No one thought I had it in me. That is, the ability to put on weight. As a kid, regardless of what I ate, I stayed skinny. Too skinny, in fact. The owner of the dry cleaner my mom frequented called me Olive Oyl, as in Popeye’s girlfriend, a not so flattering reference to my scraggly pre-teen body. Years later, my high school boyfriend (eventually husband) frequently joked that I had Kermit the Frog arms. In all fairness, I did.
When, as an adult, I became pregnant with my first child, I operated like always, eating whatever and whenever I wanted. And for the first time in my life, I gained weight. A lot of weight, so much so that after I gave birth to my six- pound, 14-ounce, daughter, I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. Funny, the baby had not been eating that much after all.
Not only did I dislike the way I looked, I felt bad about myself. Almost immediately, I got to work on losing the baby weight, a challenge entirely new for me. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I went overboard. I became fixated on the number of pounds I had to lose as opposed to how losing them could improve my overall health and the way I felt inside.
When it comes to wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s definition is different.
Watching me flounder, well-meaning family and friends enthusiastically offered ideas about which diet plan to follow, how often to exercise, what type of exercise I should do, and the kind of dietary supplements I should take. Each of their suggestions had worked for them, and they genuinely believed in their effectiveness.
Keeping an open mind, I tried many of the tips that came my way. But as I quickly discovered, what worked for others did not necessarily work for me, and I decided to come up with a personal plan instead that I could live with long-term. Once I did, I slowly, steadily, and, most importantly, healthily lost nearly all of the weight I wanted to. I felt like my old self again. But not just because of the lightened load. The key to my wellness had more to do with finally figuring out what feeling “well” meant to me, and that had nothing to do with the number I saw on the scale.
When it comes to wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s definition is different. And no matter what that definition is, you cannot find contentment in a bottle or get it in a quick fix. It is something you have to, through trial and error, determine for yourself and be able to live with comfortably.
Some people, for example, feel best when they are focused on maintaining their goal weight, others when they do not weigh in more than once weekly. Some folks feel healthiest emotionally when they are in a relationship, while there are those who are happiest when unpartnered and prioritizing their needs. Then there are the individuals who feel most creative during the early morning hours, and the ones who do so at night.
Whatever the lifestyle, it should provide you with enough flexibility to engage in the work, activities, and relationships you enjoy, not keep you from them. And if for some reason you are less than satisfied, re-evaluate your choices and give yourself an opportunity to explore those options that could potentially bring you the pleasure and comfort you are presently lacking.
Nothing geared toward your health should ever feel like a punishment.
Nothing geared toward your health should ever feel like a punishment. If you do not like running, walk instead. If you do not feel good after eating certain foods, by all means, do not eat them. Be cautious, however, about going too far in the opposite direction. If you decide you love to run, that does not mean you should only run. If you determine that kale is your favorite miracle food, do not just eat kale. If you do, soon enough the reward you are giving yourself will feel like anything but one.
Wellness goals are best when small, realistic, and achievable. Otherwise, we risk setting ourselves up to fail. Even small challenges can ultimately have a large impact. If you want to lose your baby weight as I did or have another goal in mind you believe is worth pursuing, remind yourself that reaching it may not happen quickly or all at once. It certainly did not for me.
In my case, I lost most of my baby weight during the year after my third child was born and those last resistant pounds a few of years after that. In the meantime, I ate what I wanted and exercised regularly, but in moderation. Only when I felt ready did I step up my routine, and it was not because someone told me to or because I was trying to live up to some unrealistic standard. It was because I had finally recognized that the only way to feel well was to define what well meant to me.
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