I have a confession to make. I started a trendy diet. I know, I know, your first thoughts are probably, “She conformed to societal pressures through body shaming! Tragedy is thy name!” I assume this is your first thought because this is exactly what my first thought used to be whenever someone started a new food fad. However, after a few recent events, some serious soul searching, and a substantial amount of self-help books, my entire view of weight loss has completely changed. Allow me to give a little background information on my life.
My mother was adopted. This means that she and I have no medical history to share between the two of us- nothing, nada, zip. “But, Ashley,” you might say, as my doctors before you have, “Surely you have half your medical history. What about your father’s side?” To you, I will say what I’ve reiterated to my doctors time and again, “Yes, you’re probably right. When I hear from him next, I’ll be sure to ask about that, right after I find out what was so much better than watching his daughter grow up into a semi-functioning adult.” I know, “ouch.” You can say it again if it makes you feel better, but hey, at least I can have a sense of humor about it. In his defense, he does come out of the woodwork to text, call, or facebook message once or twice a year. In these calls, he will usually spend a good two to five hours lamenting me with his present woes. Funny how, in these annual conversations, I never seem to remember to add, “Oh yeah, by the way, all your dead and dying relatives, what ailments did and do they have? Is there anything that I should be concerned about, genetically speaking?” Somehow I think the answer would end up being a bewildered, “I don’t know!”
Failed genetic record-keeping aside, one of these significant life events was a $200 genetic test kit that also assessed our health. Myself, my mother, brother, and yes, even the estranged father (after I gifted him the kit for father’s day) took this test. There was nothing too surprising, and I was told a lot of things I already knew, such as the fact that I’m 100% pure white person (which my sugar-free almond milk latte could have told you already), with the most substantial majority of that being British and Irish (redhead, duh). There is, contrary to my father’s insistence, no percentage of Native American anywhere in me (which I already knew thanks to my ivory complexion). I also had little to no genetic tendencies towards any unsavory degenerative diseases or recessive this-and-that’s which could be passed to all the offspring I’ll never have, which was a bit of a relief (though, since I’ve already decided I will be living forever, I was unsurprised by this as well).
It was my mom who got the breakthrough in the form of a second cousin on her mother’s side of the family. I think I was the one to start up a dialogue with this cousin, and using the information my mother and I provided her, she clicked us into her family tree. This girl, I kid you not – her family tree went all the way back to the 1400’s! The mother stinking 1400’s people! Do you know how excited we were to have this information! Granted, we didn’t know what to do with it, and technically we still don’t know what to do with it, since it was just a bunch of names, birth dates, and death date- a lot of death dates. That was when I figured it out – everyone on my mother’s side of the family, including the only sibling of her’s we could find a record of, all died in their 50’s and their 60’s, with one grandmother who had married into the line dying in her 70’s. Guys, my mother is in her 50’s!
This information was upsetting, but not particularly core-shaking nor life-altering. The real heavy blow came some few days later when my mother went to her general practitioner for some antibiotics when her bronchitis had started back up again. They were getting through the initial check-in and taking her vitals when the nurse frowned. They’d been taking my mom’s blood pressure and the nurse, sounding a little hesitant, declared they were going to try that again. She tried it a third time and then excused herself from the room. She came back in with a second nurse, and they brought between them a large machine and declared they were going to try again. They took my mom’s blood pressure five total times before announcing that they were admitting her to the ER. My mother’s blood pressure was 221 / 122. If you Google a chart of blood pressure ranges they all end at 190 / 120. My mother was in the stroke zone with no knowledge of her situation nor any perceived symptoms. My entire reality had been shaken to its very core. In that one day, I went from seeing my mother as an indestructible female version of He-Man, to someone mortal who won’t be around to scold me one day, and whom I won’t be able to torment endlessly with my superior wit. I realized that one day, and one day soon if she didn’t tear down and restructure her entire way of living, my mother would be gone, and with her, my sense of security, my place of fall-back if adulting becomes too much for me to bear. This was quite a shift in perception for me.
