Facing Fears and Finding Me: 5 years later

It has been a year since I’ve posted here. I’m really not sure why it has been so long. There are a million things floating around in my head and scribbled in my journal that I need to write about, things that are bursting at the seams to leave my realm and hit the pages of this blog. I could provide an ample amount of excuses to why I haven’t been writing, excuses that would pretty much be all valid but I’ll spare you all and just dive in.  I almost feel it’s like a rebirth here with this post and if I’m being honest, it is.  2016 was a year of struggle, change, and growth for me but through it all, I am re-emerging. . .  

On January 23, it will be FIVE years since I began my journey to better health. Five years since I faced the scale and bared my soul in a blog about my struggles. Five years and 75 pounds! I remember that terrifying day like it was yesterday. . .

Change has abounded in that time and life is completely different now than it was back then. Many of those life changes I have written about and are buried within the recesses of this blog. Many more of those changes are scrawled across the pages one of my many journals waiting to be shared here, and yet others, I still have to process. In short, there is no way I could have foreseen what life would have in store when I began writing about my journey so long ago.

Every year since has brought its own successes and failures and 2016 proved to be no different, with the exception that my successes and failures this year unexpectedly came with a far greater meaning than they ever had before. Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser now, or maybe it’s because I had just fallen so far away from myself that I needed some hard lessons to find my way back to me again. I’m not really sure.

The fitness flops of 2016 (that stupidly started with the failure to follow a training plan and spiraled downward from there) began to erode my self-confidence and eventually the failures began to chip away at my self-esteem. It didn’t take long for my already waning self image to erode rather quickly. It wasn’t too much longer after the erosion began that I started feeling pretty sorry for myself. (FYI: Self-pity is selfish and leaves no space for gratitude. Without gratitude, it’s hard to remember how far you have come.) Before I knew it, I was s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g with where I was at in my journey, especially when it came to running. It finally took a 17-hour mountain summit in late July (when 100 feet from the top I was absolutely sure I couldn’t climb anymore, but did it anyways) and a middle of the night 10.5 miler during a relay race in mid-August (in which I had a full-on mental breakdown complete with the old fat girl tapes playing loudly in my head, but finished the run anyways) for me to begin to really examine at what was going on in my life. The icing on this figure-your-shit-out cake came for me in September (after my second failed attempt at a 50k) when I was reminded of the the phrase our growth is in our struggle. I’ve been ruminating ever since. Our growth is in our struggle. . .

What I’ve discerned through it all is that is exactly that–our biggest growth always comes through our biggest struggles. Always. Failures are nothing but opportunities for growth. I’ve also figured out that growth only begins when self-pity ends.We just have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves long enough to figure it all out.

Cheers to the lessons of 2016. I am grateful for the struggles, and failures, and growth. And here’s to 2017. I am looking forward to another year of facing fears and finding me.

P. S. Thank you, as always, to all that have been there for me along the way. Our journeys aren’t meant to be traveled alone and for all you that have been along for the ride, I am so very grateful. Happy New Year. With love.

Two of my biggest struggles  growth moments, not only of last year, but probably of my life. Both of these photos are raw and at my most broken open of moments. Picture one is on the summit of Longs Peak ( 14,259 feet) in Colorado. I took this photo seconds after realizing my accomplishment, something I never could have imagined when I began my fitness journey five years ago. Picture two is shortly after I finished one of the most grueling runs of my life, not physically grueling, but mentally. Every old fat girl tape that has ever played in my head suddenly replayed during the first miles of a long, middle of the night relay run. It didn’t help that I was getting passed by runners like I was standing still. I recovered though and finished. 

A rambling good-bye

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My map of what breaks me open, an exercise in turning brokenness into beauty. I am currently navigating my way through a book called “the Geography of Loss” by Patti Digh. She talks about taking those moments that break you open and creating a map using those moments as landmarks by which to move forward–creating beauty from brokenness. This is my beauty of a map. Artist I am not, but luckily that wasn’t what this map required.

