Back in 2009 I made some huge changes. I took a work assignment that would send me to Germany for 6 months to a year. At the time it was fortuitous because I felt really stuck: stuck at work, stuck in a relationship, stuck in life. I needed a change. A real, big, whirlwind change.
And I got it.
Moving, even for such a short period of time, was the catalyst for these personal changes that were so necessary for me. I couldn’t unstick myself while I was still surrounded by the mud. I was propelled onto a lush, green field where I could be refreshed and truly be myself.
It was awesome.
But, you know what? I carried my story with me. You know what I’m talking about… that story that plays in your head that limits you from doing what you really want to do. That story. The one that tells you you’re not good/pretty/capable/thin/smart/etc. enough to do whatever it is you are considering doing. For me, at that time, it was being loved.
You see, I met a boy. He was fantastic. We had awesome conversations. I felt enriched by him. I liked him, and he liked me back.
“So what was the problem?”, you may ask.
The problem was that I was fat.
Of course, I should have chosen to love and respect myself and not participate in a relationship with someone who cannot accept me for who I am. But I didn’t. Instead, I chose to lose weight and chase love.
And it worked.
At least the losing weight part.
But only for a little while.
What happened? You see, moving to a small town in Germany gave me the opportunity to really make movement a part of my daily routine. I lived close enough to work to get there with a gentle 10-minute walk or (more scary) 5-minute bike ride. I had no car, so my bike or my feet were my primary modes of transportation (also because I didn’t speak German and was afraid to try the bus). I started drinking water instead of soda or juice because here in Germany they have choices of water to drink: still, medium, or classic, the latter two being sparkling waters (which are just more fun to drink!). I joined a gym. And actually went at least 3 times a week. I’d bike over there, about 1.5 miles, climb 5 flights of stairs, walk the treadmill for 15 minutes as a warmup, do a full circuit of weight-bearing exercises on machines, do 30 minutes on the elliptical, bike another 1.5 miles home, and eat nothing.
And that was the problem.
I had done some wonderful things to change my normal, getting-my-health-nowhere habits like getting daily movement and drinking more water. But I also had added some unsustainable, and ultimately unhealthy habits to the mix.
For me, spending 2 hours at the gym at least 3 times a week only worked because I was alone. Utterly. Alone. I had nobody to hang out with after work (not even the boy I was chasing because he had his own life). So the gym became my friend. Not altogether bad, but us human folk need connection, and the gym is not connecting.
But also there was the not eating part. I saw the most dramatic weight loss when I was depriving myself of food. I would sometimes challenge myself to only eat a big lunch and essentially starve the rest of the day. I’d see how long I could go on just water. See how often I could avoid the afternoon trip to the vending machine.
It was hell.
In the end, I lost 20 pounds. I was down a clothing size. I shopped with more ease. My belt was tightened by two notches. I thought I was happy.
But I still didn’t get the boy.
Love still eluded me.
So I stopped riding my bike. I traded it in for the rental car allowed in my contract. I started ordering pizza and driving through at McDonald’s because I wanted hot food in the evenings and cooking for myself in my dismal little kitchen made me sadder. I eventually gained the weight back. And why?
Because I didn’t make the changes in a sustainable, smart way that actually worked for me.
I was chasing love.
The love of someone who would never really truly love me because he had issues of his own which disabled his ability to see past my fat.
And that’s no good.
When we make such radical changes in our lives, we need to make them for ourselves, from a place of self love, self care, self empowerment. Only then will we be able to get over the inevitable bumps in the road. It makes the healthier choices easier. It makes falling off a shorter distance and getting back on easier. It removes the guilt and shame and pain.
I learned that when I choose to love myself the universe loves me back and sends me what it is I really desire and need.
The only love you should ever chase is the love of yourself. It keeps on giving.