The Happiest Loser

This is going to be a weird post. We’re going to talk about food and fitness and weight loss, with absolutely no mention of diet and exercise. The only part of my body we’re going to discuss, is north of my shoulders.

I have always had a very complicated relationship with food. From being a fat kid, to an average “healthy” weight, to emaciated, back to average, back to fat, average, fat again, average again, fat again…it’s been a hell of a ride. The boxes of too big/too small clothes in the back of my closet tell a whiteknuckle tale of high treachery on the open buffet.

In the latest installment of my adventure in trying to slay the fitness monster, I had an opportunity to do something that someone who once had an eating disorder should never do: I joined a weight-loss competition. Pure silliness, yes? We are in agreement there, my friend. However, I was already working on trying to lose an extra 50+ pounds of baby weight, and I do like money, so I thought, hey why not. 

Once I saw the rules, I almost chickened out. Not only did I have to submit to weekly weigh-ins, but I had to submit them to like, the whole-ass group. The group was comprised mostly of strangers, but also included a few people I knew. I wasn’t sure which category of person inspired more panic. I also had to submit measurements and “before and after” pictures. 

Listen, I love me some After pictures. I just…prefer to take them in the absence of Before pictures. It suits me fine to have the After exist in a vacuum, wherein the Before is known only to me. 

But then other people’s Befores started rolling in, and I realized that no one was entering this challenge because they were just super stoked about their bodies, or glowing with self-esteem. We were all feeling crappy, and tired, and ready for a change. So I did the thing.


Forget the body—LOOK AT MY FACE. Seriously, LOOK at it. I am so defeated, and already exhausted at the prospect of fighting this battle AGAIN. And the hardest part for me about posting this picture, was knowing that I’d already lost at least 20 lbs here. I say “at least,” because the closer that scale gets to 200 pounds, the more likely I am to pretend that it doesn’t exist, and that my pants simply shrunk in the wash again. 

And when I did get on the scale, oh lordy. If it was higher than I expected/hoped, you can count on me being a BEAST for at least 24 hours. Think white-hot rage sandwich, with an au jus made entirely from my salty tears. All day long. The psychological grip that number had on me was ludicrous. 

Anyway, the girl in these pictures was feeling pretty lousy. But she went ahead and Did The Thing and submitted pictures and measurements and pictures with her feet on the scale. 

And then…she got to work. 

Every week, we had to weigh in. There were good weeks and meh weeks, but I decided that no matter what, I would not quit. I would do my best and I would finish. I also committed to not acting a fool and falling into dangerous patterns. Nursing an infant was my built-in failsafe to keep me from going back to eating disordered behavior. I promised myself I would not take my baby’s milk in service of self-destructive nonsense.

But here’s the crazy thing: I was never tempted to do anything like that. EVEN THOUGH I had to get on the scale every week and see numbers I mostly didn’t like very much. EVEN THOUGH I had to show that number to strangers and friends alike. Why? 

Sisterhood. Because there were 60 of us deep in the struggle together. We ALL had good weeks and bad weeks. And we all were encouraging each other to keep showing up and keep being awesome. You post a sweaty workout selfie and you get 25 people saying “YAS QUEEN SLAY” and eventually you’re like, “You know what, yes. I do slay.” And you want to turn around and pay that forward 100 times.

By constantly facing that dumb scale and its somewhat arbitrary determination of my relative gravity at a particular moment in time, it lost its power over me. I learned where in my cycle I will absolutely be a few pounds “heavier” (and literally nobody cares, including me). I learned about the whoosh effect and how to be patient with myself. I learned that lasting results are not some magic ratio of self-hate::deprivation, but rather the natural effect of consistency + time. 

I said we’re not going to talk about diet and exercise in this post and I meant it, but I will tell you that I eventually took fourth place and won a boatload of money to buy cute summer clothes. WAY better than clothes, I gained two amazing new friends (whom I love deeply, DESPITE the fact that they took first and third place). 

Before and After, Challenge 1. Note the face.

We decided to keep the magic going. The gleesome threesome is now in the thick of running Round 2 of our own challenge and “our” girls are crushing it. I don’t care if I win anything (unlikely, as I’m not trying to completely disappear), but I am deeply invested in helping other women thrive. I want to cultivate the sisterhood and remove the guilt and self-flagellation from “getting fit.” So much of our weight is gained in secret shame, eating food that doesn’t deserve us behind closed doors. We lie to ourselves and others about the food, the weight, our feelings. Enough. We are going to celebrate each other and every step of this journey. 

After giving my actual entire body over to four other people, it feels so, so good to be back in my own skin. It is an honor and privilege to get to help others started on the same road to health, joy, and self-acceptance. I may not be the “biggest loser,” and that’s fine. I’d rather be the happiest loser.

Before pics for Round 2 of Lean Girls. Pretty excited to see what I can do this time.

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