My Story. Part 1 – I Gained Over 30 Pounds in One Year!
This blog is part 1, of a 3 part series about my experience and struggles with my own health and weight gain in the past. I wish I had more picture to post with this story but as it turns out I didn’t take a lot of pictures during this time of my life. It was a time when I was very uncomfortable in my own skin. I was very reluctant and embarrassed to have my photograph taken. I was able to find a few images. They were not taken at my heaviest, but close to it. Writing this blog and digging for old pictures was a good experience for me. It stirred up memories and emotions of a time when I felt as though my life and health were completely out of my control. It is obvious to me now, that these moments in my life have inspired me to make my health my number one priority to this very day.
My weight as a child was never a concern. I was a skinny kid. I don’t have any inspirational stories about overcoming childhood obesity, or anything of that nature. In the later years of high school my overall shape started to change a little, but nothing too alarming. I noticed that I was starting to carry a little more weight around my thighs but it was not a substantial amount of weight.
Throughout high school my weight was somewhere between 110-115lbs. It was pretty stable. It may have fluctuated slightly but I wasn’t paying much attention to the scale at that time. I was, however, starting to pay more attention to the way I was generally feeling day-to-day. I felt like crap. I missed a lot of school but I was more concerned about how my health was starting to affect my social life. I was experiencing a growing number of issues: headaches, diarrhea, stomach pain, gas, joint stiffness, poor concentration, acne, anxiety, depression and major problems with my menstrual cycle (doctors put me on the pill at the age of 16). I recall seeing the doctor on a regular basis with concerns about my health. I’m not sure if the doctor entirely understood the severity of my symptoms. Perhaps it was partially my fault for not communicating effectively. I was young, shy and slightly embarrassed about the situation. A part of me was misled to believe that my symptoms were just normal issues that most people have to deal with as they age. It seemed as though everyone I knew had some kind of health problem or constantly complained of similar symptoms.
I’m not sure how I rationalized regularly missing class – or turning down dinners, movies, and social events with friends because I was trapped on the toilet – but I never saw these inconveniences as what they were – major warning signs that my body was signalling to me.
During the later years of high school I discovered snowboarding. Snowboarding changed my life. The snowboarding craze was just starting to catch on, and there were not many females in the sport. I was lucky enough to be pretty good at snowboarding. I quickly obtained equipment and clothing sponsors and got actively involved in the industry. I worked at the local snowboard shop, and as an assistant rep at trade shows. I competed in events and hosted on-hill demos on the weekends. This was a very happy time for me. For the first time in my life, I felt as though I had found something that I loved, and a community that truly accepted me.
This sudden found happiness likely masked the fact that my health issues were escalating. I recall missing snowboard competitions because I was afraid of being too far from a bathroom. I tried to rationalize my symptoms by telling myself that it was just nerves in response to the pressure of competing. I remember cancelling a job interview – for what could have been a dream job in the snowboard industry – because I was afraid that my bowels were going to erupt mid-interview. As I write this, I’m shaking my head; these are some pretty big red flags. What was I thinking, and why didn’t I get help?
In my defense, I think I tried to get help. I went to our family doctor, but she attributed my problems to genetics. She told me that because my mom had I.B.S. and menstrual issues, I was just unlucky and my issues were likely genetic. Listen to your Doctor, right? As far as I was concerned, going to the doctor meant that I had done what I could do. I thought, if the doctor couldn’t help me, I’d just have to learn to live with my symptoms. Damn genetics!
Just before my 19th birthday, I decided to move across the country to Whistler, B.C.—Canada’s West Coast, the mountains, snowboarding’s mecca! I wanted to improve my snowboarding skills and this was the place to do it. I wanted to compete more frequently, and I was ready for an adventure away from home. At that point, my weight had increased slightly, but never more than 120lbs, fully clothed. I knew this for sure because we had a scale at the snowboard shop. We used it to weigh customers when mounting their ski bindings, so I always jumped on it out of habit when I was killing time at work. As far as my health issues were concerned, the doctor didn’t seem worried, so why should I worry? I was young. I wanted to go snowboarding! I loved every minute I spent immersed in the snowboard culture and the excitement at this time in life was masking my rapidly progressing health issues.
Skip forward one year. I was still living in Whistler. When you’re living in a world-class ski resort town and you’re enjoying your first time away from home, fending for yourself, working crappy part-time jobs, trying to make ends meet, and snowboarding everyday the day-to-day details of your health become blurred.
I vaguely recall gradually losing motivation to get out of bed in the morning, which was out of character for me. I remember my joints hurting so much that I was unable to get a good nights sleep. I recall being depressed and feeling awful most days but I think I just learned to cope because I didn’t want to miss a good day of snowboarding. However, there was one specific day that I do recall, vividly; I was at the doctor’s office for a routine checkup. It was mandatory to renew my prescription for birth control (prescribed to help overcome my genetic bad luck). The Doctor asked me to step on the scale. It had been awhile since I had weighed myself. When I looked down at the scale, it read 147 pounds! WTF? That must be wrong! I had never weighed more than 120 pounds! Ever!
I spent that whole appointment questioning the Doctor about how I could have gained so much weight. I was snowboarding on the glacier that summer for 5-6 hours almost every day, which also involved hours of hiking uphill. I also biked about 7 km (each way) to and from work every day, and my job was physically demanding. This didn’t make sense. The doctor looked at my body, squeezed my thigh and said, “it’s muscle, you’re an athlete, and you need this weight to go faster down the hill. Don’t worry about it.”
Being able to snowboard faster sounded great, but it didn’t help me overcome the shock. On the way home from the appointment, I stopped at the local gym. No, I wasn’t going to work out; I wanted to use their scale. I needed a second opinion. Oh shit! The gym’s scale read 150 pounds, with my clothes off!
I went home and looked in the mirror (clothes on) and thought to myself, “my clothes fit me, what is going on?”
Well, of course my clothes fit me. It was 1999 and snowboard fashion was big and baggy. This fashion trend that I had adopted over the years was conveniently hiding what was happening to my body. I come to this realization now, as I write this, but I was clueless (or perhaps in denial) back then when I stood in front of the mirror in my over sized attire.
So, once again, I rationalized based on what the doctor had said: This is just part of being athletic, the weight is good, and it will make me faster. Maybe I should try racing Boardercross and make this work to my advantage?
This seemed like a good plan, at the time.
Until, my Mom came to visit me.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Mom Was Right. I Got Fat.