Monday, September 27, 2010

When I Stopped Caring

For the first 26 years of my life, I cared about my weight. I didn't obsess, but I *cared* in the sense that I was always aware of any extra pounds and I made the effort to get them back off. In high school, when I hit 145 pounds, I started running in the mornings and eating less until I got back to 140. After I gave birth to my second child and found myself a new mother weighing 172 pounds, I immediately signed up for a class at the local hospital on nutrition and weight loss. For 16 weeks I went in and learned about healthy foods and exercise, and I managed to drop 10 pounds before getting pregnant with son #3. Less than a year after he was born, I weighed 199 pounds... a real wake-up call! I got together with some friends and we started walking a couple miles a day in the evenings after we put our kids to bed. We started calorie counting and having occasional lunches and recipe exchanges together, and I managed to lose 34 pounds and get back down to 165. I remember how great I felt... fit, active, healthy. Not long after, I was pregnant again and excited to add our fourth child to the family. After his birth, I hit a new high of 201 pounds. Seeing that 2 on the scale drove me right to a new weight loss plan, and I started writing down everything I ate and counting calories again. I joined a gym, I worked out, I got down to 174 (maybe lower. I don't have a lower record but I *think* I may have reached 168 or so).

All those years, each time I gained a bit of weight I noticed right away. I cared that I was gaining weight. I knew it was bad for me and that I didn't look as good. So I didn't let it go on for long before I did something about it. I joined a group or hooked up with friends. My weight and my health mattered to me.

Then something happened. My whole mindset changed. I was already struggling when my last son was an infant because we had moved to a new state where I did not have the close knit group of friends I'd had before. I didn't have the daily love and support of a small town country neighborhood anymore. We'd moved to "the city," where people live next door to each other for years and don't even know the neighbors' names. Granted, it was not a *big* city, but it was the biggest I'd ever lived in. I felt lost and alone. I cried a lot. I wanted to go "home." But my husband's job was here, and we had to stay.

Still, it was here that I went from 201 to 174 or lower. I made it happen but it was very lonely. I went to that gym alone, worked out alone, counted calories alone. And that is when the *something* happened.

I got divorced.

I found myself, at 170ish pounds, standing alone in the living room with four little children asleep in their beds and cribs the day after Christmas 1997. My baby wasn't even 2 yet. My husband moved more than 2000 miles away. I was absolutely, utterly, horribly alone. And I was terrified.

I had no family to rely on, no mother to call and cry to, no siblings or grandparents,  no one. I tried to make the best of the situation. I tried very hard to be strong and be there for the kids, but I was falling apart inside.

And that is when I stopped caring about my weight.

By March, I weighed 227 pounds. I have no idea how it happened. Well, I mean I have an idea... we had no money, we ate from the food bank. That means lots of day-old bakery items like donuts, cinnamon rolls, cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. Yeah, we'd come out of the food bank with an entire cart full of JUST CAKES AND PASTRIES and then maybe a bag with a few canned goods, a bag of white flour, a bag of sugar and some margarine. Maybe some rice, or a few packages of Ramen. That's about it. So yes, we ate donuts for breakfast and had cake after school a lot. But mentally I was just not there... emotionally, mentally, I was in shock and I was not thinking clearly. I just ate. I didn't worry about calories or nutrition or how fat I was getting until I got a job and had NO clothes to wear. All I had were baggy sweats and tees I picked up at Walmart. I had to go and buy size 22 blouses and slacks with money I got from selling some of my belongings. And that is the only reason I cared about my weight... because I needed new clothes for work.

