My wake-up call from a deadbeat boyfriend
Years ago, as my then-new boyfriend and I strolled along Santa Monica beach at sunset, I announced, “So, I lost 12 pounds and now I’m skinny.” He muttered, “I didn’t notice. And you’re not skinny.” At that moment, I wasn’t sure if the earth would swallow me whole or my boyfriend should be zapped off the planet Star Trek style. My feelings were hurt, but later, as I reevaluated his statement, I realized 12 pounds was just the first step toward my weight-loss goal, and although I was on the road to success, I had many more miles to travel.
Truthfully, I didn’t realize I needed to lose weight until I had an argument with my doctor, who claimed I had gained yet another 13 unhealthy pounds. After the doctor proved my weight had in fact increased substantially by showing me my chart, I had to admit things had gotten out of control.
Researching my next step, I asked a friend for help. After learning that she weighed herself daily, recorded her daily food intake and received B vitamin shots, I bought a scale and a notebook, and invested in some vitamins.
I also committed to walking every day, and started with 10 minutes during my weekday planning breaks at school. In Eat Move Sleep, Tom Rath says, “Small decisions—about how you eat, move and sleep each day—count more than you think.” I focused on baby steps I could manage and hoped they would add up to something more. Rath continued, “Being active throughout the day is what keeps you healthy.” I added more movement to my days. Eventually I increased my exercise regime and walked most of my lunch break or after school. Sometimes I would walk across campus rather than sending an email. Staff members were so surprised to see me that I almost always got what I needed immediately.
Eating at work was a huge issue. I taught nearly 300 elementary school students and it seemed to always be someone’s birthday. Children gleefully brought calorie-laden cupcakes or cookies to share at the parties. It was difficult to say, “No. I won’t share your special day. Don’t give me a cookie,” so I ultimately learned to accept treats and throw them in the trash.
In Skinnygirl Solutions, author Bethenny Frankel’s advice is to seek help if you need it due to emotional eating. She writes, “If you are prone to emotional eating, and especially if you are a secret eater or a closet eater, you might need to talk to a professional… Explore the emotions behind it and think about why this happens.” It was true! I’d gained weight while eating on autopilot. When I was lonely and depressed I ate dessert to feel better. I never considered myself a binge eater, but if I’m being honest, I ate ice cream from the carton while lying in bed on Saturday mornings.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in America 6 to 15 million people binge eat out of control every month. Author Rhona Epstein shares her personal experiences in her spiritual book, Food Triggers: “Growing up, sugar was my drug of choice,” she writes. “It was like heroin for me.” But ultimately, she concluded, what she needed and wanted most was “not in the refrigerator… What you need and want most are often the things that haven’t come to you easily or at all: love, belonging, security, success, fulfilling relationships, meaning.”
When I was dating the boyfriend who belittled my initial weight loss, I was ready for a change. I had researched my challenge, made resolutions and intended to sustain them, and what I discovered carried me through our painful breakup. I found new things to do on Saturday mornings, and as I continued walking, the pounds slowly melted off. Losing weight is no longer my primary goal. Rather I endeavor to have a healthy lifestyle with balance in mind, body, and spirit. And I’m done with bad boyfriends.
Lisa Ellen Niver lost more than 60 pounds during a sabbatical in Asia in 2009. She has kept off the weight and now hoops on beaches around the world. Follow her travels at We Said Go Travel or Science Isn’t Scary.