At the end of last year, I was so unhappy with my body. I was holding onto pizza and wine weight from grad school and college, and many of my clothes were tight and uncomfortable. I was exercising somewhat regularly, but I didn’t feel good in my skin. This unhappiness bled across my life: I was anxious often; I was lethargic. I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how.
9 months later, I’ve made it. I’m 30 pounds lighter. I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been. I have new clothes and a new outlook on life. I know that sounds unbelievably cheesy, but it’s true.
I lost 15-20 pounds pretty easily between January and March (thank you Whole 30), and another 10-15 have come off very gradually since then.
I’ll go into detail in a different post about the HOW of losing this weight, but a quick answer: Whole 30 and Gretchen Rubin’s book about habit formation. (All that getting up early has really paid off.)
I was hesitant to write this post. My brain is screaming at me: Weight doesn’t matter.
And I’m right — weight doesn’t matter. But health does. And the process of losing this weight has made me a healthier person.
I’m not going to lie and say the weight loss hasn’t been awesome. IT HAS BEEN. Needing to buy new, smaller jeans because the pair that used to cut into my waist are baggy? That feels amazing.
But I didn’t JUST lose weight. I gained muscle and strength, a better understanding of nutrition, a devotion to balanced living, and an actual desire to exercise regularly.
And I still eat pizza and drink wine. Just less often.
I know a post like this is often accompanied by before and after pictures. And this post won’t. Not because I don’t have before and after pictures, and not because I don’t see the value in documenting that visual change.
But that is not the focus for me. I’m more interested in the invisible progress, like a faster mile time and the steady energy I get from healthier eating.
Hiking Quandary Peak earlier this month was the most affirming part of this whole process. It was still hard, obviously, but I could do things I couldn’t before. When I slipped during the descent, I caught myself with my ab muscles. I felt them engage, and I was able to catch myself in a squat, instead of letting my ass hit the gravel.
This level of control has never been true for me before, and I am so proud of myself.
30 pounds is a weird amount. It’s enough that I have needed to replace many of my clothes. It’s enough that my face looks different in photos. It’s enough that those closest to me — my BFFs, my sister, my boyfriend — have noticed the changes in my body.
But it’s not enough that I look drastically different.
Many people — even people that I see daily — haven’t noticed. If it comes up, they’re astounded. They say that they can’t believe I had 30 pounds to lose. This feels … weird.
In one way, I suppose it’s a compliment. And I’m sure that’s how these people mean it. They’re saying that I didn’t look fat before, so how could I possibly have lost that much weight?
It doesn’t always feel like a compliment.
It feels undermining — like my change was entirely cosmetic, and, therefore, vain. That since I didn’t “need” to lose weight, I shouldn’t have bothered. Or I should at least shut up about it.
It feels like I shouldn’t be proud of my hard work. That I should hide it.
But I am proud. Very proud. Sticking to a diet and exercise regimen is hard, man.
Making jokes at my own expense is part of my sense of humor. Teasing myself helps me take life less seriously.
But I cannot be self-deprecating about this. This lifestyle change has been too hard and too important to undermine in that way. So honesty is what work for me.
And, honestly, I’m working hard, but I am far from perfect.
I still throw sensible eating to the wind from time to time, and I sleep through my workout upon occasion. But, as my lifestyle guru Gretchen Rubin says, “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” Learning this lesson has helped me immensely.
My life has changed. Because now the healthy, nutritious, active choice is the every day, not the once in a while.
The best part of losing weight hasn’t been losing the weight. The best part is the new life I’ve created in the process.
Exercise is now a priority, not a line item on my time budget that’s constantly getting rescheduled. Junk foods like highly processed crackers and candy are now the treats they are meant to be instead of daily snacks. My brain is less sluggish in the afternoon; my fingers are quicker across the keyboard.
My life is better — and not because I am skinnier. It’s because I’m stronger.