A few months back, a good friend suggested I blog about my weight loss journey. I had a lot of resistance to the idea, but he was sure it would really resonate with people. He was right: more than 1,100 people read the post, with lots of feedback on social media as well as private e-mails and texts. People responded wanting to know more, so here goes.
In a way, it's easier to talk about what I did not do to lose the weight (these are all the pop-culture myths that never worked for me or anyone else I know).
I did not go on a diet.
I did not make a resolution.
I did not restrict myself.
I did not set any weight loss goals.
I did not buy an impossible-to-fit-in shirt and work toward that.
It was not about looking better or impressing people or finding my worth through the new way I looked.
I have to admit, it became about all those things at one point or another. It's incredibly easy to get caught up in the whirlwind, step off course, and have friends come in to save the day and correct you against your will.
But for the most part, I did not do it in all the ways we hear are the way to do it in our culture. Check-out line magazines and Weight Watchers don't seem to have the answers for me or anyone else. They just have good marketing that over promise and under deliver.
So how did I do it?
I admitted defeat, that my very best thinking turned me into a size 42 and a XXL. I admitted that while I'm very smart, I had major thinking errors and blind spots around food and I was going to have to ask for help.
I did it through recovery. Recovery is about finding a spiritual solution to a physical and mental problem. I surrendered my will and listened to educated professionals who truly knew better than me, like doctors and therapists, and lay people who had been down the path already in support groups around eating. I humbled myself and did what I was told, even when I did not want to. I learned to pray and meditate and trust my body to tell me when it was hungry and what it was hungry for.
I don't like to admit this one, but I did it through a prescription which leveled out the regulation of insulation in my body until I was at a weight that was healthy enough for my pancreas to work in its naturally effective way. I was also given an appetite suppressant for a few months at the beginning. I sometimes feel like using medication was cheating or taking the easy way out, but it was what I needed to change my life and get healthy.
A lot of people messaged me to ask me what DO I eat, since in the last post I talked about what hurts my body. There is really no plan or prescription that I follow, except to listen to my body. I think we all have different body chemistry that needs different things. For example, I tried to become vegan for environmental issues, and my body screamed in rage at me. I felt awful. Everything went haywire: headaches, mood swings, no energy. Vegan works for many people, but not for me. My body likes meat, dairy, vegetables, and beans with basically no significant carbohydrates, no sugar, no flour, and no caffeine. My body tells me potatoes and corn are not vegetables, because they make my body hurt the same as if I ate pure sugar. I can eat a little fruit now and then, but it's dangerous because it can get out of hand. There are eye-witness accounts of a blueberry-eating monster eating an entire case at Costco before he reached the check out line! I also really struggle with multiples, so things like nuts are hard for me to moderate. Finally, if I'm eating peanut butter straight out of the jar, or eating anything while standing in front of the refrigerator, that's a pretty big sign I'm in trouble.
I do have certain rituals around eating. I cook most of my food. There's something about shopping for food, cooking it, and doing the dishes that helps me make better choices and in general calms me down. I also try to eat with other people as much as often, and I don't engage in other activities (like watching TV or being online) while eating. Before I eat, whether I'm alone or with people, I list three things I'm grateful for. I also am starting to become involved with some organizations around poverty and food which is really humbling and has already changed my relationship with food in positive ways.
We all talk about resolutions this time of the year, and I imagine food resolutions take the cake (bad pun intended). And we all know that most people fail at their resolution within days.
What is a way of re-framing New Years resolutions--whether they be food-related or any other resolution--in a way that makes sense and is sustainable?
I believe the root of the resolution tradition is a commitment to well-being, and I believe that behavior change with the intention of well-being has a much better chance. Maybe our new resolution will have false starts as we retrain our bodies, brains, and lives. But as we keep getting back on the horse the modification will have a better chance to eventually get off the ground if we do it with a spiritual intention of well-being rather than external validation, peer pressure, an obligatory "it's that time of year again," etc.
I believe that the divinity within us all is committed to well-being, and the reality of life's hardships gets in the way.
We have Big Problems. The world seems to be speeding up-they say the world's body of knowledge currently doubles every seven year-which is unfathomable to my tiny little mind! They also say robots are going to take over and make a significant portion of my generation unemployable. A large fraction of Millennial's believe their life has no significant meaning or inherent worth; that there is nothing unique or special about them (I deal with this often as a counselor). A Houston Chronicle article just this week stated that summers in Houston would be 120 degrees by the time babies born this year are in graduate school.
We live in an age of Big Problems. The divinity within us all is committed to well-being, and the reality of life's hardships gets in the way.
I think we numb ourselves from the stress and pain of our individual and collective hardships, and resolutions are a way of taking the anesthesia off so that we can see the world through clearer lenses.
A quote from Brene Brown is seared into my head: "We are currently the most in debt, medicated, obese, addicted cohort in history."
Big Problems take a lot of Big Addictions in order to numb out. The only problem is that the numbing leads to more problems, like rampant obesity in the case of food addiction, and never addresses the root issues we were initially running from in our selves, families, communities, nation, and world.
I think re-framing our resolutions through spiritual well-being is one step to being more successful at our goal. I think another step is having small, measurable tasks that will bring us closer to our big goal which so often seems out of reach.
At the end of 2018, I took stock of my life. Here is my list of well-being concepts/values I am aiming for in 2019, and specific/measurable goals I will use to help me get there.
Concept/value: Take Down My Walls
Specific/measurable goals: I can really "armor up" when I feel unsafe. It definitely comes from a specific type of person and around specific topics of conversation. I don't want to be dominated by the world and it's people, I want to walk around comfortable in my own skin. So, this year, I want to lean into the discomfort of people, places, and things that challenge me.
Specific measurable goals: Read 100 books per year, including authors that I disagree with. Read news articles from sources that do not share my political bias so I am challenged and not in a "news bubble." Write an average of one blog per week.
Concept/value: Be of service
Specific/measurable goals: Complete my internship at The Borgen Project, which is an international poverty-reduction campaign. Continue to mentor teenagers and emerging adult males in addiction recovery. Visit my family at least twice this year.
Concept/value: Take care of physical self
Specific/measurable goals: Go to the dentist, take my dog to the vet for a check up, renew my gym membership, go to bed before ten (if I stay up late, I eat and watch TV. It's a high price to pay), do what I need to maintain my sobriety. I think that our expectations around our physical self are the hardest and can lead to the most judgment/feeling of failure, so I keep mine to the absolute bare minimum. Yes, I'm still overweight-technically still obese-but who cares. I'm healthier than I've ever been. I'll either get to a lower weight or I won't.
Concept/value: Work toward having a family
Specific/measurable goals: Don't date until I have really sorted out some things inside myself around dating and relationships. Continue the degree I am in--even on the days I get super resentful, arrogant, and self-righteous--because it is a means to an end of supporting myself and a future family in a more stable and sober way than my previous career can provide.
I think that when we push into the deep, dark, scary places by resolving to take away the things that numb us--this time of the year, most of us are focusing on weight and food, but there are many more--it is is raw, scary, an hard. It feels so bad, so hard, like an un-scratchable itch, super irritating and uncomfortable all the time. But when we stick with it, the pain comes to an end, we come out the other side in a state of health and wholeness previously unattainable, and we get to feel good about and like ourselves. That's something to look forward to later in the year for those of us who are starting out the year in the painful withdrawal of New Year resolutions!