Five years ago today - December 12, 2011 - was DAY 1 of my last "diet." My son was two-months old and my daughter, almost six. I was wearing maternity pants. The night before I remember having pizza and beer for my "last supper." If you have followed my blog for awhile, you know I started dieting as an early teen. It was all I knew. I'm trying to think now about whether I knew this time was different. I don't know that I did. I do remember that my husband found this program when I was about 8-months pregnant and I refused to go listen (in my defense, his timing was laughable.) He brought it up again when our son was about one-month old and again, I refused to go listen. I was DONE dieting. I wanted no part of any program ever again.
About two weeks later I did agree to go listen to this "health coach guy" to support Mark - because he wanted to get healthy. I showed up, infant in hand, and said "I am here for my husband, I am not interested." Again in my defense, I wasn't sleeping, but still... I totally had an attitude. I was mad. And desperate. And cranky. Unlike after my first pregnancy, this time inside of going down, the scale had started going up.
It was about half way through the conversation, in the midst of my stubborn fog, somehow the words, "this program is offered at John's Hopkins Weight Management Center" that broke through. I remember thinking if it is good enough for John's Hopkins it is probably good enough for me. I signed up in two days. Which brings us back to December 12. The day after my beer and pizza fest.
I remember being all organized and excited about starting a new plan. Especially the part about holding off on exercise the first few weeks! The chapter in the book titled, "It's not your fault," about the diet industry, also stands out. My biggest memory though was at the two-week point. The scale was moving faster than I expected, so my momentum was really high - but it was more than that. I was sitting on the coach one night after dinner, when I realized my cravings were gone. That mental battle - "I want the bread/ice cream/chocolate (insert whatever), but I shouldn't have it, but I want it, but I shouldn't have it" was so part of my life I didn't know there was another way. I thought healthy people just had more willpower. I didn't realize they didn't have those same cravings... that my issue was blood sugar, not willpower. In that moment I knew - this was different. This is the last time I would ever weighed this much and this was the last program I would ever follow. I remember wondering, "well now what am I going to think about?"
Fast forward five years. You would think this would feel monumental. According to a recent article in the Medical Examiner, "the chances of keeping it (lost weight) off for five years or more... 5 percent." Yet, honestly it feels normal. It's hard to even remember that overweight person from before, who was so hard on herself. Every once in awhile I will have a day where I feel bloated and think - gosh this is how I used to feel all the time? Or I will see someone who is my former size and think - is that how I walked around all the time? It looks uncomfortable. And not healthy. Occaionally I will wonder why I had to spend so much time there, but I know it wasn't my fault. I am just so grateful to be free of the struggle now and for all the years ahead.
What was different this time was I got underneath it and was able to solve. Why do I want it... and bigger yet, why do I do it? I kept a notebook in the kitchen for two months. Every time I was roaming around - not hungry, not having cravings - I wrote it down, until a clear pattern emerged. The problem was no longer, "I'm just an emotional eater" which is really big and really vague - I now had something tangible to tackle. And then I did the work. People always want to know what to eat or how much to exercise, but that, in my opinion, is the focus of the 95% who gain it back. The 5% who succeed long term - solve. They figure out the motivation, habits and triggers at the root of why they choose habits in direct conflict with what they want. And get really, really clear, aligned and engaged in a take no prisoners, everybody out of my way - kind of way - where they are willing to dig in and get messy. With the right tool and support.
So, in reflection and summary - am I am relieved, thankful, pleased five years later - yes. Absolutely. I feel like me. Which is very settling. But am I worried or surprised - or in a big celebration mode - not so much. There isn't a chance I will go the other way ever again. And the journey, as annoying and frustrating as it was all those years - I know is now my biggest asset. For all the people who I hear say, "I know what I need to do I just need to do it" - I know the part they still don't know - the part beyond the diet. And it's really fun and rewarding to be able to help - when they are ready to let go and learn - and be the 5% who succeed.
