Where I started

(Maybe you can relate)

In early 2014, I was fifty, fat, and frustrated.

Okay, fifty-two, to be exact.

This picture was actually taken in 2010. By 2014, I was heavier, but by then I’d developed a talent for hiding behind someone else in pictures.

The previous years had been emotionally draining. I was in that “sandwich” season. (Which, disappointingly, has nothing to do with grilled cheese or BLTs.) I was sandwiched between the changing needs of my parents, and my kids.

My mom had Alzheimers and was declining rapidly. My dad was in his last few years of a terminal disease. I had the privilege of being there to help care for them, but the emotional toll: ugh.

My kids were in high school (oh, the drama!), then they did that horrible thing good kids do when they grow up: they leave home. Leave Mom.

In the face of these stresses, I had increasingly turned to food for a little bit of joy and — let’s be real — anesthesia.

My weight had crept up in my mid thirties to forties, but now it was piling on fast. As my weight went up, my energy went down. And along with it, my hope for change.

So that’s where I was in the spring of 2014.

BUT: by summer of 2015, I was thirty pounds lighter, and more energetic than I’d been in 25 years. And happier!

Since then, I’ve gone up or down by a few pounds (without freaking out), but I’ve never thrown in the towel on my changed lifestyle.

What was different this time?

  • I discovered that some of the diet info I’d been following for years was actually keeping me hungry and making it harder to lose weight.
  • I found a reason that really, really motivated me.
  • I took a hard look at the emotional reasons that made me eat, and learned some new ways to deal with those.
  • I found a way of exercise that worked for where I was.
  • I figured out a diet I could live with forever, instead of one I could only endure for a month or two.
  • And I worked out some kitchen tricks (and mental tricks) that make this way of eating easier.


Different needs

So excited about what I’d learned, I started talking about it to everyone, and soon began teaching other women. I came to realize, though, that not everyone was in the same place, or needed the same information.

For example, at the beginning of one of my classes:

Annie had a good handle on self-care and self-talk, but blanks in her nutrition knowledge were sabotaging her efforts.

Sue really knew her nutrition and was making strides in how she treated herself, but needed some help on logistics like meal-planning.

Donna thought all she needed was meal-planning, but she had some work to do in making self-care a priority, and figuring out how to avoid relapses.

Maybe you can see yourself in one of those women, or maybe you have a different mix. But I’m willing to bet, if you’re not satisfied with your efforts so far, you’re missing one or more pieces of the puzzle.

This year (2020), I’ve been reorganizing the lessons I teach into various topic-focused units, so I can better match the material to the needs of each person at a certain stage in her journey. I’ve called myself a teacher or mentor these past few years, but recently I realized that the role I play for others feels most like a trail guide. So I’m calling these topic-focused units “trails.”


Different starting places, different trails

Like physical trails in the woods or mountains, you need to train on the easier or shorter trails before you’re ready for the more challenging ones. If you try to make a full-day hike before you’ve broken in your shoes, learned how to pack for a day trip, or educated yourself on the possible dangers, your big hike may end in disaster.

This is what happens to a lot of us when we tackle a new diet. We hear about one that sounds great and we dive in, without taking the time to prepare for this new territory. When setbacks occur, we’re not prepared. What was actually lack of preparation feels like personal failure. But it doesn’t have to.

If you’ve tried repeatedly to change how you eat for good, but keep finding yourself back at the bottom of the hill, I invite you to explore some new trails.

Here’s a brief overview of what they are, and how to find where you should start…

  • Trail 1: Boost your food I.Q. — Bust the food myths that are holding you back
  • Trail 2: Find your mojo — Uncover your motivations and anti-motivations
  • Trail 3: Choose what works — Define the boundaries you can live with
  • Trail 4: Plan for success — Create a game plan to win
  • Trail 5: Make it last — Persevere, no matter what


Where do I start?

How can you get where you want to be if you don’t know where you’re starting from?

If I texted you and said, “Hey [your-name-here], how do I get to Chicago?”, the first thing you’d ask me is, “Where are you now?” Your directions for me would be very different if I’m coming from Phoenix versus New York.

So it is with your food journey. The first step is to assess where you are right now.

Some tools to help you do that:

  • Take the starter quiz — This will tell you whether to start with one of the basic trails, or look beyond.