Monday, May 14, 2012
Discipline sounds like a four letter word. When I tell my children I'm going to discipline them, they all groan. And yet I am simply trying to correct their behavior so they grow up to be fully functional members of society. Still, most people equate discipline with something painful. I started my journey with a desire to learn discipline because I saw my disorderly life and was disappointed. One of the highest compliments I have ever received is when a high ranking member of the company I work for looked at me, complimented me on my weight loss and said, "I admire your discipline." The reason discipline is so highly regarded is because human beings know how difficult it is to say no to the things we so desperately want and yes to sacrifice. So when we see someone achieve it, we marvel. We wish we could master it.
And yet discipline is a good thing. The slow steady drip of working ones way toward a goal is not only admirable, it is personally rewarding. I once thought that being thin wasn't worth the sacrifice of giving up my favorite baked goods. My favorite cookie is called a "Chocolate Crackle Cookie." I spent hours making the brownie like dough, forming it into little balls and rolling it in powdered sugar. I always made a double batch and refrigerated them so I could enjoy them for weeks at a time. There is nothing you can buy in the store like it. I would pile a plate high with this delectable dessert and eat them slowly until I could eat them no more. It was one of the signature pleasures of my life. I couldn't reconcile giving up that pleasure just to be thinner.
But morbid obesity is a curse. The lie those cookies told me, the lie that said, "You can't live without me" has been dissolved by this great truth: Food will never truly make me happy. It will never heal my wounds or hold me in the night. No matter how great the taste, the pleasure is fleeting. The first step in my journey was to acknowledge the power food held over me and then determine a way to fight back.
Let me be clear, I was enslaved to food. I hated the power it held over me. That is where we all must start.
We are not powerless. We hold in our mind the strength and fortitude to recognize our flaws and correct them. This process is called discipline. When I began the journey to better health I assumed I would fail because I had failed before. But I kept going because I hated the thought of giving up. The pain of my obesity was so intense that I would rather have died than stop trying. In truth, I had to come to the end of myself to discover just how strong I really was.
I recently wrote an article for my local newspaper. It is a free publication that is mailed to residents of my little town and my article was towards the end. I was pleased as punch. You see, I have a strong desire to share my story with people who share my struggles. I wrote about how I couldn't afford to go to the gym and started walking around our little town because I felt like it was the only thing I could do. I wrote about how hard it was in the beginning. The blood, sweat and tears I shed simply trying to walk around 2 blocks could fill buckets. I remember sweating bullets while pushing the stroller with my toddler in it up a gradual incline while my 8 year old son walked effortlessly next to me. I remember the sad look he gave me as I said, "This is ridiculous!" And it was.
The reaction to this article has been amazing. While I have received a lot of positive response, nothing moved me more than a woman I met at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. A thinnish woman stopped me and told me she read my article and cried. You see, I used to talk to her when I shopped at a local retail store. She said I was one of the nicest people she ever met and was so happy for my success. Then she introduced me to her morbidly obese friend. "Can you help her?"
I talked to the friend for some time. I saw her brokenness and pain. I saw a life lived less than full. I saw a hunger for change and even a little hope. I told her, "You can do it. If I can, anyone can." I saw the light in her eyes and prayed she would take that first step. Then I realized that all of my pain and suffering and success could be boiled down to that one moment, the moment I was able to encourage someone to fight for their life.
Yesterday I broke away from my daily routines, put on a tank top and went for a bike ride. I bought a new bike a month or so ago and have been putting it to good use. It was warm, around 75 or so, and sunny. There are many hills on the route I took but none so steep that I had to stop and walk. As I breathed in and out and pedaled and smiled, I felt a strong sense of euphoria. I know enough about my body to recognize adrenaline but this was different. I didn't have to alter my route to avoid hills the way I used to. I could stand and pedal up steep hills. I was able to push through any semblance of weariness and just ride. This simple bike ride was the penultimate reward for all my hard work. I honestly felt like I was flying and in that moment I realized I was truly free. I am a slave no longer.
I will always struggle to make healthy choices in regards to the food I put in my mouth. I am weak in my response to the cries of my taste buds. But I can say with all honesty that I will never be obese again. Good health is surely its own reward.
I remember something my pastor said to me years ago when my world had crumbled. He said, "Margaret, you are stronger than you know."
Now I know he was right.