After reading Serena’s post over the weekend about her health journey, I decided to write my health journey as well. READ: Very long.
In truth, I have some suspicion that Serena might have wrote that blog post because of me. Now, I’m not trying to steal the spotlight here, but I’m writing this because I’m so grateful to have a bestfriend like Serena. You see, on the same day she uploaded her post, I texted her a few hours before with these exact words:
Yeah, in other words, I was in a pretty low point that afternoon. I was coming back from an all-day programming competition, where if you read above I ate: one whole peanut butter bagel, two slices of pizza, and five cookies.
I never was really fat in my childhood but I wasn’t the skinniest either. Up until 3rd grade, I was blessed with the “skinny” genes, meaning I was able to eat A LOT without having it show. My family friend described it the best, “Stephanie, all your food seems to be growing vertically on you!”
This was certainly so true. While length wise I fit into a kid size 12, width wise, I could comfortably fit into a kid size 8. So this means, up until 3rd grade, I lived off of unhealthy habits such as continuing to eat even if I was full.
This habit got created when adults would compliment me for eating a lot. You see, in Korea, the tradition is, little kids get the most compliments when they eat a lot, such as asking for a second bowl of rice. So in order to eat the second bowl of rice, I would stuff spoonfuls of rice in mouth.
Similar to Serena, I ate and loved chips. In particular, I remember always putting the Kirkland Tortilla Chips in the cart when my family was shopping at Costco. However, my mom curbed my chips habit when she banned chips from the house. Truth be told, my mom is the true health nut. She banned juices and chips from the house a long time ago. It’s not that she doesn’t like it, she herself loves juices and chips, however she lives by the motto “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Anyways, I remember the first time of feeling “fat” when I was in fourth grade. Because I attended a private school, starting from fourth grade, everybody wore uniforms. Before fourth grade, there was only a dress code, I didn’t have to wear a uniform. So because all the girls and I were wearing the same thing, body size and type became quite noticeable. I remember sitting criss-cross applesauce (do people still call it that?) and noticing that my thighs were thicker than my friend’s next to me. Still, I didn’t care about it too much. Even back then, in fourth grade, not only was being able to eat three slices of pizza impressive, but eating them the fastest was impressive as well.
So along with eating more than I was full, I ate fast. In other words, I seriously did not eat in tune with my body. I did not eat intuitively, but just ate to … I don’t know what. I don’t know the reason of why I ate. And this is where the problem lies.
So after fourth grade (sorry about jumping all over the place), I slowly gained weight, but looking back now, it wasn’t too bad, but all my friends were those stick thin girls so obviously, around them, I felt fat.
So in May 2015, I decided to go on a diet. Although I assured myself that this was a lifestyle change and not an extreme diet, looking back now, I definitely was a victim of the extreme diet. I downloaded MyFitnessPal, PumpUP, ate only 1,200 Calories, and ran distance track. Obviously, in the beginning this was VERY hard. However, from this weight loss journey, I learned that I actually have a lot of stubbornness, perseverance, and discipline. Even my dad said to my mom, “Stephanie will succeed in life. I mean if she can exhibit this much self-control in food, how much more work and effort will she put in other aspects of her life?”
Anyways, flash forward to summer 2015 after many days of feeling tired, exhausted, empty-stomached, and being the awkward person in the social event who declined ALL deserts and ALL “bad” foods but ate only salad, I lost 20 lbs. I’m naturally slim on the top and carry more weight on the top, so while my top sizes were the same, my waist size dropped by an inch or two. I found myself having a thigh gap. I found myself having thin and lean thighs. I remember slipping into a pair of leggings and gasping in front of the mirror because I never would have imagined my legs to look like this. However, contrary to popular belief, although people say they lose weight in order to feel more confident and good about themselves, I experienced the opposite.
Yes, when I got dressed in the morning I felt great, however, the remainder of the day I felt MISERABLE. I was constantly thinking about food, yet I would only eat so little and exercise so much. In fact, when my family travelled to Korea that summer, I was angry that I couldn’t take my iPhone because that meant I couldn’t track my calories (#sadlife). Now if any of you guys have been to Korea, Korea is food haven, and having to restrict myself there was miserable. All my relatives in Korea were astounded at my weight loss. While their responses were out of concern, I relished on their “you lost weight” comments. It proved how accomplished I was.
