Healthy but Fat: My Struggle With Weight Loss
I was the first born in my family. Ever since I can remember I have been chunky. The only time I was not was literally when I was a baby/toddler. Both my parents were stick thin and when my sisters were born, they were not over weight either. As an elementary school student, I was always wearing a large or extra large shirt and pants. I was consistently made fun of for being fat and I was simply just uncomfortable in my skin. I really always have been. Some people really do not understand the un-comfortableness of your thighs rubbing together, your shorts riding up your crotch, the flabs of fat that go over your pants, your shirt hugging the rolls (even if they are small rolls), or the annoyance of pants not fitting your legs because they are so big.
I am not even considered huge but I have always been large. I was a very active kid and teenager. I love being outdoors, playing sports, swimming, and riding horses. We had a farm and I was always working with my father. My parents have never been the healthiest eaters. They have always eaten terrible and it was not until I moved out of the house and to college that I started to learn about healthy eating. However, I ate the same food my sisters and parents ate yet I was the "fat" one. As a kid, I stayed outside and once I hit middle school, I stayed in sports, which consisted of basketball and softball. I was not considered great at basketball but softball was my muse.
I grew up in a Brazilian family so our diet consisted of bread, meat, rice, beans, and coffee. This was an everyday occurrence. I had no idea that any of it had anything to do with weight gain. At this point in my life, I was just insecure because I never felt pretty or skinny. I always felt like an outsider and none of the clothes ever fit right. In fact, my mom loved to shop and she would continuously give me form fitting clothes and I hated it! I hated the feeling of looking fat. Through the years it made me realize where my anxiety of dressing rooms spawned. I despise trying on clothes because every time, I thought they would fit a specific way, they never did.
It was depressing and continues to be. I am one of those people that once I find something that fits, I will buy 2 more pairs! Weight loss has been an issue for me since I was a child.
Childhood to CollegeClick thumbnail to view full-size
From High School to College
I was always around 160-165 ibs in high school. I never really went above or below that. I was always active and played Junior Varsity and Varsity Softball. I also played basketball. In high school I took PE and weightlifting. I started to become obsessed with working out and lifting. At one point I was out lifting some of the boys. In high school I maxed out on bench press at 175 ibs! I could also go for days but I guess that is the young energy most people have. However, even though I was so active and rarely ate then, I was still fat.
Once I started college, I no longer had softball so I turned to the gym. I was not super social because I lacked self esteem due to my weight. I would spend around 3-4 hours in the gym or running outside. With all this I could never get down below 160 ibs. When I transferred to Clemson, I was averaging about 180-185 and never really going above or under that. At Clemson, I cleaned up my diet more simply because I was a poor college kid. I still did not understand nutrition but I would eat less. This was when I was introduced to supplements such as protein. I, again, was always working out and joined an intramural softball team. On average I was running 3 miles a day and spending about 2-3 hours in the gym. My workout partner was just as obsessed, Austin, but he was also ripped. My running partner was super fit but had the body to show for it as well. I had originally wanted to get into bodybuilding but quickly realized, I could never get the abs. No matter how hard I tried I could never lose the weight.
I eventually went to graduate school and this is where my workout was not as intense, simply because school consumed my life and it is HOT in Charleston, SC. I was not eating very well. My weight went up to 206 ibs. All the while I was always trying to lose weight. I obtained my Masters in Health Administration and through all my schooling from undergrad to my Masters, I had taken various nutrition classes and had essentially become very knowledgeable about weight loss. Also, during this time my mom had me going to the bariatric clinic. They did a metabolic test on me and stated that I had a very high metabolism and would need to consume 3000+ calories to maintain my energy levels. I laughed because I knew, I would blow up if I did that. In college I began eating less than 1500 calories a day and I was religious about it. They had also did a blood test stating that I was athlete healthy (whatever that means). Even after I joined the Navy, I have since had many providers tell me this to include nurse friends who looked at my blood work.
I would say that in my college days, I was the most focused when it came to diet and exercise. I was able to stick to my diets for long periods of time. What I discovered is that I would plateau fairly quickly and have to go to another extreme. My workouts were long and my diet was minimal but still to no avail.
