AHA! Moment

It has been a rough month……year, actually. Every step forward was followed by multiple backward steps……and then this past month happened.

And I am struggling, trying to be strong, trying to take care of my family, trying to help my son through this hurdle, trying to help my son and family navigate the court, jail, probation system while navigating the addiction treatment options and still managing the mental health illnesses…..all while continuing to navigate and manage the “normal” day-to-day responsibilities……..and I have forgotten, somewhere along the way that I need to take care of me, that I need to make time for me, that I need to save some energy for me.

And I am struggling……..feeling as if I am drowning, trying desperately to just get through the day, to just breathe.

I have had many conversations with members attending the Weight Watchers meetings I work about making time to take care of themselves during times of stress and crisis. I ask my members who are going through difficult times, what they are doing to take care of themselves, even if it is just 5 minutes, just a moment where they can step back and just breathe.

And here I am……

I am exhausted, emotionally and physically…..too tired to add “me” to the “to do” list.

Then yesterday I had two conversations that made me think…..both of my friends asked me what I was doing to take care of me and asked me to set some time aside for me, because otherwise all of THIS is going to drain me…..leave me empty.

I am already there. There is not much left in the tank. But what they said to me made me think.

I am an addict. My addiction is food. I have not had the easiest life……the abandonment, the abuse—physical, emotional and sexual, my mother’s death at a pivotal point in my life….all left me needing something, needing comfort. And I turned to food to deal with the emotions and the emergence of long repressed memories……food is how I deal with the difficulties in life.

I realized that I was a food addict while on my journey to lose weight and get healthy with Weight Watchers. And that day, when that light bulb went off, I began to make changes…..I began to deal with my emotions and the memories and the worthless feelings in ways other than to eat them. And it worked. And I lost the weight. And I found my self-worth.

But this past year has brought about some real difficulties. Testing just how strong I can be. And last month when my son hit his most recent bottom, I was tested again…..and old habits came back. I am tired…..tired of being strong……tired of not having my life as my own…….tired of the fear, worry and yes, anger……….I am JUST TIRED! And I stopped doing the things that work for me, that re-energize me, that help me to navigate my emotions……

Instead I ATE them.

And now I am struggling……

But the conversations yesterday, reminded me of what worked…..of why I had made the changes all those years ago…….of why I don’t want to go back to that girl again.

And beginning this morning, I remembered what worked for me, I remembered that I am worth it. And I remembered that I can get through anything as long as I rely on those things that help me to take care of me.

So, I started writing. Writing about life and about my emotions helps me to clear all the clutter in my head and to breathe. My time spent writing helps me to take care of me. And I decided that I need that 5 or 10 minutes to write, to reflect and to deal with my life. To think clearer. Old habits creep in so quickly that before I knew it I was on my way back THERE again.

But like we talked about in meetings, the past couple of weeks, slips happen…..life happens and then we find a way to get back on track. We figure out where we veered, how we fell into the hole and what we need to do to get back on track.

I kept telling myself that I just needed to get back to tracking my food and then things would get better. So I would track and then go right back to feeding my emotions.

I would tell myself, just don’t buy that food…..and then I would go right back to feeding my emotions.

I would tell myself to get some exercise….and then I would go right back to feeding my emotions.

And then yesterday, after those two conversations, I knew……yes, I need to track—it works. Yes, I need to buy the right foods—it works. Yes, I need to exercise—it works. Yes, I need to go to meetings as a member—it works………….But NONE of that works if I don’t TAKE CARE of me, if I don’t make me a PRIORITY and find that moment each day when I can step back and JUST BREATHE!

My AHA moment!

And despite the stormy morning I had today, I have found a few minutes to just breathe. And it makes ALL the DIFFERENCE.

Life isn’t going to be easy for a while…….but I know now that if I find a way to take care of me, then I can get through this, WITHOUT eating my emotions and going back to THAT girl again.

I just needed to be reminded. Thankful for friends on this Weight Watchers journey, who get it and who ask the questions that get me thinking……..

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Clutter and my Mind’s Eye

Lately I have felt as if the “powers that be” at Weight Watchers have been reading my thoughts and creating meetings for our members that go along with my thoughts and my struggles.

Or maybe, just maybe, I am not the only one who has these thoughts, habits, behaviors and struggles.

Knowing that I am not alone is one of the many reasons why I have always loved going to my meeting and why I believe that the magic in the Weight Watchers program is in the meeting rooms and in the interactions between those who sit in the chairs every week.

This week’s and last week’s meeting topics have had me contemplating my journey and the struggles that I still have every day……struggles that I never imagined I would continue to have once I reached my goal and achieved Lifetime status with Weight Watchers. After all, I REACHED my goal, I changed habits and lost the weight……I got to the finish line…….

