At my grandmother’s house, every time I went to the refrigerator, I was met with the accusing eyes of a cross-stitched hippopotamus sitting smugly next to the door handle. The hippo’s large stomach spilled out
under a small, bright red sweater emblazoned with the words ‘he who indulges bulges’. The message was clear. (and amazingly, the hippo kit is still available on eBay for anyone looking to be shamed by the cross-stitched menace)
Such messages came from all around: from a cross-stitched hippopotamus, to a freezer with fat-free fudgsicles and “she is very nice, it’s too bad she’s so heavy.” I grew up with the very clear message that eating right meant eating without enjoyment. And above all, gaining weight would somehow mean I had failed.
Despite the best efforts and encouragement of both my grandmothers, I did not stay thin once I graduated from high school. Pounds crept on, one after the other. Inexplicably, instead of motivating me to lose weight, the opposite happened, and I entered a cycle of using food for comfort, which rolled into a lack of physical activity. I focused only on the number on the scale, unsuccessfully trying everything I could to get that number to drop. The mental toll was immense, a lack of confidence, depression and I continued to gain.
It took several years and perhaps a significant amount of maturing, but I eventually experienced a shift in mindset. It was not about the number of pounds, it was about getting myself healthy. Changes did not come overnight by any means, but slowly my beliefs and attitude transformed and with it my health and well-being. I am aware that there were several things that happened that helped such a transformation take place. I often think that if I could only go back and facilitate the experiences and thoughts of my younger self, I could have saved myself years of frustration and disappointment.
Unfortunately, I know that my story is not unique, given the constant messages surrounding us that our weight is somehow tied to our self-worth. In the following series, Diet, Exercise and Mindset: What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self, I will share some of the key lessons I have learned over the years and how I was able to and continue to transform my thinking. Stay tuned!