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……..

Anchors

When thinking about Anchors, one usually conjures up images of anchors used by ships and boats to keep them from drifting in the current of the river, sea, bay, etc. Those anchors keep them from moving……forward, sideways or backwards. I grew up with a dad who loved boating. We would take his boat out in the summers for days, sometimes weeks, exploring the Washington and Canadian islands. And we used the anchor to keep us in place in quiet inlets, near isolated islands that we would row our dingy too so we could explore them. The anchor kept us from drifting and kept us safely in protected areas…..safe from rough open waters, and safe from getting lost at sea while sleeping the night away.

Yes, anchors were necessary.

And anchors in our personal lives are just as necessary.

I spent this past week leading my Weight Watchers members in discussions about our “whys” and about anchors.

An anchor is something that grounds us to our “why”, our motivation. An anchor is a reminder of where we want to go, how far we have come, the things we have accomplished and what is important to us. An anchor can be a strong motivator.

Anchors come in many forms…..Things we can see, touch, feel, smell…..Things that we say to ourselves…..The people in our lives……Things we visualize in our minds. These anchors are important in reminding us just how much we CAN do, HAVE done and what we WILL do.

I shared in my meetings some of the anchors that I used on my journey to reach my goal weight and some anchors I still use to keep me from going back to where I started, going back to my before….something that I could easily do if I did not have the tools, skills, motivation and anchors that keep me grounded to, or anchored to, why I started this journey, what I have learned and where I want to be in the future.

popsicle-stick-web

During my weight loss journey, my anchors kept me moving forward, especially after I discovered the POWER that an anchor has in keeping me motivated. My first REAL anchor on this journey with Weight Watchers was given to me by my leader—a popsicle stick to remind me to “Stick to it”. THAT popsicle stick was instrumental in leading me to my “aha” moment…the moment that changed the course of my journey….when I realized that I didn’t think I was worth the effort. And that realization led to another anchor—a phrase said every morning while looking in the mirror….”I am Worth It”. Both of those anchors play a role in my life today.

Other anchors came into play throughout my journey to my goal weight—my Weight Watcher “bling”—kept where I can see it and bling that I continue to add to today as I continue attending meetings as a member, a reminder of how far I have come. And my before picture…..a POWERFUL reminder of just how far I have come, physically and mentally. After reaching my goal, a special necklace given to me by my husband many years earlier, became a strong, emotional anchor….I had never been able to wear the necklace….I was far too big…….and then I put it on. It FIT. It was perfect! I cried……tears of joy, pride and tears for the girl who had been so lost before. This necklace still inspires me and motivates me.

I have anchors that remind this once exercise phobic girl, that I CAN accomplish an activity goal—my 5K medal from my first Disney World 5k race, a strong reminder of the HUGE sense of accomplishment and the incredible PRIDE in doing so. And a Half-Marathon medal that I have not yet earned, that is kept safely set aside as a reminder of the commitment I made to my family and to myself and that I WILL accomplish this goal and EARN this medal when I am healthy enough to do so.

And this week as I talked, listened to the members and reflected on my motivation and anchors, I realized just how important it was for me to continue to set goals, to challenge myself and to remember why I started this journey in the first place. Sometimes we forget why. Sometimes we lose our motivation. Sometimes we think that since we have reached our goal we are done…..but we are not. This is a lifelong journey and one that needs anchors.

I also found this week while contemplating and getting back in touch with my anchors that mine are not just about my journey with Weight Watchers. I have powerful anchors that remind me of what is important in my life, that remind me joy can be found even in the darkest moments….something that keeps me going and keeps me finding the pleasures in this life. Anchors that remind me that I have the strength to get through anything thrown at me……even when I doubt. And anchors that remind me how important my family, my friends and my faith are in sustaining me and bringing me joy.

A bracelet I wear often to remind me of my faith and family…….two bracelets too remind me to never give up and that anything is possible…..necklaces that remind me of hope and that I am worth it……t-shirts with positive, uplifting phrases, bought to inspire my exercise and worn to inspire my day and remind me just how strong I am…..a framed phrase on the wall to reminds me to trust my faith and to hold onto God’s hand when I am feeling weak…..a stone etched with my favorite bible verse reminding me that I CAN do anything, as long as I do it with God by my side…..Instagram photos taken by a dear friend and given to me, remind me of the beauty in the world around me and remind me to appreciate what is here, in this moment right now. There is always something beautiful!……..photos of my family to remind me just how very blessed I am to love them and be loved by them…….. and so many more reminders…anchors.

