It was seven years ago today, at Richard Simmons’ suggestion, that I started logging my food and emailing him the logs. That marked the beginning of my long, extremely rewarding journey that has resulted in a weight loss of 160 pounds – which I’ve kept off. I thought it’d be nice to mark the occasion with a new ‘before and current’ photo comparison!
The photo on the right was taken last weekend, during a family get-together in Orange County. The photo on the left is a recently unearthed gem from 2001 – my senior year in college. My friend Jonathan found it and sent it to me a couple weeks ago, and I don’t remember it at all.
I have a strange reaction to photos like this: I know that’s me, but it sure doesn’t seem like me. I don’t feel much of a connection to the guy on the right anymore, and that’s a testament to the changes I’ve made and the lifestyle I’ve embraced. I love the photo, and how it memorializes my friendships with these two guys (both of which are still going strong, 16 years later), but I’m thankful I found the path I’m on. So very thankful. That path began on January 23, 2010, and at that time, I weighed 402 pounds.
This weekend saw me thinking a lot about love. I attended a memorial service, during which I heard many people express their unending love for a gentleman that recently passed but whom I never met (his wife, though, is a wonderful friend of mine). I saw a thrilling theatrical performance that explored the many definitions of love through storytelling, dance, and death-defying aerial routines. And I went to a concert that featured a love song that resonated and has stayed with me since. Here’s the song (from a live performance a few years back):
I thought about how powerful love is, and how important it is to me, and I also thought about how often my own mental illness encourages me to ignore and deny those feelings. That happens frequently, unfortunately. One of the things I battle when I fall into a depression is the notion that I’m not worthy of love, from myself or others, and the love I feel and share with the important people in my life is meaningless.
None of that is true, of course, and I have ways that I combat those ugly voices when they start rearing their ugly heads. It’s a topic I’ve written about a lot on this blog: I’ve taken you inside a mental health breakdown, shared five damaging words that lead to a downward spiral, and discussed what I learned from Robin Williams’ passing.
I’m not in a depression right now, but I spent too much of 2016 in one, thanks to two heartbreaking experiences with my dogs Maude and Rufus, foot injuries that zapped my ability to train, and my mentor Richard Simmons shutting down his fitness studio for good. Just one blow after another.
All these thoughts and feelings started circling as I drove home from the memorial service yesterday, in the biggest rainstorm Los Angeles has seen in years. I knew I was one day away from my anniversary, one day away from seven whole years spent making smart choices, working hard, working out, working through challenges and emerging stronger on the other side.
And then it dawned on me, an epiphany that brought a lot of things in focus:
Eating well and exercising is an expression of love that only I can give myself… and only I can receive. Making smart choices – and continuing to do so, no matter my mental state – has become the most consistent, reaffirming way I’ve shown self-love, to the point where I’ve probably taken it for granted.
Taking care of myself, and continuing to dedicate myself to this process, has only brought good things: improved health, of course, but also improved confidence, self-esteem, happiness. It is the best fuel to use in the fights I sometimes have to wage within my own head.
This isn’t a proclamation that my mental health issues are cured. That may never happen. But every step I take towards understanding them, and the tools I use to address and confront them, is an immense help. And, in that sense, I feel like I took a few steps this weekend, and that’s a fantastic anniversary present, don’t you think?
Happy Anniversary, and… KEEP IT UP, DAVID!
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