Intuitive Eating

So much has happened in my life over the past month; I have been experiencing so much chaos, confusion, frustration, and anxiety. In the moments of calm; however, I have not wasted the opportunities to reflect. As we have dealt with the rapidly failing health of a loved one, those reflections have often pertained to health and wellness, especially long-term health. In a roundabout way, that has led me to the concept of intuitive eating. 

Intuitive eating isn’t a new concept to me. Being a perpetual dieter and spending a lot of time online and offline in this space, I have some understanding of it. I have a half-finished book, “The Emotional Eaters Repair Manual” by Julie M. Simon on my nightstand that talks in great length about it. That book is unfinished largely because, while exhilarating, my knee-jerk emotional response to the concept is fear and mistrust of my own intuition.

I have endured an ever-evolving eating disorder for the past 30 years. I have sought and received professional treatment for bulimia and binge eating disorder. I find myself now questioning whether the past 10 years of dieting is nothing more than a restrictive, control-based counterpart of disordered behavior surrounding food. When I am counting calories, when I am pre-planning and preparing my weekly meals and weighing out portions on my little kitchen scale, I feel like I am being “good,” like I am being disciplined and healthy. But maybe this isn’t self-care – maybe this is just another extreme. I believe I fall short of orthorexia, but I also believe that the emotions I feel when I think about having this relationship with food for the rest of my life tells me this isn’t right, it isn’t sustainable, it isn’t what I want for myself. At the same time, giving that up feels like risking the weight loss and improved overall health I have achieved thus far.

It’s scary to imagine giving up control. It’s scary to imagine learning to trust my intuition. It’s scary to think I may not be able to tell the difference between my intuitive voice and the voice of my trauma. Yet, it is equally scary to imagine being 60 years old, my mobility limited by nearly a lifetime of being overweight, tugging my little food scale out of the cabinet to weigh out one ounce of chickpeas. 

When I think about a successful transition to intuitive eating, I feel this potential for liberation. What would that feel like? What if there are no more “good foods” and “bad foods?” What if there were no more counting calories, no more weighing foods, no more refrigerator full of little snack-sized zip top plastic bags of portioned grapes or carrot sticks? What if I never looked at others again with envy at their “normal” relationships with food, if I didn’t feel like there is something wrong with me?

I have been driven by my goals to where I am now – the incessant calorie-counter, the persistent dieter, constant “pinner” of online fitspo. My weight loss journey has been driven by the pursuit of a physical ideal I have imagined for myself, sculpting the body I see in my mind’s eye. I have paid some lip service to the idea of overall mind, body and spirit wellness but, honestly, those were superficial thoughts I invented to justify my quest for a certain type of body I saw as worthy of love and respect (something I have never felt I’ve had in my life). I find myself, today, in a head- and heart-space, of wanting something different from what I have wanted before: wanting true and lasting overall health and wellness. I find myself, today, wondering if adopting a practice of intuitive eating along with a more natural, intuitive and holistic approach to fitness, emotional health and mental wellbeing might be the path for me. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s enticing. I wonder…

New Year’s Resolution

Where to begin…

I have about a hundred thoughts swirling in my head regarding what I wanted to write about today. Do I talk about my holiday self-sabotage? Do I talk about my New Year’s resolution and my current mindset? I guess I want to talk about it all as it is all related. I guess I don’t really want to talk about any of it – I just want to get to work and DO IT.

I gave myself permission to indulge over the holidays – hopefully with moderation. Given that I regained 13.6 pounds between November 27 and yesterday, it’s safe to say moderation went the wayside. Initially, I was still meal planning and prepping and keeping within my nutritional goals during the week, indulging on the weekends. I skipped the gym for the last two weeks of November, went back for the first week of December then didn’t go again until New Year’s Eve. Eventually, I started hitting the Christmas cookies hard in the evenings and didn’t bother planning, prepping or logging anything. I knew I had regained weight but I wasn’t expecting to have gained quite so much. Given my behavior, I should have expected it. That said, I was surprisingly un-upset by it. I see it simply just a starting point, the beginning of the next part of my weight loss story (I hope).

