Recognition is vital. Being recognized for my weight loss achievements at "TOPS State Recognition Day 2009" in Wichita Falls was a mountaintop experience in my life.
Help others. The official reason that I share my story with others is because we all need watershed moments and I am hoping that in some small way, my experience will touch something in you. My goal for is for us all to experience the "mountaintop," because it's a really nice place.
You first have to see it in the eyes of someone else. It takes too much time and effort to learn everything by your own experience; let others share their lessons-learned with you.
You have to feel it, long for it, need it. The goals you achieve will be the ones that you most strongly desire. People do what they really, really want to do. Figure out what makes you want to improve so much that you will do anything to achieve it.
Understand that success depends on achievement and achievement depends on effort. Webster's Dictionary defines achievement as "a result gained by effort" and success as "a favorable or desired outcome." But let me tell you what success means from the perspective of someone who learned it the hard way. Receiving praise is nice, but it's not nearly as important as knowing that I have worked hard and done the best that was inside of me to do. I joined TOPS on January 7, 2008, weighing in at 314. Through perseverance and determination I have reached my same 10 pound loss goal and reset and re-reached that goal over 17 times now. Webster is right – achievement is a result gained by effort and success is a desired outcome. But Webster just didn't have any idea that you have to put the two terms together because only effort will produce the desired success.
Do the little things. Don't wait for giant steps – start with baby steps. It's like Vitalis hair gel – a little dab'll do you. Or Lays potato chips – you can't eat just one; after one, you want another, and another and another.
Enlist the support of others. You don't know how strong another person is until you see them at their weakest moment. My TOPS and my church family saw me at my weakest moments and they reminded me of how truly strong I was. My difficult moments gave me opportunities to experience courage and learn more about myself and to grow in my faith.
You are in charge of the outcome. I like to think of success as a game of chance in which I have control over the odds. As I began to master concepts in personal achievement, I increased my odds of achieving more goals and experiencing success in not only physical, emotional and spiritual health but in so many other areas of my life. There is no personal achievement in being born beautiful. I used no gimmicks or quick fixes and I don't think that I possess any greater character than anyone else. What I do posses is the infinite power, wisdom and strength that only God can provide. That's the long way of saying: If I can do it, anyone can. But to truly understand what I'm trying to say here, you have to know where I came from. I forget who it was that called it "stinkin thinkin," but that's just where I had been.
Recognize your true worth. I had defined myself as a morbidly obese woman with a lot to offer the world if they would just look inside and then I lived within the boundaries of that definition. I hurt all the time but kept a smile on my face and kept my bubbly personality to make sure everyone liked me. And I WAS truly happy with the person that was inside me. But I was afraid of change because, miserable as I was, I was comforted by the normality of what I knew. I never pushed the envelope and didn't actually believe that I had it within myself to change. As spiritually solid as I thought I was in my faith, I didn't realize how much power I possessed and the amount of control that I, along with God, can actually have over my own fate. Within each of us is an untapped inner strength that can bring about miraculous changes with the power of prayer.
Get over it. Put behind you all the negatives of the past and live for the present and the future. Being called all the fat names in the book growing up I thought I had heard them all. I learned what I only thought happened in grade school also happens when you're an adult and then it hurts a lot more. The insults came in seemingly harmless disguises like "Oh, we don't carry your size in this store Ma'am", "Look at who you married son." "Maybe we could all fit in two cars, Glenda's going with so and so, right?" And I would get disgusted with my weight and I would try a diet for a few days but when I found out that it wasn't going to make me lose 90 pounds by the next morning I would give up. I gave all of the same old excuses you've heard. "I'm praying for God to make me loose weight but Gods just not listening!" "I'm doing everything right!" "I'm doing what they're telling me to do!" "I don't know what's wrong with me!" "I'm just going to be fat forever!"
Forgive yourself. You're allowed to "mess up" every now and again, so long as you don't make a habit out of consuming an excessive amount of food. Right the dining injustice immediately. You'll be okay. You'll be fine. Just don't do it again and again and again and again.
Start Over. Remember this quote. I don't know who said it so I can't take credit for it, but it goes like this, "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down." It's worth repeating. It's not the falling down, but the staying down.
Live Actively. I go to the gym four times a week with a mixture of cardiovascular jazzercise as well as strength training.
If You Have Decided, It Is Done! You can't be wishy-washy. Make the commitment to achieve and you will. Find the right reason, make the firm commitment, then do the work that it takes to achieve. And you will!
