“My heart’s not in it.”
That is what a friend said to me the other day as we were discussing our mutual journey of getting healthy and losing weight. Her comments got me to thinking about all of the times in my life when my heart also wasn’t in it.
I’ve certainly spent more time in that space than any other.
Sometimes it was because I just wasn’t paying much attention. Other times it was because I was unwilling to give it up…and by “it” I mean amazing, heart clogging, dopamine releasing fat and sugar filled foods. And drinks!
It takes a lot of work – and a lot of poor food choices – to maintain a weight of over 300 pounds. And, honestly, I wanted the fleeting pleasure I got from food more than I wanted to be healthy.
More than anything, though, I think my heart wasn’t in it because it felt too daunting.
I had reached a size where the idea of losing weight and being more active seemed truly and utterly impossible. The more impossible it seemed, the stronger I held on to the notion that I wanted the food more – a vicious cycle.
I started thinking about what happened that shifted me into the mindset I am currently in. Of being fully committed to my health – of my heart being in it.
I had attempted to enter this space countless times before (countless diets before, countless gyms before, countless “this time it will be different” before). I always failed. I could never quite catch my grip.
For some reason this train of thought brought back memories of playing on the merry-go-round at school as a child. Specifically, trying to jump onto the merry-go-round as it went spinning past. Making that first leap was always the hardest. I’d get ready to jump…hesitate…lose my nerve…and then it was too late.
I’d continue to stand there waiting for the kids pushing the merry-go-round to get it to just the right speed to jump on. Not too fast, not too slow. The perfect speed never seemed to come along. I’d always lose my nerve at the last minute and not truly commit to the jump.
I approached getting healthy the same way.
I kept waiting for the perfect time. The perfect date on the calendar, the perfect diet, the perfect outfit, the perfect weather…the perfect mental and emotional storm that would get me to throw caution (a.k.a. my fear of failing, again) to the wind and jump. Waiting. Eating and waiting. Then eating some more.
In the end, someone had to give me a good nudge before I would make the jump. I had my Aha! moment one day in a beautiful Portland park as I watched two dear friends make a big jump of their own. At that moment not only was my heart suddenly in it, but my heart slammed into me full force and screamed, “Stop standing there waiting and jump!”
And I did. I finally jumped.
I’ve been on this merry-go-round of weight loss and healthy activity for a couple of years now. Sometimes it is thrilling and makes me giddy. Other times it makes me nervous and anxious and a little sick to my stomach.
At first it was hard to get my grip as the centrifugal force kept trying to fling me back off again. Old habits die hard, especially the ones that smell like French fries!
But over time, and by making small adjustments, I was able to get a firm hold. I was able to gradually change my eating habits and increase my activity levels. Day-by-day, month-by-month, I had small successes that kept chipping away at what had once seemed impossible.
Now I struggle to hold on in other ways. Sometimes I start to loosen my grip. I get a little cocky and stop paying as much attention to my food choices. I hit snooze on the alarm clock instead of heading to the gym before work. I run on autopilot and start to assume that having lost over 130 pounds means that I’ve done the impossible and am somehow now immune to those old habits that will cause me to gain it back again.
I’ve had an experience recently that has helped me refocus, plant my feet in the center of the merry-go-round and ensure that I am holding on.
Two weeks ago I connected with several other women – acquaintances and even complete strangers – in a series of Fitbit pedometer challenges to see who could get the most steps in during the workweek. I didn’t expect much. I mean I hardly knew these people so why would I care about how many steps they were taking?
It turns out they inspired me and got me out there walking more.
The first week I was neck-and-neck with Katie. She’d be ~2,000 steps ahead of me, so I’d find myself deciding to walk to the grocery store instead of driving…or getting off the light rail train one stop early and walking the rest of the way home. I’d pass her in steps and feel proud – only to see that she had passed me once again a few hours later. We kept leap-frogging each other this way the entire week and as a result we both logged many more steps than we would have otherwise.
But even more than the friendly competition, I have enjoyed watching them all push themselves to get more steps this week than they did last week. I’ve found inspiration in how we cheer each other on – all day my phone lights up with positive messages as challengers meet and exceed their goals.
It’s made me feel as though I am part of something larger. I’ve looked up and discovered there are a bunch of other amazing people whizzing around on this merry-go-round with me, and it has made me want to stay on this crazy ride even more.
My heart’s still in it!
But I need to keep finding new and creative ways to keep it there.