Update July 29, 2015: When I originally wrote this, I was sure I was ready to move on and start fresh in a new blog. Well, I guess I lied. I’m really not going anywhere. This place has too much of me poured into these pages to ever let it go. I was and will always be Hanging by a Thread. ~Melissa

This is a rambling, a jumble of words, a see-ya-later-but-not-really.

They say all good things must come to end, and so to must this blog.

When I began Hanging by a Thread in January of 2012 I was a different person, one that had done the work and was ready to take charge of her life.

And took charge I did.

But little did I know what life had in store. . .

Unimaginable loss. Change. Grief. Pain. Heartache.

Comfort and safety snatched away.

Healing. Love. Gratitude. Growth.

Grace. Redemption. Hope.

Learning to trust His way.

Little did I know that the title of my blog would become an aching metaphor for life. . . 

And now I have come to a crossroads. . .

A season of major life changes, a season of loss, a season of finding me–is slowly fading.

I can feel it in my bones.

What is next?

I have no clue. . . only visions in my head of where the path is leading.

Visions placed there by the whispers of my soul.

It feels like a settling in, of heading where I am being called, of finding the courage to share with my whole heart what life’s journey has taught me over the years.

And even though I am ready to take the leap, to dive headfirst into the deep end–it is scary.

Very scary.

But in a good way, I think.

It’s a new season.

A new day dawning.

I have felt it for a while now.

But it takes courage, both to let go and to move forward.

And sometimes courage is hard to muster. Really hard.

It is easier to just stay where we are at because it’s comfortable. It’s safe.

Then I remember that comfort and safety are really just illusions anyways.

I wrote this a while back and just found it the other day. I don’t even really remember writing it. It was one of those thoughts that popped into my head and I recorded it on the spot. I knew it was a perfect snapshot of where I was at, of where I am, and of where I am heading.

Change is coming again. I can feel it. I don’t know exactly what it will be, even though I have an inkling. I have learned to be okay with not knowing. I have learned to trust, even though I wonder. I have learned to be patient, even though I’m not wired that way.  I have learned that even though I know the change will be amazing, it will be hard. It always is. Growth and change and healing are like that. They don’t call them growing pains for nothing. 

I have learned to trust, even though I wonder . . . luckily my middle name is faith.

Faith.

It’s what has gotten me through, given me hope, and brought me home.

Even though this blog is ending, I am not done writing.

In fact, I am just beginning. . .

You can find me here, in my new place, with my new blog, My Middle Name is Faith.    http://melissafaith.com/

I don’t know exactly what it will be. In fact, there isn’t even anything there. And even though I don’t exactly know what it will be yet, the words real and raw come to mind–kind of like a conversation with those that know me best. A space where authenticity, tolerance, grace, and love are welcomed . . .

Thank you all for your encouragement and love over the past few years. I thank God for each and every one of you.

Thank you to all who have shared my tears, watched me come undone, and stayed by my side through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And lastly, thank you to those that have remained through the brokenness and the beautiful of this journey. 

Let the new chapter begin. . .

Facing fears and finding me the fifth: Part two, how I lost 70 pounds

(This Part two of the blog-version of a presentation I recently gave. Part one can be found here https://melissafaithbodin.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/facing-fears-and-finding-me-the-fifth-owning-your-story-and-believing-your-worth/)

Do not let the number on the scale define your worth.
Do not let the number on the scale define your worth.

As I wrote in Part One, accepting myself as is and believing I was worthy of happiness and healthiness was essential to losing (and keeping off) 70 plus pounds. Obviously though, it takes more than believing in one’s self (even though it’s a necessity) to effect life-long, positive change. Throughout my healing journey, I have had to make some choices that have required me to change how I looked at my life and my health. For starters, I took the word “diet” out of my vocabulary. I encourage you to do the same.

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Instead of ever saying I was going on a diet, I chose to say that I was opting for healthy changes and then I slowly integrated those changes into my lifestyle. For example, I added more fruits and vegetables to my plate,  upped my hydration goals, and increased my exercise time. The ripple effect of making healthier choices led to more changes, and then to more again. And so it goes, each change leading to a better one.

