It all started with a revelation in the Puerto Rican rainforest this past January. I was hiking with a group of writers from Vermont College of Fine Arts, threading through the lush green trails that crisscrossed the east side of El Yunque. With walking sticks in hand, we made our way as the bright, morning Caribbean sun filtered through the palms in lacy patterns, and birdsong trilled overhead. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t know. I was too busy huffing and puffing, staring at the few feet of stone-strewn ground ahead, praying that the guide would call for a rest break soon.
At a certain point as I trailed behind the group, I stopped to catch my breath, hands on my chubby knees, and looked up to see my friend and colleague who suffers from MS two miles ahead, waiting for my sorry ass. Ashamed, I hauled my 215-pound body along the trail, focusing only on the next step, one step at a time, trying not to cry from exhaustion and humiliation.
I’m not sure how I finished the hike, it’s all a blur, but I did, and that night, as I lay in bed with twin ice packs on my arthritic knees, tears pouring down my face from the pain, I realized I was too young to feel so damn old. Not to mention that the week before we had left Vermont for the island, I had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I snored so loudly that my husband sometimes had to retreat to the couch and I couldn’t share a hotel room with anyone on the trip. And, worst of all, sometimes I woke up choking and gasping for air from sleep apnea. The situation was starting to scare me. Really scare me, like zombies and spiders scare me. But it was then, that night in that eco-lodge twin bed that I decided: Next year, when I returned with the next group of students, just weeks before my 50th birthday, I was going to meet that milestone with 65 fewer pounds on my body.
Today, eight months later, I’m closer to keeping that commitment than I ever imagined I could be, and I’m more than halfway to my goal. So why start blogging about weight loss now? Well, I’ve made promises like this before. I can’t even tell you how many times. How could I be certain that in that moment in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, I’d actually hit bottom with my eating and weight gain? That something really had shifted? And if I embarked and then failed, as I had so many times before, how could I do so in front of so many people? But from the day I got back to Vermont—January 10, 2012—the process of transformation began.
What was different this time? I’m still not sure. I already knew a lot about nutrition, exercise, and what I should be doing, as so many of us do, but just could never actually lose the weight. For some reason it all came together after that dark night. The journey has not proven easy, the true education and re-training of my mind and behavior have been all-consuming. For the last eight months it’s been all I could do to live, work, and pull my overweight carcass out of the rut I had put myself in.
I’ve found so many tools and support systems along the way, so many sources of life-changing energy and information, that I want to share them, talk about them, and hear about what’s worked for other people. I will cover these things in entries to come, but before writing this I had to ask myself: Why do I feel we need yet another weight loss blog? You see, I’ve been approaching my weight loss and health quest in the same way I approach all aspects of my life. I read every book I can get my hands on, I talk about it with people who have similar goals, and I look for stories that inspire me and help keep me on that wagon. However, in my search I’ve found a dearth of inspirational information for those of us already in the process of change. There are thousands, tens of thousands, of resources for people who are beginning their weight loss quest—it is a multi-billion dollar industry—but not so much for those of us who find ourselves at a point in between. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s because most of us quietly fall off between the point of departure and our weight destination goal.
The way I look at it, this halfway point is actually the most dangerous.
Those of you who have ever been on that wild ride called weight loss understand the slippery slope we teeter on each and every day. You know and have learned so much, have found tricks that work just for you. You’ve come so far, feel so good, and more and more people are noticing the change in you. But all it takes is a bad day when you find solace in meaningless carbohydrates and rather than satiate, they make you want more. Or you’ve spent five days at a conference eating bad hotel food and come back facing that package of Oreos and think, what’s the difference? I’ve blown it already. Or you don’t get to the gym for several days in a row and it is so much easier to watch reruns of CSI: Miami when you get home from work than it is to face that elliptical. And didn’t that last strength training session really hurt your back? Perhaps you should rest it for just one more day…
…this is when you need to read something inspirational, someone’s story who understands what it takes to stay the course, regardless of how far you’ve already come.
I understand. I am there, and I am trying to stay there.
I’m 37 pounds down, 28 more to go, with five months remaining until my 50th birthday. Yes, I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but I’m more focused on where I have yet to go. People chastise me for that, but I think it’s survival. I fear complacency, loss of control, and the appeal of kettlecorn. And becoming active at 49 years old is freakin’ hard. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired when I come home from work. My joints ache after boot camp. And good lord, how can I put on those fitted yoga pants after the margaritas and chips I had last night? But I am committed to getting there, and telling my story in this blog will inspire me, and, if I’m lucky, maybe inspire someone else.
So, if you’re on this same journey, let’s walk side-by-side for awhile. I’d welcome the company, because where I’m going is less about fitting into size 6 jeans, and more about living a longer, fuller life.
Disclaimer: What credentials do I have to be blogging about health and weight loss? Nada! Bupkis! I don’t know shit! But I find that I’m inspired by people’s stories and I’m hoping that, perhaps, I can inspire others with mine. All I can do is share my experiences, not give any answers. Hell, I’m barely in control of my own life and body; I’m certainly not going to tell you what you should do with yours. So, if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy, for God’s sake, see your doctor! Make her your best friend! I’m sure she will not only be overjoyed at your desire to get healthy, but will help you do it in the safest way for you and your body.