fast forward a few years. in september 2016 i went to the dr for a checkup and i stepped on the scale. i saw the number and thought, "oh this scale must be in some other unit of measure besides pounds because that number is SO big! that's what i weighed the day before i gave birth to ruby. that can't possibly be right." um, people? it was right. when the doctor sat down with me in her office, i started crying. how had i gained 35 pounds in about a year? and to be clear, that is 35 pounds when i already should weigh less than that to be healthy. so now i was, what, at least 50 pounds overweight? losing ten pounds seemed impossible much less 50 or 60. it was a dark day. i went home and crawled under the covers, shooting off depressing texts to poor matt all day. then i sent a few sad texts to some of my dearest safest friends who i knew would understand. i felt pretty hopeless and discouraged; i was ready to give up but not ready to give up all at the same time.
how did i get there? well, for one, i had enjoyed a lovely summer of good meals and cocktails or wine more often than not, with a pretty steady regime of exercise. but sadly, when you are eating (or drinking) a billion calories a day, a thirty minute hiit workout or very slow run does not burn all of that off. (i wish.) i'd also decided, together with matt, to stop weighing myself. he had pointed out about a year before (rightly so) that my self worth and identity is not defined by a number on a scale. he said, "you exercise and eat healthy food, and that the practice of weighing yourself just messes with you.' true, all true. but here i found myself the victim of overestimating the calories i was burning and underestimating the calories i was consuming, and that all adds up to gaining weight and feeling blah.
i knew pretty clearly it was time to drag the scale back out to keep me accountable.
i knew i had to buckle down and track carefully what i ate and drank.
i knew i needed to start exercising faithfully again.
so, i did.
slowly, by january i'd lost ten pounds. but i knew i was still relying on some unhealthy bad food habits (i'm talking to you late night snacking and mindless munching) and i was ready to address them. my sister rebecca asked me if i wanted to join her doing a whole30 that month, and for the first time instead of thinking, "are you kidding?" i thought, "maybe i should." i had been scared off before by the structure and rigidity (and the fact that i don't like eggs!) and now i found myself craving those very things. whole30 isn't a diet, and i wasn't thinking of doing it to lose weight, but to look at the ways i often ate without intention, and to spend 30 days being mindful of patterns i needed to break.
so right after my birthday in january, i did my first whole30.
and guess what?
sometimes it sucked. but not as much as i thought it would.
sometimes i really missed certain foods (mostly the ritual of alcohol and the ease of some carbs like bread.) but not as much as i thought i would.
sometimes i had to say no to things i wanted to say yes to. but not as much as i thought i would have to.
sometimes i was cranky. ok, that's true.
i drank a lot of black coffee (and liked it!) and i ate a lot of weird breakfasts...mostly leftovers from the night before, because i don't like eggs enough to eat them consistently. (yes, i know, we even have chickens.)
normal breakfast (or as i like to think of it, meal 1. whoever says your first meal of the day has to look like an american breakfast on the denny's menu?)
so many significant restrictions forced me to rethink how i cooked and what i was eating in a way that i hadn't before. i couldn't fall back on tried and true meals and snacks without adapting them somewhat. i found that some of my staples weren't as necessary as i thought they were.
also, i fell in love with kombucha. before this year i thought kombucha was a random hippy health kick kind of thing to drink. but then i drank it & loved how it made me feel. (seriously, who am i?! drinking kombucha, eliminating entire food groups from my diet?!)
i about threw myself a parade when i saw this massive 48 oz. kombucha at the store the other day.
on my first whole30 i fought through funky belly issues, missing sugar and dairy and bread, and mood swings, but i also slept awesome, had way better skin, and felt clearer mentally and creatively. by the end of the month i was sold. not on eating whole30 for the rest of my life, but by shifting over to a whole30-most-of-the-time way of life, and choosing selectively the other food rather than grazing on whatever i wanted at any time. i had also lost weight. on whole30 you aren't supposed to weigh yourself (i didn't), but after my experience over the last year +, i realized that for me it was good data to have. the key for me is to think of it as data, and not a moral failing if the scale goes up or a measure of my self-worth if it goes down.
