Waking Up on the Far Side of the Hill

I am a vain person. 

Ever since the awkwardness of puberty has passed, I have been pretty comfortable in my own skin, confident in my personal appearance, and if I’m honest, a little cocky. Historically, the camera loved me and I loved the camera in return. It’s not that I placed all of my self-worth in something as trivial as physical appearance, I had (and still have) a healthy appreciation for my intellect, personality, talent, etc. Not perfect by any means, just generally awesome. But ever so slowly, something has been changing. It’s been such an incremental change, that I almost didn’t notice it happening.

I spend most of my time behind the camera and now, when the odd snap of me is taken, I overrule it as unacceptable about 90% of the time. I’m usually quick to blame bad lighting, an unflattering angle, or a less than beautiful setting. But the truth, unfortunately, is less benign and exponentially harder to admit. I have gained so much weight over the years that I have grown to hate the way I look. The camera doesn’t lie. There’s only so long I can tell myself, “it’s just the lighting,” before I accept that these photos are accurate representations of what I actually look like.

August 2019:
This photo was the literal straw that would’ve broken that sweet camel’s back. To be fair, it is an objectively bad photo; but nevertheless, tears emerged when I first saw it.

This last summer I turned forty.

I really want to know how in the hell that happened? I was eight years old when my parents turned forty and, to my child’s mind, they were ancient! (Sorry, Mom.) I swear I was just thirty, and all of the sudden I find myself waking up on the far side of the hill, 50 pounds heavier.

Is that true? No. Of course not. In truth, it happened so slowly – like three pounds a year for over a decade. Three pounds a year. That’s no big deal, right? It’s super easy to dismiss three pounds as one gluttonous holiday season, one food-centric vacation, water weight, hormones, a faulty scale… But year by year, those three pounds have accrued like compounding interest. I keep telling myself not to buy bigger pants. But, I need clothes for work, right? So, I’ll just buy one pair of pants to tide me over (and save my smaller clothes for when I lose the weight). Cut to a closet full of size 14 clothes that are getting tighter by the day while simultaneously storing an enormous box full of size 6 clothing just waiting for me to wear again – circa 2008? 

Turning forty has been a mental and emotional challenge as well. My adult life has been a smidge non-traditional and, just like anybody, I have made some mistakes along the way. As a result, I have often felt stunted, or behind in my progress through life. Only just recently have I felt like an actual adult making adult-style decisions. I think this should have happened in my thirties… Now my life is flying by at the speed at which I inhale pasta. Part of me wants to schedule every minute. You know, make hay while the sun shines, because life is short. But then another part of me wants to slow down and cherish each minute. Maintaining that balance between activity and relaxation is becoming increasingly difficult.

I was a dancer, and now I’m a couch slug.

I used to feel passionate and inspired. Now I’m apathetic and tired.

How did this happen?!

Well, let’s blame Logan… yeah, that’s it… What’s that saying? Fat and happy? True story. Logan and I have so much fun together. We explore interesting places and eat delicious foods. He adores me and thinks I’m perfect just the way I am. That kind of love and acceptance makes it real easy to ignore the fact that I’ve completely let myself go. In fact, the most significant weight gain has taken place in the last year since our wedding. So yes, it seems absolutely reasonable to blame Logan for being a truly decent human being and for enabling my love affair with cheese and potatoes… right? Yikes. Even I can’t swallow that one.

I would like to make this clear – this is not about fat-shaming myself or anyone else. Everyone should feel proud and comfortable in their body, no matter the shape or size. I love a woman who embraces her curves and rocks them with confidence and comfort. But that’s just the point. I’m no longer comfortable. I’m downright uncomfortable. I’m not so much “fat” as I am just horrifically out of shape. My life is very sedentary. I have very little muscle tone and zero endurance. I’m the one everyone has to wait for on hikes. I can no longer do simple Yoga poses without my boobs strangling me. I lose my breath on one flight of stairs. A well-meaning co-worker recently described me as “heavy-set.” For the first time since high school, I’m self-conscious about how I look. And that self-consciousness has taken its toll on my overall confidence.

2017: While this photo was taken as a joke, it’s a pretty accurate representation of me on relatively easy hikes. (Photo credit: K. Carragher)

It’s time to change. 

I have no delusions of returning to my 21-year-old self, and I don’t want to. 21-year-old Britt was an idiot. Really, all I want is to feel better and gain back my self-confidence. It’s not so much the number on the scale as it is the comfort level in my own skin. It’s super easy to bitch, complain, and expect immediate results from my “one entire day of healthy eating;” but in reality, I need to make active and sustained lifestyle changes. And the longer I wait, the harder it will be.

20 years-old: A total idiot.

So here’s my plan:

  • Follow the 16:8 method of intermittent fasting (eat during an 8 hour window, fast for the remaining 16 hours) while also introducing a healthier diet including more fruits, veggies, and whole grains… probably cut down on the French fries and wine.
  • Return to the Yoga mat. I have a deep love and appreciation for Yoga and have been practicing on and off for about 15 years. I have always noticed a significant improvement in my mental and physical wellbeing while practicing Yoga regularly, so it’s time to get back on that horse.
  • And finally, cardio. Ugh… Last week, I signed up for my first 5K race that will take place in mid May. As an adamant and very vocal anti-runner, this goal is terrifying to commit to paper (err… blog). In my mind, this constitutes a public commitment. Now if I wuss out, it will be a public failure. I plan to train using the “Couch to 5K” running program beginning in March (when the snow begins to subside into slushy, sloppy, and muddy streets and the temperatures are more reasonable). And thankfully, I have a personal running coach in the form of my husband. I have no doubt I will have more to report on this madness in the future.

Here I am baring my insecurities for all and sundry. It’s weird enough turning forty without the added awkwardness of feeling like a stranger in my own skin. I can’t do anything about the passage of time, but I can do something about my physical and mental health as well as my appearance. If I have to get older, I at least want to be as active and healthy as I can! It would also be nice to show up in front of the camera every once in a while without a sense of self-loathing. And finally, I want to be the very best adventure-partner for Logan that I can be. We can hardly hike around National Parks if I get winded walking through the grocery store. And so my self-improvement journey begins…


5 thoughts on “Waking Up on the Far Side of the Hill

  1. What an honest post about your personal struggle with how easy it is to let things slide little by little. I am right there with you (except add 11 years). I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin, and have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. But I am also committed to get back to a healthier lifestyle of eating better and exercising 5 days a week.

    We can do this!

    Liked by 1 person

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