When I was a young girl, I was adorable and small. Feisty and athletic. I grew up in a hilly city in suburban western Wisconsin where the best ways to get around were on bicycle, roller blades, or your own two feet. In the 80s and early 90s (the 1900s, for all you young folk), we could roam freely throughout town as children and all the adults watched out for us. My best friend since kindergarten, J, was my partner-in-crime and we spent many a summer day at one of the local river beaches. We rode our bikes out behind the cemeteries and ventured out into the countryside (unknowingly at the time, on what was my dad’s best friend’s family property). There we had our own tree-climbing, fort-building version of Lord of the Rings, long before we even knew what hobbits were.
By the time I hit adolesence, I was into sports (though, admittedly not nearly as much as my oldest sister). I played a little basketball in middle school but gave it up for cheerleading and dance line in high school. And I ran track. I was decent, but for me, it was more about the personal goals and records.
I weighed 115 pounds soaking wet back then. And I was once 5’7″ – an unfortunate car accident compacted a couple of discs in my back when I was 18 – but I’m now 1.25 inches shorter than I was. The older I got, the less I realized how important staying active was for being able to continue consuming the massive calorie counts I was used to and I put on the pounds. Didn’t help that my choice in guys was less than stellar and I allowed their mental abuse to live rent-free in my head for far too long. At my heaviest, I weighed 236 pounds!
If you’ve been following my story, you already know where this is headed to hit my lowest low in December 2017 – I ate my feelings. I ate when I wasn’t hungry. I ate everything I wanted and it just added to my depression and anxiety. I ate until I no longer recognized myself, outside or in.
But somewhere along the way, I found that my desire to look like I did years ago was greater than my desire to continue on this downward spiral, so I started counting calories. I used a free app and at first, I just logged my calories and tried not to judge what I was eating. I was more interested to know how many calories I had been consuming before I decided how I wanted to proceed. I already knew that the ONLY way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. Simple.
I really do like to be active, so the more I focused on limiting my calories, the more active I was becoming again. I was able to hike for longer periods of time, for futher distances, and on tougher terrain. With every walk through town, kayak trip on a local lake, and hike in a state park, I felt stronger, skinnier, and happier. (I am currently tipping the scales at 149 pounds, only 4 away from the top of my ideal weight range!)
I was getting my confidence back. I know that I’m fighting an everyday battle against Bertha, and yet the stronger I get, the less she looms over me, no longer threatening to strike at a moment’s notice. It really was about getting my mind right.
Stress is the number one killer of anyone, and I’m not sure you could ever convince me otherwise. And my biggest stress? ME. I was making my life harder because I expected TOO MUCH of myself! Then the right people came into my life at the right time and taught me how to let go of things. Let go of negativity, other people’s opinions of me (they’re none of my business), let go of my own ridiculous expectations for myself, and stopped criticizing myself.
Then I learned how to build myself up and love myself again. Trust me, this came before the recent weight loss! Not enough can be said about the importance of truly loving yourself – and showing it – on every aspect of your life!!
What does loving myself mean to me? Ignoring text messages from the toxic people that were in my life not many years ago. Smiling at my reflection in the mirror. Taking proper care of hygiene and chores. Spreading smiles to people around me. Taking breaks from social media and electronics and getting out in nature. Paying attention to my budget and saving money. Excusing myself for feeling negative emotions occasionally, but also allowing them to happen and then reflecting on why I reacted in that manner. Giving myself compliments when I’ve done something well at work, but laughing when I make a mistake – and using that mistake as a stepping stone to learning to do better next time.
There are a million and twelve ways to show yourself love. I won’t say (anymore) that you won’t find someone to love you until you love yourself first because it’s simply not true. But if you don’t love yourself, you will have a harder time loving others. Hurt people hurt people.
How do I know this? Life experience. Personal experience. Take your pick.
Then – and I cannot emphasize this enough – once you love yourself, start building others up without tearing yourself or others down. We all grow differently and under different conditions. We’re all meant for different things. Why should I feel competition for paths that aren’t mine? I’ve got my own path and I’m rocking it. Go rock yours, too! 🙂
If you see something beautiful in others, speak it out loud. If you search for goodness, you’ll find it. Remember the opposite is true, too, and avoid seeking it out. You’ll thank me later if you chase the positive vibes.