If I were to write a screenplay about my year long adventure toward health and self-love, it would stand a good chance of being a hit at the box-office. Not because of the quality of the writing, but because it would contain all of the elements of a good film: sudden twists, montages, epic failures, and heartwarming successes. When I published my first blog, I wondered how, if I am doing basically the same thing over and over, could I keep coming up with things to write about. The truth is that when it comes to weight-loss, there is no shortage of things to dig into, boast about, or shamefully admit. Because just when I think I am becoming predictable, life throws me a curve-ball like a five month plateau, or a nation-wide shortage of my thyroid medication that turns a five month plateau into a seven month plateau. Even an innocent observation from a curious and somewhat precocious six year old can still rattle me. Since there has obviously been no shortage of happenings that could derail me, why haven’t I been derailed? What is different about this time?
We spent Thanksgiving in Tahoe, this year – which ended up being one of my all-time favorite Thanksgivings. I disconnected from work and focused on having true quality time with my family. We reconnected with my sister and her husband, and enjoyed all of the benefits of their good company. We went on scavenger hunts and trampoline adventures. We floated around a warm outdoor pool in the afternoon, and glided around an outdoor ice rink in the evenings. Although we never did make it onto the ski hill due to lack of snow, we never let that stop us from making fun family memories.
Personally speaking, I have never felt or looked better. I purchased my very first pair of Wunder-unders from Lululemon and wore them everywhere from the village, to the mountain, to the Ritz-Carlton. Last year at this time, I wouldn’t have been able to get a pair on without serious external damage to their changing rooms – and serious internal damage from constricting and eventually cutting off the blood supply to my organs. The difference between last years Thanksgiving and this years Thanksgiving is astonishing!
One afternoon, as we were riding down the gondola, my six year old daughter Quinn asked if she could tell me something. I don’t know what I assumed she would say, but it probably had something to do with how pretty I looked, or how proud she was to be my daughter. Our conversation went almost exactly like this…
Quinn: Mummy, can I tell you something?
Me: Of course, lady-bird. You can always tell me anything.
Quinn: I am scared you will be mad, because it isn’t very nice.
Me: [expecting something not-so-nice about her sister or a stranger] You can always tell me anything, even if it isn’t very nice.
Quinn: You have a very fat butt. And also your arms, and your legs, and your tummy, and your boobs. But I love your makeup.
Me: [half deflated / half laughing at the amazing and hilarious honesty of a child]
The script trails off for a reason. I honestly don’t remember what I said. I think I had been feeling so good and so in the clouds with all that I have accomplished this past year, that I was temporarily paralyzed by the brutal honesty of her words. I remember Craig saying something supportive about how awesome I am doing, but it still took me some time to shake off the sting of being deflated. It took me some time to process and remind myself to stay present in where I am actually at. And where I am actually at is actually 240lbs. When Craig reminded me how great I looked, I agreed that yes, I have come a long way – but that I still have a long way to go. He furrowed his brow, and I asked him, “aren’t there some linebackers who weigh 240lbs?” He laughed and said yes. In other words, he also got real with where I am at.
The physical differences between last year and today are considerable. But it is the differences that aren’t as obvious that make me the most joyous. After Quinn commented on my sizable posterior (among every single other body part except my mascara), I felt all of my feelings, and then let them pass through me. I didn’t stuff them behind my vodka soaked liver only to work them out later with medium sized pizza. And I didn’t hide them from my husband, like he somehow has no clue that his wife is overweight. I also didn’t shame my daughter for her honesty. What I quickly discovered, was that I really needed that reality check. Staying humble to this process, and staying honest with myself is key to my continued success. Acting complacent and/or satisfied at this weight would be a real misstep. I am proud of myself for all that I have worked through this year, but as they say at Facebook, this journey is 1% finished. Ok, my weight-loss journey is more like 50% finished, but you get the idea.
This weight-loss and self love stuff is, at its core, thoroughly humbling. But it has been the most humbling moments that have served to strengthen my resolve – which is the exact opposite of the other countless times I have tried to get healthy in the past. For years, I repeated the same pattern of picking myself up, starting a diet, losing a little weight, and then getting completely thwarted at the first sign of a struggle. The difference between then and now isn’t that I no longer struggle, or that my struggles are vastly different. What has changed is my focus. Where I used to focus solely on the food and the things that I couldn’t have, I now focus on self-empowerment and all of the amazing things that I can have. I also focus on gratitude, meditating, writing, moving my body, reading more books, breathing, learning, and lots of other things that are equally important and absolutely essential for health and balance. In short, fixing all of the stuff off my plate, has magically fixed all of the stuff on my plate. Of course, the contents of my plate have also adapted to my healthy lifestyle – but the key for me has been to fold those non-food items into a more holistic way of tackling health and weight-loss.
I have also changed my beliefs and expectations. I used to start a healthy regime knowing somewhere in the back of my mind that I would fail. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that I self-fulfilled every single time. And every single time I lost my way, I would quit and gain the weight back (plus a few). I know that will have good days and bad. I know that failure is as much of a certainty as my progress. Even my definition of failure has changed. When I was stuck in the loop of the all-or-nothing diet mentality, one bad meal meant the end of my diet and the beginning of a binge. I might occasionally have a piece of pizza, or a hamburger, or a slice of banana cake from Icing on the Cake – but I don’t even consider those failures or poor choices anymore. I am living a joyful balanced life, which includes cake sometimes! I almost never mindlessly binge on unhealthy foods anymore – but if I do, I have compassion for myself and get right back to healthy living. The second I make that next meal a good one, I am back to practicing self love, and the shame melts away. I am not perfect, but I am making great progress. I still have a big fat butt, legs, arms, tummy, and boobs – but as of today, I am three feet closer toward my butt matching my pretty makeup. That is something to be truly thankful for.
One of the things that Jennifer (my health coach) encourages us to do is to get rid of any clothing items that no longer fit. Sell them, donate them, or give them to a friend – just get them out of your closet because they no longer represent you. And even more important, they won’t represent you in the future, either. This process of discarding any ill-fitting items has been an absolute joy for me. I have exactly ZERO attachment to the tents and mumus that used to drape over my limbs in an attempt to minimize my fatness. Girl, please! Minimizing strategies are such bologna anyway. No vertical strip could ever hide the fact that I was 300lbs. And the only thing that wearing Spanx accomplishes at that size is to push all the fat up in one direction, and push all the fat down in the other direction – resulting in the words most unsavory and blorping hour-glass shape imaginable. So, yeah, I am gleefully bagging up anything and everything that doesn’t fit, and then swiftly showing it the door. Bye, Felicia!
