Thursday, March 25, 2010

History of Holly - Part 3: College Living

If you missed the first parts of this story, catch Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

This is not the greatest pic...but the only 'college-era' pic of me I could find in digital format!  It really doesn't seem like it was that long ago.  But I graduated from college in 1997.  That was 13 years ago.  It WAS a long time ago!  

During my senior year of high school I had a serious case of "I Don't Know What I Want To Do With My Life-itis".  Crazy to think that at age 17 I expected to have my whole life figured out.  Funny.  I still don't have it all figured out! 

I was pretty sure I wanted to go into the medical field though.  I loved medical stuff.  As a kid, the book I'd pore over time and time again was my mom's 'doctor book'...the one that told of all kinds of ailments and how to diagnose and treat them.  Not your average 12 year olds reading material.  I had also volunteered for many years at both the hospital and in a local nursing home.  

I also LOVED kids and most of my money that I earned as a teenager was made via babysitting.  Plus there were always a ton of kids around our house too! thought was - combine my love of kids with my interest in medicine and voila...I'll become a pediatrician!  So I decided to stay in town (I lived in Iowa City, IA) and go to the University of Iowa as a pre-med major.  That was my plan...and it seemed like a good one.

But then, summer between high school and college, I went to Ecuador.  For three months.  I traveled with a group of other high school and college students and lived and worked as a team in Ecuador as part of a humanitarian mission.  We helped develop schools, worked with kids programs, camps and more.  I learned more in that one summer about the world as a whole, other cultures and the depths of poverty than I had ever realized in all my years of education before that.  And it changed my life.  
I went back to the States and began my education at the U of IA as planned.  But instead of declaring my major as pre-med, I told my advisor I wanted to stay undeclared for a while.  In my heart my focus was beginning to change.  Though a career in medicine could and would help people, I knew it would take a long time to get there.  And frankly, I was a bit worried about the mathematical science courses I'd have to take.  Math had never been my strong suit.  

But developing within me was a desire to help those 'less fortunate'.  Those without the resources that I had taken for granted growing up.  Those in need of some hope, some happiness and some love in their lives.  During this time my faith was becoming more important to me too.  I began to grow in my faith and wanted to reflect that with my life.  
So, after my first year at the U of IA, I transferred to a small Christian college in Chicago...called Moody Bible Institute.  I declared my major...Education.  I wanted to be able to help kids succeed in life...whether in other countries or here...and I felt the best way I could help do that would be via education.  

Meanwhile, the one thing I wasn't doing for myself was being healthy.  In fact, I grew used to snacking all the time.  At my parents house that was easy - they kept it stocked with easy convenience foods and snacks...all kinds of processed stuff.  When I transferred to Chicago that got harder, but I found I could sneak snacks out of the cafeteria...and the families I babysat for always had all sorts of goodies.
Side Note:  One family I babysat for always, always, ALWAYS had a box of a dozen Entemann's donuts.  Always did.  Remember?  I wrote about it here (see the 'Confessional From A Past Life').  And I babysat for them 3x a week.  And I'd always help myself to 2-3 donuts each time.  In the cafeteria I selected items that nearly entirely carb fruit and veggie intake became slim to none.  
In turn, I easily gained over 50 pounds in my first two years as a college student.  I was topping out around 250 pounds then.  My roommate, as contrast, weighed about 100 pounds less than me...maybe more.  I wore clothes that were gigantic.  HUGE baggy t-shirts.  I bought men's jeans b/c I could get them to fit baggier.  Even a denim dress I had from Eddie Bauer, which had a drawstring waist, I'd wear withOUT tying the drawstring at the the dress hung on my like a gunny sack.  You'd think I weighed 400 pounds by how I dressed myself.  It was all to try and hide my growing body.  One time, wearing that denim dress, a woman at my church asked me when I was due.  "You mean, pregnant?" I asked, incredulous.  She began backpedaling...realizing she may have misjudged.  I let her off the hook easy...I'm sure I DID look prego.  But what a sucker punch that was!  

In my senior year I started working out and stopped eating a dozen donuts each week.  I tracked everything I ate and worked out daily...sometimes two times a day.  I was the Stairmaster Queen...eeking out long workouts on the machine, with sweat dripping onto the floor and dampening my t-shirt.  I started running too, and soon was running 3 miles at a time.  And in a few short months I lost over 50 pounds.  In fact, I got incredibly close to One-derland (see picture above)!  I remember the scale reading 208 pounds.  Time for a celebratory dinner I decided...a few pounds early.  That celebratory dinner turned into another one and another one and a few too many celebratory snacks as well.  Pretty soon, instead of being a few pounds away from One-derland, I was a few pounds too close to 225.  

About that time I graduated with my degree in Education.  I had done my student teaching in fifth grade at an inner city school and I loved it.  But I wasn't ready to grow up entirely.  Because I had transferred schools, most of my friends were still in school, and I didn't want to leave Chicago.  Instead I got an awesome nanny job that probably paid as good or better than any entry level inner city teaching job would have.  I took care of a baby girl and toddler boy and I loved it.  But my eating and exercise habits went down the tubes.  Riding the 'El' train to work every morning super early...and then being at work until 7:00 or so at night (I was a nanny for two corporate attorneys...they had long hours, which meant I had long hours) and then another train ride home at night meant long days without much time for exercising.  Or at least that was my excuse.  I could have gotten workout videos to do while the kids were taking naps.  I could have rollerbladed to the 'El' stop a little further away and then got on the train.  There were options.  There always are.  

But the options I chose then kept adding on the pounds.  Ice cream was my weakness...and the family I was a nanny for always had ice cream.  And I became so accustomed to my daily ice cream ritual that I made sure to keep my apartment stocked with ice cream that I could have my fix on the weekends as well.  I worked as a nanny for 18 months before getting an internship that would move me into my professional career.  But by then I had done quite a bit of damage to my body and weight.  The scales then (1998) were topping out at 287 pounds.

The final story comes next week in History of Holly-Part 4: All Grown Up...stay tuned!


  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. I love how you say there are always choices, you're right, there are!

  2. Ugh... I have also been asked when I was due when I wasn't pregnant. Nothing sends it home quite like that one.

  3. Oh man I was with a friend who asked a woman when she was due. Not cool!
    If only we could have it all figured out at 17 that would be awesome!
    Excited to follow your journey :)

  4. Good for you for sharing your story and your journey. Your openness is inspiring!