I’ve been on a decades-long journey to lose weight.
But now I’m finally putting my goals to rest.
Because here’s what I know at almost forty-one:
You don’t have to be perfect in order to be happy.
If you’d asked me ten years ago, I wouldn’t have admitted I was trying to be perfect.
Because I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.
Heck, I’d failed so many times I thought I was anything but perfect.
I had a halfway mentality about everything, and I never could finish what I started.
I procrastinated like nobody’s business.
Secretly, I wanted it all.
Perfect hair, skin and nails.
Perfect clothing. Perfect house.
But for a long time, I looked around and saw nothing but lack.
Because my childhood was full of trauma, all I saw in my future was pain.
I thought that if I could reach that point, be that person, do that thing or go that place, I would finally feel it…
I would have arrived… whatever that meant.
Seeking happiness and never finding it, choosing to quit when things don’t go our way, and putting off what needs to be done because we are afraid it won’t be good are all symptoms of PERFECTIONISM.
Ten years into my journey of constantly trying (and failing) to get to my unknown destination, that ever-unattainable Land of Contentment, I became very depressed.
No matter how much I pushed, adversity pulled.
I would take ten steps forward and about thirty-five back.
Sometimes I wouldn’t even walk back. It felt more like a stumble towards destruction.
What happened at the beginning of my summer is a perfect example.
My family has dealt with Covid, suicide, job loss, job dissatisfaction, unmet expectations, house troubles, financial worries, and the list goes on.
Not to mention, I am one more year over the dreaded age of forty.
But I’d determined this summer would be the one where my fitness and eating goals clicked.
I’d been working on both for quite some time, and I was getting better at controlling both every day.
Then, the first week of summer, when I was picturing how good I’d look at the end of it after all my working out, I tripped on the hill in my backyard and snapped my ankle.
So much for that.
The first week in my boot, I ate myself to oblivion. It’s long been my practice to use food to medicate, especially in seasons of sobriety.
But soon enough, the food wasn’t satisfying me. I wanted more.
I wanted to continue on my journey to happiness, health and healing, and I didn’t want to let my bum ankle control how that journey would go.
So for the first time in my entire life, I chose to move on from my feelings of anger and bitterness and to do the least I could do to feel the best I could.
I focused on my upper arms and continued working on my eating habits.
I replaced snacking with drinking a huge water bottle filled with a cup of berries I could snack on throughout the day.
I started adding gelatin to my morning coffee and allowed myself a portioned dessert every night.
I joined WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) again. It’s the only program that has held me accountable and provided support.
Choosing to make new and better habits out of old and bad habits is HARD.
After all, a habit is called a habit because it has been formed out of weeks and weeks, months and months, sometimes years and years of repetition.
But I’m doing my best to stay the course this year.
And soon I’ll have tangible evidence of this (stay tuned!).
Along the way, there have been a couple of important things I’ve come to believe about changing my body.
These beliefs would unravel if I actually thought that the images I see on social media are real, natural, or normal.
But they’re not.
Social media is not real. The images we scroll through are not natural or normal.
At least, not the ones that cause us insecurity, pain, discontent and unhappiness.
It’s taken me years to let that truth become part of me, and teaching my daughters and even my sons this same truth has become one of my most important missions.
But especially among those who have accomplished the task of losing a considerable amount of weight, much of what we see has been highly reconstructed.
Losing weight won’t raise your eyebrows, reshape your nose, take away loose skin, or give you fuller lips or a new hairline.
It won’t make your boobs suddenly perky or your butt lose all its dimples.
It also doesn’t shrink your pores, grow your eyelashes or flatten your tummy to pre-baby-washboard status.
Before you accuse me of sounding like a washed up bitter mother, trust me, I’m not.
Yes, there was a time that no longer looking like my former self bothered me.
And I knew that if I really wanted to, I could do all the things–join the gym, have the total reconstructive surgery, give up carbs for life, botox myself into next year–that would make me externally more beautiful.
But I know myself well enough to know what it is I really want out of life.
While external beauty might matter to others for a variety of reasons (no judgment here), my internal health and happiness mean so much more.
And what’s most important to know (and hardest to hear) is this:
Losing weight won’t make you permanently happy.
Dropping excess pounds is great and all, and the energy that comes from lifting weights, doing cardio and eating healthy is worth the hard work.
But nothing is more important than dropping your internal baggage and being healthy on the inside first.
And it’s only when you realize you’re worth it–no matter what you look like externally–that you will want to achieve goals the right way, for the right reasons.
Are you trying to lose weight or stop a bad habit? Do you get caught up in perfectionism? How do you push past your fears? I’d love to hear from you.