Monthly Archives: April 2011

Where Credit Is Due

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The response to my first ever blog, “Awakening”, was overwhelming and so incredibly positive. Thanks to all of you who read it and especially to those who took the time to respond. I’ve been posting snippets about this journey on Facebook as well, and the support there has also been huge. To repeat something I wrote on F/b in response to the encouragement, your support piles strength onto my strength. It’s really true. I feel so completely empowered by having all of you stand with me. I was doing cardio on Monday and toward the end I was getting really fatigued. I started listing mentally all the people who are standing with me on my quest: “Erin is fighting with me for my health. Tasha is fighting with me for my health. Megan is fighting with me for my health. Steve is fighting with me. Sam is fighting with me. Colin is fighting with me. Ethan is fighting with me. My dad is fighting with me. Ashli H. is fighting with me. Ashley B. is fighting with me. Mark is too. And Chloe. And Sylvia.” And that helped me to push through to finish my workout. All of you are helping me fight for my goals, and I’m serious when I say, I feel it. Your support literally gives me physical strength. So ‘thank you’ is not nearly enough gratitude, but I have to say it anyway. Thank you, my friends.

A very, very dear soul sister of mine has spoken to me now and again over the eleven years of our friendship about the day she decided she had had enough of being overweight and out of shape. For eleven years, I have waited for the strength to find a day like that of my own. I didn’t know how to get there. I honestly didn’t think it was possible. Now that I have found it, I keep trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together to see what people, what things contributed to that epiphanal day. This is what I have come up with so far (in no particular order):

Erin– There are more than a few people in my life who are healthy and fit, but until I met Erin, I don’t think I have ever spent time, day-in and day-out, with someone who is so excited about and dedicated to fitness. She talks about it all the time; not in an obnoxious gym-rat way, but in a contagiously enthusiastic way. I mean, she LOVES working out. Yoga, belly dancing, aerobics, you name it. There is something about the way she attacks fitness that made it, for the first time for me, seem NORMAL to work out. I belong to a cerebral family. We read, we write, we discuss, we do puzzles, we play games, and we do all of this SITTING DOWN. That was normal for me all my years growing up. Yes, I played sports in high school, but as an adult, it was normal for me to go weeks, even months without any kind of strenuous physical activity. Being around Erin all of a sudden made that seem abnormal. Erin also introduced me to a lot of food that was delicious in spite of the fact that it was nutritious and healthy. And over the course of our friendship, she began to nudge me toward working on my own fitness. Casual invites to a new workout class she was starting. Calling me to ask if I wanted to go for a walk. She was completely non-judgemental, totally low-pressure, but she made exercise accessible to me. That was really huge. After less than two years of gentle pushing, I have now bought a membership to the gym she uses, and in fact, we worked out together just a few hours ago. There is no doubt in mind that without Erin, I would not be on the path I now tread.

Natasha– Tash is the friend that I share the deepest spiritual connection with in my life. We know each other, all the way down and all the way through. Everything I have ever heard about love is true about her love. It is whole, pure, unconditional and unreserved. She loves with her entire being, and how can I help but respond in kind? Having her as a friend has taught me who I want to be in life, and it is not an understatement to admit that she is my hero. Her absolute and unwavering support over the years has been a rock, has shown me how to find an answering strength, has inspired me to fly. She is so connected to people and to nature and to God that she had to write a book about it. The Story of Q (find it at Chapters online or instore, or at Amazon.ca) helped me to realize what I already knew but was afraid to admit- that I am strong and beautiful and that I can be completely realized as a human being if I will allow myself to accept that and to live it. Natasha, what a miracle you are. You breathed form and strength into my broken, phantom wings, and then kicked me off a cliff so I could prove to myself that I can soar. I can never love you enough for who you are to me.

Megan Joy– We’ve come full circle, haven’t we Megs? It’s hard for me to believe you were once someone I once thought I had to help. From day 1, you have fought to be a part of my life, and I am so grateful that you have always believed that I am worthy of that. Your faithfulness to our friendship is unlike any I have ever known, and I am deeply moved by your loyalty. You are my loudest cheerleader, and your uncompromising commitment to speak (or scream) the truth no matter what the cost has challenged me to reject the lies I accepted about the permanence of my weight problem, and my helplessness to do anything about it. You are my tough love friend, but I also know that you are there with the biggest hug and the most steadfast encouragement at any time of the day or night. You hold me up when I doubt my ability to do it myself. I not only love you, Megan, I need you, and I thank God for you every day.

Dad– My dad, who has been overweight for most of my life, had a minor health scare just before Christmas last year. He has made attempts at losing weight in the past, but it has been a discouraging rollercoaster ride of more ups than downs. When his doctor told him six months ago to lose weight or else, he decided to change his life. He began eating what amounts to a diabetic-type diet and walking on his treadmill for an hour every day. In the last six months, he has lost over sixty pounds, and is still going strong. I have admired and looked up to my dad my entire life, but I have never been more inspired by him or more proud of him. For four and half months, I watched him decide to live life in a healthful and sustainable way, and then I decided to join him. Now that we are walking this path together, I love being able to compare with him what I eat and what exercises I do, and I love when we get to check in with each other about how much weight we’ve lost. In a way, I feel like I am once again a little girl leaping into the footprints he leaves as he walks before me. Now, as then, the road is easier for being able to follow in his steps. Thank you, Dad; first for giving me life and now for helping to save it. I love you more than I can say.