One thing I have learned over the years is that there isn’t a SINGLE weight-loss gimmick, protein diet, low-carb diet, super-calorie restricted diet, diet pill,  shake, herbal concoction, or surgery that will do for you what adopting a healthier lifestyle will do. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Trust me on this one.

Also, because I am NOT on a diet, there isn’t a single food that I have given up over the last two years (there are foods, however, that I don’t eat anymore mainly because after making healthier choices most of the time, the not so healthy ones don’t always taste the best.) MOST of the time, I eat relatively healthy. For instance, I rarely eat fast food, we cook most of our meals at home, and I try to stay away from highly processed foods. (I say MOST of the time because I doubt I will ever give up the Dairy Queen or Jack’s Frozen Pizza.)

I read recently about the 80/20 rule and it made sense to me. 80% of the time, strive to make the healthiest choices possible. The other 20%, well, those are the Jack’s nights and DQ trips. Choosing to live a healthier lifestyle isn’t about being perfect, it’s about making an honest effort to effect change–it’s about being real.  

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The next choice I made was accountability.

How many times have you ripped open a bag of chips vowing only to have a few and suddenly half a bag is gone? Or maybe you taste-tested your new brownie recipe to the tune of chowing down an entire row? Been there, done both. I’d like to tell you that I have quit doing that entirely, but that would be a lie. The difference now? If I eat a half of a bag of chips or a whole row of brownies, I account for it. No, I am not thrilled with myself if I make choices like this, but. . . I do not beat myself up over them either. I account for the poor choice and move on. (In the old days I would have gone hog-wild the rest of the day because I had already “blew-it” and vowed to “start again” the next day. Sound familiar?)

To help me with accountability, I started using myfitnesspal  in January of 2012 and haven’t stopped. It takes less than 10 minutes per day to keep track of what I eat and how much I workout. (YES, you do have 10 minutes to do this.) Keep a journal or find an app (there’s many out there) but just find some way that works for you to account for your intake. Make an effort to strive for accountability. By making the choice to be accountable, you will take control over your food choices instead of your food choices controlling you.

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Third on the list is movement. LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO MOVE. Move, even if it is for only 10 minutes per day. Start with a minute, if you have to, but move. Exercise is imperative to good health, weight loss, maintaining weight, good mental health, stress relief, muscle tone, anxiety relief. . .the list goes on. Our bodies were made to move and you will be amazed at how good you feel when you do.

The key is to find something you like and then to do it. Walking is good. Running rocks. If you aren’t a fan of either one of those, there is swimming, biking, hiking, rebounding, elliptical, good old-fashioned calisthenics, Zumba, Crossfit, yoga, rowing, spinning, aerobics, stair-stepping–the choices are endless. Most of the time I run but I also do most of the other things on the list. Moving your body will change your life, I promise. I know this because it has saved mine.

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Next up, change the way you look at food. How many times have you said to yourself,”I have been so good today on my diet that I am going to reward myself with a brownie (or cookie, or piece of cake, or a bag of chips, etc)?” Unfortunately, I have said those exact words too many times to count over the years. If you are currently doing this, STOP IT NOW! Do not REWARD yourself with food but instead make food a choice that you are in control of (I know, it sounds a lot like accountability.) By all means have the brownie, not because you deserve it, but because you choose it. It is a subtle– but powerful– change to the way you approach food and it works. Food is fuel for your body, not a reward for “being good.”

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Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is patience. When embarking on any healing journey you need to accept and understand that lasting change takes time. You did not put on the weight overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight. Strive to be patient. Work on being kind to yourself. Give yourself space to create sustainable change. By doing this you will find that you will be able to stay the course of your new healthy journey, no matter what life throws at you–that I can attest to (see Part One.)

I stated in one of my first blogs that I someday I wanted to be a “marathon-running, mountain-climbing, vegan.” At the time I couldn’t jog a mile, climb a small hill without feeling like death was coming for me, or go a day without eating meat. If I would have tried to do any of those things, let alone all three at once, I would have failed miserably. It took nearly 18 months; but, last summer I completed a marathon, climbed a mountain or two, and made it a week without meat. (On a side note, I can’t really imagine ever going “vegan” because that would mean giving up Jack’s Pizza and DQ. Hello. The best I am hoping for is to be an 80/20 vegetarian. Makes sense, right?)

