Eyes Wide Open: Discovering My Personal Passion

Recently at a professional book club meeting, the topic of passion came up. One of the questions was what are you passionate about personally?  The question kind of took me by surprise because I had always related passion to work.  When you are growing up and planning your future, you always hear the advice “Find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to make a job out of it.”  For me, teaching is definitely one of my passions.  And just recently I’ve recognized some things that have driven my level of passion with teaching sky-high (another blog post on that coming soon!) But when I was asked “What are you passionate about in your personal life?” I was really taken aback – what am I passionate about?

Of course, the most natural of answers came to me right away – I’m passionate about my family, about spending time with loved ones, and making sure they are taken care of.  But is that really a passion?  Sure, I care immensely about my family, but what interests do I have that excite me, inspire me, light a fire within me on a daily basis?

My colleague suggested my love for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I am definitely a huge fan.  I watch games religiously on television, attend as many games as I can throughout the summer, and proudly wear my Jays gear whenever given the opportunity.  I can name all the players, know what position they play, and know the basic stats.  But I don’t live for the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s an interest but it doesn’t create a burning desire inside of me.  Watching the Jays doesn’t inspire me, it’s more just like a really enjoyable passtime.

So what is my passion?  I started to think about things I am good at and enjoy doing.  I know, I thought, my passion is writing!  It’s true I’ve had many fantasies about making a living as a writer – spending my days in a quiet room, alone, sipping flavoured coffee, and lighting my keyboard on fire as thoughts and ideas come flowing out of me and onto the screen.  I do feel I express myself best in writing. I do get great satisfaction from writing blog posts and putting my ideas into words.  But is it my passion?

I started thinking of a passion as that one thing you can’t stop thinking about.  It permeates your life every single day.  It makes you feel excited, inspired, thoughtful… but sometimes overwhelmed, confused, and scared.  Then it hit me!   I think I know what my passion is…..

Health and Wellness!

For years, I have been interested in health and wellness.  For the most part, I have been interested in health as it relates to weight-loss.  The story of my adult life is that I am consistently trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  I am constantly seeking out the right plan to follow that will help me to look and feel great.  But more recently, the idea of health and wellness has evolves into something different.  Yes, I still want (and need) to lose weight.  But more importantly, I have recently become more interested in simply making myself healthy.

This has stemmed predominantly from my diagnosis a few years ago with ulcerative colitis.  I consider myself lucky in the fact that my colitis is fairly mild compared to some others.  Most of my symptoms include bloating, a lot of foul-smelling gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.  At it’s worst, I’ve also experience severe abdominal pain that has landed me in the emergency room.  I’ve also experienced severe urgency that has disrupted my workdays and interfered with social activities.

What I didn’t realize until recently though, was that some of the other symptoms I’ve been having could be directly related to the inflammation in my gut.  I’ve had excema, skin problems, achy joints, headaches, extreme fatigue, and mood swings.  These things are all symptoms of inflammation (mind blown!)

My most latest motivation to get back on the “healthy eating/exercise bandwagon” has been not only to lose weight, but to heal my gut and to feel better overall.  I am tired of being tired.  I am fed up with the mood swings (irritability, crankiness, anger, sadness).  I want to feel energized, positive, and happy – every day, all of the time!

This has inspired me to start a kind of “new” health journey.  In order not to overwhelm myself (which can happen so easily), I have decided to focus on nutrition and making better food choices, not only for weight loss, but also as a means to heal my body from the inside out.  I am slowly starting to learn about whole foods, natural ingredients, eliminating sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy, eating more plant-based foods, and feeding my body so that I can feel energetic, vibrant, and strong rather than bloated, tired, and irritable!

I have chosen nutrition because there are SO many areas of health and wellness that if I jump into too much of it, I will totally overwhelm myself and may give up altogether.  But that’s not to say I am not dabbling and looking into other areas of health and wellness (mindfulness, meditation, exercise, to name a few).  I am so enthusiastic about this topic that it’s actually kind of hard to rein myself in but I do have to remember that it’s a HUGE learning process.  Lord knows, I have a LOT to learn.  But the most important part is, I am not only open and willing to educating myself, I am so excited to do it!  I have this strong natural urge, this passion burning inside of me that wants to know all I can about how to live the best life I can!

Whether it’s articles, videos, books, websites, social media pages, internet sources, or people… if it has to do with health and wellness I am interested!   Here are just some of the topics that have grabbed my attention, that I’ve experimented with, researched, read about, or thought about so you can get the idea of how interested I really am!

Nutrition – gluten-free, elimination diets, anti-dairy, the wheat belly diet, holistic approaches, Weight Watchers, eliminating sugar, processed foods, 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), Shakeology, supplements, anti-inflammatory foods, recipes, plant-based foods, whole foods, Paleo diet…..

