The Initial Source of My Weight Gain

Each of us has a unique story of the source of our weight problems.

Whenever I tell someone new about my history of weight gain and loss, one of the first questions they ask me is whether or not I was heavy as a child. And the answer to that question is “No, I was just a normal sized child and a slightly above average sized teenager.” The next question they ask me is generally, “Well then, when did you gain all your weight?”

The truth is that I began gaining weight in college, mainly because of poor eating habits, having the freedom to visit Denny’s restaurant at 11:00 p.m., and total lack of movement. During college I lived freely and started down the road to obesity. My weight went up and down like a yo-yo, for there were periods of time throughout the four years that I had the sense that I should get moving, so I would occasionally run on the track or ride my bike around campus. Those meager activities kept my weight from spiraling out of control. When John and I married I weighed around 165.

The real pattern for weight gain started after the honeymoon. If I weighed 165 when we married, by our 1st anniversary I weighed around 180. This picture is taken around our first anniversary, where I am trying to hide the face that this suit was way too tight by holding my hands on my upper thighs. And by the 2nd anniversary was getting close to 200 pounds.

Why the weight gain after the wedding?

  • Ate out at least five nights a week and many lunches every single week
  • Worked at a desk job
  • At night I watched television with a big plate of tortilla chips smothered with cheese sitting on my lap
  • On the weekends I wentย  to the movies, my lap full of an extra large buttered popcorn and ย a large Coke
  • Stopped exercising or moving except for walking to the car or the vending machine at work

Week after week of that kind of sedentary lifestyle caused my weight to spiral up. I felt it happening. My work suits no longer fit and I had to buy some “tide me over” clothes. I was tired all the time. I started to become extremely dissatisfied with my appearance. But still the weight came on because as unhappy as I was with what I was doing, I felt powerless to stop.

I did join WW several times during the first three years of our marriage. One time I lost 22 pounds and was close to the goal weight they had set for me. Yipee! I thought. But did I keep going and get to goal? No. I quit going, started eating everything in sight, and gained those 22 pounds back. And the worst part? 10 more pounds came with it. So although I did try and lose weight during that time, I couldn’t seem to get it together.

So now you know when my weight started pouring on. I often wish that I had just stopped my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle at that point. I would have saved myself years and years of heartache, trauma, and pain. But I didn’t. The weight gain continued in the third year of marriage with my first pregnancy and didn’t stop until my third child was born.

Whether or not there was a point in your life that you can say, “That’s when it started,” or whether you have struggled all your life, you can make a positive change now. Although I wish I hadn’t been overweight for so long, I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to improve my health and fitness. I’m glad that I’ve now had 14 years of maintaining a healthy weight rather than 24 years of obesity.

I’d love to hear where your journey started. Did you struggle as a child, did the weight come on in school, or was it after you were on your own that your struggle with weight began?ย  Diane

41 thoughts on “The Initial Source of My Weight Gain

  1. John says:

    I was thin until the age of 25 (oh how I miss being thin!, hence the name of my blog), and then put on about 1kg a year. At the age of 29, I developed an illness and then started gaining 1kg a month, due to being tired all of the time. I’ve yo-yoed since, but I am hoping that having a blog will help me when I maintain (which should start in about 6 weeks)

  2. Susan says:

    I don’t remember being aware of having a weight problem before I was 16 years old. That was the first time I had a steady boyfriend, and that was about the time I started eating out at fast food places and eating to keep up with him. I remember gaining from 135 up to 155 and being shocked how did that happen so fast? That was the first time I yo-yo dieted I don’t remember how I lost the weight that time but from the time I was 16 to when I turned 33 my weight went up and down the scale a number of times. Some of the “highlights” for me I gained from 135 to 184 the day I delivered my son, the next time I gained a bunch of weight after my son was born I hit the 190’s for the first time. I remember working with a RD one time right before I got pregnant so I learned about healthy eating and what a proper portion is but it didn’t last I soon ate with my feelings again. I am happy that I have been off the yo-yo weight up and down routine for 15 years now. I think what has saved me many times over the years is never QUITTING exercising, no matter how I have ate I have always kept up my exercise or as I refer to it “my keep fit routine.”