In contrast to tossing out my fat clothes, I have always kept a smattering of beloved items that either no-longer fit – or frankly, never fit (like, not even one time) but that I loved enough to drag from county-to-county and home-to-home for years and years. Two of my favorite items that have remained in my closet despite never ever being able to wear them, are brand new (with tags) Lululemon jackets. Brand new when I purchased them nine years ago, technically speaking. I remember buying them with my husband Craig. I tried them on in the store and they almost fit. We discussed how they could be my goal jackets (I just laughed out loud typing that). I must have been on some kind of diet or exercise regime that had resulted in dropping a few pounds, which gave me the confidence that I would indeed someday soon be wandering around the streets of Palo Alto in my fancy “goal” athleisure-wear. Although, in my defense, these jackets are pre-Luon debacle and of the highest quality.
Anyway, as you can guess, I never did reach my goal. Not even close. In the years that followed that trip to Lululemon, I gained close to 100 pounds. Every time I moved or reorganized my closet, I would find the two jackets and feel sad. Still, I kept them just in case I ever got my act together and lost the weight. And thank goodness I did, because last week, I was purging my closet of things that no longer fit and came across my two goal jackets. I lifted them up, holding them up against the light and wondered, “what if..” I must not have had much confidence in them fitting, because I didn’t even take the tags off as I slipped the first one over my head. OMFG it fits, I thought. At least, I think it might fit. I went for the second opinion and asked my husband if he thought I could wear it out in public. “Absolutely!”, he shouted. It looks great, and you’re rocking it, he crooned. So I wore it to the kids soccer practice, and three separate moms asked me where I got it and if I thought there may be any left. Only if you have a time machine, ladies – this swag is thoroughly vintage. The next day, I wore the pink oxford striped jacket to work, and had the same reaction. Where did you get that, and how can I get one? It sounds so crazy to be dedicating an entire blog post to jackets, but this is honestly one of the most significant and profound happenings of my weightloss journey so far. These to jackets have meaning, and are representative of who I wanted to be for so long, but couldn’t get out of my own way to get there. Until now.
I am a good skier. I grew up spending most of my weekends on the mountains around Vancouver, Canada. It is one of two sports that I am truly confident participating in. I love golf too, but that has more to do with my husband stocking our cart with cocktails and teeing up my errant balls in the middle of the fairway, than actual skill. I love the feeling of gliding down a snow packed slope. The cold wind in my face, and the promise of a warm fire and a cold beer waiting for me at the bottom. Plus, it is one of two sports that am better at than Craig – and I remind him of that frequently (there aren’t many things that I can do better than my man). I love skiing, but I haven’t been on a slope for almost a decade. The first year or two of missing out likely had more to do with being in love and buying a house, and barely being able to afford the grilled cheese sandwiches that we lived on. Still kind of a bummer, but totally excusable. And sure, there were two years when I was pregnant, but the rest of the years off were because I couldn’t zip my ski jacket up. Instead of buying a bigger jacket, I alternated between berated myself for allowing things to get so off track and using my ski jacket as a goal to reach. What is with my goals being tied to jackets? Needless to say, I never did make it back on the mountain. Even when we took trips to Tahoe, I offered to watch the kids so that others could go. Because, you know, nothing says fun like taking 8 kids to Build-A-Bear on a gorgeous bluebird winter day. Fact: Build-A-Bear is why they have cocktail stations on ever corner at Northstar. Also a fact: if you disguise your cocktails in coffee cups, the Build-A-Bear employees turn a blind eye. God bless the compassionate folks at the Northstar Build-A-Bear. Amen and pass the vodka.
Back in February of this year, I tried on my ski jacket for the first time in a very long time. I was getting real with where I was at, and my ski jacket represented both were I was, and where I wanted to be. I love my ski jacket. It is a black and somewhat puffy North Face jacket that I splurged on, a) because I loved it so much, and b) because it fit. Even though I weighed much less than 325 pounds (the absolute highest I ever got to), I still wasn’t the kind of broad who could just waltz into a J Crew and have a shopping spree. North Face was another brand that wasn’t exactly made for my body, so I jumped for joy when it fit (one decade ago). I pulled my arms through the sleeves and heaved it over my shoulders. The sleeves were above my wrists when I held my hands in front of my body, if that gives you an idea of how ill-fitting it was. I moved to zip it up. The sleeves were essentially a clown car! Deep breath. Now try zipping it up, I thought. I couldn’t get the two sides of the jacket to meet within 10 inches. TEN INCHES! I tried to laugh it off with my husband, hiding the shame. If getting honest about where I was in this process was the intention, this was like shock therapy. I don’t know how I had the balls to do it, but I asked Craig to take a photo of me. And then I went on with my life and forgot all about it.
Next week, the family and I are heading to Northstar for Thanksgiving. Naturally, I have been thinking about what we’ll need to bring with us, so while I was puttering around the house on Sunday doing chores, I noticed my ski jacket hanging in my closet. I brought it down and noticed the dust that had accumulated on the shoulders. I gave it a shake and held it up – yup, I still loved it as much as I ever did. The last time I tried it on, I knew there wasn’t any hope that it would fit me. The last time I tried it on, it was a joke. The last time I tried it on, I felt the hot sting of shame rise up in me. The thought of “what if” entered my mind, just like it did when I tried on the two Lululemon jackets. I went for it. First, sliding my hands through the sleeves and holding them out in front of me. The clown car was gone. Next, I grabbed both sides of the jacket and pulled them together. They touched! Lastly, I held on to the two sides of the zipper. It slipped inside and zipped up almost effortlessly. I stood in my bedroom and stared at myself in the mirror. Warm tears of surprise and redemption streaming down my face. I ran to show Craig. He was so proud of me. I was so proud of me. We recreated the same photo in the same spot, where I had last worn the jacket back in February. It still blows my mind to think that I am 10 or more inches narrower than I was at the beginning of this year. I feel so effing proud of myself. I am lighter in every way – and while I still have a long road ahead, I know that I am unstoppable.
Vodka sales in the village are going to take a dive next week. If you’re looking for me, try the slopes. I will be the one in the black puffy North Face jacket.
Hard is where the change is. I have heard Jennifer say this at least a dozen times. Every time she said those words, I agreed but thought it somehow didn’t apply to me. That it was probably someone else in my group who needed to heed that advice – because I was doing just fine. I had lost about 45lbs and could just keep doing what I was doing, because it was working for me. Never mind the fact that my weight-loss had slowed to a snails pace, with no signs of recovery. And never mind that I chose not to participate in the 30 day autoimmune protocol with most of the rest of my group, because it was “too hard” (see the first sentence of this paragraph). And certainly don’t take into account that I actually have two autoimmune disorders, and could almost guarantee results and really important information that could lead to increased vitality for me. Uncovering this blind spot, for me, has been one of the most eye-opening discoveries I have made through this journey. Of course, it also highlights the idea that growth is a continuous process and that I should expect more of these “a-ha” type happenings in the future.