You see, I made an official New Year’s Resolution to reach my goal weight in 2019. If you follow my Instagram account, you would know that I have been building up a head of steam for weeks, preparing to tackle this resolution on January 1. I treated myself to a new meal-prep perfect lunchbox, new gym clothes and shoes, and a fancy new pair of earbuds. I worked with my friend Karol to come up with SMART (Specific-Measurable-Ambitious-Realistic-Time Bound) Goal Worksheets for setting up all the short-term goals that will get me to my end goal.  I have been furiously pinning great fitspo images on my Pinterest board and compiling a new Spotify workout playlist. I set up the camera tripod in the kitchen, marking the kitchen floor with blue masking tape, so that I can take my progress photos and, hopefully one day, create a time-lapse video of my transformation.

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So here I am. January 1, 2019 and I weigh 211.1 pounds. My first SMART Goal of the year is to lose 11.3 pounds by Saturday, February 9 (get back to Onderland in just over five weeks). I have 56.2 total pounds to lose in order to reach my ultimate goal and I would love to do it by August 1. I plan to stay accountable, stay honest and make my health and weight loss a priority. I plan to keep the lessons learned over the holidays (all that junk food really, ultimately, wasn’t worth it) at the forefront of my mind and make healthier, more productive decisions. I plan to eat healthy, clean, unprocessed and nutritious foods as much as possible. I plan to give 100% of my effort, energy and dedication to my workouts. No more excuses, no more backslides, no more pity parties… that’s how I’ll reach my goal. Time to lace up those Nikes, tighten up my ponytail and take ownership of 2019. This will be my year.

Gearing Up for Success

While I am enjoying the holidays (and enjoying the holiday treats a little too much), my mind has already jumped ahead to the New Year. I have big plans for next year. I have made lots of resolutions to lose weight in the past, but they’ve all been vague, ill-equipped and unsuccessful.  This year, all of that changes as 2019 will be the year I reach my goals. As January nears, I have been preparing to tackle my goals.

Mentally, I have been scouring the internet for meal planning recipe ideas and fitness inspiration, I have been building a new and ever-evolving workout playlist on Spotify, and I have been talking to my friend about setting up a goal sheet and vision boards to both chart my plan for success and motivate me. Today, I asked myself if there are any physical items I need to literally gear up for success. These would be the items that help me in the kitchen and in the gym, that help to minimize or alleviate the excuses I make for not sticking to my plans or inspire me to work harder and stay more dedicated.

I grapple quite a bit with buying gear. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to “reward” myself before reaching goals. Sometimes I feel like I don’t really deserve it. Mostly; however, I feel like gear is superfluous – that I can make-do with things I already have, however imperfect they may be. After all, I lost over 100 pounds wearing hand-me-down gym pants and using a beat-up old iPod. Maybe some things are redundant, but I also have to acknowledge the shot-to-the-arm that new gear and a financial investment in my success can provide. I have to make my health a priority, I have to view my quest to reach my goals a worthy and important venture. I have decided that, with the help of my $250 Visa Gift Card Thanksgiving bonus (I was sitting on this bonus with the hopes of finding the perfect way to spend it) I am excited to stock up on the tools that will inspire me and make my life easier.

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From meal prep containers and a new insulated lunchbox to new wireless headphones, a progress journal, workout wear and possibly some new gym shoes, I am researching items that will make this journey easier and more streamlined while refreshing my attitude and giving me a sense of the importance and value of my success. I am so excited for this new year, so excited to put in the work, track my progress and make 2019 MY year to reach my goals. Stocking up on some great gear is going to be a fun and rewarding step in the process.