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I like that phrase “eating with my feelings” because so many people do that – myself included. You have been at a healthy weight for a long time now Susan and that is wonderful. I agree that the fact that you never quit exercising likely played an important role in your success!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I did gain a lot of weight around the age of 16 when my dad suddenly passed away. I was always a daddy’s girl and completely lost. I gained 80 pounds! Then when college started I lost around 100 pounds. Those 100 pounds came back after my husband and I started planning a family. We had many obstacles and fertility treatments which made me angry at my body. I was so disappointed that I ate my way right through it all. Now I almost have those 100 pounds gone! I’m at 91 pounds lost and a few more to go.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m so sorry that you lost your dad when you were just 16 and also sorry that you and your husband have had so many struggles with infertility. Hugs to you.

      Congratulations that you have lost 91 pounds. That is such an amazing accomplishment and one to be proud of.

  4. blackhuff says:

    I struggled with my weight when I was a kid. My mother was so used to dishing up big plates of food and one was never allowed to leave the table until you plate was clean. So hence the reason why I struggled with my weight when I was a kid.
    In High School, it was all my fault. I chose to eat chips which I bought every single day at the tuck shop.
    I then lost weight when I was 16 but gained it all back again. When I got married, my weight also packed on my body. The reason mainly because I stopped looking after myself. Sad but true.

    • Cindy says:

      Oh yes, I forgot about this one! One of my dad’s favorite sayings was ‘Take what you want but eat what you take.’ I remember my younger brother throwing up his dinner on the sofa one night because he had to finish it since he got so much. Guess who had to clean up the mess! My DAD! Ha! I think he felt bad and just didn’t understand how ridiculous his demands were. He felt that he was only worried about wasting food and nothing more.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      My mom didn’t want us to leave food on the plate either and sometimes I fed my food to the dog if I didn’t like it!

      I too ate junk in high school and continued that right through college. I take responsibility for what I did and am glad I finally got off the junk food bandwagon.

      Even though you struggled with your weight for a long time the most important thing is that you are now at a healthy weight and learning to stay at that weight forever! Congratulations on all your accomplishments.

  5. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    I gained weight YOUNG – 3rd grade or so it striated & we were a family of bad eating so… it was from that. I finally lost in later high school but did battle a bit thru college but never gained more than 8 pounds… it has been a work in progress ever since! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I didn’t realize you were so young when you lost the weight Jody! That makes your story even more impressive – you have been fit almost all your life and I love that!

  6. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    The first time I remember thinking something was wrong with my body was when I was about 8…my mother had taken me to the pediatrician and he said I was “chunky.” Looking back, however, I was probably just about to have a growth spurt and my body would thin out again naturally. Unfortunately, it was at that point that my mother and other family members started obsessing about my weight. I started bingeing started in middle school but it wasn’t until I went to college that I gained significant weight…and for similar reasons that you mention. I was free and I could do what I wanted!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      They started obsessing about your weight when you were 8? My mom used to tell me “You are getting fat Diane” and those words never leave you.

      I’m glad you made a permanent change and now help other people do the same thing you did!

    • julie says:

      Similar to me, but I was a few years later, when I grew some boobs, and my mom decided I was chunky, and got on my case (non-stop – I still resent her 30 years later for it). Looking back how I ate in college, I’m lucky I didn’t get bigger – probably thanks to a large campus and no car.

  7. Mary Ellen Quigley says:

    I was always a chubby kid, but the majority of my weight gain happened from about 7th grade up. I was being teased at school for the religious organization I was a part of (It was a cult, but that is another really long story.). I started eating as a way to make myself feel better. It continued on from there. My weight just kept going up. I wasn’t very active, even though I joined tennis in high school. I was the biggest girl on the team. As a senior, I weighed 280 lbs. The ten years since high school, I made it up to 346 lbs. I tried diets and would lose 20 or 30 lbs. It never stuck. I would get bored and quit. It wasn’t until my mother died last fall that I realized something – If I die at the same age my mother did, my life is half over. That was a scary thought. It was time to stop thinking about losing and actually doing it.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      How sad for you that you were teased when you were young and even sadder that you lost your mother so young. I’m so sorry.

      There are a lot of ways that we respond to tragedy in our lives and it sounds like the tragedy of losing your mom made you determined to get healthier. She would be proud of you and so happy for you.

