It has been just over one year since I got on the scale and saw that I had reached my goal weight. I still remember how surreal it all felt—a goal set when the odds of reaching it were pretty small. That goal stood in front of me for two years and six weeks of changing the way I ate, the way I regarded myself and, of course, my commitment to exercise.
It is a milestone, but less of one than I imagined. I somehow thought I would work every single day to maintain my weight and renew my commitment to my changed lifestyle. In reality, I didn’t take into account the power of ingrained habits. If you have to think through everything you’re doing, that gives you an opportunity to also question it, or find excuses not to do it. Mostly, I do what I do automatically, as a regular part of each day that I have completely accepted.
Oh, if I have slip-ups now and then, I can still feel a touch of panic. That “oh-no-I’ve-stepped-on-the-fat-train-again” feeling if I think I’ve indulged too much. Of course, once I look back and assess what I’ve consumed during the day, it’s just a little flexing here and there, a part of my new lifestyle rather than a deviation from it.
But, this anniversary is a milestone in one way. In October, 2018, I remember wondering and hoping if I would be at the same weight one year later. I look ahead to October 2020 with confidence, knowing (God willing and the crick don’t rise) I will still be enjoying my transformed life.
I have faced one tough question from a few friends: could I have gone on this journey if I had not been retired? I have thought about this a great deal, trying to break down everything I did into the individual components.
It certainly wouldn’t have been a problem for me to start taking Contrave, and I suspect the medicine’s impact on my appetite and my cravings would have been the same whether I was working or not. I think it’s safe to say I would have been able to lose weight regardless, especially by committing to changing portion sizes and limiting my options rather than “dieting.” I had a number of meetings over meals, and frequently had little to no choice in what food I ate. The changes I made to my nutritional intake would have fit in very nicely to my work life. I give myself a “green light” there.
Exercising does take up a lot of time, and I didn’t believe I had any extra time back then. I can look back and say that there was time—it’s all a matter of the choices I made. My reasons for starting to exercise were based on fear because I had lost weight quickly and become quite weak. Those reasons would have held if I had been working, and there are plenty of days now where I get up at 5 or 6 to exercise because I have a busy day ahead of me. However, there is one big difference between the career-me and the retired-me: career-Margie came home most evenings pretty stressed out and it took me a long time to unwind. Those late nights along with frequent early morning meetings meant I was chronically sleep-deprived. I could have added exercise (probably at thirty minutes rather than fifty minutes a day), but I would have had to address how to relax and go to bed earlier. Thinking about that caution, exercise while working is probably a “yellow light.” I would have had to change the way I was managing my time off to make it work.
Then there is the emotional aspect of the work I did, and this is where I get stuck. I was in a high profile executive position in the C-suite. I could not have been effective in my job if I had exposed my vulnerabilities, my sense of shame and inferiority, to others at work. Yet, it would have also been very difficult to keep those emotions confined to non-work hours, essentially living out my work and non-work life as two different people. I need to be honest here, and just say I don’t think I could have done it.
That doesn’t mean that others can’t achieve the trifecta of a changed lifestyle. I know plenty of people who are overweight but still self-confident. They are as likely as I to have hidden truths buried inside them, but exploration of their truths doesn’t necessarily have to be caustic to their work life.
Given that I could have changed my dietary habits and lost weight successfully, and that I could have adopted an exercise regime even when working, that’s still a pretty good outcome. It would have taken me just as long to get to my weight goal whether or not I was working, so I would have still had that two-year chunk of time to get those new habits deeply ingrained. Physically, I would have been in a much better place than I was.
Being tied up in a career with too much on your plate isn’t an excuse for not starting a healthy lifestyle. You can do it, especially if you make adopting a healthy lifestyle a priority. And, if you, like me, have some serious constraints to exploring your emotional obesity—well, that can wait. Getting two thirds of the way there is a whole lot better than not stepping up to the plate, isn’t it?