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My earliest memory of being “weight-conscious,” to put it euphemistically, is from when I was in the fifth grade. I was getting ready for school, not feeling great in anything I put on and rummaging furiously through the closet. I came across a pair of jeans, buried in the back, and tried them on with trepidation masked by a forced nonchalance. They fit. I was floored.

I ran downstairs and announced all through the house that finally, I fit into a pair of jeans. To be clear, I was never obese, by any formal definition. I’ve coasted by on the high end of ‘normal’ for my height all my life. Very likely, there were jeans out there in sizes we just happened not to own that would have fit me. But all that is beside the point, which is that by the fifth grade I had already learned to let my body make me nervous and sad.

Until that moment. I don’t recall how long I rode the euphoria of fitting into those jeans. Knowing myself, it wasn’t for long.

Anyone who has ever struggled with their own body image is well aware that this runs much, much deeper than what I can describe for you in one, two or a hundred blog posts. Unless you have battled your own ugly thoughts about yourself day in and day out until it becomes second-nature (sadly I know too many of us have), you won’t ever fully understand the psychological toll. All I ask is that, if you’re coming along for the ride, you suspend your judgments as I share my journey over the coming weeks.

I was never as thin as I thought I was supposed to be. In middle school, I had slim friends who didn’t understand my struggle and I had friends bigger than me who didn’t understand my struggle, and were almost offended by it.

For years, I yo-yo dieted. I binged. I ate emotionally. I ate not enough. I exercised without any idea of how to make it change my body. I was mean to myself, angry with what I was. Nothing clicked. Not in elementary school, not in middle school, not in high school (when I finally dropped 8 pounds senior year and had no idea how to sustain it). Not in college. Not when I was a full-grown adult with a big-kid job as an English teacher.

In fact, I was at my biggest when I was teaching. Years of not understanding my relationship with food, combined with a cross-country move fresh out of college and the daily emotional stress of teaching caused me to lose control. I joined weight watchers. I quit. I began being more active. I stopped. The lifelong cycle continued.

Don’t get me wrong – this is simply a magnifying glass set atop one element of my life. Throughout all these years, I’ve also lived my life and been ridiculously happy – I’ve made great friends, traveled and taken risks, been in love, pursued my professional interests. The point is, my struggle with my weight has long been an underlying part of my life.

transformationBut now, the tables are turning. It took me decades to figure it out, and I finally found something that has worked for me. I’m smiling as I write this part. In the six or seven months spanning the end of 2014 and start of 2015, I lost 20-25 pounds – the most I’ve ever managed. More importantly, I’ve spent the time since then keeping them off and managing the fluctuations. I still have my struggles and I’m still battling my demons, but I feel the best I ever have. I’m proud of myself and I’ve taught myself that self-love gets you much further than self-hate.

Looking back on it, and to an outsider looking in, this past year of my life and the accomplishments may look easy. I wanted to start my next series of posts with this one to make it very clear that this was not me deciding, on a whim, to lose some weight and then immediately seeing results. No, this has been about fifteen years in the making until something finally clicked and I found what worked for me.

The steps I took and the changes I’ve made may work for you and they may not. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share: how I lost the weight (all-natural and all free), what foods I eat on the regular, how and why I exercise, various challenges I’ve faced in this process and how to overcome them, what’s next for me in my journey, etc. If at any point there’s something specific you’d like to know or see a post about, please feel free to email me or let me know in the comments.

You can do it, it’s possible. Trust me, and thank you.