On our last night in Atlantic City, my family and I sat in a bar and watched the night scene unfold. We observed awkward interactions between males and females as they guzzled liquid courage and did their best to appear taller, stronger and more attractive to the opposite sex. It was quite entertaining.
Then, in the middle of the floor, staff members unveiled a large, dark object. It was a mechanical bull! I had never seen one in real life before. The line grew quickly as brave souls stepped up to challenge the ominous beast.
I so badly wanted to be one of them, but I wasn’t feeling the least bit brave. I was feeling overweight, self-conscious and insecure. And as much as I wanted to ride the bull, I feared being laughed at if I fell off. I would look ridiculous and feel humiliated.
So I watched others fall off and saddle up a second time, and as I watched, I wondered what happened to me. Where did my confidence go?
When I returned from my trip, I knew it was time to make a change. I had dieted and exercised before. It wasn’t my first weight-loss rodeo. I had counted fat grams, cut carbs and reduced calories. I had even bought a treadmill, practiced for several 5k races and worked with a personal trainer. Despite all these efforts and all that change, I hadn’t seen any more than a 10-pound loss in about 6 years. It was disheartening to say the least. The one thing I hadn’t changed though was my attitude; I was simply going through the motions. It was time to get serious.
I was uncomfortable: in my clothes, in my skin and with my life. I turned down social invitations because I didn’t have anything to wear and shopping for new clothes was depressing. I refused opportunities to speak publicly because I was afraid that people would be critiquing my size instead of listening to my message. My weight gain was interfering with my life: socially, professionally and romantically.
When I first began my new, healthy lifestyle, it was all-consuming, an obsession not unlike when I quit smoking. I thought about food constantly – not in the sense of depravity and longing for an off-limits item, but in the sense of planning. Eating well requires constant preparation in terms of grocery shopping, lunch packing and restaurant dining. I made peace with my new obsession and decided to kick my extra pounds with the same gusto and persistence that I used to cease my smoking habit.
It worked. My persistence paid off, and I am fifty pounds lighter than I was a year ago. This journey toward getting my life back has been incredible. I feel energetic, social and happy. I love my life, and I feel that I am living the way I always should have.
Now I have the confidence to take risks and do things that scare me a little. I enrolled in an exercise class at my local recreation center; I improved my 5k finish time by two and a half minutes, and earlier this year, I read one of my essays in front of my students and fellow faculty members at a school assembly.
I have made some serious progress, but I’m still a little afraid of the bull. I could fall off. But missing out on exciting opportunities is even scarier to me. The next time I’m in Atlantic City, I’m going to get in line and ride that bull. And as for the rest of my life, I’m grabbing that by the horns, too.
Previously published in Sasee Magazine – August, 2017