Whatever It Is For You Keep Searching: A Story of Personal Transformation

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People have been telling me for months that I need to write this testimonial. I’ve been very resistant and I think it’s because I just keep imagining exactly the kind of testimonial that I did NOT want to hear when I was fat. I don’t want to be one of those people who tells you just eat better and exercise and you can lose weight, except technically that’s what I did. However, I know that really it was about much more than my eating and exercise and so I wanted this testimonial to do justice to the whole transformative process. I finally decided to take a stab at it because I know how much I struggled with my weight. I felt hopeless about ever changing it, I felt unattractive, unhealthy, and uncomfortable in my body. I wanted to be able to accept myself and at the same time I wanted a different body. If my story can help anybody, give hope to even one person, it’s important for me to share.

When people ask me how I lost the weight it’s hard to know what to say. Sometimes I just say ‘I got a trainer and I changed my diet’, but that answer seems to leave out so much. Like many people who are overweight I had tried all different diets, I had started and stopped many different exercise programs. I was never able to stick to any of it just to lose weight. Looking back I would say the real problem was that I didn’t really like myself very much so even when I did have some success I would self sabotage or just give up, so something else had to change. I think one thing that did work in my favor is that I’ve always had an internal drive for growth and change. I’m always reading the next self-help book, going to the next Workshop, I go to therapy, I have a spiritual practice, something in me calls for self-actualization and it always has. So eventually my weight loss became part of my larger healing journey, I had a bigger purpose and a bigger reason. I also had many false starts and failures from the past to draw on. I had gathered information, I had learned a lot, and I had already experience transformation in other parts of my life.

Despite all the things I had tried in the past I had gotten to a point of acceptance about my weight. Actually, if I’m honest, it was probably hopelessness about ever changing this aspect of myself. There’s a quote I have always loved by Anais Nin, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” and that day came for me. I could say the pain was over rowing, an activity I loved when I was in college, or maybe it was more about reclaiming lost parts of myself. The event that triggered everything was my 20 year college reunion. I went to college on the east coast and I had not been back to campus since graduation. In order to understand the significance of this reunion you have to know that I had what I would call a very idyllic college experience. I lived on this beautiful campus in western Massachusetts, I rowed on the crew team, and my main concerns were studying and which movie we would see this weekend. It really was an idyllic life for a midwest girl who came from a broken home in the projects. It was like a completely different possibility of who I could be. So when it came time to graduate, it was with a heavy heart that I left Smith College behind to go out into the adult world.

At Smith they make a big deal out of reunion, and I always wanted to go, but for me it was 20 years before I had the space in my life to return. I got off of the airplane in a daze, hardly able to believe that I was back. I shared a shuttle with 4 other women who were obviously also on their way to reunion. They struck up a conversation with each other, the way strangers do when they recognize their common mission. I stayed silent in the background. I felt like my 19 year-old self again, in awe of this whole experience, and not sure if I belonged. I got to campus, put my suitcase in my room, and went to dinner with two of my classmates. Maybe it was being in a different time zone, maybe it was all the emotion, but when I climbed into bed I could not sleep. So I decided to walk around campus. As soon as I stepped out into the night air something broke loose in me and the tears started to flow. It was warm but sprinkling a little. I didn’t care about getting wet. As I walked to the heart of campus my shoes were hurting my feet so I took them off. I felt a wild and freespirit welling up inside of me and spilling out through my tears. It was joy, it was grief, it was a sense of home, and a sense of loss. It was as if I had left my 20 year old self on this campus and finally I had come back to claim her.

You might be wondering where the rowing comes in. Well as I walked around the campus, revisiting all of my old haunts, I learned that the crew coach was hosting a reunion row. I felt excited and then immediately sad. I weighed over 250 lbs with an aching back and a torn rotator cuff, I knew that I would not be able to row. Despite my embarrassment about my weight and poor physical condition I could not come all this way and stay away from the river. I called the coach and she was happy to have me ride along in the launch while my former teammates rowed. When we got to the boathouse it was a cold morning. The coach pulled out a pile of warm jumpsuits, saying it can get cold in the launch. I knew she was right and eyed the jumpsuits. A brave reunion husband was also planning to ride in the launch, he found one that fit and put it on. I had a feeling that none of those jumpsuits would fit me, and my vulnerability was stretched to the max by even being here. I could not bear the thought of everyone watching while I tried to squeeze into a too small jumpsuit, so I decided to brave the cold in just my rain jacket. It was a beautiful morning on the river and we all enjoyed some reminiscing. I smiled with my crewmates and no one mentioned my weight although to me it felt like a scarlet letter of shame, blazing for all to see. As I sat in the van on our way back to campus I thought to myself, I’m coming back here in 5 years and I’m going to row. As soon as I thought it the hopeless voice came up “How are you ever going to do that?” But a part of me knew that somehow I would. Last weekend I was at my 25 year reunion and I DID row! So my intention was fulfilled.

I know there are many people in the world who have probably come to feel hopeless about their weight or some other issue in their life. Maybe weight isn’t the issue for you, maybe you are looking for a different transformation. See I don’t want my story to just be about weight loss I want to share the complete transformation because to me that is what has meant so much. I feel like I have unleashed some of the hope, and promise that my young self felt as a college student. Bound up in the fat there was a life force that I am still figuring out how to harness. I want to support you and whatever transformation you are seeking in your life. Where is that area that has you feeling hopeless? it feels so daunting, like it can never change? whatever that is for you I’m here to help you find your path, Your Way Forward to your own transformation.

  1. Shelly

    Shelly

    June 6, 2019 at 5:56 am -
    Reply

    Erica—I feel so honored to witness your transformation over the past many years. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this vulnerable and empowering process for you. You are such an inspiration—the fact that somewhere within you, you knew you were going to travel back to your 25th reunion and be fit and confident enough to row again is so inspiring. AND YOU DID IT!!!!! Your story of weight loss, cultivation of self-love and personal evolution is amazing—I know you will help and support many others through their own journey with deep humility, true understanding and no judgement. Thank you for sharing yourself and your story. looking forward to more from you on this topic.

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