One Foot in Front of the Other: A Dieting Story

Footsteps 1

So a funny thing happened on my way to turning 40 – I kind of grew up.  Okay, okay, hold your horses – don’t go setting off the air raid sirens just yet; I qualified that with a “kind of.”  It’s not like I saw 40 coming and, as Corinthians would say, put away my childish things.  I did quite literally go out this afternoon and buy a pile of Lego Dimensions video game toys, so that would be a big old no on putting away the playthings.

But as it pertains to issues of weight, specifically my overabundance of it, I saw 40 coming in hard with a bullet (stroke, diabetes, heart attack, take your horrifying pick) and thought it was high time I GET MY SHIT TOGETHER.  For far too many years now my friends and family – people I have caused untold worry and concern – have been trying to gently (and sometimes not so gently) convey the message that if I do not rein in some of my more destructive lifestyle impulses, I won’t have a life to ruin at all.  And for far too many years now, I’ve been shrugging off their concerns, usually with a self-deprecating dig at myself on the way out, like it’s cool to not give a crap about yourself.

Then about three weeks out from my 40th birthday, I went to the doctor and she laid it out bare – all of my measurable vitals were total garbage, and I was dancing with the devil every second I was vertical and ventilating.


When you put it that way.

But really, when she did put it that way?  I finally sat up and took notice.

Or rather, I took notice a little earlier when my friends began planning a blow-out trip to Vegas, and I realized I’d never, ever be able to keep up with them at the slots, on the dance floor or whilst liberating a tiger from Mike Tyson’s house.  I took notice when I heard a distinctly audible “CRACK!” after sitting in a rickety old chair at a hipster donut joint.  I took notice when my 90-year-old grandmother buried my 60-year-old diabetic aunt, a bright, otherwise remarkably intelligent woman who, much like her niece, never said no to a delicious dish.  I took notice when I thought about my mother and father burying me.  And I finally took notice later on that evening when I looked over at my husband, happily snugged up in his chair, and thought about all the fun and adventures we’d never get to have because I put my love of butter before my love of us.

And that was just a level of selfishness I was unwilling to cross.  The only difference between then and way-back-then was joke time was clearly over, and I was now ready to do something about the fact that I was slowly killing myself.

You, friends, are coming into this piece at the three-month mark.  In that time I’ve significantly overhauled my/our approach to food and exercise, as in I cut way, way back on the former and actually started doing the latter.  My simple, rather hands-off approach to dieting – no fancy gimmicks, just the tortoise-like certainty that it will happen if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – has so far netted me a loss of 30 pounds and three dress sizes.  I’m elated, but also desperately trying to maintain my chill – there’s nothing sadder than the receiver who does a victory dance two feet off the goal line, football still in hand.  Is that right?  I really don’t know sports.

I wish I could tell you that I accomplished this HELL YEAH, I’M KICKING ALL THE ASS feat via sexier means than increased exercise (or any exercise) and improved dietary choices, but the unvarnished truth is, much like this nail art business, it’s a matter of repetition (or as it’s often called, practice, practice, practice.)  In nail art, you develop your skills by doing challenging manicure after challenging manicure, until one day you’re firing off galaxy nails like you’ve been doing them your entire life.  Successful dieting operates in much the same way – you develop positive dietary and lifestyle habits simply by practicing them every single day.  Then one day you surprise the hell out of yourself by willingly choosing green grapes over potato chips, or breaking out into a run even though there’s absolutely no one chasing after you.  Brave new world.

I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing all of this with you, my dear online friends, for some time now.  What has held me back is my intense desire to not be THAT PERSON. You know THAT PERSON – they “discover” something the rest of the world has been “Well, duh”-ing forever, and promptly turn into a smug know-it-all. Nobody likes THAT PERSON.  THAT PERSON needs to maroon themselves on an island with all the other THAT PEOPLE, where they can lecture themselves silly about the merits of kale chips, acai berries and hot yoga (can you tell my dieting process doesn’t involve a whole lot of zen?  My workout playlist is nothing but angry punk rock and hardcore electronica, and my elliptical style can best be described as spastically aggressive.)

