I began this post at the beginning of this year — in January 2017. I had determined that 2017 would finally be the year that I committed to losing weight and transforming my life to be more healthy. It felt like time. (It’s always felt like time.) And so, I started writing the words below. I love the irony of starting a post titled, “Begin Again,” that I never finished or published. Because I also never started my new “weight loss journey.” Until recently. Like, just last week recently. And so, I wanted to post my words from almost 10 months ago. And then post some more in a continuation post. And start this dialogue — with myself, with my body — all over again and through this blog. Because what other choice do I have… but to begin again and again and again? Until I arrive where I want to be.
It has been four years since I started this blog.
At the time, I was 24 years old. I was a sexual health educator with Planned Parenthood. I had decided to quit the youth spoken word program I co-founded with my friends because I was burnt out and wanted more time and energy to focus on myself and my personal dreams. I was depressed, frustrated, and confused about what I wanted in my life. And most importantly: I hated my body and, to some extent, I hated myself.
And so, I embarked on a journey to change both of those things. At the time, I weighed 265 lbs.—the heaviest I’d ever been. I asked for the guidance of my older brother, who was working part-time as a fitness coach. He’d had a lot of success with clean eating and weight lifting and transformed his health. I enlisted the support of my family, friends, and colleagues. I completely overhauled my eating and exercise habits. I went grocery shopping every weekend and prepped all of my meals on Sundays. I bought a membership to 24 Hour Fitness and worked out 4-5 days per week.
To this day, I am so proud of 23-Year-Old Me, who took charge of her health and her life. In three months, I lost 25 lbs. My face slimmed down. My sugar and fast food cravings decreased. My skin was clearer. My endurance and stamina for exercise increased. And I even looked forward to sweating for 45-60 minutes on a treadmill. But the thing that I cherish most about that time was that I tackled a problem that had seemed impossible for most of my life: to lose weight and find a sense of joy and purpose in doing so.
Growing up, I was always chubby. There was never a time in my life where I wasn’t a bit more rotund or pudgy than the other children my age. But for the most part, my parents never stressed about my weight too much. I mean, they’d encourage me to go outside and play. And when my dad decided to lose weight in his late-30’s, he made sure the whole family was on board for healthy eating. (We ate so much brown rice and vegetable stir-fry, y’all.)
But then I went through puberty. And my parents split up. And around the same time, I developed curves and a habit for emotional eating. I was no longer a girl with baby fat. I was an overweight adolescent. I was teased. My parents talked to me constantly about losing weight and being more mindful about what I ate. I remember being so depressed and so ashamed. But I stayed fat. No matter what they tried during this time, I stayed a Fat Black Girl. I learned to hate my body, but also to see weight loss as a punishment of sorts. Even though I know they were coming from a place of love and concern, the focus on my appearance—on my weight—always felt ugly and hurtful and like an attack.
And so, 13-year-old… 14-year-old… 15-year-old… 16-year-old… every version of Teenage Michelle hated her body and her fatness, but also hated every person who made her feel like shit. And y’all, there’s no way you can concentrate on taking care of yourself and weight loss and being kind to yourself when you don’t fundamentally love yourself.
To be continued…