“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
So here I am coming back to SparkPeople a year and a half after going missing. At first, I didn’t come back because I was embarrassed to be starting over again. It’s hard to fall off the wagon in such a public way. I’ve started and stopped more times than I count. I lose. I gain. I lose again and back it comes. But I’ve decided that’s OK.
We celebrate (as we should) these success stories of people who have these amazing transformations and most of us hope to emulate them. We pour over there before and after photos and imagine that will be us someday. But what if it’s not? Or what if it takes us ten years to get there? What I find much more powerful and useful these days are the stories of failure.
How do I come to terms with constant failure? What do other people do when they fail? That’s when I realized failure is part of the process and it’s actually progress.
I’m so much smarter emotionally, mentally and spiritually since the first time I tried to lose weight decades ago. Here are some things I’ve learned in all my years of “dieting” that can never be undone no matter what the scale says:
1. I know what exercise feels like
This sounds weird but to someone who has never really exercised, this was one of the biggest challenges when I started. It's scary to be out of breath or to have sore feet or feel your legs burn. It's intimidating to use a new machine and think you might fall off or rip off a limb. lol. It can be very uncomfortable and really feel impossible to exercise. But I've gotten used to being uncomfortable. I know to some extent how to ignore the physical misery. That's important because no matter your level of fitness, it will always be hard or uncomfortable for it to work.
2. I've learned how to exercise
When I made my first attempt at exercising in my early 20s, I had no idea what the heck to do. I thought you had to run or go crazy at the gym for hours on end. All my very thin and fit friends were good at this and I thought I had to be exactly like them to be exercising properly. Of course I wasn't like them so I felt like an idiot, embarrassed and ashamed and I gave up. I didn't realize that "exercise" just means you are increasing your heart rate through some physical activity and making yourself stronger in some way. Once I made this connection, it opened so many doors for me. I no longer felt "less than."
3. I’m stronger than I thought
I learned this when I ran a half marathon in 2005. My sister encouraged me to join a local running group with her. They help you train, no matter your size or what shape you happen to be in. I was amazed as week after week my miles increased. I cried when I saw the finish line. I couldn't believe I did it.
It really bolstered my self-confidence and made me brave enough to try new activities. I would have never even considered boot camp had I not done this half marathon. I would have thought I was too fat and too out of shape for that. It's true I can't always do everything in boot camp and most people are better than me but I get stronger every week and that's what matters to me.
4. Counting calories is important
Let me just start by saying I HATE counting calories but it not only works to lose weight, it holds me accountable to myself. It educates me on what I'm putting in my mouth. I think twice before ordering that extra side of ranch or extra cheese. It seems harmless but when I realize how many extra calories I'm adding, I question whether I really want it. Counting calories is a way to take control in a situation that can feel so out of control.
5. Moderation is key
Last time around, I got really burned out on exercising. I started to resent the gym because it was boring and cut into my family and friend time. I felt extremely exhausted too. My body just got run down.
It's easy to be all gung ho and come out of the gate sprinting but that kind of pace can wear you down quick. This time around I'm going slower. I don't stress as much and I've tried to incorporate "exercise" into my day. I still go to the gym twice a week but I also walk, do Zumba, swim and my boot camp. It's way more fun and these are activities I can do with friends and family. I'm a social person and any program that makes me feel isolated isn't going to last.
6. Rallying people to my cause is important
I've gained the confidence to build a support system around my efforts and let go of those who don't support me or try to sabotage me. I have all of you, which is awesome. I have some great family and friends too. When I'm trying to lose weight, I tell them and they are right there to help. Instead of going to dinner, we go for walks. They don't badger me to drink. They share ideas with me and listen to me ramble on about calories and sports bras. haha. I would have never reached out when I first started this.
7. I know how to eat better
I grew up primarily eating Mexican food (yum) but it's all very fattening and greasy. I had no idea what "healthy" eating looked like. I've done weight watchers several times and through that I really learned about healthy, balanced eating and the importance of portion control. I now know how to prepare healthy meals and snacks. My favorite part of this is that I've passed this on to my son. He has knowledge at his age I never did and is not overweight like me.
8. I'm comfortable in my own skin
This is so important. No program will work or stick if I don't embrace who I am both good and bad. The more I do this, the more I learn my weaknesses and how I can improve but I no longer look at myself and feel ashamed. I'm kinder to myself and could only get there through this process of failure. Forgiveness is powerful especially when you are forgiving yourself but it's a skill that is mostly learned from f***ing up.