Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Turns out happiness isn't in my pant size

Blog of the week: From A to Z with Shelley C

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I used to tell myself, "If only I could lose xx pounds, everything would be better..."

I lost those pounds and life is better, but not because I lost the weight. In fact, the weight loss has very little, if anything, to do with my happiness.

I'm happy because I have come to a point in my life where I accept myself and all of the things that make me "Flawsome" (Note: That's a Tyra Banks term, and I think it's perfect.) I'm happy because I love myself.

I had a revelation last summer while looking at myself in the mirror. As I stood there examining all of my flaws, I saw the person staring back at me as someone I had bullied and berated for years.

The reflection was one that I had picked apart a million times because it didn't have the curves I wanted, or because it wasn't thin enough, or pretty enough. Staring back at me was this abused part of myself that I took for granted and under-appreciated. It was this person that I have said the meanest and most hurtful things to, routinely, without ever apologizing and sometimes without even realizing.

It was in this light bulb, life-changing moment that I realized I was in a toxic and abusive relationship with myself. This sounds really cheesy, but I never fully realized the extent of how harmful my thoughts and words were, especially to myself.

I didn't want to hate myself anymore.

It wasn't an easy feat to stop berating myself. The years and years of negative self-talk were programmed into my brain, it came as naturally to me as breathing did. It took a conscious effort for me to correct myself when those ugly words or thoughts formed.

For my whole life I fantasized about being thin. I kept telling myself that one day it would happen, but I kept failing at every diet or "lifestyle change" I tried.

I was sick and tired of failing, and decided to just stop. Stop the dieting, and stop trying to be something I wasn't. I wanted to live my life without my weight and diet taking centre stage every single day. I wanted to enjoy food without feeling guilty, or trying to justify it to myself and others. I just didn't want to obsess anymore.

That forced me to really look at myself and my body and realize that I'll never be "skinny," my body isn't made that way. This is not to say that I can't lose weight, but I had a picture in my head of what I wanted to look like, and I couldn't see or accept anything other than that.

At first I found that it was easier to call myself down than to accept myself for who and what I was. But gradually that changed, and so did my outlook on a lot of things.

Happiness became my friends, my family and all of those special and unforgettable life moments. It became my accomplishments, and my sheer enjoyment of appreciating and loving myself.

With the cancerous thoughts gone, life literally became a million shades of wonderful.

I suppose the elephant in the room (so to speak) is the weight loss. I've lost a couple of pounds, doesn't matter how much. It was something that didn't happen overnight, or even something I tried to do. (Please don't confuse this with me saying I didn't try and I just lost weight, because I ran my ass off, but not for the purpose of losing weight.)

Shortly after my light-bulb moment, I went through a breakup. My heart and mind were a mess and I found relief and therapy in sweating it out at the gym. It probably sounds silly, but I felt like I couldn't escape the absolute sadness and loneliness that comes along with a breakup, and the only thing that seemed to help was putting my headphones in and focusing that energy on running.

Luckily for me the sadness and loneliness gradually went away, and out of it I discovered how much I enjoyed spending that time with myself, and sweating. It's become a routine that I like.

I hate talking about weight, especially mine. Weight loss is something that may last, or may not. I have no idea what my body and biology will do in time, or how I will look in two months or two years. I'm more than just a number on the scale or a pant size.

Losing weight can be a positive experience, in most cases I'm sure it is. However, an even more positive experience is living a happy life where you love and accept yourself.

 

Follow this blog at shelleyacook.blogspot.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2013 A10

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