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As I write this, I’m staring age 50 in the face. I’ve reached the point in my life where I realize my kids will never be interested in my advice, or if they ever are, I will probably have forgotten what it was.
Sometimes it seems like I don’t have anything all that special to share, but many of my friends assure me that I do. They ask me questions, probe for my advice or guidance. It doesn’t always seem like I’ve done anything special, especially when I’m struggling, as all of us struggle, as all of us have our highs and lows.
But I did do something: I turned it around. At age 46 I took a big, big step and completely remade myself.
See: I’ve always been fat, since I was seven years old. Some people will be offended hearing that. Some people will be really angry, hearing that from someone who currently wears a size two or four. But listen to what I mean: I’ve always identified as fat. I claimed fat, cleaved to fat, wore fat as a mantle.
When I was a child, my rude uncle Edgar saw me running through the living room: “That child sure is getting fat.”
A child’s beauty pageant judge: “She has a great smile and stage presence, but she is a little too fat.”
My first boyfriend’s dad: “You used to be fat didn’t you? You will be again someday.”
I was fat, the awkward non-athlete: slow to first base in softball, completely incapable in basketball, tripping over my own feet, chosen last for teams and only after the teacher INSISTED.
I began playing rugby as an adult and discovered a degree of athleticism, but clung to “slow and fat.” That’s what I would always be, I figured.
Meanwhile I was living the life I felt I deserved. I married a guy who barely tolerated my presence on most days, never wore nice clothes, slumped and hunched and made myself small.
I really have no idea what happened, except that one day I knew something had to change. The perfect sequence of events brought me to a desire to change, and a way to change.
I never went on a diet. I never joined up with any of the eating fads that seem to plague us in an endless series of silliness. I just … changed.
I want to tell my story, in pieces, in lessons, in digestible bits, and the first part of my story is in the title of this essay: Start Here.
Because the lessons I learned are being learned over and over, even by me. There are days when I feel I’ve lost my motivation, my direction. Days when I feel like I don’t have a way to go forward.
But on those days I still know: START HERE. It’s the only place to start from.
There was a day I got on the scale and I weighed more than I had ever weighed in my life. I looked at that number and thought about how I felt. I was tired — exhausted, in fact. I was sick. I was depressed. I felt unloved, unworthy.
There was a day I saw an image of myself that only showed my posture, and I thought, “I look like I’m apologizing for being here, on this earth.”
There was a day I tried to just go for a walk up the hill that I live on, and every joint hurt. Less than a tenth of a mile in, I felt like I was going to throw up. When I got back to the house there was a letter waiting for me. My doctor wanted me to go in for further testing. They suspected an autoimmune disease.
There was a family vacation that was every possible kind of misery, and for some crazy reason I thought it would also be good to have family photos taken during that vacation. My relationship was imploding and there was seemingly nothing I could do about it. My body felt miserable. I was in every kind of pain: mental, emotional, physical. When we viewed the photos, I thought, “This is how I look?” I was even bigger than I thought. Way, way bigger.
There was a trip to visit my brother where we took my kids to a museum, and I barely made it through the short walk around the museum grounds. Finally we sat down to lunch and my brother pulled out his phone to track his calorie intake. My brother, who looked completely different than he ever had before, because he had just taken charge of his health and lost 80 pounds. “What is that?” I asked. And he showed me.
And I did.
Start. Here. Wherever you are. You woke up today, start here. You managed to get out of bed and stretch, start here. You managed to plan your day in your calendar, start here. You ate a good breakfast, start here. Whatever your goals, whatever direction they take you, start here.