In the summer of 2007, I went to a wedding on Whidbey Island just outside of Seattle, WA. It was my first time meeting most of my beloved’s family, and I had a normal dose of nervousness. But I was also nervous because it was impossible to find anything to wear (total chick dilemma, I know). At the time, I weighed close to 230 pounds, and I was wearing size 2x tops with size 18-22 pants. Dress clothes in these sizes are fairly limited, and affordable dress clothes are nearly unheard of, unless you resort to online shopping, which is more trial and error than it’s worth for larger sizes. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve left stores fighting back tears after hours of trying on clothes that just don’t fit my body; and even now, I rarely ever purchase clothing because it takes so much mental effort for me to face those still-present fears.
But this morning, I hopped out of bed (like a ninja because I slept in), and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, which I typically avoid at all costs for the aforementioned reasons. Maybe it was because I didn’t have my glasses on; maybe it was due to lighting/shadows—whatever it was, I noticed lower abdominal muscles forming for the first time…ever…in my whole life. I am a person getting abs, and without having seen it for myself, I wouldn’t even believe it. In my elation, my husband came to me and congratulated me for finally recognizing something he’d been noticing for some time now.
In 2007, I couldn’t look down at my feet without having to lean forward to look over my belly. Yes, it’s taken almost 6 years to get here; but changing bad eating habits and developing good exercise habits takes a long time. Yes, I’ve seen people on shows like the Biggest Loser lose a lot more in much less time; but I’ve done all of this while: working 60+ hours a week, being unemployed, fighting bouts of depression, taking care of my mom for two years (which nearly destroyed me), getting married, working full-time while also volunteering part-time, being responsible for a teenage boy, getting involved in church, and keeping up with writing. I think I get a pass on not completing it all in 6 months or a year, but after all this time, I think 2013 will be the year I reach my 100 pounds lost goal.
Even though I’m a writer, I can’t really tell you what this feels like with words, and I think this post is a weak attempt. That being said, any of you who are struggling with weight and diet right now probably need to read this if for no other reason than to know that someone else out in the vastness of 7 billion people understands the struggle. I remember watching inspirational TV shows about people losing weight and wanting to be them. But as soon as my brain would think, “I want to do that,” it would follow with, “But I can’t because…” And overcoming that line of mental discouragement is the most important thing, I think. So much more than the physical changes, it is the most recognizable change I can see in myself since 2007.
I used to be a person who would say, “I can’t…because…,” and now I’m a person who says, “Why can’t I?” I used to be a person who didn’t have healthy work/life boundaries. It was so bad that my husband threatened to get me fired from my job if I didn’t quit because he was tired of me coming home after midnight when I’d get to work before 8am. Now I’m a person who makes MY time a priority. I am more present for my husband and family, but I’m also more present for myself. I give myself time to read and write, (though it’s precious little time, I think), and I give myself time to plan out my yoga practice, choose music playlists that keep me going, and be supportive of my friends who are also getting active (Shout out to Cora L. and Megan P.). I used to be a person who couldn’t get beyond visualizing where I wanted to be; and now I’m a person who sticks to the plans that are getting me there.
It takes changing mental habits to begin changing actions, and the mental roadblocks are the worst. If you read this blog, you’ll see some of the things that have worked for me, but I would never suggest that it works for everyone; though I’d encourage you to try some of the things I’ve tried just to see for yourself. You have to find what works for you, and that’s just as much of a trial and error as trying on clothes; and it’s just as discouraging sometimes, which you can also read on this blog.
I can’t tell you how much I seriously hate being the fat girl running (always in last place, with senior citizens passing me, literally). I also loathe being the biggest one in the yoga studio, unable to do certain poses because my girth just prevents me from holding them. I hate that I have to wear shirts that are almost a whole size too big just because certain parts of me haven’t caught up with the “whole body” shrinkage memo.
Facing and fighting these discouraging thoughts during my daily workouts hurts…a lot; it’s the toughest part of my workouts, and as I mentioned before, it’s still scary to look in the mirror. But then I have days like today when the negative fog that’s been clouding my mind and eyes is lifted, and I can see the progress I’ve made; and this feeling is worth it. I like being able to see my feet without having to lean forward; and I like that somewhere in this body is a set of abs (and hopefully other muscles, too)! But most of all, I am grateful that all the mental discouragement doesn’t keep me held hostage from living life and reaching my goals. It’s still there, and hopefully one day I’ll silence that voice altogether, but until then I’m developing the strength to live in spite of it. If you’re reading this and struggling too, I hope this gives you as much encouragement as seeing a hint of abdominals has been for me. Stay strong and keep at it.