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Anchors that keep me grounded and connected to what is REALLY important to me and anchors that keep me grounded and connected to my support, my faith, my family and to just how much I CAN accomplish in this life.

Anchors give me the courage to take the leap and help me to just breathe when I am facing challenges.

 

My BAM! Moment

I have heard many others say and I have said many times that Weight Watchers meetings are where the MAGIC happens! And I truly believe that meetings are magical! I have learned so much as a member and as a meeting Leader, from those who attend the meetings. And I have watched in awe as a member reaches that AHA moment during the meeting…..yes, meetings are where the MAGIC happens.

And that is part of why I still attend meetings as a member. I really feel that I am a member first and then an employee. And I still learn so much in my meetings……and THAT surprises me. I don’t why it should surprise me, but it does.

I was not able to attend my regular meeting the past two weeks because of life (yes, life happens) and when I miss my meeting my week seems off. So, I needed a meeting this past week.

2 days ago I walked into a meeting as a member. And I am so glad I did! It was EXACTLY what I needed in order to have that realization moment….that AHA!

Life has been emotional, difficult more often than not lately, stressful, frightening…..and when life throws those curveballs at me, my response is to find a way to escape, just for a moment where I can breathe. My escape is sometimes, though not most often, in the form of my last blog post—Make Your Heart Feel Good Day—but mostly that escape is in the form of mindless television, food, writing, and games on my kindle.

So, there I was in my meeting, listening to the leader and the members talk about fitness/activity…..ugh…..not my favorite subject, though I know I HAVE to do it! There it was……another chore…..the way I view fitness and approach fitness…….a chore. And ANY excuse will get me to put off getting my exercise.

So, I listened and then a gentleman talked……and he shared how he had to change his mindset about fitness. I was really listening……you know, the kind of listening where you lean forward to REALLY hear what is being said…..He shared that he had to start thinking about fitness the way he does work……we don’t get up one morning and decide that we just don’t feel like going to work today, so we are going to stay home, or suddenly in the middle of the day decide that we are too tired to work anymore and go home to veg……We can’t just put off work for ANY excuse or just because we feel like it, so he decided that was how he needed to think of fitness……as a job that he couldn’t just put aside for ANY excuse.

BAM! Hit me upside the head!

Yes, I needed to change the way I think about fitness.

And on my drive home, I did just that. By the time I reached home I knew what was going on and how I needed to change it.

My half-marathon training took a turn when I hurt my back and of course, THAT becomes an excuse to NOT go out for a walk/run. And like I said earlier, life has been difficult…..it is still a rollercoaster of emotions and events and the LAST thing I want to do is add another CHORE to my day, my week or my life……I am TIRED! I just want those small moments to escape……..and that is what fitness can be and is……..On the drive home I realized that fitness, my walks and runs for training for the half-marathon can be my escape. My time walking and running can be ME time…..time to pray, to converse with GOD, to talk to myself, to think, to plan, to contemplate and to just escape with my music and myself.

So, two days ago my mindset about fitness and my training was that it was a CHORE and after the meeting my mindset shifted and I now look forward to my time walking and even running…….it is my escape from reality!!

I am excited and ready to do this half-marathon!

Weight Watchers meetings really are magical!!

Make Your Heart Feel Good Day

Life has been especially stressful lately.

Life has been especially difficult lately.

Sometimes, life is just plain hard.

But we keep moving, we keep pressing on and eventually we break through the difficult times and come through them even stronger than before.

It is during the trying times, when we are focused on helping another, that we really need to take a moment……sometimes it really is just a moment……for us. A moment to step away, leave it all behind, forget for just a moment the worry, stress, frustration and heartache and just breathe.

A moment that creates a “Make your heart feel good day”.

I had that kind of moment….a few hours actually…..yesterday. I needed it.