I was numb. I was going through the motions of life but not really living. By the following Christmas, just one year after my husband left, I weighed 245 pounds. My weight was messing with my life by that point, and I tried half heartedly to diet. I went on Weight Watchers, but a year later I weighed 262. I went back to college, and by 2003 I weighed 270. I screwed around with diets on and off, down 33 pounds on South Beach and back up to 278. And ever since then I guess I started caring again in a half hearted way. I cared enough to go on weight loss message boards, lose a few pounds, regain, try again, lose a few, and regain. But somehow I was stuck and even though a little bit of caring was starting to come through, it was a caring about getting out of the morbid obesity hell hole... but not really caring about me. Not really caring about *myself* FOR ME. I don't even know if that makes sense. But I wanted to lose weight because I felt like crap and I figured I was too fat, but I didn't really care about me. Not enough, anyway. However, I *did* care more than life itself for my children, and they needed me. So I cared and kept trying because of that.

Now it's different. Somewhere over the past 3 years I really starting caring about myself. Not just my weight, but my emotional, mental, physical health and well being. I care about me not just *because* of my kids, but as a stand alone, I-Love-Myself kind of caring that I used to have before. Before I got divorced.

The trauma of that divorce was a trigger for me to go numb. It was the beginnings of binge eating, massive weight gain, and the habit of "checking out" of life because it hurt too much. It was a withdrawal and loneliness. It was based on fear.

I will not stop caring again. I have my awareness back and it is with me all the time, my constant companion when I am doing well or not. I *always* think about the consequences of my actions. I *always* pay attention, so I do not slip into that habit of checking out.

A lot of people check out and gain weight when some *event* happens to them that is too painful or scary to cope with. Take note, and see if this is the case for you. Sometimes, understanding is just the thing we need to make a change and check back in.


anne h said...

Awesome insight - powerful writing.
That's why I like it here so much!

Anonymous said...

i like this.... the i-love-myself-so-i'm-doing-this mentality, not the i-will-be-allowed-to-love-myself-when-i-am-finished mentality. i'm in a similar place right now. i wanted to leave a comment kinda like this when i saw your previous message, about eating 'off plan' and actually feeling fine. i think that's awesome.

i know there's the danger zone, you need to be careful, sugar addiction, old habits, blahblahblah... i'm not belittling that.... but it's also an old habit (for me, anyway) to get a little harsh/brutal with myself, trying to use logic to push through things, like "i want this so even though i feel fine i need to cut back on calories and be at THIS number by THIS time, i better get back on the band wagon pronto." not sure it's helpful. cultivating the self-confidence is, taking it slowly is. i worried a little that you might be getting into the logic-trap in your post about the M&Ms... getting a little militant at a time when you actually seem ready/able to have some flexibility.

then again, maybe you know this more than i do, because you were thin for a while. i'm almost thin for the first time ever, so i'm still learning.

-J.Darling said...

My divorce worked the other way around for me. Not in the weight department, but in the life department. It wasn't until he left that I realized I had, in deference to my husband, alianated myself from the world, abandonded my dreams, and built my life around someone that wasn't who I thought he was.

So I got to rebuilding.

Part of me thinks, "He should have stuck around! He would have gotten the best version of me yet!" But the other part of me knows that if it weren't for the rug being pulled out from under me, I wouldn't have been able to hit my knees, and learn how to get up again - rebuilding on a stronger foundation than ever.

Every day I count myself blessed. Sure, I'm not where my friends are in life. Most of them are married and/or living w/ someone, and/or have kids. I'm the "cool single chick". Never thought I'd be that at 30 years old, but ya know what?

It took me a LONG time to have this revelation.

IT'S OKAY! Once I accepted where I am in life, I found the hope came and the path to move forward cleared. :)

Ash said...

This is exactly how I feel. =/ I want to start caring about myself, too, and not just losing the weight because I know I *should*. This is probably at least the tenth time that I've tried losing weight since I was about 15-16 (I'm 21 now), and I want the dedication to stick. I guess what I mean is, how do I start caring about myself instead of loathing what I let myself become? My eyes (and, I guess, heart?) are slowly opening up, but I wish it'd open a little faster.

Thanks for the insightful blogging, though. It means a lot to know someone has been where I seem to be.

Deniz said...

