The world is much bigger than you believe it to be at your heaviest weight.
That line has become a bit of a mantra of mine. The first time I said it was during a video shoot at a walking track in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. It was almost accidental. I was holding a print out of a picture of me at my heaviest, and I was grappling with a pretty big question: why did I think the life I built for myself at 460 pounds would still be satisfying to me as I got healthier?
With every pound I’ve lost the world has opened up. At first the changes were personal victories. I could walk for more than five minutes. I could take the garbage out. I didn’t have to put my car seat back all the way. I could buy pants off the shelf. My shirts were no longer 5XL. I could tie my shoes on my feet, instead of loosely tying them and then slipping them on, and I could tie them with the bow on top of my foot, instead of off to the side.
Then I could go to a gym and do my own workout. Then I could hike, and climb trails up mountains. I could run 3K. I could take my shirt off at the beach. I accepted my body as a trophy of change and found pride in my progress, if not my physique. Then I went to the movies and to the theatre knowing I could once again fit in the seat. I went to restaurants and pubs I had written off because I now knew I could slide in to a booth easily. I started saying yes again as my friends invited me to do things I hadn’t done in years. Toss around a football. A charity Zumba class. A scrub game of baseball.
Then I could sit in the backseat of a friends car for the first time in many years. I was grabbing my camera and hiking 10k every Saturday on some of greatest trails in the world. I bought a treadmill and started each day at 4AM with workout music pumping in my ears challenging myself to do better than I did yesterday.
I played with the children in my life knowing that if any of them ran toward the road, or took off in the mall, I now trusted I had the energy to follow them and keep them safe. I spent hours bouncing around a backyard with a puppy. I found the confidence to date again and not just feel lucky to have the attention of anyone who would give it to me.
I became more assertive in my professional life – no longer the welcome mat willing to be walked over to make things more convenient for someone else. I began to believe in my own skills and talents and manage from a place of confidence rather than fear. I became more honest about my experiences at my heaviest weight and found a passion for sharing those stories and building on the relationships that honesty brought in to my life.
I became an open book – honest in every way. Honest with my words and intentions. Honest about my aspirations. Honest about my fears and motivations. Honest with those I leaned on for help and honest with those I’ve had to remove from my life because their presence challenged my success. Their negativity or dishonesty, with themselves or with me, threatened my progress.
I redefined this challenge from being simply about weight-loss to reclaiming the life I had given up over ten years ago. I stopped obsessing over a number on a scale and instead focused on a whole-life solution that comes with the kind of momentum you need if you’re going to be committed to this year after year for the rest of your life.
Even after all of this – my world continues to open up. The more I travel around and meet others who have made great changes in their lives the more I’m surrounded by opportunities I couldn’t have dreamed of at 460 pounds.
It’s hard to talk to someone at the start of their journey and get them excited about all the change that’s about to come their way. They can’t imagine it. They’ve put on blinders so they can’t see the things they’re no longer able to do or willing to dream of doing.
Two years ago you couldn’t have convinced me I’d spend a week flying across the region, comfortably sitting on 8 flights in 4 days, putting on clothes that fit off the rack, speaking to groups of people about the darkest days of my life. I couldn’t have imagined hiking up Citadel Hill in the pink dawn of a Halifax morning. I couldn’t have imagined not breaking a panicked sweat as the chatter of a full room fell to a hum and it was time to tell my story.
Two-hundred pounds ago I felt like a big guy in a small world. This last week has reminded me that I’m really a small part of a big world, and what comes next is anyone’s guess. That’s the feeling of opportunity and it’s a feeling I lived without for a very long time. I resisted change for years and now I’ve accepted it’s just about the only thing you can really count on.