God– I hestitate to include this section, even though it is the biggest piece of the puzzle, simply because I don’t know how to write it in concrete terms. I don’t really know how to define who God is, or who I am to him, or what he wants from me. But I know that this is where my biggest debt of gratitude lies. I know I would not be where I am on this health journey without him. I know that two months ago, I was a broken creature who fell to my knees and sobbed that I was sick of myself and that I needed something to change because I could not keep churning forward through the same filth I had packed into my life. Nothing happened that day, but within two weeks, I had awoken to my new life with a strength and determination I could not have generated alone. This is not the kind of miracle I expected. I thought it would be more… spiritual. I would not have idenitified the root of my existential disease as physical. This change, however, has been a complete transformation. Not only do I feel better in my body, but I am healthier in my mind, my emotions, and my relationships, as well. I know that I am doing 100% of the work to eat well and exercise, but the strength and will to do it come from somewhere outside myself. I have to credit God, because there is no other explanation. I have named other people who have helped to fill in pieces of the puzzle, and although I am bursting with thankfulness to and for them, I also have to admit that those pieces were there before. There is something else, this X factor I can only name as God, that is knitting the parts together to make a new thing, a new me. I don’t understand it, but I am compelled by virtue of the new strength within me to give credit where credit is due. So God, although I don’t know how to say it, I thank you.

To all of these people, and to all of you who have read this, my most heartfelt and deepest thanks. The journey (-25 lbs and counting!) is eased by your companionship. And I promise to try to keep forthcoming blogs shorter.

Awakening

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On 21 March 2011, I woke up, and not just in the literal sense. There was a different strength in me that I have never known, and whose origins I still ponder. After weeks of struggling to name this change, I finally stumbled onto a definition. Transformation.

I have struggled with food and my weight for as long as I can remember. ‘Struggled’ probably isn’t the right word, though, because I had totally given in to both. I hated vegetables, loved junk food, and didn’t think it was possible to fight either. This caused me no end of mental anguish, not to mention physical, but the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I did not have the strength to live what others would term ‘a healthy life.’ I knew I could not give up chocolate or bread or cheese or fast food, knew I could not stop snacking, knew I could not commit to a workout regime, knew I could not live the rest of my days continually sacrificing, sacrificing, sacrificing.

And then, March 21st happened. I woke up craving vegetables. But it was more than that, too. I somehow had this sense that this day was the first day of the new me. I had conviction that I not only wanted to change my eating habits for the better, but that I could do it. For the first time in my life, I knew (I know!) that I have the power to change my own life.

I immediately went to my parents’ house to use their medical grade scale. Okay, scary, but I had my starting point. Then I went grocery shopping, and instead of buying candy, I bought vegetables and frozen fruit. Instead of pizza pops and burritos, I bought vegan burgers and flavoured tuna. Instead of chips, I bought rye crisps and brown rice crackers.

I went cold turkey off all the crap I had been consuming, and it felt great. I lost 8 lbs in the first week. My family and friends couldn’t believe the drastic change in my eating habits. A couple of days after I started, I was telling my mom about this great snack I had eaten of a dill pickle and 1/4 cup of dry cottage cheese topped with fresh cracked pepper, and she started laughing at me! I asked her why she was laughing, and she told me that she just couldn’t believe that this was the same Cara.

I myself have really been amazed at this change, and how my thought process has simultaneously changed. I think about what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to mold myself into who I want myself to be, instead of being demoralized by the amount of work I have to do to get there. I rejoice in the ability and desire to choose nutritious food, instead of worrying about how I can possibly sustain the effort to keep making good choices. While I used to wish for a magic genie to wave all this extra weight away, it is now a source of joy and pride that I get to fight for the health and physique I have denied myself for so long.  The most unbelievable thing to me is that I do not feel like I am sacrificing. I don’ t feel like I am missing out on tasty food- for the first time ever I feel like I am enjoying what good food really tastes like. And saying ‘yes’ to more vegetables, whole grains, soy and water, and ‘no’ to more sugars, fats, and simple carbs makes me feel stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally. I recognize that I am powerful enough to say no, and that gives me more strength to keep saying no.

It’s been just over a month since the first day of my transformation. The last time I weighed myself (April 20), I had lost 21 lbs. I have so much energy from all this great food, I had to join a gym so I have someplace productive to get rid of it. The gym, that I’m not loving so much (more on that later), but I am determined to keep going as part of this new life.

This blog is also part of the new life. I want to chronicle my successes so that if/when I get discouraged, I have somewhere to come to remind myself what it feels like to be strong and motivated. I also want to invite certain supportive people to be part of this journey with me, because I know they will encourage and spur me on, and more importantly, celebrate the positive steps along the way. I also desire to inspire others to the realization that you don’t have to be a victim to your body. I lived there for a long time, and I hope that refusing to stay there any longer will  urge others to do the same. Finally, I look forward to contributing and receiving helpful tips, recipes, and exercises, and hearing about other peoples’ stories of transformation as we travel together.

Thanks for joining me as I explore this world of what it means to be healthy and sharing the experiences of my quest!