It started back in 2015 if I’m being really honest. I went through a pretty dark time in Hong Kong after losing my job and feeling the weight of responsibility to pay for my daughter’s uni and accommodation fees alone because my ex-husband refused to help. I had taken a newly created position with the label and management company for a mega pop star there. I was her first director of communications and it was a fun challenge but absolutely not for me, which we found out by trial and error. I spoke neither Cantonese nor Mandarin, and when the Hong Kong press accused the artist of “putting on airs” for hiring an American who couldn’t communicate with them for such a key role, we knew it was time for me to go.
This was also when I realised I had been suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome since my daughter flew the nest for uni in 2013. That summer I went through a period of almost eight weeks where I did not leave my condo. Not once. With grocery and food delivery apps booming in Hong Kong, I fell into a black hole and started to gain weight.
When my Hong Kong residency visa ran out in the fall it was a blessing in disguise. I took off on a 2-month solo travel trip and kicked the doom-n-gloom of the year. Bali is the perfect place to find yourself, comes to grips with what’s not working in life, or to get back to “being you” again. From there, I moved to Malaysia for a contract role and later decided to become a full-time freelancer and use Kuala Lumpur as my home base, which I love.
Then I experienced a falling out with my daughter that lasted almost a year. For many 20s’ish adults in western countries, it’s a normal thing to detach and ask for distance from parents. But back then my identity was still wrapped up in being a mom to my little angel. I hadn’t worked through my Empty Nest Syndrome and I put a ton of pressure on my daughter to still be in my life the way she had been when she was growing up. Letting go fully is something I’ve just accepted in the past few months (fucking, finally … that blog post to follow soon!).
During that period I closed myself off to people so much that I didn’t make any friends in Kuala Lumpur and instead became a bit of a hermit in between my travels. So in the summer of 2018 when I had an accident and dislocated my knee and fractured my ankle, I realised too late I had screwed myself. For almost 3 months I was homebound and couldn’t stand easily. Two things happened then:
- I realised what a mistake not making friends had been. I had two people in my life who came to visit, brought food, checked on me, and who perked up my spirits … but that was IT. It was a huge eye opener to me about what my future might look like as I grow older and it wasn’t pretty.
- I ate and I drank WAY more. To be honest, the whole of 2018 I drank enough to make a rock star proud but during that time I added in a very unhealthy diet to replace feelings with food. Then I’d drink more … and then my judgement would go out the window … so I’d eat WAY MORE than even before.
The Embarrassing Truth
I’m not proud to share what you’re about to read but I want to be honest because it won’t do me – or anyone who is going through something similar – any good to sugar coat my habits. Here is what a typical day would look like for me during my recent rough patch (following the accident and when my daughter wasn’t really speaking with me) >> I only ever want fruit and coffee for breakfast so that was a small saving grace. But for lunch maybe I’d order a Malayisan rice dish, and then two hours later order cupcakes from my favourite bakery. For dinner I’d eat noodles or a pizza. Then there was the binge snacking after the drinking started in the evening.
Negative Impact of Weight Gain
My self-esteem and confidence were the first to go. I have not put on a swimming costume or been out in public at a pool or the beach in almost two years. Keep in mind that I travel a lot compared to the average person, too. So that means that I haven’t gone swimming at gorgeous pools or taken out a jet ski or signed up for those surfing lessons that are on my bucket list when I travelled Sri Lanka two months ago. I also have friends who own a dive shop and who offered me free scuba diving certification in exchange for coverage on my YouTube channel, which is a DREAM of mine … but I won’t do it because I don’t want anyone to see me like this.
I’ll tell you straight out the gate that I do not wish to be in any kind of regular physical or emotional relationship. My last boyfriend was when I lived in Spain way back in 2005. At 48, I know myself well enough now to know I’m happier single. But sex … hells YEAH I do miss that. But because I’ve gained weight I haven’t wanted anyone to see me naked in a long time. So I haven’t had sex in a couple years now. Sure, we can all get the job done ourselves but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t miss sex.
My Social Life
I have been highly social and a straight up party girl my entire life (aside from brief periods when I was in a relationship). However, now that I feel fat, I don’t go out. Sure I’m 48 years old but that’s not an obstacle for me … I can still dance ‘til dawn and love it. But it’s the weight that keeps me in. I don’t fit into my old clothes or anything “cute for going out” except at really casual spots. It’s my ego that keeps me in. I don’t want people to see me this way and think that’s who I am … because I’m not at a healthy target weight right now and I do not look like me anymore.
For New Year’s Eve this year, I went out with one of the two friends who was there for me during the accident period I mentioned above. He and his girlfriend are lovely and it was a really great night out dancing ‘til 4am at a bar and arriving home smelling like smoke and a bit sweaty, which is a bit yuck but mostly AWESOME because I hadn’t done that in a couple of years. I’m not old enough yet to stop living in a way that makes me feel young and if it weren’t for my weight I would be enjoying expat life like it should be enjoyed … like a holiday every day!
Note: I’m 100% Not Fat Shaming
My favourite Aunt lives in Rhode Island. She’s beautiful and has a sparkle in her that has always been there. From my earliest memory, she was always a big girl. And I know very well that Aunt Kathy feels sexy and fabulous just as she is. And I love that about her. But for me, I know that this weight on me is the result of unhappiness and an unhealthy lifestyle and I want it gone. I’m in no way equating happiness to body image in a general way. But for me, it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had extra weight (like this) on me. So if you’re reading this and feel I’m being judgemental, please know I’m not. I think we should all be the best versions of ourselves and for me that means losing this “depression weight” I’ve packed on.
Since my early 20s, I’ve worked hard to create a life that is a wonderful adventure each new day. I know how fortunate I am to be able to live this life and my pity parties have been disrespectful to anyone with real problems in life, or who isn’t free to live as they wish.
When is the last time you stepped on a scale? For me, it was about a year ago and I’m genuinely terrified to step back on one again. But to tackle this problem I know it’s important that I do.
More than anything, I simply want to feel like myself again – both mentally and physically. To do that I need start down a healthier and more active path. Not just to lose weight but also to fill my life with daily doses of positivity and moments spent doing things that generally make me happy and keep me feeling hopeful.
Because at the end of the day, hopefully we all grow and evolve as we walk down this path called life. But it’s being hopeful enough for what’s to come next that allows us to stay the course – to give back & spread love – and not allow negativity to pull us down.