My Journey Toward Loving Myself at Any Weight

The highest weight I’ve ever been is something I never care to revisit—however, I’ve learned to love my body image no matter what the number is on the scale.

I’ve been just over 300 pounds and just under 200 pounds and everything in between. As I’ve journeyed in between those 100 pounds, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to love myself no matter what the number says on the scale. There are days I struggle (and I mean truly struggle!) with appreciating me for me, but I know as long as I’m healthy that’s all that matters.

Here is just a brief glimpse into my journey with the scale.

I spent my childhood getting stuck in Lane Bryant dresses. In grade school, the boys in my class used to make fun of me that my butt wouldn’t fit on the small, child-sized seats. My seventh grade bathing suit consisted of a leopard print one-piece with a bust minimizer purchased from the Macy’s plus-sized women’s department—not exactly something a 12-year-old would be happy about.

I vividly remember one particularly snowy October my soccer team was losing by one goal. My coach chose to put me in as goalie and the other team’s girls were teasing me relentlessly saying “You’re putting HER in goal?” Thank God that time, my uncoordinated self blocked a kick and we made it downfield to win.

However, there was still high school when I wore size 30 tapered khakis for our school uniform instead of the flared versions most of my friends had. I rocked gold lamé pants and red velvet ones too. Both were from Lane Bryant before they started selling trendier clothes.

My freshman year of college, I decided not to walk about a mile to the grocery store with this guy I had a crush on. Every time we all took a trip to the mall, I longed to try out a Victoria’s Secret bra. Too bad most clothing manufacturers don’t understand that while you may have a large band size, cup size isn’t necessarily always large!

Years later, you know those little pictures that pop up on the side of your Facebook page? I used to hate them. I never used to like those pictures because people would see them and immediately say, “Wow you lost so much weight! How did you do it?”

curvy woman working out

Anyway, the whole weight loss thing started off as sort of an accident then grew to something a little more inspiring. When I started my freshman year of college, I automatically began walking more and the weight began to slowly come off. However, I still prided myself on never setting foot in my university’s fitness center. I was stubborn and always told my friends I was fine with being the biggest among us, or perhaps dating a guy who weighed less than me.

My senior year when the girls I lived with were giving me trouble, I began taking long walks to clear my head. Pounds began shedding a little more easily and I was hooked on the results.

This brings me into all my fat girl neuroses. I had always had a thing about going to gyms. I used to think everyone would be staring at the fat girl walking into the gym, wondering why she was there. That’s why I invested in two DVDs by the great Richard Simmons.

I kept this a secret for many weeks from my friends, but they found out quite easily. Let’s just say being friends with two boys really gives you a thick skin. It became such an ongoing joke that one of them sent me an “I party with Richard Simmons” t-shirt.

All that chorus line kicking and self-loving Richard professed in Sweatin’ to the Oldies did have its advantages though. I got down to a size 20 without even setting foot in my apartment building’s tiny overcrowded gym. This was accompanied with getting off the bus earlier and walking a few extra blocks to work and taking the stairs to my seventh floor apartment.

The other neurosis I had (and still have occasionally) involves going out to eat with friends. I would freak out if one male friend preferred a salad to French fries with his burger and constantly worried I’d be seen as “fry girl”—you know, the stereotypical fat girl munching on fries to no avail.

At one point, I only ate half of a cheeseburger I was so scared I looked bad. Now, I realize how incredibly ridiculous I was and I now know one cupcake here and there won’t hurt.  Sometimes, you just have to give in to your cravings.

Then one night, I did it. I couldn’t believe I worked up the nerve to walk downstairs. My old building had a gym in the basement and I don’t know what possessed me to go downstairs but I did. I sat on the exercise bike and made it all of 20 minutes before stopping. I cranked up my iPod and tried my darnedest not to let even one thought about the other people in the gym get to me.

As much as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue, I knew I had to do it. Pretty soon, I was not only walking on the treadmill but navigating the elliptical and Stairmaster too. I moved apartments the following winter and I soon became a regular at my new building’s downstairs fitness center.

curvy woman running

My lunches I packed for work got lighter and I became a fan of things I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be eating—Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, granola. The crazy thing is, I found that I actually liked those foods. You also won’t believe it but it’s not that hard to not want to go back to greasy foods like pizza (although I definitely splurge a lot of weekends).