High School to CollegeClick thumbnail to view full-size
From College to the Navy
When I graduated from my masters program, it was during the economic crisis and there were not many jobs available. I had some friends in the military who said I should look at the Navy. I began looking into it and realized how amazing it seemed. There was just one problem, I needed to be no more than 156 ibs for my height of 5'4". This was going to be a feat and I only had 4 months to lose 50 ibs from my biggest weight of 206 ibs! Luckily at that time I had just graduated and moved back to my parents house, without having to pay rent or go to school; I had plenty of free time. I drafted up a very intense workout and diet plan. This is what I did for 4 months:
Every 2 days I ran 4-6 miles in the morning before eating with a rest day every third day from running. After running, I ate a bowl of apple jacks with almond milk and went back to sleep
At noon I would wake up go to the local coffee shop and have my coffee and work on anything that needed internet (my parents did not have internet). Afterwards I would get a Chik Fila salad with no dressing.
In the evening I would eat a can of chicken and then go to the gym and do 30-45 minutes on the elliptical right before boxing class (I used to box amateur in my under grad college).
After boxing I would come home and eat another can of chicken.
AND that was how I lost 40 ibs in 4 months and the only time I have ever lost a consistent amount of weight. I did not make weight but I did tape in and made it. After going to Officer Development School, I had actually gotten down to 156 then. That was the only time I have ever made weight since being in the Navy. Every time I weigh in, I have to get taped.
Ever since than I have been gradually gaining the weight back and now I am 180-185 again. When I was on the ship, I was religious with my diet and exercise and was still gaining weight. When I was with the Marine Corps, I was not as religious but was eating healthy and still running and working out all the time.
Once I came back to the East Coast, I have not had the time to work out or make my meals. I gained 10 ibs on the East Coast but really with every duty station since my initial weight loss I have gained about 6-8 ibs back.
It is highly frustrating and I have had nutritionists, doctors and my endocrinologist shake their heads. My biggest annoyance is when people try to dictate what you do wrong when in actuality you know that you cannot even eat their diet and after 30 years old, you essentially are just exhausted from working out so much and always watching what you eat. I have one other friend, Amirah who has gone through this struggle with me and worked out with me. She has taken it to the extreme of hiring a trainer and measuring out all her meals just like body builders and yet still does not lose weight either. Sometimes there is just more to losing weight than "hey you should just eat like this" or "hey if you would only do this workout." It is not that easy for everyone.
College to the Navy to NOWClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Thoughts and Frustrations
I want to sum this all up. The message I am trying to convey is that; I am hit from all different directions with what people "think" is the right way to lose weight. However, I KNOW that there is no right way to lose weight. In fact they have still not found the true cause to WHY some people can eat everything and not gain a pound and others who can eat hardly anything and continue to gain weight. Everyday, science points the finger more and more to genetics. Even with that, there are variations. My parents were super skinny but now with their continued lifestyle, they are both overly obese and have health problems. I was always considered obese but have always been healthy. It makes no sense. I have gotten to a point that I do not eat in a way that supports weight loss simply because it is exhausting to have lived your whole life like this.
I feel with all the research I have done in the topic, I do have a very in depth understanding of how weight loss is supposed to work. Especially from a scientific stand point. For the most part it does work for a majority of the population but there are always those outliers. I feel like an outlier. I am not overly fat but I am not skinny either and to get to a weight that the "Navy" deems as healthy has been almost impossible. I would not have made tape if the standard were not just recently adjusted. I have seen others make tape who are twice my size before, simply because their neck matches their body. My neck is TINY and it is the only TINY thing on me. My weight gain is centralized around my hips and legs. It is highly frustrating because even when I work out the fat does not go away but my muscle tones up and you can see the indents through the fat.
Most people think I may just be complaining but there are the few that have seen my tribulations. I just want to say it is not as easy as working out everyday or eating "right." Please remember that eating "healthy" is not the same as eating to "lose weight." Those are very two different concepts that some people confuse.
I see so many people who were never really fat in the first place change one thing in their diet, workout 45 minutes a day, and all of a sudden they are the expert on fitness. No your not, sit down. I just recently watched a youtube documentary called Fit2Fat2Fit and I will say, he would be the one trainer I believe. He actually went through the tribulations. At the same time, genetics is that one thing that no one truly knows. The one thing and most important thing that I have learned is every person is an individual and every person, something different works for them. It is trying to figure out what works for them and you. From carb loading to protein loading, to the various workouts. If you are lucky enough to know what works for you, then you are truly blessed!
I will continue that frustrating road as it is my career and I may have to resort back to my extreme but until then I try to at least enjoy my food.
I am currently experimenting with the Ketosis diet and so far it has made me more regular and I am not gaining weight but maintaining. So I will see how it goes. Thank You for reading.