Fitness – going to the gym, walking, running, yoga, 21 Day Fix, home workouts, Tai Chi, pilates, weight lifting, heavy lifting, CrossFit, Pure Barre, ballet, dance, hiking, paddling, skiing, baseball, soccer….

Spiritual/Mental Wellness – mental health illnesses/conditions, mindfulness, mindful vs. Mind full, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, yoga, meditation, self-care routines, prayer, journaling, grounding techniques, therapy/counselling…

Wellness – natural self-care products, natural cleaning products, environmental factors, essential oils, sleep, balance, self-care, time spent in nature, self-help books, self improvement, positive thinking, mindset

No matter what it is whenever one of these topics comes up, I find myself wanting to know more.  I ask questions, I think, I reflect, I analyze, I read, I consider… and most of all,  I get so excited and so emotional!  If that doesn’t describe a person passion, I am not sure what does!

 

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Just Do It: Doing the Work Even When I Don’t Feel Like It

Ok guys, after months and months of being in a “slump” and feeling like I will never successfully get back on my weight loss journey, I finally feel like I’m about to make a comeback!   It’s all thanks to my Beachbody coach Melanie Watson who reached out to me and introduced me to author/ motivational speaker/ media personality Mel Robbins.  But before I get into that, let me tell the story from the beginning.

Back in early January, like so many others I made the resolution to get back on track with my weight loss journey.  After years of doing Weight Watchers, I decided to shake things up and signed up with Beachbody.  I started using the containers of the 21 Day Fix program and purchased Beachbody On Demand so I could workout whenever I wanted in my basement.  I easily found the Beachbody community online – literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other people trying to do the exact same thing I was trying to do.  It was online that I found and “met” my coach Melanie Watson.  Melanie seemed to “get” my struggles right away and had experienced many of them herself!  At the time, I was struggling with the winter blues, mild depression, and a major lack of motivation to do anything.   Despite being a complete stranger, Melanie seemed to know me so well and understood all my goals – plus she had the tools to get me there.   I signed up to her Facebook groups and followed her on Instragram eager to be successful. But after about the first month, things started sliding and I lost my motivation.  The winter blues were overwhelming and nights on the coach won over working out in my basement.  Carb-heavy, comfort food beat out nutritious and heart-healthy meals.  I started to tell myself that all the hard work and sacrifices it took to lose weight weren’t worth it.  Life was too short not to eat sweets. I should just learn to love myself the way I am.  Maybe for the first time in my adult life I could not be on a diet program and actually just learn to accept myself. But something deep inside me, an inner voice (or as Mel Robbins’ would call my inner wisdom) was still there.  No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I could feel satisfied, fulfilled and confident without losing weight, my inner wisdom was telling me differently. But still, nothing changed.  I still consumed calorie-rich foods all day long and snuggled into the couch as soon as humanly possible after work.  Every day I thought about working out but talked myself out of it within seconds.  I knew what I had to do to lose weight (and had all the programs and supports imaginable) but I still wasn’t doing it.

But the inner voice continued to talk.  I considered emailing Melanie.  By this point, I had completely turned my back on the Beachbody program.  I had unfollowed some of the groups online and began to feel resentful towards the cheery messages of success others were sharing in the groups.  I even contemplated unfollowing Melanie’s profile.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by all the messages about what I knew I had to do, but still, did not feel like doing. Then, last week, Melanie reached out to me.  I was shocked but so pleasantly surprised.  Although she had been so good to me previously, I had assumed I was just another “customer” helping to grow her business.  But by reaching out to me after weeks of not hearing from me or seeing my posts in group, Melanie proved that she actually wants me to be successful I immediately responded, openly expressing to her the struggle I had been experiencing.  I wrote about not being in the right “mindset” to get started and how I’d been struggling for months to get there. This is when Melanie gifted me with the invitation to check out Mel Robbins’ work.  As I mentioned earlier, Robbins is a media personality, motivational speaker, and author.  She wrote The Five Second Rule which I am currently devouring and taking copious notes from.  The minute I read Melanie’s email, I started obsessively watching Robbins’ videos on YouTube and spent my two-hour drive yesterday listening to her podcasts. It is like Mel Robbin’s was living inside my head.  So much of what she has to say is exactly what I have been struggling with for months!  And the fact that Melanie knew to suggest her work to me blows my mind even more.  How can a complete stranger know just what I needed?!

So what is this Five-Second Rule and why am I so excited about it?  As I mentioned, I just started reading the book to fully understand the concept but I am so excited by it that I felt I had to write a blog post right now.   Here are some of the main principles I’ve taken from Robbins’ work so far including how they relate to my life.

