Saturday, May 17, 2014

I'm giving myself a year.

A lot has been changing in my life recently. I'm about to graduate from my public health master's program, I have a new job, and friends from school will be moving back home once graduation is over. There's been a lot of adjusting, but what I'm quickly realizing most of all, is that I will suddenly have time. For the past two years I've been swamped with full time school and full time work, never a dull moment, but rarely a calm one. My plate has been full enough to provide me an odd respite from any real personal reflection or reveling in desires for my life.

Before I moved to New York and enrolled in this MPH program, I was a full time employee. I learned how to work 9-5 and have a life, and relax once that 5pm hit. It was a beautiful thing. Suddenly I've found myself struggling to remember how to do that and where to put my attention. Life will still be quite busy of course, work is hectic and I've started doing some freelance writing, but there will be time, a lot of it, that isn't inherently devoted to studying or paper writing or reading of textbooks. I keep thinking about this, and all the ways I might spend said time. I want to make sure I don't waste too much of it, but also find time to tune in, reconnect, and take care of myself.

This last part is something I've noticed I have not done well enough recently. During the crazy, no-free-minute stress of the last few years, and especially this last year, my care for myself and my body has fallen by the way the side. This is of concern not just because we should all care take of ourselves, but particularly because I have sought out a career and education for myself in public health. I have been spending my days working on incredible health promotion campaigns to make the healthy choice the easy choice for millions of New Yorkers, with little time or motivation left to do so for myself. I recognize the hypocrisy of this situation, but more importantly I recognize the negative impacts its had on my health.

I believe my own struggles with weight and health have given me a unique insight into the challenges of the people we work with in public service. I get the stress and the no time and the monetary difficulties. I especially get that it can feel helpless. Like every piece of your life is supporting a weight and health status that you may not want, but you feel you can't escape. But my struggles led to my current career. And I discovered that I could lose weight and get healthy all my own by slowly putting myself and my health first. It's hard to get used to, and it takes a lot of commitment and strength of will, especially if you have habits that need breaking. But it can absolutely be done. A year and a half ago, I had lost 70 pounds from my highest weight. This process was done without the aid of weight loss supplements or programs, it was slow changes over the course of 3 years.

The weight I've gained back has a tendency to bring back the feelings of despair, and it is difficult for me to stay positive sometimes. The woman I remember fiercely learning and trying and making this happen before is one I am trying to channel now. Because I know she exists. I've seen her. This is why I still have hope. And this is why I've decided to give myself a year.

This is not a year in the style of the biggest loser. I am not going to go on a diet, I am not going to subject myself to shaming or dieting or acknowledging that I'm somehow less now and need to become someone different or better. Because that's not true. I've been through this rigamarole enough times to realize that I am a human being who has incredible value and intelligence and something to offer my friends, and family, and colleagues regardless of my physical state. It took a long time to get here, but I refuse to leave. Even though I've gained weight, I know it does not define me. I want to give myself a year to invest in myself. I want to give myself a year to slow down. And I especially want to give myself a year to be conscious of that time. Somehow, saying it and writing it down makes it significantly more powerful.

Now that I'm graduating I will have time, and I intend to make a conscious effort to reserve at least some of that time, for my health. I hope it to be mental, physical, and spiritual. I hope to not be too hard on myself, and give myself time to breath. I hope to work my muscles, move my body, and get strong, in honor of what it needs. I hope to nourish my body with food that it deserves and fuels it to laugh and dance and play.

This is a very long first post. But it made me feel better. I'd like to continue to post updates, progress, challenges, failures, success, and anything else here. I will likely not talk about my weight any longer, but who knows. I just don't find it especially necessary or beneficial.

I imagine there will be foibles along the way, but my hope is that this will be a very thoughtful journey. As long as I reflect and learn and try again, I'll be a happy girl. So come along if you care to, I'll be here all year.