At the kick off meeting for my Lifestyle Re-Engineering Program last month, I gave a short presentation. I naturally wanted to outline the program to the participants, but I also wanted to give them a little bit of insight into my own journey. I have talked about my struggles with my weight on the blog a few times, but I have never really talked about it in public before. I was standing in a room full of strangers, telling them about where it all began and I was amazed by how emotional I felt.
In that instant I was back there. All the sadness and feelings of worthlessness came flooding back to me. It was as raw and as real as if it were yesterday and not five years ago. I remembered what life was like for me all those years ago. I was an extremely troubled girl. I hated my job. I worked long hours, had a crazy commute and was going to college at night. All of this left little time for self care, let alone self improvement. There was no fun in my life and I was really just existing. To top it all off, I was overweight. I had no confidence and couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.
In time, I began to lose weight. I honestly thought this would be the answer to all my problems. I would tell myself “just lose another five pounds, then you will feel good.” Those five pounds would shed, and I would feel the same way, so I would convince myself that the next five would definitely do it. On and on this went. I continued to drop weight, but I was still miserable. Even when I was approaching “goal weight” I still struggled with negative self image. I was terrified that if I took my eye off the ball for a moment, that I would end up back where I started.
I had fallen into a very common trap. I had treated the symptoms of the problem, without addressing the root cause. I was, in essence, doing the easy thing. Counting calories and hitting the gym, while it does take effort, is fairly straight forward. You have a clear set of parameters to work within, and if you do what you’re supposed to, you will get results. Easy! The hard thing, the thing which I was avoiding doing, is to look for the cause of the problem.
What was it that was making me so unhappy, that I did not care what happened to my body? What had made me give up on myself? Why had I resigned myself, in my 20s, to a lifetime of feeling undesirable, unsexy and unwanted? Why did I feel that I didn’t deserve to be happy? These were the questions I needed to ask myself. Nobody could do if for me. There was no YouTube video to show me the steps, no ten minute miracle cure. It definitely was not going to be easy.
I needed to re-engineer my life. I set about identifying everything, which was not working for me, and trying to change it. The first thing I did was quit my job. I vowed never to stay in a job I hated again. Life is too short to spend 40 hours a week in a toxic environment. It took a couple of attempts, but I finally found the right fit. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to your overall well-being to be happy in your work.
During this time, I also finished college. This had a huge impact. My stress was massively reduced, and I now had time to do the things I enjoyed (if only I could remember what they were!) I had spent 5 years studying at night and on the weekends, and my single-mindedness had allowed it to become almost all consuming. I was in suspended animation! When it was finally over, I spent two months sitting on the couch watching soaps (we will call this recovery.) I then had to set about rediscovering what it is that makes me happy.
It was at that time when my love of fitness was born. I needed to escape Coronation Street and the gym was as good a place as any to go. My workouts became my outlet for a number of years. I love training, but in hindsight it was probably foolish to put all my eggs in one basket. Injuries and issues inevitably cropped up, and without something else to put my energy into, I became frustrated.
It is really only in the last year that I feel I am beginning to find balance. I have rediscovered a too long latent love of reading. Meditation and mindfulness are of huge importance to me now. I invest more time and energy in my relationships. The effect of all of this, is that I am happier now than I have ever been. The happiness and confidence I have gained allows me to prioritise my health and well being. In other words, being happy is helping me to maintain my weight, not the other way around.
The process is by no means complete. I believe we are all on a journey of self discovery that lasts a lifetime. I definitely do not have all the answers and I want to continue to learn about myself. I wasted far too many years being unhappy, I don’t want to let another moment be lost.
For anyone out there who may be struggling, feeling unhappy or lacking self confidence, I will say this; nothing changes if nothing changes. The first step in addressing the problem, is to face it head on. This may be scary and painful, but I promise you it will be worth it. If your weight is problem for you, then loosing weight is naturally a good thing to do. However, just be aware that it won’t solve all your problems. Be well xxx