But for anyone who might be inspired by my weight loss journey (AKA “Sandra’s Guide to Not Dyin'”) I’d like to continue to offer up my successes, and inevitably my failures, in the hope that they may motivate you to make some positive changes in your life.

You know, if that’s what you want!  If everything’s hunky dory, keep on keeping on, you do you. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past three months, it’s that in order to be successful at (insert your “thing” here) you have to be the change you seek. In other words, if you’re not truly ready, you’re unlikely to succeed.  The grace comes in knowing when it’s time to put off the inevitable and fully commit, an intensely personal matter of timing that only you can choose.  Sometimes that choice is made for you, in a doctor’s office as you stare down your mortality, or later on at home when contemplating the cozy life you’ve built with your husband, but that moment will come when you decide to make a change.  And when that happens, I’d like to be here to share in YOUR successes, and those inevitable failures, too.  Because there’s safety and accountability in numbers. And without getting all mushy on you, I think we can continue doing this, together, just by putting one foot in front of the other.

Footsteps 2


23 thoughts on “One Foot in Front of the Other: A Dieting Story

  1. Loved reading this. I love your outlook and your no non-sense approach to getting healthy. It is the very same one I aspire to: being active and making better food choices. I was well on my way to better health when I was a stay at home mom, but when it came time to get a job and then that job changed again, I lost my mojo and fell hard into stress eating. I am slowly coming to that point of being “ready” again. To start over. To make those healthy choices. Cheering you on, Sandra. You are giving yourself the best gift you ever can. Cheer on every milestone, every non-scale victory, every time you FEEL amazing! So proud of you and so happy for you!!!!

    • Thank you, Julie! Aargh, it’s kind of a slog, but made easier knowing I’ve got so many kind and supportive people like you on my side. 🙂

      Stress eating – what got me in this state in the first place. Or a large contributing factor. It’s really not fair that it’s easier to maintain a healthy diet when you’re at home, but you’re absolutely right – when I was working in an office, I’d just grab anything that looked half decent, and the most exercise I ever got was walking to and from the bus. But at home, I have the luxury of being able to prepare a fresh, healthy lunch or nip down to the gym or pool for a workout. Like so many things, that work business gets in the way. 😉

  2. I love this post! I can totally relate and really appreciate you sharing. Don’t worry, you’re not “that person” at all.
    I too am trying to make easy to maintain changes such as eating more fruits and veggies and keeping track of my calories. I find it harder to be a glutton when you know how much of a glutton you actually are. I think I’m hovering around 10 pounds lost over 6 weeks and it’s time to weigh in again and see if I’ve made any more progress.

    • I knew you’d understand where I was coming from! But really, you’re right, the important term there is “easy to maintain” – because when things get too complicated or I turn things into too much of a “thing,” that’s the very moment I go off the rails. Small, doable adjustments every day and just knowing that it’s going to take forever and being more or less okay with it – that’s the only way this dieting thing has ever worked! I wish you all the very best and continued success with your changes, and great on you for not being a slave to the scale. I don’t have one in our apartment, but there is an industrial one downstairs in the gym, and I have to really fight to stay away from it – numbers aren’t generally super helpful, and can sometimes even be the anti-motivator, unfortunately.

      Anyhoodle, to OUR continued successes!

  3. I actually teared up over this (damn you). I have a crap-ton of regrets in life but likewise don’t want to be done in by junk food. I’m with you! In spirit, support, understanding, scary doctor moments, love of butter, etc.
    My wake-up call occurred 6 yrs ago but it was the same scary, life could be a lot shorter than you think and planned, moment. It motivated me to change and I did, yet, a lot’s happened since then and I’ve thrown a little too much caution to the wind lately.
    Fortunately, your personal story brings up some of those same motivating feelings. Thank you for putting it out there. Thanks to 40th birthdays too, I guess, whatever it takes.

    • Thank you, Jay, that means so much to me – power and safety in numbers and “Oh crap, have I ever been there.” But truly, is butter not the best thing on earth? I might be in love with it; it’s probably my favourite foodstuff.

