My husband and I co-lead a weight loss group at our church. There are 12 members, all at very diffect places in their journey to live a healthier lifestyle. A couple of the people are making the choice to do something about their health for the very first time in their lives. I can tell how happy they are to get started, but also a little fearful. When they ask for help, I’ve been trying to take myself back to square one. That’s led me a lot of thinking about the very beginning of my weight loss journey. Namely, the feelings that came along with it. And oh, are there feelings. Desperation. Shame. Fear. Frustration. Excitement. Pride.
For so long, weight loss had seemed to overwhelming to me. I wanted to eat right. I wanted to exercise. The catch was, I had no clue how to do either. Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of information out there. “Eat this! “Lose 10lbs in 19 minutes!” “Cut carbs!” “Don’t eat meat!” I was confused and I was scared. Confused about where to begin. Scared to stay the same. Scared to change. Scared to fail.
I started by taking baby steps to exercise more, but with no real direction. I joined a ladies’ gym and bought a workout DVD, doing one of those things on most days of the week. It was a good start, but I didn’t understand what to do next or how to do it. I would sort of start to acknowledge that I needed to change the way I ate, but then I’d freeze up. I was too afraid to face how bad my diet really was. Frustrated, my exercise would decrease until it was nonexistent. Back to square one. My efforts at exercise were going to be derailed completely if I didn’t get a food wake-up call.
For me, that was the orientation session at my very first Weight Watchers meeting. I remember being fascinated as the leader explained the basics. She was making weight loss simple, logical, formulaic and kind of fun…all at the same time. No way that was possible! Suddenly, I was excited about getting started. I finally had control over getting healthier. I had a plan. It was a huge relief. For the first time ever, I felt like I really could do this!
After the meeting, I bought the expanded member kit. (Which I still have. I can’t stand to part with it, even though the information is obsolete on the new PointsPlus program.) I’m a Type-A person through and through so I wanted all the information I could possibly get my hands on in order to learn. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
I went home and absolutely devoured these books. I read through them like they were novels. I highlighted foods I already ate for easy reference. The next day I spent 3 hours at the grocery. T-H-R-E-E. In a place I didn’t even really like. I was giddy with excitement. It was almost sick. Calculating points, which can be a tedious task, suddenly became like a game to me. I was actually taking the time to look at nutrition labels and paying attention to what I was putting in my body.
I learned A LOT in those first few weeks of my new eating style. Writing down what I ate laid it all out there in black and white. It was eye-opening. The biggest shocker for me was portion sizes. It was nothing for me to consume large helpings of firsts, always seconds and sometimes even thirds. Actually measuring out a 1-cup portion of pasta was eye-opening. Before, I’d been known to eat an entire box of pasta in one sitting. By myself. In one sense, I felt ashamed. How could I have not known that was a problem? I also felt relieved by the fact that I did know now and I was changing.
The more I learned, the easier it got. I started taking baby steps, but this time with a distinct purpose. I started packing my lunch for work instead of buying it in the cafeteria. I started walking on my lunch hour instead of listening to the radio in my car. Grocery shopping took less time, too. Some things, like buying more fruits and veggies, became intuitive. I also became familiar with the points values of my go-to foods and didn’t need to calculate them or look them up every time. I’d take the long way to fill up my water bottle which accomplished two things: drinking more water and moving more. I still think it’s funny that I rewarded myself with a water mug after losing my first five pounds when, before, a reward would have been a giant piece of molten lava cake. (Still have the mug, too. It’s my all-time favorite.)
So why have I been dwelling on these “before” feelings? I don’t think it’s dwelling as much as it is using them to motivate myself and to help the people around me who are just getting started. So often, I take for granted the things that are common knowledge for me now, but that were HUGE revelations back then. A couple weeks ago, one of the women from our group was in awe of the can of pumpkin + cake mix muffins. Another lady jotted things down furiously when we talked about the food pyramid and portion sizes. It was really cool to see them learning something from our group and getting so excited about it, but in my head I was thinking “How can you not know this?” Then I remembered that this was me just a few years ago.
On days when I just cannot get my butt out the door to the gym. On days when I don’t want to track. On days when I want to eat that whole box of pasta. Those are the days I want to remember what it was like when I didn’t know what to do. And then I want to remember how excited I was when I finally had a doable plan, a direction. There I was, getting excited about those first steps to taking control of my eating. And, in turn, my life. I want to use those memories to remember why I’m so grateful for my healthy lifestyle. It’s not because I should live this way. It’s because I’ve made the decision to do so and worked hard for it.
What was/is the first step you took toward a healthier lifestyle?