  8. Sarah Daken says:

    Diane,
    I’ve just recently started following your blog and I find it very interesting and helpful. I have lost 175 pounds and have kept it off for 5 years now. At 360 pounds, I never would have thought I would compete in a triathlon, and now I have completed three with a fourth coming up in October.
    Life changed for me as I packed on the pounds during college. It seemed to happen just as I began my relatiosnhip with my husband. I have often wondered if because I got into a secure relatiosnhip, I then just “gave up.” It was as if the only incentive to be in a lean healthy body was connected to landing a man as opposed to doing it for me. I am wondering if others have also had that experience or feel similarly?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Hi Sarah –

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and congratulations on keeping off such a large weight loss for 5 years!! That’s awesome.

      Interesting point about “giving up” because you were in a secure relationship. I wonder how many other women feel that way – I’m guessing quite a few. In fact now that I’m writing this sentence it reminds me of a woman I met recently who was asking advice on how to encourage her daughter-in-law to lose weight. She said that her DIL was normal sized when she and her son were dating but soon after the wedding she started putting on weight. She said her DIL weighs over 300 pounds now.

  9. Caron says:

    I also had a doctor call me “chunky” when I was young and a teacher called me “fatso” in fourth grade. I look back at the few pictures I have of those years and see that I was not fat but I wasn’t thin either. I’ve been up and down and up and down throughout my life. I knew how to lose weight but could not grasp the idea of maintaining. I’m doing much better now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    I was a skinny kid. So I never had to watch what I ate. I loved junk food and I didn’t like vegetables. For lunch at school I might have an ice cream sundae! My senior year in HS my metabolism changed and I put on about 10 pounds. Then 10 or so more my first semester in college. Which I took off my second semester. And put back on. Plus more. I never developed good eating habits and I really believe that the whole “on a diet” and “off a diet’ did me in. Sigh.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      You often refer to yourself as a yo-yo dieter and I didn’t know your history until now. I’m glad you can now call yourself a “reformed yo-yo” dieter and you are such a great example of learning the whys of your weight fluctuations and having success!

  11. Lisa says:

    I wasn’t a big kid or a heavy teen, either, even though I thought I was. I had poor body image my whole life. When I started gaining weight was at 17. My Grandfather died unexpectedly and I used food as comfort. I started gaining weight and kind of leveled out around 175 or so. Then when I was 19 I tried the Depro Provera birth control shot and gained 40 pounds. I lost some of the weight but when I was 22 a bad breakup made me once again turn to food. Obviously I never had coping capabilities and used food instead. Thankfully I don’t do that anymore.

  12. Lori says:

    Recently my mom gifted me photos that she intends for me to have after she’s gone. Looking at them, its plain to see that I was well fed my whole life. I developed rather early, and by the fifth grade stood 5’10” tall. Being so big was only part of my problem, with the even bigger part being that the answers to all my painful questions were found in food. It was how I learned to self-sooth, and how I added another person to my girth. At my highest, I wore a size 28 pant, but I wasn’t always that large. I constantly yo-yoed up and down, up and down, but never got smaller than a size eighteen. Never wanted to put in the effort to try and achieve something I didn’t think could realistically be mine. Today, I think differently, Thank God.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m so glad that you think differently too! I used food to self-sooth as well and it is a really hard habit to break as we have to learn to self-sooth without food or else weight maintenance will be very difficult.

  13. Dr. J says:

    I was a overweight in my early teens and wore a size “husky”, then with a growth spurt I was closer to normal weight. Then with poor eating habits I gained weight in my early twenties until that fateful day when my karate teacher told me, “Mr J, you are getting fat!!” When I read about social stigma now I understand how inappropriate that is considered, yet it didn’t cause me to eat more, but rather I noticed and did something about it by eating better.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      You never know where the inspiration for getting healthier will come from. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wonder if you had been a female if that comment would have had the same effect or if that comment would have sent you straight to McDonald’s as those kinds of comments did me?

      In any case, I’m glad you are now an advocate and an example of healthy living for all of us!

  14. Sarah says:

    I was “normal” sized as a child, and an average teenager, although had some curves. I put on a bit of weight after I quit school PE in sixth form because I hated it. At uni I remained average – my eating habits weren’t great but I did a lot of walking.

