The Road to Self-Worth

The Road to Self-Worth

From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

The Road to Self-Worth

One must eat to live, and not live to eat.


I am the behind-the-scenes writer of a column for a national health and fitnessmagazine that focuses on success stories about weight loss. For years I have written about other people and their journey to a healthy body, mind and spirit. But I’ve neverwrittenmy own success story. Sure, I’ve lost ninety-five pounds and have lowered my body fat from I don’t even know how high to healthy, and dropped dress sizes from24 to 10, but I always felt like thatwasn’t reallyme.

I wasn’t always overweight. Until age five, I was a healthy, active kid. It wasn’t until my parents started having problems that resulted in a divorce that I turned to food. I struggled with my weight all through my school years and into college, where I reached 260 pounds during my senior year. Today, more than a decade later, people don’t believe that I ever weighed that much. Even I have to pull out the before pictures to remember, and they are shocking because back then I never looked in mirrors. I never looked other people in the eye for fear of what they would say about me. I was shy. I was ashamed. I was depressed. I was scared.

Like most of the people I interview for stories, I tried all the fad diets. My parents put me on them when I was a kid, and I forced myself on them as a teen and young adult. What I didn’t realize was that the worst thing I could do was to use food as a form of punishment. It would never work. And it didn’t.

One dark night before graduation, I looked at my body and imagined myself at eighty-five years old. If I continued walking the path I was on, who would I be? What would I look like? I saw overweight. I saw health problems. I saw loneliness and unresolved emotional pain. I didn’t like what I saw. I remembered what an old college professor said to me when I asked her for advice. She merely shrugged and said, “You just have to choose.”

I got mad at her. What kind of advice is that? Choose what? How can I choose? Then it clicked. It was a mental trick. All I had to do was choose the picture of who I wanted to be at eighty-five. All I had to do was choose to allow the real me to come out of her cocoon by making small, little choices in support of my decision every single day. I would deny myself nothing. I would choose to become the best me possible. I would choose health over habit. I would choose action over inertia. I would choose love over self-loathing.

I read the health books. I got educated. I learned balance. I went for walks. I chose to eat healthy and to not completely deny myself the things I loved, but I chose to eat them less often. And I chose to see it not as a short-term, quick fix that would make me skinny tomorrow. I chose to see it as a lifelong journey to health.With the help of long walks and yoga, I learned how to listen to what my body wanted instead of the old tapes that made me crave sugar and junk food to numb out with.

It took a decade to lose that weight. I continue to lose a few pounds every year. I continue to listen to my body’s needs. I know it needs sleep and downtime and play and inspiring work. I know that it needs good friends and healthy foods to fuel the things it wants to do. I know it needs movement and plenty of time outside.

Most of all I know that it needs gentle kindness and love from me. Not brutality. Losing weight over such a long time was like the proverbial herding of cats. Very gently, calmly and lovingly I would bring myself back to my goal of a healthy life each time I turned down a side road. I continue to gently shepherd my mind, body and spirit down my path to health. It’s a road that I’ll walk my entire life with love and gratitude, because I am and have always been worthy.

Jacquelyn B. Fletcher

Sesame Crusted Chicken with Dipping Sauce


extra virgin olive oil cooking spray

1 piecewhole grain bread, broken into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon wheat germ

teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon paprika, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pound thin)

¼ cup prepared hummus

2 tablespoons canola oil mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Tabasco (or other hot sauce)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400° and coat a baking dish with cooking spray. In a food processor or blender, add the whole grain bread, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sesame seeds, wheat germ, teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper, and a ¼ teaspoon of paprika; pulse to make fine crumbs, about 1 minute. Transfer crumbs to a large Ziplock plastic bag.

In a medium-sized bowl, toss chicken in teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt to taste. Add chicken, one piece at a time, to the bag and coat both sides with the crumbs. Transfer chicken to the baking dish. Bake for 15–18 minutes, or until cooked through.

Whisk together the hummus,mayonnaise, Tabasco, lemon juice and remaining 1.4 teaspoon of paprika. Remove chicken from oven and transfer to a platter. Serve immediately with dipping sauce on the side.

Reprinted from Fitter, Firmer, Faster. ©2006 Andrew Larson, M.D., Ivy Ingram Larson. Health Communications, Inc.

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