I consider myself extremely fortunate. I have a large body of friends, some of whom I see in real life only a handful of times in a year, some I see twice in a decade, and some of whom I have met only in online forums. Friends from all of these categories have cheered me on as I discovered running, shed some pounds, and approached life with a renewed joy. Others aren’t part of my online universe at all.
Recently I had a meeting with one such friend. The last time I saw him, 4-5 months ago, he said, “there’s something different about you…oh, you cut off your long hair. I like it short. It looks good!” I didn’t tell him that it went beyond that – that I had shed 50+ pounds and trained for a half marathon. I simply thanked him for the compliment and we continued our meeting.
Several weeks ago business took me back to his office. This time he said, “there’s STILL something different about you. What did you do?” When I told him that I had lost nearly 100 pounds, he asked how I did it. We commiserated about growing older and expanding waistlines, elevated blood pressure and climbing blood sugar levels. The next week when I returned, his wife dropped by to see my changes for myself and to give me a huge hug.
Yesterday I saw a friend who had been missing from my real life world for five years. I was delighted that I could keep up with this young, fit woman. We climbed stairs at a museum and strolled the halls as we chatted as if we’d seen each other only the day before. At one point in the day, I mentioned how wonderful it was to be able to climb stairs without pain and without being out of breath. I mentioned that when we last saw each other, my weight had climbed to nearly 350 pounds. She said she had no idea. To her, I was just “Betty.” I was just her friend.
I’m extremely grateful for the encouragement that I receive from my online community. Some days, a comment or a like can make the difference between giving myself an excuse to have an extra snack or skipping a workout or holding myself accountable. Those friendly interactions are extremely valuable to me. Some people discovered me because I have made changes. Those people are valuable. Some people follow me because they want to make changes themselves, and I value that opportunity.
However, I know that I have a special person in my life when I can pick up after 5 years and have an afternoon where conversation flows freely. In those rare friendships, differences in age, differences in size, differences in experience don’t change the core of the bond. I was always just “Betty.” I remain just “Betty.”
I can’t imagine ever being 300+ pounds again and struggling with life the way that I did. It’s a beautiful gift to know that I had and still have so many people in my life who saw beyond the “insulation” and valued me for who I have always been inside. That kind of friend cared about me before I learned to love myself. I hope that you all have that kind of friend. I strive to be that kind of friend, as well.