I gave my peer inspiration speech at my center last night. It was lovely. As scary as it was to open up about things that had been held so close to my heart for many years, it was freeing. I felt understood by my peers, and loved. It was a wonderful experience. Below is the speech.
Denise July 21, 2008
Metabolic Research Center, Greeley CO
Hello…. My name is Denise and I’ve been coming to Metabolic Research Center (MRC) for almost 9 months now. Thank you all for being here today, and celebrating my journey with me. I have my life back and I look forward to seeing you all achieve your goals. I wanted to start off my saying that most people that do these peer inspirations, are able to stand up here and speak without reading off of a page but this is all very raw for me. The thoughts and experiences I’m about to share with you today are very close to my heart. I’ve not shared them publicly before but I wanted to here, with you, today. They aren’t my exercise routine, or my food choices, or how much water I drink (although all have worth, and we can definitely discuss them). These are the issues at my core. They are the issues that I have had with food my entire life, and the reasons why I’m here with you today. I don’t have all of the answers but I hope to be able to give you some insight on what has helped me along the way.
First, I’d like to give you some background into my journey here. I was born and raised in California so I spent a lot of time outdoors. I was on the swim team, and played soccer. I spent a lot of time at the beach and we did a lot of outdoor activities…. My Mom regularly sent us to school with pita bread sandwiches and fresh fruit. We ate healthy food at home too. So, one of the questions I often ask myself if how did I get to be obese? There are a lot of pieces to that puzzle that I’ve discovered along my journey but WAY too much to get into here today…. I’ll attempt to just share a few… I had horrible self esteem, I had negative self talk, I was shy and I was often scared. When I say scared, I wasn’t necessarily scared of my parents… but I was scared of a lot of things. Scared of fitting in, scared of not fitting in, scared of talking, and when I did talk, I was scared of saying the wrong thing, I was terrified of dying…. Basically I was scared of everything. And I stuck out… I was tall. I was the tallest girl in school. I recently saw my 6th grade class picture and I could have been mistaken for the teacher. So, I took being the tallest as being the biggest which was very scary. I was the “biggest”. I just remember feeling really, really BIG. This kind of negative self talk just snowballed through adolescence, and into adulthood. And in time, I became what I put out…. I became Obese. Obese then became Morbidly Obese.
When my son was born in 2000, I decided it was time for a change. I started a program and did well. I lost quite a bit of weight on the program but I never changed my perception of food. I didn’t attempt to understand my issues around food. I would spend all week thinking about what I was going to eat for my “cheat meal” after weigh in. As important as I believed this weight loss was too me, the food took priority over it all. I gained it back within a year (plus some). I’m sure most of you can relate to this. I wanted to be smaller, and “less” obese but not as much as I wanted to eat. My priorities weren’t clear at that point. As much as I wanted them to be, I hadn’t hit my “rock bottom”. I tried other “diets” along the way, but none with any true success. Then… something amazing happened. I gave up. I threw in the towel. And in doing so, it started me on the journey into discovering the most amazing person I've ever met.... myself.
This journey wasn’t for the weak at heart. It was a dark, cold, lonely, and sad place for a very long time…. but on the other side was my life. The life I was destined to lead. The life we all can have if we decide it’s worth the effort. When I gave up, I saw someone I have never met. I have never been the type of person who shuts down and makes a conscious decision to quit. However, this time…. I was done; completely over it. I was now morbidly obese and that's just the way it was. I needed to accept my role in this world and embrace it. This was me; all of me. “Love it and leave it”! I would eat what I want, hide in my room, and publicly put a smile on my face. It would be the new me. I would not continue to compete with food; it could win…. I was too weak. I was just a victim to food. This would be my new outlook. Unfortunately, the person who couldn't accept this new outlook was me. How was I going to look in the mirror everyday, and see the real me trapped inside and not do everything humanly possible to save her. But for an entire year, that's exactly what I did. And, as I got bigger… my world got smaller. I would lie on my couch or in my bed. I cried into my pillow or on my husbands shoulder. I constantly made excuses to not meet up with friends (because honestly, who would want me around?) and I refused to be out in public anymore than necessary. I repeatedly asked my husband how he could be with someone that looked like me (by the way I am married to the kindest, most supportive man in the entire world) and apologized to my son for not being the Mom he deserved to have. The kind of Mom that rode bikes, went to the park, took walks, and played outside with him. I felt weak, depressed, anxious, lonely, and powerless. This was not the person I used to know. I didn't recognize her and she was not me.
