By Courtney Lewis Opdahl |
This week’s Life Time Fitness newsletter arrived in my inbox yesterday. Subject line: “One new year. 365 chances to commit to who you want to be.” It was the perfect statement to get me out of that “I’ll start Monday” mindset that I’ve long kept.
I’ll give you a quick background on me: I’ve been working with Experience Life since January 2010 as a fact checker, and also, since November 2011, as multimedia project manager. I graduated from the University of Minnesota’s journalism school, and began full-time employment with a city-regional magazine in the Twin Cities that spring.
The work was interesting and challenging and, being the workaholic that I am, often all-consuming. I’d sit in a desk all day writing and copyediting and proofreading and fact-checking, only getting up briefly to make my lunch that I’d eat at my desk. I’d often feel so tired from reading all day that I didn’t want to engage in any activities, so I’d go straight home to watch TV all night, sometimes working a bit longer before a late bedtime. I would joke that I went straight from my desk chair during the day to a reclining chair at night, but it was my reality.
I had gained 36 pounds going into freshmen year, and never took the time to focus on my health until senior year, when I finally lost the weight. However, I followed an extreme diet and felt horrible throughout it, but I was happy to have the weight off again. Since I never learned any healthy-living skills during that time, I regained the weight again slowly while I was dating my husband, Kyle, and then quickly after our wedding when I settled back into my obsessive work life described above.
At Experience Life, I’ve been submerged in healthy living: reading about nutrition and fitness daily, and surrounded by supportive coworkers who exercise with me or share recipes and cooking tricks. As you know from our content, I’ve learned how healthy people shop, stock their pantry, balance work and life, and live more mindfully. Even though I grew up in a medical family and had struggled through managing health conditions with prescription drugs, it never occurred to me to change my diet first. Or add in more activity. That a daily walk outside could make all the difference. And sadly, my doctors never suggested lifestyle changes. (For more, you can follow my story at my Coming Clean blog, where I share how I’m transforming my formerly unhealthy lifestyle.)
In January 2011, I weighed in at my heaviest: 221 pounds. For most of my teenage years, I weighed anywhere from 120 to 135, so when the scale went into the 200s, I think I went numb. Looking back, I know I disconnected well before that. All that matter throughout college and after graduation was that I was excellent in my work. Kyle was a hard worker, too, and our relationship felt so easy when we met that I figured he wouldn’t mind missing date nights or home-cooked meals or walks together with the dogs. We could both work hard through the remainder of our 20s and meet on the other side. Whenever that would come.
Of course, my life wasn’t going to slow down unless I made it happen. I wasn’t going to lose the 65 pounds I gained after we got married, and the additional 15 when I changed jobs, by some chance. And I wasn’t going to keep off the weight loss unless I chose to commit to a healthy way of life.
Over the past two years, I’ve lost 50 pounds. I workout and actually enjoy it. I lift heavy weights and love the confidence it gives me. I stopped eating processed foods, drinking diet soda and discovered food intolerances to gluten and dairy. With my doctor, I’ve been working to lower body-wide inflammation, proof I could see in blood-test results of high C-reactive protein levels. I also take care of myself through massage, chiropractic treatments and weekly acupuncture sessions that have been helping me re-balance my wonky hormones and inconsistent menstrual cycles. I spend more time with family and friends, and have learned how to have a leisure life outside of watching TV. And on January 1, I’ll be participating in a 5K.
These were major changes I made, but it happened because of small, everyday actions. It wasn’t easy, and there are still challenging times for me: days when I feel sad or lazy or bored and I don’t want to cook or workout. Times when I put on my oversized sweat pants and feel like nothing’s changed and I’m still fat. Even at Christmas, Kyle’s 93-year-old grandmother was remarking on how good I look (“I didn’t even recognize you!”), and yet it was me that pulled out the picture from his sister’s wedding in 2011 to compare my photos so it could feel real to me. (If this sounds familiar, read “Your Body, Reframed” to get your brain on board with your progress.)
I haven’t designated a set period of time to losing weight. I know I could’ve lost it faster, but I may have missed some important lessons along the way. During the Commitment Day 5K on New Year’s Day, I’m walking and running away from that old mindset, the one that says “just this once” or “let’s skip it” or “it doesn’t make that big a difference.” Every day, every choice is important. It’s 365 days of living the life I dream for myself. It’s not something I resolve to do until I reach my goal weight — it’s a lifestyle I commit to every day, and eventually it’ll feel effortless. Like this is the life I’ve always lived.