SKINNY THOUGHTS - 'Nowhere to go but down' ...

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Editor's note: This is the first of regular monthly columns Heather Usko of Prescott will write about her battles with weight issues.

Along with obtaining the label of "overweight," feelings of depression usually follow with the realization you've lost control of your self-image and have gained a person (sometimes literally) that is no longer recognizable.

Even if you still have a positive grasp of your self-image, the fact that other people perceive you differently than they once did can really take a toll on your self-esteem.

Most people refuse to realize they are perceived as overweight until it is too late. With the rise in American obesity, this might even be the most personally unacknowledged condition today.

I've come to this fact on a personal level, as a 24-year-old Prescott mother of two who weighs more than 200 pounds. And in this first column for the Walla Walla Valley Weekly and those that follow each month, I will be sharing struggles, failures and successes I've had fighting weight issues for much of my life.

When someone feels they've hit an all-time low in their life or job and wants to make a change, the saying goes: "There is nowhere to go but up from here." It's a positive outlook on life.

But when you apply it to someone who is overweight and depressed, it usually takes a 180-degree turn to the negative. The person will continue to partake in unhealthy life choices such as overeating and lack of exercise to fill their void in self worth and, in turn, he or she will continue to go up - in weight only.

I'd like to think I've invented a new saying in my weight loss journey: "There is nowhere to go but down from here." I will no longer accept the fact that I can go up in weight. As far as I am concerned, I've reached the max. If I do not persist in this thinking, I will be failing myself. I used to tell myself I would never go over the 200-pound mark. But that limit is slowly going up and it's something I need to nip in the bud before it's too late.

I have always struggled with my weight. Looking back, the last time I considered myself skinny was in the second grade, and back then I was more concerned with which boy I would be chasing at recess than what I looked like.

By the time my self-image was important to me, I had already been told on multiple occasions that I was a "chubby little thing" or "big boned." With weighing 150-pounds in high school and feeling like I had already obtained the label of "overweight" plus the unacknowledged feelings of depression, I continued to make unhealthy choices, not realizing the harm I was doing to myself while making it harder to lose weight in the future.

I became pregnant with my son at age 18. With that pregnancy I gained 40 pounds and was disgusted by the appearance childbirth had left me. Instead of working to bounce back, I continued with self-destructive behavior and, as a result, eventually gained even more weight.

Thankfully, with my next pregnancy I was able to control my weight and keep the same appearance I had before my second child was born.

The point I decided "There is nowhere to go but down from here," was when I realized I was madly in love with my family, my life. I had the perfect spouse and two glorious children. My thought at one point was that it couldn't get much better than this - until I realized I had become unrecognizable in pictures. I didn't notice who I had become physically because I still had the self image of that 150-pound girl in high school.

This is when I realized it could get much better than this. I have the love of my family, and now I needed to gain the love of myself. I needed to do it for me, for my children, for my future.

I'm no expert on dieting; I don't even know how to properly read nutritional values on a food label or know exactly what a calorie is, for that matter. But I do know that I must get healthier.

I've realized I'm never going to be a stick and I'll probably fall victim to unhealthy choices from time to time, but If I turn good choices into good habits, then only good things can come from it, right?

It's been about a month since I've started this journey towards better health, and while only doing four workouts out of 20 suggested in the routine I'm on, I've managed to lose five pounds. I'm taking simple baby steps. I have high hopes. There is nowhere to go but down from here.

Heather Usko is a Prescott-based writer. She can be reached atheather.m.usko@gmail.com.

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