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Five lessons of five years living in the equation (sans -200 lbs)

With gratitude from the mountaintop

Those of you who know me personally or have followed my blog, know that I’ve used a mountain climbing analogy to describe my personal transformation journey. I truly believe that as we conquer the mountains, we conquer ourselves.

One of the fundamental things that’s different about me as I celebrate five years of living in the equation sans -200 lbs is that I now actively seek those mountains. I say YES!, accept the challenge, and aim to live a WHOLE life, not just a busy one. I do this because I know that as I conquer the mountain (literally and figuratively) I will grow and bloom. In fact, this is where the growth and bloom occurs.

As a fit and active girl, I take it to the mountain when I’m searching for answers, needing a restart, wanting to feel strong and fit, when I want to challenge myself, and to celebrate every significant milestone in this journey. It’s my go-to place…my sanctuary…the place I feel closest to the Universe. And, it’s where I’m actively conquering me.

Last week, I took it to my all-time favorite mountain — Penobscot in Acadia National Park, Maine. I embarked on a solo climb to celebrate my 5-year milestone and ponder my biggest and next question: “What do I need to say YES! to right now?” As usual, the mountain did not disappoint.

I’ve climbed Penobscot Mountain 8-9 times over the last five years — at least three of those climbs solo. I have a special relationship with this mountain. I know I have to prepare for it. I must stay grounded and pay attention to be safe. It challenges me just enough to feel strong and accomplished. Each time I climb, the mountain provides an element of surprise and gives me a whole lot of heart and soul. And it is different every time I tackle it.

Ironically, this feels like a description of me at this juncture in my 5-year healthy, happy, in-the-equation journey! I’m living a wholehearted life with a whole lot of spirit, heart and soul. I’m constantly growing, changing, evolving and offering a different — hopefully better — version of myself to the world. I am truly conquering myself and the mountain.

I climb Penobscot to celebrate my five-year anniversary milestone with a heavy dose of respect and gratitude for this ever-changing, amazing journey and the many gifts I’ve been given.

The challenge of the mountain keeps me on my toes — kind of like life

On this day, the mountain kicks me a bit. As I hit the challenge of Spring Trail on the way up, I sense the heaviness in my body and the challenge of the rocky climb up the boulders. I take extra care in the areas where you need to watch your step and use the iron rungs for safety. It takes me extra time in the spot where you must creatively hoist your whole self up the steep bolder. And when I reach the Jordan Pond Overlook less than .5 miles in, I pause to appreciate the view before ascending up the open face of the mountain.

Perhaps it’s the extra five pounds I’m carrying on my body, the fact that I’m climbing with a backpack, or my age — whatever it is, this climb feels more difficult than the last. But I keep going, encouraging myself along the way — “You’ve got this, Lor. You know the way.” As I take note of the extra challenge, I appreciate each step forward and the amazing views on the ascent. I notice that the sun is harsh, the air heavy and humid like Maine summer, and it’s really, really, really windy. On the open face of the mountain, I need more water and must retrieve my hat from the mountain ledge multiple times.

When I reach the summit, I’m not even half way done with the hike and pretty tired, but note that I still made it in under an hour. I shoot a video of the wind gusts that are now strong enough to lift me off the mountaintop and get help from a fellow hiker who retrieves my hat from the mountain edge yet again. Before I leave the summit, I offer up a a prayer and big thanks to the Universe for ALL of the amazing lessons of the past five years.

When I reached my goal weight in May 2012, I was happy, strong and fit. But I had no idea how to live healthy, happy and a whole life. Or even that healthy, happy and whole would become a thing! I had no idea the journey would continue to test me, challenge me, consume me, nor that it would be my mental and emotional game that would be the key to sustaining my weight loss and new healthy life. I am immensely grateful and proud.

As I mark this moment, on this 5-year milestone, on my all-time favorite mountain — tears fill my eyes. “I’ve got this! We’ve got this! …for life.” With grateful tears, I continue on.

My top 5 lessons for living healthy, happy, and WHOLE:

  1. Living healthy, happy & whole is an inside game, almost 100%.
    It’s your mental and emotional health that sustains the physical. 

