Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Determination, Success, and Above all Courage!

At least once a  month as I sit in my regular Weight Watchers meeting someone who is new will ask me how long it took to lose "the weight."  I usually hesitate to answer this question but then I smile and I answer like this:  The first hundred pounds came off in a year the next nearly hundred took quite a bit longer.  I resist telling this new member how long a bit longer is because I don't want them to feel that I am typical of members with sizable amounts to lose and I don't want them discouraged before they start and yet somehow I think my truth is helpful to share.

The truth is that it took me 15 years, yes years, to get to my goal weight and that weight is a number set by my doctor who did not believe it would be healthy or even safe for me to get to the Weight Watchers goal weight. If I was going to reach the Weight Watchers goal weight I would need to lose an additional thirty pounds!  The important thing to know is that I am happy where I am now and it is a lifestyle I can maintain and do maintain MOST days.

During that fifteen year period I learned many things that have helped and sustained me along the way.  The MOST important thing I learned about losing my weight and keeping it off is that I had to believe I was worth the effort.  I am worth the effort and so I persevere!  I learned that when you are as large as I was and the Weight Watcher leader stands in front of the class and says, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels" you know immediately she has NEVER had warm chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven or peanut butter spread on bread fresh from the toaster or even a dish of Rocky Road ice cream from Baskin Robins because I can assure you they still taste amazing and are worth the extra exercise I have to do to burn off the calories from eating them.  I know I could list you at least another fifty foods that meet the same qualifications.  Food tastes great and most of us in that meeting know that or we would not be sitting in that meeting.  I have also learned that the Weight Watchers program works great; the Lynn  program, not so well.  On the Lynn  program I would follow the WW program religiously until the FIRST meal after my weigh in at which point I would think to myself I have a whole week to recover so...the eating would begin.  I began this practice with only one "bad" meal on the day I weighed in but soon it became both meals and included snacks.  I weigh in on Saturday so Saturday then became a bust.  Soon Saturday became Sunday as well and before long what I ate Friday night couldn't possibly show up on the scale on Saturday morning, but it did!  Reality hit me smack between the eyes one week when I realized it took me three to four days of the next week to get off what I had just eaten on the weekend and I just might be much more successful if I stopped the weekend binge.  Guess what; it worked!  The Lynn  program was put aside with all of the other discarded diet attempts but I continued on with WW and I did their program.  Pound by pound, sometimes quarter pound by quarter pound the weight came off and I found myself on the scale at my meeting at goal.  I fought back the tears but know that my meeting mates would have understood because that is what we do.

My truth is there were struggles and the same pounds were gained and lost repeatedly but I kept coming.  I learned to do better and how to handle the rough times and that everyone stumbled and some even quit trying for awhile but kept coming and they too became successful.

The other day I was struggling and I came across a great quote that put things back in perspective for me:

"Some days, doing "the best we can" may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else." Fred Rogers

I read it again and brushed the dirt off my knees, pulled my shoulders back, picked my chin up and started over.  I AM WORTH THE EFFORT!  "Failure is not falling down; failure is not getting up." (unknown)  The truth is that it takes courage to continue trying.

My truths are that I am determined.  I am a success but above all I am courageous!  

Be brave, you are worth the effort!

"Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." Mary Anne Radmacher

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letter to my body

Dear Body,

Today I want to apologize to you for the way I have treated you.  I took you for granted far too long and ignored your cries for help. You tried to tell me when I had eaten too much by making me feel sick to my stomach, occasionally even to the point of vomiting.  You added pound after pound of weight to my body hoping I would notice how tight my clothes were getting, but I bought bigger clothes. You tried to tell me I had put on too much weight for you to carry when my knees began to hurt and I found it was more and more difficult to run and then to even walk, but I ignored you.  I made excuses to avoid going up and down the stairs and asked my family to retrieve things for me.  I even managed to ignore you when my heart would race and beat irregularly; I was certain it was too much tea and so I stopped drinking tea.  But then one day my eyes opened wide and looked in the mirror and looked at the number on the scale and I saw what you had been trying to tell me and we began the process of changing together.  Today I want to thank you for sticking with me and helping me get my life back.  It is such a gift to still be alive!

