The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Had To Do

I lost over 55lbs …on my own. I didn’t have a dietitian or a nutritionist. I didn’t have a personal trainer. Heck, I didn’t even have an accountability partner. But guess what? That is not the hardest thing I have ever had to do. This is. This, right here. That’s why I have been procrastinating. Writing about parts of my past that I want to forget and posting my “before” picture. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Im embarrassed. I have anxiety about it. But, I’m doing it.

People that meet me now look at me and assume I have always have been an athlete. Or that health, fitness and strength come easily for me. Or that I have always looked the way I do now. The reality is I have spent most of my life struggling with food addictions and emotional eating.

As a child I was teased a lot about my weight. I was chubby. Chubbier than most of the girls. In middle school. I was nicknamed “the beef”. When the Oakhurst Truck delivered milk at school, I was compared to the cow on the truck. So yeah, Ive struggled with weight. I’ve always felt that I can gain weight just breathing air, even as an active kid. I was also always picked last in gym class. I was that kid.

In high school I thinned out as so many kids do when going through puberty and growth spurts. I wasn’t as thin as most, but I wasn’t teased about weight anymore. I was relieved. But little did I know my struggles with weight, emotional eating and food addictions were far from over.

As a young adult, I was a professional athlete for years. I had a national sponsor. Life was good. Life was great, actually! I was active, fit, strong and healthy. I was living the dream. After having kids, things changed. I had to give up my sponsor and my main focus became my son, not competing profesionally. I have to say, it was wonderful! Being a mom was so much better than I anticipated. But I didn’t know at the time how much those kids would play a role in my health and wellness and bringing me to where I am today.

Now jump forward a few years, I have a son in hockey, a second child, and I’m in an unhappy marriage. How do I cope? Eating and drinking, uncontrollably. I host hockey parties to distract myself from the unhappiness I feel. I eat and drink non stop at the parties, at the tournaments, at the practices. I mean isn’t that what hockey is about? It’s fun! It’s a party! But, I take it over the top. Like I am known to do. No moderation. All or nothing.

Additionally, when I am home I eat when I am sad. I eat when I am angry. I eat because I like food and I am addicted to it. Literally addicted. Not just any food. Chocolate. Sweets. Sugar. Bread. I go out and drink with my friends all the time. Why? It distracts me. I didn’t know at the time I was unhappy. I thought I was happy. Everyone wanted to be around me because I was always the life of the party! I was living like I was having fun, right? Wrong.

So what came next? Yep, you guessed it. Divorce. More unhappiness. Stress. Kids. Struggles with money. The divorce was tough so guess what I did? I ate more. I drank more. I had less time, less energy. So we just ate out all the time. Pizza on the way to the rink? Sure. Applebees after practice? Why not?! Feeling bad about myself and the way I look…. Whoopie pies will fix that! I gained more and more weight and became more and more addicted to food. I used it to cope. I was not only addicted to food, I was also an emotional eater. Portion control was non existent to me, with both food and alcohol.

I couldn’t stand the way I looked in pictures so I didn’t take any. I didn’t like buying clothes because nothing looked good on me. I lost myself as so many moms do. As so many humans do when going through tough times. But something changed and Im not sure why, it just did. I woke up one day and I looked in the mirror and thought “This is NOT who I want to be. This is NOT who I am. I need to set a better example for my kids. I want to be healthy and around for them for along time”. And I decided that day to make a change. We hear so many say ” It doesn’t matter what you look like, its what inside that counts”. But, the truth is…. I wanted to look good too. I wanted to love the body I was in. I wanted to feel pretty. I wanted to feel sexy. And most importantly, I wanted to set a better example for my kids and be there for them for years and years. I saw them developing unhealthy eating habits and could not sit by and watch that happen. I worried what would happen to them if became unable to care for them. Kids learn from what they see not what they are told.

It started very slowly. One small change at a time. I didn’t start with the intention of losing 55 lbs. I didn’t start with the intention of eating clean and healthy. I didn’t start with the intention of being strong. I didn’t start with the intention of becoming a health and wellness coach. I just started with a vague goal of wanting to lose some weight.

This may sound silly to some, but if you struggle like I did, you will understand. My first goal – Only go to Dunkin’ Donuts 2-3 x a week instead of every day. Then, my next goal – walk by the Pizza Hut at Target without buying breadsticks for a snack. Yep, those were my initial goals. And they were SO hard. Do you know what my hardest goal was? Parties. I would sit at a table… and as people were conversing, I would be having my own conversation in my head. I was constantly talking myself out of the food. For hours. Negotiating with myself to only take one cookie or one handful of chips. I wasn’t present with my friends or engaging in the conversation. It took all of my energy and focus to talk myself out of binging. And there was shame if I relapsed. Lots of shame. I would punish myself by working out longer and more intensely to make up for the binge. My food addiction had control of me. And it sucked. Badly. It shouldn’t have been that hard. But, when you truly struggle with food addictions, it is that hard. And day to day life is a struggle. My lifestyle was full of unhealthy habits. One by one, I had to develop NEW habits to replace the unhealthy habits. I had to work through the addiction in steps.