1. You will never feel like doing it, you have to do it anyway. Robbins speaks about the notion that we all know what we should do.  And we know how to do it.  For example, the Weight Watchers program (which I have been a member of for years), or the Beachbody program tell you exactly how to lose weight.  But yet I don’t do it.  Why not?  Because I don’t feel like it.   Robbins’ says that we’ll never feel like it but that we have to just start doing it anyway.  That’s why she says motivation is garbage.  Because we will never truly feel like doing things in the  moment that we should.

2. The Five Second Rule In a nutshell, the five second rule is a theory that you can train your brain to listen to your inner wisdom and do what you know you have to do, rather than hold yourself back from doing it.  It’s kind of like the Nike slogan Just Do It (which Robbins also refers to in the book).  Robbin’s tells of her personal struggles and how she discovered that by simply counting down 5-4-3-2-1 you can distract your brain and refocus on doing what you need to do.

3. Get out of your own head. Robbins says that our inner wisdom is constantly telling us what we should do to lead a healthier, happier, fulfilled, and satisfying life but that we have the habit of talking ourselves out of following through on these ideas.  As soon as we start thinking about the idea too much, we easily and effortlessly talk ourselves out of it.  The magic of the Five Second Rule is that we can change that!

4. Your have to parent yourself. I love where Robbins talks about how no one tells us when we become an adult that now we are going to have to parent ourselves.  When we are kids, our parents are there to tell us no.  They are there to make sure we do the things we are supposed to do.  As adults, there is no one to do that, so we have to do it ourselves.  We have to learn to tell ourselves no and to do the work even when we don’t want to.

All this being said, I want to recognize that I probably just did a terrible job of summarizing some of Robbins’ main ideas.  Also, please take into consideration my other disclaimer – I just started reading the book.  I know I have just scraped the surface of some of this woman’s amazing ideas!  I can’t wait to learn more.

But more importantly, I feel like I have been given a tool that is finally going to get me out of this slump that I’ve been in.  I’ve spent all winter making excuses for myself, talking myself out of doing the work, holding myself back, trying to convince myself that I could be happy without losing weight. Now I see that I need to get out of my own head.  I always overthink everything and I’ve been overthinking my weight loss journey for years.  What I am starting to see now is that I will never truly be ready so why am I still waiting?  Just last week, I wrote to Melanie that I needed to be in the right “mindset” before I could get started!  What I see now is that by just doing it, by just getting started, the actions I need to take will put me in the right mindset! Most importantly, what I see now is that making change is hard work and our brain is pre-wired to protect ourselves from hard work.  Our brain doesn’t want us to be uncomfortable.  Therefore, it will try to talk me out of everything that I need to do in order to lose weight successfully.  Also, I am never going to feel like doing the things I know I should do (eat healthfully, plan meals, go for a run, workout) but I just have to put on my big girl panties and do it anyway.  After all without hard work, there is no reward. So instead of thinking about things, I have to just start doing.  And the best way to do that (according to both Robbins’ and coach Melanie), is to do it one day at a time.  Every time my instinct kicks in to do something healthy, I have to get my ass in gear and do it before my mind takes over and talks me out of it!  I have to parent myself, tell myself no, and just do what needs to be done. The best part of all this is if I do the actions that I need to do, the positive, happy, self-loving mindset that I thought I needed to get started, will develop all on it’s own!  Wow!

One last thing about all this.  I couldn’t help but think of a Weight Watchers leader I had years ago.  At the time, I knew I loved her approach, I just didn’t understand why.  Every week at our regular meeting, she would tell us what we had to do.  “Eat your fruit and vegetables.” “Drink your water”.  “Move every day”.  Now I realize that her no-nonsense approach is what helped me to be so successful.  She didn’t give us a choice. She didn’t give us time to think about things, she simply told us to Just Do It.  

A Lesson Learned Again….

Well, guys, it’s been seven days since I’ve been eating healthier and working out regularly again and up until today everything has been going pretty great!  I’m sort of following the 21 Day Fix program – basically using the containers as guidelines for proper portions and to limit certain things like my carb intake and increase certain things like fruits and veggies.  I’ve also been doing the 21 Day Fix workouts which, until today, have been totally awesome!  I love that the workouts are only thirty minutes and that I can do them in my own basement.