Hard is where the change is. This lifestyle is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a metamorphosis from living a pretty great life, to living my absolute best life. Considering that we have only got one shot on this rock, we owe it to ourselves to aim for our absolute best life. To go from point A to point B means a lot of change and a lot of hard. It also means a lot of pride, and a lot of self love. Which is in stark contrast to the amount of pride and self love I was feeling last year at this time.
Last year around this time, I was spending a lot of time thinking about what I could wear that day to look skinnier. Last year around this time, I was catching my reflection in windows and berating myself for letting myself go. Last year around this time, I was planning my next meal – and it was going to be THE BEST MEAL EVER / or I was planning my next diet – and it was going to be THE BEST DIET EVER! But if you asked me back then, I would have told you that my life was a 10/10! And not because I was lying – I actually believed my own fantasy. Last year around this time, I took a romantic overnight vacation with my husband and posted posted this photo of us. I posted it on Facebook because, at that time, it was the best that I could look. I put makeup on and tried to wear something “cute” on the golf course. I wanted my husband to be proud of me and the way that I looked – while at the same time I was pointing my fat finger in his direction over our dwindling sex life (full disclosure, that shit is still dwindling – but we are committed to getting our groove back). When Craig sent me this photo last week, I was shocked. I felt both proud of how I look and feel today, and ashamed of how I looked and felt in this photo. But my life was a 10/10, right? I look at this photo and I see sickness. I see inflammation, and I see what Jennifer meant when she told me that I was “literally fighting for my life.”
Hard is where the change is, and I am putting that to the test. 20 days ago, Jennifer urged me to give AIP another shot. As soon as she typed the words, “I still think AIP” it was like a light bulb went off, and I was suddenly confronted with the ways that I was still lying to myself. Still telling myself “I cant.” Still blaming. Still accepting something less than my very best. I told Jennifer that I thought she was right, and that I wasn’t even afraid. Failure isn’t an option, when I am practicing self love. Resistance is futile, leaning into what’s hard is where growth is, and I was ready for the next phase of my healing journey. I published a blog about it, because I find that publicly sharing my story helps keep me accountable – and has also led to others reaching out and sharing their own similar struggles and successes. The day after I hit publish, Jennifer sent me the following letter. (Note: Felicia is the name I gave to the negative-talk person inside of me)
I am writing you this note because I want you to remember this date forever. October 18th, 2017…the day you stepped up to the plate and owned your bullshit. That’s a big day lady. I know…I still remember my day…February 23rd, 2015.
Here is the thing about this day, you can never ever go back. It’s not the day you decided to get healthy. It’s not the day you discover what it means to love yourself. It’s not any of the days you chose YOU over and over again. These are all good days, and they are all progress…but today, this was your day.
The day you step entirely off the cliff and trust that the net will appear is the day you quit lying to yourself. The day you own your imperfections and fears. Perfectionists manipulate and spin things to fit into the tidy picture we have created in our own minds. We tell our story when we have the happy ending and all the chapters play out as we planned them. In other words we attempt to exert our control over everything. We hold on tight because we are scared if we let go things will get messy.
Anne Lamott wrote, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It… is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
I spent years looking at my feet. I only did things I knew I could succeed at and if I did something and found I wasn’t succeeding I just told a new story so my actions matched up with the narrative.
Your “When to Protocol it Quits” post was the day you hit pause on your weight loss, and your journey to healthy. Why? Because it is the day you let Felicia sell your bullshit to the entire world and your authentic self…HOLLY handed over the keys to the journey.
You knew you weren’t being authentic…deep down inside you knew…but you had to explain why you were choosing to stop being compliant, stop being coachable, you saw an out with AIP and you took it. It was an escape hatch. You rebelled. The problem? You knew it, and that left two opposing forces at work right inside of you. This made more weight loss…impossible.
“The benefits of an autoimmune protocol are not lost on me. It is made for me. I have two autoimmune disorders: hashimotos, and vitiligo. It is highly likely, if not an absolute certainty that I am reactive to nightshade vegetables and other common food sensitivities. Committing to discovering what exactly works best for my body can only improve my health. Moreover, many of the women in the group were getting amazing results, which I also wanted. And yet….”
FUCKING FELICIA! That’s what I ended that paragraph with when I was reading this…sitting up in bed…my jaw dropped open! GAH!
The last few months are still a win. You maintained. You kept your new healthy lifestyle in check. You showed up for our calls. You do your homework. You didn’t quit. But you took a giant pause and in this space you realized you want this. So owning your bullshit in the group today makes this your day.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life.” This is from Brene Brown and I could not agree more. You just unzipped your shield and stepped into the rest of your AMAZINGLY HUGE MESSY UNKNOWN FABULOUS LIFE!
Today you took the keys back….kicked Felicia out of the car “Bye Felicia!!!!” and you hit the gas!!! This highway doesn’t have a speed limit so hit it lady…I am up ahead, waiting for you…the sun is shining, there are bright beautiful beach cruisers everywhere and I even have a green drink on ice for you!
See you soon beautiful person!
I cried when I read it (and re-read it), and not because I was hoping for a vodka soda with lemon instead of a green drink. I cried because Jennifer’s support reaffirms that I am on the right track, and that I am not alone. I feel like this year has been broken into three separate phases. Each one necessary before advancing to the next. January through May was the ramp up phase. I spent a lot of time learning the basics of Jennifer’s program. I also dropped a significant amount of weight during this stage. May through October was a different kind of breakthrough. One where I learned that change isn’t always easy, and that if I wanted any more success, I would have to buckle down and lean into the discomfort. Most importantly, I learned that I can’t spin and manipulate my way out of this rut. Truly being my authentic self means letting go of the perfectionism that has plagued my past. I also learned that I am good at maintaining my weight, which will come in handy later.
Hard is where the change is. It has been 20 days since giving the AIP a second chance. It has been 20 days of confronting my own limiting bullshit head on. And it has been 20 days of feeling better than I have in a very long time. In 20 days I have lost 13 pounds. My skin looks better and more radiant. I have more energy. My joints don’t hurt. I am not constantly clearing my throat. And best of all, I am not even finding it challenging to stick to the restrictions. My perception of food has changed from “event-focused” to “fuel-focused.” Instead of asking myself, “what is the best and tastiest thing I can have?”, I am asking myself, “what will nourish and fuel my body?” Total TMI, but my poop is literally green – so you can imagine how much spinach I am consuming. Honestly, I should have dressed up as Popeye for Halloween today – alas, this stripped down Pink Lady photo will have to do.
