One of those victories is my ability to get up and move without pain and huffing and puffing and to have some endurance while walking around doing what others would consider normal everyday exercise. One of our family traditions is to go to a Christmas tree farm each year and cut down a fresh Christmas tree. We take a wagon ride out to a field on a hillside, trudge up and down uneven, steep terrain, walking back and forth, back and forth, multiple times until we inevitably return to the first tree we noticed favorably and decide to take that one home. Through the years this has become an ever-increasing exercise in exhaustion for me. Sometimes, I didn't journey on the back and forth between the multiple trees because I was just too tired to do it. The hills, the uneven ground, my heavy, cumbersome body, and my lethargy and fatigue, it just made for a very unpleasant experience for me. I did my best to smile and enjoy the tradition because I loved the tradition and I didn't want to miss out on making memories with my children. This year when we got to the farm, we took the wagon ride up to the field with the trees and started to walk around looking for a tree. They were few and far between because we were late in the season this year because my son is in college now and we had to wait for him to come home on break. This translated to lots and lots of walking. After a couple of passes through one field, we decided to go to an adjacent field. As we were walking around for a few minutes, it occurred to me that there was no huffing and puffing, no aches and pains, no stopping and resting, no lethargy and exhaustion. I had some get up and go. I felt great and was enjoying the walk through the farm. I looked at my husband and told him I thought it was great that they had flattened out the tree field this year. He smiled and agreed. I even took a pass on the wagon ride back to the barn and walked back, enjoying each and every step. A little victory with a big impact.
Because of my newfound agility, an opportunity presented itself last week that I didn't even know I was missing out on until my husband suggested it. After a 10 inch plus snowfall, my husband suggested we take our now grown kids' plastic sleds and take them for a ride down a hill in town. I hadn't gone sledding since I was nine-years-old. Coincidentally, I moved from Michigan to Florida when I was ten-years-old, but my mom also put me on my first diet that same year. So the idea of sledding, while not on my bucket list, suddenly became a "why not?" A couple of days after the big snow, we bundled up, grabbed the sleds, and drove to a hill in town that my husband knew would give me a thrilling ride but wouldn't land me in the hospital, which was conveniently located across the street. I wasn't 100 percent sure which hill he was talking about because he always took our daughter and son sledding. I went a couple of times to take pictures but soon stopped going because I couldn't participate, which made me feel crummy. I framed it as, "I'll be home waiting with hot chocolate at the ready for you," but I was really pretty bummed that I couldn't snuggle up with my kids on a sled and zoom down a hill with them. But today was my day to go racing down the hill, and while my kids weren't there, I did text our now 26-year-old daughter to tell her what we were planning to do. Her response, "Oh gosh! Don't die! lol." This was definitely not the mom of her childhood.
We got to the sledding hill and trudged through some pretty deep snow to get to our starting point. My husband first went down the hill and made it look easy. I was pretty nervous at this point, but excited, too. I was most worried that my sled would take off without me before I was ready to go, but I had no such mishaps. I sat down on the sled, easily crisscrossed my legs, grabbed the handles and told my husband I loved him. I guess declarations of love are important before major or, in this case, minor milestones or nervous encounters with a slick patch of worn down icy snow that the town's youth had been easily traversing all day long. But, hey, for this 51-year-old, it was a big deal. And I was off! Screaming the whole way down the hill and loving it, I'm so glad my husband suggested it. And now I can't wait for another big snow. A short video clip of my maniacal screaming down the hill is below. It's dark, but I think you'll hear my enthusiasm for the experience.
A few days before the sledding, I had what I would consider a major milestone. For the first time in my adult life, I was able to buy clothing on "the other side" of the store...not the women's plus size clothing side. I was in Kohl's looking for something and automatically went to the plus size department but came up empty-handed. As I was walking away, I noticed across the aisle a pair of pants in the size that I had just "graduated" to (I'm down eight pant sizes), so I slowly walked up to the rack and looked at the pants but decided that while I thought they might actually fit me, I didn't like them. I started wondering if there were other things that might fit me in the department that I had wistfully glanced at while on my way to the plus size department for so many years. So I started to tentatively walk around, feeling a bit like an interloper. And then I saw a sweater dress, something I've always wanted but could never find in my size. So I found, not one, but two, in an extra large, which I was sure wouldn't fit but I reasoned that I would at least get an idea of how close they were to fitting so I could have a goal in mind. I realized I would need something to wear underneath so I found some extra large leggings too, but if I wasn't sure the dresses would fit, I was absolutely certain the leggings wouldn't fit. Still, I went to the fitting room for my exercise in goal making. As I slipped the leggings on one leg and then the other, it became apparent to me that they actually did fit. I kind of held my breath because this couldn't really be happening. I took one of the sweater dresses off the hanger and put it on and realized that it too fit and that it fit just right. I stood in that fitting room, looking in the mirror and began to sob. It was such an unexpected victory. I had hoped I would eventually be able to wear clothes from "the other side" but I figured it would be on a shopping expedition with a friend and that it would be a planned event. But here I was by myself on a cold January weeknight sitting on the bench of the Kohl's fitting room crying my eyes out while wearing a "regular size" outfit, something I've never done as an adult. I probably cried for five minutes before I was able to pull myself together and get dressed in my own clothes. But first I wanted to share this with someone who has helped me immensely these last months on this journey so I texted Caryn, STL VegGirl, and told her my news. Seconds later my phone rang while I was wandering through the ladies department looking at what the other side had to offer. She was crying and I was overwhelmed, my tears already spent. Before we hung up I told her that the clothes on the other side were much cuter...and they are. I'm looking forward to continued weight loss so I can enjoy the other side's offerings even more.
Finally, all of these wonderful milestones and unexpected victories have come while I'm sitting firmly on a plateau...my weight is stable for now, not budging one way or the other. And that's okay. I'm in this for the long haul. I am not on a diet. This is truly a lifestyle for me. This is my food. This is the way I live now. Plateaus happen and this isn't the first one I've experienced. My response is to keep eating wonderful whole plant foods and to keep moving. I do evaluate my habits to see if I'm following the principles of calorie density, to determine if my fat intake is consistent with what I know is health promoting, and I make sure I'm moving on a regular basis, but other than that, I just stay the course. What I don't do is hop on the scale every day and fixate on a number. Those numbers are fleeting and can change based on a number of variables that aren't reliable. Persistence and patience pay off. And when my body is ready, it will begin to release pounds again. Until then, I'm hoping for more snow and exploring the other side.