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  • Writer's pictureSarah McDonald

Welcome to Sarah Likes Things!

Hello! Welcome to the very first Sarah Likes Things blog post. I'm Sarah! It's nice to meet you. I want to start out by acknowledging this first post is very focused on body image because that has been such a significant part of who I am and it is really the catalyst behind wanting to start this blog. I have struggled with my weight and body image for as long as I can remember. When I was very young I was a competitive figure skater and I often look back on photos of myself at that time as my "thin days" (not exactly a healthy way to look back on photos of yourself at 5 or 6 years old).

My "thin" days...

I don't have any memories of this time - of existing in an average sized body. I have always felt bigger, different, abnormal in my body. I desperately wanted to look "normal". I've never craved "thinness", I've craved normalcy. To be honest, I had existed in a larger body for so long I didn't think a "thin" body was attainable for me**. I wanted to stand in a room and not stand out because I was one of, if not the, biggest person in it. I have never minded standing out in a crowd for almost any other reason. In fact, I often enjoy being the centre of attention but when it comes to my weight all I have ever wanted was to blend in and go unnoticed. I started to gain excess weight in grade school and continued to steadily gain for the next 25 years until I hit my highest weight of 265 pounds in January 2018. I think there were a number reasons for this steady increase. Unhealthy relationships, bullying, a lack of self-esteem and unhealthy coping mechanisms are all contributing factors that I can pinpoint pretty quickly but I am sure there were many others at play that I'm not consciously aware of.

The Fat Kid

Grade school is not a fun time to be fat. There is no way around it. If you were any kind of "different" at this age you know what I'm talking about. Kids in grade school have not developed a reliable filter, they are still building their empathy toolkit and they are just trying to survive (Hey look over there at that kid! They are way weirder than I am. Focus on them not on me!). Those factors often contribute to an environment ripe for bullying. I have vivid memories of being bullied in grade school. Being asked to play tag only to find out that everyone had organized to meet earlier so that, by default, I would be "it" (as the fat, short kid I never stood a chance at being "it"). I have a lot of forgiveness and understanding for the kids I went to school with. As humans we need to give each other room to grow, mature and learn and then we need to have the opportunity to demonstrate that growth. However, I also remember adults making comments about my weight at this time. I can recall the lunch ladies who worked in our elementary school cafeteria making a comment that I was just as tall standing up as I was laying down. That comment stung just as much typing it out today at 33 years old as it did hearing it 20 something years ago. I don't have as much forgiveness and understanding for these adults who should have known better than to comment on a child's body. Here's a sample of pictures I have from that time. I don't have a ton of pictures to choose from from this time in my life. Disliking your body tends to lead to editing history and getting rid of photos that are too painful to look at.

Developing an Unhealthy Relationship With Food

Food has always been a coping mechanism. I have turned to unhealthy food in times of stress, boredom, sadness, joy, celebration and everything in between. After graduating grade school, I entered high school significantly overweight (I'm only 5'0 so I have never carried excess weight very well) and with a very low self esteem. I found a group of friends who became my extended family. This group really changed my life in a lot of ways. They helped to rebuild my confidence and gave me the close friendships I had been so desperately craving in elementary school. However, as absolutely wonderful as this friendship group was, and continues to be to this very day, our socializing was often wrapped up in an unhealthy relationship with food. Dinners out, drinking, junk food binges, late night fast food runs, elaborate dinner parties, these were all common features of our social hangouts and I was not able to self-regulate around all of this food that was often high sugar, high sodium, high fat... a perfect combination to continue my codependent relationship with food but now it was also socially acceptable because I was doing it with friends. What I didn't do was try and balance these high calorie nights by making healthier choices in other areas of my life. Over the years I have tried to lose weight by dieting. Time and time again these proved unsuccessful. I was always living in the mindset of all or nothing. If I was eating healthy I was singularly focused on eating healthy without allowing anything I deemed unacceptable until I would inevitably eat one of the "unacceptable" items and would throw in the towel because I had lost the battle once again. It was never long lasting and it was NEVER sustainable.

