I remember the day I decided to commit to getting back into shape. It was March 18, 2011, a day like any other day, except that on THIS day, I sat up on the couch, put down a box of Lofthouse Sugar Cookies, and silently said to no one in particular:
“I’m so sick and tired of feeling this way! ENOUGH!!”
I was 41 years old, 20-some pounds over my ideal weight – ideal being what my doctor suggested at my annual checkup earlier that day – and I felt miserable. I told him how tired I was all the time and felt old AF, everything hurt, and it felt like I was wearing a heavy blanket of sad, anxious and…meh. I remember saying – I’m too young to feel like this. Right??
My doctor said, “Well, things do start changing in your 40’s.” We talked for a while as he wrote up an order for all the regular blood tests, including checking my thyroid (I’ve had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis since I was 23; weight gain and sadness/anxiety/meh are often symptoms). Then he handed me a prescription for an antidepressant. As I stared at it in disbelief, he said, in a kind, non-judgmental way, “You know, you always felt better when you were working out.”
When he left the room, I sat on that exam table and tried really, really hard not to cry.
This was the first time I had ever opened up to someone about this particular struggle. It’s interesting how, when someone tells you (however kindly) what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear, it strikes a
nerve chord. On the way home, I thought about how I’d gotten here. Sure, I’d been busy with life like everyone else. And I’d always been a six-month on, four-month off kind of workout gal. I’d get good momentum going, but then life would happen and working out became a “nice to have” and disappeared from the list of priorities.
I knew the exact moment that I’d fallen off the health/fitness wagon hard this time. Two years earlier, I returned to full-time work outside the home – unexpectedly, necessarily and quickly after being full-time self-employed and working from home for eight years. This included a 3-hour daily commute that started at 4AM and ended at 6PM; crushing financial pressure and having to sell our home; suddenly having to leave my two little kids, one with special needs and the other with severe allergies, in the care of others for the first time in our lives; and a marriage that had been on life support for years. Plus, you know, all the other life shit in between. 🙂
I was too busy, stressed and exhausted to do anything about any of it other than grit my teeth and endure it. I made chocolate chip pancakes for the kids and organized playdates on weekends; smiled at all the right times with friends and family; and cried in the shower or on the train to work in the morning, the only times I had any time to myself, quietly so no one would notice. I couldn’t figure out when to sleep, let alone work out.
So for two years, I didn’t work out at all. I drank too much alcohol. I ate all the wrong things. I sat on the couch night after night systematically decimating a box of Lofthouse Sugar Cookies (that sugary frosting was soooo soothing) to forget how unhappy I was and all the things I could not face — things I was not ready to deal with that were soooo not working in my life.
I gained weight. And I lost me.
Until That Day When I Decided: Enough.
That night, with the doctor’s words still ringing in my ears, I thought: No. No matter how old I am, I am way too young to feel like this. Something has to change. And in that moment, I took my first steps toward taking my health back. What I didn’t realize was that I was also taking my first steps toward taking my life back. It wasn’t a linear journey – I’ve had ups, downs and all kinds of sideways (as my photos from 2010-2018 show). It’s something I work at every day.
But I will tell you this…
The First Best Place to Start: Get Your Why Before Your What
While I’d worked out on and off my entire life, when I turned 40, I quickly realized that anything I tried to take on at that point had to have a higher purpose or meaning so it wouldn’t get pushed off “the list.” It started with my revelation that I’m too young to feel like this. Eight years later, it’s evolved into this:
I work out and eat healthy because it makes me feel my best every day – strong, centered and confident – so I can live the life I deserve.
I can’t tell you how how hard it was for me to get to the last five words of that statement: live the life I deserve. Life still throws curve balls. I’ve come to accept there will be times where I can’t give fitness my all. But now I use my “why” to stay focused and help me get back in the groove faster – but in a positive, healthy way – so I don’t lose another two years. Or end up back on the couch with cookies. 🙂
Find Your Why
Before you sign up for a gym or a class or diet program…force yourself to continue a fitness regime you dread…or berate yourself yet again for what you didn’t do (or do enough of) today, stop and ask yourself:
- Why do I want to make this change? What is my motivation?
- What am I so sick of that I just “can’t even” with it anymore? (One for me was wearing only two pairs of pants I had left that still fit because I refused to go buy the next bigger size.)
- What do I ultimately want long term (I want to walk into any room and feel confident) vs. short-term (I want to lose weight for the reunion).
Get your why and write it down. Post it or carry it where you can see it every day and remind yourself why you are making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. (I’m a writer, so I also journaled about it.) Do this, even if you do nothing else toward making a change right now.
When you’re ready, talk about your why with someone you trust, who you know will be supportive and truly has your best interest at heart. Start building a team of your own, filled with people who will help you achieve your goals. Remember:
There is no Merit Badge for “Going It Alone.” 🙂
My Why for Writing This – and What I am Not
I’m not a dietician, nutritionist, trainer, coach or doctor. I’m not selling anything or promoting products or quick fixes. I’m just a regular person who decided to make a change for the healthier one day at a time and I’ve kept at it for eight years now. I recently completed my first half marathon, something I never even considered, let alone thought I could do. As I approach 50, I have so many more goals I want to achieve and I’m so excited about this next chapter of my life.
I want to share what’s worked (or not) for me because I’m tired of reading stories that don’t seem to go below the surface of how to get back on the health and fitness wagon when you fall off again and again. Or how to find the damn wagon in the first place. 🙂
I’ll be sharing more stories on this topic in the coming weeks. I would be honored if you joined me and shared your experiences, too. For starters…
What’s your why?