Cookies, cookies, cookies! You would think it was Girl Scout Cookie season for the amount of conversations I have had today about cookies! To bake or not to bake. How do you enjoy holiday cookies, and create health too? Here's the deal...
a) Is it necessary? Do you really want the cookies more, or is it just tradition - a.k.a. habit? If you really don't care, but have just always done it. Or you are just doing it for your kids. Be done. You don't need them. They don't need them. The holidays will still exist, with or without them. The only real tradition you are passing onto your kids, is the eating unecessary sugary-food tradition.
b) Is it a significant trigger? Meaning, how off track do the cookies (the sugar) send you? Will you be satisfied with a couple, or is a couple really a couple dozen? If cookies are "an achilles heel" I would think long and hard about what you want more. I cannot emphasize enough how amazingly awesome it feels to be free of the struggle. There is no cookie worth that.
c) If you want them, and decide to make that choice - make it. And enjoy it. But it helps to have a plan. Stuffing yourself, feeling gross, beating yourself up and getting way off track kinda takes the fun and enjoyment out of the treat. Which ones do you really like? Decide to have one, or two. Set them aside. in a tupperware with your name on it. Create your own portion controlled situation. If they are all on the counter, it is way too easy to conveniently forget how many you have eaten. IMPORTANT NOTE: Keep eating healthy the rest of the time. Do not. I repeat do not, decide to count the cookies as your meal to make up for the calories, and then skip the meal. That is a really bad idea, and a really good way to create a mountain out of a mole hill. And finally, know that when you have extra sugar, especially if your body isn't used to it, you can kick in some extra cravings. Plan for it. Drink your water, be a bit more active and manage your hunger/cravings with protein - not with not bread. And certainly not with more cookies.
d) If they are staring at you and you thought you could have just one and now you are stuck, elbow deep in the cookie jar. Get the flipping cookies out of your house!!! Now. Give them away, throw them away, whatever it takes. Remove yourself from the situation. And note to self in the future - have one out somewhere from time to time if that is your choice, but do not bring them home.
What is it with the holidays and food? It can be a challenging time of year, but only if you make it so. I hear people say, "the holidays are going to be tough." As if the scale has already gone up. It hasn't. If being unhealthy over the holidays is a foregone conclusion - and the "holidays" are still weeks away - I challenge you to really notice that thought process. You aren't just what you eat, you are what you think. If you have deciced the holidays are going to be tough, that is a decision you have made. Instead you could decide the holidays will be a breeze - and make them a breeze. In fact, you could start to create better health today rather than wait until January. I LOVE clients who start in December because they are not messing around!
Next week, which I'm going to talk about next week, marks my five-year anniversary of when I first started this journey. I too had favorite cookies and life-long traditions, but there was no cookie or sentiment I wanted more than to be out of those blessed, awful maternity pants - and so I chose to skip the sugar. And I have yet to go back. I don't even slightly recall what cookies I may have passed up that year, but I very clearly remember how it felt to put on my pre-baby jeans. And the pride and relief I felt for having done it. So bake or don't bake, but be DONE playing small. Make an intentional choice and plan - and OWN it.
"Sup.port.ive: giving support; providing sympathy or encouragement; providing additional help or information." (dictionary.com)
I often hear clients say when they talk about making healthy changes - "My spouse/friends/parents/kids are very supportive." Which is great. It makes taking care of yourself a whole lot easier. But let's talk for a second about that word support. And what it means to be supported.
My husband has been very supportive of my decision to create health. In fact, he created his own health right along with me. But that doesn't mean there weren't and aren't times when I have to stand really strong on my own two feet and stubbornly advocate for what I need - usually for some alone time to recharge. Or a less cluttered house. Yes, being "supported" is a shoulder to cry on, or a cheering section in your corner. Yes, being supported is getting agreement to spend money on a food plan or gym membership. But sometimes being supported also means the "supportive" person has to make concessions. Sometimes being supported means your spouse/friends/parents/kids are willing to go to a different restaurant with a healthier menu, or serve healthier food at the holidays, or split up the household chores more evenly... or stay home with the kids while you take a break, see your friends or go work out. Sometimes, in addition to "support" we also need more compromise and sacrifice. Which is where the supportive rubber tends to meet the road.
Here is what I have learned. When you make a choice to create health. A serious choice. The kind of choice where nothing is getting over that wall - it is OK, and frankly it requires, receiving support - regardless of whether it is being offered. Especially when you are often someone who cares for everyone else.
