"St. Clair High School...Miss Bell...are you her sister?" the cashier said to me as he rang up my groceries in the grocery store the other day.
Without hesitation I replied rather excitedly, unintentionally throwing my arms up in the air in what I think is a referee's motion for a 'touchdown' call, "I used to be her!" I'm pretty sure I had a big, goofy grin on my face, too.
He got a big, goofy grin on his face as well and said, "You look amazing! I thought that was you but it really doesn't look like you." And then I realized what I had said. Why, yes, I'm still me. I'm still the person who was the teacher at the high school, but I really don't feel like her anymore. I smiled and thanked him and he repeated the compliment a couple more times and I laughed at myself for my silly reply but told him that I feel like a whole new person these days.
And I do. The last eight months have been nothing short of what feels like a miraculous transformation and, honestly, I'm not done yet. And while it does feel fantastic to get all of the positive feedback and affirmation (it helps me a lot and the kind words are so encouraging) and it's wonderful to have gone down six pant sizes, to have lost 80 pounds, and to feel so much better about how I look and how my clothes fit, what is truly remarkable is the state of my health. Being able to discontinue countless medications, reverse chronic diseases, move without pain, and have the energy to do things I've never thought to even try in the past is a gift that I am truly grateful for this Thanksgiving Eve.
Honestly, it hasn't always been easy, but it has always been simple. It's the food. Eating a whole food plant-based no oil diet (WFPBNO) has led me to improved health. Planning my meals, preparing them in advance, keeping them fairly simple, especially in the beginning, staying accountable to those in my immediate circle and making myself accountable in a public way (this is why I post on social media), setting measurable goals which I listed on a vision board, moving on a regular basis even when I didn't want to, and (this was the hardest one) learning to be okay with the isolation that comes with going against the grain of what it seems like everyone else is doing, have all been key to me developing sustainable habits that have led to lasting change.
I've had to really embrace the notion that it was okay for "me to do me." So tomorrow as I have friends and family to my home for a Thanksgiving meal that I will happily prepare for all to enjoy, I will make the traditional meal I have made for almost three decades, none of which I will eat, not because I can't but because I choose not to. And I will prepare several WFPBNO options that I will gladly enjoy and will offer up to my guests as well. I'm grateful that the Thanksgiving feast is eight months into my journey and the cravings are gone and my habits and intentions are firmly set. I feel no compulsion to eat anything other than the WFPBNO foods I enjoy on a daily basis. They are flavorful, colorful, delightful foods that fill me up and nourish me in a way that no other food ever has. I'm trying out a few new recipes tomorrow and I am excited to share them with my guests. I'm going to do me because it's not only okay to take care of myself, I've finally learned at 51 that I'm worth it.