When I started my health and wellness journey I was beyond clueless. Up until then, even with an athletic father, I hadn’t learned anything about the way my body functioned. Looking back now, it seems impossible to me that seventeen-year-old Haley had no clue as to how to treat her body, but it’s 100% the truth. I remember learning the food groups in school, but never learned that there was a link between what I put in my body and how I felt [my dad would say things like, “the stuff you eat is like the gas in the gas tank”, which meant nothing to me because I didn’t know what gas was for then]. But let’s be honest, I also had zero personal interest in learning about fitness or nutrition.
I was fat. I had always been fat. That was my reality; my truth.
Life wasn’t fair. If life was fair my dad wouldn’t be abusive, my mom would always be around, we would always have enough money to buy food, and I’d be thin and good at everything.
Rather than get upset about it all, I became complacent. No, complacent isn’t the right word.
Numb. I became numb.
For as far back as I remember, I refused to let things bother me. It was my coping mechanism and I thought it kept me safe. If I numbed myself out enough, the daily teasing and rejection from my classmates wouldn’t phase me. The chafing from my legs rubbing together when I walked wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t shed a tear as I hid in the closet with my siblings waiting for the yelling and crashing to stop.
But things still got to me, and I hated myself for that. If I were just stronger/leaner/smarter/prettier, I would be able to handle life better. Somehow every aspect of my life was intertwined with the others: my memories and nightmares would bring about binges, ultimately making me even bigger, which pissed my father off, made him more violent, and gave me even more anxiety and nightmares.
It was all just such a vicious cycle.
[We got really good at hiding our secrets.]
So what suddenly changed when I was seventeen?
Well, a few things transpired in my adolescent years:
- When I was thirteen, my Mom took me to a therapist after she found my suicide note. I had zero self-esteem and was obviously depressed, but the therapist gave me the creeps and I refused to go again. He labeled me with “mild depression” – a term that would follow me into the school system and pull me from my classes once a month. I loathed him.
- That same year, I got sick of the ridicule and fought someone afterschool. I told my mom that if she sent me back to that same school again, I was afraid my father’s anger would come out in me and I’d really hurt someone.
- I started school in a different town and got the fresh slate I needed. I made friends who really who liked me for who I was and began to flourish.
- My self-esteem continued to rise as I found my niche and embraced my passion for both music and academics. Of course there were still the jackasses, but they didn’t bother me so much anymore.
- I started writing. Letters to Mom; in my journal; to my best friends. I literally had boxes full of letters, and I treasured them. Even if they seemed silly, they were an outlet for me to express myself and – more importantly – to feel.
- My mom and her husband started working out regularly. I saw the results and finally wondered if I could possibly change my life, too.
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
My health and wellness journey started with the tiny hope that things could be different. I may not have believed it to be possible for me to shrink my body – and I definitely never fathomed the ways in which this journey would change my life – but I hoped for the best, and I took it one day at a time.
As the pounds started to come off for me, so did the years of fear and pain. My mindset and reality have become clearer and I now understand my role in this life. It’s been a long process, but I’ve changed my life’s truth from being a victim to actively participating.
I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it always: my body changed when I allowed myself to feel. Health and wellness is so much more than just a few numbers on a scale. Everything in our lives is interconnected – the way we feel physically affects our emotions and energy, and our emotions in turn affect the ways in which we eat and care for ourselves physically.
Life is what you make of it. Was it fair that I was born into chaos? No. But I have the power to decide whether I am going to continue to feel victimized by that experience or use it to help others. I may not have had control over my childhood, but I do have control over what I do from here on out.
Now I am far from perfect, and I still find myself craving certain foods that wreak havoc on my body; I’m sure I’ll always have the urge to numb myself with my drug of choice: sugar. But by continuing to work on myself emotionally, spiritually, and physically, I find that the urge to numb myself has decreased dramatically over the years.
The process isn’t always pretty, and it’s definitely not always easy, but it is rewarding in so many ways.
Every day is a new day, filled with its own challenges and gifts. When this journey is difficult, feel it. Experience the difficulty and let it ride through you – in whatever way that comes: writing, therapy, hiking. And when the journey is beautiful and effortless, feel that too. We will continue to make progress as we allow ourselves the space to heal.
Today, I choose to live a healthy and happy life. I hope you do too.
What action steps are you taking toward your health today?
If you’re catching up on the Motivational Monday series, here’s what you’ve missed:
1.) My tips for taking control of your own destiny; 2.) Caitlin’s post on eliminating negative self-talk and fat talk; 3.) My tips for making time for health and wellness; 4.) Tips on setting attainable goals; 5.) Therese’s post on getting from there to here without going crazy; 6.) A reminder to stay open to reevaluation; 7.) Fueling your body, mind, and spirit well; 8.) The importance of accountability; 9.) Creating new boundaries; 10.) Utilize resources and gain knowledge; 11.) Learn to give back; 12.) Try new things!; 13.) Celebrate your success!; 14.) Surround yourself with like-minded people; 15.) Tips for getting back on track.
Motivational Mondays are meant to offer you tips and tools to help you live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. What would you like to see for Motivational Mondays? Would you like to be a contributor? Comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your motivational story, who motivates you, and/or your tips.
Aloha Pumehana. Whether you’re here to find balance, wholesome recipes or inspiration, I hope you enjoy the posts. Please subscribe to Green Plate Dinners to receive automatic updates and be the first to read new posts for free!