How my weight struggle helped me discover my true self
My whole life, I had been a bubbly, outgoing girl who was super motivated in school and wasn’t afraid to be herself.
Then, almost overnight, it seemed like I fell into a pit. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I started a terrible habit of light-night binge eating, where I’d eat pans of brownies or piles of frozen waffles. I didn’t want to binge, but I couldn’t stop myself.
I was 15 and weighed 150 pounds, the heaviest I have ever been. I had little confidence or motivation to do anything. I hated how I looked. I didn’t enjoy getting dressed for school. I didn’t even want to do the stuff I used to love.
Thing in my life began to fall apart: my grades, my love for blogging - which I’d done since I was 8 - and, most importantly, my health. I distanced myself from friendships and family, pushing everyone away. Everything was at a low - and I knew I needed to figure it out.
I kept thinking about this line from Legally Blonde when Elle Woods says, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” I tried a barre class and totally feel in love with it. Working out started to empower me. I began to see glimpses of my old self and became devoted to being healthy. I wanted to get Maggie back.
Pretty soon, the workouts led me to start obsessing over my Fitbit and eating nothing but fruits, veggies, smoothies and oatmeal fruit puree bars. I counted calories, was aware of every single thing I put into my mouth and kept track of how much I exercised.
I didn’t lose any weight.
It became a vicious cycle: I would work out, drink water, eat right and…nothing. None of it worked. Nothing
In fact, I felt heavier. Even when i ate less than 1,000 calories a day - which is far below the recommended intake for the average person - and exercised, I couldn’t get the scale to shift.
I lost it. It came to a frustrating, tear-filled point where I knew this was out of my control and I needed to see a doctor.
After many endless appointments and rounds of bloodwork, I met with an endocrinologist, a doctor who studies body chemistry and hormones.
That was the day i was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and insulin resistance.
I learned that PCOS is a long-term condition in which hormones are imbalanced, causing weight gain, trouble losing weight, heightened unexplainable cravings, major breakouts, increased hair growth, depression and anxiety.
I’d never heard of PCOS and was shocked to learn that one in ten women struggle with it. In school, when they talk about BMI and healthy food pyramids, they don’t talk about how those things might not work for some girls. Instead, people assume weight gain is a result of bad eating habits of laziness.
After discovering I have PCOS, my doctor put me on a lifetime eating plan of high protein and limited sugar and carbs. That means that for the rest of my life, I have to follow a strict diet without breads, processed sugars and starches.
Is it hard? Yes. I’ve cried in restaurants, hopeless about what I can’t eat.
I’ve had to say goodbye to morning pancake dates with friends; no more nights of Netflix and ice cream. Goodbye to my great-grandmother’s homemade chocolate sauce at Christmas. I can’t even go to sleepaway camp for more than a week because of my dietary restrictions.
But it’s something I know I need to do for myself every single day. And I’ve learned to find what works for me. I can’t have tortilla chips...but I can say yes to salad bowls with guacamole.
I’m also taking medication that levels my hormones so my cravings, mood and blood sugar are much easier to control.
But here’s the good news: I’ve lost 20 pounds and I’m happier, healthier and more confident than ever. Dresses that I could barely zip up before are loose on me, and pants that were once way too tight need a belt. It felt amazing to get my normal size back, but it was really about so much more than that.
This experience has taught me that my value has nothing to do with numbers on a scale. Now I know that my health will always be my top priority. There are a lot of no’s in my life, but there is one definite yes: me. I’m worth it.
When I look at pictures of myself today, I feel empowered. There isn’t any shame or disgust. But it’s not just about how I look - it’s about the girl radiating beauty from within.
Sometimes, I think back to when I was sad and frustrated and wished for my old life. And now, here I am. Maggie is definitely back - and better than ever.
Maggie writes about life, style, PCOS and empowerment at maggieroyce.com.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Girls’ Life.