The first spring I was at my new building, I began jogging outside. My friends were shocked that I was exerting myself while on display to the thousands of people on my busy street.

You know what’s the crazy part? How all the women’s magazines I’m obsessed with, all the trainers and athletes, they’re all actually right about something—jogging is a huge stress reliever for me. The most I’ve ever jogged at once is about four miles but the decisions I’ve made, anger I’ve lessened and happiness I’ve achieved while pounding the pavement is countless.

I’ve always been a big lover of holidays and celebrations so naturally I had mini-celebrations with myself during all my weight loss milestones. When I lost 50 lbs, I celebrated with a slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. When my size hit the teens, it was a shopping spree at the nearby Gap.

But story didn’t end here either.

Crunch Gym opened up a franchise near my apartment and I became intrigued and instantly had to join.

There was this one class, “The Athlete’s Workout,” that I took one evening. It was a warm and humid day outside and the instructor chose to take the class outdoors. My instinct told me to run far away from the situation but I told myself no.

An hour later, I’d run suicides, did Army crawls and did enough lunges that my legs felt like Jello. With dirt on my cheeks and my messy ponytail becoming undone, I practically skipped the three blocks home.

I remember wishing my grade school and high school teachers could see me now. Decades ago, I was the kid who walked the mile run, or continually moved to the back of the kickball line so I didn’t have to take a turn. Occasionally, I’d hide behind the church convent to avoid running.

Just over 10 years later, I’ve gained back some of the weight I’ve lost. I’m still proud to say I’m 60 pounds lighter than I was in high school. As a freelance writer and piano teacher to 22 kids and two adults and caring for a very needy English bulldog, life is busier than it was when I was working at a newspaper. I still try to get to my apartment’s gym three or four days per week and we have a gorgeous trail right near our apartment that I love to walk and jog on in the spring and summer.

My food choices have their good and bad days, but I know that it’s important that I am healthy. I know my “numbers” as the doctors say, and while I’ll always have to be careful, I know that I am doing okay. I’ll never be a size 2. Honestly, at 5’11” that wouldn’t look all that natural anyway!

My relationship with my weight will always be a struggle. I still think about most food that goes into my mouth and weigh myself often, if only to keep myself in line. It’s absolutely pivotal to remember that I am still the same person inside as I always was, no matter what the scale says. I’m still obsessed with chick lit novels and romantic comedies. I love entertaining friends at my apartment and hosting parties that revolve around the holidays.

I’ve finally realized what’s five or 10 lbs. gained or lost here and there? As long as I am healthy and happy that’s all that matters. Writing about my weight loss so personally for the first time has definitely opened up my eyes to what I’ve accomplished and the fact that I should be excited about what I’ve done. If anything I’ve become so much more active than I was at 16 and 17, even 21. Why hide something that I should be proud of, right? Oh and those gold lamé pants? I can fit my whole self in one pant leg now.

Interested in reading more about self love? Check out this piece from 2016 on how you can achieve self love faster than you think. If you want to join us in more positive and affirming wellness information, join LOVE TV

True Love Lessons with Sierra: Self-Worth


self worth

This lesson keeps popping up for me and those around me, so let’s jump in!

What does it mean to have self-worth?

I believe it means discovering AND believing in your deep inherent value, which in turn, gives you a standard of how you deserve to be treated.

Know that you, just as you are, are a rare and precious jewel with unlimited love to give.

Recognizing that is what polishes your inner jewel making you sparkle from the inside out!

Self-worth is interconnected with self-confidence and self-respect.

These 3 powerhouse energies COMBINED are certain to help you attract an excellent match!

Tune in next time for more True Love Lessons & Confessions with Sierra.

Why I’ll Never Let Anxiety Get the Best of Me Again

Last January, my anxiety landed me in the hospital. Now I know to never let it get the best of me ever again.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety my entire life. In grade school, I hid a birthday invitation in the back of my desk because it was a roller-skating party and I didn’t know how to roller-skate. In high school, I skipped a choir concert one year because I was on a top riser and kept getting nervous about falling off while singing in front of people. I struggled with IBS my entire life. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 27 because I was too scared—I still prefer not to today. All the while, I was still a happy and optimistic person. I never let on how in knots I was at times.

How I ended up in the hospital last January

My boyfriend ended up contracting a nasty cold while traveling to my parents’ house to be with me for New Year’s Eve 2017. Of course, I ended up getting the cold when we got back to our apartment. Afterwards, when things cleared up just a bit, I went for a massage to loosen my post-holiday tight muscles. The massage was the last in a series at an old massage therapist’s office that wasn’t my usual one.