Green-Eyed Monster

I am jealous person and a terrible frenemy. I am not proud of myself. It has always been important to me to lift up other people, to support them in their efforts and encourage them. A friend of mine has been on an extremely successful weight loss journey this year and, as I have watched her progress and applauded her success, deep down I have been troubled. I am feeling envious and thinking spiteful thoughts. This negativity is not only uncharacteristic of me, it is shameful. Wanting to understand the root of my jealousy – I know it lies 100% within me and has absolutely nothing to do with my friend – I have been doing a good deal of soul searching. Over the last few months I have been paying attention to my thoughts and emotions, making mental notes of the things which trigger my strongest negative reactions, and believe I am understanding my own feelings of jealousy better.

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Most of the people currently in my life – my boyfriend, my coworkers, all the people I see on a regular basis – never knew me at 290 pounds. The people who did know me at that size have all adjusted to the way I look now, having not seen me at my largest in many years. I still have quite a bit of weight to lose but that change won’t be as dramatic as the changes my friend is seeing. It won’t be as dramatic as when I dropped from 290 to 180 pounds in 2010. The days of people being truly astonished by my progress are mostly over. People may still occasionally comment on my weight loss but I’m no longer going from morbidly obese to healthy. Furthermore, my nearly constant ups and downs over and my struggle to reach my goal has left me with the feeling that nobody (least of all myself) has much confidence in my ability to truly succeed. As a result, I feel like my weight loss journey is yesterday’s news.

In the early days of my weight loss, it was such a thrill to hear people comment on my transformation. My metamorphosis was remarkable, garnering a lot of positive attention. I didn’t want or want to need accolades or validation from other people but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to fantasizing about it long before I actually started losing weight. I imagine that’s common – envisioning people’s ecstatic and awestruck reactions, being showered with praise and adulation. When it happens, it feels amazing. It is almost addictive and, while I didn’t realize it until now, I grew to need it. Watching my friend get all of that positive (and well-deserved) attention, reading the comments on her social media posts expressing awe at the change and congratulations on her success, I am seething with jealousy.

I will never have that again and I have realized, through my friend’s success, just how much I will miss it. It is painful, hurting my heart in a way I never could have anticipated. In so many ways, my weight loss journey has defined me for the past eight years – it was the single greatest personal accomplishment of my life. Now it feels like no big deal. Watching my friend experience all those amazing firsts, earn the supportive praise, I have realized just how important those things were to my positive attitude and determination to keep going.

I have had my heyday. I have had my attention, my accolades, my awe and congratulations. That part of my journey is behind me. I have to make peace with that and I can not allow it to bring out the worst in me, to make me someone I never wanted to be – a bitter, envious and catty person. I have to find my positive attitude and my determination elsewhere. Deep down, I want my friend to experience the happiness she is no doubt feeling now. I know what that happiness feels like and I would want that for anyone who has had to be made to feel subhuman because they wore their pain and trauma on the outside, in the form of fat, for all the world to judge and criticize. I would be ashamed of my jealousy if I didn’t take the time to understand it. Having insight into its source; however, I realize I need to be gentle with myself and understanding. As much as I wish I didn’t feel this way, I have to own these feelings, see them for what they are and be accountable. I also realize the need to encourage myself, to recognize the changes I am making and celebrate them even if I am celebrating alone. This is another phase of my journey, possibly a quieter and more personal one, and that’s ok.

My Own Inner-Demon

Everything was going great. I’d been able to get consistent and dedicated with my diet and exercise routine. I have lost nearly 30 pounds. I am back in Onderland. People have been noticing. Coworkers have commented on my progress, friends and family have congratulated me on my success. I have had to buy smaller clothes and even I, my own worst critic, have noticed the physical changes in my body as I sat on the couch marveling aloud and my “skinny calves.” It has been exciting, rewarding and encouraging. It has made me feel strong, healthy and proud. So why in the hell have I started to sabotage myself?

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This isn’t new a new phenomenon. I have squared up against this enemy twice and twice been defeated by it – once in 2010 and again in 2013. Each time I came within 30 pounds of my goal weight then, without any seeming provocation or reason, I started sabotaging my success by gradually neglecting meal planning and workouts and falling back into binge eating behavior. Both times I would regain more than 40 pounds.

