No one really tells you when you lose weight (or even just set out to) that the real work is in your mind... and all of the issues that created your reality in the first place would come to the surface…
It may look like a glamorous transformation, but it is so very gritty, my friends, and goes so much deeper than what you see. And if you follow along with me for a bit, there might be something here for you.
This might look like a “I’m thin now” share (which by the way just a year ago seeing someone else share that kind of thing would have sent me into a shame-comparison spiral), it is more about what is underneath this kind of change... about having the courage to look closely at our motives even when a flashy looking victory is seducing us into the more superficial realm of life. If you know me, you know: I’m too deep for that.
Ok ok, let’s call it what it is: complicated.
But, aren’t we all?
Let me just preface with this: it is not easy to publicly post a picture of yourself like this. Or maybe it is for some, but not for me. I do it (messy room and all) in service to one gal out there who thinks she cannot lose the weight or worse: thinks losing it is all that's standing in her way of her true self.
I took the picture on the left in November 2017 (at 220 lbs) and the one on the right September 2019 (155 lbs). Believe it or not, 220 was not my heaviest. At some point in 2015, I emerged from an epic case of self-delusion (“I’m genetically cursed/ big-boned/ too busy/ insert almost any rationale for being miserable in my own body) and reluctantly stepped on the scale.
245 lbs…. the kind of number you would associate with a tall, LARGE man. I was shocked. Ashamed. Mortified. Here I was launching a business based in consciousness and I was the embodiment of unconscious overeating and physical baggage. I had no clue how to be the healthy person I was working so hard to be.
I had been in therapy for five years sorting out my shit. I’d put myself through grad school and learned so much about myself in the process. I’d parlayed a consulting job into the beginnings of a small business. But, the one problem I’d carried through my life came barreling down on me like the weight of the world. There was no escaping the truth: I didn’t like my body. I felt desperate to have the person I was becoming on the inside reflect on the outside.
So, naturally I made a commitment to do better: to exercise more and watch what I was eating obviously, but with freelance hours and rabid thoughts, it felt like trying to hit a moving target in the dark… while riding a horse… without a saddle, and backwards. I was so lost in struggle. And so isolated by my fear and shame that wouldn't let me share the journey.
The progress felt slow, but in retrospect deserved more credit. By 2016, I had dropped a size. By 2017, I was down 20 lbs. It was so gradual, I had a hard time recognizing my progress. In 2017, I doubled down and started to get serious. I was exercising 4-5 times per week and had limited my burrito consumption to once every few months. I was starting to feel a sense of agency in my life. I still didn’t love my body, but I had a plan I was following through on. I felt… better, but then again I always do when I'm in hot pursuit of a goal I've got control on.
Obviously, there were a lot of other things going on in my life, but a huge portion of my inner dialogue fixated on the desire to be thinner. What I didn’t realize was that I needed to change my thoughts first and my body would follow suit.
A month after I took this picture, I met someone special. That someone is now my boyfriend (insert corny swoon). It was surreal to be seen as beautiful, when I felt so uncomfortable in my body. Luckily, for us both we have a lot more going for us than what we’re rockin’ on the outside.
He liked what he saw, obviously, but was also supportive of my desire to get in shape. "Luck" would have it that he was on a journey of his own to become healthier too. In fact, he modeled an inspiring level of commitment to his goals, without ever making me feel bad about where I was with mine. The first year and a half of our relationship was founded in following through on our respective physical goals. I’ve never connected with anyone in that way. Total blessing.
We started working with a nutritionist, a chiropractor and turned ourselves into dedicated personal training students. The results were pretty amazing. There was only one problem: my brain.
Even my partner could see it. My body was changing, but the way I was thinking about my body was stuck at 220. If you’re familiar with psychology at all, this has a name: cognitive dissonance. When our beliefs and our reality don't match, it's stressful. And, like many I've spent years trying to camp out there and wondering why life feels so hard.
If by now you’re not reading between the lines, this post has very little to do with actual weight loss. “Ok… then how come you’ve droned on about weight for more paragraphs than I even signed up to read?"
