ChicagoNow Blogapalooza - My Weighty Challenge

Every now and again ChicagoNow holds Blogapalooza where the community managers invite all the bloggers (that includes ME, ya'll!) to write for one hour about a particular topic. Participation is option, but because I'm new, I've obviously never participated before and I felt like this was a perfect opportunity to do a little community bonding. It started at 9pm and I have until exactly 10pm to write.

Tonight's topic: Write about a great challenge faced. By you. By someone else. By an entity. At any point in the past or in the future.

Wow. What a topic. I could get really personal or just kinda superficially personal. Either way, this requires some level of vulnerability on my part. Vulnerability that I'm not sure I'm ready for on my new blogging platform. The best way to get ready is to just jump in with both feet.

So let's get super personal.

Since my college days, I've struggled with my weight. I've gained and lost the same weight so many times, I've lost count.  Each time I attempt to lose the weight it's more difficult - both physically and emotionally.

The physical challenges of losing weight are simple: As we get older, our bodies change (especially as women), changing our hormones and that makes weight more difficult to lose. In my case, I have the additional challenge of Hypothyroidism, meaning that my thyroid doesn't work. Among the many things in our bodies that are controlled by the thyroid, our metabolism is high up on that list. Therefore,  because my thyroid doesn't work, my metabolism works at a snails' pace. Fortunately, Synthroid is helping put my thyroid and metabolism back on track. But because I'm in my (early) 40s now, it's still more difficult than it was in my 20s.

The emotional challenges are a different story. They are far more complicated.

The first time I tried to lose weight, I was hugely successful. I lost 30 pounds between the summer of my freshman and sophomore years of college. I remember going back to college that fall as proud as I could possibly be. I worked out all the time, ate right, and the weight stayed off for more than a year.

My junior year was a different story and I gained all the weight back. Of course, that came with a healthy (or  unhealthy, as the case was) dose of self-hatred and a long cycle of believing that I was just born to be overweight and I couldn't keep it off permanently.

I tried more diets than I can count in my 20s. Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig. Liquid diet. I even took FenPhen. I would diet and exercise, lose the weight, and then gain it back again and then some. To be honest, I was most successful on the FenPhen. I kept track of every single ounce of food I ate and every bit of exercise I performed.  I lost most of the weight I'd gained and I was almost back to a "normal" weight. And then FenPhen started making people really ill and maybe even killing some. My doctor pulled me off of it immediately.

Although I'd done really well losing weight by eating super healthily and exercising, I had not learned how to break the patterns that made me emotionally eat. I didn't know how to deal with the stress in my life. And without the FenPhen, the weight came right back on . . . and then some.

This yo-yo pattern continued through my 30s. I even added hypnosis to the mix of what I tried to help me lose weight. That didn't work permanently either.

About 3 1/2 years ago, I lost 40 pounds. I honestly don't know how it happened. I didn't do anything in particular. I wasn't "trying" to lose weight. Slowly, surely, and consistently though, I was losing about 1 to 2 pounds per week. It was incredible. I felt better than I'd felt in years. I was wearing clothes I hadn't worn in ages. Shopping was actually fun. I started to recognize and even like my body. What a novel concept.

But then about 2 years ago, the yo-yo unravelled again and I regained those 40 pounds plus another 10. I remember actively avoiding mirrors. I didn't want to see how much I'd failed . . . again. The weight just made me want to hide from the world and crawl into a cave.

In the past two years, I've done a lot of work on myself. I've figured out what my triggers are, why I self-destruct, and why I take my heartache and stress out on me. And wouldn't you know weight is starting to come off, slowly but surely.

Maybe I've finally overcome this challenge that's quite literally weighed me down for more than 20 years. I don't know for sure, but now that I've put it out there for all the world to read, I'll keep you posted.

One of my 100 New Experiences this year is to lose 50 pounds. Wish me luck.

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    Jessica Gardner

    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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