Sunday, March 3, 2013

Willingness to Change

Change is an act of desperation. Knowing we have a problem may be a necessary prerequisite for change (the mental equivalent of getting our bags packed for a trip), but being willing to do something is where the journey begins. It starts in that moment when the joy of relaxing comfortably within old habits is finally outweighed by the discomfort those old habits bring. So, before I started to get healthier, I got willing.

Coming to this willingness happens differently for everyone. For some, it's a gradual process where no single moment stands out, in much the same way I can't pinpoint the actual first word either of my kids said, because their babbling slid so imperceptibly, day by day, into speech. For me, it was a single moment of clarity, like the moment I knew I wanted to marry my husband. But only one of those happened naked, and it actually wasn't the one with my husband.

A little over a year ago, I was in my bedroom getting ready for a shower when the phone rang, and everything changed. I dived across my bed naked to grab it. And in that moment of sliding across the bed toward the phone, something clicked. Whether it was the action of diving or the feeling of sheets against my skin or a combination of both, I was suddenly very aware of my body. And I was very aware that, while I had come to accept my body over the years, I didn't love it, and I hadn't been treating it with love.

I was treating this body... The one that housed me and transported me, that bore and nurtured my children, that hugged my friends and loved my husband, that communicated my thoughts and touched my world.. This useful, beautiful, completely unique and totally irreplaceable body... This great gift of life... I was treating it like so much cheap, disposable junk.

In fact, I fed it junk. I binged on sweets and chips and processed foods. I didn't exercise. I was weak and out of shape. And I had been ok with that.

Over the years, I had exhausted every option for not changing. Sure, it may have seemed like I was changing, because the numbers on the scale would go up and down. But all that meant was that I was on a roller coaster, riding in an endless loop. I would try exercising and dieting for a while. And when I'd lost enough weight to satisfy myself, I'd think, "Whew! Glad that's over! Now that I'm here, I'll never have to do that again." Which guaranteed that I would do it. Over and over again.

Eventually, I gave up. I decided to accept my body as it was. After all, being overweight is associated with a lower mortality rate than having a normal weight and being obese and fit is healthier than being thin and unfit. Which would have been fine if I had actually been fit. But I wasn't. Still, it was a way to stop the roller coaster, even if it only meant sitting still on the tracks.

But suddenly, I was sliding across my bed naked, reaching for the phone, and knowing I couldn't keep living the way I had, because the world looked so different now. I was willing to climb off the roller coaster entirely and try a new path, one that I had a chance to sustain every day for the rest of my life. And one that, for now, includes chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.


I believe we grow through shared stories. I've shared mine, please use the comments to share your own story of finding the willingness to change...

1 comment:

  1. I've been at odds with my body since probably first grade or so, when I finally began to perceive my mom's own struggles ("good/bad" foods, "I shouldn't be eating this!", hating anyone seeing her in a swimsuit) and apply them to myself. It felt like there was a right way and a wrong way to do things, and that lovability was connected to that. Then I hit puberty and it felt like I had no control whatsoever over what was happening to my body; thus ensued the usual adolescent crap with overeating, undereating, weird fad diets, too much exercise, an attempt at girdle-buying -- and all for a body that the pictorial record shows was perfectly fine. College ... well, if I hadn't been at peak metabolism due to my age, I'd've graduated with forty extra pounds of booze/pizza/weed-munchie fat instead of just an extra ten or so. Anyway, through the usual ups and downs of early adult life (and the "extremes" were really only about 15 pounds apart, but I'm short so it's pretty visible), the one constant was that I was fighting myself. Always. And on the weight upswings, I felt like a loser at life, no matter what else was going on and how good it all was. What finally changed me was pregnancy, in my mid-thirties -- a sudden revelation, an epiphany that this body? This body was good for something! It knew what to do! Why hate this perfect machine? And that was the start of being kinder to myself. I remember thinking, a day or two out of the hospital, that I was going to give it one month without thinking of working out, one month where I would just do the best I could to feed myself so I could feed the baby well, and then re-assess. It was like magic -- my body was at its literal, factual worst-looking, but for the first time in my life I didn't hate it, I didn't pummel my own soft gut or stare disgustedly at my side view in the mirror. I just cuddled and nursed the baby, went walking with him out in the city, let go of the adversarial relationship with my own physical being and started a new one based on respect and kindness. Working out has become a pleasure, a challenge, an investment in my own and my kid's future; food isn't good or bad anymore -- just tasty or not, worth the calories or not, etc. (whole new classification system!). It's been six years, and there've been bad days/weeks along the way, but this new relationship I'm in with me is a good one. And I think it's no coincidence that my body is in its best shape since I was on the track team in high school -- my choices are now mostly TOWARD a positive outcome instead of furiously churning AWAY from the "bad" outcomes, which has made all the difference.