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But today, I learned a lesson.  I’d been having a so-so day nutrition-wise to begin with because we’d stay at my parents’ place overnight and there are alot of temptations there.  I’d made the best of the situation but had already over-eatenmy carb intake (and it had been white bread to boot!). Plus, I’d drank quite a bit of coffee with french-vanilla flavoured cream which has a pretty high sugar content (it is so damn delicious that I’m just not ready to give it up yet!) Anyway, after getting back into town, due to some unforeseen circumstances, my family and I ended up grabbing dinner on the go tonight.  (I had planned to have roast chicken and salad for dinner but like I said, unforeseen circumstances…). We went to a little diner that is attached to the arena where my son was playing hockey.  Guys, this place has the best poutine I’ve ever eaten in my life.  So I convinced myself that since I’d done so well nutritionally for seven days that I deserved to splurge, so I went ahead and ordered a small poutine and ate almost all of it.

So where’s the lesson?  Again, you’d think I would have learned this one by now but I guess I’m still learning.  I think each time it happens it becomes more and more obvious to me: crappy food really does make me feel crappy!  Within an hour after eating that poutine, my stomach began rumbling and I started having cramps similar to what I get with my ulcerative colitis.  I was uncomfortable for the entire hockey game and the whole ride home.  In an effort to make myself feel better physically when we got home, I decided to do the 21 Day Fix Pilates work. Guys, I hate Pilates.  I’ve taken classes before and just hate it.  I find the moves so difficult and feel clumsy and uncoordinated when I do it.  But I was in my basement, and it was the next workout on the 21 Day Fix DVD that I’v been following, so I decided to give it a try.  Well, even though I was alone, I felt like a total fool trying to do this workout!   Next thing I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  I was crying!  Now, I am proud to say that I did finish the workout, but I hated every minute of it!  I felt overweight, weak, and uncoordinated.  I was angry and disappointed with myself. Even when it was done, I still felt like total crap.  I was suddenly cranky, moody, and feeling down on myself.

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So there’s another thing I learned tonight.  Not only does unhealthy food make me feel terrible physically but it really does make me feel terrible emotionally too!  Between all the sugar I had consumed today (which had already been making my head feel fuzzy) and the poutine, I suddenly felt so down-in-the-dumps, frustrated and sad. Crazy!

The part that frustrated me most about all of this, though, is that I feel like I should have known better.  Even though I just got back to eating healthier a week ago, within days I’d been feeling the positive effects!  Not only had my mood improved, but more importantly, almost all of my UC symptoms had disappeared.  It had improved so quickly, in fact, that when my prescription ran out a couple of days ago, I decided to go without it for now since I’d been doing so well.  But after just one day of eating badly, the symptoms were back!  There is no way this is just a coincidence!

Anyway, as frustrating and disappointing as it all is, tomorrow is a new day!  I am grateful that I learned this lesson today (even if it was a tough one to learn) and I only hope that I will remember how terrible I felt today, next time I am craving junk food!

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Wish me luck!

 

Learning Curve

Just recently I wrote a post about my new realization about how closely linked my mental health is to my daily exercise and nutrition.  It’s something I should have recognized years ago, but for whatever reason I didn’t. Perhaps I was too caught up in my efforts to lose weight simply to look better and to fit some kind of ideal that I thought my body should be.  But after dealing with feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and mild depression for some time now, I finally made the link. What I eat and how much (or how little) exercise I get, truly matters.

I put this new information to the test immediately.  I started out slowly – cutting gradually back on the amount of sugar I consumed, going for a brief walk, and ensuring I went outside for at least 20 minutes each day.  Within just a few days, I felt the positive effects. I was still tired after a day’s work, but I wasn’t completely exhausted.  In fact, I had enough energy to be more productive at home in the evenings and didn’t actually feel really tired until bedtime instead of my typical 4 p.m. crash.

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That was two weeks ago.  Last week, I started to let things slip. It started when we headed out of town for my son’s hockey tournament.  For convenience’s sake, we ate at fast-food restaurants several times (burgers and fries mostly).  We stayed at my parents’ place which is packed full of every treat and goody you can imagine at this time of year!  On top of that, Mom graciously hosted a Christmas party, complete with all my favourite appetizers.  After a weekend of indulgences and eating “crap”, I was determined to get back on track with my new-found habits on Monday. But when Monday rolled around, I had no energy.  I dragged myself through the day at work, over-ate at the potluck lunch, and when I got home, collapsed with exhaustion.  I’m too tired from the crazy weekend, I told myself, I’ll workout tomorrow. 

Tuesday came and all of Monday’s leftovers were pulled out of the fridge at work. Without thinking twice, I ate another huge plate of mostly unhealthy foods.  Then I had a huge piece of chocolate cake for dessert.  I dragged myself through Tuesday and collapsed with exhaustion when I got home. I skipped yoga at the gym, although I did attend my Weight Watchers meeting (how I dragged myself out of the house, I am not sure).  When I got home, I put on my pyjamas and promised I’d work out the next day. Later that evening, feeling agitated and overwhelmed, I got into a fight with my teenaged daughter and cried myself to sleep.