More than diet and exercise, my transformation journey has been about changing my mindset, adjusting long-time beliefs about myself, and changing how I care for myself. I believe the reason so many people fail on traditional diet and exercise programs — me included, for years — is because we view it as a weight-loss challenge and don’t address the WHOLE self — mind, body and spirit. Trust me, your internal health is the most important. It changes everything.

To be successful at losing -200 lbs I had to change my mental game and believe I could do it. Then I got clear and focused on my ultimate goal to put myself in the equation of my own life and developed a list of non-negotiables and a plan for how to get there. I had go 100% all in. I pushed past fear and self-doubt….accepted that I am imperfect and learned new skills like the positive and affirming “restart” to get back on track. (Read more about my 5 principles for achieving transformative change.) Almost all of these things are internal work — shifting your mental and emotional game to help achieve (and sustain) the physical changes.

Ironically, the same is true for keeping the weight off for five years — it’s been way more about the mental and emotional work than the physical. Of course, I’ve had to continue to eat healthy and exercise regularly, but most importantly I’ve figured out what living in the equation and staying on track means for ME after losing the weight.

I learned about my trigger foods and situations and developed new healthy strategies for how to handle them. I gave up refined sugar when I discovered an unhealthy relationship with it including addictive tendencies. I discovered that I require down time in the form of mindfulness and regular solo retreats. I also learned that I can’t ignore time for  fun, social and play in my life or I get crabby and am not my best. I’ve developed a strong resilience and learned to accept that I am not in control of everything (see lesson 4).

Mostly, the secret to my success has been a laser beam focus on my TOTAL health and well-being — mind, body and spirit. That started with becoming more self-aware of the connection between my mental and emotional needs, and practicing consistent self-care. It has evolved with greater understanding of how I used to cope with struggle and disappointment by self-medicating with food and work. I’ve developed new go-to strategies for dealing in healthier ways with the most difficult times. It’s involved learning to be kind to myself when I get off track. To stop beating myself up and putting myself down when I stumble. I’ve learned to embrace my imperfections and screw ups, and then gently restart.

The bottom line is that self-care is critical. For me, it’s a non-negotiable and that means caring for and nurturing my WHOLE self. This was my “ah ha” and what sparked me to begin this journey and it’s been the biggest lesson as it continues to sustain me and my weight loss. I prioritize me and take care of my needs so that I am at my best and my best self shows up to contribute to the rest of the world. Only then do I reach my greatest potential — in my relationships, my work, and my service to others.

2. You are ENOUGH…capable of absolutely anything you make up your mind to do.
This core belief fosters self-love and acceptance & changes everything!

Learning how to believe in yourself opens up endless opportunities. It’s truly what propels us forward to transformative change and puts us on the path to achieve what we really, really, really want. I learned first-hand in weight-loss boot camp 6.5 years ago that it was my mind that was stopping me, not my physical capabilities. When I started boot camp and was asked to do something physically challenging, like climb a mountain, I said “I can’t” about 50x per day. And then I proved myself wrong and learned I could, time and time again.

During the past five years, I’ve tested this theory in my own journey and in my work with others. Trust me, it’s true. When we believe that we are ENOUGH exactly as we are…and we believe we are capable — indeed we are capable. Too often our own negative self-talk or limiting beliefs stop us and keep us stuck and living small. I call that the “victim” mentality. While it may seem tough, I challenge you to push past your fear, limiting beliefs and self-doubt. Believe it’s possible, that you are good enough, that you can do it, AND that you deserve it — whatever the “IT” is. This is a critical part of the internal change and mindset shift needed to both achieve and sustain our goals long-term. This fundamental belief is now part of who I am, how I think, and how I show up in the world. It makes ALL the difference.

Here’s a tip: If at first you don’t believe — just tell yourself you believe, that it’s possible, and then act as if. Set the intention, visualize it, and act as if you believe. Take action toward your goal. Focus on the actions, not the outcomes (which can be overwhelming) and take a step. One step. Soon, you will believe and you will change before your eyes.

3. It really is about progress, not perfection.
And the positive and affirming “restart” is the key to progress

We hear this all the time, but what does it really mean and why is it so critical to healthy living?

Some of us live(d) in the striving for perfection mode, worried about what others would think, that we might fail, that we  weren’t good enough. And that striving and “perfectionism” caused some pretty nutty behavior. In my case, it often held me back and prevented me from even trying. When you think about it, believing that you could be perfect is pretty arrogant. I now believe it’s my imperfections that make me who I am and I love who I am. When I screw up or do something I am not proud of, instead of beating myself up, I acknowledge my imperfections, forgive myself and move on.