I was frantic, texting my mom every fifteen minutes for updates, calling my grandmother who had been calling the doctor’s directly, and getting whatever updates they’d been willing to give her after my mom had permitted them to speak to her. My mom called me about five hours later from the BlueTooth in her car to say they’d discharged her and she was heading home. We talked a bit about what the doctor had said and what they had done before my mom announced that she was next up in line. “In line where?” I had asked. She was at Starbucks! I shrieked at her to get out of the line! She was genuinely confused as to what she had done wrong. “What in the seven hells do you think caffeine is going to do to your blood pressure, Mom?” I demanded of the receiver (Side Note: I am so glad that my mother hates reading and will therefore never read this post).
Needless to say, nothing has changed. My mom takes her blood pressure pills, but most of her life has stayed the same. She skips a few extra mochas here and there and pretends she’s doing something beneficial for herself. She goes to the gym three days a week (though with the number of times she and her personal trainer cancel on each other, it balances out to once a week) and my mom is considering signing up for an individual meal service, but I know that she’ll finish those meals and then go see what other junk food is lurking around the house. These events, these facts, these hard checks on reality have done nothing to instill a sense of seriousness in her. Life is a never-ending joke and has never been anything for my mother to take seriously.
I have spent my life coming to terms with the fact that my relationship with my mother, though playful and sisterly, has been extremely codependent. It’s been a 12-year road to realizing that I can never hope to convince her to change any of her self-destructive behaviors. However, this acceptance doesn’t have to mean I can’t do anything to regain some sense of control over life’s events. Between the family tree and my mother’s medical situation, I realized that there was something to be gained, and there were actions that could be taken to save a life, to save my life. See, if I am going to achieve my life-long goal of immortality (not amortal, immortal, mind you), then I had better start by getting my own eating habits and weight under control. I am 5’ 4” barely, and at my last heaviest weight I had been 223 pounds. I didn’t actually weigh myself before I started the diet, and therefore, I could have been worse than I realized. I was a size XXL with a 48 DDD bra, and I hated shopping for clothing items of any kind. Today, I still hate shopping for clothes, because I’m broke and clothes are expensive, and shopping is stupid. That said, a mere four months after my mother’s health crisis, I’m 181.4 pounds, a size medium and a 43 D bra (which is actually too big for me now that I think about it, but I do not want to buy another one yet).
What was my secret to losing all that weight? Well, I just gave it to you. The diet that I’m on isn’t the point. The food that I choose or the supplements that I take also don’t matter. What mattered was my “Why.” What mattered was the motivation behind finding a diet that worked for me and then making that choice day, after day, after day, to stick with it. What mattered were the days when I would wake up, consider eating something that I knew would set me back, and then reach for that feeling of determination and chose to start all over again from a stance of resolution. People always say that we can do anything that we put our minds to, but that saying is meaningless if we don’t have a strong enough, “why.” If you want to make a change in your life, whether it’s your diet, your weight, or a goal for your career, then you need to know exactly what it is that you’re working towards and you need to make sure you genuinely want it. Find a way to let go of the excuses that are holding you back, and make your “why” as specific as you possibly can and as achievable as you possibly can so that you don’t sabotage yourself before you even get started.
I know a lot of this is “easier said than done,” but believe it or not, there is a lot of outstanding help out there. For those of us unable to afford a counselor or a personal trainer or a dietitian, there are self-help books, podcasts, motivational YouTuber’s, audiobooks, bloggers, and so much more! There are whole communities of men and women out there ready to support you and become your cheer squad. You need to understand that you are worth more than the life you were given at birth, whether it was a good one or a bad one, and that there are people out there who are excited to help you grow into the dreams you were born to make happen.
I won’t list the things that have helped me here, today, in this post, for fear that it will be perceived as an advertisement and therefore diminish the impact of my words. If you want some suggestions on where to start your personal growth journey, or where to turn to get over life’s next hurdle, feel free to leave me a comment below with a description of the personal goal that you’ve been struggling to overcome. I’m not going to pretend to have any level of expertise, but I do generally have a book, podcast, or another auditory medium I can recommend for just about any topic. I hope we can grow together as a community, and maybe, just maybe, we can build up our own little cheer squad here on this site to boost each other up on those rough days when we just want that dang frosted cookie. If anyone has a success story they’d like to share, I would also like to invite you to share with us in the comments.
I look forward to hearing from you all, and I hope that your comments will inspire my next personal insight. Until then, take care of yourself, and make sure to drink your water today!