Then came Wednesday.  It was another hard day at work.  Granted, it’s the week before Christmas and I teach ten-year-olds, but the reason it was so difficult, was because I simply had no energy.  Sure, it’s safe to say that most teachers feel this way at this time of year (the typical pre-Christmas Break burn-out), but I knew that all the crap I had been eating and my lack of workouts was contributing more to my sluggishness than anything else. For the third day in a row, I immediately changed into pyjamas when I got home and buried myself under blankets on the couch.

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Normally, I would have sat there wallowing in self-pity and asking myself over and over again, why am I so tired?  Why don’t I have any energy? Why do I feel like crap?  But when you know better, you do better and know I know that the reason I feel like this is because of my poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

Although I just wanted to hibernate for the third night in a row, I knew it would only lead to making me feel worse the next day.  So I reached out to my friends in Weight Watchers on our online support group.  I confessed how terrible I was feeling and within minutes, one of my friends was urging me to get out for a walk.  I decided right then and there that that’s what I had to do.  I didn’t even hesitate to think about it (for fear that I would too easily find an excuse not to go).  I closed my iPad, got dressed in my outdoor gear, hooked my dog to his leash, and headed out.

I was so proud of myself for actually getting up and doing it that my motivation and energy immediately increased.  In fact, it jolted me awake so dramatically that rather than take my normal, short route, I set out on a much longer route.  Fifty minutes later (and lots of trudging through deep snow), I had completed my walk and my motivation to take care of myself was back.  This morning, on my coffee break when I usually indulge in sweets, I headed out for another walk and took in the mild weather and gorgeous sunshine peaking through the clouds.

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It’s still absolutely incredible to me how simple it is to change our emotions and mental state into positive ones, yet so many people like me get sucked so easily into the dark hole of lethargy, fatigue, and depression.  It’s all the more reason to remember just how critical proper nutrition and daily exercise really is.  I am so happy that I have finally make this crucial realization!

 

 

My Newest (and most Important) Reason to Get Healthy!

I feel like I’ve made a revelation of sorts recently.  In fact, it’s one that’s so huge, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure it out.  It seems like something I should have realized years ago, but somehow I missed the boat.  It’s taken me almost twenty years to realize this:

Nutrition and exercise are directly related to mental health.

As I said, it seems so obvious that I can’t believe I never really saw or understood that before.  I mean, sure I’ve read it and heard it, but it’s never hit home for me until now.

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For me, losing weight was always about looking good.  It was about trying to meet some kind of ideal of “healthy” and “thin” which I always, always linked with beautiful, sexy, successful.  For years the desire to be those things was enough to make me want to lose weight.  But something has shifted in my life and although I still want to be beautiful, sexy, and successful, those things in themselves don’t seem to be enough to motivate me to put in the hard work that it takes to lose weight and maintain it.

So I’ve been struggling.  I haven’t been able to find the inspiration and the motivation to get back on the wagon.  Terrible eating habits and nights on the couch in my PJs are my daily routine again.

Also part of my daily routine, especially at this time of year, are a major lack of motivation, incredible feelings of laziness, always, always feeling exhausted, and some feelings of anxiety, overwhelmness, and hopelessness.  Not to mention headaches, bloating, gas and a multitude of digestive problems.  Ugh.

Why did it take me so long to link the two?

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For the first time, in my decades-long journey of weight loss, I have finally found a source of inspiration that I believe could be a real turning point in my life.   It’s like a giant, golden light bulb has gone off and what I have been looking for for years, is suddenly here, loud and clear.

I have a new, and significant, reason to want to eat better and exercise. Because now I know that doing those two things will impact my life in ways I may have experienced but never really understood before.  Fueling my body with healthy foods and exercising won’t just make me “skinny” and “self-confident”, it will directly impact my mental health and in essence, my overall life.

It will give me energy again.  It will give me the fuel I need to make it through the day.  It will alleviate my headaches and prevent me from feeling so tired by 4 p.m that I don’t want to do anything but bury myself under a blanket and never come out or cry. It will help to heal my digestive issues, build physical strength to prevent achy legs and hips, and take away the bloating and gas I so often deal with.  It will improve my self-confidence and drive me to want to improve other areas of my life.  It will fill me with positive self-talk and help me to be kinder, more gentle, and more patient with others – all things I want so desperately in my life but often don’t have the energy for.

I still can’t believe I never understood this before! 

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Many times my husband has told me that he thought I was “happier” during the few years in my life when I had met my goal weight, was working out like crazy, and eating on plan.  For so long, I disagreed with him.  I even wrongly perceived his comment. I took it as his way of saying that he prefers me to be skinny rather than overweight. I would shrug off his comment with the argument that I am just as happy now as I was back then.