Turning Point

In January 2018 something in my brain shifted. I'm not sure I fully understand what finally clicked in my mind and led to making a sustainable change but in 2017 I spent the majority of the year (about 8 months in total) suffering from constant and debilitating sciatic pain that ran from my hip down to my ankle. I have a hard time really remembering a lot about this time past the ever present state of pain that I was in. It's a bit of a pain fog. I would wake up in pain and try my best to make it through the day. I would go to bed in pain and struggle to find a comfortable way to sleep. For 8 months this is how I lived and at times I thought this would be it. I did continue to work during this time but I canceled social plans regularly. It was physically uncomfortable to spend time with friends and, honestly, it was embarrassing so I spent the majority of that time alone. By January 2018, I had recovered from the sciatic injury and I was ready to make a big change so that I could try and prevent ever having to live like that again. I'd like to discuss what it's like to navigate the medical system as an overweight person in a future blog post so I won't comment on that too much here. For now what I will say is, for me, I knew I needed to make a change for my health and that meant changing my eating habits and losing weight. In 2018, I lost 65 pounds by following Weight Watchers and walking regularly. This was the first time I had ever successfully lost a significant amount of weight. I was feeling incredibly confident and proud of what I had done.

This photo was taken in Detroit after I had lost my first 65 pounds and I was feeling on FIRE!

And then COVID happened...

I hovered around 200 pounds for about a year. There was a lot going on at the time. I had gotten involved in a very negative relationship that took a toll on me in a lot of ways and I didn't have the emotional capacity to continue on my health journey. Flash forward to March 2020. I was sent to work from home on March 13, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our community was placed under a three week lock down that lasted much longer than three weeks. It was a scary time. No one really knew what COVID was, how it spread or how it would affect you if you became infected. We would see over the course of the next several months that our understanding of these things would constantly shift and change as the medical community learned more. Puzzles really became a centerpiece of our culture. Puzzles and bread making! In the early days of COVID-19 there was a lot of focus on how the virus would be especially detrimental for people with obesity. I took this opportunity to get back on track and be mindful about what I was consuming and how I was moving so that I could have the best chance of staying healthy during a worldwide pandemic. I started to be mindful about what I was eating. Since March I have lost another 70 pounds to bring my total weight lost since January 2018 to 135 pounds. I have lost this weight through mindful eating (a fancy way of saying making conscious, healthier choices), calorie counting (calorie deficit = weight loss) and going for daily walks. I'll spend some time in future blog posts discussing strategies that have worked for me but this is not a "how to lose weight" blog. I want to use this space to reflect on experiences, challenges, struggles, wins and losses that I have had throughout this process and moving forward. I'm at a point in my health journey where I need to shift my focus to maintaining my current weight. I don't need to create a calorie deficit any longer but I do need to continue to uphold a lot of the patterns and behaviours I have developed so far in my journey so I don't slip back into old, unhealthy habits. I'm excited to use this blog to explore topics like body image, wellness, relationships, food, pop culture, books and who knows what else!

December 2020

If you've made it this far THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience. I'm looking forward to creating a community here to support and learn from one another. If you feel comfortable, introduce yourself in the comments! My plan is to put up a new post every Tuesday and Thursday (but please forgive me if that doesn't always happen).


xox Sarah

**Note: I'm not really going to get into the problematic nature of the way my mind was processing things at this time, and in a lot of ways still is, but that is definitely an area I plan on exploring in this blog. We are a product of our environment and the majority of us have grown up in a world that emphasizes diet culture and prioritizes thin bodies. We can't punish ourselves for being products of this society but hopefully we can start to deconstruct and try to shift our minds into a healthier relationship with food and our bodies.

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3 commenti

30 dic 2020

A thoughtful first post Sarah, congrats!! Thank you for sharing, can’t wait to read the next one!

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30 dic 2020

Sarah, I have such admiration for you, now and always. I always love hearing your notes on news, books, movies, my life 😊, etc. I look forward to hearing more from you, can’t get enough.

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30 dic 2020

So proud of you Sarah! Your story is so inspiring and I can't wait to see what you post next 😊❤ -Crystal

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