Just like I had to build an internal foundation (5 years of therapy) to even be ready to step on a scale, you, my dear, needed some context before what I’m about to say will make much sense.
If we don’t learn to love our bodies and cherish our lives as they are (even while in the midst of enacting or desiring major change) any changes we make will not be sustainable. Read that again.
Change will be meaningless if you don't find understanding and compassion for yourself where you are.
If we don’t learn to monitor our thoughts as carefully as we monitor the pounds on the scale, (or the food we’re eating or our number of weekly workouts), we are doomed to a self-defeating cycle of torturous inner dialgoue that keeps us stuck and miserable. Very rarely do miserable people produce radical results.
But, here’s the rub: to produce radical results, we have to be willing to accept (and expect) that there will be inevitable moments of struggle, likely even to the point of feeling miserable.
The trick I have learned is not to fight it. Actually, we must embrace it. Become an expert at tolerating those most uncomfortable, undesirable feelings. Because, guess what? As soon as we let ourselves feel them, I’m talkin’ really feel them (not numb, distract or suppress them), they pass.
Once they pass, and they will, then we’re free to move on. And do it again, but at a different level. This is growth. Progress is a spiral and we have to be willing to slide up and down and side to side on that bad boy. Let yourself get wild and surrender cuz it's gonna get messy. Welcome to your life.
If you know me or follow me, you know that I don’t post pictures of myself like this; not only because I haven’t liked my body enough to want to share it, but also because I’ve kept my social media focus on what I do, not how I look. But, I shared it to get your attention on this message. I will say: it took me four months to decide whether or not to share this and I almost didn’t. Even now, I question whether it is appropriate to post a picture of myself in my underwear (“I work with kids for Pete’s sake!") on my website. But, the kids aren’t reading this, you are… and chances are you're battling something or at least craving change and simple acts of compassion for yourself are a game changer.
This world needs more transparency. For me, this starts with sharing my story and not being afraid that it will make me look "unprofessional."
For the past four years, I have struggled to make my outside match the inner growth and healing I’ve been focused on for a decade now. With the help of some very dear people, I have figured out the habits-- and more importantly the mindsets behind those habits-- to learn that I can look how I want to. I get to feel how I want to inside my body. It's a feedback loop with the feedback being: hello, you've got more mental and emotional work to do. Always.
So, where am I going with all of this?
I would have saved myself so much pain and struggle if I’d have just known this:
Don't compare your real life to someone else's highlight reel. Your life is beautiful. Struggle is the human condition. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that if we could just be thin or more beautiful, or if we could just make more money or have more influence or prestige, or fill-in-the-blank our lives would be better. We compare ourselves, doubt ourselves, question our worthiness.
If we could just be anyone, but who we are in this moment, but that is your gift. A divine embodiment of spirit.
You are so worthy. Please don’t fall victim to your thoughts that tell you you can’t have what you want. You can. You just have to want it so badly that you’re willing to experience any emotion to get it. Because the prize is just on the other side of your comfort...in the land of perpetual discomfort in the zip code of surrender.
The only way to it is through it and when you arrive, you’ll realize there’s no arrival.
When we let ourselves slow down enough to feel it all— the shame, fear, isolation and pain that comes with being alive— there will also be more room for joy, compassion, courage, gratitude and awe. And that is a beautiful struggle worth living.
No matter what size, age, ability, or color your body comes in, no matter what circumstances your brain is telling you to manifest before it will bestow you with worthiness, just know this:
You are wildly worthy. Just by virtue of having the courage to endure your beautiful struggle with grit everyday and grace on your best days. And you are not alone, no matter how much it may feel that way sometimes. I hope you allow yourself to fall in love with you. The good, the bad, and the ugly because without you, our world would be missing a crucial element.
And maybe, just maybe, you'll find the courage to share a small glimpse of your story and expand just one person’s perception of what it means to be alive... even if just for today, for this moment.
With Love Always,