— Reflection by Seena Haines, OAC Member from Jackson, MS
I recently found some of my childhood photos stored in a box, and they’ve challenged me to do some self-reflecting lately. Despite my smile in those photos, I wasn’t happy. My weight first began to climb in elementary school. After my teachers noticed that I often read upside down and backwards, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, a type of learning disorder. Because of this, I had a hard time keeping up with my peers in school. My mother enrolled me in a special after-school program, but other kids would often shun me and tease me. I guess this is what led me to turn to food for comfort.
Growing up and Struggling with Weight
But this only made matters worse. I was also teased about my weight. I had a very difficult relationship with my father which led me to comfort myself with food and hide my emotions. I remember eating lunch at school, then a second lunch when I got home, then dinner, followed by a snack almost every night. I wasn’t very active in school, either. Although I tried some sports, I didn’t stick with them for very long. I was very sedentary and my weight peaked in high school as I approached 200 lbs.
Learning to Practice Self-care
Things shifted in high school when I reached a tipping point with my weight. My father had several heart attacks and chronic illnesses at an early age. He was only in his 30’s! I was afraid I might develop the same health problems. So, I made the decision to pay more attention to my eating habits and physical activity. I joined a gym and began to keep a food diary. My health goals forced me to become more aware of my eating habits and notice patterns in my behavior.
With this, I lost weight very slowly. By the end of my senior year I had lost 60 lbs. I also developed a consistent workout schedule because being physically active helped me ease my anxiety and stress.
Applying What I Learned
Following high school, I pursed a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. Unfortunately, during my first year of college, my father died at age 44 from a heart attack. To earn some money while in college, I started to work as a pharmacy technician. I really liked the work and discovered how much pharmacists can really impact people’s lives! After graduating, I decided to get a doctoral degree in Pharmacy. I wanted to combine my knowledge of nutrition and medication to work with patients with chronic diseases (similar to my father) that are often influenced by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
Since high school, my weight has fluctuated, but I’ve managed keep it in a healthy range. Throughout the past 30 years, I’ve been able to pick up patterns when my weight starts to gradually increase. When I notice myself slipping into problematic behaviors, I return to some of the tools I have in my toolbox to help me. This involves a lot of self-tracking and self-reflection. All of this has taught me that weight is very complex and managing it can be quite hard. I’ve learned to be dedicated at prioritizing self-care and mindful of my thoughts and behaviors.
Here are some of the things I find helpful:
- Paying close attention to my nutrition habits
- Building muscle – not just focusing on the scale
- Practicing yoga and doing weight training through CrossFit
- Avoiding too much of a calorie deficit
- Making time for mental and emotional wellness
Passing it on to Others
As a lifelong learner, continuing my education and training has been important to me. In my “day job,” I work full-time as a faculty member at a school of pharmacy. I also became a credentialed health and wellness coach and a certified yoga instructor so I can help others by empowering them to make healthy lifestyle changes and cultivate self-compassion! My greatest joy is working with patients, clients and students as their guide on the side to reach their wellness goals.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced me to think about ways of teaching yoga and providing coaching without borders. In April 2020, my husband and I started a YouTube channel: the Yoga Apothecary. In our video series — Wellbeing from A to Z — I provide a weekly wellbeing message while leading a vinyasa style yoga practice. Not everyone is a “yogi,” so we later launched the Wellbeing Elixir, a free bi-weekly newsletter and blog. We hope this information can increase everyone’s happiness, vitality and sense of wellbeing — especially during a time when we need it most! Music, poetry and the visual arts are important parts of our wellbeing formula.
My Note to Others
I still don’t like my childhood photos. I see the younger me – the person unhappy in her skin. However, I’ve learned to live a much happier life with the help of hard work, lifelong learning, persistence, passion and help from my support system and community. These are all essential pieces to any wellness journey — especially support. If you are struggling with your weight or any aspect of your health, don’t be afraid to lean on others for help!
Note: the OAC Community Discussion Forum is a great place to connect with people sharing similar experiences, find support, and offer support to others.
Interested in Sharing Your Story?
If you’d like to share your personal experiences with weight, obesity, stigma, health or related topics, please email email@example.com.