My Obesity Problems started with a Choco Pie: Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness)

November 6, 2015

This is the last installment in a 3-post series about my weight woes. To read the earlier posts, here are Part 1 (Journey from Childhood to College) and Part 2 (Journey from PCOD to Weight Watchers to Gymming Frustrations).

As a pretty isolated person who felt quite out of her element having moved to India for the first time in her life, I had a hard time adjusting to my surroundings. With little in the way of like-minded friends or the opportunity to meet twenty-somethings who weren’t busy wives and mothers, the gym was a temporary answer. Most of the friends I made that year came in the form of an eighteen-year-old college freshman, girls enjoying their engagement status or honeymooning phase, my early-thirties powerhouse gym trainer, and aunties my mom’s age who loved their gossip. Gym buddies are a lovely thing aren’t they? You meet a group of strangers when you decide to join the gym and become the coveted ‘regular’ which brings about solidarity. The same thing happened to me when I joined. I enjoyed their daily company, especially since I was heavily aware that I never meet such a diverse group of people in my daily life. The married women (especially those with lil ones) were taking an hour out of their busy schedules to come and work out, so the gym proved to be a good focal point around which friendships could be forged.  In fact, it was nice having people push and support your weight loss goals and compliment your efforts.

I got into the habit of keeping a detailed daily diary of the types of exercises I’d do, number of repetitions, and time taken to do them. It proved irreplaceable when I’d be in a particularly bad mood and feel inclined to stop because the weight wasn’t coming off as I wanted it to. Those disheartened moments would be replaced by surprise and self-praise upon reading that I’d done the elliptical for 45-60 minutes that very morning or done 300 bamboo stick rotations as well as a 30 minute step aerobics workout just hours beforehand. I worked up my stamina immensely in that year and I was proud of what I had achieved. As I mentioned in the last post, even though the scale remained rigidly immobile and I couldn’t lose any kilos that year, I looked and felt like a whole new person. My confidence soured higher after being in the dump for a while and at least I was holding my head up high regarding my workout regime.

My weight goals were clear from the beginning – don’t get stuck on losing weight, but rather get fit, build stamina, and gain energy. I was achieving all of that. I assumed the numerical weight loss would be an obvious side effect. However, I was also aware that the unchanging number was partly my own fault. One major factor that could have hindered me weight loss, aside from it being replaced by muscle mass, was the fact that my social life improved immensely (as did my happiness quotient) which meant I’d go out to eat (portion-controlled) greasy Indian snacks and gorge on popcorn at the movies a lot more than usual as a way of treating myself. We didn’t keep sodas (a big weakness of mine) or chips in the house, so the convenient location of my gym also meant that I could sneak in a celebratory fizzy drink once in a while.

So was friendship and small doses of happiness stopping me from losing weight? In all probability, yes. Was my PCOD condition to blame? Well, probably that too. Was the gym a good decision to get fit? Definitely, hands down.

When I finally got my acceptance letter to the University of Chicago, and moved there, my happy quotient shot higher as I got one step closer to making my PhD dreams come true. It was not long before I founds interesting personalities and fantastic friends who dissipated the lingering loneliness I’d been feeling since my last degree. (That’s not surprising, because the strongly charged atmosphere of being in a university setting tends to foster rather strong bonds and relationships…) I was getting my fix back after unknowingly being in withdrawal for ages 😀 With this silent craving satisfied, the lingering results of my gymming still in effect, and the ideas and hopes for my academic future free-flowing, I could care less about my ‘obese-ness.’ The worries rolled off my shoulders.

The inevitable stresses of learning culture, a breeding ground for tension and depression, did get to boiling point for me a few months later. Although it wasn’t my weight that directly got affected because of the emotional ups and downs I felt, my body was definitely telling a different story. Ironically, it was weird that my weight – which had always gone up steadily – never changed once for those months I was in Chicago, regardless of the tumultuous emotions wreaking havoc inside. As a long-time sufferer of depression, I was surprised to note how much my symptoms changed as I became more and more disenfranchised with my life and academia. I started developing reactions that I’d never had before, which weren’t limited to only the following: stress hives, social anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, insomnia, loss of appetite, fatigue, and frequent mood swings. The only thing that didn’t ‘swing’ was my weight.

I sought professional help for my mental health and managed to get the majority of my physical symptoms and problems under control over a lengthy period of time. In the meantime, I finished my classes, started working, and reached the unofficial ABD (all but dissertation) status for my Masters degree. With the supportive help of friends and colleagues, I got through, but as they left Chicago, one by one, for newer horizons, I ended up reverting to my isolated self. My mental well-being suffered a downturn and I took the decision to put my health first and continue my degree from home. And what timing it was! Because it I ended up getting appendicitis, needing an appendectomy, and being on virtual bed rest for about 2 months soon after I got back! Coincidence, coincidence. Of course, my weight showed no signs of changing through all the chaos.

As I worked on gradually turning emotionally unstable to stable and some form of acceptance, I took it upon myself to revise my earlier wishes of simply ‘getting healthy’ and having a ‘balanced diet’ into much much more. My ‘obesity’ issues took a new turn…

With a personal journey that started with an earthquake and one Choco Pie, and led to uncontrollable weight gain and conflicting body image issues, what followed was a PCOD diagnosis and subsequent trials of diet and fitness regimes. After confronting continued mental health issues and a mind-numbing stagnation in my weight in the past few years, I have finally come to understand the triviality of weight labels like ‘obese’ and ‘overweight.’ I’ve come to realize that weight woes, and any insecurities you may have about your body image, have no influence and bearing on whether one can achieve health, happiness, and well-being through one’s life. Move beyond the physical, and be happy with the inner you!

Besides ‘physical fitness’ and ‘healthy diet,’ I now yearn to be ‘content with myself’ (weight and all) and strive for ‘mental fitness.’ I’m incessantly working towards these goals, as this is a journey that will take a lifetime. There is no guarantee that my depression and anxiety will not return (I’m nearly 100% sure I’ll have to deal with those feelings for the rest of my life), but nothing stops me from finding coping strategies that can lessen each painful blow. Whether it is maintaining a healthy diet, physical exercise, mental stability, or finding balance and harmony through meditation, I’m doing what I can to minimize the future hurdles that will undoubtedly come my way.

Thanks for reading everyone! May life’s challenges and struggles make you strong!

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3 Responses to “My Obesity Problems started with a Choco Pie: Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness)”


  1. […] weight woes. Read Part 2 (Journey from PCOD to Weight Watchers to Gymming Frustrations) here and Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness) […]

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  2. […] a 3-part series about my weight woes. Read Part 1 (Journey from Childhood to College) here and Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness) […]

    Like

  3. Kat Says:

    So obviously I fell off on reading your blog but just went through these entries and they are so beautiful and I love you so much. ❤️ I want you to be happy and am so glad when I see you prioritize that!

    Like


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