I stepped outside last night to walk a friend to his truck. The evening had died down and he had to get back to his home town in order to pick up his daughter from work. As we summarized the week and reminisced about the enjoyment of our evening, he lit a cigarette and puffed on it passively. The smell of the burning cigarette ignited my temptation and my only thought was how much I would give for just one more cigarette. The mere thought of giving in again caused my hands to begin trembling and my mouth to salivate.
Thanks to the bitterly cold wind and a clock that never stops ticking our time away, our goodbyes had to be cut short and my friend’s cigarette was tossed away only half-smoked. As he moved to enter his truck, the temptation of the sudden availability of only half a cigarette, which luckily landed with the filter in the air, overwhelmed me. I retrieved the cigarette and, without thinking, took a deep drag. Damn! It felt good. As the smoke entered my lungs, the tightness in my chest from months of cravings was released and the weight of the pressure of quitting rolled off my shoulders. I felt truly relaxed for the first time since I quit on August 26, 2016.
It was as the pure satisfaction of complete relaxation hit every fiber of my being that I remembered something: my friend isn’t a smoker. The harsh contradiction forced my eyes open and the realities of my mental world faded like a wisp of smoke torn apart by a gust of wind. I had been dreaming and none of it had ever happened. Despite feeling so very, very real, everything that had just occurred for me was nothing more than a visualization in my mind… driven by emotion.
Emotions can be a tricky thing, can’t they? Some days we feel on top of the world and nothing can bring us down from our high. Other times, though, we feel insecure or defeated and it seems nothing can shake us out of it. On Thursday morning, I did my daily weigh in and discovered that I had officially lost my 75th pound. However, I wasn’t overtaken with joy or pride. I felt discouraged. As I made my breakfast, I knew that what I was FEELING was out of sync with the realities of my weight loss situation. Determined to get myself out of the funk, I opened my favorite music app and pressed play. It resumed with the song I had been listening to on the way home the night before: Last Hope by Paramore.
Paramore is one of my wife’s favorite bands and, over time, I have moved from tolerating them to respecting the talents of their young, female lead singer. This particular song became somewhat of an anthem for me early last year as I began to confront the mental demons that had led to my unhappiness and, ultimately, my weight problem. Yet, I realized that only one phrase from the song was getting stuck in my head and the end result was not encouragement, but discouragement. Rather than feeling the “spark” that is just “…enough to keep me going,” I was being plagued by another lyric in the song.
Every night I try my best to dream tomorrow makes it better
And wake up to the cold reality that not a thing has changed
-Last Hope, Paramore
But why was this lyric plaguing me? Why was the source of so much inspiration now creating the exact opposite feeling? The answer took me most of the day to work through and a lot of conversations with a lot of people. As I worked through this, I realized that I have been having a subconscious, but very real, thought as I look in the mirror: I look the same. This thought was so subtle, I barely noticed it slowly poisoning the image that I see when I look in the mirror and twisting my ability to see the realities of the changes that are happening. All I could see is a VERY fat me pretending to change my life and, even if I was making progress, I have more than TWO more 75-pound victories to celebrate before I reach my goal. #notpossible
Faced with the overwhelming feeling of failure, I pulled out my last set of before and after photos. The only time that I see a difference in myself is when I look at before and after photos. The truth is undeniable when I see the pictures side-by-side. However, I haven’t been doing as many of those because the changes haven’t been as dramatic. With the reduced frequency of comparison photos and this poisonous thought occurring under the surface, the lyrics of the song struck me in a totally different way than normal and the end result was: discouragement.
Thanks to my profession, I knew how to respond. First, I turned off the song and moved to more encouraging songs. Secondly, I realized I had to live by what I KNOW to be true rather than what I FELT to be true in that moment. I had to force myself to go through the motions despite having so many temptations to return to old habits and feel sorry for myself. The feeling didn’t go away at all Thursday. In fact, in some ways, it just felt like it was getting worse as I talked about what I was experiencing.
When I got home from work, I upped my game. I turned on some worship music and I then began to clean my environment. I don’t know about anyone else, here, but our house is struggling by Thursday if we have had a busy week. I did the dishes and scrubbed the counters. When my wife got home, she noticed what I was doing and straightened the living room. She also encouraged me to diffuse some oils. With my surroundings looking much better and a constant source of encouragement through worship, I felt better by the time we went to bed and I woke up refreshed on Friday and ready to face our ice storm… tee hee…
That’s when I realized I need to share my experience. Never underestimate the power of your FEELINGS. If we are not in control of our emotions, our emotions will be in control of us. This week, it would have been so easy to backslide and play the victim to the FEELINGS that I was having. It is so crucial that we choose to live our lives based on what we KNOW rather than how we FEEL. If our lives were like a car, our knowledge and choices need to be the front wheels of our car and our feelings and physiology (the way we feel inside our bodies) need to be the back wheels. The back wheels, though crucial, have no turning power. Despite their necessity for the functionality of the car, they are only guided by the front wheels to where they need to be.
I apologize for such a long post. I always try to make my posts short and sweet. However, I have always worked to be open and transparent here and, today, I felt this just needed to be said.
For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…
- September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
- Today: 372.6 pounds
- Total loss 77.4 pounds (28.9% of my total excess body weight)
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