The Elephant in my Head

Today is the day I share my elephant.

I am an open book. You can ask me anything, and I will give an honest answer. I love to talk about about my life and family, my experiences, and the ideas I have. I can have hard conversations over my skills, my mistakes and successes.

But the one thing I avoid discussing is my weight and my body image.

I was never a thin kid or teen. I didn’t exercise regularly, and I was a “brain” in school, with little athletic ability. I tried out for the Volleyball team in Junior High a couple of times, and didn’t make the one team picked out of the forty girls that tried out. I was a cheerleader in grades seven and eight, and was chosen as captain of the squad. As I had so much fun in junior high, I tried out for the high school team in grade nine but did not make it through the cuts. After the cliquey group that denied me access graduated, I tried out again and made it at that time. But the school population’s was not respectful of us. I remember overhearing a few comments along the lines of “is that the football team? no, those are the cheerleaders” . Not great for a young girl’s self esteem, so I quit.

I then joined Sea Cadets, and through summer camps and activities, became a lover of walking, running and marching drills. The camping and outdoor hikes were great, and I learned to sail. Active and fun.

During my grade twelve year, I started partying and working extensively. I dropped out of cadets, and concentrated on my social life, job, and finishing my grade twelve year. After graduation, I lived in my home town for another year before moving out to the coast with my employer as they had purchased a new store and needed managers to help open. The busyness of those months, coupled with the lack of extra activity and the habits that come from an active social life – drinking, smoking and poor eating choices – were not in my best interests.

I then met my kids’ dad, and had three beautiful girls. My first pregnancy was not as healthy as it should have been, as I worked six days a week until the last two months, not gaining any weight until I started Maternity leave. Then I gained forty pounds. The rest of the pregnancy was not healthy, making it necessary to deliver Carly in Vancouver at BC Women’s hospital. I was also left with a bad case of baby blues, feeling alone and disconnected in an area where I currently had no friends or family of my own.

I gradually lost some of the weight through exercise and the support of a weight loss program, getting down to as low as 185. I was thrilled, and felt great. Then I discovered I was pregnant. I vowed that this pregnancy would be different and ate healthy, participated in Aquafit classes and walked. Kimberly was born to a much healthier mother.

I rejoined the weight loss program not long after I was done nursing Kim, and the weight was slowly dissolving, when I found out that Michelle was on the way. I had to quit the program, and just try to eat healthy and exercise. After a semi-healthy pregnancy, I now had a six year old, a twenty month old and newborn.

I started running, and we got a dog – a boxer named Dozer – that helped me to keep active. I completed a 10K as well as a half-marathon.

After a few years, my marriage crumbled, and I was feeling strong, but gradually the weight started to creep up as my feelings of guilt, inadequacy and loneliness from missing my kids on their days with their dad layered me in numbness.

I found love in my husband Brian, who loves me wholeheartedly and has known me for many years. But as he works away, there is still an emptiness that food and self-pity fill.

I then broke my ankle – I rolled it while walking at work. The pain took quite a while to subside and I still have some discomfort from the area that broke, four and a half years later. But the fear of rolling it again ended my running, and even walking for fun.

In July of 2012, I reached a high of 255 pounds. Since then, I have gotten as low as 236, but in the past year and a half, have been bouncing around the 240’s.

I know how to eat healthy. I know how to exercise. Yet this struggle continues.

And why can I not talk about it?

My weight is a number. It is a value that changes, fluctuating with the whims of hormones, emotions and bad habits of an individual that does not know how to prioritize herself. I am not that number. It does not own me, but it does affect me.

My body image is the more difficult to talk about. The vision of me in my head is different than the one I see in the mirror, which is different again than the one I see in pictures. And the shame I sometimes feel is hard to swallow.

I have always prioritized other people’s needs before my own, a quality that serves me well in the service industry that I work in, but in my personal life, I do not have the same emotional boundaries.

I accept others for the people that they are; I love and support my friends and family at face value, and help them reach their goals and objectives, as well as being a kind ear to listen and a place to go for heartfelt hugs when they need one.

I deserve that same acceptance of myself… by me.

I am learning to accept my body for what it is , but mostly the person it belongs to…. me.

As a leader in my professional life, in my community as a Trustee and volunteer, a mentor and friend, and mostly as a mother to my three gorgeous daughters, I had to give voice to my personal struggle.

I am a strong woman, however my confidence is still a bit shaky.
But not for long.

I have set my elephant free.