If you read the article featuring Happy Exhaustion in the August 4th issue of PEOPLE Magazine, you may have noticed a template.
The five of us each had a bikini picture, a ‘Before’ picture, a brief story, an example of what we eat now, and an EXTRA LARGE FONT example of an astonishingly unhealthy food or drink we consumed when dangerously overweight.
DUNKED AN ENTIRE PIZZA IN ONION DIP!
ATE 3 DOUBLE CHEESEBURGERS AT A TIME!
CONSUMED 6 BAGS OF CHIPS IN A DAY!
WENT THROUGH A 24-PACK OF SODA IN TWO DAYS!
When it was my turn to provide an example, I first thought of the dessert buffet I indulged in while pregnant with my daughter.
That wasn’t quite ‘gross’ enough.
After waxing poetic about my hot & heavy love affair with cheese fries dipped in ranch dressing (*cringe*… also, *drool*) I finally struck magazine copy gold. Cookie dough. Not even good, homemade cookie dough. You know those tubes of raw chocolate chip cookie dough found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store? THAT kind of cookie dough.
Now THAT was gross enough. We had found my giant font.
ATE A TUBE OF RAW COOKIE DOUGH FOR A SNACK
(I don’t have the rights to the image of that page, or I would post it here. Just imagine me in a bikini with that giant font next to my face.)
Quite an evocative statement, right?
Can’t you just see me? Size 24, utterly despondent, feeling powerless to improve (so why even bother to try?), ripping open the tube and eating it raw? Heaping fistfuls of dough being shoveled into my big, fat mouth until I pass out in a filthy heap?
Here’s the thing…
That happened. It did. My wonderful new friends at PEOPLE did not tell you lies.
But despite the huge-font text, you really shouldn’t blame the cookie dough.
My peak weight wasn’t cookie dough’s fault. My peak weight was the result of my consistent, long-term failure to prioritize my health.
Were there crazy high-calorie binges on deep fried treats and raw dough in the mix?
Yes. There sure were.
But is that all I ate? Of course not!
I did not reach 243 lbs because I was a pathetic slob.
Whenever I ate something I knew was bad for me, I felt guilty about it. I detested my own obesity, and I knew the way I ate was making a bad situation worse. But I ate processed crap anyway. It was quick, it was easy, and it tasted good. It was there, so I ate it.
Because I felt hopeless.
Because I was an emotional eater and comfort foods felt good on a bad day.
Because I simply didn’t care enough.
Not because I was a slob.
If you’re carrying some extra weight, I bet you’re not a slob, either.
You’re probably like me. You move through life like everyone else. You take care of the people you love. You’re good at your job. You’re a good friend, good co-worker, good parent.
You have priorities around which you organize your life, and you tackle them well.
Manifesting your healthiest self just hasn’t made the cut yet. It has fallen behind the other issues that consume your day-to-day.
I was only able to get fit because I made my pursuit of health a higher priority than it had ever been before.
My shift of priorities didn’t change who I am. I’m the same girl, just with a reprioritized lifestyle.
Would I eat an entire tube of cookie dough today? No. Since giving up sugar and processed foods, those kinds of things make me physically ill. The few decadent minutes of yummy flavors aren’t worth the horrible indigestion I’ll suffer for the hours that follow.
But, I DO occasionally release the reins and eat as many calories as you’d find in a tube of cookie dough in a single sitting. Usually it’s a date night with my man.
That doesn’t make me a slob now any more than it did back then. But I know that I live in a culture that equates an overweight woman eating raw cookie dough with a pitiful mess. I also know that such judgment isn’t applied to a fit woman seen eating a gigantic bowl of ice cream. And that’s just stupid fat-shaming.
I celebrated the completion of the PEOPLE photo shoot with a bowl of pasta, a cocktail, and two scoops of ice cream. It wasn’t sloppy of me. It wasn’t something I had to be ashamed of. It was a treat.
2,000 calories all at once is 2,000 calories all at once no matter who you are or what kind of shape you’re in. All that matters is what role those 2,000 calories play in your lifestyle. If it’s a regular event, and it’s not burned off with an active lifestyle, you can’t help but gain weight.
These days I don’t stress the rare calorie-bomb, because now I crave my daily cardio. I am a full-on endorphin-junkie. So, when a celebration or a date night create a major spike in my calorie count, I burn it off within days. Because I prioritize my fitness. Because I need physical activity and clean, whole foods for my healthy and joyful life.
When I avoided physical exertion at all costs, all of those calorie spikes added up and compounded themselves.
What this (often exciting, frequently harrowing) adventure has taught me is that I was never A Fat Girl (although for a while there I was pretty sure that I was) any more than I am now A Thin/Fit Girl.
I was a girl who didn’t prioritize lovingly caring for her own body. That’s what has changed.
It’s not about the cookie dough.