meanwhile, i started to up the intensity and amount of exercise. at our elementary school auction, i bid on and won a two month bootcamp session from balanced fitness for moms, which is run by a parent at the girls' school. in march, april and may, i got up twice a week for the 5:45 am class, plus kept running or working out at home a couple of days a week. the class freaking kicks my butt every which way and i might think i'm about to die every time, but i also love it. i haven't been this strong in a very long time. if you know me, you know that i do not love (or even like) the morning. i like my bed. i like lounging, snuggling, burrowing, and all of the words that mean you hide under the covers until you're forced to come out. and yet? i am loving this class and how it makes me feel. for me to continue doing the class is a significant amount of money for us, but i am thinking of it as a long-term health insurance policy or retirement fund. because, really, truly, that's what it is, right? i'm doing it to live longer and live better.
(after an early morning sweat session. looking good, i know.)
and moments like this are happening: ruby wearing my running shoes saying, "i'm mommy exercising. i'm so strong." when i think i am going to quit halfway through an intense set of burpees in class, i think about these two little girls, and how i want to model to them that it is good to move, and to be strong, and to actively seek health. not because of a number on a scale or to fit into a certain size, but because we have been given this one body, and we currently have the gift of having healthy ones.
i don't feel like that all the time. i have these (false but present) thoughts in my head from a lifetime of messages on repeat that i have to fiercely push against: "You were born with this body, and that's how it's always going to be. You are built just like your dad/dad's side of family. Skinny people are just born that way and can eat however they want and don't have to worry about gaining weight or working out. You work out to lose weight. Once you lose weight you don't have to work out anymore. You're just not athletic." where did all of these voices come from? society? experiences growing up? celebrity culture? myself? i don't know, but they are there, and there with a vengeance. i have a lot of baggage from growing up in this body and that is a reality.
in a lot of ways, having two daughters forces me to confront those issues because i am very aware that the words i say and the ways i act will have a profound impact on the ways they see themselves. doing things like the Whole30 makes me address these negative thoughts head-on too. am i defined by my genes? do i have to make the same choices i always have? am i really undisciplined like i tell myself? (no. i'm not, but it's an easy out.)
i have to reframe the conversation and let this be my mantra when eating healthy and exercising: "i am choosing a longer life, a good example for my daughters, a healthier frame of mind, positive steps towards self-care, gratitude for the health i have and the desire to preserve it. i want to be strong and healthy. it is a long and slow and daily battle. i will not wake up tomorrow with the body i want without putting in the work for a while and not giving up."
on a bad day, i step on the scale that hasn't moved or put on the jeans that are still snug and I think, "screw it. i might as well eat this, drink that and not exercise because it doesn't matter anyway. why am I even trying? it's so hard and for such small, incremental changes! i was a fool to think I could be strong and healthy. I am just (and then insert all the negative self-talk.)" i feel defeated. then the excuses come, and then at some point i stop making excuses and don't even try. of course then it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?
but right now, today, this week, this month, this year, i am choosing a new storyline. and apparently that means i'm doing things i never thought i would: getting up to workout when it is dark outside (help me, jesus), drinking kombucha (ok that isn't really part of my health routine but i just think it's funny that i am now drinking it after years of thinking it was ridiculous), and doing not one, but two whole30's! (yep, that's right; i'm on day 20 of my second whole30!) once again, who am i and what am i doing?!
on the left is the girls' first day of school in september, and on the right is about a month ago. slowly making progress, and chipping away at some of my ingrained negative self-talk along the way. 27 of the 35 extra pounds are gone, and more importantly, i feel so much stronger, healthier, and in control than i have in a while. so genetic predisposition? i know, i know, you're still there. but you can suck it.
(i'm not going to lie, when this round of whole30 is done, i will very intentionally drink a glass of wine and toast my self-discipline!)
we can do this. i can. it feels impossible some days, but really, truly, we can. and even if i'm just talking to myself? you got this.