Healthy Body

Life Between the Before and After Photos

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Something amazing happens when you lose a significant amount of weight. You have a confidence and belief in yourself that is sky high. You have just done something hard. Real hard. When you start seeing results from hard work that you have done, it makes you believe that you can keep doing that hard work and you can keep getting those amazing results. Weight loss is addictive. At a certain point it turns fun! Passing up baked goods and sweet coffee is no big deal because you know you are on track. You start to believe that healthy feels better than junk tastes.

I was there two years ago. I had lost 60 pounds in just 9 months. (I even wrote a blog about it.) I didn’t do any crazy diets or ridiculous workouts. I just changed my habits. I ate good, nutritious, real food and I moved a lot. I was changing my mindset not just doing a quick fix.

This phase of losing weight is usually documented by lots of full-length mirror selfies.

Then I got pregnant. It was planned, it was wanted, but pregnancy changes everything for me. Actually, it was a pretty healthy pregnancy but I still did not move as much and I did not eat as healthy. But all of that was easily excused by a little human growing inside of me. I could say, this isn’t forever, just nine months—and then eat the brownie.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase of life is often documented by lots of growing belly shots.

Pregnancy alone is a short phase and in my opinion, it’s doesn’t have to sabotage healthy eating habits. It’s the post-baby newborn phase that does me in! Combine the lack of sleep and lack of time to prepare healthy meals and all of my hard work just a year ago was gone. The scale was back to where it was pre-weight loss and I was drinking lots of coffee with sugar and eating all the pastries. But again, I could tell myself, this is only temporary. Babies are only babies for so long.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase of life is documented by lots of face-only selfies at a good angle that also include the cute baby as a distraction.

Then came the unexpected tragedy. That baby that I had sacrificed my weight loss for, the one that I lost countless hours of sleep over, the one that I was willing to change my life for—was gone in an instant. Suddenly my life was about one thing: grief. All of my energy went into making it through each day. Healthy eating and an active lifestyle weren’t really important factors in my mind. Grief is overwhelming and it affects everyone differently. I went through a lot of phases with grief.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase is best documented with photos of things that really matter. Things that still make you smile on the darkest days.

A few months into the grief process, I had gained about 40 pounds and I was smacked across the face with the fact that I am an emotional, comfort eater. I have a memory of a clear, defining moment when I came to grips with this. I was staring at a photo taken of our family on the day we had a memorial service for Beckett. A lot of people had prayed for our family over the past month. A lot of people had prayed for that specific service. I wanted post a photo on social media to thank everyone for their prayers and tell of God’s goodness on that day. The problem was, I was not at all happy with how I looked. I debated for longer than I care to admit about just posting a comment with no photo or not posting at all.   But I finally told myself, this is reality, people see me look like this every day, and I am not changing anything by refusing to post a photo of how I look. I was in essence saying, this is how grief has physically changed me:

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I would love to say that moment was a wake up call and I took control of my health after that. But I didn’t. That moment lead to a few brief healthy months, but it was exhausting. People continually made comments about how strong I was. I wasn’t. I was in shock.  I honestly don’t think I truly started to grieve Beckett until about 5 months after he died. Then it hit me hard. I stopped caring so much about eating healthy and working out and instead focused on starting to actually work through my grief.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase of life was not photo documented too well. It was spent writing, praying, reading and tucking myself away for a little while.

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Around September I knew I was at a pivotal point. We were 8 months into grieving and we were approaching Beckett’s first birthday—a moment I knew would be emotional for me. Not only were we approaching what would have been a birthday celebration, but we were sending our other two kids to school. I would be alone in the house each day and I would be faced with the fact that my baby was not there with me. There also came a point when I knew I needed to get healthy. This was not because I was unhappy with how I looked (I was), it was because I realized how much life I was missing out on by being constantly tired and not feeling my best. I knew grief and a busy life contributed to part of this feeling, but I knew what I was eating and putting into my body contributed to a large part as well.

If you are—or ever have been—overweight, I’m sure you have come to this all-important moment as well. You know you need to change, you just aren’t sure if you can. Maybe you’ve tried before and haven’t been successful. Or maybe, like me, you have tried before and have been very successful. But you know how much effort and work it took to be that successful and you just don’t know if you have it in you to do it again.

Despite a very low confidence in my self-discipline, and the knowledge that I was an emotional eater, I decided to go big. I suggested to Brian that we do a Whole30 for the month of September. Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into an advertisement for Whole30. In a nutshell, Whole30 is thirty days with no grains, no dairy, no alcohol, no legumes, and no added sugars. (It is so much more than that and I do have SO much to say, but I’ll save that for a different post) I won’t try to sell anyone on a certain program, but it was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

I didn’t just read an article and jump into a crazy strict diet. I bought the official book about Whole30 and I bought fully into the concept of rewiring my eating habits. I went through a month with a lot of emotional triggers, and I was forced to find different, healthier ways to deal with my grief and stress than my normal choice of coffee and chocolate.

I celebrated what would have been Beckett’s first birthday by serving cake to close friends and abstaining myself.

I took a bath at night to relax instead of going to food or drink.

I promised myself I would walk the kids to school every day, no excuses—and I did it!

I started shifting my focus from weight loss to enjoying a healthy life with energy and focus.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

And sometimes ‘the best you can’ is pretty freaking awesome!

This phase of life was documented by photos I took but didn’t share. They were the “before” and “during” photos that would one day look great next to my “after” photos.

I should have written and shared my journey at that time. I was excited and I was going a new direction. But I didn’t. It’s scary to share a journey when you are still in the middle of it. I like to write about lessons I have learned once they are over. I really wanted my next health post to be, “5 Things I did to lose 60 pounds…Again!” and be able to show the success of my hard work once again.

I don’t have that success story yet. But I do have a success story. I am daily making healthier choices and I am more convinced than ever that what we put into our bodies makes a huge impact on every aspect of our lives. This time I’m not waiting until I have arrived to look back on the journey. I’m taking a step out there to share the ups and downs.

My hope in sharing this whole story is that someone might see themselves in one of these phases.   And if that someone is you, that you would be gracious with yourself and do the best you can. New mamas—that might mean slowing down instead of racing forward right now. If you are grieving, give yourself time and the emotional space to do that. And by the way, grief doesn’t just come from the death of a loved one, you may have experienced the loss of a job or the death of a dream. It all sets you back. There are legitimate reasons to prioritize other parts of life and take things easy.

While I believe this with all my heart, please don’t park your mind there. There were a lot of people who assured me I was right to focus on my grief and not care so much about my physical health. The month that I was facing a lot of emotional triggers that I talked about earlier, it would have been acceptable to those on the outside for me to ‘take it easy’ through that time. Only I knew the inside. I knew I was ready to handle more. I knew I was ready to make a change. I knew my health and my quality of life needed a change. You know if you are in a legitimate season of taking it easy or if you are in a season of excuses. If you are at a point where you know you need to make a change and you are just scared, quit saying you are doing the best you can and take that first step out into the journey. Make a choice to get healthy and tell a friend or your spouse. Find support of some type and start to share your journey. Don’t do it to look better or to compete with someone else, do it because your physical health is important.

I would love it if you even let this be your first step—comment below and tell me what phase you are in. Is this your first time trying to get healthy? Have you been down this road only to come back again? I would love to be able to tell you that you can do this! Let’s be people that can do hard things and let’s do them together.

Let’s document this phase of our journey with “in the middle of it” photos and not wait for the “after”!

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— Rebekah