Pouring from the pandemic teapot

Like everyone in 2020, I’ve had my ups and downs through the last nine months. There are times I slip the loops of my face mask on without blinking and just go about my business. Other days I make it all the way to the work elevator before realizing I’ve forgotten the mask completely. That feels like realizing your bathing suit top has slipped off, you know? Embarrassing. Wrong.

My, how quickly we can adapt.

Day-to-day life has developed its own strange rhythms. Though I miss plenty about our “old” lives (seeing my grandparents for more than a five-minute masked porch visit, for example), I’ve been trying to focus on everything for which I’m grateful. I have an entirely new appreciation for teachers and daycare providers. I marvel at the resilience of my children, especially my sensory-sensitive kiddo who wears a mask all day without complaint … while completing virtual kindergarten. (There’s a concept that would be amusing to explain to 2019-era me.)

Some of my optimism stems from vaccine news, of course. It’s hard not to feel hopeful with those first beams of light piercing the pitch-black of coronavirus. Hearing the phrase “vaccination roll-out plan” is definitely sigh-of-relief-worthy. We still have many miles to go before we sleep, of course. But with the recent presidential election blessedly behind us, too, I feel like the grown-ups are coming … and there might be a way out of this horrible mess.

Until then, I’ve been trying to focus on what I can control. I’ve recommitted to mindful eating and taken stock of my unhealthy habits. After gaining a good 10 pounds since March, I realized I was excusing all my unhealthy behaviors under the guise of being too tired or too stressed to make better choices. I joined Noom two months ago and have been examining the why of eating, rather than the what. It’s freeing to stop obsessing over calories and tracking points. I still track my meals, but it’s with a different mindset — more about portions, satisfaction, and being present. It’s been a great personal restart.

Buried in one of my daily Noom lessons was the ah-ha moment I needed to really consider why my snacking/junk-binging had gotten out of control. In all my weight-loss commitments over the years, I’d never even considered it. And it was this:

Pleasure. Joy. Tiny moments of respite. All needs I’d been ignoring or denying myself … before eventually seeking them in a bowl of ice cream at midnight, followed by the inevitable guilt.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I see that now. “Self-care” sounds like such a marketing buzzword, and I’ll admit I really thought it was a bunch of hippy-dippy bologna (name that kids’ movie!). Until I recently tried metaphorically pouring from that empty cup, anyway. Meg’s pandemic teapot? Bone dry.

So I’ve been trying to reframe my thinking about how I’m spending whatever down time I can cobble together. I need more joy. And for me? Well, that always means reading. Lately I’ve been escaping with Elizabeth Topp’s Perfectly Impossible … excellent distraction from the daily grind. On audio, I’m caught up in Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. Other recent favorites were Matthew Desmond’s incredible Evicted and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

And, of course, there’s all the prep needed to help Santa get ready for the holidays. Though it will be a much quieter year in some ways, Christmas with a 3- and 5-year-old still promises to be bright and merry. Today we unboxed special advent calendars from my mother- and father-in-law, lovingly stuffed with treats for Oliver and Hadley. Our Elf on the Shelf flew back in last weekend. I decorated more this year than I have since Ollie was born, feeling cocky enough to set out some breakables within reach of tiny hands … and excited enough to want to go a little overboard with the tinsel and twinkle lights.

This just feels like the year for it, you know? Anything that adds sparkle right now is OK by me. I’m sure you feel the same.

So happy start-of-December, friends. It’s strange … but we can still make it beautiful.

When I got gutsy — and finally lost that weight

I wasn’t sure I could do it.

And I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

I’d grown used to being the curvy girl — the one with the “pretty face.” Even as my dress size climbed through my teens and twenties, I refused to give in to self-doubt. I didn’t want to focus on my weight — even though, in reality, I already was.

When I needed larger jeans, I bought them.

When I wanted to have a second cupcake, I did.


Christmas cupcake


I’d gotten listless, cranky, easily tired or sick. But I wasn’t a woman accustomed to depriving herself or scaling back. I was afraid to address the issue of my climbing weight because I “didn’t want to obsess about it,” as I told my fiancé. The idea of a weight loss program where I’d have to track points — and be held accountable for everything that passed through my lips — intimidated the heck out of me. I played it off as an annoyance, but the truth?

The truth was that I was scared.

The idea of joining Weight Watchers* had entered my mind years before, mostly as a method of control, but I shunned it because I was afraid my “last-ditch effort” to get healthy with the program wouldn’t work . . . and where would I be then?

I’d tried the gym, sweating miserably on a treadmill and bored out of my skull. I’d briefly embraced Zumba classes, trekking out on weeknights to dance with coworkers until an injury sidelined a friend . . . and I used her absence as an excuse to bail.

I went through a phase where I upped my veggie intake, tried to scale back on eating out, stepped away from my favorite hobby — baking — so we wouldn’t have so many goodies hanging around.

Nothing worked. After a while, I always slipped back into my old routines.

I just didn’t have the right tools.

Though I’m probably going to come across as a Weight Watchers disciple, I really feel passionate about the program — because it changed my life. WW became my new home-away-from-home in mid-January 2013, the day after a minor car crash rocked my world. No one was hurt, thankfully, but it was my first real accident — and it shook me to my core. Plagued by sudden “what ifs?” and anxiety, I suddenly knew it was time to get serious . . . about my life.

I’d been engaged for less than a month, heavier than I’d ever been, and suddenly dealing with two weddings to plan — mine and my sister’s. As I talked with insurance companies about my car accident and tried not to imagine what would have happened if the truck that hit me had been going just a little faster on a dark night, I began to process my impending move from my parents’ house while my fiancé and I simultaneously discussed guest lists and wedding venues.

