I stepped off the scale and stepped back on again—220 pounds.
I wasn’t sure I could quite believe it the first time. I wasn’t any heavier than before I stepped on that scale but somehow seeing that number register as my weight burndened me that much further. This was the heaviest I had ever been.
On my short five-foot-one-frame, there weren’t many places to store it. I felt enormous.
I stopped trying to fight my genetics and just accepted the fact that obesity ran in my family. Before I was 20 years old and most certainly after I had a baby, I felt beyond the realm of “healthy pretty people,” and instead I secured my place alongside all of my round, plump, unhealthy ancestors. It was as if it was expected of me.
I have always been an obedient girl. It is a virtue that had gone unquestioned for the duration of my childhood, and for many years left me incapable of saying “no.”
But as I stood in the bathroom that day, feeling 33 years of body shame bear down on me, listening to those terrible voices in my head that had spoken to me for years: “You’re disgusting. You are so fat, nobody would ever find you attractive. You will never be beautiful, like every other woman. You are not worthy of love, not even your own.” It stung for a while, as I let it sink in.
And then, ever so quietly, I said “No.” This was not my destiny. This was not me.
This was just a story about my heritage and it was a story that was not my own. It had been written, mouth to ear, for generations before me. I did not have to live into that story. I had the ability to write my own.
So, I asked myself if I were going to make up a story about my life, what would my character be like? Who would I wish to be? What qualities would matter to me? How would I behave? What would I do with my body, my mind, my time? What impact do I want to have on my daughter, on my family, on people around me?
My inner being lit up with the answer: I wanted health and vitality, possibility and empowerment.
I felt a surge of fear, followed by a wave of burning desire. I knew what I must do: build my body deliberately, with appropriate nutrition and exercise that included cardio and weight training. I always had a natural fascination for nutrition, for biology and how the human body works. Throughout massage therapy school, multiple courses on body work, anatomy, nutritional variance, body building methodology and body mechanics, I had amassed a wealth of knowledge.
But here I stood, heavier than I had ever been. This was proof to me that knowing something makes no difference in life, unless and until you put what you know into action.
That day, I set out to lose 70 pounds no matter how long it might take me. Ultimately I ended up losing 99, and went on to compete in a figure competition. More on that in another story.
These are three things I would recommend to anybody taking on a challenge of this caliber (not just weight loss):
1. Break it down into bite size chunks.
Like the saying goes: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (Please don’t actually eat elephants.) I stopped looking at the total number I needed to lose as that became easily overwhelming, and focused on how much I needed to lose this month, this week, and eventually just today. It became a day by day challenge to do just one thing today that made me healthier, took me closer to my goal, than yesterday.
The brain can be our most powerful tool, or our weakest link. The power of our subconscious mind is constantly being programmed and reprogrammed by us. What you envision about your goals literally move your subconscious mind toward that potential. You begin to behave in new manners, to bring your goal into reality. By visualizing my body the way I wanted to see it, I slowly started reprogramming my mind about what to expect from myself. I began to crave healthy food. I fell in love with the challenge of the workouts day after day. I stopped wanting something less for myself than living my very best, and kept focusing on the ultimate goal of loving my fitness level.
3. Be patient and be consistent.
Time marches ever onward. What you do in that time, moment by moment, creates where you will find yourself tomorrow, or a year from now. Everything changes, and understanding that by taking one small step at a time toward your destination, you are bound to get there eventually. Keep the faith. Believe in yourself and believe that your actions matter. The time is going to pass anyway, make yourself proud to look back on what you accomplish. Life is full of possibilities.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Cami Krueger