I lived for years with the looming “Diet starts on Monday” mentality and I recognize how daunting this day can be for others doing the same. The worst parts of this notion are 1) That it induces a Sunday (or perhaps all weekend) binge on every deliciously heavy, sugary treat you can get your mitts on. Because you’re promising yourself you won’t have them again. And 2) That when you break this Monday promise to yourself, you are weakening your self trust. You are slowly but surely weakening your resolve. Because in truth, you don’t need a special day to start living well, you don’t need to give everything up at once either. But the looming promise that you’re going to be harsher and stricter on your body and your life sets you up for failure. No one looks forward to becoming their own food police and boot camp leader on Monday morning. That’s what Jillian Michaels is for.
This is where motivation steps in.
A Monday came for me, right around the time when I weighed myself at the YMCA after my sophomore year of college, when all of it stuck. I sat down with a pen and paper. I listed all of the things that I loved about my life as it was. Beside it I listed the parts of my life that I did not love. Most notably, the 135lb marshmallow coating on my body. The things I jotted down ranged from superficial to super-meaningful.
When I had finished writing, I read that list aloud to myself. It’s amazing the difference between simply reading and speaking the truth out loud to yourself. I heard both sides. Hope and fear. Ambition and obstacles. I reread it five times.
I picked up my pen and wrote again, but this time about the life I wanted to lead. Not in five years, not in ten, not in twenty. I penned the things that I thought defined a life well lived. I thought about the dreams I wanted see through, the adventures I wanted to go on, the energy I’d need to achieve them, the way I’d laugh with my friends, the ease of being that would come when I no longer felt so painfully aware of my size, that exhilaration I’d feel if I just put myself out there, took risks, and stopped waiting for the perfect thin moment. My dreams did not have a prerequisite of thinness, but they also didn’t include eating a box of Swiss Cake Rolls before getting started.
What I wanted most was to be ‘normal.’
I know the reaction when I use that word, ‘normal.’ I know it’s different for everyone; I know full well that there is no one definition, nor do I want there to be. But be honest with me here, we know what we think of as normal eating. Aside from the whats, the whens, and the hows, it’s the style of eating that involves an ease of mind and body. The one without hesitation and regret and panic when the options your mom puts on the table are anything but light. The fear that comes from thinking you cannot be trusted around Little Debbie.
I felt an urgency. A deep desire to find a way of balancing what I loved to eat, with what made me feel good, with what I had available to me. I wanted fun and freedom and flexibility.
What I realized was that I could live that life. I would live that life. The only obstacle was me.
I wasn’t wishing to change the essence of me- not the core of my being- just the things that kept me sad, kept me scared, kept me guarded in weight. And on a very serious health level, I wanted, I needed, to save my own life.
I looked to the list of things I disliked about my then-current life. I thought about the stories I told myself- the excuses, the ‘if only’s,’ the reasons I believed I was destined to be big, the lamenting sighs that I was not this or that. What if I dropped each and every one of them? What if right in that millisecond I stopped building a mountain against myself? Most importantly, what if the moment when I started to feel an emotion that overwhelmed me- sadness, anxiety, confusion, you name it- I just let it come, and didn’t distract myself with food?
I didn’t change overnight. But I did start to think differently about the way I was spending the minutes, the hours, the days of my life. So much of what we do is dictated by our thoughts, our emotions. What if believing a different truth for ourselves was the answer?
I told myself I wasn’t a monster. I wasn’t weak-willed or wallowing in self doubt, self pity, self loathing. There was no reason to be scared. I wasn’t going to be bowled over by any emotion if I just let it sit beside me on the couch. Just because I had lived one way for twenty years didn’t mean that I couldn’t live another for the next twenty. People can change. I could change.
This may sound too easy. Too good to be true. I promise you it isn’t. There will be a point for you, if you’re in need of losing weight, when you will realize that there is no need to carry around a backpack of self-defeating prophecies.
The thing is, you know what you want out of life. I’d even guess that you know what you’d have to do to lose weight and get healthy, if that’s what you need at all. You probably have a sense of the bare bones of nutrition and movement. So I encourage you to think about those things; think about your life. What do you love? Write it down if you can. What parts of your life do you want to change? Be very clear. Be honest with yourself.
You don’t need to wait until Monday to start your new plan. You don’t need to wait until you are thin to live well. You just have to be present and willing in your own life.