Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Classes started at the college today. The halls are full of excitement and apprehension as first time students prepare to enter into a new world of academia and returning students return to the classroom with the knowledge that their already “too little” free time will now be filled with studying and homework. Nonetheless, the beginning of a new school year/semester is always exciting.  Like those of us working to change our lives, these students are determined to do their best and succeed.
Part of my job as a Retention Advisor is to assist students in “starting over” after some sort of mishap or life situation caused them to fail in previous attempts at school. In many cases, serious circumstances have hindered their success. Perhaps it was a death in the family, a job loss or accident, or serious illness. In those cases, it’s easy for me to recommend that their “appeal to return and be eligible again for Financial Aid” be approved; I’m all about second chances! Good thing, because I’ve been given a lot of “2nd chances” in life; in fact, God gives me a 2nd chance every day….to do better…to be kinder…to be more loving and giving and compassionate.  In other cases, students have failed out or been placed on Academic probation because they didn’t put the effort into their studies, or simply just “gave up” when it became too hard. Other times, when they didn’t get the grade they thought they deserved, or didn’t do well on a test a particular week, they just quit trying.
In many cases, our journey to better health is like that. I have been overweight since the day I was born and over the years I have tried multiple times to lose weight and get fit. Often I would lose a few pounds and then when it got too hard or the temptation was too great, I’d simply give up or quit trying. On two occasions, I actually succeeded in losing quite a bit of weight; the first time it was about 90 pounds; the 2nd time 75, but I never stuck with it long enough to meet  my goal. I simply just ‘got lazy, gave in to temptation, or just decided it…(or maybe I)…wasn’t worth the effort it took….and I quit.  Sound familiar?  Like me, you’ve probably “been there, done that”.  
So….what made it “stick” this time, I wonder?  What makes me think that I’m going to be able to maintain this lifestyle?  What makes me know…deep down…that I am never going back to the “Old Theresa” way of life?  
 Well, there are a few things…..first and foremost, I know and believe that God has set me free and is in control of my life, and He has won this battle once and for all. He has done His part….I have to do my part…EVERY…SINGLE…MINUTE….of EVERY SINGLE DAY. I have to constantly surrender my will, desires, temptations, struggles to Him, knowing that I am completely powerless to do this alone. You may not share the same religious beliefs, but one of the proven steps from AA (I’ve never been a part of a 12 step program, but absolutely believe that I am addicted to food) is to surrender your will over to a higher power, whatever that means to you.
2nd….unlike the students roaming the halls, I know that my “semester” or “diet plan” cannot end in 12 weeks. I can’t just tell myself…”you can do this for 12 weeks…or only 5 weeks until mid-term break…or Christmas…or whatever”.  I am on a LIFETIME….never ending….Lifestyle change. I don’t believe “diets” per se, work because people often go on them for a period of time. I am on this “new lifestyle plan” for life! Otherwise, it’s a losing battle….and I don’t mean that in the good way! HA!   You too, must make changes FOR LIFE…if you hope to lose weight…and more importantly KEEP IT OFF.  This is exactly why I am not a fan of “fad diets” or “diet pills” or crazy eating plans like protein shakes or no fat/no carb/no this or that type eating plans; they simply cannot be followed for the rest of one’s life. I’ve always said…and firmly believe….that you must find a way of life….a plan…that you can stay on for the rest of your life. Make changes that you can live with…..FOREVER!
Part of my job…when approving a “2nd chance” for students is to help them succeed…THIS TIME. I try to teach them strategies, to offer support, to show them “how” successful students succeed, to cheer them on when they have a success and lift them up and encourage them when they have a bad day or want to give up. This is what all of you do for me!  Each time I read your comments, I am encouraged in my own walk and motivated to keep trying, to keep working, to keep on track.  SO….THANK YOU …for that!  We all need to have “companions on the journey” because undoubtedly we are all going to struggle; we are all going to have temptations…and likely even give in to them; we are all going to have plateaus or….gasp….even gain a few pounds…..; we are all going to want to give up.  BUT….DON’T!
 I am committed to doing everything in my power to help my students to succeed this time….to reach their goals….to change their life.  I am committed to doing that for you too…..but like the students, we all have to do our part! A student will never succeed if they don’t put the effort into studying, do their homework; make school a very high priority, or even worse, if they “give up” and quit when it gets hard/overwhelming. Likewise, we won’t succeed in changing our life either if we don’t do the work…..eat the right things…put the effort/time/money into good food and exercise….to keep trying. Use this new school year as an opportunity for you to begin again if you have been “taking a break”, or as new opportunity to prove that you have what it takes to succeed!  Are you going to pass the “test”?