Updated: Aug 18, 2021
It’s kind of a weird before and after pic.
What makes it so special for me is that the swimsuit I’m wearing with the tag still on it is a medium, the one I’m holding is a large, and the one I’m wearing in the before pic is a ‘big and tall’ 3XL which is at LEAST like a 4XL in a normal sized store. From a 4XL to a medium. I like that change.
But we don’t like to change as a species. Most of us feel like we’re relatively hard-wired. What we like and don’t like. How we live. The opinions we have. What we love. Our comfort. And the longer you’ve been an adult, the harder change feels, and the more we resist it (consciously and unconsciously).
I’m a stubborn guy. I always have been. It’s a blessing and a curse. When my mind is set to something I can be shockingly tenacious. It’s definitely a strength. But its also just as big of a weakness, because sometimes my mind is set on the wrong thing and that tenacity is no less powerful. It prevents me from questioning whether I’m right or wrong.
That stubbornness got in the way of my wellness for decades. Because I was absolutely certain I knew what I liked and disliked. I knew what I needed and didn’t need. I knew the life I wanted and didn’t want. I was sure. I always said “I just need to do it”.
And I would hear all about the importance of “getting out of your comfort zone” and I would nod my head acknowledging that it’s “so important” and I’d remind myself I clearly was already out of my comfort zone with all these new behaviours and changes I was practicing. The way I was losing weight compared to how I lived when I was just eating whatever I wanted in whatever quantities I wanted. Clearly this is what living outside my comfort zone means………
This time, the journey that’s led to losing 155 lbs and keeping it off, started the same way I always did. Lots of energy for “change” and losing weight. But my diabetes diagnosis shook me. I didn’t feel like my old successes of losing weight were going to be good enough this time. My stubbornness meant never really questioning whether I was right or wrong. On anything. On what I needed and didn’t need. This time I looked at my life, and where I was (361 lbs with failing health), and FINALLY made the connection that had always been missing: all of my rules and opinions of food and moderation and health have led me here, and I don’t want to be here. And I’m here BECAUSE of what I feel l know and need. Maybe all of that is wrong.
It’s like I tore the page that had all my rules and regulations for getting healthy and being happy out of my book of life, and for the first time started with a blank page and an open mind.
I wish I could tell you that it felt invigorating, inspiring, and motivating to start this journey with that fresh perspective…….The truth is, it didn’t. I was really really uncomfortable. A big part of my joy and my self identity was on that page I tore off and threw out. I had to admit I didn’t know what the “right path” was going to be, the right things to do to take it, and most importantly, I didn’t know if happiness or peace would be waiting for me on the other side of this journey.
Somewhere during this process, that lightbulb went off. Like my soul snapping out of a trance and realizing: Oh. Ok, so this is what they meant when they said “get outside your comfort zone”. I get it now.
Since then, I’ve listened to countless athletes, business people, celebrities, musicians, even comedians, all of them at the pinnacle of their worlds, both professionally and financially. And their opinions on how to accomplish hard things is near universal: Success is an uncomfortable process.
There is less natural talent involved than most of us think there is. I heard Mike Tyson say something that just floored me: “sometimes it’s not fun going through the process of accomplishing your goals. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t feel like doing, but do them like you love it”.
Wow!!!! So these people aren’t just born loving the things THEY need to do to be successful?!!! Isn’t that what most of us think??? They seem like they’re living these dream lives. But what I’m seeing is the “outcome” of the lives they’ve actually led. I’ve assumed they just love the hard work and the sacrifice and the discomfort in a way I don’t. Nothing could be further from the truth.
They’ve found a way to tolerate the discomfort in a way that I haven’t. 🤯🤯🤯🤯.
When I started with that blank page, one of my conscience goals became seeking that discomfort. That’s sounds counterintuitive to the advice we’ve all been given about sustainably and moderation, but my goals were different this time. My comfort was always my #1 unconscious goal. Change, but not too much. Push yourself, but not too far. This time, I wanted to succeed. I needed to. My family needed me around. I pushed my comfort way down the list of priorities. For the first time.
Nick and Jean Luc interviewed two people that Hedy and I know and love because of virtual WW meetings: Ashley and Kevin. They’re brilliant and inspiring and their voices on this wellness journey are unique and so valuable. Check out that interview that the Wellness Warriors posted. Jean Luc and Nick focused on a point Ashley and Kevin made that had me friggin’ cheering while watching this excellent video (paraphrasing): “that thing you’re resisting is what you need to change the most.” All four of them are so brilliant!!!!!. It summarizes perfectly what’s taken me 20 paragraphs to say about change and comfort zones. That resistance is how I know I need to push myself now. It’s the clue. Discomfort has been my signpost this time. It lets me know I’m on the right path of, at least, exploration, if not outright discovery. Sometimes my discomfort is a dead end. It’s a behaviour that doesn’t benefit me or improve my journey. But I make that decision now after consistent experimentation. Gone are the days of “I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work for me”. All those opinions are tainted by unconsciously staying in my comfort zones. Now when I’m out with the guys I order grilled chicken and salad, not just because I’m trying to lose weight, not just because it’s training a new behaviour, but because it’s uncomfortable. I want to order wings and beer. I used to negotiate myself into somewhat better choices on previous journeys, but I was never willing to acknowledge that I was living well within my comfort zone when I did. This time I don’t trust my instincts!! 😆😆😆.
So what’s the point of all this discomfort?? Well, we stop dreaming big when we’ve failed so many times to get healthy. I mentioned I didn’t know what to expect this time. I certainly didn’t anticipate that living outside my comfort zones changes what I find comfortable!!!. I did the things I didn’t want to do so often that in the process I gave myself a chance to love new things. Now I order that salad because I want to. Discomfort became habit. That’s the payoff. That’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Living in my comfort zone meant that eating healthy was always a struggle. Living outside my comfort zone turned healthy eating into a habit, and that ultimately removed the struggle. I always thought sustainably meant hanging onto what I loved no matter what, but I never could sustain healthy behaviours. That’s because for me that path to sustainability doesn’t work. How I actually achieved sustainably was changing what I loved. At 361 lbs that would seem impossible. But the first step was accepting discomfort as my new normal.
Today is Canada Day. My family has not been in this country for that long. Since one of my parents wasn’t born here, some definitions of national status would define me as a 1st generation Canadian. For many Canadians this Canada Day has a different feel as we grapple with our country’s past (and present). My stubborn tendencies would have me push that discomfort away, and convince myself that I’m fine the way I am, and how I feel is how I feel, and no one can tell me what to think. But that stubborn attitude almost killed me and robbed my family of a husband and father. This wellness journey has trained me to know when I’m retreating into my comfort zone specifically to avoid discomfort. So I’m going to celebrate how wonderful this country has been to my family as we fled poverty and totalitarian governments, while at the same time living in the discomfort of educating myself and my family that our experience is far from universal for everyone in our country. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t want do it. But I finally have evidence of the wonderful things that can happen when I push my comfort down my list of priorities. It’s not just a lesson for wellness. It’s a great lesson for life. ❤️❤️❤️ 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