I’ve been wanting to write about this journey I’ve been on for awhile, but I’ve never really known what to say. I can talk a lot about this subject (and did at one point in a blog post, before I discarded the entire thing because it just got too long). I guess I’ll start with this…

I used to be fat. And it’s still a very strange thing for me to be able to add the “used to be” part, because a lot of the time I don’t really feel all that different. I know I’ve lost a lot of weight and fat, because I wear smaller sizes, can squish myself into smaller spaces, and see less chin in photos that are taken of me. But for some reason, I still don’t “feel” thin.

By saying this, I’m not implying some sort of unhealthy obsession with being as skinny as Kate Moss, because I am not a big fan of that. I have muscles and I like them. What I am saying is, being a size 4 physically doesn’t always make you a size 4 mentally. I tried to explain this to my best friend, who as far as I can tell, has always been on the thinner side. He said, “I wish you wouldn’t feel that way.” I don’t think he got what I was saying. I wish I wouldn’t feel that way either, but it’s not so simple.

I have another friend who is on a weight loss journey of her own, and I commented to her that she was looking so much smaller. She said something similar — that she sees it, but she doesn’t yet feel it. She got it, because she’s there. So at least, in this area, I know I’m not alone. This is not what I wanted to write about really, but I figured I’d throw it out there because apparently this is not unique to me. And just because your feelings say one thing, doesn’t make them reliable. Feelings can change. Mine will too, eventually.

That said, I think part of the reason why I do feel this way is because it has been such a struggle and kind of a long journey. I was looking at pictures of myself from when I was a kid, and I realized that I started putting on weight in grade school. In second grade I was scrawny. By fifth grade, I was sporting a bit of a double chin.

Growing up, exercise was not discouraged at home, but it wasn’t exactly encouraged either. In PE class, I barely tried, claiming that basketballs were magnetically attracted to my head, and that I would just never be any good at sports. I would walk the mile in the yearly Presidential Physical Fitness Test. I would try and be in the outfield in softball, and goalie in soccer, because that required the least amount of movement. Just like being thin, considering myself an athlete was something that was never on my radar.

I thought I’d never change my body, and I’d never enjoy sweating, so I just sat on my butt and ate cookies all day. I was into music, so that made me a well rounded individual I figured.

About four years ago, all that changed. Slowly. I started playing broomball. It was just about everything in my life that made me uncomfortable — playing a team sport, with a bunch of strangers, in the cold. But I discovered that it was fun, and my fish-out-of-water experience became a revelation to me that I need to try things that may have scared me in the past. I may learn to like them.

This, by the way, has also come in handy with eating my vegetables. Which is good when you want to lose weight.

About a year after I started playing broomball, I had a conversation with my teammate about weightloss, and a diet that worked for her. Within weeks of that conversation, I received a picture of myself in a Christmas card. Well, it was with a lot of my family. And there I was in the middle of this happy group, large, round-faced, and extra-chinny. Yes, I just made up that word. God did not bless me with a beautiful chin. Fat just makes it extra-chinny. I didn’t like the look.

So I did my work (and am still doing it — this is a lifestyle change!). I quit eating junk. I started biking. Then running, then swimming. I recently started doing CrossFit as well. Eventually, I became the one thing I never thought I’d be. Thin. And athletic, so that’s actually two things I never thought I’d be.

The point is that it’s hard work becoming a new person. But it’s not impossible. You never know what you can do until you try it.

Back in May of 2011, shortly after my second half marathon, I was invited to be on a relay team that ran 200 miles through the Catskills. At some point during the second of my three legs, alone in the dark, on a trail that used to be a railroad, in another fish-out-of-water moment, a thought occurred to me. This is fun! And if I hadn’t put in the work to improve myself, I’d have missed out on the entire experience.

The best things in life don’t always come easy. But they are worth every second of the struggle.

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