Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wellness Journey

Today I felt ready to sit down and write about how my life has changed in the last 6/7 months.

Looking back I can't believe it's been that long but that also makes me feel proud about how much change and growth has happened.

Right around the time of my mom's wedding in June, I got a glimpse of myself in someone's photograph that was posted on Facebook. I hardly recognized myself.  I knew I had gained some weight, felt tired and crappy, and was even having some joint pain but it didn't really hit me until I saw that picture. I was a good 50 lbs heavier than I was at my fittest in college.

Since graduating from college my life has been a series of diets (weight watchers, gluten free, unprocessed, clean, etc. etc.)...any magic formula that would finally fix that last missing piece of what would make me happy and complete...being thin. It was a vicious cycle of gaining weight, losing weight, and then regaining more. All with a large heap of self loathing at the end. Why couldn't I figure it out? Why couldn't I just eat less and work out more? I had been in the best shape of my life during college, why was it so hard for me to maintain or lose weight now? It's simple enough right?


I decided in July that I wanted to re-try eating gluten free to see if that would help my joint pain. I was having severe aching in my knees and shoulders, most often after I ate. I also started at a new gym in hopes of jump starting some weight loss and increasing my happiness. My joint pain disappeared immediately. That was my first clue that tuning into my body and listening to what it needed was essential. I worked out more and liked my new gym... but I still didn't have the enthusiasm and motivation that I hoped to have.

I made a big life change at the end of July and stopped working the night shift and moved to a day shift position. I knew that my messed up sleep schedule was not helping my eating habits, my moods, or my health so that was another positive step in the right direction.

In August, I was feeling better physically but was still struggling with food choices (though I was eating gluten free successfully) and food portions. I was constantly beating myself up over things I was eating and it caused me so much anxiety that I was just generally very unhappy and depressed. I felt so desperate for change and weight loss and so mad at myself for my lack of success that I was in a constant state of anxiety. This spilled over into my everyday life and I let it affect me in so many more ways than I realized.

One night after drinking too much at one of Jason's work events I had a breakdown. I realized after that night that I needed to make some big changes in my life. I was not happy. I did not love and respect myself and I had been placing way too much value on my weight and my accomplishments (or lack thereof). On top of that I was overcommitted to work, photography, and school and knew that something needed to change.

I started seeing a therapist the next week and my life has not been the same since. I have learned to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life through meditation, affirmations, and dedicated self care time. All that stuff they teach us in nursing school about self care is really legit...I'm telling you!

Mindfulness has seeped it's way into every part of my life. It has made me pay attention to what I'm eating and how it makes me feel. I eat what I want but I notice how it makes me feel. And if it happens to make me feel like crap, I move on, don't beat myself up over it and remember that feeling the next time. It has helped me realize that gluten does not agree with my body so I don't eat it. It's not in an effort to be skinny anymore, it's in an effort to feel good. And man is that a relief. I also am mindful about when I am hungry and I analyze my feelings beforehand to make sure I am not eating because I am bored or sad but because I am actually hungry.

For the first time in all of my dieting ups and downs I feel relaxed. I am not worried about what I can't eat. I don't miss gluten or the foods that made me feel crappy one bit. I do not feel deprived and I am no longer on a "diet". Most importantly, I have learned to love myself and my body the way it is rather than obsessing over what needs to change.

I also have let go of external validation. I used to wish and hope that people would notice that I'd lost weight and then if no one noticed, it would be an easy excuse for me to give up and go back to old habits. Now I hold the key to my happiness. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or's all about how I feel. If someone happens to give me a compliment I appreciate it and it motivates me but it doesn't define what I am doing and what is right for me.

I am mindful about about everyday things, about big life events, and about my relationship with my husband. I have learned that I lost my voice for awhile. I was so worried about disappointing others (including my husband) that I stopped speaking up for myself. I have always been very sensitive and a people pleaser which in and of themselves aren't bad qualities but I had let them overtake me in a negative way. After working on this issue for awhile with my therapist, I am proud to say that I finally feel a shift. I can now confidently say what I want without fear of making others feel uncomfortable. Whatever I feel and do is ok, even if others don't agree. It's very freeing.

I feel happy. I feel like I radiate happiness now. By paying attention to my body, my mind, and my needs... I am happy. Not everyday is sunshine and roses, but I am in and incredibly different place than I was 6 months ago.

My relationship with my husband has grown and thrived more than I ever thought possible. He has been so patient and supportive to me for our entire relationship and now I feel like I can finally offer him confident and supportive love like I've always wanted to. What an incredible feeling.

I got rid of my scale a few months ago in an effort to only listen to what my body needs rather than being outcome oriented and obsessing over the number on the scale. If I am doing things that are good and nourishing for my body then I will eventually settle at the weight I'm supposed to be.

Today I packed away a bunch of clothes that no longer fit. I don't know what I weigh but I know I am making progress. But it's really not about that anymore. It's about listening to myself, loving myself, and respecting myself enough to do what makes me feel good.

I have had such fabulous side effects from this life change. I have tons of energy, I sleep well, I am often super happy, I love my job even more than ever, I actually look forward to working out rather than it feeling like an obligation, and as I said, my relationship with myself and my husband has grown like crazy.

One of the biggest health benefits has been related to my period/fertility. After not getting my period for 4 years without the aid of drugs to induce my period I am proud to say I have gotten my period on time, in a regular cycle for the last three months. Before all of this, my doctors said that I would likely not be able to get pregnant because I was not ovulating and they couldn't figure out why. They toyed with the idea that I might have endometriosis or PCOS but nothing was ever conclusive. Now that problem has completely been eliminated purely by changing my lifestyle. My doctor says I now should have no issues getting pregnant when the time comes. That is insane to me.

I wanted to put this out there because lately I have been approached by so many people asking me what my weight loss and happiness secret is. Well it's no secret and it's not magic. It wasn't a quick fix and it wasn't easy. I am still working on it and I always will be. But I want everyone to be able to experience the joy I feel right now and to stop letting weight, food, and the depression related to those things bring them down. Listening to yourself and trusting yourself is they key. Everyone is different but everyone can succeed at being happy.

I am thankful to be on this path and to be so very happy : )
June 2013
November 2013

I realize this picture is from 2 months ago but I don't have a recent shot. Today I am feeling stronger and happier than ever : )