• Claudia Abalo, LMHC

My Goal is to LIVE!

When I was in high school, I weighed 110 pounds during my senior year. I look back and think, how was I so skinny? And then I remember, I was a dancer in the school’s show choir which rehearsed every day during 4th period and every other day after-school. I played soccer, had practice every other day and I played in the weekly games. I had physical education class and I got up every hour and walked across a large campus to get from one class to the other. I also went home and created choreographies to top 40 songs just for fun. I was constantly active. I wasn’t just skinny, I was in great shape. I was also younger and had a faster metabolism. I never thought that one day life would bring on so many changes. I never thought my activity levels would change, I never thought I would stop dancing, and I certainly never thought my metabolism would change and I never thought I would hear the word “obese” next to my name.

But those changes didn’t happen overnight. Little by little life creeps up on you and you make daily decisions that affect the way you eat, your activity levels, which then affect your metabolism which slows down anyway as you get older (someone should have warned me about that part!). By the time I was in my late 20’s, I weighed 135 pounds. I didn’t consider myself fat or overweight until one Christmas when a family member who hadn’t seen me in a while called me a “cow”, yep, a cow. I can’t tell you how much that affected me, it confused me really because all the while growing up, I was told “eat, you’re too skinny, you need to eat”, so now I was too fat? I didn’t do anything about it immediately but when I got engaged the following year, it was the first time I went on a “diet”. I had a “goal”. I don’t remember exactly what I did but I can tell you that on my wedding day I weighed 122 pounds. My wedding dress was even a bit big on me because I had lost weight after the last fitting. Why did I do that? I didn’t do it for myself, because again, I didn’t think I was fat or overweight, I did it because I was going to be in front of 120 guests which included family members that were going to judge me, including the one that called me a cow. Weddings…peer pressure at its best.

It wasn’t until I had my second child, at 30, that things really began to change. However, looking back, it wasn’t just that things changed for me physically, but they also changed emotionally. I had a great pregnancy, I got to stay home with my son, and we even bought our first home. But in the background, depression was lurking because of people in my life that wanted to control every aspect of it. It wasn’t just one person, but many; telling me what to do, what to feel, what to think, how to be, how to treat my husband, how to treat my children, to go back to work, to go back to school, to pretty much change every bit of myself to appease them. Everything I was and did was wrong. This torment went on for years! My knight in shining armor tried to defend me, my husband spoke up for me. I didn’t speak up for myself. I was told it was better that he should handle it because if not, it would probably be worse for me. I listened. But it was worse for me anyway. In not speaking up, I turned to food for comfort. I ate my feelings right up, coupled with a slowed metabolism, low self-esteem and depression, no healthy coping skills, -a recipe for obesity.

After 15 years, we finally removed these toxic people from our lives, a double-edged sword because it gave me the peace of knowing we wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore, but it also robbed me of telling them how I felt, whether it would have made a difference to them or not, I would have gotten it off my chest. I have since learned to speak up for myself, learned how to say NO, learned how to say NO without feeling guilty, and mainly not care what others think of me. However, the damage was done. Now what’s left? Unresolved feelings and obesity. With that comes bad eating habits, high cholesterol, and possible diabetes and high blood pressure which both run in my immediate family.

In May my father was hospitalized, his second time hospitalized due to complications from diabetes. Seeing him in the hospital again, really woke me up to the realization that in 20 years, that could be me. I don’t want that to be me. So I have a new goal. I don’t have a wedding to lose weight for, I don’t have a vacation planned to lose weight for, nor would I lose weight for either of those because those are temporary loses for temporary gains. With the help of my doctor, a behavioral dietitian, and exercise, I am making lifestyle changes to improve my health, not my weight. I have a new goal. My goal is to live!

For information on Depression and Obesity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6079193/

Sending you peace and blessings,

Claudia Abalo, LMHC