I went to the UAB Weight Loss Clinic this week for my first meeting with the behavioralist, something I’ve really been looking forward to since I began this program close to two months ago. I love the holistic approach; the program supports participants with regular meetings with a doctor, a dietician, and a behavioralist along with on-ground and on-line classes. I’ve never experienced anything like this in the plethora of diet programs I’ve tried over the years, and I’m hoping that the broad spectrum of support will help me to finally make long-term changes.
The doctor and the dietician have been wonderful, but I have felt all long that the behavioralist is the one who holds the key to my success in the program. I know how to lose weight- I’ve successfully lost sixty pounds three different times in my life. I’ve been on every diet known to womankind, have read tons of articles, love to exercise. When I’m dedicated to a diet, I am typically razor-focused, religiously following the rules.
The problem isn’t knowing what to do when it comes to eating and a healthy relationship with food; the problem is sabotaging myself and gaining back the lost weight once I’ve reached my goal. Over and over again this cycle has frustrated my attempts at maintaining a healthy weight. I think perhaps that I see myself as invincible once I’m at my goal, that I don’t have to work so hard anymore. I’ve arrived! For me that’s just not true; I will always have to work at maintaining healthy habits and my weight loss- that’s just my reality.
Shiva has no compassion for my struggles.
When the young woman walked into her office I have to admit that my first thoughts were of a skeptical nature, “Oh, great, another young, thin, woman who’s never had to shed a pound in her life is going to tell me how it’s done.” My initial impression evaporated once we began talking, however. I loved her! She was bright and engaging and spoke in a way that was completely non-judgmental, putting me at ease and helping me to see several things from a different perspective.
This was our intake meeting, so she primarily asked me questions and became acquainted with my issues surrounding food (of which there are many). She asked about my eating habits and relationship with food over my lifetime, about what stressed me out (as emotional eating is a major player in my struggles with weight), family history surrounding obesity, and much more. She encouraged me to interject whenever I wanted to say something, and it truly felt like a dialogue, like she was listening to me. That meant a lot.
We discussed my issues with perfectionism (something the behavioralist said she has always battled herself) and the frustration and shame that come with not achieving that perfection. I felt my eyes begin to sting with unshed tears as we touched on this obviously touchy subject.
Those emotions became more pronounced when I told her about all of the great things that have happened to me since January professionally (a book published, became Associate Chair, and won President-Elect of my professional organization), and that I felt like a big fake, that I didn’t deserve any of it and that someone would figure that out soon. That good ol’ Imposter Syndrome that so many women face. Also, that I had the recurring fear of ‘when is the other shoe going to drop?’- these good things just can’t continue- right?
She encouraged me to do the work, focusing on the lessons and gifts of work- the achievements are an outgrowth of the work- not the main focus. She reminded me so much of my clarinet mentor, Kal Opperman, in the way she described it all, helping me to relate the concept to performance. The recital is an outgrowth of the work. Getting there is where the good stuff is- the lessons and the growth.
These are things that I hope she can lead me to reconcile, or at least make peace with so that I can let them go and finally get to a healthy weight that I can maintain.
She asked me what “being healthy” meant to me. I thought for a moment before replying. Being healthy has nothing to do with skinny. Being healthy to me is feeling good and being able to be active and exercise, doing the things that I enjoy. Being healthy is liking what I see in the mirror, as it is a reflection of a healthy lifestyle and gives me confidence in my career and in my personal life. Being healthy is eating wholesome foods and learning to not use food as a reward or an emotional crutch.
Now I just have to believe that I am worth the hard work, that I deserve to be healthy and fit. That is my next and possibly most difficult demon to face…but I’m up for the battle. One day, one meal, one choice at a time.