Over the past month I have been facing this foe once again – skipping the gym, veering from my meal plans, binge eating. The last time I weighed in on November 17, I had regained almost two pounds. I haven’t weighed in since feeling that further weight gain could have a dire effect on my mood and motivation. I recognized quickly that I was getting in my own way but that hasn’t stopped the behavior. I have been asking myself questions, reading online articles about self-sabotaging, talking about my frustrations. All the while, the behaviors have worsened. Two weeks without visiting the gym, eating more cookies than I can log to MyFitnessPal.

Why do I do this… Am I afraid of success? Do I feel like I don’t deserve it? Is the excess weight some kind of security blanket my subconscious mind refuses to release? Am I simply getting over-confident, cocky about my weight loss, playing it fast and loose and paying the price?

I haven’t wanted to write this blog until I had answers to my questions, explanations and analyses. Weeks have passed; however, and I have no answers. While my inner-turmoil will have to be quieted, the most important thing for me right now is to get the self-destructive behavior under control. I have to work through this but, at the same time, I can’t work through this at the expense of the progress I’ve made. So I have come up with some steps which will hopefully help me to move past this stage in my weight loss story – this stage where, historically, the journey has ended.

Fake it ‘til you make it. Even if my heart’s not in it, I will go to the gym and I will meal plan and meal prep each week. I will go through the motions and maintain the physical habit even if the mental one is lagging behind. A subpar workout is better than no workout. A cookie at the end of a healthy day is better than a cookie at the end of a binge.

Seek out motivation. Whether it’s Pinterest fitspo boards, Instagram success stories or Fearless Motivation speeches, I will take motivation from others when I can’t muster it for myself. I have to get encouraged, get inspired, get excited for this journey again.

Own it. I will be transparent and accountable for all of it. Owning this process is great when you feel strong and proud. It can be disheartening and embarrassing when you feel weak and confused. Not owning the uglier sides of this process only creates shame and hinders progress, perpetuating the self-sabotage.

Dig deep. I will delve into my heart and mind and find some answers to what may be driving this tendency to self-sabotage. This could mean journaling, doing research, talking to those closest to me or seeking out a support group. I will never truly move past this and reach my goals without knowing how to heal whatever hurt lies inside me.

Bear with me, dear readers, and I try to get out of my own way. I will have to step up to the mat and confront this old inner-demon head-on but I do so with hope and optimism. There must be a way to work through it and come out the other side fit, healthy and happy.

From Treat to Defeat

We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all be faced with a meal or a food – something indulgent, something we know isn’t in-line with the dietary and fitness goals we’ve set for ourselves – and we’ve had to decide. To partake or not. Maybe it was a birthday party with a decadent chocolate cake smothered in sugary buttercream. Perhaps was a steak dinner with the boss, a holiday meal with the family, a romantic dinner-for-two with your main squeeze. Most of us actually face these decisions on a weekly, or even daily, basis. Donuts in the break room, cookies in the cookie jar. Did you indulge or did you resist? I’ve done both and I’m proud to say that I resist about 90% of the temptations that come my way. But that other 10%… well, that’s a story unto itself. In fact, this blog is that story.

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Every week I have an opportunity to overeat when my sweetheart and I have “Date Night.” Those nights I have a chance to make choices that help me achieve my goals or choices that hinder me.  So why would I do the former? After doing exactly that for a few consecutive weeks and suffering the consequences (missed weight loss goals, nausea, lethargy, feelings of shame, guilt and despondence) I started asking myself a lot of questions, diving deep to discover my motivations and understand how I can be stronger and make more productive decisions in the future.

