A semi-recent conversation with my mother was sparked by a few past writings about the personal accounts of my experience growing up. She felt numbed by the words on the page, as she had no idea how bad it was. She felt like she should have done more to help me. How could she? She did so much. She put me on diets, she took me to doctor's, she showed as much concern as any mother could. Personal responsibility is something you cannot give someone. I wasn't ready.
My weight was something we did not talk about. And when I say, "we", I mean me. It was the taboo topic around my house. The elephant looming in the room that was ignored and not spoke of. Whenever my mom or someone else tried to talk about it, I shut them down faster than a speeding bullet. I did not want to hear it. I already knew the things they were saying were true. I knew it was unhealthy. I knew it was setting me up for additional health problems. I did not need the reminder. Again, I wasn't ready.
Unfortunately, it would take me several more years of denial and ignorance before I would finally get to the point where I was ready to face the music, so to speak. I ignored the fact that the size of my clothes was steadily escalating, while my energy level continued to decrease. I avoided mirrors at all costs. I hated getting my picture taken and hid from any camera which found itself poised and ready to singe my image into it's memory bank. I felt ugly, sluggish, and worthless. Why would I want this captured for repeated viewing?
I found myself becoming more and more isolated. The less people who saw me the better. I stopped going out in public much, except for work. I felt safest within the four walls of my home. There I was not exposed to the harsh cruel world that can strip you bare in seconds. I felt protected from the elements. Again, denial. Isolation can be as big a problem as exposure. I was left with idle time, and an idle mind wanders. My depression, which I have struggled with for more years than I can count, only heightened. My mind having little else to do besides sit and fester; accounting all the things that I hated about myself and the way my life had turned out. I found myself in a downhill spiral that showed no signs of slowing. I was about at my breaking point. I was ready.
Ready to face the facts; opening my eyes to the truth that I kept in the background long enough. I knew I needed to change my life, before I had no life left to change. Last January (2011) I made a resolution to make a lifestyle change; more so a complete overhaul. I needed to get healthy. I began to eat better, cutting out lots of the high fat, sugar, low nutritional content foods. I gave up (diet) soda. It always made me feel bloated anyways. I substituted healthier options wherever I could. Wheat bread instead of white. Baked food instead of fried. More fruits and vegetables instead of cake and cookies. Slowly but surely I got into a rhythm. Don't get me wrong. It was hardly easy. It took everything in me to avoid the very things that had always comforted me in times of stress, boredom, and depression.
The hardest part about a food addiction is that you cannot escape the very ghost that ails you. You can give up a lot of things, but eating is not one of them. Food surrounds us. We have to eat to survive. My mission was obvious. I had to learn to eat to live; not live to eat. Simple enough, right? If only.
Suddenly all of my (bad) habits needed to be broken, which meant I had to create new ones to replace them. Do you know how hard it is to change something that had become all but instinctual? Second nature. I realized this journey to better health was going to involve a lot more than just altering my diet. I needed to find healthier methods of dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Food could no longer be my answer to everything. Sad? Here, have some cake. Angry? Here, have some ice cream. No, Jessica. No more! I had to utilize more productive methods of coping.
I began listening to music a lot more. Music soothes me. It is a positive outlet for me to express what I am feeling. Whether you need to express joy, sadness, anger, regret, or a broken heart, you are bound to find a song that's lyrics feel like they were taken out of a chapter of your own life. By singing the artist's words, you feel as if you are singing your own story. This is why music is so universal. I also turned to journaling, reading my Bible, and writing. I have always loved to write, but feel in the last several months I have begun to embrace the magic that can happen when you open your mind and allow the thoughts to flow onto paper, or across the screen. Finding joy in things other than food has been such an amazing experience for me.
In the last year I have made a lot of progress in terms of my health. The changes I implemented last January are still in progress, and I continue to take strides each and every day towards becoming the person I know I can be. I gain strength and motivation every day to continue this path. I have been down this road countless times before. What makes me so sure that this time I will succeed? Why do I feel that I will not give up and make this just another failed attempt? Well, it is because this time I am holding nothing back. I am giving it 110% and nothing less. If anything, I'm giving it more. I'm open, honest, and up front about it.
Denial is no longer paralyizing me and keeping me from doing what I have to do. I know this is life or death. There is no messing around here. I journal everything I eat every day (myfitnesspal.com). If it goes in my mouth, it is accounted for. I don't care if it is a dose of cough syrup, a stick of gum, or an antacid tablet. It gets recorded. I exercise 3 to 4 days a week for 30-45 minutes, depending on my ability that day. I eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and a host of other things that are to fuel me in this process. I limit sweet treats to special occasions like birthdays and holidays. I am becoming an expert in portion control. If the nutritional facts tell me a serving size in an ounce, that is what I eat. I have a food scale to weigh and measure things out. These are the reasons I will succeed. I am holding myself accountable. I will not let me down. Not again.
I am so blessed to have people supporting me in this endeavor. I am accountable to them. They will not let me give up on myself. My boyfriend is always there for me and helps me stay focused. He loves me as I am, which truly makes a world of difference. He knows that this is about me, and not because I feel he wants me to change. He just wants me to be healthy. My mom and sisters are always just a phone call away. They leave me encouraging words on my Facebook page, and let me know how very proud of me they are. My best friend, Teresa, is also a huge source of support. She lifts me up when I am struggling and encourages me to keep on going. She acknowledges all of the sacrifices and hard work. It is great to have someone who sees how much effort I am putting forth. She has no idea how much she means to me.
I also have an amazing group of women who are also walking this journey with me. My dear friends Sharon, Christa, and Kimberly. They are my strength. When one of us is having a rough time, the rest of us rally to help her get through it. We motivate, encourage, support, and challenge each other. We call ourselves Team Breath of Life, which is so fitting. I feel like this whole experience is like breathing fresh air into my lungs. I am refreshed and renewed. The advent of this group, and the incredible friendships I have built with these women has been a blessing to my life.
This last year has been an enlightening one. It has been hard, and I know it will continue to be. At times it seems harder than it's worth. But then I think about the good I am doing for myself. As I witness the changes, I realize that it's worth is beyond priceless. I can measure the inches that have disappeared. I can wear clothes I haven't in ages. I can buckle my seatbelt for the first time in more years than I can remember. I have more stamina and mobility. The mental transformation is just as profound. I spend less time feeling lost and in the dark. And when those moments come, I feel stronger and better able to fight my way through them. I am hopeful for the future and know that I will continue to do what is necessary to stay focused, driven, and on task. I look at how far I have come and have no desire to go backwards. I am no where close to my destination, but the progress I have made is noteworthy. And it's really all about the journey anyways, right?