*Disclaimer: This is MY story and journey; it may look different than yours. I know what a healthy body and weight looks like for me, and this post is about how Anxiety kept me from achieving that.
Four years ago (wow, time flies), I started my life with the most amazing man; we lived on a sailboat in Seattle and I was in heaven. And then…
I gained weight.
Slowly, at first, but then my stress grew, we ate too much pasta (yum), and I changed jobs for an even less physical one. Within a year I puffed up like a pastry and gained almost 30 pounds. Now I’m 50+ pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day.
Let’s rewind a little — Two years prior, I was almost in the same place (weight wise). I gained about 30 pounds after high school, following some traumatic experiences and dropping out of the sports I had been in for years. I was finally able to make a change when I was in college in Montana (cooking for one can be really freeing). I started the Advocare 24 Day Challenge and dropped 30 pounds just like THAT. And I kept it off for two years! I looked great and felt great, and while the initial change to my eating habits was a little rough, it really only took me a week to get on board, and the rest was easy.
So WHY was it so hard this time?
I would change my diet, head to the gym, drink a lot of water, and Not. Lose. Weight. Not only that, but doing each of these things was hard, REALLY hard. I LIKE going to the gym, and I enjoy eating healthy, so I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for me to choose a healthy option over a burger, or to get to the gym during my scheduled time.
Then, just a few months ago, my therapist opened my eyes to something: I have severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That in itself is several topics for another time; suffice it to say, GAD has made a hugely significant impact on my weight-loss efforts.
It made decisions next to impossible.
What should have been an easy, pros/cons decision about salad vs. a burger and fries (every single time) became a struggle to even look at the menu. I became overwhelmed by the options and frequently couldn’t even focus on the words on the page. The more I tried to consider other options, the more the anxiety would set in. Eventually, I would start to have a panic attack, slam the menu shut, and order my usual: a greasy burger and fries or Fettuccine Alfredo. I had to pick something I knew.
I could not get to the gym.
I don’t just mean it was really hard to get to the gym. I mean I could not physically force myself to walk over to the gym, even just to use their showers (unlimited hot water, baby). That’s probably difficult for some people to accept, and I understand that. I had a hard time accepting that myself, which led to other problems, which I’ll get in to later.
Like I said earlier, I really enjoy working out and going to the gym; breaking a sweat and pushing my body is it’s own kind of therapy, and really helped set the tone for the rest of the day. However, it became increasingly difficult for me to make the TWO MINUTE WALK next door to the gym. I tried to go in the morning, but felt the pressure of needing to get in to the office before 8, and stressed before, during, and after my workout. I tried going after work, but was so tired already, and just wanted to spend my evening with my husband.I even tried going during my lunch break, but soon even the thought of leaving the office and all the work I had to do was too much, and I would sit frozen in my chair. I realized later that this was truly more than stress, and my anxiety was literally immobilizing me. Just thinking about the gym was enough to trigger a panic attack.
My self-esteem was shot
I mean, to the point where I could hardly look in a mirror if it showed more than my face. I didn’t like my body, I was utterly disappointed in my ability to stay or get healthy, and I was absolutely sure that everyone else saw me as a fat chic who couldn’t get it together. I was convinced my husband no longer found me attractive, and would wait until he was in bed and the lights were off to change in to my pj’s. I was painfully aware of my thighs and stomach, and would hold my purse/coat/laptop in front of myself to hide the flab and the rolls. If I walked past a window and saw my reflection, I physically recoiled and flinched away. I did not like myself.
Even worse, I did not see a way to change. I was so gripped by fear and anxiety that I could not see a path forward that resulted in a healthier me. Every day that went by, my anxiety kept me trapped in a state of panic; I’ll never lose weight, I’ll never be strong again, I’ll never like the way I look, my husband will never find me attractive.
Each of these thoughts brought a wave of shame and disappointment: “Really, Andrea? You can’t get off your ass and get to the gym a few times a week?” Que internal snort of disgust. It was a vicious and brutal cycle that dragged me down, and down, and down, killing any determination or optimism I might have.
Thankfully, my story continues!
Thank the Lord on high, I did NOT stay stuck in that cruel cycle, and my anxiety has not won. As I write this, I can proudly say that I lost 10-ish pounds in 2 weeks, the healthy way. I am also feeling more and more confident each day in my ability to make healthy choices, get to the gym, and steadily become healthy and happy.
Make no mistake, my anxiety is there for the ride each and every second of this journey. I still have moments or days where I can hardly stand to look in the mirror, or where I’m sure my husband is disgusted with me; days where going to the gym is a terrifying idea, and please oh please don’t make me go out to eat where I have to choose something from the menu. Na, all of that is still there, alive and well.
The difference is that I was able to work with someone on my anxiety, I learned how to accept it for what it was, and I found a wonderful program that slowly takes you through the paces of making healthier choices (seriously, check it out). I look forward to sharing the lessons I learn with you.
I’m no where near my goal yet, and I have a long ways to go before I get there, but I am closer than I was yesterday, and that is enough.
As my therapist says, Please be kind to yourselves this week <3
How has your anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggle kept you from becoming healthier and achieving your goals? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!