Then, one day it happened. I decided enough was enough. I was taking my life back. This was not the life I was meant to lead. This was not my destiny. I was not living my authentic life, or being my authentic self. I had allowed those feelings to have power over me for quite some time, but no longer. I felt empowered to take my life back. Above all else, I wanted to reclaim the person inside the body. I held her close, and made sure she knew that she was loved, and cared for, and that I would never abuse her again. I also agreed to forgive myself. I was moving forward. I could not go through life, not living, anymore. And I was not living it at all. I had merely been existing. In doing so, I had been doing a disservice to myself and my family and friends by not being the person I knew I was… inside. That day my world opened up and I began my journey. There was a quote that means the world to me.... it says "I took a vow of non violence and that includes my body". First and foremost, I refuse to do any harm to myself. That same day, I started a list of things I wanted back. Things that I could not have from being the weight I was.
My first entry..... My wedding ring. It is actually the ring my Dad gave my Mom when they got married. That ring is very special. To me, it holds a lot of symbolism. My parents were young, their love was innocent, my father was going off to Vietnam, and my Mom was entering womanhood. It was the beginning of everything. My parents are no longer together, but that ring still holds the symbolism for me. So when I was married, it became my wedding band. My husband added a platinum band in the middle to complete our circle. This ring, that meant so much to me, didn’t fit. It hadn’t fit in years. This first entry began my list and it is pertinent to my journey. I truly hope that you all have an opportunity to sit down and write your own list. I can’t tell you how much I’ve used this list. It keeps me focused and helps me to keep my priorities straight. When values are clear, decisions are easy.
I had been researching a center, and had been interested in checking it out. I had been online and had found some good feedback from other clients. I had also found a supportive “external” forum that seemed to be a good fit for me. I was ready.... I really felt strongly that this was the direction for me. I just knew that this center was going to help me in my journey. I just could “feel” it. So, I called and made my appointment. I signed up that very night! There was no question; this was my place. This was the missing link on my journey. For me, it was exactly what I needed; counseling, classes, food instruction, weigh-ins, and so much more. I am a good student. I am able to have someone tell me what to eat, how much to eat and I will follow that instruction..... My issue has always been the heart issues and the head issues. I needed to understand why I do what I do and what I can do to change my perception about food. I love this center. I love these people. I feel like they are committed to my success, as much as I am. I'm more than just a number to them and when I’m here, I feel like I’m with family.
I began MRC on October 27th. Before Halloween and more importantly, before Halloween candy! For me, this was a great place to start. There can always be a reason to hold off…. But when values are clear, decisions are easy. By the way, Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday.... and it went off without a hitch. I was on plan, and kicking butt. Several holidays, and events followed.....
The most powerful and emotional issue that occurred was that my Father in Law (and I don’t even like to call him my Father in Law… he was my Dad. I am lucky enough to have had two Dads) was diagnosed and then passed away from Lung Cancer. He suffered greatly, and we miss him very much. When he died, we didn’t know how we would continue on without him. Fortunately, we had no regrets. We still hear him and his advice all the time. He was great at kicking us in our butts and getting us back on track. There was no time for pity parties. This man knew of loss, and sadness, and could have been quite bitter. But he wasn’t. He was strong. He found out he had cancer one year to the date after he had been given a kidney transplant that he waited 7 years on dialysis for. His response to us, when asked how he felt about it all? “It is what it is” As bad as things are or can be, you move forward. You don’t waste time on things you can’t change. You do what needs to be done, and you fight. It is what it is. You can’t change it. Life happens, death happens, we have to continue. And in relation to our situation here; there can always be an excuse or a reason to eat off plan…. But what’s the point? Life is constantly happening, no matter how much we try to stop it. It is what it is. And, I could have used any or all of those life events as a reason to mis-step, but I had a choice and my choice was clear. "I took a vow of non violence, and that includes my body".
I also had my list.... Let's not forget the "list". I had now named it my "freedom list". It was all of the wonderful things I would get back (my freedoms) as I lost weight. So, when someone would say "Would you like a piece of cake"? I would think of my list..... Here's how it went.... Cake? or Riding a bike with my son? That decision was so easy to make..... It was almost ridiculous to even think about. Cake or my son? There was no thought needed. Sometimes there was no temptation in front of me…. Sometimes it was just me and my thoughts….. wondering if I could continue? Could I handle it? So, then out came the list. And, then I would realize that I absolutely could do it. I was strong and powerful. There was no question.
