Shell of Myself
I’ve broken down physically the last couple of years, or at least it feels that way. I blame myself nearly every day. It didn’t happen over night, but it was like I could not feel it happening. All the pressures of Covid, working from home, finding a new career path, graduate school, financial issues, and other things seem to have piled up on me like an avalanche.
I reached the worst shape of my life in 2020/21. Not the type of landmark I’m proud of hitting. I let myself down. With constant body image issues and perpetually sitting between chubby and in-shape, I have always struggled in this area, but I have never allowed myself to breach the 200 pound mark. In the past, when 200 pounds was nearing, I was able to hold myself accountable, work hard, and get back on track. I have lost 20+ pounds multiple times in my life. Not saying it’s a good thing that I have gained and lost weight, but I am letting you know I have the power to do so. This time around, there was no stopping me.
For context, I’m not a tall guy. I am approximately five feet, eight inches (I may be rounding up a little but don’t tell anyone…). In the two years prior to my weight gain, I was in, what felt like, great shape. While I was around 190 pounds, I had packed on a noticeable amount of muscle from two years of consistent lifting. Sports have always been a part of my life. So, while I struggled to be completely lean, I was always athletic and extra weight even benefited me in some sports.
Change in Routine
When the world shut down in 2020, I saw my habits changing negatively. I said, “Screw it. I’m just going to be here with my family for a few weeks, let me east some pizza rolls and pop tarts. Once things get back to normal, I’ll get back in my routine.” Well, as we all know, weeks turned into months of isolation and anxiety. After the first month or so, I began to take up biking. I knew I couldn’t stay at home and eat all day. “Who knows when this is going to end anymore?”. I took a step in a positive direction. Not to brag, but after a couple of months I was able to ride a 16 mile trail on a consistent basis three to four times a week. I was enjoying it. It was my saving grace from the horrible news. I could pop in my airpods and go on a trip.
As the pandemic continued to progress, so did my anxiety. After a daily dose of infection rates and watching government officials sob as they announce the death toll, it begins to weigh on a human being. Around mid June ’20, my physical symptoms of anxiety began. The breathlessness, sharp chest pains, and nasal inflammation began to take their toll. I could no longer take my long bike rides. I could barely make it a mile! Everything fell off all of a sudden (you can hear more about that experience by reading my post “Where is my Mind…”). I began using food as a distractor late at night. I could barely sleep because of my breathing. Feeling like you can barely take in air is one of the most terrifying experiences. Imagine that feeling consistently for six months. My thinking became, “Let me eat so my mind can be numbed by my feeling of fullness to get a minute of sleep.” It can be easy to get on a roll and not realize the negative effect it is causing one’s body.
By January ’21, I saw my weight balloon to a whopping 225 pounds! By far the heaviest of my life. After a hospital visit and learning that my physical symptoms were all caused by mental struggles, I could finally move forward. The beginning of my journey to get back in shape was a difficult time. My body ached any time I attempted to exercise. My back would be sore and sharp pain wound run down my knees to my shins and ankles. This was/is a new test for me. I realized just how much my body had deteriorated.
Far From Over
This is by no means a success story. At this point, I am yet to have any substantial weight loss, but I have gained a good deal of muscle back. I have been able to work hard in spurts, but have not been able to stay consistent. I no longer ache or struggle to get through work outs. Whenever I feel like I should be progressing quicker, I remind myself how long it took to get here and that it is not easy. I have learned that it is important to take the little improvements as big steps forward because it’s easy to get down on yourself. I tried to get my previous physical self back in one felt swoop. That is not possible. It is overwhelming to jump back in like that. So, now that mental health is under control, I have decided to focus my attention more so on diet than anything else at the moment. One step at a time. Sorry if I rambled. I felt like it was time I let these thoughts out.
Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience. Either during the pandemic or at any other point, too. If you’re in the same position, know that you can do it. It won’t be easy, but I believe in you.
Talk to you later.