Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weight-Loss Struggles, and an Epiphany

Image:  Eddie Berman/Women's Health
Today is Saturday, September 21, 2013.

The other day a friend of mine told me a story that I feel is important to share.  She attended a "boot camp" style exercise workout at a local gym.  It wasn't her first time there, either.  It was her third or fourth time.  

"Boot camp" routines are apparently all the rage now.  Inspired by exercise routines for military recruits, they are a combination of resistance training and high-intensity cardio workouts.  They can be done indoors or out, and you can organize one yourself, rather than paying for the privilege of joining a class at the local gym. 

This friend of mine has been attending Weight Watchers meetings for about a year, and she has already lost 100 pounds, which is a smashing achievement.  She has gained a great deal of self-confidence, and has also managed to quit smoking this past year.   When you look at her, you realize that she probably has another hundred pounds to lose, but she's done so well, so far, that everyone in our group is proud of her.  One of her greatest insights, so far, has been, "I'm worth it." 

When this lady tries something, she gives it all she's got.  A week or so ago, she commented that she had been at this boot camp exercise class, and although it was definitely a challenge, she was proud of herself for doing it, and she was planning to go again. 

Well, she did go again, a few days ago, and this time, she did the full amount of reps for each of the exercises, even though it took her longer than the others.  She was standing in the front row, right in front of the big floor-to-ceiling mirror.  Some of the other members of the class who had finished their routines began to stare at her as she continued to labor away at the exercises, and a few of these people had judgmental expressions on their faces.  She kept going, even though she could see in the big mirror how others were reacting  behind her.   The leader, bless her heart, encouraged her to continue as long as she could, because she could see that my friend really wanted to do all the reps for each exercise.  

Just to give you an idea of what we're talking about, here, let me give you a list of the exercises in their routine.  Keep in mind that they did three sets of each of these!  For the first two, I have included links so you can see what type of exercises she did.

100 steps
10 Burpee's
50 lunges
20 push-ups
50 sit-ups

I certainly could not do even one round of these exercises!  Some of the boot camp class members probably couldn't them either, with an extra 50-100 pounds on their bodies!  

As she struggled to finish the exercises, my friend felt judged and very embarrassed.  She wanted to quit, but would not let herself skip any reps or make any half-hearted attempts.  She did everything by the book, maybe not perfectly, but she did it.   She felt like crying, but held it together until she got to the parking lot.   Then, as she walked home, she started to cry.  

She made light of it at our Weight Watchers meeting the other day, but at the time she was miserable.  She joked that she was hot and sweaty, she stank, and the damn mosquitoes were all over her as she walked home, which made her mad.  She was bawling so hard that her husband couldn't understand what she was trying to tell him.  In frustration, she simply cried in the shower. 

When she'd had enough crying, she blogged about her experience, then let it all go.  She commented that last year at this time, had she had an experience like this, she would have gone right to the refrigerator to eat in order to make herself feel better.  She had an epiphany about this experience, and so did I, once I heard the story.

An epiphany is a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way. What this young woman and I – and perhaps others in our Weight Watchers group – understood was that it's OK to express our feelings, rather than keep them inside.  It's the effort of keeping the anger, the embarrassment, the mortification at bay that makes us overeat in emotional situations.  It helps to have someone who understands the situation, which is why it was important for my friend to tell her story to us at the Weight Watchers meeting.  I could feel the love and acceptance surrounding my friend as she told her story, and I saw a lot of people nodding their heads in empathy and total understanding.

So instead of eating to make myself feel better, I'm going to let my feelings out.  I'm not sure how I'm going to accomplish this, but anything is better than stuffing myself full of calorie bombs in order to make myself feel numb. 

And... a message for all those fit and svelte women at the boot camp class:  Each of you who stood in judgment of my friend made a very poor and uninformed choice.  This woman deserves your praise and admiration, not your pity or your condemnation!  :-/

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