It's a pretty audacious claim, isn't it?
For years, I've been walking around with 50-100 extra pounds on my frame. Well-meaning friends and family have tried various ploys to "get" me to lose the weight, as if I was stubbornly holding onto it like a rainy day fund.
Like many people facing weight loss issues, I've put a lot of time energy and money into various weight loss programs, plans, schemes, and pipe dreams. At my highest, I've weighed close to 270 pounds. As an adult, my lowest weight (as I write this) was around 185 while I was in college (the first time).
According to all the charts and diagrams, no mater how you slice it, I've been overweight most of my life - and all of my adult life. Weight loss isn't as simple as "calories in, calories out" - although that does play a part. I'm also NOT a diet or nutrition expert, even though I've probably read as much as any health sciences student ever could on the topic. What I've learned, though, is that everyone's weight loss journey is personal. It HAS to be personal, or it's just too hard to stick with it.
So this year, I set a new priority on my health. The reasons aren't important right now, but I have them.
But reasons alone are not enough for me.
What I've learned in my 20 year journey to reclaim my college weight...
Extrinsic goals don't get it done for me. I've lost hundreds of pounds in my 20+ adult years of life, only to regain them... with interest.
I've set goals to run road races (I finished last in my age group in a 10 mile road race, but I finished, by God!), to wear certain clothes for special occasions, and even hired a trainer (who was more interested in flirting with the other girls in the gym than focusing on my lifting form), but it was too much effort for too little reward. Not long after I'd "finish" or "achieve" one of those goals, the pounds crept back on and I felt even worse about myself.
I'm not dumb. I'm not stupid. I know a lot about this, so why can't I lose this weight?
That's when it started to become clear that my eating habits weren't just a by-product of being from a family of "big eaters". There was an emotional connection to what, why, and how I was eating - and it wasn't good. Here's what I've learned, after years of "trying to lose the stubborn fat":
Weight loss is a spiritual and physical thing for me. There's a certain mental and emotional space I need to be in to eliminate pounds and keep them off. When I'm spiritually grounded, not feeling stressed, and confident about myself, weight loss is relatively easy. But my own self-care has often been the first thing to go by the wayside when life gets hectic.
I looked back at what my life was like at my thinnest, looking for patterns and signs of what it was that made me thin. I wasn't really any more physically active than I am now. What was different was how food was available and the role it played in my life. I was busy doing things I loved, which were usually far away from food and drink ("No food on the stage!"). Now, food is just around the corner in my kitchen.
Idle hands may be the Devil's workshop for some people, but for me, idle hands seem to find their way to the kitchen.
When I was my thinnest, I was connected to great friends and generally enjoying my life. I didn't "need" food to soothe me. There was actually a time when I was so engaged with living my life that I would regularly forget to eat. Needless to say, that hasn't been the case for most of my adult life. I'm changing that now.
Food is my drug. It's a legal and lethal chemical addiction. When I'm happy, mad or sad, frustrated, or just plain lonely, the refrigerator is always there. The cupboard doesn't talk back or tell me I'm unworthy. It always has something for me and it never withholds. People can be fickle, but food never turns its back on you.
And then there are those food sensitivities. I used to joke about how I could eat anything and not get sick. What I didn't know is that part of why all this weight has stayed on me (despite increasing my exercise and other calorie cutting tactics), was that even some supposedly healthy foods weren't healthy for me.
- Anything with soy in it screws with my hormones and I get all angrified (think: Incredible Hulk's urge to "SMASH!" - without the green skin or rippling pectorals).
- My Aunt discovered she's got Celiac Disease. Since no one else in my family had this diagnosis, and it is usually genetic in some way, I thought it was worth investigating to see if I might have some latent symptons of gluten intolerance. When I eat wheat, it's like there's a ROCK in my stomach for hours afterward. I never noticed that before. Even whole grain "healthy" bread left me with that feeling.
