This morning started off so much like every other Monday morning: I woke up, fed the cats, and then stumbled bleary-eyed to the bathroom to the shower. While I waited for the water to warm up, I got on the scale, cringed at the number, and scolded myself for all the not-stellar food choices I’d made over the weekend.
Eat healthy all week, lose my mind and eat crap all weekend, weigh myself on Monday and feel guilt-ridden and defeated. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I am fed up with this.
Over the last year, I’ve struggled with a pretty fierce bout of depression and anxiety, and one of the things that I know is that my weight is largely affected by shifts in my mood. It’s not a coincidence to me that when I’m feeling best about life and myself in general, I have an easier time making healthy choices and managing my weight. Over the last year, I was aware that the numbers kept climbing, but I was also too low-energy and defeated to really do anything about it.
The most frustrating part of depression and anxiety is that it is in no way related to how I actually feel about my life. I started really feeling it last August, and was so angry at myself over it. I was a newlywed, starting a new chapter in life with a man I’m madly in love with, and everything was going so well. In spite of how low I felt, I was in serious denial that it was actually depression. I kept asking myself, how could I possibly be depressed when things are the best they’ve ever been? But of course, I know it doesn’t work that way and I wish I had cut myself some slack. Now that I’m finally feeling a lot better, I feel like I can get back my motivation (hence picking back up this blog series) and make some positive changes in my life.
I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding things in the last year. I avoided taking photos because I didn’t like how I looked. I avoided events altogether where I might see people who knew me from when I was smaller because I was just sure that they’d see me and think, “Wow, she’s gained a lot of weight.” The sad thing is that I missed out on things I would have enjoyed, because I was self-conscious. And so I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I proved it to myself last week when I went to a Zumba class taught by my friend Susie, who is also one of the instructors I used to love dancing with back when I lived in Marysville. She started her own class last year, and while I did want to go I was ashamed to because I didn’t want my old Zumba friends to see how out of shape I’d let myself get. I kept telling myself that I’d slim down first and THEN go. Tired of that and tired of my own excuses, I made up my mind last week that I was going to go and hug my old friends and have fun, and I did just that! I had an amazing time, and no one seemed to care one bit that I look different now.
On a podcast I listen to called Diet Starts Tomorrow, the hosts recently interviewed Dr. Oz. I’m not a big fan of his or anything, but he did say one thing that resonated with me when speaking about his guests that had lost over 100lbs: they had one thing in common, and that one thing is that they all loved themselves prior to losing weight. They didn’t choose certain foods to eat or work out to punish their bodies; they did it to celebrate them. Hearing that was like switching on a giant lightbulb in my brain. I looked back at a blog post I had written in 2012, when I had successfully dropped unwanted pounds: my Zumba class is not just about losing weight, it’s about being the best person you can be…mind, body, and spirit. And for me, Nancy’s class was life-changing. Long before I started seeing more favorable numbers on the scale, I noticed awesome changes in my attitude, self-confidence, and outlook on life. Back then, I wasn’t trying to be thin. I was trying to be strong, healthy, fit. I cared so much less about the size of my jeans than I did the size of my self-image. And I do agree with Dr. Oz that that has been the missing piece for me the last few years. I somehow reverted into a mentality of wanting to be thin because I didn’t like how I looked, and that didn’t go well at all for me.
I know that I have two choices: I can be content with where I am now, or I can do the work to overhaul my unhealthy habits so that I can feel strong and fit again. I got back to the gym a couple of months ago and have been consistently attending dance classes 2-3 times a week (last week, with Susie’s class included, I did a total of four!). Although it’s hard to say for sure, I think that has contributed to my starting to feel better. Dance gives me confidence like nothing else ever has. It’s a good start, but if I really want to see changes I know I need to start fueling my body differently. The question, of course, is: do I really want to do the work to change my body?
I’ve decided that the answer is yes.
I’m not going to follow any diet plan and I’m not going to restrict myself from eating any foods I like. I know those behaviors just make me obsess about food and never set me up for long-term success. I’m going to do this the way I found success in the past: by working out and keeping a food journal. In the past I’ve used Lose It to track what I eat, but have since switched and prefer My Fitness Pal. Even so, I logged into my old Lose It account today and was happy to discover that all my old food logs are still in there and accessible! Looking over what I was eating at the time that I was successfully losing weight before gives me a lot of reassurance that I can do this again. Plus, it gives me meal- and snack-planning ideas, and in looking over the logs I’m actually surprised at how much I was eating – I definitely didn’t starve myself!
Of course, I would love to lose weight by doing this, but honestly it really isn’t about that for me right now. Life keeps reminding me that it is desperately short, and I want to do everything in my power to be around as long as possible and to enjoy every second as much as I can. In order to do that, I need to be healthy and strong so that I know that I can handle any activity that I decide I want to jump into. I don’t want to buy new clothes, I want to fit into the ones that I already have. This isn’t about wanting to change my body because I don’t like it – it’s about wanting to treat it better because I do in fact like it.
I’m sure that there will be people reading this who will have opinions on my approach and what may work better, but this is honestly what works best for me. I recognize that something else may be what works for other people, and that’s totally okay! We are all different! What I do hope is that I can receive support and not criticism as I try to take control of my health again. And how do I know that I won’t be right back in the same place next Monday morning, after another weekend of bad food choices? Honestly, I don’t know that. We have out-of-town plans for the next few weekends and I don’t anticipate being perfect or avoiding all indulgences. That isn’t realistic! But if I wait until the ‘perfect’ day to decide to start making changes, I’ll never do it. The perfect day doesn’t exist. But I do have today, so for today I’m going to do the best that I can to be as good to myself as I can. And then tomorrow, I’ll resolve to do the same thing again.