I have pounds of loose skin on my thighs and abdomen and arms.   When I stand naked and look in the mirror I look like a Shar pei puppy but I am grateful!  I promise I will not allow surgeons to cut you out of vanity.  Many people have asked me if I am going to have plastic surgery and I always answer this way, "The surgery I  need is cosmetic and is not covered by my insurance.  No one can guarantee me I will wake up from the anesthesia and they can't guarantee that I won't get an infection that could cost me my life or my arm or my leg so no, I will not have any plastic surgery."  Then I explain a bit further, this revelation that came to me.  I have two arms that work.  They bathe me and dress me and feed me.  They were the arms that embraced my husband when we were pronounced husband and wife and they were the same arms that held my babies after they were born.  They have extra skin but they are my arms and they are just right the way they are.  

Thank you body for helping me to help myself.  I promise to always do my best to care for you the way you deserve to be cared for, to respect you, and to love you even on the days I have doubts.

Here is a very moving and powerful video that is another woman's letter to her body:

Letter to my Body from Ally Marks on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spreading my wings

I was five or six when I learned how to ride my bike without training wheels.  We lived in Lutherville, Maryland in a cute Cape Cod style house on a corner lot.  It was summer and I had been begging my parents to take my training wheels off my bike so I could learn to ride just like some of my friends who no longer needed training wheels.  I was so excited when my dad took them off!  My mom was the one I remember holding the back of my seat and running beside me giving instructions and helping me maintain my balance.  I tried and I tried and I tried and I fell over and over again until my mom got tired and told me we would try again another day. She went back into the house.  I was not ready to give up.  I continued trying and falling many more times before my mind and my body finally realized what they needed to do to keep me on the bike in an upright position and off the ground which resulted in a glorious fifteen to twenty second ride without a fall.  I was on my way!  I continued to practice, sometimes falling but each time gaining more and more confidence and longer and longer successful rides until I could ride with confidence. I wish I could say I never had another fall but that would not be true.  I can say when I did fall there was usually not as big of a scrape because I had learned to catch myself or even to lay the bike down in the grass where my landing would be softer, but I would continue to have the occasional spill. Did I ever think I should stop riding my bike because of those spills?  No way!  Several years ago I got a bike for Christmas.  I had not ridden for MANY years but my mind and my body remembered.  Labor Day weekend of the next year my husband and I rode our bikes thirty-four miles on a trail called the Virginia Creeper.  I fell once and scraped my arm but I didn't quit.  I would have missed out on so much if I had! 

So why am I writing about my childhood memory of learning to ride my bike? I am writing  to tell you that the experience of learning to ride a bike is no different than the experiences I have had losing my weight.  I know VERY FEW people who were able to get on a bike and pedal away without practice and falls and scraped up knees and elbows.  Many more people have memories that match mine; of a parent running beside them  holding on to the seat to steady them helping them learn to simultaneously balance and pedal.  They will tell you about falling and trying again and again and close calls where they caught themselves before they fell and they will tell you about tears and scraped elbows and knees and wounded pride.  They may even smile as they recall the experience and yet they all learned to ride a bike.

This is my experience with Weight Watchers.  I had a leader and a room full of members just like me in various stages of discovering why we eat and how to eat and portion control, and healthy choices, and even exercise.  The leader was there to help us steer and show us the way; to encourage us to pick ourselves up and get our balance back when we stumbled.  The members cheered for each other and celebrated the successes and understood and even cried when someone was lost.   Each of us had to make the decision to continue trying or to give up and go home.  Those who chose to continue to try, like me, were successful.  It was not easy and all of us stumbled and fell occasionally.  We beat ourselves up and we cried but we also laughed and cheered for the others who were becoming successful and for ourselves.  We lost weight and we made friends and we rejoiced!  A few, like me, found themselves buried under all of the extra weight and like a caterpillar came out of their cocoon to discover they had become a butterfly!

“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked. ”You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” - Trina Paulus