What I do can be tiresome. Pre-planning meals, counting calories and macronutrients, logging every ounce of water and every gram of food to pass my lips can be tedious. I start working on next week’s meal plan when I’m halfway through the week at-hand. I spend more time thinking about food now that I ever did when I was 290 pounds (and I thought about food a lot back then). Meanwhile, the people around me aren’t thinking about what they’ll have for lunch until a half hour before they eat. Because of that, this lifestyle doesn’t just feel demanding – it feels abnormal.

“Normal” is tricky. Participating in behavior viewed as normal can give a sense of inclusion, of belonging. Refusal to partake can trigger feelings of exclusion and deprivation. But “normal” is subjective and, furthermore, normal isn’t necessarily healthy. In short, “normal” is bullshit. In decades past, smoking was “normal.” Look where that got us.

For the last few weeks, I have sacrificed my goals and my healthy emotional state for the sake of feeling “normal” in a restaurant full of people mindlessly shoving forkfuls of food into their mouths. Sure, it felt good to not be thinking about calories or carbs or protein. But was it worth it? When I was sprawled on the couch with my jeans unbuttoned, complaining about my bellyache and internally lamenting my decision, was it worth it? When I think back and see, in my mind’s eye, myself mindlessly shoveling forkfuls of food into my mouth, is it worth it? That would be a hard “no.”

After a week of reflection, of asking myself questions and answering them, of owning my thoughts and emotions, I feel like I am understanding myself better. What’s more, I feel like I am discovering ways to deal with temptation in the future in healthful and productive ways. Here are my rules for coping with temptation, indulgence and over-indulgence:

Be Accountable. Come clean to someone, anyone. Talk to a trusted friend or loved one. Blog it. Write it in a diary or journal. Share it on social media. You have nothing to hide. Everyone indulges from time to time but hiding it away like a dirty secret, lying to yourself or anyone else about it has the potential of becoming more than a small treat and growing into a bad habit. Being accountable will purge yourself of the shameful feelings that come with keeping a secret. And you might be surprised and comforted to learn how many others share your thoughts and feelings.

Empower Yourself. Reframe your feelings of being deprived to feelings of being strong, determined and vigilant. Embrace this lifestyle, however different it may seem. Maybe this isn’t what other people consider “normal” but it’s awesome and commendable. Normal is often gluttonous and detrimental to good health. When someone offers you a treat, don’t think “oh poor me, I can’t have a treat.” Think, “oh poor you, you can’t resist temptation.” Own the lifestyle and let it lift you up.

MYOB.Seriously, MYOB! Normality is subjective, defying definition, so quit worrying about how other people eat, cook, shop, exercise or live. It is none of your business. Whether your slim coworker can wash down a double cheeseburger with a caramel frapp and stay slim has no bearing on your or your body. She isn’t better, luckier, or any more blessed than you. Mind your own business and mind it well.

Understand Moderation. Moderation isn’t once-per-day. Moderation isn’t even once-per-week. Moderation is once in a while. Moderation is a serving of something, not an multiple servings or an entire container. Moderation doesn’t leave you feeling overly full and miserable. Yes, you can lose weight and enjoy treats in moderation. For that to work; however, you have to get real about the definition of moderation and you have to get real about things you might not be able eat in moderation (i.e., me and roasted, salted peanuts – those little devils). If you can’t eat something without overeating it, stop eating it.

My Indulging Moment

Ice cream and burgers and chips… oh, my! When we are faced with unhealthy foods we can’t help but be tempted.

Unhealthy food isolated on white background

These are two stories – one from my friend Karol and one from myself. We’ve been dealing with occasions to indulge transforming into overindulgence and struggling to get back on track and it presented an opportunity for us to talk about our personal stories as well as examine the tricky path of navigating sticking to a meal plan in a world that invites us to veer from it daily.


Karol’s Indulging Moment

I had a moment – no it was not a snackccident – during which I ate an entire bag of Recess. It was a moment of shoveling and total chaos in my mind and self control. Yes, it still happens. Yes, it does still happen to ME, very frequently but, sometimes I do indulge. Its human right, it’s normal – right? I was not feeling deprived, as I say nothing taste better than being fit and healthy and confident feels. Then why did I indulge?

