Losing weight is an interesting process. My overall health was certainly a huge motivator in my decision to finally embark on a weight loss journey but if I am being honest, the natural consequence I was most excited about was looking better. I wanted to be skinny. I was so tired of being the fat girl. So yes, what I look liked definitely changed but what I didn't expect, were all the changes that had nothing to do with number on the scale: the non scale victories (NSV)
The funny thing about non scale victories is that usually, only people who have been significantly overweight can appreciate them. It's these little day-to-day things that most thin people can do and experience and just take for granted. Most people don't even realize how someone else can marvel over something so ordinary. These non scale victories were truly the things worth celebrating. These seemingly small victories were what really kept me focused on my healthy lifestyle when I want to throw my scale out the window of a tall building. And let me tell you, the urge to do that happened more times than I can count!
1. Discovering My Jawline & Cheekbones
I used to just think my face was just insanely round. Chubby cheeks and a round face with no real angles. Turns out there was actually some structure under there! One of the first places I tend to show weight gain or loss is in my face so as the pounds were melting off, my face was quickly transforming. I remember seeing a picture of myself one day and being like "Oh hey, cheekbones. Nice of you to stop by!"
2. Crossing My Legs
I used to see girls cross their legs everywhere I went. When I tried, I felt like I was trying to twist myself into the world's most complicated yoga pose. I wondered how they sat like that and more importantly, WHY?! It was so uncomfortable for me. My legs were twisted like a pretzel and my stomach was always in the way. But I also looked wistfully (and with more than a little jealousy) at the girls who could. It seemed so lady like, so dainty, so something thin girls did. What's weird is that I don't remember exactly when I was able to do it. As the weight dropped, it became easier to do and much more comfortable and natural. So I think I started without even thinking about it and one day looked down at myself like "Oh! So I guess I am sitting like this now." That's pretty cool.
3. Running my first half marathon
When I was close to 300 pounds, running was a far off dream. It was so painful on my body to run with the excess weight. My endurance was non-existent and after 30 seconds of a slight jog my heart was exploding in my chest. Add the joint pain and shin splints and I resigned myself to the fact that running would never be part of my regular exercise routine. When people told me they signed up to run 13.1 miles, I could not fathom how that was even possible. So when I started adding exercise in my routine, I decided it would be a good idea to tackle my biggest fear.
I started with a Couch25K app and I told myself I would just complete the app, sign up for a few 5K races and be done with it. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was signed up for my first half marathon. The day before I was SO nervous. I kept thinking "What the hell did I get myself into!?" I decided to complete that race the best way I knew how, slow and steady. I ran every single one of those 13.1 miles without stopping. There were SO many times I wanted to stop and walk or stop altogether and go the hell home, but I was determined. The joint pain started in right around mile 10 and those last 3 felt like the longest 5K of my life.
When I neared the finish line and saw all the people cheering us on, I remember feeling this intense burst of energy. It was such a powerful feeling. My eyes filled with tears and I had goosebumps from the rush of it all (and I do now as I type this out remembering). I crossed the finish line and found my friends and husband waiting for me. My friend shouted, "You did it!" and that's all it took. With happy tears streaming down my face we all hugged and celebrated. This is something that my body was not capable of at my heaviest. The feeling I experienced finishing this race was infinitely better than seeing the number on the scale drop. By far, my favorite positive change and non scale victory.
4. Shopping for clothes
Anytime I went shopping, I just naturally made a beeline to the back where the big sizes were carried. At Target, I looked for those hot pink hanger tabs and went into the dressing room praying the XXL would be big enough. It's so crazy to me how I can go into a store now, eyeball a shirt and throw it into my bag without having to try it on. When I was bigger, I stuck to places like Target or Old Navy because they have decent options for my size 18/20 waist. I didn't shop in typical plus size stores for 2 reasons. A) I was embarrassed. Walking into those stores felt like I was basically announcing to the public that "normal" clothes didn't fit me. B) Those stores are so expensive! Losing weight opened up a wide variety of stores that I always deemed off-limits because it was for "skinny girls". Being able to roll into any store and finding clothes fit me is a pretty awesome feeling.
5. Ziplining in Hawaii
When I went to Hawaii for the first time in 2012, one of the things my husband really wanted to do was go zip lining. I remember feeling the knots start forming in my stomach when he mentioned it because I knew there was some sort of weight requirement involved. At the time I was a few months into my weight loss and I was sitting around 260 lbs which was 10 pounds over the weight limit for the zip lining company. I remember trying to play it off like I didn't really want to do it because I was too scared. I suppose it wasn't far from the truth. I was scared my weight would cause me to plummet straight down to the ground. I also remember feeling so bad that my husband would miss out on doing this because of me.
So when we went back in 2014 and I was well under the limit, it was high on our to do list. I was still nervous and half expected them to weigh me when I put on the gear just to make sure. When that didn't happen, I began to relax and when I did my first little pass on the zipline, it was such an amazing feeling. I just kept looking all around me while flying through the air and thinking how amazing it was that I was finally able to experience it.