In reality, there is no finish line. There is no end to the journey or the realizations that we come to about ourselves. And that is why I will ALWAYS attend a meeting as a member. In the meeting room, sitting in that chair, I feel safe…..it is where I know that I am not alone. It is where I know that others are having the same struggles, understand my small victories and celebrations, and where others understand what I am going through and the difficult journey that this is.

Sometimes this journey is easy and sometimes, it is just plain hard.

Over the past two weeks, between attending a meeting as a member and leading meetings as a Leader, I have learned some things about myself and my continuing journey to be the best and healthiest version of me that I can be.

Last week we discussed body images, how we view ourselves and how to turn those negatives into positives. At the meeting I attended last week, the leader asked if, while standing in front of mirror with a friend, we would say to that friend the negative thoughts that we had about ourselves…….only say it about our friend. Of course NOT! I would NEVER say to a friend the thoughts that sometimes pass through my mind. So, then why do I say them to myself?

And then a member in that same meeting asked another member how that person sees themselves in their mind? Okay……THAT hit a button in me. How do I see myself, not in the mirror, but in my mind’s eye?

When I was at my heaviest weight I saw myself much thinner. In my mind’s eye, I never saw the huge me. And at the meeting last week I realized that in my mind’s eye I now see myself at my heaviest. It is only when I look in the mirror or see a picture that I realize that I am not that huge version of me. But when I close my eyes, I see the “before” me. Why? I am not sure why that has happened, but I do know that I am not alone, that others have found that same thing happening to them.

So now, how do I change it? How do I tell my mind that I am not that version anymore, that I am a thinner, healthier and much happier version? I am working on that right now. Awareness is the first step in making any change, and now that I am allowing myself to face how my mind “sees” me, I can figure out a way to change it.

“Change your thoughts, and you’ll change your world”……a quote my leader shared with our group at last week’s meeting and THAT is what I have been working on. It began by doing something a member in one of my meetings suggested—using a dry erase marker, write positive affirmations to yourself on your mirror. And that is just what I did this past week. My mirror is covered with positives about me and seeing those words written on my mirror makes me smile EVERY single time I look in the mirror.

It is a start.

I am changing my thoughts and with that I am changing the way my mind’s eye views me.

And then we jumped into this week’s meeting topic and another realization for me. I realized that maybe, just maybe, I still have a little bit of that mind clutter–the baggage of the past mixed with the worries of today–to sort through. That maybe, it is that mind clutter that keeps me seeing myself in my mind’s eye as my “before”. Clutter, whether in our physical spaces or in our minds can hold us back, can keep us from moving forward and can keep our thoughts stuck in that negative space.

Mind clutter, the chaos of the past mixed with the pain, anger, and shame of my childhood was what kept me at my highest weight. Getting rid of that clutter, by sorting through my excess baggage, a little at a time, was how I lost the weight and how I found myself. Writing was my way of sorting through it all, of discarding the parts that held me back and keeping the parts that make me who I am today.

I realized this week that there is still some clutter to get through and that with the turmoil of the past few months my mind is feeling cluttered and messy. I had one of those “aha” moments this week when I realized that the clutter in my mind is what keeps my mind’s eye seeing me as my “before”. So, I am taking steps now, today, to get my mind clear of the clutter so that my mind’s eye can clearly see me, as I am today, not as I was yesterday.

And that starts by taking care of me.

It starts by being kind to myself.

It starts by writing positive affirmations on my mirror.

It starts by writing in my journal, sorting through the jumbled mess inside my head.

It starts by doing things I enjoy doing.

One step at a time, one day at a time, one meeting at a time and one thought at a time.

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

02A few weeks ago I came across this fitness journal and purchased it, thinking that it if I used it to journal my activity it just might help me in my training for my half-marathon.  And it has some GREAT quotes to inspire even this inactive, non-lover of sweaty exercise.

I have used the journal a few times, recording my walks and my short stints at running. And I have bookmarked the quotes that have touched my soul.

Earlier this week, my husband and I had decided that we would do a LONG walk this morning….and when this morning arrived, I did NOT want to get up and walk. I wanted to stay in bed longer.  But I forced myself to get up and off we went. 

I was stiff and my lower back was bothering me, but I walked. As we approached our planned turnaround point, my husband asked me how my back was doing.  And when I said that it actually felt better, he asked if I wanted to go ahead and go a little further before we turned around….uh, no!  I planned what point I would turn around and I didn’t want to stray from that plan, into the unknown………

And then…….we went further.

I am so glad we did. It was a little farther, a little more time with my husband and a little more time outside on a beautiful morning before the heat set in. 

When we got home, I pulled out my fitness journal to write down my steps, time and mileage and then I saw the quote for today—

01

 

Yes!  Life DOES begin at the end of my comfort zone!

