I found this tank top this morning in my closet. I bought it when I was deep into my weight loss journey. At the time, I was reading and following a bunch of people that I found motivational and inspiring. The Blog of Impossible Things was one of them, and Joel Runyon, the author, was making shirts and tanks to fuel his next “impossible” project.
The advice I received from Joel every Tuesday and Thursday via email was pretty priceless. Like me, Joel had found himself overweight, out-of-shape, and feeling a little hopeless. To boot, he had a dead end job (despite his college degree) that paid 11 bucks an hour. Now, you might think think he would have started working harder on looking for a better job. Instead, he started focusing on himself and transforming his body to get in better shape. It was one thing he could control when he felt lots of other things were out of his control.
Joel’s story really resonated with me. I felt like I had a lot of things under control, but there was one thing I couldn’t control. I couldn’t figure out how to lose weight, move better, and feel more confident in my body. Sure, I had a LOT of the puzzle pieces figured out- I’d been at the “diet game” for over a decade- but the outcomes just weren’t…coming.
What I didn’t want to acknowledge at the time was that a big part of that had absolutely nothing to do with my health and fitness habits that I had been working on. It had almost everything to do with what was going on in between my ears and the story that I told myself.
Changing My Story
When I began to exercise regularly and train for my first triathlon, things began to change for me. I went from the girl who hid in her basement and did the mandatory 20 minute elliptical session to the girl who lurked in the back of the exercise class. I moved my way forward to the front of the class over time, and found friends and supporters in the class and in my community. I gained confidence in my physical abilities, and that expanded to all parts of my life.
My newfound confidence pushed me to ask for help in organizing a local fundraiser for the non-profit at which I worked. The response was literally overwhelming. The event was called “Paint the Town Red” and while the experience was terrifying, the result was amazing. Literally a huge chunk of the town showed up in 30 degree weather to watch an outdoor fashion show and raise money for this tiny non-profit. When I got up to speak at it, I was 20 pounds lighter than when I had started planning for the event 5 months earlier. Why? Because those little things I had been doing for my health and fitness were starting to add up. More importantly, willing myself not to fail at this one event drove my courage and confidence that I could do new things through the roof.
So, I quit a job that I wasn’t happy doing.
And I went all in on trying to make my ideal job a “thing”.
I lost more weight.
People noticed that I was being confident and assertive and gave me more roles and responsibilities.
I lost even more weight and got to a place where I felt strong, comfortable, and confident in my body.
Eventually, I was asked to do my boss’ job when she left to take another faculty position. I thought, “This is it! I’ve made it!“. I worked tirelessly for about 3 months. One night, staring at the florescent lights at 9 PM after trying to decipher another incorrectly completed I-9 form from an adjunct instructor, I realized I hadn’t made it at all. What might have been someone’s dream job wasn’t mine. And so I told the amazing people that were part of my team that I wanted to go back to teaching.
And I hatched a plan to start on a new thing- becoming a personal trainer. The rest is pretty much history (for another story anyways).
GTF Out of Your Way
My old self- the successful teacher who was overweight, funny, smart, and sarcastic- probably wouldn’t recognize me now. If I had said to myself, “This is who I will be in 10 years” ten years ago, “then” me would have spit her coffee out and laughed in “now” me’s face.
Because I had set limits on who I thought that I could be. On just “how good” of a teacher I was and the positions I “deserved”. On what I was going to be able to achieve in my life. Whether or not I knew that I did this is besides the point. I did it. I stayed in my box because the box was safe and sensible and it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary was in store for me.
Getting back into physical training, becoming fit, and eventually losing weight changed all of that for me. I’ve broken down lots of tiny and huge walls with my fitness. Funny enough, the ones that seem tiny on the outside- moving to the front of the group exercise class- were HUGE compared to the ones that seem huge on the outside- like swimming the Strait of Mackinac last summer.
Fitness is my keystone habit. Everything amazing in my life I have attracted or worked for as a result of my initial actions around getting fit. I went from being a person who believed that she only deserved so much out of life to a person who truly believes in the possibilities.
Most days when I get out of bed, I try to get doing something active right off the bat. When I’m finished, I feel like it’s the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the movie goes from black-and-white to color. It’s a whole new world, and I am ready to soak it in and shape the rest of my day.
So when I talk to people about their habits, I have truly deep respect for simple changes and their profound impact. I know that making fitness a part of my life has had the most wide-ranging impact for me and my future. Your “thing” doesn’t have to be fitness. But it needs to be something. So what makes you get out of bed and start living in Technicolor?