Looking Backward (and Finding Motivation)

Looking backward in life can be dangerous.  It can lead to revisiting past hurts and disappointments, it can lead to sadness over lost opportunities.  It can be a very negative experience.  However, looking backward can also be a tool for measuring success.

I’ve spent 2014 making some very large changes in my life.  This is the year that I finally grabbed the tiger by the tail and got serious about making my health a priority.  With at least 167 pounds to lose, getting healthy is no small proposition.  I’d spent many years as an obese or morbidly obese individual.  I have health conditions that make it more difficult to lose weight.  I’d convinced myself that because I wasn’t yet diabetic and my blood pressure was only marginally high, I was “healthy fat.”

I’ve lost (and regained) over 100 pounds twice before in my life.  Looking back, I’m convinced that things really are going to be different this time, and the key is that I have a completely different mindset.  This time, rather than viewing the changes I must make as temporary measures necessary to effect a change, I am changing my lifestyle for good.

I’ve lost 70 pounds through a combination of diet and exercise.  I don’t follow a prescribed diet.  I have completely eliminated certain foods because they actually make me ill, and not because a book says I have to eliminate them to lose weight.  I have incorporated regular exercise, I log every mouthful of food, and I weigh myself 1-2 times per month.

Getting to this milestone has taken seven months.  Historically, this is the time in the process where I have started backsliding – and ultimately failing in my efforts to get healthy.

I will admit that I came close to throwing in the towel after an injury set me back.  I went a week with little exercise.  Instead of finding an alternative, I found excuses.  Fortunately, a post came across my Facebook feed that reminded me that the key to success is often looking at the progress you have made instead of the distance left to travel.

I am a firm believer that life should be lived looking forward instead of back, but I now realize that there are times for reflection.  As a result, I did an exercise that I should have done at the outset of this journey: I made a list of all of the things that my prior weight prevented.  I wanted to be able to:

  • Get off the floor without help
  • Ride a roller coaster
  • Fasten the seat belt in my husband’s old corvette without help
  • Cross my legs
  • Climb the stairs without being out of breath
  • Put on a pair of pantyhose without a struggle
  • Sit in a restaurant booth without a struggle
  • Fit into an airplane seat and not have to worry about “overlap” or a seatbelt extension
  • Sit in a seat in the auditorium at my kids’ school without having to hold my breath

Now, even though I am only 42% to my “goal weight,” I have managed to accomplish every single one of those things.  Additionally, I have run a 5k race and a 10k race. I have lost 4 jeans sizes.  I am off my blood pressure medicine.  I am mostly pain free. I have achieved things I did not think were possible for me.

Today, I’m crafting a new “bucket list” for the second half of this journey.  Before I am finished, I will:

  • Ride the roller coaster I couldn’t fit on this summer (the one with the smaller seat belts)
  • Run a half marathon (I’m already registered)
  • Do a push up
  • Do a pull up
  • Shop in a store that doesn’t specialize in “plus sizes”
  • Go on a challenging hike

The number on the scale has ceased to be my primary motivation.  If it was the only thing motivating me, I would have given up when it spent a month parked at the same spot.  I now realize it is only one way of marking progress.  When I look at the monumental task of losing 167 pounds, it is far too easy to discount the progress I have made.  Seventy pounds is a lot of weight, but when you view it next to 167, it doesn’t seem like I’ve made much progress.

When I look back, though, at the pictures I took at my top weight, and when I try on the once-tight pants that now fall off and pool around my ankles, it puts things into a different perspective.  When I cross my legs, fasten my seat belt and sit on any chair without worrying about whether it will hold me, I see how my life has changed.

I would encourage anyone who is embarking on a weight loss or fitness journey to make her own bucket list.  Take pictures and measurements, too.  There will be times when the scale isn’t budging, or you are tired and sore and hungry and you need to remind yourself where you were and how far you’ve come.

I started my journey without a road map.  I managed to pass a few landmarks that I would have celebrated had I known where I was headed.

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