You know that expression, your “happy weight?” For years, those words could not co-exist peacefully for me—it was always a fight. I fought to keep my weight at a certain level. Part of my job as editor in chief of SELF was to be a picture of strength and I took it seriously. I never did crash diets. I don’t believe in cleansing. But when my body strayed a few pounds up, I cracked the whip on myself, cut back on fun, and turned up the exercise. It wasn’t that my lifestyle was so unhealthy, it was just exhausting. The vigilance of it all. My weight was to be watched like an incorrigible child.
But the truth about happy weight and what I learned this year: It’s real. It changes throughout life and it looks different for everyone. Sometimes it looks like falling in love—dinners out, lots of wine! Or a holiday meal around the table with your family, when everyone’s stuffed and satisfied—more pie, less politics! Other times, it looks like regular yoga and cutting out sugar—more glow, less puff!
The measure of happy weight is more about the happy, and less about the weight.
2017 started out on an uncertain note for me. My dream job ended when the magazine ceased publication right before the holidays. But before I even had a chance to sit on my couch and order take-out with a side of self-pity—an unexpected twist occurred, the first of many throughout this year. I met a new guy out of the blue the first day I did not go into the office. He was smart, funny, hot, younger and up for anything. Thank you, Universe!
What could’ve been a scary period of change, turned into a welcome break to enjoy the surprises that life had in store. It was an exercise in surrender to the things I couldn’t control. And it was also a precious pause (made possible by a lot of hard work over the years and savings!) that I deliberately chose to take to think about not only what I wanted to do next, but what I really wanted out of life. It led me to adventures that spanned continents: deserts, beaches, mountains, and even glaciers. The result? The happiest weight of my life.
Over the span of several months, my recipe went something like this: A good-bye NYC pizza at the airport, conch fritters and rum punch in the Caribbean, buttery naan at every meal in India, a mojito at sundown, a hearty breakfast before hiking the W in Patagonia, a beer after jumping into a glacier lake, dessert every night—the icing on the cake of day after action-packed day. Back home, it was slowing down over long lunches with friends or cooking cozy dinners for a man I was happy getting to know, hour by hour, meal by meal, day by day. I became softer around the edges.
Getting dressed one evening for my best friend’s bridal shower in the city, however, I received a reality check. Nothing seemed to fit. All the beautiful things I’d bought over the course of a career in fashion magazines, had changed on me while I toted my carry-on around the world! The cast off pile was growing on the bed. A bright orange body-hugging dress—not happening. A favorite skirt with ribbons that streamed behind me as I walked—too tight. I tried to get creative. I pulled, pushed, sucked in, jumped up and down. I started to perspire from the effort.
I stared at my reflection: my face turning tomato, a belt cinched too-tightly over a blouse, a skirt half zipped unwilling to budge. This was the moment of truth: Laugh or cry?
I laughed. I laughed so hard tears streamed from my eyes. It’s easy to laugh when you’re happy.
Happiness is its own super-power. Stuff that might have once bothered you, bounces off.
I laughed at the ridiculous get up. I laughed by myself in my room until my stomach hurt.
So I unhooked the belt and breathed a sigh of relief. I swapped the skirt for loose slouchy trousers. I let the drapey top do its blousy business. I slipped on a low heel to give me a little height. Standing in front of the mirror, my eyes still sparkling with tears from laughter, cheeks flushed, I felt prettier than I’d felt in years.
This year I was so busy being happy, I didn’t have room for extra baggage. I stopped fighting my weight, my career expectations, my single status, old ideas about failure and achievement. I stopped fighting with numbers: calories, pounds, money, age, time. Happiness became both my motivation and measure.
Hardship is often credited as the most profound teacher. And it is. But I think we overlook happiness and are quick to diminish it as somehow less substantive as a learning tool. As a grown human being, I have been been through the crucible of loss, pain, disappointment and all the tough teachers out there. But this year, I got a sub. And it transformed my life. Sure, not every year will be like this one for me. But what defined this year wasn’t the meals, the guy, or even the vacations—it was that I held nothing back.
Why should we only get one “year of yes” or a single “happiest day” of our lives?
Why should we ever feel less happy than we know we can be? The big secret no one ever told me is that happiness is mine for the taking every damn day, as big a bite as I wanted. So that’s the plan from here on out. I want you to know that too, in case you missed that memo because you’ve been so busy working, winning, pleasing, and trying to do it all. That’s how I ended up here, talking with you, and starting the Get Go, following my happy. I’m still at my happiest weight (it includes more yoga and veg-based eating at the moment and being unselfconscious about wearing a sports bra with high-waist leggings) but it remains completely independent of any scale or clothing size. I hope you give yourself a chance to enjoy your happy weight today too. Go ahead, take a bite.
Joyce Chang is the founder of happiness startup fromtheget-Go.com and former editor in chief of Self. Previously, she’s held posts at Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, People, New York Times Magazine and Allure. She attended the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia and Princeton University.
Originally published at www.fromtheget-go.com