    I really put weight on after I got married and started eating larger portions and more meat, combined with moving out of town and catching public transport to work instead of walking to work. And also extra snacks at lunch from the bakery next door to work.

    I suddenly realised what had happened when I nearly reached the 12 stone mark on the scales and went up a clothing size at the same time – and decided I needed to put the brakes on and reverse the habits that had put the weight on.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I too started eating larger portions after I got married! Good for you on paying attention to what was happening and stopping it – that is wonderful.

      A lot of schools do not even have PE anymore – I think that is a shame.

  15. Michelle says:

    I’m 42 now and just beginning my thousandth weight loss journey on Sparkpeople. My weight gain started in high school after 2 separate attacks of a sexual nature. I didn’t understand it then, but looking back I see what happened. In the month after the 2nd incident, I gained 30 lbs. I am convinced that the weight gain was my subconscious trying to make myself unattractive to men to avoid that kind of thing again. I continued to slowly put on another 50 lbs through the rest of high school and into university. Then in university I was raped. And more weight came on. Over the years I’ve attempted to lose weight many many times and sometimes when I’ve been successful in losing a big amount (like 50 lbs), I end up sabotaging myself and now, with the wisdom of hindsight I think I’m getting nervous about becoming attractive again. At least now I think I understand it and it will hopefully help as I peel back the layers like an onion.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m so incredibly sorry. That must have been terrible. I have met several people who have gained weight after an experience like yours. One person told me just what you said, that she was trying to make herself unattractive. So sad.

      Understanding where the weight gain comes from is so important, and equally important is learning to love yourself and trusting that you are worth it to not only lose weight, but feel good about yourself mentally and physically. Blessings to you.

      • Michelle says:

        Without laying blame on my Mom, I do remember a painful comment after the 2nd incident in high school that may have triggered it. The first incident had involved police and school officials removing the offending students out of my school. When my Mom found out about the 2nd incident involving a neighbor of children I babysat, she rolled her eyes and said, “what are you doing to attract this kind of attention??”. I’m sure she was just frustrated, and didn’t mean it like it sounds…but I think I took it to heart.

  16. Cindy says:

    My childhood was one full of healthy eating and lots of natural activity. Looking back, I think my parents kind of overdid it though. We never had a trace of sweets in the house except for 6 cakes (one for each birthday) a year and a gallon of ice cream each week in the summer (to be shared by all 6 of us). I started being sneaky when I was about 11 or 12 when my mom would send me into the store to buy milk and bread each day. I would ask her for enough money to get a Reese’s or a Dr. Pepper – or both and she would always let me. I didn’t gain weight from that though. In high school I felt about 10 lbs overweight but was never really concerned (nor was anyone else about my weight). I think things really changed when I moved out on my own and could finally have what I wanted to eat. At 19, I quickly got on the band wagon and lost the 30 lbs that I needed to and started running. Then:
    I kept those lbs off for about 4 years.
    Regained them all plus about 30 more (included a time of heavy partying)
    Lost it all and then some.
    Kept that off for about 5 years (during this time I met my husband)
    Gained a lot back.
    Lost about 1/2 of it.
    Married my husband.
    Gained about 60 lbs in the first year of marriage.
    5 years into marriage – lost about half of what I needed to
    Gained it all back and then some.
    A year ago started back at it and have finally realized (thanks to people like Diane and others) that this is for a lifetime.
    I just hope I can remember that each day of my life!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      They were strict on the sweets! I was a sneaky pre-teen and teen too although my sneaking sweets stemmed from a different reason than yours, I think.

      I think you will remember it for the rest of your life! I seems as though you have learned a lot about what works for you in weight loss and have already proven that you can keep weight loss off for several years! I’m glad you are on the path to a healthy weight for life!

  17. Deniz says:

    Interesting one.

    I was a normal enough child, although looking back rather a greedy one – as a young teenager I do recall someone mentioning my ‘puppy fat’ so perhaps even then I was not as slim as I might have been. Later teens definitely saw me lose weight and get skinny, but not through any conscious effort on my part, just down to being extremely active.