I had other assistance as well. I have the most amazing support system. My husband and son are just beautiful. They are my foundation. I can have a bad day or feel weak, and they hold me up. They tell me how strong I am and motivate me in the most wonderful ways. I hope to return that gift to them someday.
My husband; he is amazing. After our Dad passed away, we were coming home from Ohio and I was sure I was done. While we were there, I had made it through every kind of temptation possible. I had been strong, and made it through all 9 days but now, we were driving home and I couldn’t do it anymore. Each time we stopped on the way home, I would request something… one time it was French Fries, then Mozzarella Sticks…. It went on and on. Each time, my loving husband said the most wonderful thing. He said… “When we get home, if you REALLY want it, you can have it”. When we got home, something magical happened. I didn’t want any of that “stuff” anymore. I was back in my routine and feeling fine. He is my best friend, and the person who knows me better than anyone; often times, better than I know myself. I came away from that experience realizing….If you want something badly enough, you are willing to wait for it.
My Son; the love of my life….. I can’t begin to tell you all of the things that he does that make me smile. One of the many things he does, that just makes me want to hug him until he can’t breathe is: When I get home from weigh ins, he asks how much I’ve lost and gives me high fives and sometimes adds a special success dance for me. That’s just part of it though…. My absolute favorite thing is what I like to call “Amiri measurements”. Amiri(my son) is seven and understands lb’s lost, but that to him is irrelevant (except for when I lost his weight… then I could say I lost one of him… now I say I’ve lost almost two of him). What matters to him the most are hugs….. When he used to hug me, his hands didn’t touch…. So, he started measuring my loss by how close his fingers were when he hugged me then he would say “Momma, you are losing a lot”! Now, his hands overlap and it’s very exciting. I love getting those measurements.
I've gone through every emotion there is. For me, it’s seems like at different weights, I've been at different levels of self discovery. They were really powerful steps that I needed to take. Sometimes the emotions would pop up and overwhelm me.... Other times, they just would flow in and out. In the beginning, I needed to know so desperately why? What shaped my behaviors as a child? What created my control issues with food? When did my self image change? Was I born with a negative self image or was it learned? Was it influenced by my parents? Or was it society? Could it have been influenced by my peers? Maybe it had all been in my head? At points, I would be angry that I could let myself get to this point. How could anyone have gotten so out of control? Why didn’t I stop myself at 200lbs? or at 250lbs? Why not 300lbs? or 350lbs? Why had I just kept going when I knew it was such an issue? I was so relieved and thankful to have the classes here at all of these different moments because it really helped me to understand my feelings, as well as my old behavior. I was able to really evaluate these feelings in a safe and friendly environment. And when I felt like I needed to discuss these things, they were there. They were a neutral party, and could provide a sounding board when I needed it. I can talk to them about anything.
Which leads me into my “slip”. Twice, I discovered that I was going back to my old habits of skipping meals. I really thought I had everything all figured out and it hit me out of nowhere. For about a week, I would skip breakfast or lunch.... or both. It was my old ways, without the bad food choices (at least), but it was slowing creeping back in. And it caught me off guard and put me into a tail spin. It took me some time to get over the fact I wasn’t as perfect as I thought and I spent a lot of time talking to my friends here. But what I realized is how much you learn from these things… and when you’re perfect, you don’t learn a thing. In terms of having a slip, or with any issue or mis-step that may come up, I’d like to share an analogy with you. Picture yourself driving down the freeway heading home to the ones you love. You miss the exit. What do you do? Do you continue to drive on, screaming and yelling at yourself, never to arrive at your destination…? Never again to see the ones you love? Or, do you acknowledge the error, get off on the next exit and make the correction? I choose to make the U turn. Again, when this “slip” occurred, I thought it was so awful but what I realized from it was that I don’t have my mind figured out quite yet. I am a work in progress and always will be. But isn't that the most amazing part of being a human being? We are always learning, and growing. So.... back to basics. I went back to square one and remembered that I'm learning. That's what I did and I got back on track.
As of today, I have lost 115 lbs on plan and look forward to living. My freedom list is still growing day by day and I will share it with you now. My wedding ring is now almost falling off and will need to be resized.
Through this journey, I have had the pleasure of meeting the most incredible person.
She is loving, kind, and caring.
She is determined, and intelligent....
She is amazing and I am that woman.