Beside my desk, I have a bookshelf with a slew of old binders, composition notebooks, all kinds of note pads. Notes I’ve scribbled about events, ideas, places, people… myself.
I was well over 200lbs graduating high school. I often wore sweats because I didn’t want to try too hard to dress like/look like everyone else, and then get mocked for being “so fat” and trying “so hard.” (This photo is me, at a very happy 240lbs.)
I remember my mother’s frustration with my size – I was a size 9 in the 4th grade, and we thought it was kinda funny that I was built like a grown woman… until I started getting grown woman attention. Sure enough, that was the point where I started trying to hide myself. Before I knew it, my Mom moved us to a more upper-class area where everyone was healthy, and I was so busy trying to hide myself that I simply never noticed. I never noticed that I put on about 60lbs throughout high school.
I mentioned that I’ve always been a bit of a writer, because I wrote to myself about a day in gym class that I’d endured. Yes, endured. It was the dreaded one mile run for the Presidential fitness test. Everyone was lapping me. It took me 17minutes to make one mile. One fella – I even remember his name, and we’re still friends although I believe he’s long forgotten – crept up to me (with his friends giggling behind me) and asked me how much I weighed, and I said 191. I was lying – I’d shaved off about 25lbs from that. That was all he needed, and he went back to his football player friends giggling about it. I’d written it off, and just kept on walking my mile.
I’d written to myself that I didn’t need to be skinny to be a person of value to my community, my country, or my world. I mean, for crying out loud – skinniness isn’t what makes a person phenomenal! I don’t need to be skinny to be dynamic! I don’t need skinny to rock your world! Being skinny isn’t what makes a chick bangin’! I can do ALL of that without being a single-digit size. I WILL do all of that without a single-digit size.
And… off I went.
College was first. I was all OVER the place. Involed in this, running this, name in the paper, elected to that. When I finally started dating (’cause I didn’t do that until I left Mom’s house), I was NEVER single… happily involved, healthy long-term relationships. And I was on it. You couldn’t go to an event without seeing me. Why? Because I was focused on proving wrong that high school mentality that I couldn’t shake – that I didn’t need to be skinny to be dynamic.
Well, years later, during the time I should’ve been getting to know and love and learn how to take care of ME, I realized that I didn’t do much of that at ALL. I was a broken person trying to prove wrong an outside stigma that existed long before me, and would probably exist long after I’m dead and gone. And to top it all off, I was now the mother of a beautiful baby girl… and the thought of passing my broken understanding of how to be a healthily-happy-with-herself Black girl to her made my spine tighten up in pain.
I surrounded myself with women who were healthy and extremely patient… not wanting to damage our friendships but wanting to point out a need to take care of myself, how to learn. It wasn’t until one helped me realize the nutritional error of my ways, that I finally started going east instead of west. It all just started to make sense.
As I’ve mentioned before, by the time I’d hit the 300lb mark, I was dealing with pitting edema. Doctors were fearing I’d developed diabetes. It felt like everything was crashing down on me, and damn if I had any idea how to address it I would. I just didn’t know. If I hadn’t made a change, I can’t imagine where I’d be right now.
In hindsight, looking at what I wrote to myself – “I don’t need to be skinny to be dynamic! I don’t need skinny to rock your world! Being skinny isn’t what makes a chick bangin’!” – I didn’t lie! I was dynamic! I was awesome blossom! I didn’t need skinny to have, be or do anything that my heart desired. Being a wonderfully humble and modest individual isn’t predicated upon size or level of attractiveness. It has nothing to do with that. And it took me trying to hold myself up as the exception and almost killing myself in the process to realize that.
I couldn’t get past that childish mentality that said “I’m already cute, and I’m already happy and successful. I’own need to lose weight to be hot.” I wish I could grab Young Erika by the shoulders, slap her one good time and say, “This ain’t about being hot to a bunch of idiotic teenagers. This is about not having so much fluid in your legs, your blood can’t circulate properly in about 6 years. This is about being healthy and making sure that you’re around long enough to see your babies have babies. This is about developing and maintaining a lifestyle that nurtures and nourishes the best of you. This is about not spending your life trying to prove your value to a society that doesn’t care anyway. It’s about not letting a dysfunctional society succeed in devaluing you in the first place! It’s about believing in the worth you were given at birth, and ensuring that you’re around for as long as possible to make sure that you can put that worth to USE!”
I can look back and say, now, why I openly and outwardly failed to address my weight loss concerns. Because I knew that my efforts would be met with dismal results. I wouldn’t be prepared. I wouldn’t be knowledgeable. I wouldn’t understand. I would lose. I would fail. I’d be embarking on a 20 mile hike in a jungle, and would forget something simple and stupid – like water – get set back, have to go home, and never get the motivation to get up and have another go at it. I’d only be disappointing myself, so why bother?
