Finding health and hope in 2020
To say that 2020 has been a surprising year would be the understatement of the century. Lives changed, jobs lost, families impacted, health at the forefront of people’s minds in many new ways. In March of this year I was living life, prepping for an incredibly busy season in my sales profession and excited to hit record numbers. Then on March 16, I began working from home as things went from concerning to closures, and I found myself at home with my whole family, feeling uncertain and out of control. My business had tanked because I worked with collegiate markets, and my kids’ schools and daycares had closed down for safety. It was a whirlwind. For the enneagram one person that I am, change is not something I embrace very well. However, life has a way of forcing us outside of our comfort zones to teach us and to grow in ways we didn’t know we needed.
My health has been an issue for me since I was fourteen years old. I remember going to the doctor for a checkup and getting on the scale and weighing 184 pounds. My mother was shocked and let me know on the car ride home that we needed to get this figured out. After that day, I wouldn’t step back on a scale for more than a decade. My weight grew, my confidence diminished and I felt hopeless and helpless to do anything about it.
I want to pause here and briefly make a statement about body image and fat shaming. Health is health, so my conversation and hope for you today is health. Not a pants size, not a number on a scale, although those things may indeed end up being part of your journey; my hope for everyone, is for health. Health is freeing and empowering. Health promotes self-confidence, self-control and self-sacrifice, values that women of Alpha Sigma Alpha aspire to attain. But our health is not a reflection of our worth, our value, our beauty, our achievements, our dreams, our possibilities or our aspirations. However, health definitely serves as a vehicle to help us reach for more than we might have been able to before, impact the greater good and live a life of abundance.
So, in April of this year, I stepped onto a path that I was not sure would go any further than a few clumsy steps and ultimately end in a downward spiral of failure. That had been my history, and in those first few moments of faith, I was not able to believe beyond what I knew to be true. I decided to step onto the path because I figured I had nothing to lose. I was at home, in quarantine, with my family, eating my feelings, baking all the baked goods and I knew that if I did fail at this, which I fully anticipated doing, that no one would have to know. So, began my journey. Since April 27, I have lost more than 80 pounds, but what I have gained from that is simply immeasurable.
I’m not an expert by any means, I only have my story to share and to encourage, but as we begin to embrace the holidays in 2020 and reflect on this year and what we may have lost or learned, I wanted to share some new tools and freedoms that I have experienced and that I hope will be helpful for you as you enter into this season. I have always loved the holidays. I love the twinkling lights, buying the gifts, the wrapping, the smells and sounds of the season. And who can resist those Christmas Hallmark movies, am I right? I frankly love it all.
But, I also love the food! Historically the holidays have been a time of year where I would give myself permission to overeat to the point of being uncomfortable. I would eat things I normally wouldn’t, and indulge because I felt as though I deserved it. It is a season of “treat yo’self” decision making, right? Going shopping? Get a peppermint latte to really enhance your Christmas spirit! It’s a splurge kind of season! We spend more, give more and usually eat more. The reality is (and I’ve been in sales for 12+ years) most of this is all a marketing effort to get us to feel as though not having it will somehow cause us to miss out on the holidays.
If I were sitting there with you today or tonight, whenever you have a few precious minutes to yourself to read, and we were reminiscing about the holidays over a peppermint latte perhaps, and I asked you what you love most about the holidays, what would you say? Take a moment and think about that. If you asked me that question, I would say, I love the spirit of giving, I love the message of Christmas and my faith, and I love the joy that the holidays bring because they are a time of celebration and community.
So in that spirit of celebration and community, I want to share ten simple ways to have a healthier holiday season this year! For this list, and one you may choose to make on your own, I encourage you to focus on what you CAN DO and what you CAN HAVE instead of what we can’t do or can’t have…
- DRINK UP! Stay on top of your hydration. Now that the temperatures are cooler your body may not be moving as much, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated. Did you know that in the winter, when we turn on heat in our homes, that the dry heat causes us to use more of our hydration. Also, cooler temps require the lungs to use more water in order for us to breathe. It also helps with dry skin and lips, and keeps you from thinking you’re hungry when you’re really just thirsty!