But now I finally realize what he meant.  It doesn’t mean that I am unhappy now.  It’s just that the habits I had established then had such a direct impact on all aspects of my life.  It’s that eating well and working out regularly affects you in so many ways that I didn’t even realize it.  Yes, it’s possible to be happy without diet and exercise in your life, but it’s so much easier to be happy with those things.

For the last several months I have wallowed in self-pity and guilt. I have felt discouraged and was searching desperately for reasons to justify my lack of healthy eating and working out.  And now I can so clearly see that all that was doing was bringing more negativity into my life.

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So finally, finally, finally I feel like I have found my motivation again.  I have always known that eating healthy foods and exercising is important but I just couldn’t find the inspiration to do it.  Now that it is so obvious to me the direct impact they have on my mental health (and overall well-being) it doesn’t seem so daunting.  And although a new year is just around the corner, and it’d be so easy to say I’ll just start then, this new reason to want to get healthy doesn’t seem like something that can wait.   It needs to happen now.  And I can’t wait to get started!

 

Happy, Loved, and Free

I think I am okay with being 180 lbs….

I never thought I’d say that.  If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have been terrified of weighing that much. I had weighed that once and more (193 pounds at my heaviest) and was terrified of going back there.  I had worked long and hard at losing weight and I was successful, dropping a total of 65 pounds altogether.  Each time I dropped ten poundsI wanted to drop another ten.. and another ten….and another ten.  I’ll admit, it became sort of an addiction.  The more results I got, the more I wanted.  The more weight I lost, the more my confidence soared.  As smaller clothes began to fit, I found a new love of shopping that was thrilling and fun.  The further I could run, the further I wanted to go.

Most of all, when I lost weight, I felt like I had won the lottery.  After all, I had achieved the dream that nearly every woman (and a lot of men) are trying to achieve.  Who isn’t fighting a battle against their weight?  I was complimented, praised, and celebrated everywhere I went.  People were constantly telling me how great I looked, asking me for advice, and remarking on my achievement.  I could feel their envy and it made me feel powerful.

But then a medical issue caused me to have to stop running and, over time, I let my eating habits slip and started to gain back the weight I had lost.  Before I knew it, it seemed, I had gained back ten pounds, then twenty, then thirty…and eventually I saw that terrifying number on the scale –  193, the place where it had all started….. I was mortified.

I think I hated myself in that moment. After all, I had promised myself that I would never gain back all the weight.  I would never weigh 170 or 180 pounds again much less 193.  I felt fat and gross, and angry with myself.  I felt like a failure and a disappointment.  I felt shame and guilt.  The power I had had slipped away because now I was just another person who had lost all the weight and gained it all back – like so many others.  All my confidence and self-esteem that had once soared, suddenly plummeted.

And along with the weight, came the age-old battle, the struggle, and the never ending pressure –  the seemingly eternal battle of trying to love myself the way I am, or working to better myself by losing weight.  (I’ve always had a hard time accepting that the two can happen simultaneously and I still do).  I’ve tried getting back on weight loss programs (and have had some success) but then I’d fall right back off again.

But after obsessing over my weight for so long, I have to admit that I’m tired of the pressure I put on myself. I’m tired of obsessively thinking about eating right and working out and feeling guilty and shameful if I don’t do either of those things.   I’m tired of saying no to my favourite foods and feeling resentful that others can enjoy treats and I have to limit myself.  So for a little while I just kind of gave up altogether.

It wasn’t easy at first.  I kept telling myself You need to workout.  If you keep eating like this, you’re going to gain weight and regret it.  It’s just a matter of time before all this junk food catches up with you. You should do this… you should do that…. It just went on and on and on.

But then suddenly something happened that I can’t recall having experienced in a very, very long time.  Suddenly the issue of my weight wasn’t really bothering me.  I’d eat something unhealthy and not feel too guilty about it.  I’d skip the gym and not feel an immense guilt eating away at me as I cuddled up at home with a book and a hot cocoa.  Most importantly, I’d pass by a mirror and actually kind of like what I saw.

So now, instead of thinking of everything I should do, I am thinking a little bit differently.  I’m thinking What if I just stopped thinking about it?  What if I stopped putting the pressure on myself to lose weight?  What if I stopped viewing 180 pounds as something so terrible and start to truly understand that it’s just a number?  What if I start telling myself that it’s okay to feel good about the person I am now even if I’m a little overweight?  What if my weight isn’t the most important thing in my life right now?  What if in almost every other aspect of my life I am happy, fulfilled, and content?  Then couldn’t I just try to let this go and focus on that?

Of course, it’s not all as easy as it may seem. My inner voice sometimes tells me that this is just my latest excuse.  It tells me that if I am not constantly thinking of my weight it will get out of control and I’ll end up far worse off than I am now.  It tells me that I am scared of failing again so I’d just rather not try.

