Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Segment: Body Boosts

This segment has been a long time in the making, and I'm finally coming around to it. I think one of the reasons that I've been putting this post off for so long is because I knew I would need to start out with my story from the beginning. Just thinking about it makes me feel flushed and nervous. But here goes:

Most of the people I see day-to-day didn't know me back in high school. But if they had, they would know a different girl. In fact, when I tell people that I used to weigh 210 pounds in high school they often reply with, "I just don't see that" or "I can't picture you like that at all". And while it might be hard to believe, it is true.

These pictures were taken during a church history tour that I went on my junior year of high school. I started putting on weight during puberty and due to my love affair with food and laziness, I steadily put it on and on and on. At first I didn't really know that I was. I was just discovering what a body image was, let alone figuring out what mine projected.

But soon I did learn. I'll always remember the day in fifth grade that the high school marching band came to play for us at the elementary. I was curious about the clarinets because I thought that I might like to play one someday. As the clarinet section marched by, I was suddenly horrified by a large girl marching around with her clarinet. Her bulky frame was so unattractive to me as a fifth-grader, and I naively scorned her thinking to myself, "I will never be a fat clarinet player marching around like her!"

I'll also always remember the day that I realized I was JUST like that girl. I WAS the fat clarinet player in the marching band. I was exactly what I abhorred years earlier. It was that year, my Sophomore year, that I started to truly understand how I looked. First it started with comments from people I thought were my friends, then it was comments from family. Then it was not finding a prom dress that I could actually fit into for the Young Women fashion runway show. I slowly started to hate myself. And then I naturally turned to food to make me feel better. Those two things combined only led me further into a downward spiral.

If you go back and look at any picture of me during my high school years, it's easy to see how uncomfortable I was. Every day I either wore baggy t-shirts or hoodies to hide. In almost every photo, I'm in a giant hoodie, and I had plenty to cycle through. When I think back now, I realize I still didn't really understand what was going on. All I knew was that I was fat and that it was hopeless. I would try to eat less and fail. And then I would give up and eat more because it was hopeless anyway, and that made me feel better. I remember being put on diet pills and forced to stick to protein diets from a well-meaning dad who struggled with the same issue and just wanted me to be happy. I remember sobbing on my bed in pain and having my mom come in and cry with me because she couldn't stand to see me hurt so bad. I remember looking in the mirror and hating myself every.single.day.

The thing that hurt the most was that I never got asked to one school dance. Not one. It still hurts. I've always wanted to go to a school dance and wear a beautiful dress with fancy done-up hair. I've always loved dressing up. Watching all my friends leave on their dates and knowing it was a night in for me was awful. I wanted to be beautiful and special. It wasn't only that, but I felt as the oldest child, I was letting my parents down too. I was keeping them from experiencing prom night with their teenager because I was fat and worthless. It was all such a disappointment and made me hate myself more.

I remember seeing my senior picture and hating it with everything I had. My senior picture ended up being done by the the school and I had tried on dozens of outfits to wear but I couldn't find one that I liked. I looked bad in everything. I remember picking my big, blue shirt out because it was my go-to shirt that worked. I wore it even though we had been warned not to wear blue because the background would be same color.

When my mom put the biggest print of it in a frame and displayed it on top of the piano, I wanted to die. I begged her to take it down, but she refused and said it was a good picture of me. I looked good she said. I remember cringing every time I walked by. I hated it. All I saw was fat and ugly. And you know what, it's still hard not to look at this picture and still feel that about that girl. Along with sadness and pity because I know how much that girl hurt inside.

Despite feeling determined to change things my senior year, I didn't improve much and I still ate like a grown man (working at KFC/Taco Bell didn't help much). However, I did start to exercise more. I would go on walks by myself, and even jogs sometimes. Then I left for college. It changed everything.

College was a complete fresh start. I felt it when I left and utilized the opportunity. First of all, without a pantry constantly stocked full of food I loved combined with living off a college student income, I suddenly had a lot less food at my disposal. Choosing my own foods when I went grocery shopping and purposefully avoiding the junk - knowing I would gorge if I bought it - really helped. Add that to an active job of cleaning a cafeteria, weekly ward basketball/flag-football/volleyball, having to walk anywhere I wanted to go, and a new habit of daily runs, things started changing. And I loved it. I started feeling good about myself and I'll never forget the first thing said to me when I stepped off the plane to visit for Christmas, "You're face is SO thin! You look great." I remember looks from old ward members at the Christmas party that had me smiling and then the icing on the cake during that holiday trip home was being asked on a date by the guy I had been in love with for the last two years (who cares if he was a jerk that night).

I still hid behind the same black pullover (which I still have) and my self-esteem wasn't great, but I gained more confidence in my abilities. The thing that really helped me shed the final pounds was a full time job where all I had to eat was what I had packed that day, and a daily morning jog with the best friend a girl could have. Just a half hour, five days a week.

In that first year of college and first summer back home, I lost sixty pounds! I was in the normal weight range for the first time of my life and the consistent compliments from people just kept me going.

I also started dating a lot. For the first time guys were actually asking me out instead of the other way around. And eventually I met my husband and got married. I remember when I fit into a size ten wedding dress, I almost cried with happiness. Maybe that's a big size for you, but for me it was a miracle. And I have never felt more beautiful than on my wedding day.

I wish it were all a fairy-tale story after that and that I have manged to stay skinny and beautiful forever. But alas, I will always, always, ALWAYS struggle with my weight, my self-image, and self-control. Plus having babies is hard on a body. 

