One year ago today, I decided to make some big changes.
On January 22, 2017, I weighed 206 pounds. I’m embarrassed to admit that. I have never had an easy time maintaining a healthy weight, but 206 was the highest I’d ever been when I wasn’t pregnant.
I was miserable in January last year. I was coming off the worst year of my life. A brutally hard winter was keeping me largely housebound with three kids at home. I was trying to shepherd my oldest kid through his own major life changes (and not doing a terrific job, I have to admit). I was a size-16-pushing-size-18, and I knew I had a lot of outdoor events coming up during the year that would be very difficult for an out-of-shape 47-year-old if I didn’t make some changes. To top it all off, I was dealing constantly with pretty serious negative thinking–some hideous mental spirals, major parental guilt, self-talk that I would never say to my worst enemy, that sort of thing.
One year ago today, I was a terrible person to be around.
As I said, it’s never been easy for me to maintain a healthy weight, but I also haven’t always been OVERweight. I was thin in high school and right up through the early years of my marriage (I thought I was fat–I look back now and wonder who that skinny girl was!). But I also love food, and I do not tend to be a consistent exerciser. I will work out hard for a few months and get out of the habit, and if you sit on your butt and eat a lot of potato chips, you will not stay thin forever.
Four pregnancies in just a little over six years also took a toll. Not only did my body have a lot of work to do between growing humans and nursing, but I never really had the time or energy to work out when I spent most of my day diapering, feeding, and entertaining babies and toddlers.
Sometime around 2007, I looked up and realized I was about 180 pounds. I had heard of the Body for Life program and decided to give it a shot. I lost quite a bit of weight–I think around 35 or 40 pounds–but then I fell off the wagon when I had to have my gallbladder removed in August of that year. I never really got back on track after that.
Fast forward ten years… There I was, 206 pounds, high cholesterol, depressed, exhausted, and unhappy. I’ve tried a lot of different programs in the past, and Body for Life was the only one that I had any success with. I decided to start again. We have a treadmill and a weight bench, so I had all the exercise equipment I needed. I tweaked the diet portion of the plan–for a variety of reasons, I do a lot better with four meals a day than six, and I need to lean toward a more paleo-ish diet to help control my blood sugar.
If you are unfamiliar with BFL, you need to know that the program is built around 12-week challenges. You do three days of weights, three days of cardio, one day of rest every week. That’s the simplified version. If you want to know more, go to the website. I do recommend the program, especially the exercise portion.
In any case, I didn’t really tell anyone that I was doing this program for the first twelve weeks. I didn’t want to say anything in case I crashed and burned. I had tried to get the motivation to start again several times since 2007, but had never succeeded in recreating the habits. I didn’t want to publicly fail.
For twelve weeks, I fought my lazy nature, fought the demons in my head, fought the temptation to be derailed by schedules or the needs of children. Many days, I had to force myself to exercise. Sometimes I was even crying while I worked out–not because the workout was physically hard, but because the demons of Shitty Parenting, Terrible Writing, and You’re Not Really Worth This Effort were screaming at me to just give up and drink coffee and eat a gluten free muffin. And potato chips.
But there was something different about this particular attempt at change: I didn’t go into it to lose weight. Sure, I really wanted to, and I had a goal number in mind, but that wasn’t the overarching goal.
I wanted to feel better.
I wanted to shut up the demons. I wanted to move my body better–to be able to walk and jog without being winded. I wanted to not feel so gosh darn achy every morning. I wanted to be around for my grandchildren, and I wanted to be a healthy, active grandma–not one riddled with pains and illnesses–as long as possible. I wanted my blood test results to be in healthy limits. And I wanted to accomplish all of these things without feeling miserable. I needed to make these changes for life, not just for the duration of a weight loss program. I needed to be able to say that it was okay to eat the movie popcorn and drink the wine in moderation. I needed to know that I wasn’t creating a life of deprivation, but one of abundance.
It’s been one year.
And yesterday, I weighed 157.2 pounds.
It’s not quite to my goal, but I’m okay with that.
Because I’m not in this to achieve a certain number on the scale.
I want to create a life of abundance.
There are a lot of measurable improvements I can share. The number on the scale is one of them. I’ve lost more than 23 inches off my measurements. Aside from the week I had the flu, I haven’t missed more than two days of exercise in a row for a whole year. I can bench press 100 pounds–not perfectly, but I can do it. Yesterday, I ran six miles on my treadmill at a 9:43 mile pace. A year ago, I couldn’t jog 15 minutes without stopping. My last blood test results were all basically in the normal ranges, and my resting heart rate has dropped to the mid-50s.
But those aren’t the only things I’m measuring today.
My confidence is growing again. I am starting to feel like my old self–the one who could achieve and do and wasn’t afraid to try new things–or even old things! I think improving my fitness is a huge factor in that. I would probably not be restarting my copywriting business if I didn’t have exercise to keep me sane. (And you know, for a late-40s lady, it is a huge confidence builder to see muscle definition in your upper arms!)
I make much wiser diet choices these days. Not perfect choices, but overall, much wiser choices. I take smaller portions. I skip the potato chips (seriously, you have no idea how hard that one used to be for me). I cook at home more, and I eat more healthy fat. Avocados and olives and almonds seem to be the key for me to feel full. Oh, and half and half. Because I will never give up coffee.
As far as the demons are concerned… They’re still flitting around in my head. But I don’t cry during my workouts anymore. I am reading my Bible a lot these days. Immersing my head in God’s Word does a lot of good; the demons can’t abide the truth. (My “demons” are metaphorical, not literal, but you get the idea.)
My husband and my best friend have been instrumental in encouraging me on this journey–on all my journeys. My bestie is even well on her way to achieving her own health goals now. She says I inspire her, but honestly, that works both ways.
This is not a life of abundance–not yet. But it’s not a life of deprivation. There are many improvements to be made, but there are so many that I’ve already met…
This is the longest I’ve ever kept up with any diet or exercise plan. One year, and it feels normal. It’s just a thing I do every day. If I skip a day for any reason–even when I’m sick or my schedule is impossible–I feel “off.” It’s becoming as much a habit as brushing my teeth or making coffee in the morning.
So now the question is… what’s next?
On January 22, 2019, what do I want to look back and say, “a year ago, I decided to make this change, and here I am, feeling like this is a normal thing”?
I don’t know.
But I know that exercise and healthy(ish) diet will still be my normal.
No matter the number on the scale.