But while that little voice is still there, a bigger voice is starting to emerge.  It’s reminding me how happy I am right now.   I have a wonderful marriage, two happy children, a loving family, a career that I love, a lot of friends, activities that I enjoy, time for myself, good health… My life is amazing right now and it’s been quite a while since I’ve truly felt this happy.

And while this change in my thinking is happening, other things are starting to change too.  Before when I was overweight, I always struggled to get dressed and feel good in whatever it was I was wearing. I felt like I never looked as cute in my clothes as the girls with the tiny waists and longed for the day when I could fit into an XS again. But now, even though I’m bigger again, I have a closet full of clothes that I love to wear and that I feel good in.  When I look in the mirror instead of fixating on my flaws, I see some of my prettier features – my thick eyelashes, my pretty hair, and my big, happy smile.  Of course, that’s not to say, I still don’t have moments where I notice things I don’t like about the way I look (I am human after all), but more and more the size of my body just isn’t one of those things.

And now when I look back on my “skinny” pictures I am starting to feeling different.  Not so long ago, I’d look at these pictures and pray to look like that again. The feeling of disappointment for “letting myself go” would grow inside of me and I’d feel sad looking at those pictures knowing I no longer look like that.  But now, I am happy to say I can look at those pictures and feel okay about it. I loved how I looked then. liked my hair, the muscle definitions in my arms and legs, and how I could wear tight-fitting dresses and look awesome in them.  The only difference is, when I look at those pictures now I’m not filled with shame and disappoint for not looking like that anymore.  I loved myself then and I think finally I am starting to love myself now.

Because after years of obsessing over my weight, I am finally, maybe, starting to understand that the number on the scale is just that.  A number.   That number is not going to own my self-worth anymore.  It’s not going to make a perfectly happy day, suddenly sad.  It’s not going to be a reason to celebrate or a reason to punish myself.  It’s just a number…

Instead, what I am trying to focus on now is not just a number on a hunk of metal, but how I truly feel about my weight and my body.  The day when what I am eating and what exercise I am doing (or not doing) starts to affect how I am feeling in a negative way, will be the day I pick up my socks and get back on the weight-loss wagon.

But for now, I am happy.  I’m beginning to listen to my true self instead of listening to that voice that tells me what I should do.  It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders ever since I removed that pressure of having to see a certain number on the scale. Instead now I focus on how I feel, and right now I feel happy, loved, and free.

What an incredible feeling!

30-Day Plan: Day 30

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve made it to the “end” of my 30-day commitment to myself!  It hasn’t been as “perfect” as I had originally thought it would be but it has absolutely given me the kick-start I needed to get back into a healthier, more nutritious lifestyle!  In reflecting on the past month, I wanted to share what I thought went well and what I think I still need to work on.

What went well….

  • I kept track of all my food and points in my food diary every single day (not just on the blog, but I actually have a notebook where I write down everything).
  • I researched lower-points options and looked up points before eating some things to make a conscious and informed decision about whether or not I truly wanted to have it
  • I was active at least 3-4 days a week
  • I drank way more water than I had been
  • I stopped eating sugary cereal (and don’t really miss it) and started my day off with a protein-loaded breakfast
  • I cut back on sugar
  • I really cut back on carbs
  • I are way more vegetables
  • I planned ahead for events that I knew would have many food temtpations
  • I packed my own food when I went on vacations so I’d have some healthy options
  • I meal planned and prepped food so I’d have something healthy on hand
  • I tried new foods and new ways of preparing certain foods
  • I attended my Weight Watchers meetings
  • I didn’t let the number on the scale discourage me when it went up
  • I allowed myself to have some treats without feeling too guilty
  • I felt encouraged, determined, motivated, positive, confident, and happy 99% of the time!

What I will continue to work on….

  • Seek more healthy recipes so I can eat a variety of healthy food
  • Continue to cut back on sugar
  • Plan ahead for treats – look up the points before having them instead of waiting until after
  • Try new foods and recipes
  • Obtain a healthy balance between treating myself and eating healthy
  • Establish more challenging workout routines (maybe start running again?)
  • Build healthy habits so that they come more naturally and don’t require so much conscious work and effort
  • Track every single day in my food journal

With that being said, here’s how Day 30 looks:

Breakfast:  I finally found a granola that is not too high in points!  A friend of mine suggested this Nature’s Path peanut butter granola and 1/2 cup (which is more than enough per serving!) is only 5 points (not bad at all!) I mixed in 1/3 cup Source vanilla yogurt for a delicious and satisfying breakfast (and a nice change from bacon & eggs!)