Once I was dead in the stress of marriage, working, school, and pregnacy, I fell back into bad habits and put on a lot of weight. I had already gained a bit of marriage weight and when nine months pregnant I actually got back up to the heavy weight I had been in high school (which I swore I wouldn't get to). I then assumed all that excess weight would just shed off with the baby.

It wasn't until we had family pictures taken a couple months after Lydia was born and looking through them, that I realized the weight wasn't going anywhere. In fact it was going up. All the old feelings of self-loathing came back.

I couldn't believe I had let myself get to this point again. I knew I had not been watching what I ate and my exercise was slim to none. I had let every excuse of pregnancy keep me from being healthy. The thing that I probably hated the most was that my body felt heavy and bulky again and I had little energy. And when you start running when your body feels like that, running=the devil. Running is hard anyways, but when you have no energy, extra baggage, and no conditioning, getting yourself going is the worst part and you feel like you have cement bricks tied to your legs during the run. I longed to be past that arena of mud-running and to the confident, great, workout run that knew existed. So I changed my mind set once again and determined to get the weight off.

Let me tell you baby weight is THE hardest weight to come off. I have had a lot of chances to lose weight people and baby weight sticks like glue. So all you moms out there do not be hard on yourself, just keep going! Eventually it does come off. It took me a good year before I finally felt comfortable with myself again. I know because we took my daughter to the zoo a few months after she was born the pictures were just depressing.

I truly felt like a gorilla. But then after my daughter's first birthday, I was going through the pictures of her birthday trip to the zoo and realized all my hard work had paid off, I actually liked what I saw.

I determined to never slip back to those same habits. And to some degree I haven't. With my second pregnancy I exercised SO much more and I ate so much better. I still had some weight to lose afterwards (of course, NORMAL women always will) but I had gained a healthy amount and lost the excess in a healthy amount of time.

The picture above is five months after Ammon was born.

And the next picture is nine months after Ammon was born. It was also the first picture that both my mom and sister called me skinny.

And now I'm where I am today. Honestly, I am probably the thinnest I have ever been, I run farther than I ever have, and can do more than I ever thought possible. In fact I just recently won second in my division at a community 5k.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn. It's to show where I've come from. Honestly, when I look at this picture, it's hard to believe it's me. Why? Because I still battle fat-girl mentality everyday.

I was recently told that I need to accept a compliment when I'm told how good I look. It's very hard for me. I still struggle with body image, self esteem, and staying on track. I still love food and I am a very emotional eater. I celebrate with food, I comfort myself with food, when I'm mad at someone I get back at them by eating food. It almost never fails making me feel better...for the short term. It has taken me these YEARS to learn how to mange these compulsions. And fighting them is a constant battle. I am also still naturally lazy and the workout drive declines quite often. As I recently discussed this with my sister-in-law, I realized that until I don't have these tendencies, I don't think I'll ever feel skinny. I fight that fat-girl every day and I have weeks were I slip right back into the bad habits I've spent years overcoming. Then I spend time in fear, self-loathing, and panic and have to get back on track the next week. As you can tell it's still a work in progress. But you know what, that's all it needs to be is progress. And look at where I've come from. I have learned to manage my food compulsions and laziness. I also have become dedicated to health and fitness. I know our bodies are meant to MOVE, and now my muscles ache to get used again after the weekends rather than complain from being used. And exercise feels good now, rather than all torture (still some torture, lets be honest, but good torture now). I enjoy the treats that I do indulge in so much more because they are special and my body isn't already loaded with so much garbage.

I have also gained such a testimony that God gave us these bodies and we are to learn how to overcome the natural man and push past the laziness and gluttony. It has brought me so much closer to Him as I develop self-discipline. It has also taught me that it's not all about how I look. While I may sound so concerned with image and weight, and although that's what started this whole journey and begrudgingly will probably always be a part of it, I have learned that being healthy and fit matters more. I really am passionate about that. I want to spread the news of the importance of health to everyone. When you're healthy and fit you'll feel good, you're quality of life improves, you can do so much more, and looking good just naturally follows. It's awesome :)

As you can tell, I'm pretty passionate about this aspect of life and I have plenty to say on the matter. That's why I decided to start this new segment. I've been at both ends of the weight spectrum and I know what it's like to yo-yo, to look at the start of it all and feel so intimidated, to be in the middle and sweating through the rough parts, and to look back and see where you've been. I also have studied so much on the subject, and have lots of tips and ideas to share.

So welcome to Body Boosts! Posts with my personal insights on how to improve that body you're living in and mine as well. I'm grateful for my body. I want to build it to be the most beautiful temple it can be. And what better way than a few pick-me-ups, or boosts, here or there? I hope you enjoy what's to come and I promise that the posts won't all be as weighty (no pun intended) as this one.


  1. oh my gosh kari this is amazing! i just love your story- i never knew you were heavy, bc ive always know you as the skinny girl you are! seriously, so amazing! i think thats great, youre such an inspiration!

  2. First of all...I think you're beautiful no matter what. But I also think it's amazing how hard you've worked to get where you are! I look at my wedding pictures and wish I would have the motivation to get back to that size...so then I envy your passion. Someday I'll get there. For now I can use you as my example!

  3. Kari, thanks for sharing. I now understand you a little bit more. I just love this post. You're truly an inspiration. And you're totally awesome. And you look awesome too!

  4. Kari, thank you so much for this post. I felt your soul and your passion in it. I admire you so much, and I am SO excited to hear all your tips! Especially once I start to deal with the pregnancy weight in the future (as I know i will). I miss you. Let's get together soon!!