadine

    May 7, 2010

    I am a Weight Watchers fan (65 lbs gone, 7 years ago!) and the #1 question I get was “how long did it take you” — and my answer is always the same — it doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter during the time that I was losing and it doesn’t matter now. It took me 32 years to put it on, a pound at a time, and that’s how I lost it. Because you can’t lose 65 (or 100) pounds at once! In fact, WW actually encourages you to focus on the small victories.

    Now two important things about WW — don’t underestimate the power of the group support — EVERY person in that room has been where you are. Whether it is 5lbs or 55, or 155, they have felt the same hopelessness about losing weight as you have. Its what brought them in the door. And two — most people can’t just take on the program and then try to do it yourself — its not just counting points — its learning the healthy habits, getting the reinforcement, the accountability of the scale every week, its the whole, entire package.

    And its worth every ounce. And I think Roni’s advice is great — at first, focus on one small thing that you know you can do. Find a friend and buddy up (don’t be afraid to talk to someone at a WW meeting) — but then, once you’ve decided to follow a plan — let the plan be in control, it might actually be kind of liberating to you!

    Skinny Sushi

    May 7, 2010

    Liz, you are SO not alone. Even though I’ve lost almost 30 pounds now (and still have another 45 to go) I still think people are talking about me when I eat in public sometimes. It’s hard to let go of those thoughts…

    Roni’s right though. It’s all about small steps. Do one thing until you feel comfortable with it, one small thing, and then once you don’t feel like it’s work anymore, add something else. When I started (this is my third time on Weight Watchers and probably my millionth time trying to lose the weight) I spent one week just writing down my food. Not trying to stay under a certain calorie goal… just writing it all down. That wasn’t too tough, so the next week I added working out ONE day for five minutes. That’s it. Now it’s five months later, I’m down almost 30 pounds (27.5 as of last Saturday) and I’m training to run a 5K in September!

    You CAN do this, and I really hope you do.

    Shannon H.

    May 7, 2010

    Beautiful, beautiful! I’m so thankful for you, Roni and all of the support you give people like Liz and myself. Liz, you can TOTALLY do this!

    Lynn

    May 7, 2010

    Roni what great advice! I am so far removed from college but even at my “old age” I also find myself thinking that everyone is looking at me and judging how I look. Good luck Liz!

    BigTickles

    May 7, 2010

    Great advice Roni. Liz this is a journey. Sometimes I just want to get through an hour and then every hour ends up being 1 day. Think of it as baby steps. Do not let the final destination overwhelm you. Break up your goal and believe that YOU are worth it!

    Aleisha

    May 7, 2010

    Roni, Your response along with the comments, especially from Amy, are spot-on. I have felt just like the writer and I’m in my late 30s. I think I finally understand that I always have a choice (very recent a-ha for me with lots of soul-searching and therapy). For me it’s not even day-to-day, it’s choice-by-choice. Also, I pick one tiny goal like no mayo on my sandwich or one cookie, not two… these seem do-able and I don’t get so overwhelmed. I figure even if it takes longer, I’ll get there eventually. And in the meantime, I feel good about my little victories.

    THANK YOU RONI for such an awesome site! You are a continued inspiration.

    Kaxxina

    May 7, 2010

    “Of course 70lbs didn’t just fall off me because I put on a tank top but it was the beginning of a shift in my thinking. I am by no means “cured” of all fat thoughts and body image issues but I’ve been learning to navigate them much better these last 5 years.”

    Of course, I read this AFTER I tried on all the tank tops I own…. ;) Thanks for the post! :) Good luck with that first step, Liz!! You can do it!

    Kim

    May 7, 2010

    My heart is breaking for Liz right now. I really want her to know that she CAN do this. We’ve all been there at some point and YES it is a life long battle/journey. I joined WW for the 3rd time in April of 2009. I have lost 89 pounds and have been at my goal weight for several months now. I feel great, but continue to struggle in my relationship with food. I have always had an unhealthy relationship with food. ALWAYS!!! I can remember being a little kid….maybe 6 or 7 years old…..and eating 6 bowls of stew throughout the day at my Grandma’s house. When I went home I was so ill and ended up being throwing up. I had the good fortune of being thin even though I binged and didn’t start putting on the weight until college and then became out of control once I had kids. I basically spent 18 years being overweight…..trying “diets” …….and failing over and over again. I really never believed that I could lose the weight. Not even this last time I joined WW…..but I did. What was different? I lived one day at a time. I made peace with the fact that this isn’t a diet it is a lifestyle and that even when I reached my goal I would still have to eat the same way. I think, before, I had always thought “I can’t wait to lose the weight so I can really eat again.” Well obviously that is flawed thinking!!!! I also did not exercise. I know that wasn’t necessarily the healthiest thing, but it was crucial for me. I don’t think I would have stuck with it had I exercised. It was too much for me. I hate exercise!!! HATE it!!! When I would exercise I would be so hungry I felt like I could eat everything in sight. It might not have been the “right” way to lose weight, but I believe it worked for me. I don’t think everyone should try to do everything at once. It is too overwhelming. I hope Liz gets the support she needs to conquer this for good!! Liz….you CAN do this!!! GO LIZ!!!!

    jamie

    May 7, 2010

    This is lovely and so relate-able. I love the spin on worrying about what others think. So right. They don’t care about me. Why should I care about what they think OF me. Thanks for providing that perspective – definitely something to think about.

