"It's never too late to be what you might have been."
That quote opens up The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, one of my favorite books to read aloud to my third graders. This week, I will once again introduce a group of children to Ivan, the true-ish story of a gorilla kept in a shopping mall circus for 27 years before being released to the Atlanta Zoo. Ivan's story has changed me, each time I read it. As I'm about to embark on his story once again, those words inspire new thoughts.
As usual, words and parts of my life swirl together and this quote came to mind as I read my friend Sharyn's post in Our Healthy Home, a Facebook group I blogged about last week- it's a place to focus on healthy habits as a family, without a direct focus on weight loss or selling/buying a program. Sharyn has lost over 100 pounds and thus, changed her life. This morning she asked us to consider our "why"-"Why do you want to be healthier? Why is it important to you?"
I knew a line or two comment would not suffice for this topic.
I've written about this issue before. Many times, I guess. Weight and too much of it has been a theme in my life from the start. I was the baby who ate pastina with two hands. The tubby two year old eating cake with a crown on, frozen in time in a picture that reveals my chub spilling over my bathing suit. My first Weight Watchers meeting was in third grade. I remember having to order the "diet platter" at the diner- a burger without a bun and cottage cheese (I can weep thinking about it). Thin, watery, Alba shakes while my sister got to drink creamy Carnation Instant Breakfast (she needed to gain weight. Sigh.) Dresses with elastic cut to allow my arms to fit through. Everyone's intentions were very good- to help me be healthier and thinner.
But, what I took in was a feeling of shame. That I am out of control. That I cannot be trusted with food. That pleasure and tasty foods are bad and to be "good" you need to drink plain water and eat celery sticks. A good, hard-working student, I constantly failed the food test. I just could not seem to get the hang of self control and therefore had to wear "pretty plus" jeans.
At any particular age in my life, I can tell you what program I was or wasn't on. Weight Watchers many times. A diet program called "New You" when I was in 7th grade. No carbs in college. Nutritionist plan during my engagement and then again after my son was born.
At some point after I had my daughter, I just decided I could not do it anymore. Could not face dieting- counting points or calories or amounts of food. I could not take the deprivation and the feeling of failing. What was so wrong about a cup of ice cream with my children on a hot day? Why did I have to feel either guilty or deprived, depending on my choice of what to eat?
And yet. Without a "plan", weight did creep in. There was the day my little girl ran up a hill and the road, with cars traveling on it, was on the other side. Would she run down it, into harm's way? I could not trudge up the hill fast enough. Out of shape, and petrified. She was fine, but was I?
And then there's the confidence factor. When you feel everyone looks better than you, when you have to pay so much more money to shop at a store with clothes big enough for you, when you look years older than you are because of the extra weight...is this really living your best life? Fulfilling your potential? Being the you that you might have been, if you had made the necessary changes?
So, here I am. Thinking I have believed all my life that I am an out-of-control, "bad" eater who cannot stop herself from eating. And thinking that maybe it is my beliefs about myself -who I am and what I can be- that are holding me back. Maybe it's not too late to become a person who lives in balance- who seeks healthy, nourishing foods and can also have a cup of ice cream with my kids on a hot day. Maybe I can learn to see eating well as a gift I give myself instead of punishment for being a person with no will power.
My Why? I want to be the happiest, prettiest, healthiest me possible. I want to still be what I might have been- I want to shake off feelings of shame and failure in this area of my life. I want to be able to run up a hill if I need to. I want my family to be proud of me. I want to be proud of me. That's my why.