I meal prep, I prepare every week, count my calories, macros, carbs, you name it. I am aware of all calories that go in, and out, of my body.

But, on this occasion, I threw discipline to the wind. I was invited to a sit-down dinner – a five-course meal, beginning with a cheeseboard to die for. Then we were on to courses two, three and four. The meal ended with a delicious chocolate desert. I felt had to eat it or someone might ask, “why are you not eating? Go ahead you been working so hard on you.”

The internal struggle is so hard for me. I did not not eat all of every meal – I wasn’t about shoveling it all down – but I felt unstoppable in the moment, all the while knowing this is not healthy for me physically or mentally.

It is true, we condition ourselves to feel this way, and when that moment comes when we feel we have been “deprived” we dig in. I finished it off with a praline later on that night, why not right? Yeah, NOOOOO!

I did not count my calories, did not log into to my Fitness pal. I almost blocked it out of my mind but, my body knows better. I took the next day off the gym, I needed to rest but I felt so bloated and yucky from my meal that I did get up and go to the gym, even if for a few minutes.

I picked myelf up and realized this is not ME and for me, I cannot indulge this way. I have to be accountable for me and it is so easy to turn and slip to a fall and to stay down and grovel and eat and not exercise, but, for me, I can’t do that.

I went grocery shopping the next night and it felt good to prepare myself for the week, now onto mentally preparing and being more mindful of the slip and to be selective when I indulge and yes, account for it in every way.

That is how I move on. Thinking back to the night, I realize had not done this in a long time and, as a result, I felt entitled. I wanted to be a part of the celebration, I did indulge but now back to ME – to my lifestyle of healthy eating, exercise and water and positive self talk, my winning combination.


Jody’s Indulging Moment

Every Saturday night is Date Night Dinner. Each week my boyfriend treats me to a delicious restaurant dinner, and an equally delicious reprieve from cooking. On some occasions I have checked menus online before we went to the restaurant, pre-selected what I would order based on my meal plan so that I can keep to my goals even on weekends or I made sure to eat light throughout the day to accommodate a larger meal and dinnertime. Other occasions… not so much. The last few Saturdays I have treated it simply as an indulgence – what many call a “cheat meal” (although am not a fan of that term). I have stuffed myself with scallion pancakes, fried pot stickers, buffalo “chicken” sandwiches with fries and all manner of yummy high-calorie foods with reckless abandon. Oh, and let’s not forget the desserts. I have paid the price for my carelessness. Immediately after the meals, I have felt lethargic and nauseated, overly stuffed and uncomfortable. I have also felt the pangs of guilt and shame, which are far longer lasting and more damaging to my progress. These meals have cost me my weight loss goals for weeks but, worse, they have chipped away at my discipline and left me on the brink of depression. The latter can and has led to going off my meal plan midweek and skipping workouts at the gym. After these past few weeks, I have felt like a failure, felt weak and frustrated with myself.

In the throes of the aftermath of these indulgence meals, sad and bloated, I promise myself I won’t do it again. I tell myself I never want to feel this way again. And, yet, I do it over and over. Why? Why sabotage myself? Why succumb to something I know is bad for me both physically and mentally? I grapple with this a lot and I always come back to the same thing… because it feels “normal.” It is what normal people do on date night. It is how normal people eat, how normal people relax at the end of a week. Normal people doing normal things in a normal world from which I feel very cut off at times. Participating in the rituals, however damaging, give me a sense of participating in everyday life, a life to which I sometimes feel entitled – and feel cheated out of.

As I have sorted through these feelings, I resolved to write this blog. It is a catharsis; a purging of the thoughts and feelings I have held in and no longer want to carry because they weigh down my spirit. I am fighting every day to stick to my meal plan (admittedly with varying degrees of success); I am working out daily. I am focusing on being disciplined even when my hurting heart may not entirely be in it. This is it – this is me in the wake of indulgence becoming overindulgence, overindulgence becoming habit. This is me fighting to get back on track and asking myself how I can break this cycle.

