Fat to Fit to First Level: The Difference a Year Can Make

A one-year progress report.

Eighteen months ago, on January 1, 2017, I stood on the scales in horror. I weighed well over 200 pounds. That moment, I made a commitment to get myself fitter and thinner in a healthy, sustainable way. I wanted to lose weight quickly, but also keep it off. I’ve had decades of “yo-yo dieting” and I knew that, for me anyway, “diets” do not work.

Instinctively, I knew my journey would be a long and arduous one. I didn’t gain 60 extra pounds overnight, and I won’t lose them that way, either. I expected it would take me at least 12 months. I had no idea it would take far longer than that.

One year ago, I began writing this article for Horse Nation. While I hope millions of loyal readers enjoy this column, my target audience is folks like me — middle-aged farm gals who have handled life by letting the pounds pack on, because we have been so busy giving to others, building our careers, and surviving all the things life throws our way, we forgot to nurture and take care of ourselves. For decades.

So now, here we are in the prime of our lives, strong souls and flabby bodies, wondering how to make our soft outsides reflect our tough insides better.

Over the past 18 months, I have shed weight and inches.

Photos by Tess McHone, Everyday Beauty Photography.

These two photos were taken earlier this week, in preparation for this week’s “one year anniversary” column. The red outlines are a high-tech underlay of my original “Fat to Fit” photos. (Hat tip to the uber-talented Tess McHone, who is a tech goddess!)

I have shrunk a clothing size, both in breeches and in shirts. The black breeches in these photos are not the same as the ones I wore in the original “Fat to Fit” photos; the original breeches were Ariat size XL; these are Noble Outfitter size L. The purple F.I.T.S. shirt is the very same shirt. The red outlines speak for themselves.

So far, I’ve dropped over 20 pounds and have a much stronger body. (Note:  I don’t “hold my tummy in” for any of these photos — I’ve always promised you raw honesty, so what you see is my relaxed profile, no “sucking in the gut,” I promise!) Being absolutely honest with myself is the only way I’m ever going to get myself healthy, inside and out, mind, body, and spirit, so I’m certainly not going to provide fake photos or lie to you.

Slowly shrinking bums for Kaliwohi and for me. Photos by Tess McHone, Everyday Beauty Photography.

As you can see in these photographs, both Kaliwohi and I have trimmed down considerably, and my body is slowly but surely changing shape.  I’m delighted and grateful for this progress, however slow it may be.

I had hoped, so very much, that by this time I’d be gleefully down to under 150 pounds and touting my new slim self and basking in the glow of success. I realize now that wanting to BE thin is an excellent feeling; actually GETTING thin takes an incredible amount of work and discipline and deep, painful truth within oneself. I know so much more about Esther than I did when I began this journey.

I know, friends, if you begin this journey in earnest, you, too, will have to face your own inner demons — those emotional triggers that cause you to reach for cookies or ice cream or whatever “comfort food” you choose to try and stuff down the negative feelings, both literally and figuratively. Feeling negative feelings is painful. But. Once you’ve given yourself the time and space (and tears and frustration and rage) to process those negative emotions, the feelings of cleansing that accompany the release of those negative emos is amazing.

My personal favorites for ways to release negative emotions:  journaling, drumming, and screaming in the shower. Seriously. I stand in the shower and have actual, out-loud rants towards whoever has hurt me or made me angry. It’s very healing. I say whatever I feel like saying, no editing needed, and then, when I’m done shouting, I visualize all the negative emos running down the drain, gone forever. Or I write a letter in my journal. I say whatever I feel like saying, and then burn the letter. I enjoy watching the negativity go up in smoke, gone forever.

Each time I have found the courage to unpack emotional baggage, I have felt lighter, physically and emotionally. Throughout this journey, I have never demanded of myself, “you must eat X healthy food!” or “you can’t eat Y junk food!” Deprivation is the key to failure, friends. My daily goal is to listen to my body and fuel it with whatever it’s asking for. Over these months, my body has slowly begun to “tune up” to healthier foods. I eat salads with no dressing now. I don’t enjoy ice cream any more, and I used to crave it on a daily basis. It is truly amazing how the body “re-tunes” itself naturally towards healthy eating as soon as we give ourselves the space and time we need to heal all the emotional baggage we carry.

In that respect, I feel like my body has been a classic car left in a junkyard for a few too many years. I’m having to sand off the rust, tune up the engine, and, in every sense, rebuild my life. Not “back to” my twentysomething self, but “forward to” the best possible version of my current self.  And that takes time and effort. My journey is not a walk in the park. My journey is a mountainous trek to some summit and vista view I have yet to see.

On the upside, like Cheryl Strayed in her book, Wild, every step I’ve taken thus far in my journey towards fitness has made me stronger, more fit both physically and emotionally, and more sure of my own true self.

Because of this journey of rediscovering my true self, I have made some radical changes in my life. I ended my marriage, but kept a solid friendship with my ex-husband. I know now I like living alone better than living with anyone. I’ve learned I get lonely from time to time, but, instead of hiding away at home with Ben & Jerry’s, I go out with friends and enjoy a healthy meal and good conversation.

I know now I utterly loathe drama. I have released anything (and anyone!) in my life that causes drama, other than my immediate family. And even with my family, I’ve restricted my interaction so any family time does not impute too much stress in my own life.

I have learned that, for the vast majority of my life, I was living life from a fear-based viewpoint. Changing my life viewpoint from fear-based to courage-based is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. Once a flight mare, always a flight mare, right? But facing my fear is the only way for me to stop turning to food to salve (and cover up) my fears, thus I am dismantling my fears, one by one, and losing ounces and inches with each new victory in courage.

A parallel goal of my journey was, and remains, to get my mustang, Kaliwohi, fit and trained. He is now five years old and working really well in a Training level frame. Through managing his diet and giving him regular exercise, Kaliwohi has dropped from a “7” to a “6” on the Henneke scale. He is calm, quiet, and a delightful riding partner.

Kaliwohi is comfortably working at Training level. Photo by Tess McHone, Everyday Beauty Photography.

I appreciate each and every reader who has had the patience and perseverance to read this column each week over the past year, and I ask you to continue on with me as I strive to lose more pounds and inches and, with raw honesty, record my journey for you. I also thank Horse Nation for their continued support of this long and arduous journey.

Together, Kaliwohi and I are “climbing that mountain” and, God willing, we will continue achieving success, one step at a time, one day at a time.  Won’t you join us as we journey on towards fitness and happiness?


Go Riding


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