51. Ready to Listen

51. Ready to Listen

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Ready to Listen

What I need is someone
who will make me do what I can.

 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today, I weigh nearly 150 pounds less than I did three years ago, and the weight loss began with a compliment: “You look great.”

I was the mother of two adopted special needs children when I decided to go back to college. Our daughter was beginning college herself, our son doing well after years of struggling, when something inside me whispered, “It’s time.” I hadn’t made myself a priority for over a decade. I had no idea that not only would I finish my degree and go on to grad school, but I would also lose 150 pounds in the process!

My weight had climbed as my self-confidence sank under the strain of being the mother of two wonderful yet challenged children. Often I didn’t feel as if I had the answers, and I worried I was failing at everything. Before long, I was 180 pounds over my ideal weight, and I felt food was the only bright spot in my life. The troubles with our children had caused my beloved husband and me often to feel disconnected from one another.

One day after I returned to college, I dressed in a suit for an appointment with the head of the English department to discuss my senior research project, and the professor not only noticed, but also commented upon it. I’m sure it was quite a change from the stretchy jeans and T-shirts I habitually wore to class. “You look great,” he said, and I realized then that I wasn’t invisible. That day I went home and purged my wardrobe of the most hated pieces of “fat” clothing. I vowed to rebuild it slowly with only clothes I would be proud to be seen wearing. If this professor I so respected was letting me know the way to get ahead in my career was to look professional, I would listen.

“I don’t look great,” I thought when he said that, looking down, “but I bet I could.” I had already let him challenge my mind with books, so I decided to allow that compliment to challenge me to attain my physical best. I had never been thin, and I could blame it on genetics. I didn’t exactly look out of place in family photos. But I was ready for the challenge. I had used his advice to improve my writing and my critical thinking skills, and I saw the connection between developing my brain and my body for the first time.

I began to exercise, slowly at first. I did Denise Austin videos (20 minutes each) every morning. I took walks when the weather was nice. I once again tried low-carb eating, which quickly took care of my cravings, and virtually eliminated my need for nightly mindless eating fests. I began to read or write instead of watching television, and bit by bit, the weight came off. I went to a nutritionist when I felt I was backsliding a bit, just to be sure I stayed the course. I also entered and won a weight loss competition at work; having my picture put in the local paper for the win was a blast for a former chunky. I felt fantastic!

I committed more and more time to exercise. I would like to lose another 30 pounds, but I have kept my weight within a 10-pound range for the past year and a half, and I can’t imagine I could ever feel better than I do right now. I am a size 12-14, and I feel alive and hopeful, as if I could do anything. Most days I exercise for two hours—an hour in the morning, and a relaxing walk in the evening, or I lift weights while watching TV with my husband. I have discovered I adore exercise, and I might even enter a race at some point. Who knew?

I still eat low-carb when my weight begins to creep up, but mostly I listen to my body and eat what it wants, while striving to focus on healthier foods such as whole grains and fresh produce. I still struggle to fit in vegetables, as my taste buds don’t always agree with my body on that one! I also try to get three servings of dairy a day, as well as eight or more glasses of water. Sometimes we try to reinvent the wheel when the wheel’s rolling just fine—the conventional wisdom about eating less and moving more really works!

At my son’s graduation party, I publicly ate two pieces of ice cream cake without a trace of guilt. If I really want it, I eat it. Life is long, and losing weight and keeping it off will be an ongoing project. That’s the only way to approach it.

For the first time in my life, I feel attractive. I am able to look back, too, and see the love and care I put into raising my children. Maybe I didn’t have all the answers, but they know I love them, and they are striving for their goals, too, as they see me go towards mine. Losing weight is only the first of many goals—right now I am writing my first novel. If I can lose weight, I can do anything! My husband, while delighted that his wife now gets wolf whistles, has made it clear he will love me whatever my size. We have been able to reconnect as my self-confidence has returned.

As for that professor who gave me the confidence to begin my weight loss—while I did the work, he gave me the courage to begin. He had no way of knowing that those three small words spoken on a random Wednesday morning would transform a life.

~Drema Sizemore Drudge

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