The funny thing is, once I finally began to address my emotional barriers to weight loss, I hit another road block. I set myself up with excuse after excuse. I can’t afford to eat healthy. I can’t afford a gym membership. My insurance won’t cover a nutritionist. I don’t want to sweat my hair out. I have clients to tend to. It takes too much time. I have a daughter to raise. I’m hosting the Pope at my house, and I’ve got to bake pastries. All kinds of crap. It made me question what purpose those original barriers served in the first place. Was that just to protect me from the emotional letdown of failure?
I never really set out on some dynamic goal. I didn’t start at 330lbs with a goal of losing 150lbs. Remember, I tried the gym thing and felt like I was doing TOO much with no reward, and I gave up. Changing my eating habits wasn’t about losing weight – I had already, at that point, accepted that I wasn’t going to do that – it was about just eating healthier. The weight FELL off at that point. THAT is when my focus shifted… when I discovered my achilles heel. When I saw that it WAS possible. For those who don’t follow this site regularly, I started at 328. Today, I’m at 185lbs. Trust me, that wasn’t in the plan.
To think that I denied myself health because of some goal to prove that I could be of value without being skinny… to think that I denied myself health because of a fear of disappointing myself… to think that I denied myself being who I am because I was afraid of what being that person would bring me… all the years I wasted, all the time I lost. How dreadful I was to myself. Using meaningless external excuses to justify allowing my body – my gift – to suffer at the hands of my bad habits.
So, I put all this out here to say… losing weight isn’t about… well, losing weight. A healthy outlook on this whole thing is having a goal of changing your lifestyle. The effort should be placed within making small changes to eat and live healthier. The end result of doing these successfully is weight loss. Any effort to skate around that will fail you in the long run, and will bring about the disappointment that we all fear. Don’t defeat yourself before you begin. And definitely don’t make excuses for complacency… because it can ultimately kill you. Let me reiterate that – the goal is not weight loss. It is a healthier lifestyle. Please believe you can lose weight by unhealthy means, and wind up worse off health-wise than you began.
I had healthy goals – eating healthier, being more active – that gave me healthy results. My goals weren’t rooted in vanity, they were rooted in a desire to not have my daughter grow up as confused and emotionally stunted as I was. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food, and a respect for herself that included knowing how and when to take care of onesself. I’m proud that I’ve started that within her, all while re-teaching it to myself. (this picture of me is from Thanksgiving. You know you love my ‘fro!) Now, I’m considering more vain aspects of my physical appearance because, quite frankly, I can. I now know that I can healthily focus on me without punishing myself for “not being what I covet,” but “respectfully pushing myself.” Because I learned early that my value isn’t in my new-found physique, I still develop my intelligence, my ability to give to my community and my ability to love. It makes me that much better of a person, because I no longer fear tackling my issues head on… because I now have new-found faith in my ability to take care of ME. I don’t question my value because I know where it is, and because I value me… I care for me like I care for my child. Because I love myself… like I love my child.
1,600 words all to say… resolve to love yourself. Resolve to care for yourself. I’ve always been happy. I was always successful. But I looked at the way I love my child and wondered why I didn’t pour that same effort into myself.. and once I did, my world changed and my life lit up beyond what I could’ve imagined. Show yourself that kind of love, and see how your life changes.
thank you for sharing. god bless you. and merry christmas
THANK YOU for sharing this. You hit it o the nail with most of your statements. You look fabulous and I hope to soon share my own success with you and other. Have a wonderful holiday season and keep telling us like it is. We hate to hear the truth but the truth is what we need.
It’s Christmas and I’m enjoying a wonderful time with my family, seeing my little girl open her gifts and everything – but you just made my day with this post. I really appreciate you sharing your story in this post and on this site. Many of your old excuses are ones that I will be shedding this year. Thank you for the inspiration.
I love it! I keep saying to myself and others that it’s a lifestyle change, preceded by a mindset change.
THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY.. I FEEL YOU GIRLFRIEND IN EVERY AREA THAT YOU HAVE SPOKE UPON. 7MONTHS AGO I HAD WEIGHTLOSS SURGERY AND I HAVE LOST OVER 100LBS.. PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSSINGS FLOW… YOU SAID IT RIGHT WHEN YOU SAID THAT IT IS A LIFE STYLE CHANGE. I THANK GOD FOR THE UNDERSTANDING OF COMMITING TO HEALTY EATING AND EXECRISE.KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU MY SISTER…
everytime you share a part of your story, you share a part of your soul. I commend you for that. It is because of folks like you who are willing to be OPEN and HONEST about ish like this that we all can grow and learn.