However, things turned for the worse. During my yearly check up, my pediatrician told me that she couldn’t sign my health form because my BMI was too low. She told me I had to gain more weight. Not only this, but I lost my period and I was growing more body hair than usual – an indicator that my female hormones were not in their normal level.
In order to keep this post any longer than it is, I’m going to go in bullet form from summer 2015 at the doctor’s to now:
- Doctor tells me to gain more weight – only if I add more weight from my 107 weight (I am 5’5’’ for reference) will she sign my school health form.
- I weigh myself again at the end of summer in the doctor’s office wearing my longest shorts so I could stuff my iPhone 6+, my dad’s wallet, my mom’s wallet hoping that these items will increase my weight. It did. The scale read: 108lbs.
- Go to boarding school in the fall – mom is super worried that without her supervision, I will go on an extreme diet again. However, I assure her that I won’t. After the doctor’s visit, I had a huge realization that what I was doing was SO stupid. SO dumb. I wasn’t nourishing my body. I wasn’t loving my body. My body had to be healthy. My body needed fat. My body needed back its weight.
- I gained weight freshmen year because I ate too much of good food. You can still gain weight from eating salads. I ate way too much of “whole” foods. I overstuffed myself. I stretch my stomach, I stretched my appetite.
- In the midst of all this, I was so confused. I was so stressed. I didn’t know why I was doing this. Was I eating to lose weight? No I decided after the doctor’s office that losing weight is off my list now. Then what was I eating for? Having Serena there by my side helped.
- In this confusion, I sought help and clarification on YouTube. (Bad decision since there are so many lifestyles people preach about). I thought I had orthorexia, I thought I needed to be HCLF. I thought I needed to eat protein power shakes, etc…
- Deleted PumpUp and MyFitnessPal → huge milestone for me. Serena helped me on this one. She was the angel on my shoulder telling me to delete the app.
- After getting into winter track and crew, I realized that I needed to eat for fuel
- Major weight gain → Tried on clothes from summer 2015 during winter and spring break – none of the clothes fit anymore. Major tantrum. Major breakdown.
- Calmed myself down and went back to school. Still in the midst of understanding and recollecting myself after the major weight gain. I think I gained the weight back because I was holding back on food so much that once I started eating, my body quickly gained it.
- Got first period (although mild) in a year and a half.
After this long long journey (trust me the bullet points up there are SUPER SHORTENED), I am slowly but surely, going on a journey where I can eat normally. Ever since I was young, up until know, my reason to eat food was hollow. When I was young, I ate to impress the adults, but when I went on a diet, I ate to lose weight, I ate so I could feel better about myself (which obviously did not happen). My goal is to eat like Serena. My goal is to be physically and emotionally healthy. I want to eat healthy because I truly want to. And if I eat “bad” one day, to forgive myself and move on. Serena’s chill attitude about food is so inspiring. So just like she wrote about why she ate, I decided today to really see WHY I wanted to eat healthy. This was what I typed in my notes:
So that was a really long post. If you stuck with me till the end, thank you so much for reading. You don’t know how much it means to me. While Serena’s journey is pretty much perfected and completed, I still have a long way to go. I think my diet this summer was like the wrong turn of the journey and the struggle I faced and still face to recover is the detour. I am slowly reaching the right path of the journey.
“Recovery is about progression, not perfection.” – Unknown
Why do you eat the way you do? Do you have a health journey you would like to share with us?
P.S.: I want to give a special shout out to my amazing mom. She was able to put up with this hassle of a diet. She was by my side ever so stalwart and supportive. She never scolded me for trying to lose weight. After the visit to the doctor’s, I was sure she was going to scold me for being so ignorant in losing weight. However, this was not the case. When I said sorry to her and my dad, she came to my side and gave me a tight hug. Even now, I regularly talk to her about my feelings and thoughts and she always finds a way to understand me but also finds a way for me to recover from that condition. I really couldn’t have done it without you, mom! (Of course, my dad gave me immense support as well, but as a male, he couldn’t really relate to why I wanted to be so skinny …. Seriously, why are girls so obsessed with our outward appearance???)