pause in life's pleasures

Several weeks ago, I started to gain back a few pounds. It was a slow gain. So slow that at first I didn't realize it was truly a gain. I thought it was water weight. And maybe it was - at first.

Eventually, I realized it wasn't just water weight. It was real weight. Weight that I gained due to making bad choices and also not pushing myself with exercise. I wanted to believe that it would just fall off, but it didn't. It hung on, and eventually a few pounds turned into five pounds.

I remained quiet about the weight gain for the most part. I didn't want to talk about it or really admit to it. And I wasn't sure how to go about talking about all of the reasons for the weight gain. Because there is always a reason for weight gain; it doesn't just happen - just like weight loss doesn't just happen.

Eventually, I lost a few pounds, but I stayed at the same weight for several weeks. Nothing seemed to be working. And the more nothing work, the more I focused on the weight I couldn't lose. It seemed like a neverending battle.

But the battle is neverending. At some point, it stops. The outcome is, then, either a win or a loss.

Today it was a win. A win in the way of a loss. A three pound loss to be exact. And with that three pound loss, I am officially at my lowest weight since beginning my journey. Excited is an understatement. Even ecstatic is an understatement.

I worked hard for the loss. I counted calories for seven days straight. I thought about everything I ate and made choices that several weeks ago I would have struggled to make - like not having dessert after dinner and also not filling up my bowl or plate a second time.

I realized, though, that the loss isn't because of only the things I did. The loss is because of the support system I have - both in the "real world" and through the interconnected blog world. While the decisions are mine to make, and in many ways weight loss will always be a solo journey, the loss would not have been possible without support. And while I have some restraint, I don't think I have enough restraint or self-control to actually lose weight without anyone else cheering me on.

I need reminders that only other people can give me. Reminders that I need to look at more than just the number on the scale. Reminders that the hard work is not going unnoticed. Reminders that even on the hardest days this is worth it.

And then there are the other reminders. Reminders that don't come from one specific person but reminders that come from God and show me just how loved I am even when I feel the most unloveable. Reminders that open up a new world of dreams. Reminders that awaken parts of my heart that were hardened. Reminders to take in a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. Reminders that it's okay to not be perfect and to not be able to balance everything in one hand.

Reminders that it's okay to put myself first during this season in my life.

Weight gain, for me at least, usually happens as a response to another event. Whether it be an event I was a part of or something someone did to me or just how I feel. I generally turn to (or used to turn to) food. Ice cream. French fries. Pizza. All those foods that aren't exactly healthy.

But the event can also be something I am not even aware of. That's what happened before I said no more in April and began this journey.

I spent almost two years of my life dedicating every waking, and sleeping moment, to other people. To families who were broken. To children who needed a constant. To parents who didn't know where else to turn. To co-workers who were the only ones who understood. Most of those years were spent in the car - traveling the state of Oklahoma and passing through a McDonald's for a quick lunch and a diet coke. And then by the time I got home, I was too tired to cook, and so we either ate out or I threw something frozen into a skillet or a pan or the microwave. And the pounds piled on.

I don't blame the weight gain on the job. People joke that in a job like that you either take up smoking or drinking. I took up neither, but I fell back on the familiar. I could have stopped it. I could have committed to spending time in the gym and packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. But I didn't. I just let it happen.

I let it happen because I focused every ounce of my energy on other people. And I helped a lot of people. I think. But I didn't help myself, and that was one of the biggest hinderances.

Now I am focusing on myself. I am doing everything I can to help myself. And it is such a hard thing for me to do because I feel guilty for placing myself above everyone else. I feel like I should be doing more for other people and less for myself. Like I am wasting my time by not being there and volunteering and filling my plate with so many other things.

But I deserve it. I deserve this chance to be healthy and to fully move on from those things that I used to turn to. I deserve to turn the 26 pounds lost so far into 100 pounds lost total.

We all deserve the chance to take care of ourselves.

So what do I do during this time? When I feel guilty for placing myself first, when I feel like I am  not doing enough for other people, how do I continue to push myself? I turn to others. I remind myself that I have cheerleaders, and I do what is so hard - I let them in on my feelings.

But what I am finding, more and more, is that people are receptive. People care. People reach back to you when you reach out to them.

And then there's God. God who speaks through a pastor on Sunday morning and stirs up a dream that is too big for me to accomplish on my own. God who shows me that this time in my life right now will help me to get to that dream. God who reminds me that my efforts are not wasted, and God who shows me that by putting myself first I can eventually help others.

God who celebrated my three pound loss and provided me with others to celebrate with.

(title from "hard times" by eastmountainsouth)

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