Life style change is the KEY!!! you can diet all you want but if you don’t make a major life change all your efforts will be in vain.
There are many people with the Monique syndrome out there. Again it is not about the actual number you weigh its about being healthy!
Good job sis!
Wow! Congratulations! I’ve been on a similar weightloss journey and am loving my new healthy lifestyle. Keep it up!
“…a healthy relationship with food, and a respect for herself that included knowing how and when to take care of onesself. ”
-This is very important; I cosign 100%.
“The effort should be placed within making small changes to eat and live healthier.”
-Yes, this is what really matters not the number on the scale.
I am so happy that you decided to take better care of yourself because that is what really matters.
God Bless you and I wish you the best. 🙂
When I first learned of your blog, I was just starting my own weight loss journey. I have been fat all my life. And like you, I went through my “I don’t need to be skinny to prove my self-worth” phase. I was a complete cheerleader for the “big & beautiful” movement. I had to take a real HARD look at myself and my life, though, and basically got tired of–well–being fat. And hiding behind my fat.
I say all that to say–thank you! Thank you for sharing your story. You have completely inspired me and serve as a great source of motivation as I continue on my weight loss & healthy living journey.
Your last paragraph is right on the money–as a country there would be a lot more healthier women if we all followed that advice. (Men should of course follow it too, but they don’t always seem to pour themselves into their kids like women seem to…)
Thank you Erika for sharing this! I love myself more now than I have ever loved me before and I have noticed how much more I am losing now than previous efforts and it is all about how I transformed my thinking, then my food and exercise. I have passed this on to others that I know are on a weight loss journey as well and I hope they read and apply it to their lives. Thanks again!!!
What a way to start my morning!
Too many people are focused on the ‘loss’ and not the health and fail to realize that being healthy doesn’t come with a size. It took me a long time to realize that the numbers which really matter come from within. It is so reassuring to see someone such as yourself, who is clearly respected and well-followed, is espousing the ideals of whole foods, exercise, and good ol’ health. Thank you for all of your posts and inspiration.
“I care for myself like I care for my child, because I love myself like I love my child.” THAT right there is paramount, because anyone who has a child knows that a mother’s love for their child is inexplicable. Thank you for that jewel, that will help me look at a lot of things that I do regarding myself differently.
Thanks for sharing that story. I love your
honesty….(I’own need) classic!
In the past, I’d written something similar on my spark page. (I’m starting over… Have gained 50 pounds since I’ve started).
I think sometimes we are so afraid to face the fact we are unhealthy (fat even) that we set out on this race to PROVE that ‘skinny’ isn’t the goal.
I agree that it isn’t… but, as you said, does that put us in a place where we sabotage our own journey’s to health? Like ‘I’m beautiful reguardless! Hmmpphh!” … And yes love, you are, but that may not be the point…
A lot of issues to deal with! Thank you for being so open. You have inspired me! I’m so off the path right now (in terms of thinking ‘how the HELL did I get here’) that I almost forgot it truly doesn’t matter WHERE (what weight) you start at just start! Start toward a healthy life!
Thanks for writing about this topic. I do definitely believe my high self esteem in the way I look has definitely derailed me from being healthy. Because I’m what you call a “happy fat”, I have not been on my weight loss efforts like I really need to be. Thanks for the post. This is the time I will take it seriously because as you said, it is not about physical appearance but being healthy! I realize that now! Wish me luck!
Thank you for writing this! I’ve been contemplating what to do with my weigh loss plan for a while now. It feels like so much pressure to lose weight, especially if I start something and don’t finish or stick with it. (which is my usual habit) It makes so much more sense to forget about losing weight and focus on changing your lifestyle. I’m sure I’ve heard this before but I guess it has to come from a different place sometimes for it to sink in.
Again thanx and great job with the site.
“I looked at the way I love my child and wondered why I didn’t pour that same effort into myself..”
That line right there is the icing on the cake. That is why I am working on changing the game for my health.
I know this is an old post, but this is a problem that I am still struggling with. I get so tempted to stray from eating right, or when i’m sitting at home all day applying for jobs I basically just don’t feel like getting up to pop in a DVD. So i started figuring out something to keep myself busy. I take full advantage of the free pilates classes i have. I also see that cooking and planning is helping me out a lot.
thanks so much for writing this. I have to bookmark this to come back to it. I have to keep telling myself that i’m worth more then mcdonalds which i haven’t eaten in a long time, or tell myself i’m worth more then a soda when I got out with the family. it’s a long process for me, but things are getting better as i go along.
