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Saying Goodbye, a 2020 Year-in-Review

Sitting across from one of my best friends at her kitchen table, one week before Christmas, and weeping with her (again) after the loss of her husband in a tragic motorcycle accident last summer, sure brings the meaning of life into perspective. While I am more than ready to say ADIOS to 2020, there are plenty of things/people that will be hard to let go of, along with a list of things for which I will forever be grateful.

We all remember how innocently the year began. We knew that some crazy virus had been discovered in China and we joked about the seriousness when suddenly, our shipping and supplies were being delayed. Then cases started showing up in European countries and they began the first lock-downs. It wasn’t long before the United States saw its first few cases and we all knew what would happen next. Hospitals were overridden. Businesses shut down and many went under. Most people started working from home and many lost their jobs altogether. Worst of all, hundreds of thousands of people died, leaving friends and families with broken hearts.

That may have been the national story, but in the homes of other naive, unsuspecting victims, death was going to find another way. Motor vehicle accidents, cancer, heart disease and other tragedies continued to go on, leaving pain and heart ache in their wake.

Saturday, Aug. 22 started out like any other beautiful summer day. My family and I were in the Black Hills of South Dakota, hiking in Spearfish and camping just outside of Rapid City. We were taking pictures in an effort to preserve those happy memories. My husband’s best friend was also enjoying the summer day with friends on a lake in Minnesota. He had hugged and kissed his wife and daughter goodbye that morning, having no idea that it was the last time.

This loss has rocked both of our families and there will be long-lasting effects. The first year is always the hardest but special occasions are the worst. When most people think back to the spring and summer of 2020, they will think “good riddance.” But our families will cherish the last memories we have with our good friend before he was ripped away from us.

We will never forget the last meal we shared together on his deck. He grilled us some thick, juicy steaks and we bantered back and forth like usual. He was feeling extra helpful and even cleaned the table afterward so his wife could have a break. In May, he and his family came to my oldest daughter’s graduation, which meant the world to her since many of our family and friends decided not to attend due to the pandemic.

So instead of forgetting 2020, we are wishing we could turn back the clock and spend one more day with him. With every passing day, our fresh memories with him will continue to fade, which is when the true sting of death sets in.

For instance, his family sent out a Christmas card this year and they included a photo of all of them together, taken earlier in 2020. They were the epitome of happiness, with no inkling that their world would be shattered in a few short weeks. Many of the Christmas cards I received had similar stories. The smiling faces had no idea that someone in their family would get a cancer diagnosis or that the house in the background would burn down and their adorable cat would succumb to the smoke. I guess we all have a sad story connected to us somehow. Since we cannot stop time, much less turn it back, we have no choice but to embrace our future and try to make more happy memories with the friends, family and pets that we have left.

But I have to believe that life has much more in store for us if we are willing to fight for it. In the midst of all of these sad stories, I was able to completely change my life by adopting this new diet plan in late June of 2020. I made a commitment to myself and I have not looked back. My snacking habits, favorite foods, activity level and overall self-confidence have all changed drastically for the better. It’s a happy story from 2020 that changed my life and will continue into 2021.

In the spring of 2020, I was still getting the hang of my new job. Just a few months earlier, I was making signs for a beer distributor and after almost 20 years, I decided to make a change. I accepted a marketing coordinator position at the local community college and found out quickly that most of my expertise and knowledge base were almost useless. Thankfully, I was able to utilize other skills and eventually became a much-needed team member of our department. But getting there was very hard on my ego.

However, that feeling of not being good enough was exactly what it finally took for me to chase my inner-most dreams and prove myself to the world. I think back to the previous 20 years as a lone beer chick and I was truly “fat and happy” (for the most part.) But when I entered the very competitive world of higher-education, I learned quickly that the only person who would sacrifice life and limb to support me was Yours Truly.

(Of course there is more to the story as to why I began this journey and if I ever decide to write a book, I will go into more detail, but suffice it to say, things happened that made me realize that my dreams were much more important, and attainable, than standing out in my career.)

So crazy as it sounds, starting this journey was my remedy.

