I was sitting here thinking about all of the people I have worked with over the years.
What was the common denominator between people who were successful at establishing a lifestyle transformation verses those whom were not. Initially you might think of descriptive words like driven and dedicated. You may also picture someone in your mind that adheres to a program, makes the right choices and always meets their goals.
These initial thoughts are not exactly wrong.. but they are not exactly right either. I think when we start comparing one person to the next or even to ourselves, we see things in black and white. We don’t consider all the grey areas or where this comparison comes from.
The grey areas are where I like to say the magic happens.
These are the times where you are really testing your mental health and capacity to deal with what has happened to you in the past.
These are the opportunities to speak your truth out loud.
Being able to speak your truth out loud, is what I have found to be the common denominator. It starts when someone has a goal and finds them self constantly starting over in their approach to meet that goal. The realization sets in that they cannot do it alone. So maybe they ask a friend to be an accountability partner or hire a professional. For most, they will either prosper here. There are still some that it is another thing to add to the list of things they didn’t see through.
Why is that? Here is what I think.
We never speak the truth out loud or we don’t speak the entirety of it.
We bottle it up. It festers until we become so stressed out and ridden with anxiety that we start attributing it to being how it is and never investigating why it is.
I will use myself as an example.
For years I struggled with body image. I thought that if I just weighed a certain amount that I would look a certain way and then people would like me and I would fit in. I remember being conscious of my body composition and weight as early as third grade. I can still replay a memory of sitting at the lunch table, you know the long ones with orange circle seats that you sat as a class at. We were sitting there, some kids eating their lunchables and others eating a tray lunches, pizza day to be exact. Someone brought up their shoe size because they had new shoes on. Then it led to how much everyone weighed. Most of the girls weighed an average of 50-60lbs. I weighed 92 lbs. When you are 6/7, you think everything that is bigger is better. Everyone was boasting about having the biggest foot. Imagine my confusion when I realized being the heaviest was not cool. I remember looking around a realizing how much smaller all the other girls were. This was the start of my obsession with comparison. It carried over through grade school. In the physical fitness tests, in the class line up and of course at recess.
It wasn’t until 5thgrade that I started to realize that all my thin friends were being deemed as pretty and the catching the boys attention. It wasn’t until then that I realized I also wanted that attention. I remember a new boy moving to our school and literally telling girls that he would only date them if they were skinny and wore all adidas. Yes, the swish suits and those ugly shoes. This literally became a thing that all the girls started doing. I begged and begged my parents to get me both. I was distraught when I got a pair of knock offs for my birthday.
Not only was I not skinny but I wasn’t going to have the cool shoes either.
Sixth grade. The year that we all wanted to wear the boys football jerseys. You know, the youth mesh ones that the football boys would wear on Fridays to school and would give to the girls they liked to wear around until the end of the day. Another ego check. I was never the girl that got to wear the jersey. All my friends were though. I think this is when I really started wishing that I could look like them. This is when I started to really notice physical features of the girls that the boys liked, were deemed popular and had all the friends. Adidas were going out of style. This is the year that everyone started wearing make-up. I hope that white eyeliner never comes back in style. This is the year the girls would go into the bathroom where there was a gap in between the stalls and hang onto the sides and flip themselves around. If you couldn’t do it you were not cool. You were not invited to sit at the popular kids table.
Junior high. This where I became aware that if you ate less and exercised, you would lose weight. I would go through the salad bar every day while other girls were getting pizza and tostitos. I had a couple of friends that I had developed from making the volleyball team that summer. Our table was sort of the catch-all table. The people who sat with us were the people who were on the outside of the popular group circle that week. Junior high was the first time I was ever told by a boy that I was fat. In the middle of our computer class, in-front of everybody. I was never asked to go to the dances. It was because of volleyball that I started making friends with some of the cool people. I found myself doing and saying things to impress them. I started not sitting at the catch all table. This was also the about the time Holister became the new thing. I begged to get a $100 pair of jeans. It didn’t happen until the summer after 8thgrade.
High school. 9thgrade, the year of the bully. The summer before I spent it training for volleyball tryouts, put myself on an ice diet (If I were hungry between meals, I would eat crushed ice), laid out every day and started making friends with the girls that I had always wanted to be accepted by. Freshman year was off to a good start despite the fact that I grew up in a very strict home. I made the varsity volleyball team, had new friends and older boys were noticing me. It felt like things were finally turning around. Until they weren’t. Older boys noticing me, meant older girls noticing me to. I attracted a bully that would torment me for the next three years. She was always making comments about how I wore the same jeans (those $100 Holister jeans) multiple days in a row, how I was fat, how I lived in a trailer and how I smelt like cigarette smoke. You name it, she had something to say about everything I did or didn’t do for that matter. She was someone who was in the “in crowd.” No one really followed her lead, but I think they were scared to become the target, so they were just along for the ride. I spent four years trying to figure out how to fit in or at least not be made fun of. I spent four years letting a bully create the narrative for myself worth which directly translated to my body image. If you know me today, you know I have no patience for bullies. Especially as adults.
1stand 2ndyear of College. College should have been a great time in my life, and it was at times. Congruently it was also some of the worst times of my life. This is where I can now look back and see where depression set it. I went to school to play volleyball. When I got there everything was going great. Then, I made friends with some of the girls on the team who partied and drank a lot. Coming from a home where I had to be home at 9 and had little opportunity to dabble in social scenes meant that this new found freedom was tested to the max. To the point where I decided I would rather have a good time than play ball. I began binge drinking.. which was normal occurrence on my campus. I put on 40lbs and became depressed. I hated what I saw in the mirror, guys were not interested in me and I was hateful towards the girls that were getting attention. I was stuck in this rut for about two years. I can honestly say that I hated myself. I would stand in the mirror and say horrible things to myself and then drown those things in more alcohol.
3rdand 4thyear of college. The hate became so strong until I hit rock bottom. This is when I started exercising and stopped eating. This was the start of my first eating disorder. I would eat one meal a day so that I could go out and party still. I would wake up and run off the alcohol at the YMCA. I did this for a while until I stopped seeing any weight loss. I finally cut back on drinking and started exercising double time. I saw a little more progress and then it stopped. I did a little research on how I should be eating to lose weight and ramped up the exercising even more. I saw some more progress, and then it stopped. With obsessive habits I had made it to my original goal weight. That is when I got even more greedy. I started comparing myself to the people had been seeing in the fitness industry. I then started wanting to look like a bikini competitor. I was also feeling good about myself at this time. Girls were wanting to be my friend and boys were paying attention to me again. I began going out again. I would binge drink, which lead to binge eating which then lead to then purging and still over exercising.
This was the start of my second eating disorder.
Fast forward to today. Almost 30 years old.
It has taken me 10 years to realize that all of this came from a narrative that I let other people tell me. I took that narrative and continued to write the same words over and over in my own head. I wanted to be accepted so badly that I allowed myself to believe that I was not desirable and would never be accepted because of my body weight. I was not able to start healing my relationship with myself until I went back and figured out what happened to me to cause me to think these things. The real transformation didn’t start to happen until I admitted these things out loud. By admitting them out loud, I took power away from the boy who called me fat, the bully, the mean girls and my own negative thoughts. They say admitting that you have a problem is half the battle. I don’t think “they” have ever been more right. The people who make it through and who are successful, stop making excuses. They stop justifying their actions, obsessive behaviors and illnesses. They simply acknowledge them and then go to work facing them head on.
Taking your life back and changing the narrative is not easy, but it is possible. You have to speak the truth that is your life, right now.. today in order to make tomorrow and the coming years better.