Needless to say, between the massage and post-cold stuffiness, I ended up getting a terrible case of vertigo. For those who’ve had it before, it doesn’t come often but when it does it is debilitating. I woke up at five in the morning and the room was spinning, reminiscent of my early 20s post-drinking nights. I staggered to the bathroom and instantly had to go back to bed.

I later called my parents, since my dad had suffered from a bout or two of vertigo growing up. He told me what type of medicine to get from the doctor’s and my mom said it should clear up within three days.

In my typical fashion, I couldn’t sit still by the third day. I was getting extremely anxious about losing piano lesson money and freelance money, since I am essentially an hourly employee. Not to mention, my boyfriend was leaving on a business trip and I’d be caring for our dog alone while still not feeling 100 percent.

My boyfriend left for his trip that Saturday and I asked my piano lessons to come to my apartment to avoid me having to take the (nausea inducing on a good day) Metro. All seemed well on the surface but I was still not feeling all that great. I was not only anxious about me not feeling well, I was worried as it was a new year—taxes were looming, I was still in debt and I’d have to endure more questions about why my boyfriend and I weren’t engaged yet.

That evening, I went to get the mail down at our mailboxes then had plans to get ready to walk to church. Before I knew it, I ended up waking up on my apartment floor with my dog looking down at me, quite concerned. After phone calls to some friends and my apartment, I called my parents. They told me to go to the hospital, no questions asked. That frightened me even more, especially since I was still too dizzy to actually stand up.

I was beyond embarrassed having to call an ambulance. When I was finally on the stretcher after leaving my poor worried and barking dog, I instantly felt a lot better in the cold January air. I began to wonder if a lot of it was anxiety.


Diagnosing and getting past the stigma

After every test under the sun, I (thankfully) didn’t have anything wrong with me. It was most likely fainting caused by vertigo exacerbated by a panic attack/severe anxiety. My parents picked me up from the hospital the next morning after my two best friends stayed with me until 10 the previous night. They whisked me home to Pittsburgh for the entire week afterwards.

It was there I had a “come to Jesus” moment with my parents. They asked me flat out about my anxiety—how bad it was, what made it worse, etc. They reminded me I’m always welcome home if I wanted to start over. They were happy to help me no matter what. The truth is, I am happy with my current situation freelancing and teaching piano and living with my boyfriend of nearly seven years. Would things be easier if I worked at a full-time job with a salary and benefits provided? Sure. Would things be easier if my boyfriend and I were married? Of course. I joked that I always like to take the hard way with things.

My parents recommended I see my primary care doctor and start a low dose antidepressant for my anxiety and possibly start therapy. I had adamantly denied antidepressants in the past when I was having anxiety at my full-time job—I was happy and not depressed, why would I need them?

My parents helped me realize that taking antidepressants doesn’t always necessarily mean you’re depressed. People with anxiety take them all the time. I reluctantly agreed and got on a low dose of an antidepressant specifically designed to help with anxiety. I was deathly afraid of any side effects, particularly weight gain, as I have always been bigger my whole life.

After almost a year on the medication, I have rarely had panic attacks or bouts of anxiety. I have gained a few pounds but the way I see it is, if my anxiety is under control, it doesn’t matter. I’ve begun realizing how much the U.S. makes mental health such a stigma. Among the people of my generation though, we have definitely been working hard to make it less shameful. Wellness is so important.

Working toward self-love

Part of my journey with my anxiety is to learn self-love. I have gotten so much more comfortable with just saying no, especially if I don’t have time for something. My IBS has gotten better through lots of meditation/breathing sessions, praying, massages (thanks boyfriend for the Valentine’s Day series!) and stopping work for breaks to just get outside and get some air.

I often work through weekends and I know now if I do have a busy weekend, it’s essential to spend a morning or afternoon during the week with a couple of hours to myself. I’m slowly learning to love all my quirks, no matter how big or small (anxiety included!).

As they say, the world would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same, right?

Author Kate Oczypok is working on not letting her anxiety win.

It took a trip to the hospital for author Kate Oczypok to realize she needed to address her anxiety head on—and learn a little bit about self-love in the process.

Cozy up. Did you know fall is the best time to find someone? Click here for more.