In August of 2018 I was getting ready for a neighborhood party…I threw on an outfit, took a peek in the mirror and started to cry.
I didn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror.
I had gained weight – like as much as I had during pregnancy. My skin was dull, my eyes were dull and I looked sick. As I stood there in disbelief, I started to panic and tried to recount what had happened for me to arrive at that moment. In May of that year I completed a Ragnar Relay with friends. I was in decent shape and had decided to keep my mileage up and start training for what would have been my third half marathon. Then I suffered an injury, which stopped my training for six weeks. At that point, the running was the only thing keeping my bad habits in check. When I stopped running all my poor choices came crashing down.
The amount of damage I had done to myself in that short window of time was shocking. I needed to make real changes but I knew that undoing the damage would take work – physical work, emotional work, mental work. The first step was deciding that I was worth it. The worst part of that day in August wasn’t that I had gained weight, it’s that I wasn’t healthy. I tell my kids all the time that I am living to 100 – the person I saw in the mirror would not have made it to 100.
I had to start caring about myself in meaningful ways. I had to decide that taking care of me was paramount to anything else I could do. That was a bold decision. In order to prioritize myself and develop solutions, I had to first identify the problem.
So what had happened to me?
Well, first off, I had forgotten “me.” In the hustle and bustle of my career, my marriage, my kids, my family and my friends, I had completely lost sight of me and what I needed. I was focused on surviving, not thriving. It was a stressful time in my career and, being in a dual-career marriage, I often times found myself worrying about two careers at once. I’m also mom to two beautiful boys and being a working parent is hard. You are constantly evaluating your choices and questioning your decisions.
I had also developed some pretty bad habits. I rarely got enough sleep and I had also (and this is hard to admit) been drinking way more than I should have been. It was summer, a time of year when we are generally more social, but there were some days I’d get home and grab a drink from the garage fridge before I’d even made it inside. That’s not social drinking, that’s drinking to numb your life. That’s not someone I want to be – I don’t want to go through life numb.
Not surprisingly, it all boiled down to stress and the fact that I had poor tactics in place to manage it. Physical reactions to stress are not a new to me – it has reared its ugly head by way of colds, insomnia, stomachaches and panic attacks. This time, it was rapid weight gain. And the scariest thing about that was the realization that it would take me way longer to lose it than it took to gain it. Turning my life around would require that I both adjust my lifestyle AND that I acknowledge and managed my triggers.
Since the simplest answer is often the best answer, I got back to basics.
I set a bedtime alarm so I’d get more sleep.
A lack of sleep is kryptonite for me. I can’t think or process information when I am tired. Sleep is critical to me functioning at my best. At 10pm every week night my alarm goes off. I turn off all screens, grab my latest book and climb into bed. Admittedly I am not perfect at this but the alarm is a tangible reminder of what I need to do for myself every day to be the best version of me.
I track my nutrition.
I’ve been a MyFitnessPal user for years and I got back to using it consistently. Knowledge is power and being able to reflect on my nutrition helps me make better decisions as an athlete.
I got a bike that goes nowhere and I ride it almost daily.
We bought a Peloton and I’m OBSESSED! I could write a book about what the community has done for me. I am in the best shape of my life and I wake up every day excited to jump on that bike. And since I am usually a morning rider, it helps me reduce stress and anxiety at the onset of the day. The sense of accomplishment I feel is insurmountable.
I started to say no to a lot of things.
To parties I don’t want to go to, to drinks after work, to complicated volunteering events at school. I even say no to dinner with family if my kids are tired and need a night at home to decompress. If it doesn’t bring me joy – I say no. Of course, there are things I can’t say no to at times. However saying no to the stuff I don’t want to do makes it easier to say yes to other stuff. I am fiercely protective of my time (and that of my family).
I started to talk to others about how I was really feeling.
When I was honest with myself about how I had become so unhealthy, I realized that I couldn’t turn the ship without support. I shared every thought, feeling and emotion with my husband and my closest friends. I needed them to hear me, to acknowledge how scared I was and to help hold me accountable as I made changes for the better.
Looking back, I can’t say I was really surprised by what I saw in the mirror that day in August. The signs were all there – I had ignored my triggers and was giving my time and energy to things that didn’t bring joy. By taking meaningful steps to simplify my life and free up time to look after myself, I am proud of the person I see in the mirror now. I am showing up for myself, and for my family, as a better version of myself.