In the end though, no matter where you are on your journey through life, it all starts with you. YOU choose your path. YOU choose to move. YOU choose to be accountable. YOU choose to create space for change. YOU choose to be patient and kind with yourself. YOU, and only YOU, can make the choice for a healthy and healing journey. Love yourself enough to make the choice. YOU are SO worth it.

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P.S. Some more essentials (that I won’t elaborate on for the sake of not making this post a novel but are all just as important as the above):

  • Hydration is key. Staying hydrated staves off hunger and tiredness, both of which lead to overeating.
  • Eliminate excuses–there aren’t any good enough.
  • Set goals that are attainable, measurable, and realistic.
  • Learn to breathe. Stop and take a deep breath now and then. It does wonders for your mind, body, and soul.
  • Surround yourself with people that lift you up and ditch the ones that don’t.
  • Find workout buddies–they keep you accountable and push you to new limits. I am SO grateful for mine!
  • Learn all you can about weight loss, exercise, and getting healthy. It makes your choices easier.
  • Rest is essential. Allow yourself time for it.
  • Eat! Don’t deprive yourself or cut too many calories. It won’t do you any good in the long run.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy yourself on this journey.

Being strong is so overrated

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Not exactly trees in a storm, but the skies were grey that day. 🙂

“As I started to picture the trees through the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don’t try to stand up straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that stand up strong and straight are the ones that break.” ~J.B. Hill

For all of you reading this that are desperately trying to fight your way through a difficult situation by “being strong,” please, STOP IT NOW.  By saying this I don’t mean that you should give up the battle, I mean that you should give it up to God. Let it go. Let it go to Him. It is only through surrender that we find our true strength. Trust me on this one, I’ve learned the hard way too many times.

There have been some desperate and terrible periods in my life when I mistakenly thought being strong was my only choice. You know the sayings, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option,” or “You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.” Although there was a time where I would have been all “hell yes!” to those sayings, I now call bullshit. The only place being strong has ever gotten me was down hard, to my knees, crying out in desperation to God to fix my broken life. Being strong is never the only option we have and we are never strong enough alone to make it through all the difficulties that life will throw at us. Being strong is so overrated.

My biggest lesson in surrender came about five years ago. Life had been difficult for a long time, on many levels. I had been the poster-child for what “being strong” was supposed to look like and I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was pretty obvious that my way wasn’t working and life could not continue the way I was trying to make it be. Something had to change. I had to give it up, which I eventually did–in a screaming, crying, desperate fit.

I was driving to work one morning when the tears began to uncontrollably flow. It was through these blinding tears that I looked to the heavens and screamed out loud (yes, literally) for Him to fix the brokenness that had become my life. I swear He was waiting for that moment because as soon as I let it go, a feeling of calm enveloped me. I knew immediately that things would work out–maybe not the way I thought they should–(obviously not working for me anyways) but that things would be okay. I also knew in an instant that I had been foolish in thinking I could just “be strong” and things would work out. Being strong for so long had blinded me to accepting the truth of my situation and kept me from reaching out to others that could help in my times of need. Being strong kept me from realizing that the things we often think are most important in this life, really are not. Being strong had kept me from pursuing an authentic and courageous life. Being strong kept me from taking care of myself and had kept me from turning to God when I needed Him most. Being strong had gotten me absolutely nowhere. Besides, I was SO tired of “being strong.”

I’d like to say that I immediately learned the the lessons that my big surrender brought. It took me a while longer to figure it all it out, but thankfully I did. I can’t imagine living through the last 15 months without leaning on God every single moment, of every single day. I can’t imagine where I would be if I had tried to “be strong.”

True strength comes only when we have the courage to give it up to God continually, not just when we are forced to our knees in broken surrender. And even though I still occasionally try to do it my way, it usually doesn’t last long. Strength comes when I am simply being patient, listening for the whispers, and learning to accept that life is the way it is. My strength comes from learning to bend in the storm.  My strength comes from my surrender.