Me: “Really Brian?”
Brian: “Yea, we could go on a date.”
Me (huge smile): “Ok, that sounds great.”
Brian (loudly): “I would never go out with you, loser!”
This was followed by the entire group of “cool kids” laughing at me. People were making fun of me and my weight, and I felt like bursting into tears right there. I don’t think I’d ever been so mortified in my life.
But here’s the thing – the saying that “what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger” is very true, and that one interaction really influenced my life. In fact, I could go so far to say that I’m actually grateful that it happened.
I was obviously not at a healthy weight at that time and was very self-conscious of my body. That situation prompted my decision to start working out at the gym where I was working at the time. I started with just 20 minutes on the elliptical at a time. It felt hard, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 20 minutes. But I did, and I got into a good routine going a couple times a week.
A year or so later, I also made changes to my diet. I cut out my go-to lunch of French fries and a cookie (yes, this was seriously my lunch in school at that time) and started bringing or purchasing a healthier lunch. Instead of the fried chicken sandwich at the fast food place I’d sometimes get dinner, I started getting a grilled chicken sandwich. I didn’t cut out every food I loved, but tried to make healthier choices wherever I could.
Over about a two year period, I lost around 35 pounds and became much healthier. But through the weight loss process, I realized that while I was happy to be healthier -- losing weight doesn’t solve all of our body problems or self-esteem issues. There’s always the “if I could just lose another x pounds I’d be happy” thoughts floating around. There’s still times when you might feel not-so-beautiful. It takes a lot of mental re-training and thought pattern shifts to become happier about who you are as a person and feel more confident about yourself – regardless of your weight or looks. Essentially, Brian forced me to figure this out over the next several years.
The message here is not at all to say you shouldn’t lose weight if you’re overweight. Of course not - you want to take care of your body because it’s the only one you’ve got. There is no question that taking off excess weight – even if it’s a small amount – has major health benefits. (And definitely get in touch with me if you need help in this process – it’s what I do!)
But shift your mental mindset. Eat right to fuel your body. Exercise to feel exhilarated. Lose weight to become healthier and feel more confident. But most of all, love your body and yourself throughout the entire process. Feel confident in who you are and what you are becoming.
I promise that this mental shift will help you become even more successful in those eating/exercise/weight loss efforts. Because instead of feeling like a victim or feeling out of control, you are confident in yourself and your abilities. You are proud of every action step that you take. Along the same lines, not having your entire self-worth tied to a number on the scale helps avoid the common “shame spiraling” that happens when you have a bad weigh-in (you know that shame spiral – “I gained weight, so screw it – I’m going to eat lots of crap”).
Self-worth and confidence are messages we often communicate to kids but forget to reinforce to ourselves as adults. In 2014, I challenge you – in addition to your eating and exercise goals – to also shift your mental outlook about your body image and self-worth.
So right now, I thank you Brian. While at the time I didn’t recognize the meaning of our cafeteria rendezvous, now I know it was meant to lead me to better health, make me a stronger person, and motivate me in my career choice. An interaction you may not remember shaped my life, and I appreciate that.
And today, I’m happy to say that I’m full of joy, I’m healthy, and I’m proud of who I am.
Update #1: I know this will probably make its rounds to high school friends - of even the elusive Brian himself! - so let me be clear here. Kids will be kids - I'm sure I made some stupid comments when I was that age too - no hard feelings or grudges! Just sharing a message about self-esteem and body confidence.
Update #2: I apologize for initially using a full name in this post. It's not my intention to hurt someone's feeling or disparage their name, but rather to share a past experience and convey how it led to a positive course of action.