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Since we are leaving town tomorrow, I had a long to-do list today to get ready to go.  I started by tidying up the house, doing dishes, and sweeping the floors. After just those minor tasks though I was feeling really sluggish and tired (maybe not enough energy from my breakfast or maybe it’s the crazy humidity?) I drank some more water and took a quick social media/ TV break.

Lunch:  For lunch I ate my usual grilled turkey burger, sautéed vegetables (in a bit of EVOO) and a sprinkle of feta cheese.  The veggies were nice and fresh (I just bought them yesterday at the market) and were so good!  I topped lunch off with some more water and big slice of juicy watermelon.

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After lunch, I had to tackle a job that I had been dreading, and that my husband and I have both put off for months – cleaning out our SUV!  While away last weekend, I noticed that the filth and dirt inside had reached an all-new high and I just couldn’t take it anymore, so even though it was 37 degrees with the humidity today (eek!) I lugged my cleaning supplies out to the garage and got busy!  An hour later, I was sweating like crazy but at least we have a nice clean ride ready to go when we set out again tomorrow!  Plus, I am sure I earned at least a few activity points completing this task!

After that job, I came inside and took another social media/water break (drinking water has made all the difference – I rarely drink anything else now, except coffee and a diet pop once in awhile as a treat!)  Then I got to work cooking and prepping some food my husband and I plan to take on the road with us.  I grilled turkey burgers (we’ll also take lean hamburgers), cooked a pack of turkey bacon, and cooked a container of bow-tie pasta to make a pasta salad with.  Then I chopped red/yellow/green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and red onions and packed them all in individual containers that will fit easily into our big cooler.  I also plan on taking: eggs, yogurt, granola, lettuce, salad dressing, feta cheese, coffee, cream, mini rice cakes, and a pre-bought meat & cheese tray (as a little treat).  We’ll probably eat a couple meals in restaurants as well and may have to re-stock on groceries next week, but this will definitely help us to save some cash while on the road and will help me continue with my weight loss goals!

After all that food prep, I decided to take another little break (I love the slow-moving days of summer!) so made myself a coffee (with cream) and sat down to check social media and watch some more TV.  Oh, I should also mention that I started another book  – Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and it’s really interesting so far!  I am really going to miss all the free time for reading when school goes back in!

Dinner:  For dinner, my husband and I ate leftovers out of the fridge.  He had hotdogs while I had some boneless, skinless chicken breast and made one of my taco salads with light Italian dressing.   My salad and chicken came to a total of about 8 points.

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Workout:  We had another softball game tonight (we lost by just a few runs).  It was still pretty hot out so it wasn’t hard to work up a sweat!  This earned me about 6 activity points.

Snack:  When we got home from softball my husband I were both really hungry!  I wanted something filling and satisfying so decided to have another 1/2 cup of peanut butter granola and 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt – it totally hit the spot and filled me up!  Plus, I guzzled a bunch more water.

Well guys, that’s it!  It’s the end of my 30 days!  I still can’t believe I actually stuck to this (and blogged about every single day!)  I weighed myself this morning and I was down another couple pounds so I’m estimating that I lost about 10 lbs over the last 30 days!  I am really happy with that result seeing as in the past it would have taken me months to lose that much!  I have already noticed that my clothes are fitting better and I’ve already had to buy a few items in a size smaller!  My energy levels haven’t changed much but I think that has more to do with the lazy days of summer than anything (hopefully when I get back to work, I will feel the effects of better nutrition when it comes to having more energy!)  The biggest transformation though has definitely been on the inside.  I am so proud of myself for doing this and for seeing it through to the “end”.  I feel more confident and motivated knowing that if I can do it for 30 days, I can keep on doing it until this becomes habit.   I know it will never be “perfect” but that’s not what I am striving for.  I am striving for doing better.  I want to be mindful about how I am treating my body, how I am nourishing it, and how I am challenging it.  I know that that will take work and effort on my part.  But I think the biggest, most important thing to remember at the end of all this is that everything happens one day at a time. As I have mentioned in previous posts, in the past I always fell victim to the “all or nothing” mentality.  I’d always let one bad meal become a bad day, which would become a bad week, bad month, etc.  I thought if I couldn’t eat “perfectly” I might as well throw it all away and just not do anything about it.  Clearly, that was not working for me.

So now, after the last 30 days, I can honestly say I am excited and very motivated to keep going!  I’ve seen nothing but positive results this past month and if I am being perfectly honest, it really hasn’t been that hard (after all, I did indulge several times in the last 30 days!)  More importantly, I know if I keep working at it, one day at a time, I will establish healthy routines that will be good for me mind, body, and soul.  That’s the ultimate goal.

30 days complete!  I DID IT!

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