Five years. Five incredibly long — but surprisingly short — years.

So I’m looking back at where I’ve come, where I was at various stages, and the first is the day before I started my journey in 2013.

It’s Labor Day, 2013 (September 2) — the day before I start a weight loss program. It’s a food blowout day; my husband and I set it up to have one last big meal before the beginning, tomorrow.

This is probably no different a statement than many would make on the eve of (yet another?) diet, but my sincere hope is that it’ll be the last effort I have to make, because this one will be successful. I have struggled so much with my weight, my entire life, that it’s hard for me to think positively; every single effort has failed.

Every single one.

Sure, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve gone a long way toward regaining health. At one point, I shed 140.5 pounds — but then piled it all on back. It’s difficult for me to get locked into a positive mindset because what I’ve known, in the past, is failure.

I’m 51, looking down the barrel at 52 (next month, in fact); I am horribly tired of living this way, and for whatever time I have left in my life, I want the ability to live it fully. I’m not doing that right now. At well over 300 pounds (I’ll find out the exact number tomorrow morning, when I weigh in), I’m extremely limited in what I’m able to do. I have horrible joint problems, an underactive thyroid, and everything I do, without exception, is painful and takes effort.

I’m tired of living this way; I have known better. I am frustrated and embarrassed about how I move, what my limitations are, what I’m forced to wear — how I feel obligated to make excuses for my shortcomings.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want anyone’s sympathy. What I want is to live, to deal with people without their first impressions of me being “holy crap, she’s fat!”, to not have to worry about the things that bother me on a daily (hourly!) basis, to live without fear of falling, of doing something simple that could shorten my life when it wouldn’t be tragic for a healthy 52 year old. I have a desperate time with self-acceptance; I do not like what I am, who I am, how I live.

Tomorrow, that changes.

I am happy to say I have changed in so many ways since that first decision, that first goal. I passed my Year 5 mark a few days ago. I suppose I’m due for a State of the Butt look-back. 😉

Right at this moment, I’m perched on my loveseat — the spot where I’ve written nearly all of my blog entries. I take up significantly less room. I am much healthier. I saw my doctor this week and managed to reduce some of the medications I have been on for years. I’m waiting for my final labs, but in office, everything looked perfect.

I used to go into his office and I would, sooner or later, ugly-cry. I told him at some point that he should just note that I’m an emotional wreck in his chart: have tissues handy, because I would end up crying in frustration over my weight. These days, that’s hardly the case, and every single visit finds me in better health. Those results aren’t exactly typical when you reach your late 50’s.

I have options available to me that I thought were long gone. One of the things I’ve done on this journey is to make occasional videos about where I was at that particular point; I just got through rewatching the very first one I made over 5 years ago. In it, I lamented that once upon a time, I had been able to walk 6 miles, to jog, to scuba dive, to ride a bike.

Neither is me. Both are me.

Five years later, I still am not able to do any of those things — but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was. I can comfortably walk close to two miles, now, without tiring; it’s my yet-to-be-replaced knee that holds me back from extending that distance. Five years ago, walking to the mailbox and back was a major feat. As for jogging — well, I don’t know that I’ll ever choose to attempt jogging, again, but not because of ability. I have my hopes set on next year for scuba, and next spring for riding a bike. All of these are simply a matter of getting my other knee replaced; were it not for that, I could do any of these things right now.

Right now. This moment. It’s no longer some undefined dream down the road, if ever.

I hated being the one who stood out because of my size; the one who held others back because of my physical restrictions. The one who was in constant pain. I handicapped myself. I limited myself. I held myself back from doing the things that brought me joy. I have always been the one in control of my fate — and I needed to just get the hell out of my own way.

My wish, 5 years in, is that I find myself in constantly improving conditions for the next 5 years — and the 5 after that. What I wish is that I never find myself in the sad situation I was in those short years ago; the paralyzing fear that I had waited too long to start, the self-doubt that I would ever see the point where I stand today. Living inside my mind, then, was truly terrifying; I honestly thought I might have harmed my health to a point where death was a real possibility.

A heart attack. A stroke. A fall that might handicap me further.

One day, several years ago, after I’d already made the decision to lose weight, I found myself in a scary situation. I woke up one morning and my right knee (the one that has now been replaced) had locked. When it locked, it locked at an angle and could not be straightened. I could not put any weight on it at all.

The solution was to put my rigid brace on my knee and force my knee back into alignment. The problem? My brace was in the living room. We live in a small house; the hallway from our bedroom to the living room is roughly 15 feet long, if that long. Perhaps 25 feet total from my bedside to the living room, where my brace sat, and I was home, alone.

Hop on one foot? Not when you’re around 300 pounds, you don’t. At least not if you have bad knees and even worse balance. My cane was little help. I managed to inch my way into one of the spare bedrooms across the hallway and pull out the travel wheelchair, plop my butt down in it, and scoot my way down the hallway to the living room. By the time I managed to get my rigid brace on and get my knee back into alignment, close to one and a half hours had passed.

This is what I did to myself. By letting my health degrade to that point, I had willingly, little by little, handicapped myself. It was an unforgivable place to find myself — and that was not the only occasion when my knee has locked and prevented me from living a normal life. Where I have prevented myself from living a normal life.

So here I stand, 5 years down the road, and while my abilities are so much more than those horrible moments, I can never forget them or allow myself to return there. This is a battle I have waged for five years; and the truth is, there is no end. I accept that there is no end point — I will always have to remain at the ready, wary of letting myself fall back into old thinking and old ways.

I used to think that living with that constant awareness would be a hell of its own, but it really isn’t. Not now that I know my mind, my body, where I want to be, and how to get there. It’s an awareness that brings joy with each step I take that’s closer to normal. Each time I can be strong enough to make good choices. Each effort I make to become just slightly better than I am in this moment.

Those slight increments add up into hard-won miracles. All of us are sculptors of our own lives, and what I am creating for myself has brought me joy. Unlike the idea behind the sculpture featured in the photo above, the thin me is not emerging from the fat me; both are me. The choices I make on a daily basis decide what I am, today, from one moment to the next.


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