I stepped off the scale and stared at the lever pointing to the numbers reflecting my new weight. How long have I dreamt about this moment, I thought to myself? Months? Years? What made me stop wasting time on diets that ignored the truth of what was needed to finally feel at peace in my own skin?
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve done to move into a body that feels like home and the truth is the journey has been complex and multi-dimensional. There are no magic answers or quick fixes, as most of us eventually come to realize. Instead, it’s a slow, thoughtful process of learning to love yourself through the twists and turns of growth and change.
My decision to lose weight was really a decision to make my health a number one priority. After decades of focusing on work, I was ready to be unapologetically thoughtful and selective about where I put my energy so I had the time to feed myself well, to move my body, to rest, and to learn what I needed to know about getting strong and fit at midlife.
I didn’t diet. I won’t do that ever again. Being overweight and not feeling good in my body was bad enough, but losing weight after dieting only to gain it all back left me feeling hopeless and defeated. Thanks to Geneen Roth and her beautiful work on understanding the emotional forces that lead us to the fridge, I spent the better part of two years learning to put space between my feelings and food. I have no doubt that this practice prepared me for success. I highly recommend her books and you can read about them here.
In hindsight, there were things I did a year and a half ago to prepare to lose weight and get in shape this year. First, I started weighing myself every day. I know, I know. Most people have a complicated relationship with the scale and I certainly did. For good reason. That device could make or break my day. But, at the start of the pandemic, I got on the scale precisely because I was afraid to. I decided to take on that little monster and make it a friend and in doing so learned a lot about how my eating and lifestyle choices were affecting my body. This decision not only got me through the pandemic without gaining weight, it also showed me that I could trust myself to maintain any future weight loss. When my weight was up, I got curious. Why was I eating? How was I treating myself during the day? What was I feeling? The answers to these questions helped me make better choices.
Second, at the beginning of the pandemic, I made a promise to move every day regardless of the weather. I shared this promise with a few friends and we created a “pod” to support each other. Each day one of us would text the group when headed out for a walk or hike and whoever was available joined the adventure. I can’t stress enough the importance of having these people in my life. We humans need each other, especially because it’s so tempting to throw progress away at the first setback. The pod became my lifeline not only for health and fitness, but for learning, emotional support, intellectual stimulation, and growth.
Our pod adventures would eventually birth two things: a desire to try new challenges like polar plunging, and the publishing of a book by one of our members, Libby Delana, called Do Walk. Libby has circumnavigated the earth, appreciates the wild world like I do, and has turned walking into an insightful, spiritual practice.
Finally, I started tracking my food. I downloaded the app, “My Fitness Pal,” paid the annual fee to get all the helpful bells and whistles, and started teaching myself about nutrition. I didn’t change a thing about my diet at first, I just paid attention. Within a few weeks I learned about the number of calories in the food I was eating, the imbalance I created between protein, carbs, and healthy fats, and how many (or how few) calories I burned with exercise.
These three things started my journey and they formed a foundation that would lead to success. If you’re thinking about making your own health and fitness more of a priority, feel free to use what works. I’ll continue to share what I’ve learned in future blogs.