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Resilience. The key to happy, healthy & whole.

GOOD NEWS: If you don’t have resilience, you can develop it!

lori-speakingfitfest2016This week, I’m celebrating four years of living from the center of the equation of my own life as a fit, active, happy and healthy girl. Yes! A big deal.

I’m more proud of maintaining my -200 lb weight loss and Lori-in-the-equation life for four years than I was to lose the weight and get to my goal in the first place. And that’s saying a lot, because I was ecstatic to get to goal on May 12, 2012 and celebrate with my special peeps!

While losing and keeping the weight off is a huge accomplishment and changed my health trajectory, the greatest gift I gave myself was a WHOLE life. I got off the hamster wheel of a busy life, where I was drenched in self-doubt and worthiness issues, and learned to take care of my health and happiness first. I learned to live more from intention and less from habit. To honor and respect myself. To practice self-care consistently. And to stop doubting myself, beating myself up and being a victim of my circumstances.

WHOLE is not easy! And living a whole life manifests differently for everyone. I define it this way: WHOLE = happy + healthy + hard. I didn’t get here by taking the easy road. One of the most important skills that I developed along the way was resilience. I’m learning now — four years in — it makes all the difference.

Lori Schaefer, Before & AfterFrom victim to resilient girl

The old me wasn’t very resilient. When I weighed 381 lbs and worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week in an office chair, doing nothing to nurture or care for myself — Lori Schaefer, Before & AfterI was practicing self-sabotage at it’s best. I was sabotaging myself by making excuses, apologizing, quitting on myself, and thinking like a “victim” of my circumstances.

ITE_Resilence_QuoteThat’s crap! It’s a victim mentality and it keeps you stuck and living small. I deserve better. I finally got that. And then accepted that this was my life and I could change it. In fact, I was the only one who could.

Resilience is the key to happy, healthy and WHOLE.

Resilience is defined as “the ability to become strong, healthy or successful after something bad happens.” Or, “buoyancy…the ability to recover from adversity.”

I love those definitions — especially the first one. Resilience, to me, is the ability to stand in struggle, heartache or adversity and overcome it, while learning from the struggle. It’s falling down when you get your butt kicked and then while you’re down on the ground recognizing that you have NO CHOICE but to get up — and in doing so you know you will be stronger and better for it. This is Rising Strong (thank you Brene Brown)! Resilience is understanding that your emotional well-being and mindset as you stand in struggle makes ALL the difference, and then adjusting accordingly.

I believe we need to become resilient to become happy, healthy and whole. Never has this been more prevalent for me than in the past year.

Everything cycles from good to bad…and back again

For the first three years after reaching my weight loss goal and living a Lori-in-the-equation, WHOLE life, I was pretty much in a state of euphoria. I was so happy and positive that people kept asking me if it was real…or if I was taking “happy pills.” Nope, the truth is, I was just high on health and happiness.

I loved my new body. I loved my new life and all that opened up for me once I took care of myself. It felt good. I looked good in my new body sans -200 lbs. I had energy and a zest for life that had me trying all kinds of new things — saying “YES! AND…” I didn’t know it at the time, but I had started living WHOLE.

I started dating and learned I could attract guys — something I had never experienced when I was heavy because I had shut myself down, turned the romance porch light off. Once the porch light was on, I started actively dating and attracting men in my late 40’s! Wow, was that fun and good for the self-esteem. In 2013, I fell in love with a great guy…and a his amazing dog. I got to travel regularly to one of my favorite places on earth — Downeast Maine– and even live their part time. I met all kinds of new friends and fell in love with an entire ocean community. At 50, I was riding a Harley, hiking mountains, speaking and spreading all kinds of hope and inspiration to others, and fueling my own healthy life. I kicked a sugar habit (still a daily project), got to travel to Hollywood, CA, to share my story on NBC TV’s The Biggest Loser live finale, and began to build a new business around helping people put themselves in the equation of their own lives… It was awesome!

Then, without much warning, just one year ago that happiness bubble burst and real life intervened. You know, the stuff we all deal with eventually. My love relationship ended and I grieved the loss of a “boy,” a dog, and an ocean community I had grown to love and call home. In the midst of grief and heartache, my body decided to present some challenges in a serious bout of sciatica nerve and back pain that stopped me in my tracks for months and took away my go-to method of dealing with grief and stress — hiking and mountain climbing.

