Wednesday, September 17, 2014

let it roll off your back

Hi everyone….it’s a brand new day!  Most of you know that I teach a class at the college for first-time, at-risk students about how to navigate college and be a successful student. Yesterday, one of my students, a lovely lady in her mid 20’s (maybe older) , told the class that she was nervous about doing her speech because of the “giggling high-school girls” who sit in the back of the class laughing and making fun of the other students. I was surprised to hear this…and said, “Really….seriously?”  I expect this kind of childish behavior in elementary and high-school, but I guess I never expected to hear about it at the college. It made me so sad….and yet, I guess it’s very real. Others in my class agreed with her and shared similar stories.  I did my best to encourage my students and inspire confidence in them, but I don’t know how successful I was in convincing her that the opinions and immaturity of others did not define her worth. 

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a young lady… (I think perhaps junior high) who was overweight. We talked about how hard it is to be the biggest kid (or close to the biggest) in the class, or worse, the school. It’s hurtful and very painful.  I know her pain all too well, and I’m guessing that some of you do as well. Sometimes people can be so incredibly cruel to each other….and I just always want to ask, WHY?  Are they so insecure that they need to put someone else down in order to feel better about themselves?  Have they been taught those prejudices by those around them? Why do we think that it’s okay to tease, hurt, alienate, or otherwise mistreat those who look, think, or behave different than us?  I just don’t know…but it makes me sad because “I’ve been there; done that” and it just led to more problems.

Does this sound familiar?  Someone says something cruel to you about your weight (or other issue). You feel left out, ugly, or hurt….and so you eat ice-cream or a bag of chips….you feel better for a little while but gain more weight….you feel worse for gaining weight….so you eat something else.  In the meantime, someone says, “see, I knew you wouldn’t stick to your diet”… feel defeated and have a hot fudge sundae (or a drink or cigarette or whatever)….and then you feel horrible for giving in and being weak…..SIGH…..the horrible cycle of emotional reaction.  It is so hard to come to the realization that our self-worth and value as a person HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with our weight…..and yet…. If our weight is out of control, we feel bad about ourselves. 

I lived that life for many years but eventually got to the point where I didn’t really care anymore what people thought about me. Of course, I always didn’t care about myself either; otherwise, I would have never allowed myself to get to 400+ pounds.  It was only then, however, that I was able to begin this journey….and stick with it because I was doing this FOR ME….not for anyone else; not so that someone might like me better; not because someone was embarrassed or thought I was fat…but because I wanted to change my life for ME. It was (and is and will always be) a process for sure, and it took a long time to get there mentally, but once I began to tell myself that I was a good person regardless of the scale, I began to WANT to feel better; to look better; to treat my body better. I was making better choices for ME; not for anyone else.  After so many years of worrying about and trying to take care of everyone else……and just living in survival mode myself….it finally clicked in my head that “I’m worth the effort….it’s time to think about THERESA….to do something for THERESA….to treat THERESA better, otherwise Theresa wasn’t going to live very much longer.”  It wasn’t easy to get to that place in my head, because I felt ‘selfish” for taking time to focus on my own needs…for spending extra money on produce (gosh, fruit and vegetables cost a fortune compared to junk food)….for spending time doing things that I  needed….or just simply wanted….. to do; to pray and reflect; to take a drive; to rest or think or just be alone with my thoughts.

Those of you with families to care for may experience the guilt. “There’s so much to do….laundry, homework, lunches to pack……I feel really bad for wanting to go to the gym or take that Zumba class.” “You never make dessert or cookies for us anymore, mom.” “Why do you have to go that Weight Watchers meeting or TOPS tonight… you look fine to me.”  “But I like you chunky….(really means… I don’t want anyone else giving you attention).   Ever been THERE or heard those…or other similar words? did I get beyond that? How did I convince myself that I could do this?  I talked to myself!  I told myself , “I’m gonna show them!” “Oh really? You think I can’t do this….Just watch me” and “God is bigger than this.” I repeated scriptures in my head, “Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world” and “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.”  I made up little prayer chants that I said/say over and over (I’ve shared these often, but they are so powerful to me)…. “Thank you, Lord; Thank you, Lord; You have set me free….TY Lord; TY Lord…for this victory”  and “God you are so wonderful; God you are so great; God you are so marvelous… I am losing weight!”  There are so many others.  I put little quotes and notes on the refrigerator or mirror. I played Alicia Key’s song, “This girl is on fire” over and over again as I danced in my living room….all by myself.  I celebrated little victories…10 pounds or reaching small goals.  I wrote…and wrote…and wrote, and gave myself pep talks through my blogs and posts…..and you listened and responded and encouraged me. I drew strength from people that loved me at 400 pounds….and that would love me equally at 200 pounds. I prayed for strength; I thanked God for grace; I only weighed myself once a week; I didn’t worry about getting to the goal because I knew that there is NO END to this journey. I will NEVER be finished or be able to go back to eating the way I did before.

Today…I encourage you to let the words of the naysayers roll off your back. Forget about those who make you feel bad about your size, addiction, or physical appearance. Forgive those who have hurt you; teased you; made fun of you or otherwise hindered your journey.  This is about YOU… about YOU feeling empowered….and YOU believing that you can change your life…and about YOU doing it!!!  You’ve got this!!!!  You can do it!  Just don’t give up trying! 

Have a wonderful day today!!!