20 April 2014

The Two Photos That Changed My Life

Author's Note: This is a really long post, my apologies.
It's been a long year, my friends. A long, arduous journey - but a rewarding one as well. I'll start with where I've been. And why I'm back.

Oh, you know...I've just been off losing 40 pounds. Just kidding, it's more like 38, and I haven't just been doing anything. I quit my old job and got a new one - a much more challenging (yet rewarding!) one. I've been riding my bike. I've been cooking a lot of brussels sprouts with bacon. I've been deep breathing. I've been less worried about the future. And I've been reading.

I'm back because I want to share my journey.

Last March, one of my oldest friends got married. Her wedding was the worst day of my life. The night before her wedding, my boyfriend and I broke up. I stayed up until 5am crying my eyes out until there was nothing left, got up at 7 and attempted to find something decent to wear and nothing fit. I curled my hair and put on makeup and cried all the way up to her wedding venue to help her prepare for her big day. I cried all day long, hiding my tears in sunglasses and going to the bathroom a lot, pausing only briefly to stuff my face with a pastrami sandwich. I looked awful. I felt awful. And I was in an awful place in my life.

At my highest weigh and lowest
mental state of my life.
The photo on the left is the way I looked that day. I've spent many months staring painfully at this photo, the first few months in disbelief that it was me. Now I look at it and I'm proud it is me. Of course, I must note that this pride comes only after having made it through the thick (no pun intended) parts.

With that really discouraging photo looming over my head, I spent a few months making really unsuccessful attempts at losing weight. When it came down to it, I was depressed, which made me lethargic, sad, and uncomfortable. I got a job that turned out to be a pretty rough road and just further extended my misery. When I was shopping for new clothes before the first day of my job last April, it was the first time I had attempted to buy pants in over 3 years. I couldn't hide in my lululemon pants anymore, and I was maxing out at the largest sizes in every store. At my highest weight, I found myself buying size 12 pants at Torrid, a plus-sized women's clothing store. I was the smallest size that the store sold, and all the women that worked at the store rolled their eyes and seemed pissed that I was shopping in their store - I'm not even kidding. I was too large for non-plus sized stores, and getting shunned at a store that had my size. I made myself believe that the Universe had conspired to be an ass hole to me, and in my dark cave I played into my own victimization - something that absolutely disgusts me now.

I started my new job, which was far away from my home and I had my own apartment in a town where I knew no one. I spent my weeknights drinking wine and crying over old episodes of The New Girl and my life continued to be stagnant and dark. Instead of getting therapy or joining a gym, I spent a solid amount of time (months) basically saying woe is me, I hate my job, I'm fat, and I'm going to eat this pasta and wish my weight away. 

This journey for me goes much deeper than just a physical change, and that is why I've decided to return from its depths (now its highs) to write about it. I know that anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will understand this. When you're overweight because you're depressed, and eat your feelings to get through the hard parts of your life, a change is necessary but requires much more effort than simply shedding a few pounds. In order to cultivate the healthy lifestyle that I desperately wanted, I began to realize I was going to have to work hard at my mental state as well - much harder.

I started slow. 

Take note of those chipmunk cheeks on the left!
When I look back at the foods I was eating at this time last year, it's so obvious why the weight wasn't falling off of me - soy yogurt with granola, whole wheat pasta, and Trader Joe's frozen enchiladas. These really aren't the worst foods in the world to eat, but not the kind of food someone who has 40+ pounds to lose has any business eating. I will get into the eating lifestyle I ended up adopting in subsequent posts, but ultimately it came down to, after much trial and error, a paleo-low-carb-high-fat hybrid. Again, I'll post later about that (and include recipes).

So that first picture was my wake-up call. I wasn't hiding my weight gain successfully any longer, and it was depressing. The second photo came in May, when I was struggling to commit to an exercise plan - actually, to even start one. I was looking through my Instagram feed and saw my friend had posted a picture of a new set of kettlebells. I realized I hadn't talked to her lately, so I started scrolling through her other intriguing photos, which were all Crossfit workouts and healthy meals. Then I came across a photo that she had captioned #progress. This girl has always been beautiful, and she was a very tall, big boned girl. She was never fat, ever. But in her #progress photo, she was lanky and slender. I was no stranger to your body shape changing - at this point I had stretch marks on my once skinny legs and was growing lumpy fat in places I never thought I could. But I didn't know that you could basically hack your body composition completely. The photo was mesmerizing. She looked so different, so happy, like a shinier version of herself. I think that she looked beautiful at what she was before, but it was as if her new shape gave her a whole new glow.

Me, too.

That photo did a lot of things for me. It told me that the human body is an open canvas for us to mold and shape depending on the form of exercise we choose. It told me that I, too, could change my body shape. And from there, I signed up for bootcamp to prep myself for Crossfit. From the 4 months of bootcamp that that photo inspired me to sign up for, many, many other amazing fitness feats have blossomed. Crossfit still hasn't happened, but it's still a possibility.

March 2013 to February 2014
I won't show that photo of my friend, but I'll share a couple of my own #progress photos. Yes, I am my own inspiration. I shamelessly admit that. One incredible part of my journey has been tracking my progress. I took a photo on my MacBook's Photo Booth every day at my last job. In the daily struggle I couldn't see my changes, but over the course of a few months the changes were remarkable.

I still have a long way to go, and I'm leaving out the best parts of my story - like how my boyfriend (oh yeah, we got back together, or rather, found each other again) stepped in to inspire more change in my healthy new lifestyle, and how I got a new job and my mental state elevated. I have so many recipes and stories and progress to share, and that's why I'm back.

I know that it just takes one photo (or two) or a blog post or a Tweet or a comment to inspire someone. I posted both of my own progress photos on my various social media accounts. Amongst the congratulations and Facebook likes and hundreds of Tumblr reblogs there were a few that came forth to commend my bravery for posting the befores. I didn't think anything of the word "bravery" or "courage" until recently, and I have so much to say about the importance of mental courage to inspire change. My friend's courage to post her progress is the reason I shamelessly post mine and will continue to. I know there's another year-ago me out there struggling to figure out what to do next, and that's why I'm here.

The overwhelming message of this past year, that I will get to in later posts is this: If you don't like where your life is, change it. Only you can change it. Only you.

Namaste, friends!

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