There’s an “I” in Diet, but There Should be a “U”

Whatever your pleasure, I think all of us ladies can agree on how great it feels when you realize you need to go down a pants size when you are trying to lose weight. Over the past two years, I got to experience this phenomenon a whopping 5 times as I descended from a size 12 to a size 2. I’ve also thrown it in reverse and bumped back up to a 4. For some that might be the worst feeling, but for me, putting weight back on was necessary. And it made me feel even better.

Through my long and trying journey, I’ve come to learn that both losing weight and gaining weight can be fantastic feelings, so long as you are changing your body for yourself.

For me, it started my senior year of high school. As a graduation requirement, we were forced to watch videos released by the USDA that talked about balanced eating. It was here that I realized just how bad all of the junk food I ate was and what I had to do to fix it. A great, eye-opening experience, right? Except that I’m a perfectionist. I took my eating and exercising to the extreme.

By the summer after I graduated high school, I had become completely obsessed with losing weight. The girl who never ate a vegetable in her life was existing on romaine lettuce and fat-free yogurt. The girl who never exercised was spending 2 hours every day on the elliptical machine. By July, I had lost 80 pounds, but that wasn’t it. My hair was falling out. Despite the summer heat, I needed to wear sweaters as soon as the sun set. I lost my period month after month.

“You should eat something,” everyone was telling me. “You look sick.”
I felt sick, too.

But I didn’t believe that I actually had to gain weight. In my mind, I still had to lose! I was still 118 pounds, after all. I never achieved supermodel thinness. I looked in the mirror and my tummy still wasn’t flat enough, my arms not skinny enough. I still didn’t look like I had walked right out of a magazine, so I didn’t think anyone would consider me beautiful, not even myself. I went away to college still paranoid about how I looked and every little bit I ate.

My first weekend in Boston, I walked 10 blocks to a mall. I jogged up the front steps, sat on a bench, and promptly passed out. That was my wake-up call. Though I had adopted my new diet in an attempt to become healthy, it morphed into something that was quite the opposite. I wasn’t doing it for myself anymore; I was doing it for everyone else. The sad part, as I learned from my friends’ reaction to my weight loss, is that no one else cared about my weight as much as I thought they did. It was understanding that, having that moment of clarity, that woke me up and got me to stop killing myself. I traded in my intense cardio for yoga. I started eating things my body needed and stopped eating things that really weren’t as healthy as I thought. I proudly put 15 pounds back on, for me and for no one else.

I have so many tips and tricks I’ll eventually share, but I wanted to give you my story first, and also 2 pieces of advice. First, there is no such thing as a “diet.” The only way to truly make a difference is to make lifestyle changes. Secondly, and as I’ve already discussed at length, you will never be able to maintain these changes if you aren’t doing this for you. Lose weight because you want to eat healthier, lower your risk for diseases, or finally be able touch your toes. Don’t do it so that someone will pay attention to you, or to one-up your sisters/friends/co-workers. You will never be able to healthily sustain choices you make if you are making them for someone else.

If only they had told me that in those healthy-eating videos . . .



  1. Bailey says:

    GREAT post, and so, so true. So good to hear these kinds of things because they are so important!

    I was just going to say that by the title, I thought this was going to be something about dieting/working out with a friend, which I think might also be worthy of a post. I mean, as long as you're not doing it to compare, I think becoming healthier with the support of someone you trust can do wonders for your motivation and stamina. Having just that much more support can do amazing things. Anyway, great post, have a wonderful day!

  2. Vicki says:

    I started seriously working out about a year ago, mostly so I could get in shape for my future job, and it has really motivated me to get healthy. I also recently joined my gym's get fit program for the summer in order to help me reach my weight goal. I'll be working with a personal trainer twice a week, in addition to my other workouts. It should be an interesting experience, and one that I'm looking forward to.

  3. Paige says:

    Great post! I'm so happy you got the help you needed. You must be so strong to overcome that! Keep it up!

  4. m says:

    i neeeeeeeeeeeed to do this this summer. please start a series on how to do this. yes, i know your way might not have been the healthiest. but 80 pounds from june to july? i'll even settle for 20.

  5. Holly - Emerson Coll says:

    Just for a bit of clarification, my 80 pounds was lost between September of my senior year (when I began watching those videos!) and the July after I graduated. It was extreme, but not too extreme. ;)

  6. Holly - Emerson Coll says:

    Thank you for all of the great feedback!

    Bailey, thanks for the great gym buddies idea! I have so many stories about that topic, too. Workouts with friends have been both very positive and negative. You are so right, though – support is a big factor in a healthful lifestyle.

    Vicki, I too started to lose weight and change eating habits before I truly understood what "healthy" was. I mean, eating fat-free yogurt (laden with artificial sweeteners and preservatives) was better than eating cheese puffs, but it was awhile before I learned all natural Greek yogurt was even "healthier." Best of luck with your personal trainer! It sounds like you are making some awesome choices for yourself.

    Paige, I may not feel strong every day, but I certainly feel empowered. Growing up, I always hid my class photos in shame and embarrassment and I *hated* trying on clothes because nothing ever looked good. I never thought I could change for the better. Balanced eating and exercising continue to surprise me. Oh, the places you'll go!

    Thanks, all, once again! I'll do my best to post some other lessons learned on my journey!

  7. Diet Solution…

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  8. My Journey Part 2…

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  9. My Journey – Part 3…

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  10. chichi says:

    Dear m,

    The post is talking about how unhealthy she was after losing too much weight, not encouraging people to follow her lead. How dare you ask her for tips on how to starve yourself. I understand wanting to lose weight to be healthy, but starvation isn’t healthy. (i saw this as a recovering anorexic.)

    Kudos to Holly for realizing being healthy should be all about you. That is beautiful, keep up the good work.

  11. […] don’t remember the exact day I realized using a girl’s weight to extrapolate anything else about her is ridiculous, but I assure you it […]

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  13. […] before I started college, I cleaned up my eating habits quite a bit. Once there, I stood in line with my plastic tray in hand, standing on tiptoes to see […]

  14. Jen says:

    I went throught the exact same thing with compulsive exercise and eating next to nothing. My wake-up call also occurred when I passed out during a spinning class. I am happy to say, I have gained 18 pounds and am no longer obsessed with dieting and exercise!!

  15. […] dished on all sorts of stuff this summer: my radical lifestyle change, what it’s like to be unhealthy, and even a few tips on how to stay healthy. But there’s one […]

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