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Beautiful Struggle

Updated: Mar 1

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 those in search of any kind of change, so here we go.


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 heavy set man. I was shocked. Ashamed. Mortified, honestly. Here I was launching a business based in consciousness and I was the embodiment of unconscious overeating. 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, or so I thought. 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 (we humans are amazing multi-faceted beings), 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 partner. 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 was very supportive. He was even on a journey of his own to become healthier physically. 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 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 at all with psychology, this has a name: cognitive dissonance is 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,” you’re wondering?


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 reader, 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.


That is to say, change will be meaningless if you don't find understanding and compassion for yourself along the way.


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 keep 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.


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. Only recently, have I separated out my passion projects on separate handles and reclaimed my own account. This is part of that reclaiming, not in a media strategy way, in more of an honoring my effort kind of way.


Simple kindnesses for ourselves like this are part of my call to action for you.


So, I hope you can tell by now, this is not a “look at me” post. There’s a reason 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. Craving change. Aren't we all?


It is crucial to bring more transparency into the world.

For me, this starts with sharing my story.


So for the past four years, I have struggled to make my outside more closely match the inner growth and healing I’ve been tackling 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 look and feel how I want to, only to arrive full circle back at the realization that I have a lot more mental and emotional work to do.


So, where am I going with all of this? Am I losing you? Attention spans are short, time is precious. I get it. Trust me. But, I would have saved myself so much pain and struggle if I’d have just known this:


Even the most beautiful lives will feel like a struggle half of the time...

More than half of the time. That’s the human condition. Most of us have been unconsciously 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, our lives would be better. We compare ourselves, doubt ourselves, question our worthiness and even fear success.

I did. Honestly, some days it still takes a lot of work to train my brain into believing otherwise.


So, dear one, 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 and discomfort.

The only way to it is through it.


And when you arrive, you’ll realize there’s no arrival. It’s all a journey. It's always changing.


That's the beauty.


When we let ourselves slow down enough to feel it all— the shame, fear, outrage, isolation and grief that comes with being alive— the joy, compassion, courage, gratitude and awe of it all can rise to the surface.


And that, my friends, 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.


And you are not alone. No matter how much it may feel that way. We all feel it. Underneath it all, I hope you allow yourself to fall in love with the journey; the good, the bad, and the ugly because without it, we couldn't see the beauty.


And maybe, just maybe, your courage to share your story can change just one person’s perception of what it means to be alive, even if just for today, for this moment.


With Love Always,


Vita

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