I am your every day, “middle-aged” woman with a stressful full-time career. I was never athletic. I was written out of PE more often than I participated and I was rarely involved in any sports. I dabbled in tennis and, if bowling is considered a sport, then we could possibly add that to the list. At one time, a stellar evening would have consisted of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough, Lay’s potato chips, Dean’s french onion dip and a good book. I was 170 pounds and steadily purchasing larger clothes at the same time that I was trying every way that I knew to lose weight.
One day I had enough and embarked on a totally different lifestyle. I not only met any weight loss goals I had, but exceeded them beyond what I ever thought possible. In this case, I had no idea of what I was capable. I want to say to you without any hesitation that if I can achieve my goals.. you most certainly can too!
I share my pictures because they are the obvious illustration of this achievement. Some people might look at them and think.. “She sure is proud of her stuff isn’t she?” Well, in a word, Yes! You know what I am proud of? The accomplishment. This particular accomplishment is most clearly shown through pictures. What I see in those pictures is hard work and perseverance. They are a reminder of my determination to stay committed to my goal. They are, to me, a visual of strength. A strength that I did not realize I had nor was needed when I decided I was going to take control and really do this.
But here is the scoop.. this goal isn’t as simple as just one day deciding to eat chicken instead of brownies. To meet this goal you have to take bold steps. The steps include making many different, and difficult, small decisions day in and day out. These decisions that you make will be little changes that add up to you not simply eating differently, but actually redefining you. It sounds overly dramatic for such a simple thing as losing weight or getting fit, doesn’t it?
According to The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., “Research shows that people who think they have the most willpower are actually the most likely to lose control when tempted.” “Overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight” because “they fail to predict when, where, and why they will give in”.
Be warned that you will be tested. You will be tested, not only by your own temptations, but by external factors.. including the people around you. Some are well-meaning and, until you started making these different choices, never realized the impact it would have on them. Some are not so well-meaning. Those folks may possibly wish to be doing what you are but haven’t found the strength and perseverance to do so yet. Both reactions could present themselves as an unexpected challenge.
For me, my mother is a great example because she is definitely one of the well-meaning ones. There is no doubt that she loves me dearly, supports my goals, and wants what is best for me. What began as a 6 week trial to “see if it works” turned into a lifestyle change. This, in turn, had some unexpected ramifications on our relationship. One area in which we had bonded for years was cooking and eating. I come from an Italian background and some of my fondest memories have been in the kitchen. From large celebrations to heart-to-heart conversations, many centered around the kitchen and over food. Not only was the kitchen and food a focal point for socializing; but bonding occurred over cooking and exchanging recipes for generations. I am an only child and my mother’s mother and grandmother are now gone. My choice in a different lifestyle unintentionally changed all of this.. pound cake (made with a full pound of butter, I believe) has been replaced with baked oatmeal. There were definitely growing pains as we adapted to different methods of bonding.
Then there are the not so well-meaning people. Haven’t we all experienced them in some form or fashion in our lives? They will be the nay-sayers.. the ones who always have some comment when you say, “No, thank you” to the donuts, skip on the bread and sweets at the potluck, or choose to go to the gym instead of happy hour. I have heard: “Well, I choose to have a balanced life”; “I am going to enjoy <fill in the blank> because it is Mary’s birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, etc.”; “Isn’t it easier to just eat normal?” The one thing I can guarantee is these types of statements will be unending and will feel relentless.
Consider this. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition reveals that “normal” and “balance” for many Americans has led to the following statistics:
- Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.
- Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and oils.
- Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day; only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week.
- More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
- The percentage of obese adults more than doubled between the early 1970s (15%) and 2007-08 (34%) and it is projected that by 2030 half of all adults in the United States will be obese.
- Obesity-related medical conditions cost our nation nearly $150 billion every year and account for 16-18% of our total healthcare costs.
I chose to not be “normal” and you are choosing that as well. So I say get used to the idea of not fitting in.. because you will not. You will be saying “No”, when others are saying “Yes”. The “just one bite”, the “I deserve it because”, the “Well, it is Fred’s birthday”, the “Sure, I’ll meet you for a drink and go to the gym tomorrow”.. they add up.
You are going against the grain and to do so will take inner strength and commitment. “If it was easy everyone would do it.” -Unknown
The old ways will not get you new results. You will be making bold, new choices now. All of those are adding up, as well, and leading to a new version of you!
To do so takes:
Respect for the goal and what it means. “The first step to achieving your goal is to take a moment to respect your goal. Know what it means to you to achieve it.” -Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Persistence to overcome the internal and external forces that will challenge you.
Courage to make those different, and difficult, choices day in and day out.
Patience to stick with it through the normal ebbs and flows.. those perceived “successes” and “failures”
Forgiveness when you are not perfect. Let’s face it, there are some things in life that are more important than sticking to an eating plan. It doesn’t take perfection. It takes simply doing your best.
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment.” “Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.” -don Miguel Ruiz Jr.
“No one said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” – Unknown
My new “self” has given me more confidence. Yes, the confidence is partly physical.. for the first time in four decades, I am pleased with what I see. This confidence also comes from a knowing that I stayed committed to a personal value and it was not always easy to do so. I carry with me the knowing that I truly don’t know my limits.