Free At Last

Today, I had an apple and a bottle of water in my Toyota RAV4. After two hours at the gym, I had stopped at the grocery store to get a healthy snack so I wouldn’t eat to excess when I met my boyfriend for dinner. I chewed the apple’s core quickly, drank the water, put the key in the ignition and kept moving.

Such a simple act and yet so telling: I’ve come a long way since I first started writing the Weight-Loss Diary last January. Back then, I ate a bag full of bad intentions (chocolate pudding, etc.) in my truck while a pea-green Ford waited for me to vacate my parking space. It took me a while to get moving.

Today, however, I’m all about action: moving fast and frequently, and adhering to a new inner voice that makes my life flow more smoothly. As I’ve shed my weight, I’ve also shed my fears of speaking up, setting boundaries and expecting people (including myself) to respect them.

Now, as my column comes to a close, I’m amazed at how much my mind has opened – and how far I’ve come in just 12 short months. It’s growth that arrives at an interesting time, since I turn 40 this month – an ending and beginning colliding to form a perfect rite of passage. I enter the new decade with a more loving approach to my body and a raised level of self-acceptance. Four decades of dieting, bingeing and self-loathing are almost gone, and in their place, the fruits of the coming year’s lessons will gently guide me.

For example, I now know that the scale is just a measure, and not the most meaningful. That dieting and deprivation don’t work. That m y body knows what it wants and needs and I should listen. That staying fit is about choices and tradeoffs and knowing the difference. That success raises the stakes – once you have it, you can lose it. But then again, I now know that I have the ultimate control over the outcome.

I’ve learned that having a healthy body is up to me. It is not up to my mother, trainer, lover, dog, shrink, mailman or anybody else who’d like a say in what I should weigh or look like. Exercise isn’t a chore, but a privilege we can experience when we’re healthy, creative and reflective.

I now know that you’ve got to change from the inside out (instead of the outside in) if you want to sustain change for the duration. With all this knowledge in my back pocket, I will celebrate a milestone birthday and, at the same time, turn over a new leaf in terms of nurturing myself as a total person (mentally, physically, and emotionally) – not just a woman with fat knees and stretch marks. I will celebrate the fact that I’ve never felt better and I’ve never been fitter, had more energy, spirit or hope.

So here’s to being 40. For that, a good swift engine in my body and the attention of millions of readers, I say thanks.

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