6. Dressing for Hot Weather
Being obese, I was so used to wearing pants and sleeves regardless of how hot it was. And in San Diego, there's no lack of sunshine. Sure, I would hop into shorts and a tank the second I got home but walking around like that in public? No way. I was fine just living through my own personal sauna and insisting it wasn't that hot while I sweat through all my layers. That was preferable to me over feeling like everyone was staring at me while pulled down the shorts that kept creeping up my thighs. I used to get the craziest rashes on my inner thighs any time I wore shorts. I wouldn't ever wear a dress without longer shorts underneath because it was just so uncomfortable. I can't tell you how many pants I ruined with holes in the inner thighs.
The only time I ever really wore shorts and a tank was if I was at the pool. The thought of wearing a bathing suit in any form made me want to throw up. I spent all my time at the pool worrying about who was staring at me or how much I needed to cover myself up. So feeling good enough to wear a bathing suit in public is a huge deal for me. Now I go outside in shorts and a tank without a second thought and I no longer have a special drawer for my "under dresses shorts". I still have thick thigh problems but at least now it's nothing a little body glide can't handle.
7. Enjoying exercise
I avoided physical activity like the plague when I was bigger. Even walking was uncomfortable for me. Now my idea of a fun time with friends is taking a workout class or going on a hike. I am able to experience so much more now that I don't have those 85 pounds weighing me down, literally and figuratively. Working out is something I truly enjoy now and my body craves it. Such a far cry from my relationship with exercise in the past. Exercise has made such a positive impact on my life and completely changed my body composition.
There is a local hike here that has the gnarliest hill (Torrey Pines for all you local San Diegans). My friend took me there for the first time in 2012, before my health journey began, and when we got to the hill I took a deep breath and started the climb. Not even one minute in, I had to stop and take a break because I was having so much trouble breathing. I remember being so embarrassed and so discouraged as I watched two others from our group jog up the hill like it was nothing. Like how?! I was dying and I had taken maybe 10 steps! I think I stopped a total of 6 times on the way up that hill. Instead of feeling invigorated at the top, I felt ashamed. Now, I can do that hike no problem, hill and all. As a matter of fact, I can even jog up that hill and live to tell the tale.
8. Keeping up with my husband
My husband George has always been an active guy. He's athletic and strong and he can run like a cheetah (at least compared to me). He used to try and get me to be active and suggested going on walks or doing something outdoors. It always sounded like my worst nightmare. So I always opted for pizza on the couch instead. Usually while watching "The Biggest Loser".
Now we go to the gym together every morning. We go on hikes. We go running. We do things outdoors and it always feels amazing that he doesn't have to stop and wait for me (at least not too long) to catch my breath. He has been there for me every step of the way and he even ran every single half marathon with me. He's my biggest cheerleader and the best fitness partner. I couldn't be happier about the new life we have created together and the health improvements we've made!
9. Doing a Boudoir Photo Shoot
As I was planning my wedding in 2009, I was researching what to get my soon-to-be husband for a groom’s gift. I had seen boudoir shoots mentioned on several online bridal forums and I thought the idea sounded so fun. Just one problem. I was way too uncomfortable in my own skin and there was no way I was ready to strip down into my skivvies for a camera. I told myself that this would be great motivation to help me get in shape for my upcoming wedding but unfortunately, that tactic didn’t work. The time came and went and I never went for it because of how I felt about my weight. Fast forward to November 2016 after losing 85 pounds. I saw an amazing Black Friday deal being offered from a company where my friend had hers done. I hesitated and told myself I would do it once I got down to a certain weight. Then I realized how ridiculous that was. Did I think I was going to wake up one day at that magic weight and all the sudden feel ready because of a number? I figured this was my chance. I knew that if I waited until I thought I was “ready”, these pictures would never happen.
As the day came closer I became more and more nervous. Who did I think I was? Why did I sign up to do this? This is so stupid. Those were all the thoughts that went through my head in the days leading up to the shoot. Once I got there and met the photographer and started talking about sets and outfits, my anxiety started to turn into excitement. The few glasses of champagne I had to calm my nerves probably didn’t hurt either. When we got started I just decided to let go and have fun. I let the photographer do her thing and just enjoyed getting to play model for a day. Once everything was all done I was told to come back in about an hour to view the proofs. On my way back in that anxiety and doubt started to claw their way back up. What if I looked so out of place and out of my element? What if I looked huge? It’s sad that after everything, those were still my worries. I’ve always felt the mental shift during weight loss has been the harder part to wrap my head around. I tried to shake it off and just relax.
To show the proofs they sit you in this cute little room and you get to see it all on a large TV screen as a slideshow to music. As the pictures started to roll I couldn’t believe it. I looked pretty damn amazing. Who was that girl?! Posing and smiling and lookin’ all fab! I got oddly emotional watching the slide show. I remember the music playing and feeling my eyes well up with proud and happy tears. Did I look absolutely perfect at my fittest body ever? Nope, but I loved the pictures because of what they represented to me. The whole experience was just amazing. It was a major non scale victory for me.
Photos Via Marissa-Inc Photography
There are so many more experiences that I have marveled at since losing weight and in addition to all those above here are a few more of my faves:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Better health markers
- Better mood
- Less fatigue
- Less pain
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Lowered cholesterol and blood sugar
- Increase in overall well-being
These lifestyle changes have stuck with me and I am looking forward to discovering even non scale victories every day. What are some of your favorite non scale victories?!