    But, in early adulthood I had a series of pretty bad and damaging personal relationships and I lost track of who ‘I’ was. I also lost my Dad, who I adored and who I could talk to about anything. My relationship with my Mum was pretty rough back then for a variety of reasons and it was not until the last 15-20 years that we’ve become close again, so ‘family’ support became a bit patchy, to say the least.

    So, I’d say that early adulthood was the time when my self esteem hit the floor and, because I didn’t value ‘me’, I began to gain weight. A lot of that was down to emotional eating and giving myself ‘treats’ to make me feel better. Over the next twenty years I did try loads of different ‘diets’ and sometimes even got down to a fairly sensible weight (if I didn’t quit) for a while before I piled the weight back on… and more. I also bitterly resented being ‘told for my own good’ what to do by anyone! Not easy to help when someone is in that frame of mind.

    It wasn’t until I finally realised/admitted that ‘I’ was the sole cause of my obesity, but also that I actually did have the power to change it, and took responsibility for my actions and decided on a plan for life (not a diet) that things turned around. The rest, as they say, is history.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m so sorry your lost your dad at such a young age. That must have been awful. Your last paragraph is very hard for many people to do. I know that it was hard for me to admit that the main thing stopping me from losing weight was me. Congratulations on your success.

  18. Sharon says:

    Ironically, the timing of my story is much like yours. “Normal” weight until college, the freedom of being on my own, having spending money and unlimited food in a dorm cafeteria. My weight shot up immediately and Bill and I married. He was a scrawny guy who could eat anything in sight and came from a family just like him. Yes, with the exception of weight gain from pregnancies, my story is a mirror of yours!

  19. Diane Carbonell says:

    That’s my philosophy too – never go back.

    You have had a lot of weight fluctuations but one thing that you said that hit home for me was when you said, “I was supposed to be fat.” I believed that for a long time as well. I’d just sigh when I looked at myself in the mirror and feel resigned to the fact that my body just liked being fat.

    Congratulations on your weight loss and maintaining it for years. Also, you set such a good example of clean eating and dedicated exercise for your friends and your blog readers!

  20. Taryl says:

    Oh, this is tricky. I was always on the slightly stockier side because I loved to eat and am not delicately built, but I wasn’t really gaining significant weight until I was put on mood stabilizing medication in high school. Then I bounced up ten pounds immediately and at least another ten over the next year. Serious gains were had in college with the same junky eating you mention, and then when I was married, as we ate out a ton and I tried to out-eat my much bigger husband! My peak weight was after my second pregnancy and that’s when I decided to lose seriously and couldn’t live like this anymore. After several weeks of cleaning it up I got on the scale and saw 257, which makes me think I could have been quite a bit higher in the weeks before.

    It really sobers me just to think about it. I don’t ever want to go back there and being accountable is what prevents it, as much as basic habit changes,

  21. another diane says:

    It has been really interesting to read everyone’s stories. I was not a petite or particularly athletic kid–I hit puberty early, and before that I was built like a tree stump. I was never really overweight, but got teased for having hips and boobs and a but at an early age.
    In college a number of things shifted. I had more confidence, and I was a huge overachieve, so I stayed thin just by being busy all the time. I worked and exercised and did theater in addition to all my classes. I got down to 103 lbs (I’m 5’5″). NOT healthy, but I really wasn’t trying to be skinny, I just didn’t think about it much.
    After I got my first adult job, though, it started going downhill.
    I went on birth control and anti depressants for a number of reasons. I puffed up to 140.
    The higher I moved up in my career as I got older, the more I gained. I stuck around 155 for awhile. I’m at the top of my game career-wise but chained to my desk for hours on end. I can’t get under 168.
    I’ve only recently cut back my anti depressants and cut out my birth control entirely (after 20 years). I am hoping this will help make it easier to lose, but I honestly think until I can spend more time out of my desk chair, I’m kind of screwed. ๐Ÿ™

  22. Honeybee says:

    When I think back when I was a teenager, I never really overweight but I always try to lose weight. It is maybe my belly fat that making me feel like I’m fat. I have a serious weight gain after having a second child. And losing the stubborn belly fat is the hardest job. I hate it when when people think have think I am pregnant when I am not. Thanks for sharing ur story. It motivates me that losing weight is never too late.

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