Thursday February 18,  11:26am – Chicago

A warm hello to you today!

In a Zoom call the other night for the fitness/nutrition program I am in, one of the ladies asked our coach about willpower. His answer was not surprising to me, because I’ve been around awhile and know well his thoughts on self-control and discipline, but I wanted to add some of my own.

Growing up, willpower was one of my mom’s favorite words – and as a “chunky” girl, one of my most hated. Having it equaled being good, favored, and accepted. Not having it? Weakness, slovenness, disappointment. And since I was the only child in my family to be overweight, any time someone uttered the word, I felt my face turning red, my palms get sweaty and my heart sink. I felt embarrassed and furious all at the same time because I felt like it was a scolding aimed directly at me.

Now, it would be easy to read this and disparage my upbringing. The current cultural lens harshly judges the past without really trying to understand it. That’s not my intention. Instead, I am trying to explain how a simple word had so much power over me, and how it paralyzed me for much of my life. I am also sharing one of the challenges of my childhood, which, on the whole, was pretty great. But I grew up in a time when being overweight as a child was an anomaly. And the truth is, I wasn’t obese, but I was “chunky”, and clinically above the preferred weight charts for my age and height. And that scared my mom – A LOT.  Why? – because let’s be honest, even today, being overweight is hard – physically, mentally, socially, and romantically, especially for women.

I speak from experience. I have spent the past four and a half decades as either an overweight or obese person. And that dreaded word felt like a ball and chain, the holy grail and kryptonite all at once.

Even since losing the equivalent of a small child in body weight, I have not embraced the word willpower – just too much history… So, what word have I  adopted instead to be able to create and engage in daily habits, rituals, and disciplines to have had the success I have so far? SELF-RESPECT. In my opinion, this word encompasses so much more than willpower ever could. Self-respect is almost self-explanatory. We all inherently know when we are acting respectfully. We also all know when we are acting disrespectfully. We might not want to admit it, but deep down, we know. Now apply that kind of ‘knowing’ to ourselves. We KNOW that human beings need daily exercise. We KNOW that the best food comes from nature and not a box. We KNOW pills/injections should not be needed/used to aid our bodies in the normal digestion process. We just do.

As Maya Angelou often said, “When you know better, you do better”. The missing piece from this quote is that knowing isn’t really the hard part, it’s the doing.  Once you know something, you know it, but doing it?- that requires ongoing participation.  Getting up early to meditate and workout, eating to fuel my body as opposed to comfort my emotions, and actively engaging in mental toughening exercises such as cold plunges are not always fun.  Some days they’re downright dreadful, BUT they are always acts of self-respect.  The reality is there are no shortcuts, magic pills/injections, or workarounds when it comes to respect. One either acts in respect or they don’t. 

So whether it’s willpower, self-respect, or another word you use as the foundation for your journey, just make sure it resonates into every fiber of your being.  It may take a while to discover it, and that’s okay.  In the meantime, I will leave you with a mantra I say on the particularly challenging days when I just want to chuck it all –

“Being overweight is hard, losing weight is hard, and maintaining a healthy weight is hard – CHOOSE YOUR HARD.”