      I don’t think I can say that any of us NEED those big, shake-you-to-your-core moments that really make you reevaluate things, but dang if they aren’t helpfully motivating. Because prior to this, I was just keeping on keeping on – feeling bloody awful all the time, with all manner of weird aches and pains and complaints, but lacking that crucial motivation that apparently can sometimes only come from something larger than “just” wanting to lose weight and look better in your clothes.

      Don’t beat yourself up too much about a bit of relaxing (that’s a better term than backsliding) of your changes – it happens. I’m kind of in the midst of a plateau myself (been sick for weeks now, and my diet’s been all over the place; consistency is annoyingly key and all that) but trying to push myself up and over it (up and over it? Great English, me!)

  4. Sandra…I’m so proud of you:) And your post made me cry! Of course leave it to you to be insightful, humble and witty about weight loss. Like everything else, you get it….and you can write about it so eloquently. I’m thinking a Vegas 2018 trip. My elbow ruined my 2017!

    • Aw, thank you, Sandra! I’m trying SO hard – I want to be in better shape the next time I see you so I can keep up with you and Vincent and the girls. And you’re totally a huge part of my motivation – you’ve always made exercise and eating well a priority; I figured I could learn a few lessons. 😉

      And a little humility is a must when you’re my size and you exercise vigorously, because it all gets a bit Wild Kingdom sometimes!

      Vegas 2018 – I’m in. Look out, Tyson’s tiger.

  5. Best of luck with all this! 30lbs is amazing in just 3 months! Looking forward to reading more about your weight loss journey. I struggle with regular exercise, and at the end of the day one foot in front of the other is all it is because this is not a glamorous process and it is not quick. Kudos to you for starting & doing this consistently! ❤

    • Aw, thank you so much – that’s really awesome of you to say. 🙂 And no, it’s not glamorous, or easy, or swift, but it turns out, if it’s any of those things, it’s probably not going to produce long-lasting results. Aargh, why can’t being healthy be the easy/economical choice?!

  6. I know this reply is a bit old, but work has been crazy and I am just now binging on all my lovely blogs. This post of yours is so perfect to me. I am 3 years away from 40, but I woke up a few weeks ago thinking the exact same things as you. I had to pass up a work trip as well because I didn’t think I would be able to handle all the walking, etc. You are such an inspiration and it is amazing to know there are other people out there thinking the same way I do. I thought I was just a bit morbid or in a funk. Thanks so very much for sharing.

    • You’re so welcome – I’m glad you found something in my adventures and realizations that spoke to you. Milestone birthdays have a way of clarifying things that seemed muddy before, or maybe it’s just the wisdom that comes with a bit of age. 😉 If you’re already thinking that you’re tired of having to put off the things you want to do/feeling bad and out of shape/whatever is irking you, then you’re already more than 50 percent there. I’m going to sharing my adventures – hope you pop by again soon. 🙂

  7. 1. Your so funny! Your writing is smooth and very interactive! 2. I know exactly how you feel. I am 22 years old and I do not live life because of my weight. I sit in when I’m not in work with the blinds drawn and my pjs on letting life pass me by and it’s so not right.. I started my journey AGAIN today for losing weight and grabbing hold of life and hopefully it’s the last time I have to make this journey because this time I am determined to be a success. This is one of the reasons I created my blog last night.

    It sounds like your also determined and will do great 🙂
    Thanks for the great read xx

    • Coming back at you with the bullet points!

      1. Thank you! That is a lovely and constructive compliment. Thanks for saying so. 🙂

      2. I love that you’re feeling the need to make more positive steps. That realization alone is, like, 75 percent of the battle. That and getting bone tired of eyeing a booth at a restaurant and wondering if you’ll actually fit in there. Or worse yet, if you do fit, will you ever get back out again? Also, sometimes humour is clearly the only way to deal with these things.

      I wish you all the luck in the world; dieting, getting healthy, making good dietary choices – none of it is easy, but if you look at it as a series of little steps that you need to string together to get to the whole, it’s a little easier to take than going, “Okay, I need to lose…oh holy crap, HOW many pounds? I’m never going to get there.” You will get there! It’s just going to take a bit. Might as well enjoy the journey?

      I just signed up for your blog so I can follow your journey. 🙂 Keep in touch and let me know how it’s going, and stop by, because I’ll probably be blabbing about my weight again sometime soon.

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