Changing course, going farther, doing something different……all outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone is my safe place…it is the known quantity. 

 I have talked a bit these past few weeks in meetings about getting outside our comfort zone in order to make change happen. When what we are doing is not getting us the results we are seeking, instead keeping us stuck where we are, then we need to step outside that comfort zone, try something different, DO something different and then we will see the change.  We are creatures of habit….at least I am.  And change has been a difficult thing for me because, for my younger self, change often meant sadness, stress, and that something awful was happening. 

I don’t like change. I like staying in that place where I feel safe and have a safety net….the place that is familiar, even in its dysfunction.

Yet, some of my GREATEST moments, some of my BIGGEST accomplishments, and many of my HAPPIEST times have come from stepping outside of my comfort zone, outside my box and into the unknown…..from taking the leap.

As a child of abuse my comfort zone was chaos. And dealing with that chaos and the emotional upheaval it created in me with food was my comfort zone.  Until I stepped outside that box, allowing myself to feel, face and deal with the abuse, the emotions and the forgiveness, I could not change nor heal.  Stepping outside my comfort zone during my weight loss journey with Weight Watchers and learning that there are other ways to deal with those emotions and the pain of my childhood, allowed me to find myself and my self worth.

It is so much easier for me to go back to the comfort, to go back to old habits, to do the things that I perceive protect me and offer me a safety net…..even when that comfort zone is dysfunctional and doesn’t work. Yes, that is the known and it is easier.  Living in my comfort zone is safe…….And getting outside that comfort zone is a scary world, there is so much that is unknown and it leaves me vulnerable and exposed, a place I don’t like to be.  But change is necessary in order to make progress and stepping outside that box is necessary to REALLY live and experience all that this crazy life has to offer.

For me, change didn’t happen until I tried something different, until I truly stepped outside my comfort zone and then life really expanded for me…..habits changed, my willingness to try new things grew, and my life became more than I had dreamed it could be.

If I had not stepped outside my comfort zone—

   –I never would have left home before I was out of high school, a change that got me out of the chaos and onto a path that has led me to this place in my life now, with my best friend beside me. 

   –I never would have met my siblings, or forced my way into meeting my birth father.

   –I never would have become a Leader for Weight Watchers….the thought of speaking in front of others was terrifying…..still is…..yet I am so very thankful I took that leap…the rewards have been priceless.

   –I never would have gotten on a helicopter, with the doors off…….an adventure that was exhilarating and frightening…..and an experience I would have regretted missing.

   –I never would have gotten involved as a military spouse to help others, to take care of others and to mentor younger spouses.  As a shy person who has a hard time meeting new people, my time as a military spouse was often terrifying…..new places, new people, new life…….But had I not gone to all those places with my husband and had I not gotten involved, I would have missed out on those opportunities to help and mentor and I would have missed out on meeting and getting to know the many wonderful, brave and caring people I met through our military life.  And my life would never have been enriched from those relationships and shared experiences.

    –I never would have started this blog.  Instead I would have just talked about it and wrote in my journal for only me to see.  The vulnerability is real and the reward from sharing my world through this medium, has been uplifting for me and my spirit.

    –I never would have signed up to do a half-marathon…..the results of that decision are still to be determined…..I am going to try my best and embrace the sweaty exercise along the way.

    –I never would have taken the recent step that has taken me outside my comfort zone, yet taking that leap has made me feel very proud, no matter how it turns out.  I tried.

And the list could go on…..

I am learning in my older years that life really does begin outside my comfort zone.

Stepping outside my box has allowed me to grow as a human, as a mother, as a wife and as a survivor. It is not easy and it scares me to the very core, leaving me exposed and quite vulnerable.  It may not always go the way I envision when I get out of my comfort zone, but it is now and has always been, WORTH IT, because I TRIED

This quote was perfect for me today.

As I deal with my emotions of these past few months and as I face unknowns while walking a different path than I had planned, I will embrace the changes that come and the opportunities to try something new.

And I will continue to look for new ways to step outside my comfort zone, to take that leap and LIVE.

Continuing to be a Success Story

Frustrated. Defeated.  Hopeless.  Why try?

All thoughts that popped into my head as I read the Biggest Loser study that was published yesterday and as I listened to an interview this morning with the season 8 winner and a doctor for Good Morning America. This study and the interview make it sound as if losing weight and getting healthy is an impossible goal, unreachable because of biology…..because our bodies want to keep us fat.

I have watched every season of the Biggest Loser, awed and inspired by the mental transformations in the contestants. Watching as they had their AHA moments, crying along with them and being inspired. Even though there are many contestants who have maintained a healthy weight after leaving the show, this study is disheartening.  And if I was still in the process of losing my 70+ pounds, this study and the interview this morning would have me crawling back into my hole, leaving me feeling that I would never be able to achieve lasting success.

