These shoes are dirty, barely resembling their original vivid color anymore. They are worn down, scuffed up, and weathered. They get frequent baths from being covered in mud. They’re that perfect kind of old that fits in just the right way - molded to the exact shape of your foot. There are a couple spots starting to tear, and some stains that will never wash out. But oh, the stories they could tell...
These shoes have traveled nearly every state in the west. They’ve been tossed in the sand as I raced barefoot into the Pacific ocean. They’ve adventured through big cities and small towns. They’ve been soaked in streams and covered in mud. They’ve been with me as I conquered hikes I didn’t think I was capable of finishing. They joined me in pushing fear aside and leaping out of a plane 14,000 feet in the air. They’ve been there as I’ve celebrated huge accomplishments, and as I’ve ugly cried at some of my lowest lows. They would tell you the story of my last three years of adventures, and they would share the ups and downs of my journey to getting healthy, too. And that’s the story I want to share with you today because I think it’s one that so many of us struggle with in silence.
If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know that after we got married in 2013, we gained a lot of weight. I’m sure there were many contributing factors, but regardless, we were unhappy with ourselves and decided it was time for a change. We participated in a local weight loss program, and our whole journey was filmed and televised via local commercials. Over the course of five months, I had lost 70 pounds and Brandon had lost a little over 50 (it was about halfway through that period that I got these shoes!). We were so ecstatic with our progress and the new numbers on the scale! However, that journey consisted of consuming 700-900 calories per day, not working out, taking appetite suppressant pills to curb the hunger, and loading up on vitamin B to maintain some energy; which we severely lacked most days. We ate the same foods nearly every day because we knew what worked to move that number on the scale even lower. We never ate out (which meant skipping a lot of meetups with friends because we didn’t want to be tempted to eat something not approved by our program), and we stopped drinking alcohol completely. We learned a lot of great things during that time, and the results came quickly. But… it wasn’t sustainable for us. We hadn’t made a lifestyle change; we had gone on an extreme diet. Don’t get us wrong, we know people who did the same program and successfully kept the weight off long term, and we are so thankful that we got to do the entire program for free, but for us, it just wasn’t a long-term solution. So from mid-2014 through the end of 2016, we gained all of that weight back, plus a few pounds. It happened slowly, and before we knew it we were right back where we started: unhappy, overweight, and ready for a change.
For Brandon, this meant tackling the weight for a 2nd time, but for me, this was round 3. Unlike Brandon who had six-pack abs and whose world revolved around football in high-school, I was overweight most of my childhood too. I’ve struggled with self-esteem, and with finding value in the number on the scale for as long as I can remember. It was somewhere between my junior and senior year of high-school that I remember hitting an all-time low with my self-image. And somewhere during that timeframe, I just stopped eating. I remember feeling hunger pains and thinking of them as a sign of success and determination. I was taking control of the scale, and I was sure I’d be happy once I reached my goal weight. I lost somewhere between 50-70 pounds before anyone started making comments and asking questions, and once people started noticing my constant lack of appetite, to keep my secret hidden I started eating more regularly again. I brought myself out of that battle and swore to never end up back in it, but my struggles with self-image didn’t stop. And they didn’t stop the second time I lost the weight either.
Last fall I was driving in my car alone when a song came on the radio that made me ugly cry harder than I had in months. I’d never heard it before, but it struck a chord so deep.
“She just wants to be beautiful
She goes unnoticed, she knows no limits,
She craves attention, she praises an image,
She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor
Oh she don't see the light that's shining
Deeper than the eyes can find it
Maybe we have made her blind
So she tries to cover up her pain, and cut her woes away
'Cause Covergirls don't cry after their face is made
But there's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark
You should know you're beautiful just the way you are
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful
She has dreams to be an envy, so she's starving
You know, "Covergirls eat nothing."
She says, "Beauty is pain and there's beauty in everything."
"What's a little bit of hunger?"
"I could go a little while longer," she fades away
She don't see her perfect, she don't understand she's worth it
Or that beauty goes deeper than the surface
So to all the girls that's hurting
Let me be your mirror, help you see a little bit clearer
The light that shines within”
“There’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark - you should know you’re beautiful just the way you are.” Those are some powerful words, and I hope that other women who hear this song let it really sink in.
So here I am, on round 3 of my weight loss journey; but I hate that phrase these days, so let’s not call it a weight loss journey. This is a self-love journey. Because for the first time in my life, I’m learning that the number on the scale isn’t actually where happiness comes from. Happiness comes from learning to love yourself, flaws, imperfections, and all.
That’s my focus now; learning to find happiness and to love and value myself, regardless of the number on the scale. It’s a journey that I’ll probably always be on, but the difference between even a year ago and now is a complete 180. I no longer focus on the number on the scale; instead I focus on how I feel, how much energy I have, if the food I’m eating is nourishing my body well, if I’m pushing myself to work out so that I can be in shape to do the things I love, like climb mountains with my husband. I’m giving myself grace, and allowing myself to indulge every once in awhile. Because this time it isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle. This time, I’m doing these things because I love myself, not because I hate myself. And as it turns out; that was the missing piece I’d needed all along.
Brandon got a jumpstart on the journey this time, and he’s down 30lbs, and nearly back to his goal weight. And he’s building muscles that make me swoon. He started hiking more again and is even volunteering with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust as a trail ambassador, pushing him to hike even more than he would have. I’m so proud of him! I just re-started my journey to healthy on February 1st (although the journey to self-love has been making major progress for over a year now), and so far I’m down 15lbs. Sure, the progress this time is slower than it’s been the previous two times I’ve shed this weight, but I couldn’t care less. This time I’m not just eating 700 calories (or less) a day. This time I’m eating right 80% of the time and giving myself grace and guilt-free permission to grab a pizza and beer with my husband on date night. Or have a glass of wine on my weekly girl’s night with a friend. And this time I’m hitting the gym. Regularly. I’m building muscle and pushing myself to work harder than I ever have before. I’m getting familiar with machines and muscles I didn’t know existed at the start of this year. I’m doing physical therapy to rehab my knee, along with the ankle I sprained last year. I’m getting myself in shape to hike mountains with my husband and chase Samson around dog parks. And unlike previous points in my life where I signed up for gym memberships, I don’t walk into the gym worried about what everyone else will think of me. Or focused on the fact that the girl working out next to me is half my size, running twice as fast as me, for twice as long. These days the gym is a happy place (okay, maybe not allllways, but mostly). I pop in my headphones, listen to some music, and do some of my best thinking and mind-clearing there. And if I happen to notice the girl next to me running twice as fast, all I’d want to say to her is, “You go girl! Keep on rocking it!” Because in a place where people go to improve and challenge themselves, comparison has no place.
It’s not a perfect journey, and I’m still just at the beginning. But this time I’m not worried about how long it will take. This time I’m just focusing on loving myself, giving myself grace, and doing the best I can. Because as it turns out, the number on the scale never measured my worth anyways. And you want to know the big secret, dear friend? It doesn’t measure your worth either. And it never will.
You are so unbelievably perfect and worthy, exactly as you are. Flaws, imperfections and all. You are beautiful, right now. Not 5 or 10 or 50 pounds from now. RIGHT NOW. And until you learn to believe that and love yourself, the number on the scale will never be low enough to convince you that you’re enough. So stop focusing on that dang number, because your worth isn’t in the numbers. It’s in the heart, and the soul, and the grace.
So just go ahead and just start loving yourself. Because you deserve that.