- FUEL YOUR BODY! It’s the holiday season and things are busy! Having healthy snacks will help prevent you from reaching for sugar-filled treats and they give you better, longer lasting energy and mood, which let’s face it, we all need more of that in those Target parking lots in December. Stash healthy options like almonds, pistachios or protein bars (watch the sugar content) in your purse, your minivan (if you’re like me) or in your fanny pack if you’re a hands-free shopper. Our bodies use food for fuel, so be aware of what you’re fueling it with.
- PICK UP THE SMALL PLATE! Did you know that our brains can be tricked into thinking we have a big plate of food when you choose a small plate and fill it up, versus a large plate with smaller portions? Larger plates look empty with less food – so exercise that important health habit by just grabbing the smaller plate.
- SIGN UP FOR HOLIDAY MOVEMENT! Health doesn’t have to look like CrossFit gyms in your garage, unless you’re into that! Signing up for fun movement like a Reindeer Run or a Turkey Trot is a great way to engage in something fun that doesn’t revolve around food. If you’re not at a stage where you can run, just walking will be a great way to reward yourself! Take pics, share on social, encourage others to do the same! Even with a global pandemic, there are TONS of virtual races and options for you to participate in.
- TREAT YOURSELF! If you’re anything like me, you are your own worst enemy and possibly world’s worst cheerleader for yourself. I can admittedly be very bad at rewarding myself for doing well. So, in the season of giving, give to yourself! Have a spa day, get a peppermint or pumpkin spice massage, take an overnight trip with your spouse or friends, have a girl’s day and see a holiday play or concert, host a gift exchange at your home and collect items for a food pantry or local shelter. There are so many options to celebrate and they don’t always have to include food.
- KEEP YOUR MENTAL HEALTH STRONG! The holidays can be tough and overwhelming sometimes and this can do a job on our mental health and anxiety. Creating a plan with time slots of shopping blocks and lists that help you stay on track and spread out the to do list and keep you from feeling overwhelmed as deadlines draw near. Stress also aids in weight gain and is bad for our sleep – so spread things out, make a list, and start early so you’re not overwhelmed.
- START NEW HOLIDAY TRADITIONS! Instead of baking cookies, maybe make homemade Christmas wreathes or garland for the tree. Plan a Christmas caroling night in your neighborhood or a Black Friday hike after shopping! There are lots of holiday traditions that help you stay healthy, maintain good habits and still provide community.
- PLAN AHEAD WHEN EATING OUT! Going to a holiday event or gathering can feel intimidating if you’re working on your health. But you shouldn’t apologize for wanting to be healthier. Take a look at the menu and make some choices or call ahead to see what will be offered so you have a healthy yummy choice that you can feel confident in! We celebrate health, not apologize for it.
- SERVE! One of my favorite aspects of the holiday is the giving. Serving is a wonderful way to remind us how incredibly blessed we are. I listened to a podcast this morning and it reminded me to show up for life in a way that honors people who have passed on and don’t have a chance to show up anymore. Live and serve and love in a way that celebrates the life we still have the opportunity to live. When we feel like we’re deprived or missing out, a quick look into someone else’s reality can remind us how fortunate we are.
- REST AND TAKE TIME TO BE QUIET! Reflecting on how we feel and why has been a huge part of my health journey. Challenging my choices, asking myself why I did something or felt a certain and then choosing how to move out of that space or choosing to stay in it has been hard work. I have found that spending time journaling, especially if this is your first holiday season on your health journey, can also be very helpful. Take time to reflect on where you are, where you want to go and also celebrate how far you’ve come!!
When I started my health journey, I remember feeling like I would be missing out, again. Just like every time before. I would feel deprived and left out. I would have to eat steamed broccoli and baked dry chicken for the rest of my life. I was a little dramatic when I was looking for excuses. The reality is, we will find reasons to pursue health, or we will find excuses, because they’re both there. We just have to decide what we’re going to make space for. Let me encourage you today, if you are on a health journey, keep going! You are worth the work and I promise you, the freedoms and life you gain far surpasses anything I have given up. If you are struggling in your health, if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, let me remind you also of a few things:
- You are absolutely beautiful. We are a woman crafted divinely and beauty has no size tag and no scale number. It simply is.
- You are valuable beyond even your own understanding. Your life has meaning and purpose.
- You are not alone in feeling frustrated or hopeless in your health. I have sat in that seat for years.
- But, there is hope and health is possible and I believe in you.
Cheers to Health!