Hard is where the change is. It is also where the greatest rewards are. Hard is where growth lives. Hard is where our best most authentic and successful selves are made. This past month has been a journey from food as comfort to food as fuel. It is also the next step to figuring out who I truly am, and what living as my authentic self means. It means answering important questions like, am I using my unique gifts to the best of my ability? Perhaps that will be better answered in whatever the next phase of my transformation brings. What I know for sure is that I am changing, and that it is hard, but I couldn’t be more grateful
Note: I was three quarters through the “Hitting Save” blog post, when I was suddenly confronted by my own self-limiting BS / which led to this next entry following right on its heels. I finished the post, because there is good content in there that shows an important part of my journey: that there is never an end to the self discovery, or to learning more about myself and my health – or even to my own limiting mindsets that need to be crumbled and rebuilt.
In one of my last blog posts, here, I wrote all about excuses. Over the last 10 months, I have lost 50 pounds of fat from my body. That sounds pretty great, right? In the first 5 months, I lost 40 pounds; in the last 5 months, I have lost 10 pounds. When I write it that way, it has less impact, but it does tell a story. A story about an excuse that I conveniently left out of my last post. Something has gone a little sideways. And that something is my own limiting bullshit.
Back in June, I wrote this blog post about my experience trying (half-assing, is more like it) an autoimmune protocol. Looking back at that blog post now, I feel kind of embarrassed. While it felt genuine at the time, it now reads like an excuse. That protocol really marked the end of being completely engaged in my weight-loss. Did I go off the rails, no. I still move my body, fill my tummy with whole and organic foods, still sleep between 7-8 hours per night, and I am still generally kicking ass – if i was working to maintain my weight. The harsh reality is that I still have between 80-100 pounds to lose, and that is no joke. The good news is that now that I know better, I am doing better. I am engaged and excited about dropping the next 50 pounds.
So what happened?
I don’t think that any one thing contributed to the snails pace with which I have been losing weight, since May. It is more of a combination of things. I realize now that I was, to some degree, still clinging to my old dieters mentality that to be successful, I needed it to be easy. Not to discount the first 40 pounds as completely effortless, but I don’t remember being particularly uncomfortable. Beginning a pretty restrictive protocol DEFINITELY made me uncomfortable. My pre-protocol mantra was, “I am a healthy person who can eat whatever I want – I just happen to mostly choose foods which support my health and vitality.” My protocol mantra was more like, “I am a healthy person who can hardly eat anything – I am miserable and I can’t do this.” I am actually cringing at my own bullshit, as I write this. How could I not see through my own self-imposed limitations?
I am Holly. I ran the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon. I have birthed two children out of a tiny incision in my abdomen. I once landed a job at Yahoo! while on a vacation, and then completely uprooted my life in Canada for a life in California one week later. I was one of a handful of people who got to attend Facebook’s IPO from the NASDAQ in New York City. Just a few weeks ago, I sat in front of over 350 people and interviewed sports legends Kristi Yamaguchi and Brandi Chastain for an hour, but an elimination diet can take me down? I mean, come on Holly! I can accomplish all of this, but I can’t commit to eating veggies, fruit, and protein for 28 days? It’s laughable! Only, not really.
So what happens now?
Well, just like I could never go back to my old bad habits, knowing what I know now – I can’t keep simply maintaining, now that I have been hit over the head with my own excuses. I need to up-level my game, re-engage, and start chipping away at the mountain ahead of me.
In short, I need to shake things up again. In a text string with Jennifer this week, she wrote, “I still think AIP.” Quitting the original protocol was the first and only example of dissent against my coach since I started this journey back in January. Through Jennifer’s guidance, I got the first 50 lbs off – it only makes sense that the next 50 lbs will come off the same way. I don’t feel anxious about it this time. I feel excited. Empowered. Unstoppable. It’s the same energy that carried me through the first five months of this marathon, and I am grateful that it’s back again.
It has been five days of AIP part deux, and I already can’t believe how much easier it is this time around. It really reinforces for me the notion that mindset is 90 percent of the battle. I can, I will, I am over I can’t, I won’t, I am not. Jennifer is always telling us to be mindful of how we can up-level our game. Like everything else that I have learned from her this year, it is a practice. It is layering good habits on top of each other. Progress, not perfection. Process, not perfection. It is falling down 8 times and getting up 9. And the good news is that I am not even falling anymore. I may have been coasting, but my days of falling and failing are few and far between. And that, in and of itself, is a major win for me.
I am starting to place more weight (no pun intended) on how food makes my body feel, instead of how food falsely makes my mind feel. Food as fuel, instead of food as comfort. I am sure that getting older has something to do with it, having a family and wanting to be around for as long as possible also has something to do with it – but whatever the reason, vitality is suddenly important to me. It was not something I considered, before. I also believe that connecting more with fresh whole foods connects us more to nature in general. And when we are more connected to nature, we are a kinder, more gentler version of ourselves. We can see how we are a part of this ecosystem, and how the ecosystem is a part of us. Taking care of my body, doing the hard-but-good work of regaining self-love, and practicing gratitude for all that is good around me and in the world (even, and especially during these times of great tragedy and human/natural disasters) is what this journey is truly about – and I am thankful to be exactly where and who I am in this moment.
When I first started working with Jennifer, the weight practically fell off of me. It was effortless. Not to take away from the work that I was doing, or the commitment that I made, which was significant – but it just seemed to come off without much discomfort. Like I was in some unstoppable zone. My biggest fear back then was tied to my old dieters mentality of “how long will this last?” I was, at least at some level, suspect of the process. There was a place inside of me that feared this would be like all of the other times I tried to lose weight. Because they all started off the same way, with an initial bump of weight-loss which would eventually taper off until I threw my hands up and said, “fuck it – let’s go to In n Out!”
Now the script has flipped, and I am fighting for every pound – but the fear of eventually giving up is completely gone. Almost laughable! In the most humblest of ways, I am confident that I will never, ever, EVER go back to my old habits. I like who I am becoming. I feel good in my skin. Great, in fact. What I struggle with now is not getting discouraged when the weight-loss is slow, or seemingly non-existent. Or worse, when the numbers on the scale fluctuate a bit. It is during those times that I usually have some kind of off-scale breakthrough, or a “save.” Some of my past saves have been trying on old dresses that suddenly fit, or needing to order a new bra because I have run out of rungs to cinch them up. In some ways, it’s those moments that are the most profound reminders of how far I have come. Over the last few weeks, I have been pushing myself harder. I am extra mindful of what I am putting into my body, and leaning into the discomfort a little more. I am not snacking at night. I am up-leveling my steps and my cycling classes While the scale isn’t responding as quickly as I had hoped, there have been a few notable differences.
