I was left to my own devices for two weeks between the three month Project Healthy Body and the year long program which started this week. For the first week, I made great choices. I ate whole and vibrant fruits and vegetables. I upped my daily step goal to a minimum of 15k steps. The front desk ladies at Lift were starting to know me by name (which I suppose is not that impressive with a last name like VonDemfange) because I was there so often. And best of all, by the end of the first week, I was another two pounds down – bringing my total to exactly forty pounds since January. I was confident. Too confident. It was that over-confidence, the assertion that I had this all figured out, and that I was impenetrable, which invited back the voice that I had quieted for so long. The one with a sense of entitlement toward food. The one that whispers, “better have it now, because the party is over next Monday when Project Healthy Body starts back up.”
It didn’t happen all at once. Old habits are like that. They creep back slowly, so you don’t even realize you are in trouble until it’s overpowering. It started simply with eating too much of the right foods. Another handful of pistachios, another scoop of hummus, or a larger bowl of fresh berries. “It’s fine”, I told myself. “I am just hungrier because I am working more”, I reasoned. Mid-cycle period? Early menopause? Psychotic break? It’s amazing the excuses I can come up with before getting real with myself again.
Still, the self-awareness wasn’t enough to slow my roll – which felt particularly defeating considering all that I had juts finished learning and practicing in the three month Project Healthy Body. The meals that followed were like death from a thousand paper cuts. Nothing on its own is a horrible transgression, but in aggregate it is no different than how I used to treat myself.
We took my youngest to Benihana for her fourth birthday. I told Craig and my health coach that I was going to reign it in and get back on track. I would skip the fried rice and have the salad and chicken without the sauces. I had the fried rice, the chicken, the sauces – oh, and I also got myself nice and sauced on cheap wine spritzers. But I skipped the cake because, you know, moderation! The concept was no different than how I used to order fast food from the drive-through. I call it the Diet Coke phenomenon.
Operator: Welcome to McDonalds. What’s your order?
Me: Hi there. I would like a Big Mac combo, please.
Operator: Would you like that super-sized?
Me: (pretending to think about it) Hmmmm, ok, sure! There’s a first time for everything!
Operator: What would you like to drink with that?
Me: A diet coke, obviously.
From there, things went from bad to worse. The closer I inched toward the start of the next Project Healthy Body, the more my old bad habits showed up. By Sunday, I was in full blown “send-off” mode and treating every meal like I was on death row…but with a diet coke.
I was a very hungry caterpillar.
On Saturday, I started strong with a banana/spinach/nut-butter smoothie (diet coke phenomenon), and then ate through two carnitas tacos from La Victoria (with “orange sauce” of course), one order of gyoza, two tempura rolls, a couple strips of teriyaki chicken (for the children), and one huge piece of chocolate cake. On Sunday, I started iffy with a cheese, turkey, and yellow pepper scramble, and then ate through a gluten-free (diet coke phenomenon) pizza with bacon and pepperoni, one large piece of leftover birthday cake, a handful of tortilla chips, one huge carnitas burrito, and a big piece of leftover birthday cake – and no, i did not accidentally repeat myself.
Only in the end, I didn’t turn into a beautiful butterfly, like the Eric Carle version. In the end, I cost myself a few unwanted pounds, some self-disappointment, and a lot of regrouping.
Monday, and the start of a 28 day AIP Protocol (elimination diet, essentially) to kick off one year of Project Healthy Bodying came as a relief. No coffee, no dairy, no grains, no beans or legumes, no alcohol, no sugar, and no night-shade vegetables. But mostly, no burritos, no cake, no more hungry caterpillar, no diet coke phenomenon, and no death row.
Six days post-stumble and I am back in black. I am reading more, sleeping more, and being kind to myself again. I wake up and take five minutes to read something positive and soulful out loud to Craig, before getting out of bed. Before leaving for work, I open the blinds and fully make my bed. Because when I start each day with intention over panic, and being present over being five steps ahead, it makes all the difference.
Just six days post-stumble and I am re-losing the couple of pounds that I gained back. It is shocking how quickly the weight can come back. Stay humble and stay mindful, I repeat to myself. I will stumble again. Many times, probably. But the difference now is that stumbling doesn’t equal throwing in the towel. For years, I would try some diet (low carb, no carb, vegan, cabbage soup, weight watchers, jenny craig, nutrisystem, bullet proof, skinny girl, and others) enjoy mild initial success, stumble once, then completely go off the deep-end and gain all the weight back and then some. I am afraid of many things, but my weightloss success is not one of them. Failure is no longer an option, because I now have the roadmap to true healing and becoming my authentic healthy self. And there is great comfort in that. This is not a diet; it is a lifestyle (not to be confused with the lifestyle which is a completely different concept).
This week marked five years exactly since Facebook’s IPO, which was truly the most memorable time of my career. It was my first (and only) trip to New York. The action packed 24 hour trip included sitting next to Craig of Craigslist on the way out, pulling up to the Four Seasons hotel and having someone standing there with my room key, dinner with the coworkers and friend who worked tirelessly on that project, visiting NASDAQ and the Morgan Stanley trading floor for the opening bell, and 3 hours and access to a driver who took me to central park to wander around Barney’s and have a real NYC hot dog. In spite of all of those magical moments and unforgettable experiences, I wasted more time feeling uncomfortable in my clothing, stressing over what to wear, and feeling ashamed of how unhealthy I looked, than being truly present and enjoying myself.
Five years later (to the day), that same group of coworkers, ex-coworkers, and great friends gathered to share memories and raise our glasses to FB’s IPO adventure. Only this time, I was excited about what I was going to wear, comfortable in my clothing, and wasted no time feeling ashamed or looking unhealthy. I enjoyed meaningful conversations with people that I care deeply about, gratefully accepted compliments about how I looked, and support for my weight-loss journey. I didn’t undo a button, or endure weeks of numb toes from squeezing my feet into shoes not meant to support my weight. It’s possible that I didn’t even drive home that evening; I may actually have floated.
And when I got home, I received a notification that I had been tagged in a group photo from the event. This is typically a nightmare for me, where I take a look at the picture, feel the sting of shame in how I look, and lament over whether or not the original poster will notice if I untag myself out of pure disgust and shame. Nervously, I clicked to open the picture. For the first time in a very long time (20 years), I saw myself as a normal healthy person, and not someone who stuck out like the token fatty in the group. I looked vibrant, and healthy, and confident. I felt like I looked like a peer, and not the funny fat one, or the chubby one with a heart of gold, or the squishy one who gives great advice.
I felt like I belonged there.