I have completely defeating weigh-loss efforts/ thoughts and idea. I know my reasons for wanting to loose weight and what I hope weight lost will do for me. I’ve been and still am like many americans only thinking of weight loss in the vantiy aspect. I am on a whole new wave link after reading this blog a lifestyle change is in order for me . I always thought the “GOAL” of weight loss was lossing weight but I see now I’ve been looking at this the wrong way. Thank you for writing this It has helped me see this journey that I’m going to embark on so much clearer. I look forward to reading more of your informative post.
I thank God for you, this site was a true gem to find. I fell so happy right now to see your experience and be relieved how much you has identified with me. I am right where you started at 330lbs; and I am scared to death of dissappointing myself once again from not seeing enough results. So I make excuses to not even try my hardest, because I don’t want to see that all my efforts will no be good enough or I am not good enough to make it. Thanks so much for sharing your life and experiences especially in this area. My heart feels so full of hope right now.
….and so my journey begins. Thank you.
I love how these gems just pop up on my facebook page.
This post is just real and wonderful.
I’m glad I read this post this morning…it was exactly what I needed to read at this very moment! Thank You!!!
Thank you so much for putting yourself out there. You are such an inspiration, and it makes me feel much better knowing that someone somewhere has been on the road I am on before. Thank you!
I am sure that I have said it before but I will say it again… Thank you… Your page is so full of information and you a blessed with the ability to engage and inform your audience… I tell my friends about your page and I hope they are paying attention… You are one of my tools I use to get what I need while on my journey to a healthier me… Bless you…
You are absolutely gorgeous. Keep up the good work
When I began my latest journey toward health, that was my focus: health. However, the ultimate goal I set was to lose weight. For the past two weeks, I’ve gained two pounds. I think I’ll take your advice and keep my focus in being and living in a more healthy manner, and being more active regularly.
Thank you for continuing to inspire and encourage us!!
I just really want to take the time out to say thank you for being so open to people like us who are starting and trying to maintain this weight loss journey I’ve read so many of your articles for some time now and not only are they inspiring but they are informative and motivating as well. Please continue to do what you do best touching the lives of people like me and helping me stay focused (•͡.̮ •͡ )
Thank you for sharing your story… I am you right now trying to eat healthier, but it’s so dang hard when everyone around me is always snacking on junk food. I beat myself up all the time about my weight, and what I’m eating, or what I’m not eating… My girl friend has been working out and invited me to work out with her, I did for a day, but I never went back… I try to do it at home, but it’s not the same cause I have my children and husband, and no real motivation… All they wanna know is what’s for dinner or can they snack on this, or can they snack on that… Skinny thangs just keep eating and no weight gain, lbvs…
Thank You, for your honesty and sharing all that you have. It is really great and inspiring.
Very inspiring, thank you! 🙂
Your experience is extremely encouraging. Finally reaching my goal of 135lbs (5’5″), i value health over vanity. My initial motivation was to be able to wear a bikini. Now, my celebration in achievement is being balanced, having ideal blood pressure, Healthy HDL/low LDL Cholesterol levels and the ability to bike ride 20 miles from you from from and return to cook and clean without feeling fatigued!!!! Youre so correct in sharing how we have to jump over our weight loss barriers to achieve success: emotional, excuses and vanity!
Thank you so much for this story…you have put words to my own struggle..all I can say is thank you…thank you so much
thank you so very much for sharing this! this is just where i am right now, struggling, giving up, getting resolve… just cyclical mentally and emotionally about getting healthy. but i never permanently give up, and your blog definitely gives me that push when i want to shout “i can’t!” thank you for reminding me “I CAN!”
This sentence right here was rt on the money for me: “Was that just to protect me from the emotional letdown of failure?” I realize that I have a whole litany of reasons for why it WON’T work before I even began. I really am thinking, “This is not gonna work out, nothing ever helps, etc.” I’m so focused and positive now and just like you the weight has started coming off! This time it is because I’ve finally got to the place that I HAVE to do it for my health. Sad but true. Now I’m feeling so much better and good luck to you in your healthy eating too!
Omg! I never found someone who described what I’m going through to a t. This is me. From the trying to prove my weight doesn’t affect my greatness, all the way down to losing weight and then gaining some of it back. I too was at my heaviest at 327 lbs. I lost 40 lbs on my own mostly by walking and exercising til I damn near fainted. I suffered but I was so proud. No pills, no shots, no surgery. After I lost my job, I lost the will to keep up with my walking n exercise program. Over the next 6 months I got lazy. Me n my then boyfriend layed around all day and the weight piled back on… quick! Now I’m back to 300 lbs and I won’t do this anymore. I’m just better than this. Even though I love and accept myself as I am, I hate looking at myself naked, I hate feeling trapped in my own body, I hate making excuses. I’m ready. You helped me by posting this because I am able to combine positive self talk, exercise, proper eating habits and my faith into one recipe for success. Thank you n be blessed.
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