The two photos above are from the same place (Yountville, CA) and with the same subjects (me and my daughter Wrenn). The difference between the two photos is time (eight months apart). It is funny how quickly time passes, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable goals. When I started this wellness journey back in January with 100+ pounds to lose, I was skeptical because a) nothing had ever worked before, b) the goal seemed too grand to be achievable, and c) in an area where gratification is instant, the time it would take to actually lose 100 pounds felt too distant. Yet, here I am six months in and almost 45 pounds closer to my goal. Figuratively speaking, it has been the blink of an eye. It is hard to imagine what today would look and feel like for me, if I hadn’t seen that Facebook post about Jennifer’s journey. It is almost unbearable to think about, because it resurfaces feelings of shame, and the time I wasted swimming in self doubt and fear – versus how I spend my days now being more present, and practicing better self-care.
Being more present has, in some ways, changed my perception of time. I used to be a proud disciple of our lady of perpetual busy-ness – cultivating my self-worth by doing everything, and doing everything picture perfectly. For me, the problem was that I was a) stretching myself too thinly, and b) prioritizing my life backwards. Instead of putting the oxygen mask on myself first, I was putting it on my career first, then my family, then my chores, then my addiction to BRAVO television, then some online shopping, and oh, look, something shiny!! Not including yourself in your own damned list of life’s priorities is the surest way to get fat, it turns out.
I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about what I have learned over the past six months, and trying to distill it into something more easily digestible. I want to keep these boiled down lessons in my tool chest for the days when I need the reminder of how far I have come, or to stay present, or how I will blink and be another six months in and x pounds down. Together with the tools and roadmap to success that my health coach has given me, here are the top three things that have been instrumental to my success, thus far.
1) The V word
I probably could write a thoughtful, or at least entertaining blog post about the vagina, but the V word I am referencing here is vulnerability. For something that is so essential to our own happiness, the majority of us really do a crummy job of practicing the art of showing up with our authentic selves. Which is too bad because when we fail to be authentic, we miss connecting with others more deep and meaningful ways. I have been thinking a lot lately about the role that my own vulnerability has played in my weight-loss journey.
Vulnerability, I am learning, is a bit of a paradox. I want to see the real you, but I don’t want you to see the real me. Frankly, we don’t want to risk the judgment and potential shame. However, if we all agree that we are attracted to authenticity, then why are so few of us bold enough to show up with our true selves? Because it feels like standing in a crowd naked, I suppose.
The hours leading up to hitting send on my first blog post were excruciating. I was getting my hair coloured at the same time as a distraction, but it didn’t help. Mostly, I struggled with why was I sharing my story? I hoped it was to find connection with others who were sharing similar struggles, or perhaps inspire someone who wanted to change but didn’t know where to find the roadmap. I also figured that boldly owning where I was at would help keep me accountable and motivated. Even though I was pretty sure my intentions were aligned with my values, I sat in a cold sweat for hours working up the courage required to push the send button.
Once I finally did work up the courage to hit send, I hoped that I would be hit with a wave of relief.. Instead, I felt the cold and familiar sting of shame – as if I had done something wrong. The rest of that evening was a blur. I tried to shift my focus to my family, and the hockey game we were attending. However, the anxiety lingered. It was not until the following morning that I was able to dust myself off and shake the shame cloud. Why was this so hard, I wondered? After all, this was not the first time I had dabbled in real-talk, or humiliating public posts. It takes balls to write about ones experience with lice, for example. Pssst. Are you itchy? I am itchy.
Why was this different? I suppose the answer was two-fold.
- This was the first time I was taking my writing more seriously than hiding behind the comfort of a Facebook post.
- I wasn’t sharing a funny story about a family experience that happens to everyone but nobody talks about – I was sharing a part of myself that wasn’t funny at all. Especially to me. I was sharing data and stories about myself that I had not even shared with my husband, let alone strangers.
Was daring to be seen naked worth the risk? Absolutely. Bucking the urge to keep myself to myself is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Even at this grand scale (haha, I said scale). The results have been beyond hope of connection, inspiration, and accountability. I imagine it is like a near-death experience, where one is left with the confidence that comes after facing their biggest fear and are capable of accomplishing anything!
2) Friends with benefits
One of the best things about sharing my struggles more broadly has been the outpouring of support and encouragement from family, friends, and strangers alike. There are the Facebook and blog comments that I receive – which I am truly grateful for, but was somewhat more prepared for. What has absolutely floored me, however, is the amount of people who have reached out privately. Some have reached out to share their own struggles with weight. Others, may not have struggled with weight, but have wrestled with their own negative inside voices and self-doubt.
And then there are the women who have reached out to tell me that my story inspired them to contact Jennifer and start their own Project Healthy Body journey’s They are the ones who I treasure the most, because we are truly walking the same walk. The feeling that I am helping others, and they are helping me back is a powerful tool that will lead us all to success.
The support I have received, in all of its forms, has helped me immeasurably (or measurably, if we are counting inches lost). When I have been on a winning streak, the encouragement pushes me to keep going; when I have slipped back into some of my old habits and negative talk, the support helps me to get back on track. Actually, the support is especially helpful on the not-so-great days. Even though my first instinct is still to turn inward and fix things myself, I have learned that I cannot always right my ship on my own. That is one of the many benefits of having friends. It requires more vulnerability on my part – but if they do not know that I am struggling, they can’t help me dig my way back out. When it is our struggle, the possible seems infinitely more possible.
3) The G spot
Last, but not least, I would be remiss not to mention the role that gratitude has played in my journey to self-love. Being grateful for where I am, what I have, and for each moment in the day (even the shitty ones) has helped to keep me present and focused on what actually matters. I used to spend my time rushing through each day, or dreaming about the next big thing, or planning our next amazing event – often forgetting to see all of the miracles right in front of my face. An attitude of gratitude is the difference between longing for my best life and living my best life. It is the deep belief that every moment I have with my family and friends is life’s greatest gift. To savor the moment is to find true happiness. Of course, this isn’t always easy. Like all of the health changes that I am making, it takes practice and repetition.
When I feel that familiar wave of impatience, I consciously decide to stop and sink back into the moment. When we are getting the kids to bed and Quinn asks me to come back for two minutes and tell her the story of how she projectile pooped on Craig when she was a baby, and all I want to do is get them down so I can watch some stupid show, I tell myself to stop. Stop rushing and start connecting…for two whole minutes! Because I am going to blink and they will be off to start their own families. I am going to blink and they will no longer smell like grass and scented markers. I am going to blink and regret that I opted to spend my time with the New York housewives over time with my Willow Glen housekids – and my family is MUCH more entertaining, I guarantee it.
When I first started to practice gratitude more seriously, Jennifer encouraged me to start even smaller. To be grateful for running water, electricity, and the soft grass beneath my feet. To be grateful for movement, and going about my day without physical pain. To be grateful for the ability to take a long healing breath of air, or listen to my favorite song, or watch the majesty of a particularly beautiful sunset (or watch the majesty of a particularly unimpressive sunset).
Each of these practices and awakenings bring me closer to my family and closer to myself. Not only am I lighter in mass than I was six months ago, but I am lighter in spirit. I felt the weight of my weight in every step. It consumed much of my thoughts and my time. Time that I could have been spending telling Quinn the now infamous rocket-poop story, or getting more steps on my Fitbit, or tasting the delicious sweetness of an apple. Vulnerability, connection, and gratitude are, for me, part of something that feels like becoming – which reminds me of my favorite quote from the children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit…
He said, “You become. It takes a long time. That is why it does not happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”