By: Guest Blogger Jessica Barczewski
Who am I? What a question. This little question keeps popping up along with “What do I want?” and “Who do I want to be?” The truth is, as it is for all of us, these are not questions that I have thought much about and instead try to avoid because of fear of the answer. So let me just start from the beginning.
All of my life, I can remember that I was big. Maybe not always overweight, but my feet, for example, were too big for the box on my birth certificate. I never wore newborn size shoes, and by the time I started school I wore a shoe size bigger than my mom. By the time I entered school, my dad could no longer carry me on his shoulders and my mom could not bounce me on her knee. Before I entered middle school, I was already wearing plus size women’s clothes. But I never saw it. Oh sure I saw a stomach and a double chin, but in pictures of myself I never saw myself as being overweight. I just saw a cute child smiling back; I do have a great smile by the way. But I never took notice of how dangerous life was getting with an overweight body. As I grew up, the teasing was merciless. In eighth grade, I got my first pair of glasses and I felt that they had become my very own invisibility cloak. I could hide behind those lenses and the hurtful words people would say to me could not penetrate those glasses. I wore them proudly and I have never stopped wearing glasses since. Unfortunately, the glasses did more than just protect me. They also helped to isolate me. A disturbing trend among the overweight/obese population is isolation and loneliness. Somehow, we all feel that we are not worthy of being happy and being loved so we retreat into ourselves and deprive the world from knowing how great and special we are.
Three years ago, I developed a terrible pain in my lower back. I could not bend over, stand, or do housework (darn) without my back being in a horrible pain. I was scared the day I went for a walk with my family and couldn’t even walk more than ten feet without my back suddenly starting to hurt. It was on that day that I decided something had to be done. While I was thinking about chiropractors and doctors for my back, a tiny voice in the back of my mind said “Why don’t you try to lose some weight first?”
I had never thought about losing weight. I never cared about the opinion of others because I believed that what mattered was how I saw myself. I realized that I am the one who spends every minute with this brain, heart, and body and I needed to like, and possibly love, myself. I also knew that I did not want to be one of a million other women who hate the way they look. I never liked the word “diet” because to me that was an evil word that said you hate your body. I don’t hate myself. So I refused to diet and exercise because I felt these two things went hand and hand with an evil mixed up world. I felt that loving me meant giving in to everything I wanted and never saying no.
I did get exercise. I have burned through more walking shoes than exercise clothes. I have my most creative thoughts when I am out for a stroll around the neighborhood. So this was the only form of exercise I got and it was enough to keep me at 30 pounds overweight all through high school. In college, I ate poorly. I was a poor college kid, and I would eat pre-packaged meals and fast food and never once did a fruit or vegetable enter my system. And once I got out of college, the cycle continued.
So two years ago, I was tipping the scales at 278 pounds. 100 pounds more than what I weighed in high school and over 130 pounds of what my healthy weight should be. But I was not discouraged when I saw that number. I took that number as my starting point feeling that we all have to start somewhere. To date, I have lost 60 pounds and I have learned so much more about myself. There are things I am doing today that I would have never thought I could ever do. I feel like I have strength and the courage to tackle anything that may have seemed scary years ago. I refuse to hide behind my invisibility cloak and instead I greet every day with the knowledge that I can be better and do better today than yesterday. This has been my journey and it is nowhere near the finish line. I have seen a few finish lines since I took up running last summer, and one day I hope to cross my own. But this is just me and my discovery of who I am, what I want, and who I want to be.