I’m on a diet.
My last attempt to lose weight and get fit fizzled out after my grandfather passed away in February 2013. The trainer who I had been working with for a couple years had helped me trim down, my waist and my wallet. I put my faith in her knowledge and was taken for financially. Even though I was the fittest I had been in my adult years, I was still classified as obese according to the medical community and stuck on a plateau that would not budge. I was beaten down and when Pépère died, my world fell into a million little pieces.
I spent the next two years pulling the pieces back together. Just before celebrating my thirtieth birthday on St. Maarten, I made a promise to myself. Instead of criticizing my robust arms, round belly, and thick thighs, I flipped the script. When I saw photos of myself, I picked out at least one thing I loved. With each day, I embraced my body in an effort to be happy, regardless of the label on my jeans or number on the scale. I wore a bikini when I turned 30. I enjoyed food without guilt. I stopped stressing about how much I did or did not exercise. This cultivation of self-love conveniently coincided with the rise of the body positive movement.
Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like, and celebrating it for everything that it is.Mandy Hale
At the same time, I established my career. The chaos of working multiple jobs in my mid-twenties settled out as I settled into the idea of one full-time job with a freelance side hustle. That side hustle evolved into teaching yoga about three years ago. In the fall of 2018, I began my current job as a marketer, no longer suffering from imposter syndrome and embracing my capabilities as a writer. My anxiety disorder, however, has not disappeared.
The calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 and COVID-19 did not miraculously disappear. The post-holiday spike in cases coupled with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, systemic racial injustice, the death of a former colleague’s husband, a friend’s father diagnosed with cancer, my grandmother’s struggles at 92, and the sudden sense of dread about turning 35 hit me all at once. As an empath, I felt the pain of our nation, the pain of a whole race, and the pain of my friends so deeply. This fueled my already heightened living-through-a-global-pandemic anxiety. I was exhausted. My chest was constantly tight. I felt heart palpitations and checked my Apple Watch’s heart rate function. Any movement left me quickly out of breath. All these symptoms upped the panic.
I called my doctor.
On my way to my appointment, I thought, “What if this isn’t actually anxiety this time? What if there is actually something wrong with my heart? What if my doctor tells me I need to lose weight?”
Nothing is wrong with my heart. It was simply physical manifestations of anxiety. My doctor, bless her soul, did not tell me to lose weight. There have been enough doctors in my life telling me to do so, including my previous PCP who said, “It’s as simple as eating less and exercising more.” Anyone who has ventured to lose weight knows it is far from that simple. The thought of dieting terrified me. The potential to fail yet another attempt at weight loss terrified me. The thought that health was deteriorating due to my weight terrified me.
I turned to a friend to ask about her recent approach to weight loss and where she found her support. Work issued a reminder about our weight loss and home gym equipment reimbursements. This tech company incessantly targeted me on social media about its psychology-based approach to losing weight. I downloaded the app, answered all the questions, and stopped short of entering my credit card. The next day, my inbox offered a significant discount on an eight-month subscription that my work’s reimbursement would cover in full.
I caved. I answered all the questions again, more carefully this time. I set cautiously optimistic goal. I bought a scale. I took photos in a sports bra and yoga pants. I bought a kettlebell. I bought a used spin bike. I bought another kettlebell. I created a joyful movement space in my basement for yoga, swinging weights, and trying not to fall off the spin bike. I bought hiking boots after a few adventures on local trails with my mom. I’ve created six weeks of meal plans, purchased groceries, danced to good music in the kitchen while cooking, and enjoyed some delicious, healthy food. I am moving more, sleeping better, and waking up early to write. And I have lost weight.
After my brain tumor was removed, the longest lasting side effect from surgery that has been the most difficult to manage is my weight. Through grade school, high school, college, and my early to mid-twenties I tried all the diets from practical to fad to impractical to expensive. Some diets worked until it didn’t. Some diets were impossible to maintain. Some diets left me to overwhelmed and frustrated to push past a dreaded plateau.
This tech-startup’s tagline is: Stop dieting. Get lifelong results.
Despite my early success on the scale, I am still skeptical because I don’t want failure to come as another huge disappointment. I have mostly kept quiet about this shift in my life because the anti-dieter in me is annoyed by people who incessantly talk about their diet and exercise. Yet, a recent string of conversations with different women in my life changed my mind.
Will I use this platform to continually update my progress? Likely not. But all this extra energy has me up early, writing away, and some of that might just end up here.