“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”Carl Sagan
Apparently, this is a pretty famous, but I just read it recently. It made me think of the journey I’ve been on for the past year and a half, since quitting the tech industry, and completely changing my life.
I didn’t originally set out to lose a bunch of weight, that is not what any of this was about. What I did start out with was a desire to have more energy, and to spend my time doing things I wanted to do instead of feeling stuck just surviving at the whim of a demanding job and the demanding task of raising two boys as a single mom.
I wanted more energy. So before I even quit Microsoft, I took several weeks of vacation, and just let myself pretend that I had already quit. Then I asked myself the question: what would I do with my time if I was not compelled to go to work? The first thing I did was sign up at a local gym that offers a boot camp style workout. It seemed manageable because it was only 45 minute class, and organized into stations; you do only 30 seconds of work at a time, and then you rotate to the next station. It seemed believable that I could do anything for 30 seconds. I even gave myself permission to modify the exercises, so that it didn’t feel completely demoralizing.
It turned out to be a really good fit for me. The coaches leading the classes were friendly, and the people doing the workouts alongside me were not judging me. Each person was just in their own little world, focused on themselves, and I could feel free to do the same. I was able to keep coming back, even though my body hurt, even though I was disappointed with my fitness level. I knew that if I just showed up, I would begin to form a habit. My body changed little by little, getting stronger, and a bit smaller. It took about a year to really feel confident that I knew I liked this feeling enough that I would keep going. But then the change in my body began to plateau.
During this time, I began a life coaching course. The number one principle in this course was “live it to give it.” If I wanted to learn how to guide other people in doing their own work, I would have to let these tools be used on me, and do my own work.
The biggest impact I experienced was in breaking down the stories that I had been telling myself, which were keeping me stuck. For example, I had a story about my body, that I was not capable of changing it more than I already had. I had a story about my self-worth, that I was not worthy of love and respect. I had a story about my value in my business, that I was not competent and did not know how to communicate my value. I received coaching from my classmates in these areas, and even hired a professional coach to help me work through confidence issues as I launched my coaching practice.
As a result, I saw change in many areas of my life. I began to form meaningful friendships, with my new foundation of worthiness. I began to believe that I had something valuable to offer as a coach, and saw that reflected in the feedback from my clients. I began trying new things, letting it be ok if I failed. And I began a new eating program, which I have been able to stick to, and with which I have had tremendous success.
I have lost over 80 pounds since the start of this journey, and do not remember a time where I had so much energy. I spent this past summer doing things I wanted to do – hiking mountains, kayaking lakes, dancing at 90’s night at a dance club. I can run with my kids, and I’m even playing indoor soccer again for the first time in 15 years. I started gardening, and cooking, writing and drawing. I take photographs that I’m quite proud of, write poetry, and have learned how to do public speaking in a vulnerable, authentic way. Exploring all of these new things is not accidental – it was precisely when I saw myself worthy of enjoying life, that I began to see myself as someone deserving of feeling good. In order to feel good, you must take care of yourself.
If I had just set out to lose weight, and followed a diet, I don’t think I would have been able to transform my body or believe that I could maintain this change. Before I could lose this weight, I had to change my entire life and do the work of removing the underlying obstacles that were keeping me stuck.
So, I would propose a corollary to Carl Sagan’s original conjecture: If you want to lose weight, you must first become the person you want to be.