It had been a while since I went to my Jenny Craig appointment, because the kids were sick, I was sick and then we were on vacation for two weeks.
So I was nervous yesterday going in for my weigh-in with the world's cutest weight loss consultant, Jen.
I was already building up the excuses in my head - not for Jen, really, but for me: we've been sick, I was on vacation, I did the best I could but it's okay if the numbers aren't as good as they have been. I was emotionally preparing myself for the worst, because I'm fearful of becoming dispirited.
Before leaving to go away I went to the Jenny Craig center to buy more food - I stocked up on the non-perishable, non-frozen options they have, because the fridge at the beach camp is small, and with no electricity there is, of course, no microwave. I'm at the point now where I'm slowly weaning off the Jenny Craig food, learning how to prepare my own healthy snacks and meals.
I had no idea what the scale would say. I tell myself over and over that it's not about the number - and for the most part, it isn't. Until I'm standing in front of the scale, and then I realize it still holds power over me, despite my best intentions. Because of this, I don't weigh myself at home. I wait for my appointment with Jen, so if the news isn't what I hoped she's there to talk me through it.
I kicked off my shoes, took a deep breath and stepped on the scale.
Jen let out a little whoop. "WOW!" she said. "Do you know that you've lost a total of 38 lbs?"
I smiled, letting this information sink in. Over vacation, by sticking to their plan and being active on the beach, walking and swimming, I lost another 6 lbs.
Beaming, we went back into her office and she gave me a quiet smile. "I want to show you something," she said.
She flipped to the back of my file and held up a printout of the photo she took of me at our first appointment.
My heart caught in my throat as I looked at the picture, and tears welled up in my eyes. The kids were with me, and I didn't want them to see me cry, but tears came streaming down my face anyway.
Greta peered at the photo. "Momma, were you puffing out your cheeks for that picture?"
I know the woman in the photo is me, I just don't remember looking like that. I don't look awful - I'm smiling a big, confident, hopeful smile. My expression is strong, happy and determined. But I feel like I don't know the woman in the photo. I had no idea - literally no idea - that I had gotten so big.
It makes logical sense, of course. A person doesn't lose almost 40 pounds and still need to lose more to be at a healthy weight without having a fairly serious weight problem. Logically, the numbers make sense.
What floored me was the level of denial I was in to get that way and not even know it.
People tell me I look good, and of course I love hearing that, but Operation Get Healthy is not about vanity. At the outset of this whole thing I wrote about how I was tired of being controlled by my unconscious thoughts. I had worked hard on my emotional and spiritual health, and to me it made sense that my physical health was next. I came into this project at the top of my mental game. I just wanted to have more energy, to feel better, stronger.
Looking at that picture, though, I realized that there was more at stake than just physical health.
Recovery, for me, is a journey of self-care. I'm learning, slowly, how to put up boundaries, how to gently assess my spiritual and emotional health and slowly make changes that keep me balanced, safe. I'm figuring out how to be more vigilant about the ways I sabotage my well-being.
I realize, now, that the things I told myself - I don't care about physical appearance, it's hard to eat well and cook for a family, I'm active because I run around after my kids, I don't eat a lot of sugary snacks - were sneaky ways to avoid looking at the cold hard truth: I'm overweight. Significantly overweight.
That is how denial works, we tell ourselves the things we fervently need to believe to avoid painful truths. I had been there with drinking - I know the situation isn't good but it isn't that bad either, I drink more than other people but I can still function, I deserve a drink at the end of the day because raising kids is hard work - and after getting sober I could see the role denial played in my addiction. Despite all the evidence to the contrary I really, truly believed I wasn't that bad.
That is why I cried in Jen's office, because I could see that the same thing had happened with my weight. I really, truly didn't think I was that heavy.
Other people didn't appear to see it, either. "You've lost 38 lbs!?! But, you weren't that heavy, were you?" I hear that all the time, and I don't think they are just being polite. My close recovery friends, who always tell me the truth, said to me last night "You know, now that you've lost the weight I can see that you had a problem. But honestly? I just didn't notice before."
And that's how it happens. It's hard to face yourself. I realize I went into this weight loss journey the only way I could, by believing I didn't really have a weight problem, that I just wanted to feel better. I approached sobriety the same way - I'm not an alcoholic, I just want my life to get better.
I'm not going to question it, though. I'm learning that there are greater powers at work in my life, call it a Higher Power, call it what you want - it doesn't matter. When I get out of my own way, out of my own head, when I stop believing that everything I think has to be real because I thought it, paths unfold before me that I could never have seen on my own.
That, to me, is Grace.