Very true, Lyn

I'm so glad that you rediscovered and 'care' for the 'you' who was always still in there somewhere. That's kind of how I feel too.

Also thanks for a great warning that unexpected events can knock you back a good way 'if' you allow yourself to 'check out'. With my darling Mum getting more frail these days, I must keep that in mind and try not to fall into the trap.

Megan said...

I read your blog a lot, and always enjoy it, but this one has really hit a chord with me.

I went through a period of not caring about ME too, and it's so self destructive, in more ways than just weight (although that is undoubtedly what we most notice and focus on).

I had many many attempts to get "back on the wagon", all of which failed miserably, because the focus was just on the fact that I need to lose weight, not what had caused that weight to be there.

Very interesting reading, and very thought provoking. Think I might need to blog about this myself!

Shane G. said...

Wow, an awesome post and one that I bet many of us will relate to. I never had nearly the same emotional trauma that you have had, but I can say I have checked out of life at times just like you mentioned, just not caring about me or my health or much else for that matter. I never had thought of it till YOU just said it and I did. Wow, thanks for adding some self understanding to my life, just another bit of the solution to where I am at!

Fat Grump said...

'I tried to make the best of the situation. I tried very hard to be strong and be there for the kids, but I was falling apart inside.'

Oh Lyn - been there too, after remaining in a dreadful marriage for ten years too long. Big hugs.

We come last. We trudge through our days doing what has to be done but self-care comes bottom of the list. I even wore a happy mask. I tried to be upbeat and positive, strong and dependable (I was caring for my elderly Mum too and I knew she'd worry if I was unhappy) and all the time I was crying inside and my own welfare meant nothing.

So many of us go through bad times and it's so easy to sink. It's only with hindsight that I realise I have come through it, am out of those dark places, am strong and I matter. It's a long haul back though and I still find it very hard to make myself my number one concern.

Life eh?

Potato Diva said...

Excellent post! You hit a chord today. I battle Seasonal Affective Disorder. When the sun goes down sooner and sooner, I get more and more depressed. I use a light therapy box to help. I start on Oct 1 - March 31.

I always gain a lot of weight each winter and it is because I don't care about myself or my weight. I don't care to live usually.

But you inspired me today. I have to make it a routine. I will have healed my tendinitis and be working out at the YMCA come Oct 10. Baby steps, but steps just the same. Little accomplishments mean a great deal to me. They lead to bitter ones.

Getting to a healthy weight is the bigger undertaking I have had in my 42 years. To loose 150 lbs seems unfathomable. However, 5 seems doable. Just 5 pounds over and over.

Thanks. I am so glad I follow you.

Life as a Caterpillar said...

I could have written this! This is exactly what i did. I 'went numb' as you say after my divorce and i totally stopped caring about myself. Immediately, i lost about 30lbs and was at about 160lbs for a while, but not caring is not a healthy way to be and i ended up at 255lbs earlier this year. I can see myself here in everything you said. You are brave to post this.
I refuse to be like that again. I will be positive and look after me!

Vee said...

Very well said. As usual, you're impressive with your introspection. Thanks.

Vee at

The Fat Mom said...

This hit home on so many levels. Being overweight since I child, I think I've been numb for a very long time. I've told myself that I will always be the fat chick and that I was ok with it. Recently, I've realized that I'm tired of putting myself on the back burner as I try and meet the needs of everyone else around me.

Thank you for your story and I hope you are able to start caring for yourself!

Mind Over Fatter said...

Wow, I cannot believe how much these writings are affecting me. It's like people are telling parts of my story! This means I am not suffering alone, that others are confronted with the same challenges or setbacks and have worked through them. I love the i-love-myself mantra cause that's where I am now too. Thanks for the honesty and openness, it's helped me....

Christina J. said...