Throwback Thursday

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I found this picture this morning in the annals of my Facebook photos. It was an outtake from a photo shoot I art directed for the gal in the photo with me. We’d been photographing the DJs she managed in one of the many oh-so-photogenic alleyways in New Orleans on a hot September day. At the end of the shoot we were all having fun and goofing off and the photographer decided to get this shot of the two behind-the-scenes ladies. The photo was taken on September 19, 2010.

I had lost 93 pounds by this time and dropped from a size 24 to a 14 but I didn’t really see it. I knew I was smaller because I had to buy new clothes, because people kept telling me I was smaller, but I didn’t see it in myself the way others saw it. I didn’t own a full-length mirror (or a mirror any larger than the small medicine cabinet mirror mounted over my bathroom sink, for that matter) and the absence of mirrors was deliberate.  Seeing this photo was one of the first times I truly saw myself at this size, truly realized how much I had changed. I couldn’t stop marveling at my legs – they were so much longer and thinner looking than I had ever seen them. I shared the photo online and reading people’s reactions to the photo on Facebook, too, helped me to see myself through their eyes.

It is impossible to genuinely fathom the happiness I was feeling at this time in my life, at this point in my journey. Those feelings faded and passed entirely as I fought the battle of regaining then losing weight over and over again. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would only lose another 8-10 pounds after this photo was taken before my struggle to reach my goal and maintain weight loss would begin, before I would begin the cycle of self-sabotage that would ultimately result in my regaining 46 of the 111 pounds I had, at one point, lost. For the past eight years the feelings I most experience with my weight loss journey are frustration, disappointment and pain. It doesn’t feel rewarding anymore, it feels empty, it feels punitive for having regained the weight and failed to reach my goal.

This week, I am (again) at the point of being close to 93 pounds lighter than I was at my highest weight and I have been trying to reconnect with the feelings of happiness I experienced the first time I’d lost the weight, to recapture the excitement and satisfaction of seeing all my hard work pay off. I want to feel pride in my accomplishment, an accomplishment that I genuinely felt was impossible and often, still, feel is impossible. I may never shake the feeling that my success is a fluke, that it is fleeting but I didn’t feel that on September 19, 2010. So, I write this blog today and I share this picture because I feel it is such an important reminder of what truly is possible, of how profoundly one can change, of how much you can impress yourself when you finally see yourself for the amazing person you are.

Motivation vs. Discipline

It was a pretty typical Friday at the gym. The place was fairly quiet – common later in the week as all the members who were so enthusiastic on Monday have tuckered out and become scarce by Thursday. I didn’t want to be at the gym, either. I was tuckered out, dragging my feet begrudgingly from one machine to the next thinking about everything I’d rather be doing and lamenting my absentee motivation. Motivation is a slippery bugger. I have tried so many things to get it back. The motivation that initially got me so excited to hit the gym has remained elusive. It flickers in and out, sputtering like the flame of a candle.

Friday; however, as I caught myself  half-assing my workout, the truth struck me. I’ve read the quotes, saved them to my pin boards, but I hadn’t really internalized the idea until now. Motivation gets you started but, eventually, you are going to have to rely on discipline. Motivation is fleeting; discipline is enduring. Motivation may flare up from time to time, fanned by some momentary inspiration like a good weigh-in or a smaller pair of jeans, but when it is gone (and it will go away) you still need to show up and you still need to work every bit as hard as you did when its fire burned in your belly.

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I have spent so much of my weight loss life (the years during which I have worked and fought to lose weight has truly taken on a life of its own, in so many ways separate from the rest of my existence) obsessed with motivation. Getting my “mojo” back, recapturing or replicating the moments of motivation that propelled my first steps on this journey. Recapturing that “lightning in a bottle.” It is as if I had come to believe that motivation was the key to success, was the element I had been missing all the years I tried and failed to lose weight. This time around, for reasons I may never be able to understand or explain, I am finding I am finally learning lessons in discipline. That, in fact, discipline may be that key I was searching for.