If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me! I prayed to God for the willingness to let Him help me and show me the way out of my prison that I built little by little over so many years. But, I had to get my car out of park in the first place and "do my part" so God could begin steering me out of the self imposed prison I created for myself. So you have to know that the goals aren't just about the physical aspects of losing the weight. I've lost a lot of weight several times before in my life. But I didn't understand the emotional and spiritual aspects that had to be addressed. And it is that understanding that allows me to say that with the help of GOD, my TOPS family, my son, my close friends and church family, I have learned that I had all of the tools right inside of me to lose this weight again, only the right way this time and for all the right reasons this very last time in my life.
Conquer Your Self. Aristotle says, "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self." This is the third time in my life that I have lost roughly the same amount of weight. But this time is different. The first two times, I lost the weight so that I would look really good. I wanted physical admiration. I didn't concentrate on how I needed to get the weight off. I didn't think about what changes I needed to make regarding my relationship with food and exercise. I didn't plan for the long haul. I didn't make the necessary and lasting changes that I needed to do to reinvent myself into the person you see here today.
Rethink Food and exercise. Today I think of food as a way to survive – fuel for the body and the mind – so its important what kind of fuel I choose. And I think of exercise as a way to relieve stress, increase endorphins, get strong and live the long, happy life that God intended for me.
Accept the New You. Healthy lifestyle and exercise have changed me, body, mind, and attitude. There is more to each of us than we know. If we can just get a glimpse of it, maybe for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.
Forget Dieting. You have the tools and directions to get there. All you need to do is watch what you eat, and expend more energy than you consume. It's really that simple. So toss out any books that say anything else. Expend more energy than you consume. Remove the word diet from your vocabulary. Diets do not work. Diets are temporary. When you change your dietary lifestyle, however, you're changing your habits - and you're putting yourself on track for long-term continued success and weight maintenance. Expend more energy than you consume. Permanently. The key is "don't stop" – believe in yourself! I have the power inside of me to change myself first. So do you. Then God will lead you, inspire you in so many ways you can't begin to imagine.
Read labels. If you don't know what you're putting in your mouth, you're flying blind. And if you think that this is boring – think again. You can't ingest crap and be healthy, and certain "health food" manufacturers are expert at marketing absolute crap in a way that sounds really healthy. Educate yourself and don't assume anything. Actually, there is one assumption that is safe – assume they want you to buy whatever it is that they are marketing. And then triple-check the ingredients list and serving sizes. You must rely on yourself for this; nobody else is going to be able to lose the weight or do the math for you. It's not that complicated a task, but it will require effort. If nothing else, just pay attention to the calorie count.
Find Your Inspiration. Without inspiration, our minds remain dormant. There is a fuel inside each and every one of us that needs to be ignited with sparks. The most powerful force we have within us is "our soul on fire with inspiration and motivation". And it's contagious. I get those things from my TOPS family and they get them from me. Helping each other find the tools inside of themselves to work hard and persevere and achieve every goal they have and yes – to be successful. You have to know that others are out there for moral support - they know things that you couldn't possibly know, and they've probably been "in your shoes" at some point in the past (or present). Share stories, laughter, tears, successes, and failures – share them.
Just Do It! Now we're back to that word effort. You remember – the one that comes before success and achievement. Being willing to do what it takes is not enough, we actually have to do and act and follow thru. Exercise is essential. Run, jog, dance your socks off. Find something that you enjoy and just do it! Otherwise, you won't stick to it. And remember why it's imperative. Muscle weighs more than fat, but the last thing you want to lose is muscle, and without exercise, your body is going to burn through muscle first - and you'll wind up more imbalanced than you were to begin with. You want your body to burn fat, not muscle. You want to lose weight, but you want to lose "fat" weight – not muscle mass.
– The harder you work at something, the harder it is to surrender, and that applies to individuals as well as groups.
– "To thine own self be true." So said Shakespeare, and the truth of the matter is this: when I was a child, people made fun of my weight. I dreaded shopping because none of the clothes that I wanted to wear would fit me. I learned at an early age to associate myself through my weight, so every experience and every thought was affected by how I believed that others saw me. Accurate or not, every relationship in my life was colored by my perception of my body, and my related sense of inadequacy.. But I've come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. I now admire myself for what I have achieved and think of myself as a well rounded, successful, and healthy person who has learned to make better choices and decisions. And I hope and pray with all my heart that I have been and can continue to be an inspiration for change in others lives and as well as my own!
Hats off to each and every one of you here trying to lose weight, and my congratulations to anyone who has achieved it. It is the hardest thing you'll ever do. But is it worth it? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. The mountaintop is waiting, and to get there, think of me and tennis shoes and baby steps. And baby step by baby step, you can get there too. Thank you for letting me share my story with you.