30 by 30: Bad Habits Die Hard (Or, Why Going Home Makes Me Gain Weight)

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I laid awake the other night with the headline “The Weight Loss Blogger who Can’t Lose Weight,” running through my head. It sat with me…like a ton of bricks. What if I make it to 30 and have to confess that I never got there? Did I even try? There are few things harsher than tracking my weight and watching it go down, then up, then down, then up and on and on. As the month of January rolled right past, my excuses began piling up. The travel has been excruciating; there have been a lot of celebrations; the gym is so crowded that my classes fill up before I even get there; it’s cold. All of this is true but also so very very sad, and so very very fixable.

I spent this past week at my parents’ home in Arkansas taking care of my mom after a recent knee surgery. And magically, all of those excuses I mentioned were gone. It was 70 degrees, I was home all day in a huge kitchen where I could make anything I wanted, the treadmill was in the room next to mine. And yet? I barely moved off the club chair in the living room. I ate birthday cake and cheese dip and Shipley’s donuts. I drank diet soda like it was water. I fell right back into the habits so deeply ingrained in me from 18 years of life in the South. And one night, while watching a particularly compelling episode of Scandal, I saw a commercial for one hour weight loss. ONE HOUR. ONE SIZE. Guaranteed.

As I sat there, I began an old pattern of thinking. Ok, if I could go do that, I would get a jump start. Then I’d definitely be on my way. I wonder how much it costs. Should I check it out? I mean, it is “research” for a weight loss column. I’d be doing my readers a favor. It sounds so easy, soon enough I’d be halfway to my goal.

And that was when I realized it. There’s something about living in the South that makes me apathetic, lazy and unmotivated. The portions are larger, I drive everywhere and I fall so hard back into my bad habits that I don’t recognize my new life anymore. I spent my whole life looking for those quick fixes. Slimfast, Hydroxycut, Hollywood Diet, you name it. And they didn’t work for me. EVER.

I never realized how different my eating patterns had become since I moved to New York seven years ago until I was spending the weekend at a friend’s apartment a couple of years ago. He was sitting in the living room and I got up to go make us PopTarts. While I was waiting on the toaster, I leaned into the living room to tell him something. He stopped me in the middle of my story and said, “Wait. Why do you have a knife in your hand? Are you cutting the PopTarts?” “No!” I replied enthusiastically. “It’s for the butter.” This particular friend grew up in Florida and was very heavy as a child. He’s now fit and very health conscious, so I was comfortable enough to ask him, “Is this a fat kid thing?” He promptly replied, “Kendyl, That is the FATTEST kid thing. You do not put butter on a PopTart that already has 9,000 calories.”

I was devastated. Not only because he had now ruined one of my favorite breakfast treats, but because it called into question all the eating habits of the old me. What is normal and what is a product of the environment I was raised in? I now frequently text him and say, “Fat kid thing?” to vet something that myself or those around me are eating. It helps keep me in check, but in reality, I shouldn’t be eating something if I have to ask that about it.

While I was at my parent’s home, these things were spinning. If I had grown up somewhere else would I struggle so much? Would I be a weight loss failure if I hadn’t been raised around butter and fried vegetables and extreme lack of portion control? Would I even have to lose weight or would I have a more normal weight?

Today was a rough emotional day. My coping habits are to go have pasta and wine and maybe a cookie. I felt sad, I felt overwhelmed, I felt anxious. And all those roads lead to buttered PopTarts. But instead, I laced up my tennis shoes and got my butt to the gym. As my feet circled around the elliptical, I thought about the fate of the fat kids everywhere. It’s not about where I live, or who I am related to, though those may be additional challenges. It’s about how I choose to deal with the day in, day out of the grind. This is my life and I can’t blame anyone or any place but myself for the size of my ass.

Weekly Weigh-In:

HIGH: I sent my coworker a guest pass to my gym for the week and I had forgotten how awesome it was to have a workout pal.

LOW: Donuts and birthday cake don’t make the scale go down. I’m frustrated with my lack of effort and the lack of results. This week’s goal is to get to the gym 5 times.

+/-: -0 (Total -1)

Photo: Shutterstock

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    • AD

      You definitely sound like you are full of excuses. Why don’t you check out this Brooklyn Bridge Bootcamp Slim and Strong program I read about. It may be the jump start you need. Also, start a food diary. If you have to write down everything you eat, you might think twice about eating cake and pasta.

    • BFD

      Or you could give up the idea of reaching a specific weight and just focus on embracing healthy habits – like going to the gym, and not eating buttered pop-tarts. All of your columns seem so full of guilt and shame… those feelings do not motivate people. Instead of tossing around terms like “weight loss failure,” you should think of yourself as a health success, no matter what the scale says.

      • http://blisstree.com/ Carrie Murphy

        Sadly, lots of people DO associate weight and eating with guilt and shame. I imagine the road to health success has its up and downs, which Kendyl is honest about chronicling in her column. It’s always good to read something positive about weight loss and eating and body image, but it’s often valuable to read something honest and real, as well.

      • Kendyl

        Thanks Carrie and BFD for the comments. I would say I feel guilty 85% of my life in all areas anyways, it’s just who I am. There is no shame though, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to be so frank with you all. I appreciate the feedback, and do not count myself a failure, but someone who keeps fighting despite the challenges. Thanks for sharing!

    • Guest

      I have problems with eating crappy food when I’m at my parents’ house, too. My mom will buy me whatever gluten-free products or vegetables I request, but there’s something about being back in the house where I grew up (and away from my own kitchen) that makes me more likely to just eat whatever.

    • Hannah

      I’m a healthy girl from a healthy southern family. My mom cooks a lot, but it’s all home-made and good for me stuff. Going home does mess with my portion control, because there’s so much good food and so much of it ties to growing up and having that comfort that I just can’t help myself! I see where you’re coming from, and I think you’ve done really, really well by sussing this out and making the decision to hit the gym and realize you’re in control. So, congrats!