Why is this so important to sustaining a healthy life? Because contrary to what anyone might think, I screw up all the time! Just last week I got over emotional and overzealous and said something I shouldn’t have to someone I care deeply about. I hurt him and had to accept my actions, forgive myself, ask for forgiveness and move on.

I’m a weight-loss and healthy-living success story. I am defying the odds at five years of maintaining a huge weight loss. Yep, and I am not perfect! It’s NOT a straight line. I fall all the time. I fall off my healthy eating plan. I go through spurts where I don’t get my walks in or exercise regularly. All too often I get in a phase where I blow off my mindfulness work to start the day. Sometimes — a lot of times — I forget that I’m not in control of hardly anything (see lesson #4). Stinkin thinkin creeps back in. I screw up.

And I’m still successful overall at living healthy, happy and whole! How? What’s different is that I accept it and positively affirm my imperfections. I understand that I am bound to mess up and it’s about what I do next that makes all the difference. So I positively affirm it, tell myself I know the way, and get right back on track with the “restart.” And trust me, if I can do this, anyone can.

4. You’re not in control of everything. Actually, hardly anything!
But you are in control of YOU — and that makes all the difference

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been humbled by this one. It’s a lesson that I’m continually learning. I believe it’s part mindset and in part a developed skill. For me it does not come automatic or natural. Usually, my first instinct is to want to control everything. Indeed, I thought control was a big part of how I got to my weight-loss goal, but I’m learning to recognize that I actually have very little control. But what I am in charge of — is ME. How I think about something and what I do about it. That’s pretty much it.

One of the hardest parts to embrace re: this lesson is that my actions do not often directly correlate to the outcome or achieve the outcome I seek. That’s because I am not in charge of the Universe — so much is indeed out of my control. Hard stuff. But I’m actively working this lesson by becoming more aware and then practicing giving up what I can’t control (other people and most situations that involve other people), and slso giving up my commitment to an outcome I may not be able to influence. Sometimes I still get mad that I’m not in control and start meddling in areas I shouldn’t. Okay, reminder, I am imperfect! For me, this is a lesson that keeps on giving. I am definitely healthier and happier when I focus on only what I can control and let go of the rest.

5. If you’re lucky, you’re never done!
This is a personal journey that keeps on giving, while you keep growing

Living healthy, happy and whole — from the center of the equation of my life — is my life.

Weight-loss — big weight loss — is part of it. But the 200+ lbs of weight that I carried for so many years was really only a symptom of something much deeper going on inside of me. It was a sign that I wasn’t happy…that I didn’t believe I was enough…and that I was not taking care of myself in a way that would likely produce a long, happy and fulfilling life. In all honesty, I was on a pretty fast track to self-destruction.

Many people who supported me during the 18 months that I lost my weight (2010-2012) assumed this journey would be over and probably hoped they’d stop hearing about it on a daily basis. Others expected me to put the weight back on — like most people do — and they confess being surprised that I’ve made it this far at sustaining my weight loss and healthy life. And then there are many who are truly happy and celebrating with me today. None of that really matters though. What matters most is how I view it. And I know I am a work in progress and never done, yet I am also proud of my accomplishments inside and out and grateful for the gifts that keep me living wholeheartedly.

Those of you who are in current struggle know what I am talking about when I say we’re never done. Some of you don’t want to accept that this is indeed a life-long challenge, and you fight it. I do accept it because I know that it is in that acceptance and through the gift of living and sharing it every day that I will do this for life.

Honestly, I don’t ever want to be done changing, growing and evolving into a better person. A person who shows up at her best — inside and out — and helps others do the same. I want to be 90+ years old and still be a badass, kickin it, doing it, livin it and givin it!

So I embrace this journey. I accept that there are many more lessons and much more growth ahead of me. And many, many more mountains to climb. And I celebrate! Cheers to a happy, healthy and in-your-equation journey — for me and for you. Thanks for celebrating 5 years with me.

Check out my 5-year anniversary Penobscot Mountain climb photo gallery.

xo

Lori

#gratefulgirl #healthygirl #intheequation

Read more blogs about my 5-year transformation milestone & celebrating viva the mountain:

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