- Peanuts and peanut products invariably give me some form of mild heartburn within an hour of consumption. It was never bad or bad enough for me to connect the dots. When I finally started taking notice, however, I knew it was time to cut them out.
- Dairy products rock my world and congest my body. At least one member of my immediate family is lactose intolerant. I believe this is my worst addiction of all. It's so easy to load dairy with extra fat (cheese anyone?), sugar (Ice Cream?), and everything else (chocolate!). It's no wonder this is the Big Daddy of culprits for me. I've managed to transition to Almond and Coconut milks for most of my dairy cravings, but cheese is still a hard habit to break.
I learned I can't do this alone. Not right now, anyway. When there's too much on my plate, my health and fitness goes out the window. I needed someone to help hold me accountable. Someone to text me while I'm travelling to make sure I'm eating cleanly. Late last year, I met ACE certified trainer, Melissa Reyes, and she and I are working together to turn my weight loss ship around. She herself has lost over 100 pounds on her own weight loss journey, and recognizes that while the calories you consume are important, so too are the types of calories, as well as your total mind-body package. She works with me to develop exercise plans for when I'm travelling, as well as finding healthy alternatives to foods I used to love eating that were slowly killing me. Watch this video for a super-easy exercise plan she taught me using a deck of playing cards!
I've also learned I live with unsupportive eaters. My husband loves his polish sausage, Taco Bell, and KFC. My teenager... well, he's a teenager, and getting him to eat ANYTHING healthy is a minor miracle. My youngest is probably the most supportive of my family, reminding me when something is not good for me ("You can't have that pizza, Mommy. It's made with bread!"), but these guys go nuts when I pull all the junk out of the house. Sure, I could bitch and moan and guilt them into eating "my way", but what good would that do? I've already got enough on my proverbial plate, thanks. Hell, I don't even blame them. If I could eat like they do, I would. But I can't, so I have to be disciplined.
It's not their responsibility to be disciplined, it's mine. There was a time when I pouted and harumphed about the house when my husband would bring in a large, thick crust pizza with extra cheese and bread sticks for him and the boys. When I looked at him like "What about me?" he would say "They didn't have any salad, honey."
DAMN. That hurt. A LOT. But who was it hurting? Me. Who's problem was it? Mine. Not theirs. No one makes you feel inferior without your consent, right? Isn't that what Elanor Roosevelt said? Maybe it's inconsiderate and selfish. I've had people tell me I should try the old "if you loved me then you'd keep that out of the house..." line, but then who's being inconsiderate and selfish?
So, I've called in reinforcements...
Since I know I can't do it alone, I've got a trainer. I'm going to a gym that's a few miles from home. I've created plans and backup plans for making sure I get some kind of regular exercise that I enjoy. I've made it as easy as I can, and I've got accountability from people I trust who want to see me succeed. I've stopped relying on my family to just understand my situation, and I've started taking responsibility for my own commitment to be better disciplined.
I've also sourced local experts that I can turn to to talk about nutrition, supplements, organics, and other lifestyle shifts that I need to be successful. And I've got a great group of local business women that I meet with regularly to talk through "stuff" and give/show support and encouragement as I am able.
Plus, I'm redesigning my life around what matters most to me. Around my passions and my mission. Around what God called me to do on this rock, instead of the life that I lived for others for so long. It wasn't a bad life, and I don't regret making most of the choices I did, but now, it's time for me to step more fully into Divine Alignment.
This isn't a weight loss blog. I've got a super-smart friend who has kind of cornered that market, IMHO. Consider this, instead the opening bell of a year-long journey. I'll check in occasionally. We've already taken the "before" photos, and at some point you'll probably get to see them. This is the final piece of the accountability puzzle for me: a truly public declaration that I'm making changes that I must (for my own health and welfare) stick to. As I check in, you'll get more details, but I want to be clear that this isn't a "how to" for anyone but me...
...AND it's a work in progress.
See you on the journey!