If I could go back in time … go back to Before and talk to my young-20s self who was only a couple of years into her weight-loss journey, what would I tell her? What advice might I give this version of myself who was finally stepping into her life and learning to live out loud?
The first piece of advice I would give myself is to get into therapy.
You have been through trauma, and it is influencing you in ways you can’t see. You may not even be ready to call it trauma, but it is.
You need to learn to deal with these things instead of shoving them into a box in the back of your mind as if they will just disappear or stay out of sight, out of mind. Because, that box will never contain them. And, they won’t go away. Not with losing weight, not with binging or stopping binging, not with exercise, finding a new partner…not even with therapy. But, at least with therapy, you won’t be holding them alone.
Next, I would tell myself to talk to a dietician. Not just any dietician, but one who specializes in eating disorders. Because, news flash young self, you have an eating disorder.
Not “you’ll develop one,” but you HAVE one. You’ve had one for a long time. And, while Weight Watchers has taught you how to control and track portions, you are doing absolutely nothing to get to the root of your already-decade-long eating disorder. And, if you don’t address anything but the manual steps to losing weight, you’re going to come out this on the other side just as unhealthy as you went in.
Then, I would tell her…find something, anything that is not weight- or diet-related, to be passionate about and then fully invest yourself in that thing. Nurture the ever-loving-sh*t out of that passion.
Knowing me, I’d say…ride horses. Ride ALL the horses. Learn to canter and jump and ride bareback – who cares that you’re still in a bigger body? Do it anyways! Find a way. Set aside money to make it something you do every single week. Make it a priority.
When you are sad, ride a horse; when you are angry, ride a horse; when you are happy, ride a horse; when you have overwhelming feelings in every direction and don’t know what to do, ride a horse… if you can’t afford to ride, find some way to be with horses… or walk dogs or paint or sing or maybe even learn to dance. ANYthing but starting a new diet.
One day, this journey will be over — the journey of weight loss. One day, you will be at After. And what will you do then? What will be your passion then?
Find it now. Nurture it now. Do it now so that when “after” gets here, you are not left without a life outside of weight loss to which to turn.
Which leads me to…this: don’t ever let your world shrink around any one thing.
Nothing is permanent.
I know it is your most desperate wish that something or someone will come into your life with a promise of forever that you can actually believe in, but start grieving now, because that doesn’t exist.
And if something or someone starts promising you otherwise, run as fast and far away as you can. Don’t cling to it in desperation for the false promise to be true.
The only constant is change.
Your body will change, the number on the scale will change, the people in your life will change, your life situation will change, everything will change. Forever and always. And no matter how hard you try to make that not happen — no matter how hard you try to control or avoid change, it will come just the same.
There is very little in life that you can actually control, and that is scary as fuck.
So, gather your resources. Build a team of support around you…a life full of support and passion.
That’s what I’d tell my young self. And I’d hope to god that I’d listen.