Focus, not Failure

To be truthful, the Covid 19 Pandemic was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me because within the time it takes to snap your fingers life went on pause. I was forced to look up away from the bottom of the pit I had been digging for myself. It was daunting and terrifying when I really had nothing else to focus on but… me.

March 2020 I had already tried a few bouts of attending Food Addicts Anonymous meetings, reading a few books, watching different doctor’s vlog channels about food addiction. Nothing really spoke to me until my mental health counselor recommended the Bright Line Eating 14 day challenge to me one day while working together. I think if it were not for Covid-19 I would never have taken it seriously. Thankfully, I had literally nothing else to do. I was working from home by then and the whole world was on lock down. What better time to try what I assumed would just be my 847th diet attempt with some fad program?

Now, firstly, the point I want to make is not that you need to totally shut yourself down from the world to be successful at making big lifestyle changes. I also want to note that I had been trying a lot of different things before that point, but Bright Line Eating ended up being what stuck as something I connected with on a deep level. I will write more on that another day. What I really want to convey today is that what ultimately helped me be successful was one simple word.

Focus.

A journey entry quote I put in after about 1 month of Bright Line Eating and starting on their boot camp.

If you type in “how to lose weight” into any search engine, you will be bombarded with ads for equipment, cookies, get slim quick schemes, half a dozen shake cleanse diets and probably a dozen different medications. There is so much out there, and it very quickly becomes near impossible to navigate what is real and what is not. And there is no consistency either; one program tells you all you need to do is follow a calorie deficit diet, the next talks about cardio exercises only, another says you don’t need to do cardio you just need to lift weights. The only prevailing factor is that ultimately you want to or need to make some sort of lifestyle change, or maybe many changes. So how do you do that when you’re presented with an overwhelming number of options?

I have mentioned before that I sought professional help initially when I was trying to get my life on track. I knew I needed to exercise more, eat healthier, feel better, love myself more; the list goes on. In counseling was where I was able to work out what was truly hurting me the most inside and where I needed to start. For me, after over a year of working things out and learning to open myself up, it was my eating habits and addiction to food that were at the root of my issues.

So for once in my life, I stopped the never ending cycle of abuse with dieting, exercise, fasting, running, yoga, whatever, and just focused on one things – eating. I forced myself not to think about the fact that I was 260lbs or that this was going to be an extremely long road. I signed up for the 14 day challenge and all I did was focus on that completely. I am naturally a competitive person, so the idea of a “challenge” spoke to me. I was also in a rut with the minimal exercise that I had started by that point – I had been losing a little bit of weight and feeling a bit better but that lasted for about a month before my weight was totally stagnant. I am sure it had something to do with the cycling of binging I continued on.

A typical lunch meal for me

One day at a time, one meal at a time, I tried out this new way of eating that had genuine science behind it. I didn’t exercise, I didn’t go out to restaurants, I planned my grocery lists to a T around what my meal plan said I could eat, and I just gave it everything I had. I barely spoke to friends. I battled intense cravings that at times had me literally pacing through the house from the kitchen and back for hours. My husband was my rock through that phase. I also got pretty fatigued, but detoxing from the amount of sugar and processed garbage I had in my system was rough. I really had to remind myself that weight loss is hard on the body physically and to try to be kind to myself. If you’ve read my other posts, you know just how hard I find being kind to myself at times. Ultimately, I didn’t worry about anything else and just focused on what I was doing one bite at a time.

Within that first 14 days I believe I lost about 18lbs and I was ecstatic. At the end of it all the key to my success was something so simple and something that was right in front of me all along. Focus on one step at a time. Any other round where I tried to get healthy I just jumped in, grabbing wildly at the shiny health and fitness world to see how many things I could grasp onto before I fell back into the darkness. I had no foundation and trying to learn so may new things at once created chaos that easily allowed me to slip back into my comfort zone – laying on the couch wallowing. Trying to force yourself to create so many new habits at once is not impossible, but it is a hell of a lot easier to master one thing at a time.

6 mile Hike in Algonquin Park. This was part of my packed lunch for the road that we enjoyed looking out over the forest on a cliff’s edge

So, mastering my food addicted brain is what I did. Slowly from there, my energy came back and the mental clarity that came with it was very new for me. One day at a time of not eating sugary junk got me from that first 14 days to about 14 weeks. I completed the Bright Line Eating boot camp during that time; I had found what was working and wanted to keep learning as much as I could. With my energy coming back I started going for walks and doing some workout challenges. What was a totally new concept for me was that I wasn’t doing those things because I felt I “had to” in some way. I was doing them because my body just wouldn’t stop nagging me to move. I was antsy and giddy. The old me would only have worked out and moved because I felt I had to punish myself for eating the way I was, or maybe out of necessity in taking care of my sled dogs.

The new me, when she did move, enjoyed it on a very deep level. It elevated my moods and I felt pride in myself. I went through this mental shift where exercise was a reward for my body, not a consequence for being fat. Initially when I was reintroducing exercise (as I didn’t for about 3 months while I reshaped my eating), I only worked out when my body told me it was feeling energetic but that urge grew faster than I could keep up. I didn’t pressure myself to do it and that time around creating an exercise regime didn’t derail me or overwhelm. I had mastered my eating into automaticity and had a foundation of healthy habits to build up from.

The lessons that I want to give here are many, but I will let you decide what your lessons are. The main point to what allowed me to go from then to now was just to focus. To you reading I say; focus on now. Focus on today. What you can do and not do in this moment. Don’t worry about the birthday party coming up in a few weeks, that pressure you might get to go out to lunch with friends, or the next looping holiday. It isn’t happening right now and all that worrying is just going to have your brain convincing you that copping out of your new goals is a reasonable response. The “quit while you’re ahead” philosophy should not have room to live in your brain anymore. Focus on what choices you can make based on what is right in front of you.

My “why”. My rock. My never-give-up. My everything.

Lastly, while we are talking about focus, don’t focus on how long and hard your road may or may not be. That also falls into the “focus on the now” category. Giant goals look exactly like what they are – GIANT. If you want to lose 50lbs, break it down into 5 or 10 at a time. If you want to start running 5k, start by walking for one. If you make the big things measurable and divide it into the smallest tasks you can, as you move from one to the next you will be astonished by how far down that brand new journey you go in no time at all. And besides, it just gives you that many more opportunities to celebrate and be proud of yourself along the way.

Algonquin Park bike path. September, 2020
"A thousand steps is too many,
 but one at a time seems possible
 if I keep my head level and eyes blind.
Every journey begins distant –
 hard, unfathomable, unimaginable,
 while peering across the sands of time.
 But complacency is a curse
 that stands ready with force
 to defend comfort in the battle of the mind.
 Life is one continuous climb.
 Each day one step closer to
 the potential written in your heart."
- Justin Farley

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