This is the first time I have read your blog and I want to thank you. I am just starting out on my journey to a healthier and thinner me and this is very inspiring for me. I am a stay at home mom of 4. I have gained a lot of weight over the years and now I just feel like the weight is choking the life right out of me. I think I will keep reading your blog as I go on my journey. Great job!!

Thank you!!

Jane said...

A very powerful post, Lyn. You have been through some very tough times, and not caring is a way of numbing out. I also got to a point of not caring about my weight because I had other concerns that were more pressing. Of course, it was the beginning of significant weight gain, and the eating that led to that weight gain became a habit. I'm glad I'm on the road to caring about myself again.

Splurgie said...

You have always been so honest in your blog. Your strength must certainly be a great influence on your children. That's your greatest gift to them.

Anonymous said...

I don't like to overgeneralize, but it seems to me that most women put everybody else in their life first, be it their husband, kids, pets, friends, job. We would eat junk that we would never in a million years give to anybody else we loved. I quit going to the gym cause it was interfering with everybody else's day for example. I've been back working out since last November now and for the first time ever I will say "no, I can't do that, I have to get to the gym for my workout". I'm still having a hard time putting myself first (not all the time of course), but I'm working at it. It's not a matter of looking good any more, it's a necessity for health. I think women feel guilty when they are "selfish".

Another great post Lyn.


Jenna said...

Great Writing and I love that you can think back to when you stopped and started caring, I will think about this today and I know it will help me see how far I have come as well as where I still need to be.

Anonymous said...

Lyn -

I am one of the "lurkers" who read your posts EVERY day as well as your all your other reader's comments (but I rarely comment myself. I wonder why I hold back...?)

Your story is an incredibly raw, honest, insightful, and powerful one. I found myself tearing up as I read about your loneliness & how you hit rock bottom but pulled yourself out of the deep abyss. You are such an admirable and strong woman. Thank-you for being such an inspiration to me.

Anonymous said...

I binge once and a while because I want to get out of my situation whatever it is in that moment. It is very easy way to get extra weight because it has nothing to do with hunger. I am really working on this issue but it is so, so hard. I should find something else (some pattern to act) so I would get over those situations and face the feelings. Your blog is so encouraging to me !

Happy Fun Pants said...

I've got a physical issue right now that I would've normally taken as a chance to check out - emotionally and physically.

The thing is, last night I realized that I now get the chance to check in even closer with me - spiritually, mentally, AND physically.

When faced with the chance to check out and stop caring, I'm finding that I care even more about myself.

AND WOW did I never think those words would be written by me.

I'm SO glad that you care about yourself now. You are phenomenal - and such a fighter.

Keep going!! :) :)

C. said...

I just started reading your blog, as in.. today. I'm starting on Medifast with my mother and wanted to try to find people's blogs that chronicle their experience with the program. Your blog is fantastic and TRULY inspiring. We each have 40-50 pounds to go and by reading your blog I have some true inspiration and motivation.
**Have you ever thought of adding into your recipe section the foods that you create with medifast?** I just went through and wrote down your protein shake trick and pancake mix muffin! If you have any other tricks you can share I'd absolutely love that!

C. said...

I just started reading your blog, as in.. today. I'm starting on Medifast with my mother and wanted to try to find people's blogs that chronicle their experience with the program. Your blog is fantastic and TRULY inspiring. We each have 40-50 pounds to go and by reading your blog I have some true inspiration and motivation.
**Have you ever thought of adding into your recipe section the foods that you create with medifast?** I just went through and wrote down your protein shake trick and pancake mix muffin! If you have any other tricks you can share I'd absolutely love that!

theantijared said...

Just so you know, what you have done in 2010 is amazing! I am proud!

spunkysuzi said...

Lyn you will never know how much your posts mean to me! You are one of the few authentic bloggers that tells it like it is not perfect like the rest of us!
Thank you

Babycakes said...

Great post, awful that your husband left when you had all those young children to look after and not a lot of money. How does this happen? Seems so unfair.
Think you're so right, about checking out, being numb.