It didn’t happen immediately, though. First, I had to get through my oldest daughter’s graduation in May, which meant lots of remodeling, painting, cleaning, furniture buying, decorating, inviting, ordering and overall celebrating. Then I needed a few weeks to get centered and remember that I needed to take care of ME too!

So on the Monday morning of June 29, 2020, I began a journey that would change my life. As you probably already know, I started tracking my calories with My Fitness Pal (an app) and I exercised about 2 hours most days of the week. Keeping my calorie intake within reasonable limits was the most contributing factor, but bumping up my exercise gave me a literal leg up! When I exercised, the calories burned were recorded by my Apple Watch, which in turn sent the data to My Fitness Pal, which then increased the amount of calories I could consume for that day. It was truly a miracle when I discovered the connection. I remember fitness instructors that used to jokingly say after class, “now you can eat supper.” Little did I know that they were on to something!

There were days when I ate over 2,200 calories but because I had exercised so much that day, I was still well within the calorie limit set in order to achieve a 2-pound weight loss per week! It was so freeing when I realized I did not have to eat celery sticks and un-wiches (sandwiches that use lettuce instead of bread) everyday! More than that – I could eat a frozen yogurt bar with a big scoop of light Cool Whip for dessert each night and not worry about it derailing my progress!

I was careful to take each day at a time but I was more patient some days over others. It was fun to weigh myself every day when I started because I saw consistent weight loss immediately. But after getting stuck at a few plateaus and watching the scale go up and down erratically, which infuriated me, I decided to weigh-in every few days instead.

After looking at the numbers, I admit I am a little disappointed.

June 29 ………….. 240.8 lbs. (not my highest weight ever, but where I started this time)

July 15 ………….... 232.6 (-8.2 lbs.)

July 30 …………… 225.8 (-6.8 lbs.)

Aug. 15 ………..… 219.8 (-6 lbs.)

Aug. 28 …………… 219.4 (-.4 lbs.)

Sept. 15 …………. 213.6 (-5.8 lbs.)

Sept. 30 …………. 211.2 (-2.4 lbs.)

Oct. 15 ………….. 210 (-1.2 lbs.)

Oct. 23 …………. 208.4 (before a week-long vacation with NO tracking) (-1.6 lbs.)

Nov. 14 ………… 209.6 (+1.2 lbs.)

Dec. 1 ………….. 206 (-3.6 lbs.)

Dec. 16 ………… 204 (-2 lbs.)

Dec. 18 …………. 202.4 (lowest number to date) (-1.6 lbs.)

Dec. 27 ………….. 211.something (I got off the scale like it was on fire so did not see the decimal.)

As you can see, I was not perfect my any means. The first few times I overate, I continued to track and even went for a brisk walk when I got home, in the hopes of reversing the calorie deficit. Then there were a few birthdays and holidays when I did not track at all but I would weigh-in a few days later and be reminded how easy it is to gain weight when you are not paying attention. After a quick analysis, I can see that the extended vacations and holiday weekends are slowing down my progress the most, though.

That is where I sit today. I am not overly concerned about the number I saw on the scale this morning. I know that I can work off the Christmas calories and get back to my lowest weight from Dec. 18 fairly quickly if I stay on track. But I am extremely disappointed in myself. I really wanted to be in One-derland (below 200 pounds) before January 1, 2021. I am not ready to give up, but I don’t want to completely starve myself just so I can manipulate the scale for one day. This is not a game. I really do want to eat healthier and feel better. The weight loss is just a side-effect of smarter choices. My arms are starting to show some nice muscles, too, and I know muscle weighs more than fat, so I know better than to gauge my success solely by the number on the scale.

But the fact of the matter remains that if I never allow myself to let go once in a while and treat myself to the foods that I love most, I will not stay on the diet for very long. However, the length of time that I allow myself to overeat needs to be shortened. Most of all, I have got to STOP BINGE EATING!

It only happens right before I know I am going to eat healthier again, but sometimes I am so out-of-control that I literally make myself sick. It’s absolutely insane! There are times when I continue to eat snacks after meals and then when my family goes to bed, I REALLY indulge. Sometime during the second bowl of ice cream, I look down at what I am mindlessly eating and I realize that my stomach hurts and the ice cream no longer tastes good – yet I continue to finish the bowl so there are no traces left behind. (Plus, it would be ridiculous to throw away food when there are people starving in the world! These are the silly things we tell ourselves.)

