32. Empowered

32. Empowered

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Empowered

Taking charge of your body can help you take charge of your life.
And that power can help you go wherever you want to go, every single day.
 ~Cheryl Bridges Treworgy,
member of five U.S. World Cross-Country teams

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I hissed through clenched teeth as I tried to put on my favorite pair of pants. I lay on the bed, sucked in my stomach, pulled and tugged, but the zipper wouldn’t close. In disgust, I tugged them off and threw them to the back of the closet. I fished out a long wraparound skirt and tied it around my middle, then joined my husband downstairs.

“You look nice,” my husband said.

“No, I don’t,” I shot back. “I’m fat.” I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror. I didn’t like the person I saw. How did I get this way? The weight started creeping on after the kids were born. But they were in their 30s now! A few pounds here, a few pounds there, and the scale continued to climb higher each year.

The problem was I hated the word “diet.” To me it meant depriving myself of every good thing I loved. Even more I hated the thought of saying “I can’t” every time I wanted something.

Later that summer, I found myself out of breath when I climbed two flights of stairs. And then, on a moderate hike with my grandsons, my heart started pounding heavily. I made an appointment to see my doctor.

“Your blood pressure is too high,” she said. “You need to bring it down.” Heart disease ran in my family, and feeling winded after mild exertion was a warning sign. “You’re not that overweight,” she continued, “but if you lost 15-20 pounds it would make a big difference.”

Easy for her to say, I thought when I got back in the car and headed for home. Up ahead I saw the bright yellow arches of McDonald’s. I pulled in. There was nothing like a juicy cheeseburger, fries and a shake to take away the sting of the doctor’s warning. The next morning I stepped on the scale. I weighed more than I ever had in my life.

The next week I met a girlfriend at my favorite restaurant for lunch. All morning my mouth had been watering for the cheesy broccoli soup, grilled pastrami sandwich, and French fries. But I couldn’t have any of it. “I’m tired of denying myself,” I complained to my friend. “I can’t have cake, ice cream, fries. Is there anything I can have?”

“You can have lots of things,” she said.

“Yeah, right. You’re not the one trying to lose weight.” I sulked in my chair and thought about how I stepped on the scale every morning and peeked at the numbers. I was happy if I hadn’t gained and elated if I’d lost even half a pound. I closed my eyes for a few seconds. When I opened them, my thoughts were finally clear. There was something I could have. Control. Control over my own decisions. I could pick something I knew would be good for me, or I could pick something that wasn’t in line with my goals. It was all a matter of choice.

I closed my menu and plopped it down on the end of the table. “I’m choosing the Chinese chicken salad with the dressing on the side,” I said to the waitress when she took our order.

I felt great when I left the restaurant carrying a take-home box filled with half of that huge salad. But most of all, I discovered I had control over my choices. I loved the feeling of power it gave me.

The weight came off slowly, but after a while it stalled. Eating a light meal a couple of nights a week would help, but that would mean preparing two separate dinners. My husband hadn’t said anything about the changes I’d made, but I had a feeling he was going to say something about this one.

“What are you doing now?” he asked when he saw me bring a bowl of oatmeal to the table. He sat with a sizzling steak and a steaming baked potato. “You’re not going to try to make me eat like that, are you?”

“Honey, I’m not going to change what I make you for dinner,” I said. “Two or three times a week I’m going to have a bowl of cereal with fruit, or some healthy soup, or even oatmeal like this. I like those things. They satisfy me.”

“But you’ll get sick if you don’t eat more. It’s not good for you.”

“It’s all healthy food. And besides, I usually have tuna for lunch with crackers and carrot and celery sticks. Sometimes I have yogurt with sliced strawberries. I eat fine, I really do.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like it to me,” he frowned.

Later that night, we talked. “I’m doing this to feel better about myself,” I said. “I can’t go back to the way I was. I won’t. But it hurts when you don’t support me in what I’m trying to do.”

He took my hand in his. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to undermine your efforts. To me, you’ve always been beautiful.”

“You’re sweet, but I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t comment on what I eat. It would help me a lot.”

“Okay, if that’s what you want.”

And by gosh, he stuck to his word. I continued to make his favorite meals and he uttered not one sound. It was just what I needed to keep working toward my weight loss goal.

I added exercise by dusting off the old bike in the garage and peddling for 30 minutes after dinner. And I continued to make changes. A nice sized salad accompanied almost every meal I made. A little cheese on top or a chopped hard-boiled egg made it look visually appealing. “I love your salads,” my husband said while rinsing the dinner dishes one night. He dried his hands on a towel. “You really look great,” he added as he put his arms around me.

“Thanks,” I said. Just that morning I’d tried on my favorite pants again. They fit perfectly.

A year later I was in the doctor’s office for a checkup. I’d lost 15 pounds. She confirmed that my blood pressure was normal. Two years later, I’ve still kept off the weight. I like how I look in the mirror, but more so how I feel on the inside. No more “I can’t” talk for me. I can lose weight, and keep it off. With the power that comes from wise choices, I know I’ll have no trouble sticking to the lifestyle I choose.

~B.J. Taylor

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