It is easy to work out, to make the healthiest food choices, to be focused and dedicated when you are motivated. At the end of your motivation is where the real work begins, where your true character is revealed, where your desire to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself are forged into habit. That is where a diet becomes a lifestyle, where a plan becomes a routine.

Yesterday evening, as I headed toward the gym, I felt the spark of motivation – the same spark so many people seem to feel at the beginning of a new week. Then I hit the weight machines and the reality of how hard this was going to be, how much I would sweat, how sore and exhausted I would feel hit me and my motivation was snuffed out. It was just the two of us: me and my discipline. And we, the two of us, killed that workout. We sweat, we ached, we pushed through the desire to ease up and the urge to quit.

I’m a work in progress, of course. I know there will be days I struggle to remain disciplined, when my character fails, when I don’t muster the strength to keep going without the unreliable external force of motivation. I am understanding, though, the role discipline is going to make in my success and it is exciting to feel I have turned that corner. Perhaps this will be the difference between achieving my ultimate goals and petering out before I get there.

Someday Section

You have it, too, right? That area of your closet, all the way in the back, where those few precious clothing items hang? I call it the “Someday Section.” I don’t have a lot of space to store clothing so I don’t hang on to much if I can’t wear it. However, some items are just too nice to let go as I hold out hope of squeezing back into them someday. Some of the items fit at the time I bought them only to get progressively snug as I regained weight. Some were a smidgen too tight to begin with but I brought them home anyway believing the desire to wear them would motivate me. Regardless, they were spared from the thrift store fate to which many of my clothes are destined and they hang on a few hangers in the back corner of my closet, behind the winter coats and scarves and camping clothes.

somedaysection
My old pants plus two pair from the “Someday Section” – they all fit!

As I have dropped weight – just over 23 pounds since March – I have started thinking about some of those clothes. A few weeks ago, I brought out one of my favorites: a pair of black and white pinstriped Banana Republic dress slacks. I was delighted they fit again and, as the last few weeks have gone by and I have put them into regular work wardrobe rotation, they’ve gotten a bit roomier in the thighs. This morning, as I dressed for work (much to the detriment of my morning schedule) I brought out a hanger draped with a few pairs of smaller dress slacks. One-by-one, I tried them on and, one-by-one, I discovered they fit.

It is easy, when focusing on losing weight, to lose sight of the progress which may not reveal itself on the scale. We get stronger, we get fitter from the inside out.  We get more confident and more determined. Our clothes fit better. Sometimes our clothes stop fitting at all and we find ourselves with the joyous chore of buying smaller ones. We crave physical activity when once we would have craved a soft spot on the couch. Our workouts get easier, we can push ourselves harder and longer at the gym. We see muscles and clavicles and cheekbones emerging. We tighten our watchbands and bra straps. We catch glimpses of ourselves in mirrors and have to stop to do a double-take. Our feet and our knees stop hurting after a day of standing or walking. Our skin glows, our smiles become brighter and wider (that last one might be in our heads but who cares?). Our friends and coworkers start commenting on the changes they are seeing.

I can never stress enough how important it is to recognize these changes in ourselves. I, myself, become obsessed with the scale and can blatantly disregard any and all real progress I’ve made in lieu of agonizing about the earth’s gravitational pull on my body. That may be the single most unhealthy thing I do in terms of weight loss. This morning, however, as I delved into my “Someday Section” and paraded back and forth down the hallway, prancing around in my smaller pants and showing them off to my boyfriend, I forgot all about the scale. I forgot I was nervous to weigh in this coming Saturday. I forgot I was heartbroken after my weigh-in on September 1. I forgot I’d convinced myself that I’d stopped making progress and become an overnight failure. I remembered that weight is just one marker, one of many ways to see and feel progress, and often it isn’t the most reliable or profound.