Whatever we are trying to achieve: weight loss, success at work, or any other goal, there is the opportunity to learn about ourselves and grow from the experience – even if we don’t achieve our goal. It is of course, about the journey, not the destination.
I started this year resolving to lose half a stone that had crept up on me and was refusing to budge. I could have welcomed those extra pounds, bought looser dresses and attributed it to the inevitability of late middle-age. But I wasn’t comfortable with my new body shape and did something I had never done before – I joined a slimming club.
I am six weeks into the Slimming World regime and although I am happy with my weight loss and impressed by the approach; it is the life lessons I have learnt that are having the most impact. Lessons that can be transferred to any project or journey.
When I turned up for my first session, I didn’t know what to expect. I was concerned that having so little weight to lose, I might offend those people struggling with a greater challenge. Here is my first lesson: Comparison.
On more than one occasion a group member would reassure me that if my half-stone mattered to me, then it was just as important and relevant as another person’s two stone. The love, generosity, and fellowship of club members was inspiring.
One week, I noticed a beautiful young woman with a curvaceous figure and a pretty face. She was trying to slim down to a version of herself before she had babies. The way she spoke of how she was now and how she wanted to be saddened me. Couldn’t she see how beautiful she was? I told her how I saw her. The consultant, observed that we don’t believe what other people say, until we feel beautiful ourself. I wanted to tell her, ‘Don’t compare yourself to other versions of you, or to other women, or models. You are unique. You are beautiful – just the way you are.’
We are all guilty of comparing ourselves unfavourably to others instead of recognising our unique attributes and strengths.
My mother always told me, ‘One day, in years to come, you will look at a photograph of yourself today and exclaim, “I was beautiful. So young. Why did I not appreciate it then?”’
I must admit, I did not believe that the diet, or lifestyle change to food optimising, would work for me. I had always had a healthy diet and thought I knew everything there was to know about calories and nutrition. At the end of week 1, when I had lost just one pound I thought, I could have lost more on my own. I was eating more than I would normally and had no faith in the process.
Week 2, I lost another pound. Then week 3, a pound and a half. Gradually, little by little the weight loss was building. I didn’t know everything.
If I had not been held to account by attending the club each week, I would have given up by week 2. That had always been my pattern of behaviour. I would weigh myself once, sometimes twice, a day. Then react to the reading by forgetting the diet as I considered there to no longer be a need, or give up because change was too slow. The truth was – I was impatient.
Changing my behaviour patterns was a challenge. I realised I had all sorts of excuses to rationalise why I weighed myself excessively, skipped meals, and filled up on sugary carbs. Now, I am having to plan what I am going to eat each day. I am taking the time and trouble to prepare three meals a day and to sit down and eat them. I am valuing myself and my body. I am mindful, when I eat.
Trusting the Journey
By week four I was on a roll. I had lost five pounds, just two more to go. I felt great and could see a difference. Then, week five I lost just half a pound and week six, nil. I had done nothing wrong. If anything, I was trying too hard. Denying myself treats. Feeling angry and resentful that this stupid diet was no longer working, and I had lost enough weight, anyway.
I was ready to throw in the towel. But the wisdom of other members taught me I was trying too hard, and I needed to let go a little. It was then I realised that by not losing any weight that week; I had learnt a more important lesson – how to enjoy life and continue to eat well, forever – not just for a few weeks. My goal shifted from losing half a stone in six weeks to learning how to enjoy treats, be kind to myself, and maintain a healthy weight in the long term.
When we want something too much, we tighten our grip, trying to assert our control. This often has the opposite effect. It chases away what we most want. Several people in that club reported unexpected weight losses after ‘being naughty’ – eating a bag of chips or a takeaway. Now, I have stopped being hard on myself. I am realising that I can still enjoy all of my favourite treats in moderation. Now I know that, I don’t even want them!
This is what I have learnt about myself and my world:
- Be patient.
- Celebrate every achievement, however small it may seem, because they all add up.
- Don’t be afraid to step outside of my comfort zone, it can open up new opportunities and learning.
- Listen and learn, even when you think you know it all.
- Be thankful for my strong, and healthy body and appreciate its beauty.
- Take time and care to prepare and eat nutritious meals, it is never a waste of time.
- When things do not happen the way, I want and expect them to, ask myself what is this teaching me?
- Stop being so hard on myself and have fun.
- I do not have to suffer to achieve great things.
I have also learnt that my local Slimming World club has the most amazing, kind, and supportive women. And they are all beautiful – just the way they are.