When I finally stop eating, I go to bed with a stomach ache and hope that it goes away during the night. If I am lucky, I just have a few stomach cramps and never have to get up, but most nights, I am rushing to the bathroom to go potty and then I pop some Pepto Bismol tabs and hope the pain goes away quickly. But stomach pain or not, I also wake up because I am overheated and often starting to sweat. Then my heart starts to race and I imagine that I am having a heart attack because it presents with all of those same symptoms. It only takes me a few minutes to realize that the progression of events can all be attributed to my current state, with anxiety being the icing on top of the proverbial cake. (It’s more like chocolate syrup on top of the cookies and cream ice cream.)

I would be completely fine if I NEVER had to have another night like that one and the hundreds, if not thousands, of nights before it. If I had to pick one thing to leave behind in 2020, it would be BINGE EATING. I’m not saying that I will never overeat again. It’s the hiding food and eating WHEN my stomach already hurts that has to end. It is not even slightly enjoyable. This is the type of behavior that makes you realize that obesity really is a disease.

Aside from those bad memories, the weight loss I achieved in 2020 is truly remarkable. I’ll admit that in the last few weeks, I even got a tear in my eye during my body building class when I loaded my bar with more weight than ever and had no trouble doing every single repetition that the instructor counted down. Or when I was in the front of the dance class and my energy and enthusiasm rivaled every member in attendance. I DID IT! I lost almost 40 pounds in 6 months and I am still going strong!

At the end of my dance class yesterday, the “cool down” song was “The Greatest” by Six60 and I immediately inserted myself into the lyrics. The song is all about overcoming obstacles and chasing dreams. The chorus goes like this, “Can’t stop, believing I’m the greatest! Hearts breaking ‘til I know I made it. I’ll never know what second place is. No Pain, no doubt ‘til the lights go out.” I can even relate to the last few lines before the finale, “some days, it feels like I don’t wanna go any farther. The only way I know to keep on is to keep pushin’ harder.” How can they know my soul when I have never met them??? There really is just ONE word that you should take from this sonnet and that is “BELIEVE”!

I will NEVER stop believing in myself. I have come too far and I am not done! Now that the holidays are out of the way, I will have an easier time staying on the healthy path. The foods I eat on this diet do not make me feel deprived. As long as I plan ahead and keep overeating to a minimum, I will start to make some big strides once again. Even though I may not hit One-derland before January 1st, I still have a lot to be proud of! With a little more consistency and a lot more tracking, I will finally achieve my ultimate dream and lose all of my extra weight!

My loyalist reader happens to be the widow whom I referred to in the beginning of this post. I like to consider myself one tough mother, but let me tell you, she puts me to shame. The pain and heartache she has endured in the last few months, while working full time and caring for their young daughter has shown me what true courage and strength looks like. She would tell you that she just takes each day as it comes, but I know that life has more in store for her, along with each of us, than just merely surviving.

My wishes and dreams for 2021 are just what you think – to keep losing weight, blogging and maybe even writing a book. But another goal of mine is to create a network of support for you, my family, friends and readers, so you can achieve your dreams too! The first step to making that happen is to put it into writing. What better place than ONLINE for the whole world to see? Let me tell you from experience, it is VERY motivational!

All you have to do is become a subscriber to this blog and then click on the FORUM page and start your dream post. Then post comments under your post, with updates on your progress as time goes on. Who knows? Maybe other people will read your post and support you in ways that you had not imagined. What did I say earlier? The most important thing is to BELIEVE! Then you just set small goals, one at a time, until your own personal WONDERLAND is within sight. I know you can do it! I will be your biggest fan!

I will end with the words I printed in our family’s holiday card this year, “Life’s not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it’s about doing, being and becoming.” Cheers to New Beginnings and Great Adventures in 2021!

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I'm proud of you Rhea! Props to you for setting new goals and dreams and making them happen!

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