I vividly remember the morning a few years ago when my friends invited me to a picnic and sunbathing.
After months of cold weather, and at least a year of not wearing my bathing suit, it didn’t cross my mind that it wouldn’t fit.
When I tried to put it on, I looked like one of my oversized plush toys wearing a doll’s shorts—awkwardly tight and bursting at the seams.
As the image soaked in, I realized I was not supposed to feel like this. I thought, “An intelligent, well-educated, young mother who cares about herself is not supposed to be trapped in a mindless state of binge-eating.”
Letting go of temptations.
Suddenly, many signs I had ignored dawned on me. I often had trouble walking, my feet would get swollen, I had insatiable cravings, I had aches and pains, and, yet, I always found a way to giggle the problem into oblivion.
It was one of those cliché wake-up call moments. But, I decided to stay awake and start my journey of change, not for the sake of my physical appearance—although it bothered me—but for the sake of my well-being and self-respect.
I started by cleaning out our kitchen of all the sugary, processed foods I loved so much. I called my husband and asked him to pick me up for grocery shopping. I brought a fresh batch of fruits and veggies, as well as chicken and turkey meat, because that was everything I knew to be a solid base for a fat-loss diet.
When the kids got home, they were annoyed by the lack of sweets, but it only took one lengthy conversation followed by an occasional reminder, and they were on board. In fact, they were my greatest strength and main drive.
If there’s one thing you can do to break the spell, it’s removing all the temptation around you. That’s the first and most important step toward rebuilding your life from the ground up.
The importance of learning and support.
I was among the lucky ones who had support from my friends and family, so I felt comfortable sharing my goals for my new lifestyle. My emotional outbursts were always met with uplifting words that would help me pick myself up and move forward.
I knew that my mindset was the key aspect of my life that required a makeover, so I started educating myself on healthy habits, the human body, and all the intricate connections between our mental well-being and physical health. I finally learned what nutrient-dense foods are, that I didn’t have to limit my diet to raw veggies and cooked chicken, and that preparing homemade broth is much more fun that buying a burger.
Our visits to the local market turned into a family ritual, and although I had my temptations when passing the bakery, the image of my future self as a new role model for my kids pushed me forward.
I also learned that gut bacteria have a profound effect on my mental health, and that my lack of physical activity was intertwined with the way my genes behave and would wreak havoc on my future self, causing anything from depression, to tens of different chronic conditions.
The learning process opened a new world of information to me, and I finally started perceiving nutrition as a way of life, not as a burden or temporary solution.
Changing your perception is a slow, but worthy process, and asking for help is a sign of strength. Bear in mind— knowledge is power, and you can use it to defeat your demons.
Confronting challenges and fears.
With a wealth of knowledge came the inevitable self-doubt and self-criticism, but my main setback was the overwhelming pressure I put on myself.
There were times that I felt as if I couldn’t possibly eat another pile of spinach, and that I could not resist diving into a bucket of chicken wings with a chocolate milkshake to follow. It was as if my palate went numb and the only taste I craved was caramel-covered mocha cupcakes. At these times, I allowed myself a few pieces of dark chocolate.
Looking back, I would say that this whole process was much like the five stages of grief. I dealt with denial almost every day, anger would kick in at least once a month, and I would bargain with my husband for food as if he was the one forcing me to change.
It was perseverance and utter stubbornness that helped me to not lose sight of what truly matters—rebuilding my attitude toward a healthy lifestyle and forming new habits from scratch. At times, it felt impossible, as if I was stagnating for months without any visible results.
However, you can embrace failure as a natural part of your road to success. Love your imperfections, strive to overcome them, but never give up on yourself. These tests will only allow you to become stronger than your greatest weaknesses.
Allowing for major changes one small step at a time.
Surrounding myself with healthy choices was the first important decision that changed the look of my kitchen. Having no access to processed junk food was a big step toward cleansing my dinner plate and my body. Then, as the basis of my newly-acquired knowledge, I started learning and experimenting with recipes from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen Cookbook, among many other sources, and I started modifying our family recipes.
I introduced useful accessories in my food preparation process, such as the KitchenAid food processor for blending and mixing nuts and fruits into delicious smoothies. It helped me turn snack-making into artistry. My favourite one—a true lifesaver in moments of crisis—was the strawberries, banana, and coconut milk combo.
Small decisions like these make the biggest difference in the long run. Not only do they assist weight loss, but they help you to start accepting yourself, rebuild your self-esteem, and enjoy the versatility of a new menu.
Building the attitude of appreciation.
Overcoming obstacles was the key factor in challenging my perception and embracing my new decision one step at a time.
It may take a while before you can start enjoying the change. If you can, shift your thinking toward three things you’re proud of and grateful for as soon as you notice negative emotions piling up. This will allow you to build a positive attitude in times of crisis.
For instance, I stopped calling it a “diet” and perceiving it as a restrictive method. I started turning every meal preparation into a ritual that would satisfy all of my senses. I enjoyed the crunchy feel of baked chicken, the fragrance of herbs I would mix into my salads, the colourful plate of fruit for my daily snacks—decorated with my favourite Kopali goji berries covered with chocolate to indulge my sweet tooth—and the taste of every mouthful of well-prepared ingredients.
I learned how to savour life and its finest yields.
From a split-second wake-up call and all the way through a painful, yet rewarding journey, I have discovered a new strength within me that I never knew existed. Perhaps a similar adventure is awaiting you.
It may be hard to imagine that someday you will be grateful for such challenges. However, no matter what demons you wish to tackle, persevering and becoming your own inspiration is a most empowering experience.
1. Don’t be afraid to cleanse your home of unhealthy temptations.
2. Don’t be afraid to look for help and guidance from your friends and family, but also from any other source possible. Knowledge is power—use it to defeat your demons.
3. Let your character guide you through the change and be prepared to fail and pick yourself up time and time again.
4. Zoom in, and focus on the small choices you make every day. No matter how unreachable your goal may seem at times, it’s these small decisions that will build your final outcome.
5. Stay focused on the positives—every time you catch yourself doubting or criticizing, shift your thinking toward three distinct things that you make you feel proud, happy, and grateful.
Author: Zara Lewis
Editor: Lieselle Davidson