I went through a long period of time where I felt embarrassed about sharing my weight loss story with people. It wasn't about the weight loss part – I’m proud of that – it was more about admitting to being over 300 pounds every time I tell the story. I’m over that now. I’m at the point where I feel like shouting from rooftops, going on TV, etc. I have realized that my story is valuable particularly because there’s nothing especially astounding about it. A lot of weight loss stories involve some incredible athletic feat, or rapid change but mine has been slow and steady. The longest race I've run has been a 5k (although sights are set on a half marathon).
I didn't keep a very accurate record of my weight loss, so I don’t know exactly how long it took to hit certain weight loss milestones. I wish I did, I get asked that a lot. Most people seem surprised though that the 170 pound total loss took about four years. Our culture is so used to Biggest Loser and gastric bypass as our weight loss benchmark that we overestimate what a healthy weight loss journey looks like. I've come to realize that the most important thing I can share with people is that I achieved (and have maintained) this weight loss by changing my entire mentality about food, exercise and healthfulness. I have worked hard to make slow progress, I work even harder to maintain it, and most importantly that I love the way my life is now.
I can’t imagine a day where I’m not moving my body, eating lots of plants, and feeling good about myself. I firmly believe that anyone can get there, regardless of how much weight they need to lose or what obstacles they face. I am starting to make an effort to talk about this as much as possible, in any setting where it’s appropriate. We all share food as a common experience, and I’ve found it easy to start these conversations without being weird or preachy. In fact, my goal is to never be preachy about this. I know people can’t make lasting changes until they are ready, and I just want people to know that I will be there for them when they are.
I have a co-worker who is on a pretty amazing weight loss journey right now. She has just hit her original goal to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight and we were catching up on how she’s doing last week. She made a statement to the effect of “I’ll never be as skinny as you but...”. I had to stop her and remind her that she could do that if she wanted to. She said her whole family struggles with weight. So does a lot of mine. I am so hopeful for her because I see that she’s making lifestyle changes that are lasting. I check in with her every now and then to see how it’s going, mostly because I like to talk about that stuff.
I also try to sneak it in subtly when I do my work as a librarian. I teach students how to develop good search phrases and to pick out the most important themes from their research questions. When I give an example I always talk about how I was ready to make the switch to a plant based diet but afraid that I wouldn't be able to support my nutritional needs as an athlete, so I did research on it. I like using that as an example for a couple reasons. One is obviously that I’m spreading the message of alternative routes to health and wellness. Another is that I want my students to learn that good research skills apply to their whole lives, not just their school assignments.
There are other times I get to sneak in some plant based chat, it happens a lot at the grocery store. Sometimes people will ask me about an ingredient that I’m picking out (like jicama – no one knows what it is!), or the cashier will make a comment about how many veggies I’m buying. I actually made some gym buddies in NC by talking to grocery store cashiers! It’s awesome to connect with other people who are either focusing on health and wellness or that have that voice in the back of their head telling them that there may be a better way to do things.
Yesterday we did a charity bike ride event for Habitat for Humanity where we biked a total of 4 miles and stopped at several restaurants/bars along the way. It was a lot of fun, and we met some new people. We met some new people, and almost all of them were involved in active things like biking, soccer, running, etc. I also met a vegetarian and pescetarian It was encouraging to meet other people our age who make health and fitness a part of their lives. It makes me hopeful for the future generations! I hope that any of you reading this who are interested in health and wellness also do your best to spread the love.