It’s been a pattern this year to learn a life lesson from a few people all at once.
This week I’ve had the pleasure of real honest conversations with a few friends, all of whom want to make a change. I realized that I may not be putting out there the reality of how things began for me. The place I was in when I started this journey.
It hasn’t been easy. I didn’t make the change overnight, and I still have a long way to go. Changes on the outside begin first on the inside. There were days, and there still are days, that I wanted to give up and go back to the familiar lifestyle that I lived for years…because there was a part of that lifestyle that felt safe.
Back when I weighed 242 pounds, even though I was miserable in my own body, I also felt comfortable in other ways. I was OK much of the time with living on the sidelines and feeling invisible. I was always the big girl among my group of friends and it was a role that I was used to and had accepted in many ways.
The first major hurdle when I finally decided to make a change, was realizing that I COULD make changes. I recently found my old journal that I started in 2003. When I read through the pages of daily records of what I ate and what I did for exercise, I realized that even at the beginning I had resigned myself that I was always going to be overweight. I randomly chose a goal weight of 180 pounds as I had a memory of once weighing that in high-school. But even beside that declaration of goal weight, I wrote “I’m very out of shape” and “I would love to be 165 pounds” but I didn’t believe that I would actually get there. I only wrote 180 pounds because I had read in a book that I needed some sort of goal to work towards. In my mind, I just wanted to weigh under 200 pounds.
I remember that I tried not to think of the end goal, and would just focus on the day at hand. Focus on upping my daily steps, fitting in a workout every morning, figuring out how to eat healthy. I had no idea what eating healthy was about. No clue! But I was determined to figure it out and poured over books, health magazines, and resources online. I was so confused over everything I read. There were so many different opinions out there.
I decided to use common sense. I would eat foods that came from the earth as close to their natural state as possible. As far as the meat protein was concerned, I had read that if it swims, runs, or flies it’s more lean and has less fat content. Made sense to me!
I also had no idea how much food to eat. I had spent so many years never being hungry, that I didn’t really understand what it was like to just eat the proper amount to fuel the body.
I remember sitting out on the deck at our acreage, and looking out at the wildlife around me. How is it there are no overweight animals (unless they are raised by humans)? Because it’s instinct to know how much to eat. We lived in a society of super-size portions and we have forgotten to listen to our bodies to tell us when we are full. I read that it takes about 20 minutes to realize you are full when eating a meal. I started eating my meals slowly and really paid attention to when I was full…not stuffed…but rather not hungry anymore.
Drinking enough water was another issue I had! I had no idea that my body would confuse hunger for thirst. So I started drinking 8 glasses of water a day and I just naturally ate less.
Exercising was not easy at the beginning. I felt big, clumsy, and was worried what people would think about seeing a big girl “trying” to work out. I worked out in my basement at the beginning and chose to jog on country roads by our acreage as it was private. I don’t think I went into a gym until I was under 200 pounds. Looking back, it’s too bad that I didn’t feel I had a right to be in the gym with everyone else. When I go to the gym now and see a person struggling through a workout I have so much respect for them. It takes real courage to put yourself out there for others to see in an area that is difficult and unfamiliar.
One of the most important steps was to find a support system. To actually declare out loud that I was going to lose the weight by changing my lifestyle. I didn’t want to say it out loud because I thought there was a good possibility that would fail. I forced myself out of that comfort zone, and started sharing publicly my intentions. It was the first time I admitted to others that I wasn’t OK with being the big girl, that I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, that I was sick of being scared to try new things.
But the truth was, I wanted to go swimming with my kids, to go to a gym and feel comfortable, to ride a bike, to walk up stairs without being winded, to walk into a clothing store and buy clothes off the rack, to feel confident when I walked into a room full of people, to wear shorts!!!! I didn’t wear shorts for decades!
So every time I feel like I want to go back to the old way of life, I have to remind myself of where I came from, and of the sadness I carried inside that I rarely showed to others.
I exercise today not only for my body, but more for my mind. I have NEVER felt such joy and pride within myself until I began exercising. It just clears the mind of negativity.
So as much as I want to say that losing the weight was difficult, I also have to tell you that it was easy at the same time. It was easy because my zest and love for life was awoken and for the first time I challenged myself to never give up, to quiet the negative self-doubt, and to believe in myself. The loss of the weight was just a tangible visual result of finding out who I was.
It doesn’t make life easier or less confusing at times but it’s a journey that continues on today. There is more life to be lived and I am lucky that I have my health and the knowledge that I am the one in control of how I chose to live it through good times and bad times.
I have this song on my iPod, and often listen to it when I run. I’m not sure what it is about the song that is so meaningful for me, but it gives me shivers every time I hear it. Maybe it’s because for much of my life I felt like I needed someone to “fix” me. But I have learned that although it’s important to lean on others for support and motivation, the responsibility to “fix” the areas of my life that require change ultimately comes from within.
From my heart to yours,