All my life I’ve been the fat sister, the fat friend, the one who made jokes about those skinny bitches I secretly wished I was one of. I never imagined the journey I would go through in my early twenties that would lead me to find the real Leah in me.
As a kid, I was athletic but clearly one of the bigger girls. 1 of 3 sisters, I was bestowed a round body, no butt, and chubby cheeks (great hair was what I considered my win over them). My sisters were granted curvy figures, small waists and butts that didn’t quit. The only quality I shared with my sisters was our bust size. Larger bodies (or “big boned” as my Grandma called it) ran in my family and along with a chubby face and round midsection came an obscenely large chest.
At my grade 7 grad I was sporting double D’s while most of my friends were testing out training bras. 3 years into high school with the biggest boobs in the building, at 15 years old and double H cup size (yes this does exist), I had a breast reduction. Having battled cysts growing on my chest due to the sheer size and magnitude of what can only be described as two heads appearing to be growing off me, it was my last resort. Along with my cysts had come a curling spine, bad posture, shoulder pain, back pain, knee pain, and an inability to fit into most shirts 15 year olds wear. I lost 5 lbs all in breast and instantly felt relief from the weight. I’d gone from a double H to a very manageable C cup.
At my high school graduation I wore a size 16 beautiful dress. I felt incredible, but still insisted people took pictures of me “from above” and whenever possible put my hand under my double chin in some way to hide the fact that it existed. Looking back I realize that all those years, that double chin was there whether I covered it with my hand or a scarf. You could see it in my cheeks and my eyes that were small and squinty due to my round face.
After high school I joined Weight Watchers with my mom. I figured it would be easier to lose weight if school wasn’t keeping me so busy. Plus my mom had offered to pay for my membership if I was serious about losing weight. I managed to lose 33 lbs on the program. It was the best I’d ever felt about myself. When my mom decided the program wasn’t working for her, my membership suddenly seemed far too expensive to pay on my own. I went off the program and slowly started gaining back the weight I’d worked so hard to lose.
At 20 I was studying to take the Real Estate exam and become a Realtor. I was studying lots and managing to keep off the last 15 lbs I hadn’t gained back. One night I felt like I was having a panic attack. My heart was out of control, I was sweating and everything went blurry. After that night my heart rate felt abnormal so I hit the clinic to ask a pro. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with me but mentioned if my heart rate went above 120 beats per minute I needed to go to the hospital. A few days later the anxiety attack struck again and after sitting on the floor in hysteric tears I decided to go to the hospital. When they walked me into the ER and hooked me up to a plethora of machines, we saw that my heartrate was in the 230’s (resting heart rate for the record is between 60-70 bpm). It felt like my chest was going to explode. Luckily for me, “bearing down” worked just before they were ready to put me out and shock my heart to recharge the current. I spent that sleepless night in the ER wanting to be home and wondering what was happening to me.
In the morning I saw the cardiologist who diagnosed me with something called Supraventricular Tachycardia (or SVT). A fairly common electrical defect in the heart that spikes your heart rate (I won’t get into the details). I was put on many different pills, all trying to make me better and all making me feel worse. I lived like a 90 year old woman for a year, having to cut out all alcohol and caffeine.
I decided my health was more important than ever and I went back to Weight Watchers. I promised myself that no matter what, I’d make room in my budget for that membership. I also decided that the stress, hours, and personality required to work in Real Estate wasn’t for me. So I went back to my home in the family business as an estimator and project manager for our company.
By December of 2013 I’d lost 20 lbs, putting me back to where I was when I’d lost the weight the first time. Part of me figured this was as low as it got. But this time was different. I had a new life, now living in my first place all on my own, I had a fantastic boyfriend who was supportive of my healthy lifestyle and was into fitness and nutrition as well, I had my family backing me, and most of all; I was determined.
Come December of 2014 I’d lost another 20 lbs, putting me at my lowest weight yet recorded.
In the year between the two I’d found a new passion for going to the gym. I was playing soccer on a women’s team, and focusing more and more on my weight loss and fitness journey. Although it took me a year to lose 20 lbs, I could see small changes in my body and huge changes in my lifestyle. I even bought my first bikini ever! I’d officially moved out of “the fat friend” zone and amazed myself when I was wearing the same size as some of my friends, even one size bigger than my skinniest of friends. My goals became less about the number and obtaining that level of “skinny” (what does that even mean anyways?) and more on being healthy and in shape.
In November of 2015 I made it to my goal weight. From my heaviest at 204lbs to my ultimate goal weight of 135lbs, everything in life felt obtainable. After years of having uncontrollable eating habits, no desire to exercise, and feeling unhappy in my body, I was the person I always dreamed of being.
In 2016 I gained the courage and confidence to return to University for my diploma in Business Management. These days my life looks a little something like working full time, attending night classes at school, and doing my best to get to the gym at least twice a week. Between work and school, I like to walk. My now fiance and I walk as often as we can, I find it relieves so much stress. I’m also planning a wedding! As you can imagine, things get pretty crazy, but I’m learning to balance all of life’s aspects. One of these days I’ll get the hang of it!
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey is the importance of believing in yourself and trusting the process. No matter how slow progress seems to feel, you’re worth sticking it out for. Nobody can make the decision for you, but I promise that once you do make it, and you dedicate yourself to sticking with it… you will not be disappointed.