One by one I replaced unhealthy habits with new, healthy habits. I started cutting out processed foods and eating cleaner and healthier. I worked on my addiction. I didn’t do it all at once. I used small incremental goals. And as I was able to celebrate my small accomplishments I found myself adding more goals. Small goals and big goals. I still didn’t have a plan of exactly how much weight I wanted to lose. Or that I wanted to lift. I just went day by day trying to be a little bit better than I was the day before. And, making one additional heathy choice or change each day. One by one, those changes and choices created big changes and big gains…. and more importantly, new healthy habits.

I started to feel better. I started to see changes in my body. And the best part? People around me started noticing. That added to my motivation. My kids started to notice I could challenge them more in yard games like basketball, volley ball, etc…. We were having more fun together. Not only was I able to keep up better, I was less stressed and that allowed me to enjoy my time with them more.

Shortly after, I found myself going to the gym. It was hard but I just gave myself small incremental goals. I would go 5 days a week for 1 class. As I became more fit and I started to enjoy it (seriously… I would look forward to going), I found myself adding more to the mix. I would train a little longer. Or add an extra day. I started weighing myself. I was noticing changes. Those changes motivated me to keep going. During this time I kept making small changes to my diet. Eating cleaner and healthier. And my children followed in my steps. Our dinners changed. Our deserts changed. I found ways to make our favorite treats healthier. I did it for them. I wasn’t eating much. They’d tell me, “Mom, you hardly eat” or ” Mom, you need to eat”.

That was when an obstacle showed up. I started to see changes and I wanted to see more changes. Quicker changes. I became obsessed with looking better, losing more weight and getting more fit. Remember how I said I am all or nothing? And that I was addicted to food? Well, I went to the opposite extreme. I wasn’t eating enough and if I’m honest, I was barely eating. My caloric intake was ridiculously low. I was addicted to food. Yet, I didn’t have control of my addiction. My addiction to food was controlling me in so many ways. So in a sense, I tried cut food out of my life to gain control. I had to stay away from food to talk myself into believing I had control. I told myself I was on “a diet”. I wasn’t on a diet, I was starving myself. My body was weak and out of balance.

So, I started lifting because I wanted to be stronger. I loved it! But I struggled. I’d fade out early no matter how hard I pushed myself. I wasn’t getting stronger. Why? I wasn’t eating enough. After struggling in that place for a bit I realized food is fuel. I needed to eat to lift. So I started eating more. Healthy and clean, but more. Food wasn’t the enemy anymore. It was my fuel. I was an athlete. I needed fuel. Athletes don’t diet and exercise, they fuel up and train. I told myself that over and over.

With proper fuel, my body really started to change and I enjoyed being strong. I started new activities and experiences. I participated in things I never though I would do! I tried trapeze, I started hiking mountains, I started doing anything and everything I could that kept me moving. I had freedom. I was living a life I had never even dreamed of when I started this process. I started with the goal of losing a little weight. I ended up losing over 55 lbs. I’ve been able to enjoy a wide variety of physically active experiences that I never would have been fit enough to try before. And, I gained the confidence to be authentically me. The confidence to love the body I am in. Now, food is fuel and exercise isn’t a punishment anymore for eating. I’m getting there. I still have progress to make. I still have days when I fight addiction tendencies. I still have days when want more progress. But, I’m getting there, one small step at a time. My thoughts and my body are more balanced. And that’s healthy. I am strengthening my mind and my body through this journey.

The highs, the lows. The process. The progress from day 1 to now is not something I can put into words. The emotions. The details. The events. It’s so much more than anything words can capture. However, when I started reflecting on all of it, and its a lot, I realized I wanted to help others. The way I feel now compared to how I felt at the lowest part of my life is indescribable. I want to help others gain confidence, reach their goals and just love their life and the body they are in. So I decided to pursue a career in Health & Wellness coaching. I know how it feels. I haven’t always been healthy. I haven’t always been strong. I haven’t always been active. I know how hard I had to work to get to where I am now. But I also know how good it feels and how attainable the goals are. I wish I had started sooner. It’s been the best journey of my life. I enjoy life in a whole new way now. I am happier than I have ever been. Not because of how I look but because of how I feel. Because of what I have accomplished. Because of how far I have come. Because I am now the best version of me that I can be. Because I took my life back. I like that feeling. I wont lose it again. I wont lose myself again. I’m better than I have ever been. And you can be too. I am no different than you are.

So now the hard part… the before and after photo. I guess I can’t procrastinate anymore. I have wanted to post this for a year but I have not been able to. I’ve been too embarrassed. It’s a photo of me when I was in my most unhealthy state. But, today is the day I overcome my fear, my embarrassment and my anxiety. It’s the next incremental goal for me. Finding a before picture was very hard. I avoided photos as much as possible. But, I found one so…. Deep Breath….. here I go…. If I can do this, you can too.