Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Overcoming Stinkin' Thinking

I’ve been on the most profound journey of my life for the past 15 months and it has been more than just about weight loss or disease reversal; however, I don’t believe I would have reached this point of self-discovery without shedding the weight and breaking the chains of illness that bound me for so long. I’ve been quiet for a few months because I’ve needed time to regroup and reflect and I decided to honor the urge I had to seek solace, but for the first time in my adult life that solace was not found in a bag of fast food or in the bottom of a bowl of ice cream. It was found in a healthy and life-affirming way. I sought the help of a counselor to dig deep and help me understand the myriad of emotions I was feeling as I shed the security blanket of ten, twenty, thirty, one hundred pounds. And while I’m taking a bit of a risk in making myself absolutely vulnerable by sharing this with the world wide web, my goal in doing so is to keep it real.

For much of my adult life I thought that losing weight would fix the feelings of angst that often plagued me. I worried that I wasn’t liked, that I said something wrong or said something to make someone angry or said something that made me look dumb. I beat myself up about not taking opportunities. If only I wasn’t overweight I could do that, I thought. If I looked differently, that opportunity would be open to me. If I was thin and beautiful, I would be treated better. I spent so much time telling myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worthy, that I actually believed it. And, you know what, losing weight changed the messaging but it didn’t change the process. Maybe I didn’t feel so badly about my weight anymore but believe me, I found other things to criticize about myself. You see, the problem wasn’t the excess pounds, the problem was in my thinking, or as someone once told me a very long time ago, my “stinkin’ thinking.” That still makes me smile. But it’s true. It stinks because I wouldn’t speak to my most ill-regarded enemy the way I spoke to myself, constantly berating myself about every crack in my veneer. Who can stand up to that kind of scrutiny and not go for the Big Mac or the Oreo Blizzard? I certainly couldn’t withstand the pressure for many, many years. But God smiled on me and sent me some angels (I’ll elaborate another time) and I was able to begin shedding the pounds, despite the stinkin’ thinking, and move beyond the self-sabotage that did me in during so many other attempts at losing weight and getting healthy. This is the point where I really must say that if I wasn’t able to eat until comfortably full and enjoy a diet of unprocessed, whole food plant-based no oil nutrition, I wouldn’t have been successful. I mean, I can eat potatoes! But I digress.

So I was skating along on this fantastic weight loss journey that began May 4, 2018 having lost 100 pounds, reversed type 2 Diabetes, eliminated hypertension, acid reflux, back pain, fatigue, you get the picture. I’m flying high with energy, self-confidence, and a new-found sense of fun and zest for life. I was featured on KSDK’s morning news show "Today in St. Louis" during a month-long feature in February 2019 called “Transformation Tuesday” and my local newspaper did a full page feature on me. And then I was asked to share my story at the local bookstore, not once but twice. All was going well. The attention was a bit uncomfortable at times. I felt a little “twitchy” to be sure. Every time someone called me an inspiration, alarm signals went off in my head and I wanted to run and hide but I tried to soldier on. But then in April, I shared my journey during an evening program at the library I manage. In the audience of about 30 or so people sat my supervisor and my employee, parents and grandparents of former students (I used to teach high school in the same town), patrons of the library I manage, long time friends with whom I had grown distant, new friends (Elaine) from my new whole food plant-based world, my husband (the only person’s presence I was 100 percent comfortable with that evening), folks who had heard me speak at the bookstore, and total strangers. I don’t get nervous speaking in public and I wasn’t nervous that evening. The talk itself went as planned. It wasn’t until the room was cleared and I got to my office to pack up for the evening that the self-flagellation started. I found every possible flaw in my presentation and I exploited it as a way to demean and belittle myself. I fretted and worried about how people perceived me. I had made myself 100 percent vulnerable in front of several of my worlds all in one room and it proved to be too much for me. It was the culmination of a few months of increasing discomfort with this “new” Kara and my inability to reconcile the old me with the new me. I no longer turned to food for comfort but I was clearly needing some comfort because I was treating myself horribly, so what was I to do? Fortunately, I had the good sense to call a counselor and fortunately I found the right one for me the first time around. And so I’ve been quiet because it’s hard work figuring out how not to beat yourself up, how to be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend or a family member, how to love yourself and how not to do that with food. Because comfort via food was no longer an option for me and once that was off the table, I had no other choice but to start to figure out how to unlearn some self-destructive behaviors. And the journey continues.

The last few months I’ve focused on the mental and emotional aspects of my journey. My weight loss has stayed right at 103 pounds. My diet has stayed true. I haven’t been exercising with any regularity and I know that if I did, the remaining weight would come off rather easily but I’ve got some things to work out in my head and my heart before I finish. When I’m ready and not before, I will finish the weight loss part of my journey. What I’ve learned, though, is that the weight was really just a symptom not only of the processed “food” that caused the weight gain that caused the diabetes but it was also a way for me to avoid a lot of uncomfortable topics that I’m grappling with for the first time in my adult life and you know what, I’m ready. This blog post has been ruminating for quite some time and tonight was the night. I’m keeping it real because it’s okay to admit when you need the advice of an expert. I see my optometrist for an exam so he can write me a prescription for eyeglasses and contacts. I saw a gastroenterologist recently for a routine colonoscopy because it’s recommended at my age. I have an appointment with my physician next month for an annual physical because it’s time to check my cholesterol and blood pressure and all of my other physical markers for health. And it’s not taboo to talk about those things so it shouldn’t be taboo to talk about mental health either. After all, our brains govern our entire body and it is the most complex organ we have so why wouldn’t we take care of it with as much care as we do our eyes or our heart? Obviously, there is no solid reason to ignore one’s mental health. In my case, doing so led to decades of excess weight and a host of health problems that wreaked havoc on my body. But no more. I’m feeling strong and I’m feeling bold. This journey is three-fold; mind, body, and spirit and I must attend to all three to honor the whole me. In the meantime, I’m still eating broccoli for breakfast.

Be Bold. Eat Plants. Kara

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