It is OK to put yourself, and your health, first. It is OK to say "this is what I need," and then expect it. Everyone else will survive. They may or may not like it. They may or may not know what to do with this healthier, stand up for yourself, version of you at first. But they will get used to it. And they will be thrilled for you when you feel better, physically and about yourself. But until that happens, and in order for that to happen, there is no need to apologize or feel guilty about creating health. You plant your feet on the healthy side of the road and get DONE playing small.
I joke about how, but it wasn't so funny early on, when I first started going to yoga - I told my husband to think of it as my "tee time." I don't make him late for his tee time and he doesn't make me late for mine. Period. My husband is very supportive of my yoga "me time" twice most weeks, and understands that it is what I need to stay sane. There have been times where he has had to make sacrifices for that to happen. And I know more than once I have walked out of the house, yoga mat in hand, to the chorus of two crying kids and said "see ya." And I don't feel guilty about that at all. Any more than he feels guilty about going golfing or playing soccer or basketball, or whatever else he needs to stay sane and healthy.
I guess my point is that supportive goes both ways. And - as you seek to make positive change - the word "change" is still there. Even though someone wants to be "supportive" they may not want to change. Yet if they truly are, or want to be, supportive - change is part of the deal. And so sometimes to receive support, you need to stand strong and help someone walk the walk... or put their money where their mouth is... however you want to say it. And stick to your guns. In the end you will all be healthier and happier for it. How's that for a New Year's resolution? Instead of lose weight, "receive support." I like it! You have 30 days to think it over.
I am glad I waited a week to write this blog. Last week it may not have been pretty. But as I have had time to reflect, what has struck me is the empathy and connection I feel toward other Americans. Not what I expected in such a division election. Yet there it is.
As a woman, I was greatly offended by what I saw as a glimpse into the character of our now president-elect, toward women. Character defined as "what you do when (you think) no one is watching. Though I know vulgar comments happen every minute of every day, they do not happen toward me, and they do not happen in such a professional, public and what felt like condoned, way. And what it made me think in hindsight is, "Wow, is that how that feels?" When it comes to all the "minority groups" that were so generously and inclusively offended during this presidential election I only fit into one - women. And as far as the equality of women goes in this country, there is clearly room to improve, but it has come a long way thanks to past generations. So it was a bit of an eye-opening experience for someone who is of this generation, surrounded in life by respectful men who went to an all-women's college. What it brought forward for me in a more permanent way, was not anger so much as empathy. How must it feel to be of another, or more than one, "minority group" in this country (I use parentheses around minority group only because I'm not sure if that is the exact correct term) that hasn't made as much progress - or is in the earlier stages of that progress?
Above all else in life, I am an avid believer in equality. Across the board equality. From the janitor is just as important as the CEO, to we all deserve to choose who we marry. I am also an avid believer in the right to your own opinion - or way of doing things. That there isn't always a right and wrong, but different. You see the conflict here?
At first it felt like "hate" won. Now it feels more like "we-are-tired-of-politics-and-politicians-and-feel-this-is-the-better-plan-for-economic-growth" won. Though I believe there are people who voted for the offensive rhetoric, I believe the overwhelming majority voted against or in spite of it.
One thing I know for sure - is that In business and life in general, you cannot succeed beyond yourself. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you do tomorrow what you did today, you will get tomorrow what you got today." To inspire and realize true change, you must think different and do different. Be willing to become more intentional and self aware.
And so as I move forward - in a more empathetic, we are more alike than we are different way - what I feel
I can do to make a difference, as a citizen who values this country - is to drop the anger, it only fuels hate. And instead look at myself. To closely listen to where I pass judgement, toward myself and others. To when
I teach my children to judge. To when I quietly sit by when I hear an offensive remark rather than stand up for what I believe.
I want to be better. To grow myself in the direction I want the country to grow. Because that is how we win. That is how we make progress as a country that values diversity. That was founded on diversity. To become intentionally, very aware of our own thoughts and words - and try to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.
To be DONE playing small. And so I invite you to do the same. To look in, rather than lash out. To make a commitment to improve yourself toward others - both in how you think and what you do - to make our really great country stronger and more united.