She always sat alone in the back row, held herself very stiffly, and generally exuded a sense of despair or even self-hatred. Our group leader would make her talk. What came out was an almost inarticulate stream of how hard it was. Why was food such an issue for her? Why couldn't she just eat whatever she wanted and stay a healthy weight like everyone else could? Why was this still such a struggle? The group leader would ask more questions, and she'd share the stupid food and exercise decisions she was making lately. He'd also ask her to share how much she had lost. She was more than 30 pounds down.
One time, she tried to cut herself off as she didn't think this was helpful to others. The group leader stopped her, said it was very helpful and asked everyone to agree with him. Now, I didn't find it particularly helpful, but I wasn't so self-absorbed that I would say that. I was struggling to begin my weight loss journey. I did not find it comforting to know that a woman could lose 30 pounds and still struggle so much. I also thought she looked fine. What was she so upset about? Perhaps she was a size 12 or 10, but she should just love the way she looked. I considered myself a big girl, and she was not. What did she know about struggle?
Since then, this woman has appeared periodically and done the same thing. About one year after I initially wished she would stop complaining as it wasn't helping my motivation to keep on keeping on, she was more than 50 pounds down and I was more than 30 pounds down. We both looked like different women, but we still could find ourselves struggling on this journey.
You may have noticed that I'm about now where she was a year ago. Since February 23 of this year, I have bounced between 31 and 33 pounds down. This is not a bad place to be, but I have found myself struggling more and more with what I see as a lack of progress. This struggle has included moments of despair that may have bordered on self-hatred and some stupid decisions about food and exercise. At my last meeting, I realized I was becoming like that woman who I thought was a whining drama queen the previous year. Once I got over the shock, I realized how smart the group leader had been to make her talk. I tried to analyze what she had said a year before and what I could learn from it.
I think the biggest lesson I got from thinking about her was that she got through it. She continued working at her journey and managed to pass the fifty pounds down mark. Based on how she acted in the meetings she attended on Tuesday night, it was not always easy. It could be a huge struggle, but it was one she worked through and continued her forward progress to her goal weight.
I've known for a long time that there is not an end to this journey. I also knew that I can't return to my previous eating habits, but I'm not sure I realized how much of a struggle at times this journey would still be emotionally and mentally. I started this year with a goal to be more optimistic about this and was successful at that for awhile. I guess I thought that meant I would struggle less with my thoughts and feelings. It's become very apparent in the last month or so that this is not the case. Yes, the issues may be different, but the struggle is not.
So, one of the lessons I need to accept is that I will continue to struggle at times, and that's ok. What saved me the previous times I really struggled in the past 16 months of this journey was that I promised myself I'd give it my all for a year no matter what. This promise was made in January 2009 and renewed in January 2010, and it's still the best thing I've ever done to help me be successful at this journey.
Now, I still need additional help on some days. I've made some really stupid decisions concerning food and exercise this past week and have been searching for signs that would help me boost my motivation to do what I know I need to do. Forcing myself to think about how much I could learn from the drama queen's struggles and triumphs helped. Friday morning, Sally posted in a comment the suggestion to look at Romans 7:15. I did, and it was such a powerful reminder that this struggle to do the good things I say I want to do is practically a part of the human condition. It was getting easier to think these struggles are ok.
Friday night, I watched Bill Moyers' last episode of his show on PBS as he really is retiring this time. His last guest was some storyteller named Barry Lopez. Bill and Barry had quite the philosophical conversation about the meaning of life. Barry shared a story of how a dying woman gave her daughter a copy of Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning as the mother thought her daughter was finally old enough to know that the best reaction to tragedy is not self-destruction. This took my breath away.
I have reached the point that I look at my past obesity and struggles with food as a kind of self-destruction, and it's one I very much want to stop. I want to be as kind, caring and compassionate towards myself as I can be to others. This reminder was the final piece of motivation I needed to kick myself in the butt, stop making stupid food and exercise decisions and keep on keeping on.
I don't expect my Tuesday night weigh in to go very well, but my emotional and mental journey is ultimately more important than my physical one. I'm back in a good place no matter what the scale says Tuesday night. Yes, I will struggle at various points for the rest of my life, but that is ok. I know I can keep on keeping on. Furthermore, I know how to make sure I incorporate stuff into my life that helps me keep on keeping on. My journey continues, and overall, it'll be triumphant.
What helps you when you are struggling? What can you do to make sure your own journey is triumphant?
Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/healthywrtr