Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Today is the first day of school for a lot of youngsters in the area. I remember well those “first days” of school, both as a student and later as a teacher. Today was my first day with a new group of students in the college navigation course I’m teaching for at-risk college students. The emotions of those first days were always the same, whether I was in the role of student, administrator, or teacher; namely excitement, apprehension, hope, fear, all mixed in with a healthy dose of self-doubt. Ironically those are the very same emotions I feel each and every day on this journey to change my life! Quite possibly, you may feel some of these very same emotions from time to time, regardless of where you are at on your own personal journey to better health and wellness.
As a student, I remember sleepless nights the week before school started, mostly spent tossing and turning, worrying and wondering.  What was my teacher going to be like? What if I didn’t like him/her?  I wonder if the other kids will like me. What if I don’t have anyone to sit with for lunch?  What if they make fun of me….what if I miss the bus…or forget my lunch money….what if…what if…what if?.
 Those thoughts of doubt and anxiety would then turn to hope….THIS is going to be the year I get all A’s…or get on the honor roll…or get chosen for the school play…or…gulp…get to be a cheerleader, or find a boyfriend, or be the smartest one in the class. This is the year I’ll get organized, I’ll bet my homework done on time, I won’t procrastinate….whatever!  Such high hopes, good intentions, and aspirations.  Then…back comes the self-doubt…. What if I can’t…what if I don’t…what if it’s too hard….what if…what if…what if? Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy and the “messages” that we play in our brain over and over can sabotage and hinder our success, causing us not only to fail, but to give up, or simply not find “joy in the process” of learning and growing.
Throughout my entire weight loss journey, I have had those same kinds of thoughts….apprehension and doubt…What if I FAIL again? What if I’m actually the only person on the face of the earth to actually GAIN WEIGHT on a diet?  What if I lose weight and then just gain it all back?  What if I tell people I’m on a diet and then end up giving up or cheating?  What if it’s just too hard?  What if...what if…what if?  Sometimes, these periods of self-doubt, anxiety and fear, would be overshadowed with a bit of success….a loss on the scale, a dropped pant size, a compliment from someone who “noticed” some progress. I’ve also had that feeling of HOPE and Excitement…  “THIS time, I know I’m going to do it…THIS time, this plan is going to work….THIS time, I’m going to be successful… THIS time, things are going to be different and I’m going to stick with it!  Fortunately, no because of my own doing, but only the grace of God…. In spite of my imperfections…in spite of my self-doubt, in spite of my weakness and temptation, THIS time it DID WORK!
So…. I’ve had to ask myself, “What made THIS time different than the other failed attempts to lose weight?”  Likely, it was a combination of factors, obviously counting calories and changing my eating habits completely, but ultimately, it was a complete change in mind-set. I had to…and still do on a daily basis…. continually stop the “tape of negative thoughts, of doubt, of failure” that was/is playing in my head. I had to ‘reprogram my thinking” from, “this is too hard…No, you can’t lose that much weight….It’s too much to lose….you’re just going to gain it back….I’m too tired to go for a walk…that cake looks too good to resist….whatever message was trying to get me off-track”…. To “YES, you can do this… YES, you will succeed….YES, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…YES, I CAN change my life…YES, this time will be different!
I have said time and time again….my drastic change is appearance is a VISIBLE sign of transformation, but the true change…the true miracle is the CHANGE in my heart, spirit, and mind. Once I surrendered my complete will and life to God, and admitted to myself that I was powerless to lose this weight on my own, the rest just seemed to fall into place. There is no way that I could…or can…do this on my own!
Today we begin a new school year….Today is a chance for all of us to start fresh….to develop better habits….to be more diligent in our efforts…more disciplined in our actions… to continue on our path to a new life.   I told my class today…..  “When I was losing weight, I wanted to WALK more than I wanted that bag of chips or candy bar. I still do!”  They have to WANT to be successful college students more than they want to watch that TV show, or go to that movie, or hang with their friends, or……. They have to WANT to be successful more than anything else.   SO….as we start this new school year,  If you truly WANT to be successful this time and to change your life, what messages of self-doubt, anxiety, and apprehension do you have to replace in your mind, and WHAT IS IT THAT  YOU WANT…..more than ice-cream and cookies? AND most importantly, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO…to make sure you get it?
I believe my students can do it. I believe they can succeed… I believe they have what it takes. It won’t be easy; they’ll want to give up, they’ll wonder if it’s all worth it, or whether they can actually “do this college thing”, but if they put their mind to it, they can make it happen!  Just like YOU!  I believe in you!!!!!  I believe that THIS TIME, you can…and YOU WILL….make it work! And like I will be for my students, I’ll be right here….rooting for you….encouraging you….and cheering you on! 
May this new school year be one of tremendous success for all of us!  You CAN DO IT!