I almost said “no” to taking the time for me, to taking a break and spending some time with a friend at a place I love—the zoo. I almost said no because at this moment in time, in my life and in the life of my family, taking time away….time for “me” felt selfish. I felt that by stepping away from the situation for a few minutes meant I wasn’t doing EVERYTHING that I could possibly do to help make things better, to get help that was needed, to support my family.

And then my husband pushed me to go. And I said yes to my friend.

I am so very glad I did!

As I left to go with my friend, my husband looked at me and said that I was too leave “this” all behind for a few hours, forget things and concentrate on enjoying some time with my friend and some time for me. Oh, how wise my husband is.

As I talk so much about in Weight Watchers meetings, “me time” is essential. “Me time” is the chance for us to take a break, to rejuvenate, to center ourselves and to breathe…..ahhh…….just breathe.

I enjoyed my time at the zoo with my friend. I enjoyed the conversation, the laughs, the sites, the animals, the walk and the time to focus on me. And by taking that time, I am more energized and am better able to focus on the task at hand—taking care of and helping my family through this time.

It was while we were at the zoo enjoying the day that my friend mentioned that this is what she calls a “Make Your Heart Feel Good Day”!

Yes, it was!

A Shared Journey

A journey is anything that takes us from one destination to another—physically, spiritually or mentally.

We travel many journeys in our lifetime—some of them consecutively, some concurrently. Some journeys end naturally and some we need to end so that we can move on to the next journey. Some journeys take us places we never imagined and some keep us stuck in the same place.

I have taken many journeys in my lifetime—physically, emotionally and spiritually—some with family, some with friends, some with strangers and some alone.

Those journey’s I have taken alone have been difficult, scary, lonely and have often led to discoveries about me—who I am and what I am capable of.

But sharing the journey makes it a little easier, a little less frightening, and a little less lonely.

Often, when we are going through difficult times, we feel alone, as if we are the only ones experiencing this type of event or these emotions.

I have felt that way many times in my life—When my mother died and I traveled the journey of grief alone….no one could know what I was feeling. In dealing with the sudden rise of repressed memories of long ago abuse, I traveled alone on the journey of remembering and ultimately forgiving. Yes, most of my deepest, painful journeys are when I thought I was alone.

Being overweight and trying to navigate the winding, bumpy road of weight loss had me traveling a journey alone……or so I thought.

No one could know what I was feeling. No one would understand the shame I felt being at the heaviest weight I had EVER been. No one else had ever hidden food from others, eating in secret and then hiding the evidence. No one had ever eaten the last of the frosting in the can and then run to the store to buy a replacement before anyone noticed and then had to eat half of the new can to make it look the same as the old. No one could understand what it felt like to get dressed up in a ball gown, make-up on, hair done and feel good about themselves as they arrived at the Air Force Ball…… only to have a group of women point at and loudly say how ridiculous that FAT woman was and how sorry they felt for her husband. No one could comprehend the shame and embarrassment felt when a child pinches your arm and says loudly to you—boy, you are really FAT!

No. NO ONE would or could understand what it felt like to be overweight—the shame, the embarrassment, and the worthlessness. And traveling the journey of obesity and eventually the journey of getting healthy was a journey I traveled alone.

Until…….

I walked through the door of the Weight Watcher meeting on a Thursday morning for that 5th time.

Each week as I sat through the meetings, I began to feel less alone. These were all individuals on a similar journey and they understood. I was not alone. That feeling lifted a weight off my shoulders.

And then I heard someone share that they had finished a bag of cookies and didn’t want their family to know so they ran out and bought another bag of cookies and ate cookies on the way home so that the bag would be the same. Wow! In that moment I realized I was not alone! I was not the only would who had done this!

Finally, someone else got it.

And when someone shared about their struggles, instead of being made fun of or told it was just a matter of willpower, we all got it! Each of us were traveling a journey of our own, finding ourselves, discovering what worked for us. Yet, we were on a shared journey and we were not alone.

To this day, I still go to Weight Watcher meetings. I still need that safe place…….to know that I am not alone. And though I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, having reached my goal over 8 years ago, I still struggle and my meeting is where I find support, kindred spirits and inspiration.

And the meeting is where I know I am not alone……that I travel this journey with others.

This shared journey is one I will travel with friends and strangers for the rest of my life.

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.

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!