“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins, but by how they can recover when they fall.” (Serena Williams)
I haven’t really committed to a “New Years Resolution” in a long time but I really feel the need to draw a solid line between 2019 and 2020 in at least one area of my life – WEIGHT LOSS. Transforming my entire being through natural, healthy weight loss has pretty much defined my existence since late 2016. I have transformed inside and out, learned a ton of life lessons and developed new knowledge, skills and abilities that have allowed me to positively impact my own life and help others do the same. The thing about a weight loss journey though is that people mainly see the beginning and the ending . . . but the “in-between” is when the individual is really putting in the work. This actually goes for any type of major life transformation, not just weight loss. Well, 2019 was definitely an in-between year for this part of my life.
Don’t get me wrong. 2019 was amazing in so many ways. I married Alex Knowles, my best buddy, my heart, my confidant, and my biggest cheerleader. A close family member conquered a very serious illness. I watched other family members get healthy, travel and win awards. I embraced a whole food, plant-based lifestyle and learned to eat like a vegan. I had the opportunity to motivate and inspire hundreds of people through public speaking engagements. I reconnected with family and friends, and listened to several really good books . . . and so much more.
Yep . . . but I REALLY struggled with managing my weight throughout the year in 2019. In fact, all in the same year my weight fluctuated from one point when I was literally 19 pounds away from my final scale goal, to now being 53 pounds away from that goal. It was always subtle but the fluctuation was consistent.
So what happened? LOTS. I’ll give you the short version but I could really peel apart these layers and talk you through all of it because I learned a ton about myself while gaining weight in 2019. Basically, I sort of lost my footing and fell back into a cycle of using food to manage stress. I never strayed from the vegan lifestyle and most of the time I didn’t do any big, major crazy eating, but I snacked and munched my way up and up and up. I started having a little taste of this and a little taste of that. My meal portion sizes increased and I experimented with a lot of vegan treats instead of maintaining a simple, clean approach to eating . . . and lots of other little examples that I can share later. Just like the little steps can result in weight loss, the little changes can also result in weight gain.
Now, that’s a snapshot of the FOOD aspect of my experience, but really it was more psychological. I was using food and snacking as a way to manage my stress. Ironically, a lot of my stress in 2019 was related to very positive things happening in my life . . . but stress is stress and I allowed it to affect me. Stress throws off all of your body’s responses and I saw that happen with me. I “felt” different when I was under so much stress. I “thought” differently. My priorities shifted because I allowed my ever-growing “to-do” list to throw my life way out of balance. Gradually, the frequency of my workouts decreased as well, and I’m someone who loves going to the gym. I love the sense of community. I love working out and I love seeing the changes in how my body looks and responds . . . but I allowed other things, other perceived “musts” to come first.
Earlier in the year, I hit my lowest number ever on the scale. That was soooo exciting and I was incredibly proud of myself but within a week or two, the scale started heading back in the other direction and the fluctuations continued after that, with a slow, steady upward trend. I really wanted to avoid the scale but I didn’t. Instinctively, I knew that I needed to remain plugged in, even though things weren’t going as I had hoped or expected. I stayed in the game. Even though I was hanging on by my bloody fingernails, I stayed in the game, I stayed with my trainer, I stayed in the gym, and I continued to prep healthy vegan meals. Yep, I did a lot of things right and, at the same time, I did a lot of things wrong.
Prior to all of this, I used to step on the scale with excitement, but in 2019 that turned to a feeling of trepidation every Monday morning – but I still did it. I faced the fear and also maintained my accountability by reporting my numbers to my personal trainer . . . every . . . single . . . week. There were many weeks when I thought I had done pretty well but I still gained. There were other weeks when I knew I had been off-course and the scale reflected that. I was proud of myself though because I always faced it. I didn’t run from it. It would have been easy to just stop weighing in and slip into avoidance, but I wanted to remain aware and awake and fully cognizant of what was happening. Oh . . . did I mention that I was also planning a wedding during this time and fitting into a wedding gown? I digress . . .
Although I was working out more like four times per week compared to what had previously been more like six to ten times per week, those workouts sort of saved me. Working with my trainer and interacting with other athletes at the gym has helped me maintain my sense of community, accountability and fun. It also helped me keep my body pretty toned. In spite of my 2019 weight gain, I am pretty much still fitting into most of my clothes – even my size 8 jeans. Whew! My winter jacket is getting a little tight around the hips though and some other things are feeling a little snug, but I’m about to turn things around so I’m not in panic mode about any of that – and I purposely never held on to larger sizes as a safety net. They are gone, gone, gone so I have no choice but to get myself back on track!
. . . which brings me to my next point. I’m okay. I don’t hate myself. My wedding gown fit for the wedding. I’ve managed to love and enjoy my body at every phase throughout this part of the journey and . . . most importantly . . . I never gave up. I have never stopped believing that I am going to hit my weight loss goal. One thing I realized about myself is that the changes I have made over the past more than three years is that they are real. I really have transformed. The changes I’ve made are truly lifestyle changes. Now, I definitely exploited them and pushed them to the limit in 2019, but I’m still the new me and there’s something really comforting about that that makes me feel really proud of myself and secure in who I am as an athlete, as a woman and as someone capable of helping others . . . which is part of why I’m sharing this.
I definitely had some low moments as I watched the scale inch up and down, and mostly up, especially through the second half of last year. I felt emotionally worn at times, but I never felt like giving up. Giving up never even seemed like an option. I never felt completely defeated. I still feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin at times because I got used to being physically smaller, but that discomfort did not turn into self-loathing or anything like that. I have learned how to dig deep. I have learned how to not panic. I have learned how to encourage myself, and I have learned how to fall, how to fail, and how to get back up.
Maybe I needed this to happen. Maybe there were more lessons for me to learn, and to share. I still have an amazing trainer and now a loving and supportive husband to boot, but just like the caterpillar in the cocoon, there are some things that you have do alone. They are there for me no doubt, but it’s my work. I am the one who has to put in the work, and for me part of that work involves figuring out how to manage my stress without food . . . figuring out how to structure my life in a way that allows me to keep my health and fitness as my number one top priority.
Creating my new vision board for 2020 was a start. Writing this and sharing it is a start, but now it’s time to get to work. Discipline is my superpower and consistency is one of my most prized weapons. Today is the first day of the new year and I finally had a day of serenity . . . a day where I laid out a plan and followed it . . . all day, and I can honestly say that that feeling of not being out of control felt better than any yummy delicious vegan treats taste. Those treats aren’t going anywhere. They will be there when I get on the other side of this. I’m tired of being in weight loss mode. I’m ready to truly experience what maintenance feels like and I’m ready to shift my focus to sculpting and strengthening my body, and competing in some powerlifting competitions . . . but I’m glad for this detour because I have learned a LOT about myself and that means that I’m going to arrive at those opportunities as a stronger, better version of myself and for that I am truly thankful.
So Happy New Year everyone! This is going to be a valuable, transformative year just like last year was! IT’S OUR TIME TO SOAR!!!
“Dear Me, in 2020, I intend to love myself, forgive myself, and most of all be myself. Love, Me.” (GRATITUDE app)
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” (GRATITUDE app)
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” (GRATITUDE app)