“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw
I still remember this moment vividly, as if it had happened yesterday. My friend Ling and I were walking into a mall. I was dressed in the clothes I had been wearing for four months—baggy sweat pants, an oversized T-shirt, and flip-flops.
In contrast, Ling looked great in her skinny jeans, crop top, and metallic flats. Her body was long, lean, and gorgeous. I, on the other hand, was twenty-two pounds overweight at just five feet tall.
I knew I looked unkempt and frumpy next to her, but at the point, I couldn’t see myself being any other way.
I had resigned myself to being big for the rest of my life.
The funny thing was, I had been here before and lost all the excess weight. So why couldn’t I just do it again?
I had just broken up with my boyfriend of five years and was feeling lost. I had put on the weight during the time we were together, dinner by dinner, one missed workout after another.
Suddenly, he was gone, and I felt like giving up on myself for good.
How would I ever get myself out of this mess when I had zero will to do everything it would take lose the weight?
While we were walking, my friend turned to me and gently asked, “Have you let yourself go?”
Her question angered me. I felt infuriated and humiliated. I didn’t know how to answer her. My face burned, but I wasn’t angry with her. I was angry with myself.
Her question hit me like a ton of bricks. I had just turned thirty. I was so full of potential and had so much to give, and here I was throwing it all away because of circumstances that didn’t define who I was.
What on earth was I doing?
Up till then, I was letting life happen to me, and living on autopilot. So right then and there, I decided that I would start creating the life and body I wanted.
Here’s how I did it, and how you can too:
Do things that make you happy.
A lot of things—not just my diet and level of physical activity—had to change for my weight to start shifting. I decided to be more than who I was in the last five years, and started off by being unapologetically single-minded about taking care of myself from the inside out.
Long walks became a part of my daily routine. They gave me a chance to clear my head and stop to smell the roses.
I spent less time at the office so I could head home earlier, go for my walk, and spend more time with my family and Daisy, my dog, and Blue, my cat. I made a conscious effort to keep stress at arm’s length by letting it go the minute I left work.
My walks turned into walk-jog intervals. I couldn’t hold a jog for more than two minutes at a time, but still kept at it anyway. My jogs gradually turned into runs. Then my runs turned into sprint intervals.
Happiness and peace began to trickle back into my days. I began to feel less anxious, and more at ease.
Your turn: What are three key things you can start doing right now to make yourself happier?
My weight was coming off very slowly, but that was fine with me. Fast results weren’t on my agenda anyway. I wanted lasting change that would stick with me for life. This was my second time losing the extra weight, and I didn’t want to go through this again.
My priority was to feel well, nourished, balanced, and strong.
I bought a gorgeous bandage dress and a pair of skinny jeans, and I visualized myself looking and feeling amazing in them. I tried them on every two weeks, but I didn’t beat myself up when shimmying into them didn’t happen—I just took better care of myself.
Couldn’t get the jeans over my hips just yet? No problem. I’d hop into a bubble bath and resolve to work out a little harder the next day.
I visualized my slimmer, stronger self: I saw myself feeling free, and no longer painfully self-conscious. This positive visualization kept me going.
Your turn: Are you tempted to rush into the weight-loss process? What can you do to make your first steps mindful and meaningful instead of jumping in with a ‘go big or go home’ outlook?
Heal your relationship with food.
Before waking up to reality, I was using and abusing food daily.
Bored? I ate a waffle with ice cream. Lonely? I heaped more rice onto my plate.
Hungry at 11pm? I whipped up a ginormous bowl of pasta carbonara and literally licked it clean. Had a good day at work? My reward was pizza, fried chicken, and a Coke or two.
Out with my guy? I’d usually eat more than he did, then feel sick and guilty after.
My situation: I loved food, but at the same time, was fearful of it because of what it was doing to my body. I felt like a slave to pasta, rice, and pizza; when they called, I answered…every single time.
Despite my fear, I knew starving myself wasn’t the answer, either, so I decided to rebuild my relationship with food from scratch.
I cleaned out my pantry and slowly restocked it with foods and tools that would help me eat better.
If cookies and chips weren’t in the house, I couldn’t eat them, so out they went, along with anything that was heavily processed or triggered my binge eating.
I replaced them with plenty of lean chicken, beef, and fish, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. I stopped eating when I was bored or upset. Hunger became my new cue for a meal or snack.
Smaller plates, bowls, and lunch boxes became my go-to portion-control mechanism when it came to carbs, my biggest weakness.
Eighty-percent full was when I stopped eating, not when I was red in the face and busting at the seams.
These took a lot of practice, and it wasn’t smooth sailing from the get-go, but I eventually got the hang of it.
Just two weeks into my new ‘relationship,’ I was already feeling more in control, healthier, and happier. The longer I stayed committed, the more I didn’t want to turn back.
Your turn: Name one eating habit that’s making your relationship with food unhealthy, and write down why. How can you start turning it around?
Changing your life doesn’t have to require earth-shattering, 180-degree steps. In fact, science has proven that tiny, baby steps can be more effective, adding up to give you big results.
Start from the inside, and you’ll see amazing (and permanent!) results on the outside.
Weight loss image via Shutterstock