the power of a fresh start

Fresh starts, clean slates, new beginnings and do overs: these are powerful things. Whether it’s a move, a break up, a brand new morning, or a vow renewal. We all need a cleansing Fresh Start sometimes.

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I’m at the starting over place. The need for starting over has been a few months in the making- the slippery slope of poor choices: eating whatever I wanted, smoking too much and generally not taking care of myself. I’ve tried a few times to start over by quitting smoking and making better choices with food and every time I’ve ended up right where I began: full of self loathing and making the same shitty choices. I’ll be honest, it’s been a pretty disappointing time, but not disappointing enough for me to quit starting over. The thing about this disappointing time is that I determined that one of my Fresh Starts was eventually going to stick. So I didn’t quit trying and I gave every attempt at a Fresh Start all I had.

So, I started over. Again.

Last week I quit smoking cigarettes (I can hear the angels singing the hallelujah chorus. Never mind, that’s just the sound of my mom not nagging me) which was the first thing I needed to do in order to get to the true Fresh Start. And a few days ago, I started (for the 10th time) a Whole30. I’ve only actually completed only one Whole30, even though I’ve started 10 of them, but I started my second (11th?) Whole30.

This particular Fresh Start is actually about returning to the place where I felt the best about myself in the past couple of years and the best I’ve felt about myself is during and immediately after my (only) Whole30 in March 2013. Whole30 was so powerful for me because I had to have a set apart time where I could not use food (sweets especially) as a coping mechanism. I’ve come to the place where I realize all the sneaky things that I use to cope with my emotions- instead of actually coping with my emotions. Food and cigarettes are two of those things, so starting over this time looked like me not using either of those things to manage my emotions.60533f0be108d985df849bc4608fb4c3

I humbly start again believing with everything in me that the power of a Fresh Start is that there’s new power every single time I try. Whether I’ve failed at 2000 Whole30’s or I’ve quit smoking 790 times, there’s new power every. single.time. And today, I’ll take the power of that and use it to get through today. I’ll keep believing in myself even when my history doesn’t reflect perfection. I’ll keep trying to succeed even when I fall flat. 59194_full

For my birthday, my BFF got me an item almost everything from my wishlist. My favorite gift from her though, was this giving key. The word she chose was “BELIEVE” and her amazing card explained why (which I have kept in the spirit of keeping only things that bring me joy). Anyway, one line of the card said, “and believing that you will win whatever battle you are currently facing”.  I wear that key almost everyday as a reminder that I need to believe in myself and keep trying.

RSFinal3D640X640-1640My Fresh Start has brought lovely things already. I’m reading my new best friend Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong (how, seriously HOW did I live without Brene?) and in it she mentions Paulo Coelho who says in his book The Alchemist, “when you are on your path, the universe will conspire to help you.” In the mail on the day I started my Whole30 we received our  favorite Whole30 snack from my friend Pam. And I just smiled and thought to myself, “I’m on my path. Fresh Start and all. I’m on my path.”

I used to be fat

I used to be fat and the truth is, I still think I am. Since March of 2014, I have lost a total of almost 50 pounds and gone from a size 14 to a size 4. I know you want to marvel over how fat I was and how small I am now, so let’s cut to the chase and I’ll show you the before and after pics.

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Official Whole30 “before” picture. I don’t want to talk about it.

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“After” picture AKA “today”. We’ll talk about my hair changes in subsequent posts. Suffice to say, it changes so much people who know me fail to recognize me on a regular basis.

Do you feel better? Now that we have that out of the way, I will briefly share my “success story”. I feel like I’ve always been fat. As a kid you could have called me “husky”, “chunky”, “shapeless” or just plain old “chubby” (all of which I was called many times). I struggled with my weight and body image all through my adolescence, twenties and most of my thirties until I had my son Avett. I gained 30 pounds with him bringing me up to almost 200 pounds. When he was about 9 months old, I looked at myself and realized that I hadn’t lost much of the weight and I really wasn’t happy.

My parents were living with us at the time and after extensive reading and research, I got everyone on board to complete a Whole30. My mom, husband and I did Whole30 to the letter for 30 days. By the end, we had lost a combined 40-50 pounds. Given our success and momentum, we decided to move into a Paleo lifestyle and continue eliminating grains, sugar, processed food and dairy all of which are the presumed culprits of excess weight. By month 6 or 7, we had continued to lose weight and were all feeling good. A year and two- three new wardrobes later, I was finally at the lowest weight of my adult life, which is where I am today. For us, Whole30, followed by Paleo was the “magic formula”. It worked and continues to work. My husband is stricter than I am with his eating habits, but we still pretty much try and stick to the plan. The weight loss was great, but for me there were other side effects such as fewer headaches, clearer skin and no bloat. Eating paleo also comes with a healthy bout of paleo depression which sadly, never really lifts. (Do yourself a favor and follow the link). Anyway, this is all fine and good. The reality is, I have never been happier with my body. I love shopping for clothes and I feel like I truly look good. People look twice at me because I am cute, skinny and relatively hip. I’m not being prideful here. My husband has said as much and believe me when you used to get looks for being fat and sloppy, you know the looks that say, “wow, she’s pretty.” So, wonderful (sarcasm)! But what about still feeling fat? Let me get right to that. My brain still says, “I’m fat” and it says it every.single.day. When my arms jiggle when I wave at someone, my brain says, accusingly, “fatty”. When my stomach skin/flab pools neatly over my jeans, my brain says, “fat.” When I look in the mirror, my brain says: FAT! But why? Why would a person who is a size 4 (a size I NEVER EVER dreamed I would be) still think they are fat? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this: a lifetime of thinking isn’t erased in a year. I can’t “think” my way out of this one. All the compliments in the world don’t matter if my brain- which drives my every move- still calls me chubby. So, what now? I’m skinny and I look good but my brain still says I’m not. Well, it’s a work in progress. I have to work to get my brain to conform to reality. I have to stop listening to the voice that tells me lies about my value. I have to listen and accept compliments and not brush them off and above all of that, I have to be patient. It’s been more than 30 years that I felt a certain way about myself. It’s not going to change in a day or a year or two, but it’s a battle worth fighting.

As Richard Rohr says in his book, Simplicty, “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” I think that’s the path I’m on here. I’m wrestling to eat in a way that I know that is best for me and in the process, maybe my thinking will change. Let me also be clear here, I still struggle with eating right. I don’t beat myself up as much, but I still crave garbage food and I still eat garbage food. The difference now is I am learning that I’m making choices and those choices may or may not be healthy, but I’m not cheating, I’m not (trying not to) binge because I can eat whatever I want. There’s just consequences for that. And I like my new life, my new body and my new clothes and the way I feel and I’m not really willing to give it up for a pack of oreos. A dozen donuts, maybe.

Now about you. Dear friend, please don’t tell me you could “never give up dairy or grains or sugar” because you can do anything you want to. As my husband said to one of his coworkers who said, “I could never do that” his response: “you don’t want it bad enough”. Exactly. I am an Italian who grew up cleaning every item off of my plate which always included bread and pasta. I didn’t do anything special. I didn’t do anything that thousands of people haven’t done before. The fact is you CAN lose weight if you want it bad enough. You probably can’t do it without support though. Many, many days on Whole30 knowing my family was on the boat with me kept me from jumping ship. So, RAH RAH friend, if you want to lose weight you can and I really do suggest that you try a Whole30. It really does work. And it’s hard. But it works.

XO,

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p.s. I assure you, this will not be the last word on this topic from me.