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Home | -- Inspiration | Breaking Free From The Numbers

Breaking Free From The Numbers
By: Clare Pattison
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            Imagine taking a long road trip from Vancouver to Halifax or from Boston to San Francisco.  Now imagine that the only important things on this journey are the number of miles you travel each day, the number of hours you are on the road, the number of miles you get per gallon of gas, and the number of days it takes you to get there.  Every one of us knows instantly that there is so much more to this cross-continent odyssey than just those numbers!  Every day, every province or state, every season there's so much to see and experience.  Those numbers are just a measurement of where we are on the trip.  If they are all we are concerned with, we end up missing out on all the wonders of the trip itself. 

            Our weight loss journeys can be the same way if all we focus on are the numbers.  The number on the scale, the number of pounds we have to lose, the number of our starting BMI and our goal BMI, the number of grams of protein we are getting, and the number of calories we are eating each day.  Sure, these numbers are important, but like the road trip, they are just a measurement of our weight loss journey, they are not the journey itself.

            When I first began my lap band weight loss journey, I didn't understand this yet.  It was all about the numbers.  I weighed 314 pounds.  My BMI was 57.4.  I had 164 pounds to lose to my goal, and 184 to get to my ideal weight.  I wore size 30 pants and 5X tops.  Those were my numbers.  My goal at that time was to change them by using other numbers.  Number of calories, number of carbs, number of grams of protein, number of minutes of exercise, number of steps on the pedometer, number of mls in my band.  I would lose a certain number of pounds each week and it would take me a certain number of months to reach my goal number.

I didn't even know what a non-scale victory was.  When I did find out, I thought that they were pleasant surprises that popped up along the way - bonuses, but not the main event.  And yet, when I had my first session with my medical team's psychologist, we didn't talk about numbers at all.  When I handed in my self evaluation, there wasn't a single number on it.  What I had written was pages and pages of things that I couldn't do because of my weight, and lists and lists of things that happen to me that normal-sized people don't even know exist.  I wrote and wrote and wrote without even stopping to think.  It all just poured out of me.

And so my journey began.  I headed straight towards my destination, full speed ahead, not knowing that amazing things were about to happen to me all along the way.  First, my clothes started to fit me again.  I was at the very top of the sizes that my Plus Size store carried and had started looking on line for somewhere, anywhere, to buy clothes to fit me.  That problem was solved.  It wasn't long before I didn't need to use the disabled entrance to Canadian Tire.  I fit through the turnstile.  No one would have known that walking into that hardware store with everyone else that day was such a big deal, but I certainly knew.  Before the summer was over, I fit onto our garden tractor and was able to mow the lawn and do chores again.  I moved the seat forward in the car and no longer got a cramp in my foot from pushing the accelerator with my big toe.  All this and so much more before a single person noticed I'd lost any weight at all.  And the numbers?  I can't even remember what they were then.

And now, just over six months after my lap band surgery and still a long way from goal, I am a completely different person physically.  My feet are no longer a foreign territory.  I can put on my own socks, cut my own toenails, put lotion on my feet, (no more alligator skin!) and best of all, tie my own shoelaces.  Gone are the days when I walked all over the grocery store with my shoelaces dragging behind because I couldn't do them up by myself without sitting on a chair.  And at the end of the day, my feet feel just fine.  No more throbbing and aching.  The floor is no longer the final frontier.  Now when I drop something I don't have to give it up for lost.  My office floor is no longer littered with paperclips and pens.  I can get things from the bottom cupboards.  I can clean behind the toilet.  The fat that was constricting my throat has gone and I can sing again.  I can lift my arms up over my head without passing out.  I'm taller!  Not really, but with so much of me gone from the front, I can get closer to things and so reach much higher.  When I turn sideways, I'm actually smaller than straight on!  I can "excuse me, excuse me, excuse me" along a row of theatre seats in front of people who are seated.  I no longer have to sit on the end or in the front row.  I can talk as I walk up the stairs.  I can wash my body, all of it, not just stand in the shower and hope that the soap is going to get to all the places I can't reach.  I no longer have infections in places where most people don't even have places!  Again, I can write and write and write without even stopping to think, and I haven't even scratched the surface of the amazing changes I have experienced.

Do I still care about the numbers?  Of course I do.  Do I still celebrate all my scale victories?  You bet!  But now I know that they are just the measurements of success, they aren't the success itself.  Using the regular stall instead of the handicapped stall in a public washroom is the success.  Doing up the seatbelt in the backseat of the car is the success.  Sleeping through the night and waking up rested is the success.  Knowing that every week that goes by I'm healthier is definitely the success.

The numbers just aren't so important any more.  If we get all caught up in them, we miss out on the many more amazing things that are happening all along the way - the really important things.  So recognize and celebrate each non-scale victory, big and small, and revel in every one of them.  Congratulate yourself for every barrier that you break, and every burden that you shed.  Shout it out every time you do something "normal" that obesity has kept you from doing.  It's an amazing journey that we're on.  Enjoy every day of the trip!

Clare Pattison

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