Before we left the Weighty Matters class one day, I turned to one of my comrades, a lovely woman named Betty. She is one of those people whose presence is just soothing, from her smooth-as-chocolate voice to her practical point of view. At that point, she had lost thirty pounds and was at her lowest weight in years.
“So, Betty,” I said. “You seem so steadfastly focused on your journey to health. What do you think has made this time different for you?”
Betty didn’t respond quickly. She tilted her head and gazed off, pondering for a moment, then answered in that gentle tone of hers.
“I think it’s because I believe in myself this time,” she answered, then gave a tiny nod of self-affirmation. “I really believe in myself and my ability to do this.”
What a powerful statement! It was the flip side to Michelle Obama saying that “failure is the emotion that precedes its own reality.”
I thought back to the beginning of my journey and recalled that I certainly had no such self-confidence. I had a lifetime string of diet failures and had never found a way, even when I did get down to a good weight, to maintain that weight. If Hester Prynne had a big “A” embroidered on her chest, I had a big “F” embroidered on my soul.
What I did have was an absolute belief that I was on a continuous road that extended forward for the rest of my life. From the time I started this journey, I saw the full stretch of it in front of me rather than where I was at any one point in time. In the past, any weight loss I achieved had a strong internal potential to be its own end-point, a short-lived celebration of “I did it!” followed quickly by falling back into my old habits.
This time, I was always aware of that continuum stretching out in front of me. I didn’t set a weight goal until I had lost fifty pounds, and I thought a lot more about being one hundred pounds away than about the fifty that were already gone. When I lost seventy-five pounds, I sent an email out to my friends and family affirming my halfway point. And when I started exercising, I envisioned that future point on my road where I wouldn’t be filled with dread every morning as I headed to the basement to start my routine.
Perhaps I didn’t yet believe in myself, but my belief in my commitment never waivered. Even when I would hit a plateau where I didn’t seem to be making any progress, I never questioned if I was doing the right thing—I just kept on.
Getting to my goal weight wasn’t an end point in my eyes either. For two years I had reframed the “goal” in my mind from a finish line to transitioning on to a different phase. Same road, just new lessons to be learned while I kept the old ones firmly ingrained.
I am always a little surprised when I am occasionally asked if I still exercise. Why would I give up something that has become so important to me, that got me to this part of my journey? Why would I give up something that helped me get strong?
Maybe Betty and I actually do have something in common as we pursue a healthy, happy lifestyle. We both believe. Whether it is in ourselves or in the process or in our own commitment—we believe, and that belief has kept us going. It still keeps us going. Belief is the seed that blossoms as we learn a different way to live. It is nurtured by the actions we take.
Failure is the emotion that precedes its own reality. For different reasons, neither Betty nor I believed we would fail.
It is worth asking yourself as you forge your own path: “What do I believe in?” If you’re not sure, take the time to find out. It will sustain you in the miles ahead where you have not yet trod.