Taking it to heart…

When I first set out on this journey of weight loss, I was not sure of the complete goal I had in mind. I know I looked down at a number and felt unhappy. I know I needed to change that number, and that became the goal. Over that first year, after looking at that number, I made changes, lost weight, felt better, etc. Almost a year from that first day, I started making more goals, changes, and strides to lose weight. Although I was happier, I knew I could do more.

Around this time is when I starting making the mental shift that the word “diet” did not mean “foods that I eat that are different than the old foods just because they aren’t covered in saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup”, but rather the true meaning of the word “diet” – “these are the foods that I eat, to be healthy, and it is not temporary”. The concept of “food is for fuel” started making more sense (despite still loving food for taste as well), but understand food on a more complex level in relationship to my body. We do not learn about this relationship at any point in our culture – we eat as a response to hunger or because things taste good. I am not opposed to eating delicious things, but I spent the majority of my life eating things just because I thought they tasted good, and frankly became addicted to the sensation that food gave me. Before I made these changes, I never THOUGHT about the quantity or quality of my food, and I had to learn the hard way about what healthy eating really looked like. This was a failure of myself, for sure, but also, a reflection of growing up, my education, my environment, and a variety of other factors that made it easier to eat, eat, eat. Even only recently have I deeply explored the philosophy of food and how we use it. I am increasingly becoming tired of the word, “diet” as it is utilized by the majority of people. A diet is not just a thing you try, it is the current state and quality of the foodstuffs you are eating. This means that every once in a while, a cookie may be “part of the diet”, but that diet refers to that ever-so-popular, “lifestyle change” buzz word that floats around so much. There are a lot of buzzwords, even the word “journey”, which I use is overused, but accurate. 

After I started losing more and more weight, I started shifting my thinking even more about what it meant to be healthy. Yes, I was obviously losing weight because I wanted to look better, feel more confident, wear smaller clothes, etc., but I started thinking about the positive health benefits. After watching the mini-series, “Weight of the Nation”, I thought about how much fatty deposits were emptied out of my major organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc.), how I dramatically reduced my chances of getting diabetes and cardiac diseases, how I GAVE myself extra years to live, which, by far, is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Even though the vain reasons for weight loss are still there, I have a much greater sense of what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle and actually live life, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

If you read my blog yesterday, you’d know it was a rather daunting day for me. I said I was going to take today by the horns, and today’s CrossFit workout was great. After class, I asked the instructor if she would show me how to do a pull-up: “Shit, yeah” is how she responded. I love CrossFit, it has really altered the way I think about challenging myself. My whole life, I grew up sitting in the back of the class (yet paying attention), moved to the sidelines, got picked last, which, no doubt, had an impact on how I viewed myself, my activity, and my health. Having changed all that, I do not feel like it would be better to just “not do something because it is difficult”, which is why I asked to do a pull-up instead of sidelining the desire to accomplish something despite the potential and fear of failure. I did 3 of them, which made me feel awesome, and then watched some other boss people in the class do some muscle-ups, which I will get to someday.

So, that is all my pre-cursory thoughts to what else happened this morning, prompting this blog. When I go to the gym now, and I see people who were once in the state that I was in just a year and a half ago, it makes me happy that others are pushing forth in their own journey of health, despite how young or old they are. Today, as I watched some of the Big Bear Little Bear groups (which was me not long ago), or the Employee Fit Club, I really felt like I was part of this place that was promoting the best life possible. I felt proud of myself for the work that I have done as well as the people that were at the gym at 6:00 in the morning pushing themselves as well. I thought about the types of people at the gym, the variety of ages, genders, backgrounds, but mostly what the stories of the people at the gym could be. As a sociologically minded individual, the stories of people at the gym are really interesting to me : why is it we are there, what drove us there. I know for so long, I sat on the couch, thinking the gym was this awful place that I never wanted to go. I associated it with the negative pieces of high school gym class, and my general attitude was in favor of never stepping inside of a gym. Part of that, in retrospect, was fear, was ignorance, and was avoidance of my problems. Sometimes, I think, “why did I let this happen to myself, why did I wait until I was 26 to make these changes”, but sometimes, I just say to myself, “At least you didn’t wait until you were 40, 50, or dead”. I know, when processing the last year and a half, I always think to myself if I am having a hard day, or feeling side-tracked, “I am undoing 26 years of bad habits, eating, laziness, and lethargy”. I have great respect for people who are older than I am and hopping on this bandwagon. I think about Extreme Makeover and Biggest Loser, people with children, in their middle ages, pushing forward. I feel lucky to have a relatively flexible schedule, aside from school and work, my responsibilities can be shifted around to fit my fitness lifestyle. Some people have to completely alter their days. Even on Extreme Makeover, some people quit their jobs for a duration of time, which shows an incredible amount of dedication on their part. 

So, what I am saying is that this really has been a “journey”, ones of highs and lows. If you have read “My Progress” link on the side of the page, I talk about the “click” – a moment where everything seems to come together, makes sense (an epiphany of sorts), but “taking it to heart” is really more of a temporal and gradual shift in thinking and feeling. It’s an integration of the things we’ve learned, the perceptions we’ve had, and the changes we’ve made. When people talk about a “lifestyle” change, it’s about changing the way you think about and perceive life: food, fitness, your job, your family, your friends – it’s all connected, but it’s always about changing how you feel about certain those very same things. If I could go back to year and a half ago Matt, I would try to say, “do not take any of the opportunities to better yourself for granted, you only get the time you have in each day to make it worthwhile, so do the best you can, and take those lessons to heart”. It’s easier said than done, because this kind of integration does not come from verbalizing, but you can make it through by keeping an open mind and an open heart. 

Keep on keepin’ on. 

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