For example, the other morning, my hand to god, I thought to myself, “girl, you need some new underwear!” Now, I have thought this thought before. But it has been because of pregnancy, or weight-gain, or general unsightliness. Until the other day, I could count on NONE fingers the amount of times that I needed to procure new undergarments because of shrinkage!
And speaking of clothing, I have also vowed never to step foot in a plus sized store or department section again. Do you hear that, Encore section of Nordstrom? We…are never, ever, ever, getting back together! Like, ever! It has been a few months of clothing purchases in regular stores – and while I am not completely out of the woods yet (like, if I needed a pair of trousers, I would probably still need a size 18), I am going to make due without any help from those particular manufacturers. To celebrate, I tossed all of my 2X and 1X workout gear and did some bold online shopping at Lucy’s. Five pairs of XL sized pants arrive, and 5 pairs of XL sized pants are now in my rotation. I still had to fight that knee jerk reaction of avoiding disappointment by ordering the wrong size, but the fact is that the XL is what fits me now – and that makes me feel really proud of myself. While we’re on the subject of normal clothing, I also purchased and sort-of / kind of / partly zipped up a god damned designer Kate Spade dress, which is my goal dress for New Years Eve, this year. Even at my absolute skinniest, I never would have dared to bare my arms. But I am changing. Becoming more properly proportioned, perhaps. Or maybe I’m just not looking at myself through poo-poo colored glasses any longer.
But the biggest, and definitely boldest revelation came during a recent business trip to Austin. While getting reading early one morning, I caught myself in the bathroom mirror – and for the first time (I don’t know, maybe ever) I thought I looked beautiful. I have had other moments this year when I thought I looked really good – or I could clearly see the difference I am making in my health and in my body. But standing in front of a mirror in my undergarments has never been a particularly positive experience for me. As I stood there and studied my body, I thought about the two beautiful babies that it made. I thought about how this body carried me down an aisle toward Craig, through 26.2 miles of marathon hell, across most of Europe with nothing but a friend and a backpack, and all of the most significant moments of my life. I noticed the stretch marks on my hip, and the white patches of skin with no pigment (vitiligo). I looked at all of this, and I felt grateful, and I felt beautiful. And I still do. Of all that I have accomplished over the past eight months, being beautiful is easily the most rewarding.
The majority of my writing about my weight-loss is centered around physical changes and data points. For example, I have lost 52 pounds and over 24 inches since January. Of course, they are important and exciting metrics to share, but equally as important are the internal changes that I am making. From gaining self confidence to unpacking how I got here in the place, there is so much more going on than just the numbers. Digging into the non-metric related areas is key to long term success. Basically, if I don’t fix what’s in here…
I will never fix what’s in here…
In hindsight, I can’t help but feel feel compassion for Holly BPHB (before (Project Healthy Body). Any logical person can see through the utter bologna I would spread about why I was different and why the laws of physics didn’t apply to me. It is much easier to side-step responsibility than to get clear on where you are at. It means digging into the shame and embarrassment of being fat. It means working through the “why” of my fat. It means completely dismantling every unhealthy habit, and rebuilding new and healthy ones. It means toppling the self-righteous, know-it-all, not my fault wall that I had built around myself with food. It means humbling myself to the hard work of change, the hard work of facing fears, and the hard work of learning to love myself more.
Here is a smattering of some of the rubbish excuses that I used and wholeheartedly believed before getting really real with myself and with my fat.
Excuse: I have a thyroid condition.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I had some blood-work come back with concerning results. I was sent swiftly to an endocrinologist who diagnosed me with Hashimotos, a type of hypothyroidism. Essentially, my immune system attacks my thyroid gland leading to reduced thyroid function. The symptoms include fatigue, weight-gain, thinning hair, and joint/muscle pain. It is a legitimate autoimmune disorder, to be sure – and I will have to take a synthetic thyroid replacement pill every day for the rest of my life.
For me, it was also the answer and the excuse that I had been searching for. Suddenly, I had something to blame for my fat. “Here I am, practically perfect in every way and doing absolutely everything I can do lose weight – but the cards are stacked against me”, I thought (and explained to anyone who challenged me). I read every book and saw a bunch of doctors. And if my doctor du jour didn’t agree with my medical opinion, I looked for someone who would.
The year before I contacted Jennifer at Project Healthy Body, I was running 3-4 miles every morning, and keeping a gluten free diet. Basically, doing just enough to completely recuse myself of any responsibility. I had built a cycle of victim-hood and outside blame that was bullet-proof. The running, which to be clear, had many benefits – meant a lot of calorie burning, but also an increased appetite. And my super duper healthy “gluten free” lifestyle was really just a pile of calorie dense “gluten free” breads and pasta with melted cheese. Two double-doubles “protein style” from In-N-Out, while mighty tasty, isn’t exactly going to grace the cover of any respectable health magazine.
While I did manage to lose 30 pounds that year, it was all in the beginning – and slowly but inevitably, my horse-shit plan caught up to me and I ended up gaining all of it back. It was the same self-fulfilling cycle of defeat I had been on for years, disguised in a legitimate autoimmune disorder. The truth is that yes…I have a medical condition – but that medical condition is not an excuse to be unhealthy, and it’s also not an excuse to believe that I cannot lose weight.
When I was a kid, my father used food as a reward. Win a game? Get a good grade? Reach a goal? How about a Slurpee? It was also a band-aid. Didn’t get invited to a birthday party? Scrape your knee? Lose your favorite toy? Let’s get a happy meal. I am not throwing shade in my fathers direction. He was, is, and will continue to be the most supportive, altruistic, loving father any kid could ask for. He was also, like me and most other parents, doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.
I used this concept of food entitlement throughout my life. And I took it to an extreme. When times were good, when times were bad, when I was feeling lonely, when I was feeling amazing, when I failed, when I succeeded, when I was with a friend, when I was by myself – every meal was the meal of my dreams! Food entitlement was an excuse not to face what was actually going on with me.