    Elaine

    May 7, 2010

    Great post! Well done, Roni!

    bethann

    May 7, 2010

    My situation is different. I’m 45 – far, far from 21. I’m sort of over what people think about me day to day. And yet, I found the gym intimidating, especially related to my age. I used to run, and can’t b/c of a knee injury. So I’ve spent 10 years too intimidated to go to a gym, and got hugely out of shape and just unhealthy. Finally, I sucked it up AND this is key, picked a gym where I wouldn’t stand out so much. There are people older and younger than me, skinner and heavier, in worse and better shape. So just b/c the college gym is free, doesn’t mean it’s the right place. Go find a gym where you comfortable, where there is a smaller, more supportive crowd and start something. Invest in yourself. Or simply walk, walk alone with your ipod, or walk with a friend.

    It’s normal to feel intimidated by some gyms – just avoid those and find a better one. It took me 10 years to learn this lesson. I finally started working out again 4 months ago, and I haven’t felt this good in years.

    Good luck to you!!

    Rietta

    May 7, 2010

    Great post Roni!
    Liz I wish you all the best on your journey. I’ve had a similar path, and it isn’t easy. I started freshman year overweight and packed on 90 pounds during the college years to the point of being morbidly obese at graduation. Shortly there after I joined WW and lost the extra college weight. Now I’m struggling to get to goal (20 pounds left) and fighting those same fights with body image, self-worth and guilt cycles. I know I can get there.
    Being honest with myself is one of the keys to my success. Lying about what I eat, how much I eat or going on a food bender is only going to hurt ME. I’ve had to find someone to keep me accountable. Its usually the husband or my WW pals. Admitting those embarrassing food blunders publicly at WW meetings frees me of the guilt and makes me think twice about what I’m doing to myself.
    And, don’t worry about what other people think about you. At least you’re out there doing what you can to improve your health. You are as beautiful as you believe you are!

    Heather

    May 7, 2010

    What an emotional post. Anyone who has set out on this long journey can relate.

    I just want to add, that you do not need to wait until you have reached that goal weight to be happy. Take it one step at a time, and find happiness in the journey. Think in smaller steps. Lose 10 pounds first, then focus on the next 10. When you start fitting in a smaller size, focus on how happy you are that you are headed in the right direction, not that you are not there yet. It is not easy, but SO WORTH IT!

    I have lost 100 pounds, and I can tell you that getting to this point in my life has made me realize that I was always the person I am now, I just never let me love me, or think I was worth anything. That has changed. You are worth it. Love yourself no matter what size you are, no matter what your weight is, and you will acheive goals you never thought possible.

    Heather

    Beth

    May 7, 2010

    To Liz- the PCOS may be part of what is holding you back from losing the weight. What do the doctors have you taking for it? A good friend of mine has PCOS and kept gaining weight and could not get it off for anything….and they started her on Metformin (Glucophage…which is also a diabetic medication)…and the weight melted off a lot easier when she followed WW whereas she couldn’t get anything to budge following WW to the letter (or point).

    Jen L.

    May 7, 2010

    I feel like I have to weigh in on this one.

    I’m generally silent on the blogs I read, but I want to say something to Liz.

    I’ve got everything you’ve got going against you girl. I’m 21, in college, I live in the dorms as an RA. I’m also a student teacher working to get my certification to teach high school. So I usually don’t get enough sleep and I have very little time. I didn’t think I could lose weight. I didn’t care about it. I thought I was fine the way I was and I used my weight as something to hide behind, at without thinking about it and lived my life in the culture of college where gaining weight is the norm.

    And then I went into the darkest hole of my life. Depression runs in my family. Life got really difficult. And somehow I did it anyway.

    I’m 21 now. I’m eighty six pounds down. And I’ve still got 50 more to go. It doesn’t get easier, but even in your situation, even with the problems in your life, you CAN do it.

    Stuff you should know : Find someone to go it with you. A friend who will stick with you, a family member who will talk about it with you. Do as Roni says and make sure to take it a bit at a time. If you think it’s impossible do something that you think IS possible. Do it for one day. And then one day more. And so on. And try to do a little bit better everyday, without thinking about tomorrow or the number or the scale or yesterday.

    Don’t get down on yourself. I know that’s easier said than done, but don’t do it. What I think is the most important is knowing that failure is not doing something wrong or tripping up or making a mistake. Failure is not getting up and trying again.

    Keep going. Keep trying and trusting the process and I promise, eventually you’ll get there.

    And thanks for the stellar response Roni.

    Liz

    May 7, 2010

    I want to thank everyone for the encouragement and suggestions! The support has been very welcome. I start WW again and am feeling good about it. I’m also going to the gym and trying to stay positive. Again thanks for the wonderful suggestions and encouragement.

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time, since I’ve been struggling lately myself. (Since I had to stop going to WW in December — money problems — I’ve been trying … and failing to do it on my own.

    The Boyfriend (who’s always encouraging me to eat crap, which I’ve been too happy to do because it tastes good) just told me to get off my butt and DO something about it instead of complaining that I’m not happy. And just yesterday, I decided to go back to my “one day — one choice — at a time mindset.

    That’s just what Roni’s saying: You can’t do everything perfectly all at once. Focus on one thing, one day and build success a little at a time.

    Laura

    May 7, 2010

    Liz, you can do it! Like Roni said, it’s just one day, one minute, one step at a time. I know it seems impossible when you think of the whole thing all together; just think of one day. “One day: I can do this.”

    I have lost 48 pounds since last August, and it has actually been pretty easy. Once you get into it, you will enjoy your new life so much better than your old one. Your confidence, and your love for yourself, not because you’re getting thinner, but because you’re doing something FOR YOU.

    I have been training for a 5k for a few months now, and it has not been easy for me. Some days I think “20 minutes? How am I going to run for 20 minutes?” But it’s just one. step. at. a. time.

    You can do it!