I was overwhelmed. When Spencer started talking about weight loss, I felt emotionally exhausted — and not ready to even try. I almost let those little fires, those anxieties, keep me from ever stepping foot into Weight Watchers. But when my fiancé suggested going to a meeting “just to try it out,” something told me to go.

It took guts for me to walk into that first meeting — to finally admit I wanted to change. I was so afraid of losing confidence, of “admitting defeat” about my physical self, that I resisted the idea of needing to get healthy.

But I’d seen family members and friends felled by illness. I had my own health scare a month earlier — at a time when I should have been celebrating my engagement. At 28, I knew my body wasn’t going to simply “bounce back” from poor decisions.

It was time.

To everyone’s shock — especially my own — I embraced Weight Watchers with a vigor typically reserved for religion. From the moment I was handed the tools to make better decisions about my food and my life, I gained a sense of confidence. Instead of deprived, I felt empowered.

Tracking my food came naturally, lending a sense of control to an area of my life that had felt haphazard for so long. I rediscovered my love for fruit and vegetables, especially apples, and learned new ways to prepare them. I started (healthy) snacking.


Apple


I’d been worried I’d become “obsessed” with what I was eating, tracking everything to a T . . . and I did.

But it’s been awesome.

Where once I’d eat a sleeve of cookies and feel guilty all night, I learned to have two, track them and move on with my day. I hadn’t realized all the negative self-talk I’d been foisting upon myself, making less-healthy decisions and then berating myself for them.

Portion control became my best friend. I educated myself on smarter choices, on the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, on all the little choices I thought were good for me that were actually a form of self-sabotage. In short, I’d been eating way too much — and out of emotion. Food was love, and food was comfort. I ate until I felt full to bursting because . . . that was just what I did.

I had to retrain myself. Retrain my body, retrain my brain.

It hasn’t been easy. It took patience, dedication, discipline. Food had been my drug—my crutch—for so long, and there were times it took a Herculean effort (and literally sitting on my hands) to resist reaching for the bread basket.

But I kept with it, never missing a Wednesday weigh-in, because I knew I was working toward the best possible goal: getting healthy for myself, my family and my soon-to-be husband.

When I took a step back (and I did), I learned to be gentle with myself. To be patient.

When I gained some weeks, I chose to remember I was in this for a lifetime — and that rises and falls were inevitable.

That’s the beauty of Weight Watchers — and why it worked for me: I’m not on a diet. I didn’t start the program with a stopping point in mind, figuring at some mystical point I’d be “done.” Being healthy means you’re never “done” . . . but I didn’t realize that the tiny changes I was making were adding up to a complete reboot of my relationship with food.

Some folks assumed I was losing weight for the wedding, a natural thought in our “Say Yes to the Dress” culture. It was easier to let them think I was another image-conscious bride than to explain the truth: that my engagement was merely the wake-up call I needed to realize the rest of my life was waiting, and I didn’t need to bring all those extra pounds into it. It was about so much more than a white gown.


Hands and dress


I dropped 4 lbs. in the first month, amazed to see the number on the scale sliding down. I’d grown so used to cringing at the doctor’s office, the only time I ever weighed myself, that wanting to peer at those digits was a new feeling.

I tried on and bought a wedding dress in March, already 10 pounds lighter than when I’d started — but I’d have to leave it for alterations in August after losing three dress sizes.

On Dec. 11, almost exactly 11 months since I started the program, I officially hit my goal weight: a number that placed me below the overweight zone for the first time in my adult life. I’ve lost 34 lbs. since Jan. 16, which makes my fingers tingle as I type.

But that’s really just a number.


Weight loss grid

View More: http://birdsofafeatherphotos.pass.us/megan-and-spencer-wedding


What have I really lost? My guilt. My awkwardness. My fear of having my photo taken and pasted on Facebook for all the world to see, wondering how much old friends and acquaintances are judging my appearance. Never one obsessed with looks, it pains me to admit how much I worried about what others thought of my body . . . but I did.

And what did I gain? Confidence. Swagger. Comfort. Peace. A sense of control that was so lacking in my everyday life—the idea that I’m not ruled by food, though I can still enjoy it (and do). If anything, I enjoy food more now — because I’m making better choices, ones that make me happy. Because I don’t eat pumpkin pie twice a week, my rare indulgence tastes sweeter than the sweetest thing in the world.

I feared weight loss would be all about deprivation. That I’d have to starve myself, get angry with myself, berate myself. That I’d feel so much worse before I’d feel better.

But I feel awesome. I’ve felt motivated and empowered from the beginning. For finally doing something instead of just talking, talking, and for committing to my health.

For committing to myself.

Standing here at the “finish line,” I know my journey is really just beginning — and I feel far more than 34 lbs. lighter. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders, literally and metaphorically, and if I’d known I could feel this good? Well, I would have done this years ago.

It started with a single step: acknowledging that I wanted to change. And with the encouragement and support of my husband, family and friends, I just kept taking tiny steps toward one happy Megan.

But it was a solitary journey, too: one I began for myself.

And I am proud. Very proud.

If you’re thinking about tackling a challenge and getting gutsy in 2014, remember that the time is now. Every cliché you’ve ever heard about committing to yourself and being worth it is absolutely true. You are worth it, and you can do it. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

Be your own biggest fan . . .

. . . and if you’re looking for a sign, as they say?


This is it


Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. This is my entry in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Contest.
To get involved and share your own gutsy story,
check out this post for contest details.


*This post was not sponsored by Weight Watchers — I’m just very passionate about the program. All opinions are my own. Though I was not asked to nor compensated for sharing my thoughts, clicking on a Weight Watchers link and signing up for the program may grant me a referral credit.