Excuse: I don’t have time
Poppycock! I have exactly as much time for myself as I am willing to make. The problem was that as far as priorities go, I was perpetually putting myself last on the list and then wearing that like some kind of badge of honor. The laundry list of time-related excuses was huge. Here are just a few:
- I have a long commute
- I have a demanding job
- I have two young children
- I have to watch [insert Netflix/HBO/BRAVO series]
- I have to Doordash dinner to my family every night
- I have to finish all the vodka
- I have to do the laundry, and the dishes, and the lunches, and the outfits, and Christ..did Quinn do her homework?
All of these excuses and more were the things that were eating up my time. Most of these things, but not all, STILL eat up some of my time. What has changed are my priorities – and priority number one, two, and three are me, myself, and I. And guess what? Not only has the world kept turning, but I find myself with more time than ever. Now that I find the time to take care of myself, I also find the time to sleep more, read more, exercise more, meet up with girlfriends more, and live a more balanced life.
Excuse: my life is a 10/10
Having an attitude of gratitude is essential to healthy living. Over-pivoting and using gratitude as an excuse, though, is just another way that I was hiding behind my fat. The very first sentence from the very first homework assignment that I wrote to Jennifer was, ” I am uncomfortable not announcing that my life is a 10/10.” If I believe that my life is a 10 out of 10, then what is there to solve? Nothing, because [queue Lego movie characters singing] EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!
Looking back, I see so clearly how I was using this as another excuse not to get real with where I am at. And boy, did Jennifer get real with me. She calculated my BMI and informed me that I was morbidly obese, and that I was literally fighting for my life. It was the first time that I truly considered that my unhealthy choices could cause me to die. I am a wife. Together, my husband and I built a love that is as true as love can be. We have two young children who are combinations of the very best in each of us. Life together is everything I ever hoped family life could be. In that moment with Jennifer, I suddenly understood the table stakes. It was as profound as any life event that has ever happened to me. I had to get my shit together this time, and I had to get it together today…NOW. Not on Monday, when all diets start. And for good this time. For me, for Craig, and for my children.
Excuses, excuses, excuses…
Look, all of these reasons that kept me from gaining my health back have a kernel of truth to them. Yes, I have a thyroid disease. Yes, I learned to have a bad relationship with food as a kid. Yes, I have a very full life with kids, commuting, and careering. But none of these kernels of truth equal an inability to get healthy. They were, at best, a diversionary tactic. A way to keep my real problems conveniently veiled.
Thanks to Jennifer and Project Healthy Body revolution, the veil has been lifted. And while my life will never be a 10 out of 10 (because..spoiler alert: nobody’s life is), it is a life that I am truly grateful for – and a life that I am actively showing gratitude for by making healthy choices that support my vitality instead of playing Russian roulette with it.
Today, food is an expression of self love.
Today, I am a healthy person.
Today, I make time for myself and for my health.
Today, I am out of excuses.
Forgive me followers, for I have sinned. It has been two months of summer fun since my last confession. In that time, I have…
- Abused alcohol while travelling through Ireland with my husband, such that the contents of my sweat and tears is STILL roughly 37% Guinness.
- Used sex within marriage, but with absolutely, positively, holy-shit, OMG NO intent of procreating life.
- Deliberately ingested impure foods such as pasta, cake, s’mores, and soda bread.
- Permitted a couple of impure thoughts about Chris Pratt, but only after they announced their separation – so at the very least, it wasn’t completely adulterous…right? Anyone? Bueller?
Now that school is back in session, vacation time is over, and summer will soon start to fade into fall, I am happily returning to the comfort and structure of routine. While I remained committed to my health goals throughout the summer, and even managed to drop a couple of pounds, I was more prone to gluttony and indulgence than usual. I consumed more alcohol, swapped spin class for floating around my best friends pool, let go of any pressure I felt to publish any blog entries, and generally stuck to spending quality time with family and friends. It was a fun and memorable summer, and now it is time to get back to work.
Even though I am looking good and feeling even better, I need to keep reminding myself that I still have a long journey ahead of me. I have to pause and work up the courage to type this, but I still have almost 100lbs to lose before I can afford to kick back and thoroughly enjoy my success. As the milestones of success pile up, and I start to feel better and better about myself and how I look, it only gets more challenging to buckle down. Not that I have been going off the rails. I am absolutely confident that my old lifestyle will remain just that…my old lifestyle. It isn’t difficult for me to maintain my weight now, but it IS difficult to keep dropping. I really have to work for each and every pound – which is a big change from the initial 40lbs that came off so easily. The last 10lbs have been much slower, and much harder fought for.
Fighting for those pounds is easier when I’m back in my regular routine. I’m highly susceptible, it turns out, to the lure of a warm summer evening cocktail on the patio, or three, or eight. And most of my exercise comes in the form of floating around weightless in a pool…with more cocktails. In hindsight, I’m not entirely sure how I managed to maintain my weight this summer, let alone drop a couple of pounds. Miracle pounds is what they were – and all the more reason to get slightly uncomfortable again, push harder, and work for the gift of better health.
Although the summer was definitely more relaxed, it wasn’t without some significant wins. For example, I flew overseas in economy, and it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about the seat-belt because those days are solidly behind me. I also buckled down and pushed myself to a record 130,000 steps Monday through Friday for one week in July (although I was proud of myself, I would not recommend this goal to other working moms with challenging commutes – while doable, there is precious little time for anything BUT walking). I had a few other small but significant wins while shopping in my own closet. Like my favorite white linen pants, I have always kept my absolute favorite items. I have packed them and unpacked them from place to place, which always made me a little sad – but it also must mean that I was holding onto hope that they would one day fit again. I am so glad that I did. Here are some highlights…
In addition to the highlights above, I also lost another couple of pounds and a few more inches, which was great but difficult to put into context. Or, difficult until my health coach helped put it into perspective for me. Jennifer sent me txt that read, “23.5 inches total, from when you started tracking.” The “from when you started tracking part” was because, unfortunately, I didn’t measure myself at the beginning – even though Jennifer explicitly told me to. I must not have truly believed this lifestyle would work, or that I would be able to find success Anyway, while it’s too bad that I didn’t believe in myself enough to grab the exact metrics, it absolutely guarantees that since January 2017, I have lost over two feet of inches from my body. I did that. Me and my roadmap from Jennifer did THAT! I just high-fived myself! It’s 7am on Saturday morning, and I am alone in my living-room, and I looked a little unstable doing it, but I high-fived the S out of myself.