Shortly after that, I made some very difficult business and financial decisions so I could pursue a long-time dream, saw my parents through some health and life issues, and … Three months ago, my 51-year old sister suffered a massive stroke and almost died. She’s now had two brain surgeries, open heart surgery and awaits a third brain surgery this summer.

I think that about covers spring 2015-2016. Tough year. But you know what? That’s life. Everything cycles from good, to not so good, to bad and back to good again. I hate to break it to you, but if you are in the good or great cycle, struggle is coming. And you will survive and you can even thrive.

The key is resilience.

While my life this past year has been hard, it’s still good. I am still living in the center of the equation of my life. I trust that awesome is just around the corner again — and, frankly, I’m doing just fine living day-by-day in my WHOLE life. Because I know that WHOLE is not easy — it’s happy, healthy and hard! It doesn’t just come to you. It’s ongoing work.

I’ve become more resilient and stronger in my times of struggle. Maybe not always in the moment — tears and tantrums have ensued! — but I always work myself back up off the floor. I don’t throw in the towel on me. I don’t play victim (or not for long anyway). And I look for the lesson in the struggle. Whew! It took some serious internal work to get here, but it’s pretty darn cool.

Now, if I could just learn patience — we’d be all set! 😉

Tips for learning, practicing, developing resilience

How in the heck am I maintaining my weight loss and keeping myself in the equation when it feels like the last year is a blizzard in my life compared to the others? I am resilient.

I now know I can do and survive anything, and as long as I take care of myself. I know the bad times and the struggles will pass and I will find something better on the other side. I trust it. And everything that I am going through is my life. So I am finally in it, living it, and that alone feels good.

My tips for developing resiliency:

  1. Start by checking your mindset. Shifting your perceptions and changing your responses to adversity makes you more resilient. Emotion plays a large role. Are you being a victim of your circumstances rather than trying to find something empowering in the situation? Are you throwing in the towel, making excuses, or finding yourself apologizing for everything — sometimes those are clues that you aren’t very resilient. good news, you can change this outlook if you look deep inside and be honest with yourself. Understand what you can and can’t control about the situation and start there. Often times we can’t control the outcome. All we can control is how we view it and respond to it.
  2. Look for opportunities for growth in the toughest of circumstances — they’re always there but sometimes we have to dig deep. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. I may have at one time because I read the infamous quote and thought maybe it was just me and I had to work harder to understand. Nope! Some stuff is just too hard or sucks too much to happen for a reason. But I do think we can find opportunities for growth in times of struggle and things to be grateful for in every circumstance. And I know that outlook changes the outcome for me. It’s when I seek growth and don’t let the adversity define me that when I seek the meaning in the tough stuff.
  3. Start a daily gratitude practice. A “Tell me Something Good” practice, or just do one thing. This one always works for me, when I do it consistently. Sometimes gratitude in hard in adversity and then I simply search for something good — one thing — and focus on it. I’ve blogged regularly about these practices and how they’ve helped me become more positive, more resilient and stronger and you read those below. If that’s too hard, just do one thing — one nice, comforting positive thing for yourself and/or someone else and see if that doesn’t help.
  4. Understand that self-care is harder when you’re in struggle and it’s okay. There will be times when self-care is tough and maintaining the basics takes everything you’ve got. It’s ok. Cut yourself some slack and just do your best. But resist the temptation to throw in the towel on you (see tip number one). I remember days when I was in the hospital with my sister in intensive care and I took walks almost every hour or two through the hospital corridors just to get a break and get my steps in. That and drinking water regularly was the best I could do for self care. But the old me would have just thrown in the towel and binge ate over it. Be gentle with yourself during this time of crisis and know it will pass and you’ll be back to your healthy routine.
  5. It’s possible the struggle or adversity will redefine your life and fill it with new meaning. This is my favorite one. Be open to it. Look for it. It’s possible.

None of us can escape stress, struggle, heartache or adversity. We can only change how we hold it, live with it, react to it. I am just now learning that becoming more resilient has not only helped me lose weight, but maintain a healthy lifestyle and live a WHOLE life. And I had to develop my skills to get here. So I know if  I can do it, so can you! How cool is that?

The gifts of transformation just keep on giving four years in.



Read more in these blogs on resilience, weight maintenance and the gift of a whole life:

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