This study looks at the Biggest Loser contestants of one season. Why only look at the weight loss and regain of contestants on a Weight Loss show, where weight loss is done in a strict environment, in a way that most of us cannot do it, yet alone maintain it?  Did they base the findings on these contestants because they could not find any other success stories, anywhere in America? 

And why only look at those who gained back their weight? Why only look for a cause and ultimately the excuses for regaining the weight?  Why not look at those who have maintained their success?  Why not look at how they are succeeding, at what is working? 

As I sat here and listened to the interview I thought, well, if I gain back all of my weight then I can blame it on my body….I am just meant to spend my life obese.

NO! That is defeatist thinking. 

Weight loss shows like the Biggest Loser create an artificial environment for those individuals. The weight loss that is achieved is done so in an unrealistic way…..a manner that is not sustainable for the long haul.  In the interview the former winner said that he had kept the weight off for two years, but realized he was exercising more than most people in order to do that.  Then he said that when he got a job, went back to work and wasn’t doing all of that exercise the weight started coming back.  There it was, the real reason for the weight gain…..going back to our normal life after “dieting”. 

I tell my members and myself that you HAVE to eat to lose weight and get healthy the way you are going to eat for the rest of your life.

It HAS to be a lifestyle and it HAS to be what fits into your life, instead of making your life fit the “diet”.

And exercise/activity HAS to be what you can do for the rest of your life.

Is it realistic to think that I can eat under 1000 calories everyday for the rest of my life? Is it realistic to think that I can eat “diet” food for the rest of my life?  Is it realistic to think that I can go to the gym 7 hours a day, for the rest of my life?  No.  What kind of life would I have if that is how I spent every single day for the remaining days I have on earth? 

I would not be living!

When I look at it this way, then I realize that this study and the findings do not reflect the reality for so myself or the many others  who have lost the weight and kept it off.

This study shows that when you “diet” in the extreme to get to a goal weight and then go back to your real life, back to a normal way of living, working and surviving, it does not work. Extreme “dieting” backfires on us.

So, I sat here listening and reading and realized that the way I have lost the weight worked. Slow and steady wins the race.  Slow and steady gives us the time to make habit and behavioral changes that will last.

Getting healthy and losing weight is not a sprint. It CAN be done. 

And it will last when we do it in a way that is livable and sustainable. When we stop “dieting” and we start living we can achieve our goals and stay there. 

And though there may be times that I go back to old habits….maybe gain back a few pounds…..it does not mean I am meant to be overweight forever. I know without a doubt, that I will NEVER again be my before self, I will NEVER gain back all of my weight because my lifestyle has changed and my mindset has changed.  I have learned new habits and changed my lifestyle in such a way that I CAN get back on track when I slip and I CAN get back to where I want to be…..where I am happy and healthy. 

Thank you to the Doctor who did this study for reminding me that extreme dieting does not last and that this lifestyle and the habits I have changed through my weight loss journey with Weight Watchers is what works….for me and for many others.

This IS a lifestyle!

 There IS hope!

I WILL beat the odds!

I CONTINUE to be a success story!

 

Glowing

This week in meetings I am talking to my members about glowing…..Weight Watchers Glowments, those moments when you do something you are so proud of that you cannot help but glow. I love this!  And though I lead meetings now, I am still a member, continuing to learn and grow on this journey. 

This week has been another one of those moments when I go….ahhhh….YES….THAT is what I need to hear and do.

Taking care of me…..putting me first…….something that is hard to do in the best of times and even harder in the midst of chaos, heartbreak and fear.

The past couple of months have been difficult and the past few weeks found me falling back on old habits to comfort me….I even had a Peanut Butter day….just one day. What I learned is that the old habits don’t get rid of the fear or the pain.  Peanut butter does not heal what is hurting my heart and soul, instead it gives me heartburn.

I am finding my footing, finally, this week. I am beginning to find a way to take care of me, and find some happy moments, all while my heart cries.  I am finding that the new habits I formed while losing my weight and the lifestyle I have developed is now more comforting to me than the old ways. 

And this week I am finding some moments…those glowments that I encourage my members to find…the positives when negatives are all that can be seen and felt. And I am proud of me!

Slowly I am getting back to my life….. taking back my life. And that starts by taking care of me…..eating healthy, exercising (yes, I need to get to my training for that half-marathon) and doing things that I enjoy doing. 

A movie last weekend, a book to read, and dancing in the living room…all ways I have started to be kind to myself.

And Last night, an evening with my husband at the Bruce Munro Sonoran Light Exhibit was just that moment or glowment. The lights glowed, changing colors, drawing me in.  And I was glowing!

Taking care of me does not take away the pain and fear, but it does help me to grow and glow!