But far and away the very best part of the summer was my trip to Ireland. And I don’t mean the actual trip, which was absolutely wonderful; I mean the prep and packing of outfits! While I love a good wedding, or gala, or 3 Michelin star dinner, these types of events are also a great source of anxiety for me. I really care about what I look like. I love clothing and fashion and design – but I have never felt comfortable in my own body and have had serious limitations on where I can shop for clothing, so have never truly felt beautiful at an event, or at work, or on a date night. Ugh…that makes me so sad to think about how much time I have spent over the years worrying about how I am going to look, or what I am going to wear to a friends wedding, or my own wedding, or the holiday party, or a birthday party, or to target, or the bank, or the kitchen for a glass of water. When I was single, it was arguably worse. At least now I’ve snared a man, I would think. When an event, like a wedding, was months away, I would start planning on how much weight I would lose beforehand, and how great I would look and feel if I could buckle down and just DO IT! Inevitably, though, the stress and pressure of trying to drop dress sizes before an event would only lead to gaining wait instead of losing it – followed by feelings of shame and self-loathing – and then finally ending up sweating over some outfit that wasn’t up to my expectations, shoes that I would have to take off 1/2 way through the event, and generally feeling uncomfortable in my own skin until I was sauced enough to leave it all on the dance floor and have a great time. What a waste! How I wish that I could have seen myself as the world sees me, and loved myself enough to take better care of the one vessel and one life that I’ve been gifted. At the same time, I am so grateful for Jennifer and the path that she has helped put me on. A path that ensures that I will never ever go back to my old life again.
This time, it was different. While I was still a little anxious about what I would wear to my cousins wedding in Ireland, I was grounded in the fact that I had finally achieved what I could never manage before. I wasn’t just a couple of pounds down before this event, I was 24+ inches and 50 pounds down. And more importantly, my insides were matching my outsides. It makes me tear up just typing that. Out of all of the wins that I have enjoyed this year, this was by far the best. My insides matched my outsides, and both were beautiful.
The wins started with the typically painful process of finding a dress to wear to the wedding. I have never been able to wear my best friends clothing. Like, not even once. So when we were at her pool one afternoon and she suggested that I go surfing through her closet to find something, I was immediately resigned to the fact that nothing would fit. We selected three dresses to try – none of which were particularly A-line, which is the only shape that has ever worked for me. Even as I was slipping each dress over my body, I was sure they wouldn’t zip up in the back. But not only did they zip up, they each looked great! So great that I couldn’t decide and took them all home to play fashion show for Craig. I ended up settling on a black wool (summer in Ireland is still Ireland) Calvin Klein dress in a fit and flare shape. You read that correctly – fit and FLARE! The last thing I usually want my ass to do is flare! Fit and camouflage is more my speed. Anyway, the dress looked great, and I was happy. And because I borrowed a dress, I figured that gave me license to procure a new pair of shoes – so off to Nordstrom I went.
Historically, shoes are the next hurdle, after the dress is found. I used to wear heels and wedges all the time. Then something happened post children where I gave up on them all together. Probably because I felt frumpy, and probably because wobbling around on anything but flats when you’re 300 pounds kinda frigging hurts! The last wedges I purchased were some kind of ‘high-comfort’ line, which….dear god….can someone make those cuter? They are the Nissan Leaf of the womens shoe industry. Sure, they’re practical – but they look like a nightmare! So when I walked into Nordstrom, and worked up the courage to tip toe into the designer shoe section, it was a big deal. I was fresh off of my dress win, but still fairly certain that the back patent Gucci loafers would be a bust. Even though the look I told Craig I was going for was naughty Irish nanny / Mischievous Mary Poppins, I was scared the loafers would make my feet look wide and my legs look to fat. Plus, I still wasn’t sure how to break it to Craig that I was hoping to spend THAT much on a pair of shoes. People…it was just like final scene in Cinderella – only my prince charming was a salesman, and my glass slipper was Gucci, yo! Like a glove, I tell ya! I brought them home and prepared a powerpoint presentation for Craig proving why these shoes were more important than the girls chances at a post secondary education. I put the entire outfit on and walked past my husband, who immediately agreed I should keep them. Not only did he agree that they were the naughty nanniest, when I asked for his opinion on black patent vs red patent, he told me that he couldn’t decide and that I should go back and get both. Lordy, did I burst into tears. I have longed for that feeling for tens of years, and it was even better than I thought it would be.
Of course, I did take Craig up on his offer and went back to Nordstrom the very next day. I didn’t end up buying the red ones, though. The red was too dark for me, and I didn’t want to completely overdo it and end up with buyers remorse – or worse, homeless. Instead, I decided to head upstairs to find the perfect super opaque black tights to go with my nanny costume. Now, it has been about 8 years since I last shopped for clothing in the normal section of Nordstrom. I am usually a third floor shame section only kind of girl. You may or may not be familiar. If you are, then you know that flitty dance that you do, like you’re just there to look at kids shoes…and then you ghost yourself across the walkway into the “Encore” section – where the last thing the women shopping there are hoping for is an encore performance in the encore section. Believe me, we would much rather the Encore section be a one hit wonder section. But before I made it to the escalator, a top in the normal womens section caught my eye. Maybe it was because I was on such a roll that I decided to detour and sift through the pretty merch. And I am SO glad that I did. Not only did I walk out with that pretty top, but three tank tops, one sweater, one suit jacket, a pair of boyfriend jeans, two adorable baby-doll tops, a pair of skinny jeans, and a FREE PEOPLE top! Their slogan should be “for free people; not fat people.”
I was over the moon. I have never been more excited for a trip! I folded and unfolded my new clothing. I paired things with stack-able bracelets, statement necklaces, and cocktail rings. I practiced rolling the sleeves of my suit jacket, and pairing it with a crisp white tank top, rolled up boyfriend jeans, and about a bajillion jewels (and, of course, my multi-purpose Gucci loafers). I didn’t dare take the tag off and wear anything before our trip. I wanted to unpack a fresh and fabulous outfit for every day I was travelling. And that’s exactly what I did. Starting with the big event. The wedding.
For me, the final woeful moments of any event has got to be the primping stage. I usually spend the day hoping, wishing, and praying that whatever mumu I brought will fit. I try in earnest to at least make my hair look great, in hopes that it will distract from what lies beneath my neck. I blow dry, and then I sweat from the heat, which frizzes up my hair. And then I pull and wiggle and jump up and down to get my dress on, which makes me sweat again, and further frizzes up my hair. Then I tell whomever is within whining distance that I don’t even want to go to the ____ anyway. And then someone hands me a “dresser” martini, which is enough liquid courage to get me out the door and on my way to dancing queen-level intoxication.
