While cleaning off the cluttered dining room table last night, I came across a copy of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, which had been part of Alex's homeschooling work on poetry last year.
"I celebrate myself, and sing myself."
Such powerful words. Most of us don't do nearly enough of this. We're told not to, by people and and culture and custom. We encourage humility, discourage boasting (particularly in women, but that's another post).
But one can have both humility and self-love, and the latter is too often missing--or at least it has been for me.
Today marks the end of a year of self-transformation for me, and this week I'm trying hard to celebrate myself, to sing myself, to remind myself of my intrinsic value.
On August 4th of 2010, a few days after returning from a wonderful road trip with Alex, I stepped on my relatively new Withings scale, and was shocked to see the number: 144 pounds. I hadn't weighed that much since I was pregnant with Alex. It had happened gradually, but had finally reached a point where I realized I was really unhappy with my body. Not just the way it looked, but the way it felt. I made a decision that day to make some real changes in the way I cared for myself physically. I started getting to the gym on a regular basis, and changed the kinds of foods I kept in the house. I knew that for these changes to matter, they had to be sustainable. I couldn't cut out all carbs, for instance, because it would make me miserable and I'd eventually give up.
So, how'd that work out? Here's a graph showing what happened:
The objective I set for myself was 110 pounds (that's the white line near the bottom). I hit that in May of this year, and have stayed there since then, with minor (and normal) fluctuations. Lately, as I've added more weight training into my workout routine, my weight has crept up by a pound or two, but my lean mass has gone up right along with it. (The place in the middle where the color changes is the point where I crossed over from an unhealthy weight for my height and age to a healthy one.)
I've been off my antidepressants for a year now, as well, and wanting to stay off them keeps me going back to the gym 4-5x/week. I know my mental health history means that the exercise may not always be enough on its own, but for now it's doing the trick, and I'm happy not to have to deal with the expense or the side effects of the medication.
Other benefits? My food budget has dropped quite a bit, since I prepare more foods myself rather than grabbing fast food on the way home. My kids are getting healthier meals and developing better eating habits. I've discovered the joy of shopping at the Rochester Public Market. My physical and mental energy levels are the highest they've been in a very long time. My cholesterol, which was dangerously high, has dropped into a very healthy range.
I honestly don't know what changed for me a year ago, and made it possible for me to successfully change my lifetime of bad eating and exercise habits, but I'm grateful that I did, and that everything I've done to reach this point seems easily sustainable moving forward.
When I went to see my doctor for an annual checkup last month, he congratulated me on "taking charge of my body," and that resonated for me. This week I'm splurging a bit on little luxuries to celebrate my physical self--a pedicure, some new clothes, things like that. But the real reward is being able to look at myself in the mirror and be proud of what I see.
No matter how many hours I spend at the gym, it won't make me 20-something or long-legged. But I'm okay with that. Being twenty-something wasn't all that great, as I recall. Been there, done that, glad I don't have to do it again. This 49-year-old body is the one I've got, and my goal now is to care for it well. My success in doing that this year is indeed worth celebrating.