FOUR HUNDRED FOUR POUNDS.
How did I get there? I could talk about my past, the things that happened, all the circumstances that didn’t go my way or the people I could blame—but that wouldn’t be the truth. I made poor are no excuses, things, circumstances, or people to blame for where I found myself in March 2017 at 44 years of age and 404.4 pounds. Thankfully, I’d reached that point in life where I knew I had to either get busy living or get on with dying. And I chose life.
What gave me a wake-up call
I’d seen an ad (of all things!) on Facebook. I can’t even tell you what it was promoting but it was not another diet program or system for losing weight. It was educational in nature and the takeaway was that we simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet. That rung true to me. Having been raised in a home that made health, whole-life wellness—mind, body, and soul—natural food supplementation, and “clean eating” (as it’s often called today) all priorities, I knew what I had to do, only this time I knew I had to approach it all very differently: no promises to myself I couldn’t keep, no ditching everything at once, and no cold turkey-ing myself away from everything that I enjoyed. I decided to commit to a small handful of things to get started, and exercise was not one of them. I committed to go at my own pace (the turtle mentality of slow and steady), to doing my very best, to making a plan and following it. And I committed to making small changes that over time turned into big results.
Kick-starting my weight-loss journey
I created a plan and followed it. I made small swaps in my routine to clean up my nutrition choices—such as increasing how much water I drank—and in the first two months I lost 30 pounds. I felt pretty solid about the new habits and principles I was creating so in month three, I found an accountability group because we are truly stronger together. I also selected an on-demand exercise service so I could work out in the comfort of my home—and that’s what I still do today! One surprising thing about this experience is that I definitely didn’t expect that I would enjoy working out as much as I do. I’ve found that it’s more about how strong I feel as a result of working out; I didn’t expect to feel empowered, unstoppable, or fearless either, but it’s a great consequence of choosing to do good things for myself each and every day whether I feel like it or not.
As my physical health improved, so did my mental well-being
I’ve always been good natured, a person of faith, trying to love as best I can and to see things and people through a lens of positivity. But I’m also someone who was diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression, high anxiety, and suicidal tendencies at age 13. Joy amid great sorrow is a difficult characteristic to master, but I do believe my energy level has increased and that my attitude, expressions, and boldness have improved as I’ve grown through each layer of my journey. Today, I choose to live with an attitude of gratitude as much as I possibly can and I believe it’s out of that well that the spring of being upbeat boils. Gratitude is a wonderful healer.
I gained friendships as I lost weight
I cannot begin to describe the outpouring of love, support, encouragement, blessing, and empowerment I have received from literally all corners of the world throughout my journey. From day one when I started sharing my clean-eating foods on Instagram with complete strangers, they cheered for me. When I started exercising and joined an accountability group (silently trying to hide in the background), for me. When I lost the first 70 pounds and posted the first full-length photo of myself in great fear, they cheered for me. When I lost the first 100 pounds, then 150 pounds, then 200 pounds, then reached “Onederland,” at every marker, every size change between 32/5X+ down to 8/M, every strength increase, every non-scale victory celebrated, and even fitting into my little red dress (a “goal dress” I bought in the early 1990s, which I had never even come close to fitting into until May 2019), they cheered for me. And I hope my journey inspires these new connections I’ve made. I believe it has every time I receive a communication from a woman who reaches out and says, “That was for me.” And the woman who reaches out and says, “I’m not ready to start yet, but because of your courage to speak the truth about choice, I’m getting there.” It’s for these women that I share my story—the ones who need to hear they have a choice: the ones who need to hear they are worthy and beautiful and capable and unstoppable where they are, as they are, even as they are becoming all that they ever hope to become. They cheered for me, and now I get to cheer for them. At the same time though, as I’ve grown as a person through this journey, those around me have grown. Some of us together, and some in alternative directions. That’s the nature of life: things change, twist, morph, and expand; doors open and close; people come and go. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I believe in, “No regrets. No excuses. No limits.” No regrets because we cannot change the past and we don’t need to: it’s meant to guide us, not guilt us. No excuses because the buck stops here: I have the power of choice at my disposal, but it’s up to me to use it. And no limits because when I release the hold of the past and I use the power of choice in the present I am limitless and therefore unstoppable.
Life as I know it now
I’m no longer just alive. I’m not just living but I’m choosing to live well. A big part of living well is sharing life with others, which I wasn’t doing before. My shame had me quite literally buried in pains of the past and believing I didn’t have hope and a future. But now I know that’s not true. Today I have the great joy of being able to say yes, I was there, but now I understand that and I do know what it’s like to feel crushed, beaten down seemingly without options by the impossible and uncontrollable circumstances of life, and now I know differently. Now, I know all things are possible and not because I’ve been there or done it, but because we all have the same exact superpower. It’s a power that enables us, given any obstacles, to see those impossible things turned around. We all have the greatest power ever bestowed on a human being and that power is the power of choice. This power enables us to stay stuck wherever we are, facing whatever we are facing, believing whatever we are believing or it can be used to liberate, empower, free, and strengthen us into choosing entirely possible things.
Now, I’m on a lifelong journey I have never had what I would call an ultimate weight goal. In the beginning, I didn’t know this would even work: I just didn’t want to be where I was. I wanted my life and mobility back. I wanted to fit in restaurant booths, ride airplanes, and sit comfortably in stadium seats. But mostly, I just wanted to be able to keep up with my family, to walk through the zoo, to go to an amusement park or gosh, just walk from the car into the grocery store without fearing a heart attack. After I lost the first 70 pounds (yes, it took that long to truly accept this time it was going to work) I thought a healthy weight would be under 200 pounds (as in half my former self), so that became a marker of progress: i.e., get to 200 pounds and then into “Onederland” and see how that feels and then decide what’s next. Now that I’m there, I feel amazingly strong and vibrant and really nothing is holding me back. I’m truly living well and working on getting stronger in mind, body, and soul more than focusing on my weight as a number. I’m just glad to be writing some new adventures in the story of my life and humbled to be included in the storyline wherever it goes next.
PHOTOS BY CHRIS V. LINTON (@CHRISVLINTON)