I have never been so calm, so dry, and so blissful before an event. Not even 20mins under a blow-drier could shake my zen. My makeup was flawless. My hair conservative AF! My dress floated over my body. And my shoes. My god, my shoes. I pranced across cobble stones, gave a damned fine reading, glided across the dance floor, and generally stood in absolute merriment from 1:00pm-11:00pm. An Irish wedding that ended at 11pm, you croon??? We are nothing, if not professional boozers. Gurl, pleaze, we ditched the car and the parents back at our vacation rental and hit the pubs until 4am.
The rest of the trip was a repeat of new locations, new outfits, and completely doing my hair and makeup every single day. I felt proud to be on Craig’s arm everywhere we went. And I felt like Craig was proud, too. I felt so good that I even ditched the Lululemon for the 10 hour flight home, and instead opted for skinny jeans and my free people top. It didn’t stop there, either. Since being back, I have quaffed, rolled, jujed, painted, and bedazzled my way into each day (except for today, when we had two soccer games in a 100 degree field). And not in a fake-it till you make-it kind of way. I am making it, and it feels fabulous!
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.”
One month into the year long Project Healthy Body, and the results are good – but they could be better. The first month kicked my ass with a 28 day autoimmune protocol / elimination diet.
- no nuts
- no grains
- no beans or legumes
- no eggs
- no nightshade vegetables (like tomatoes, or peppers)
- no sugar
- no caffeine
- and *gulp* no alcohol
I don’t want to diminish the progress I made, because did lose both weight and inches. I lost the weight I gained back during the break between sessions, plus one additional pound and I lost another 4.5 inches. But although I made progress, the AIP really took the wind out of my sails. The good news, however, is that this is a life-long journey with peaks and valleys – not an all-or-nothing sprint to the finish line. It is trial and success, and it is trial and error. I am learning what works well for me and my body, and what doesn’t.
Most notably, I learned that the script matters to me. At least for now. For the first four months, I operated on the notion that I was a healthy person who could eat whatever she wanted – I just chose healthy foods that supported my vitality. Simply thinking abut food in a different way made all of the difference for me. Instead of feeling restricted and leaning on my own shaky will power, I felt empowered. And that empowerment led to making good choices again and again. Just knowing that I could have the pizza, or the pasta, or the burger if I wanted it, magically made me not want it. It freed me from the handcuffs of restriction and opened my mind up to fill my home and my body with fresh and colorful whole foods.
The benefits of an autoimmune protocol are not lost on me. It is made for me. I have two autoimmune disorders: hashimotos, and vitiligo. It is highly likely, if not an absolute certainty that I am reactive to nightshade vegetables and other common food sensitivities. Committing to discovering what exactly works best for my body can only improve my health. Moreover, many of the women in the group were getting amazing results, which I also wanted. And yet….
From day one of the protocol, I thought about all of the foods that I could no longer have. I thought about our morning smoothies that wouldn’t have almond milk, or the tablespoon of walnut butter. I thought about my salads that wouldn’t have sliced almonds, or tomatoes in them. And I thought about my famed antipasto platters that would no longer include pistachios, a couple of slices of 12 month aged manchego cheese, crisp sliced red peppers, and freshly blended hummus to dip it all into. No eggs to turn into a frittata in a pinch, when our schedules were crazy and we needed something fast. Handcuffs led to anxiety, anxiety to panic, and panic to failure.
It seemed the harder I tried, the more I failed. And my failures were with foods that on any other day would be perfectly healthy. Foods like a little hummus with my raw vegetables, a sliced red pepper on my salad, or a little almond milk in my morning smoothie, instead of the AIP friendly coconut milk. Each time I caved and introduced one of these restricted foods, I felt the familiar sting of shame and anger. Shame that I couldn’t stick to the protocol 100% for more than one week (maybe it was less). Angry that I was berating myself for having a god damned red pepper! And stunned that after so many months of feeling like an A student, I was suddenly feeling like I was on a performance improvement plan. I was confused and should have reached out for help, but the competitor in me, plus the good student status I had self appointed urged me to try and figure it out on my own. Get back up and start again, I told myself. No more shitty red peppers!
The month-long endeavor was not without significant wins and powerful lessons, though. I zipped up (without too much effort) my all-time favorite pink strapless dress. I haven’t been able to zip that beauty up for over seven years. My wedding rings suddenly slip on and off of my finger without effort, and even my undergarments are getting too big! I also did another clothing purge and purchased new jeans (size 18) and three new bras – and not because my ginormous jugs eventually put so much strain on the fabric that the underwire popped out (which has typically been the case). In fact, I once made small talk with a particularly notable silicon valley CEO – while, unbeknownst to me, the unearthed underwire of my bra began travelling through the fiber of my sweater until it landed in it’s final resting place just under my chin. Nay, this time, I needed new bras because the circumference of my chest was smaller than the smallest rungs on the clasp. If this is not monumental success, I don’t know what is!
In addition to these positive changes, I also slept more, read more, and spent more time just being. My husband and I spent less time watching TV and more time holding hands by the firepit. I woke up and read to Craig every morning, and I made our bed before I left for work. We also increased our physical intimacy, which is good because that has been an issue we have struggled to get back on track. I mean, when you can’t eat anything, you might as well get it on, right? Honestly, this counts as a double win because not only were we having sex, but we were having SOBER sex!! Holy hell – talk about uncharted territory! Short, shameful confession…we almost named our second child Martini, if that gives you any insight into how we sexy-time. At first it was a little awkward, and at one point we even bonked heads which made me laugh at an especially climactic moment that gets ruined by laughter. But even though it was a bit of a circus at times, it helped us reconnect. And that alone is worth one month of struggle.
So what’s next? Well, I am going to give the protocol a break and go back to flipping the script again. I am going to be more disciplined about portion sizes, and keeping dairy and grains to special occasions only. I can’t afford to slip into my old habits, or take my foot off the gas – because although I have been doing well and I have never felt more proud of myself, I need to be doing better and pushing myself harder. I still have 65 pounds to lose before I am no longer obese. I need to charge forward and be more comfortable with a little discomfort. Especially when the discomfort equals better health and longevity. The stakes have never been higher, and I need to remind myself of that. Because failure means death. And as horrible as it feels to type that, it is the truth. My children deserve better, and so does my husband – but most importantly, I am going to do this for me. The gift of self love and a longer life from me, to me.
I am a healthy person and can eat whatever I want, but I choose to consume whole and healthy foods which support my vitality. I value good sleep, intense spin classes with music that makes me feel like I’m dancing instead of biking, and bonking heads with my hunk of a husband. I strive for true intimacy and connection with my family over charmed but fleeting moments with strangers. I choose a slower and more purposeful pace over the fake allure of being perpetually busy. And I seek progress over perfection. These are the habits and values that, over time, will get me to my goal of being my true authentic and happy healthy self.