So here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here before (although I did post a celebratory weight-loss selfie on Snapchat when I hit 50), since I started traveling full-time on July 1, I’ve lost 55 lbs.
This has been a completely mental game. In the same time, I did something else I thought was also impossible: I quit smoking on July 12. My brain chemistry has completely changed since I left. I knew when I started traveling that I’d feel better about life and the world, I just thought it would be a solely emotional change. I didn’t think my body would make physical changes to go along with it.
I want to share my experiences over the last five months. I still have a long way to go before I hit anything close to my ideal body weight, and I am definitely still a fabulously awesome plus-size chick. If the weight stopped coming off tomorrow, I’d still love my body. But, this experience has been so wildly different from any other in my life that I want to share a few things about it.
Quick Note: this is not about how to lose weight or why you should travel full-time. Most people shouldn’t travel full-time, and lots of people don’t need to lose weight. Instead, this is about the mental changes that happened when I restructured my life around living my dreams, and those lessons may be valuable to others seeking to restructure their own lives.
Restructuring My Life Around My Dreams Changed How I Experience Time
I was living day-to-day, month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter. My life had no long-term arc. It wasn’t connected to anything bigger than what I was doing at the moment. At work, I didn’t have a clear path of what I wanted to do next. So I would take great opportunities when they came my way, but I couldn’t tell you what I would do next because I wasn’t controlling my destiny.
At home, I was focused on my plans for that night or enjoying the weekend, and looking forward to my next trip, but I didn’t have a plan on how my personal time would benefit my overall life goals. As friends around me started having kids, I could see that for some, it was a fulfillment of their destiny and part of their overall life plan. For others, it seemed like they were merely doing what they thought they should do at that stage in life. As my divorce unfolded and I realized this was my (only?) opportunity to go out and try to follow my dreams, I discovered that I had been living without purpose.
Now that I had purpose, everything became clear. My time horizon has shifted. I don’t think about my day as a day anymore, it’s part of a plan for the week, for the month, for the year, with an end-goal firmly in mind.
So whether the progress is checking off projects I need to do for my website, or my consulting, or if it’s getting in an hour of exercise, it all seems organically related to my entire life. I’m no longer making a choice between two activities, instead I’m on a path.
Taking the Risk Forced Me to be More Disciplined
It’s pretty scary telling everyone in you’re close to that your normal, comfortable, well-payed life is not doing it for you, so instead you’re gonna blow the thing up and start over. Holy shit, that’s a hard thing. I know with certainty that I am a survivor who will never be incapable of supporting myself. But, family and friends care about your well-being. They see you taking big risks, and they want you to be okay. They want you to be happy.
To make the risk worth it, for me and my loved ones, I have to succeed. I HAVE to. There’s no choice. Which means that I must have the discipline to go out and do the necessary work. I have to write a certain amount, take a course in something relevant I don’t understand, and consume information at a speed that is making me nauseous. I don’t have a choice.
Imposing that kind of discipline on myself in my career has had a spillover effect in my personal life. I have never had discipline about food or exercise, but now I don’t fight myself anymore. I just go do it. It’s one more thing on my “to do” list. It’s no longer a thing.
My Heart Gave My Brain Permission to Ask for Help
Part of the risk of starting over in a whole new lifestyle and career is admitting I have a lot to learn. I took photography classes to sharpen my skills. I am taking a course on travel writing to get better. I listen to podcasts about social media marketing while I walk around the cities I visit. I am constantly running into walls where I don’t have the answers I need, and I have to go get help.
This no longer feels like failure, instead it feels smart. I have to rely on myself; I’m not trying to prove to someone else that I know everything. So this made it easy to also ask for help about my weight.
I went to the doctor’s to talk about it. Before, I felt embarrassed and ashamed, like I knew what I should be doing and just wasn’t. Actually asking for help was so different from how I thought it would be. They ran a million tests and found out I was missing some key hormones related to energy. Getting prescriptions to balance that out has made a huge difference. They also gave me a prescription for a weight-loss drug that kickstarts your process. It doesn’t work forever (gives you results for about the first 10% of your body weight), but getting a little help in the beginning was wonderful.
Before, I was failing alone. Now, I am succeeding with some outside help. It’s crazy to me that it took me 32 years to realize I could ask for help, but better late than never.
My Self-Worth isn’t Defined by Mistakes, so They’re Easier to Bounce Back From
My self-worth comes from many places, but it does not come from being mistake-free. I used to get so overwhelmed and embarrassed by mistakes, but now they seem like part of a bigger process. I have lived so many, unrelated lives at this point, and I know that my mistakes have been part of them. But I love my mistakes now. A lot of people would say that if you’re divorced, you made a mistake getting married. Maybe so, but I’m glad that I did. Changing careers doesn’t mean my last one was mistake either. I am experiencing the world, and sometimes I go down paths that I need to eventually abandon. But I loved the time exploring it.
If I can be happy about big mistakes, I can get over little ones. If I have a bad food day, or I decide to take the train to the top of the hill instead of hike it, it doesn’t define who I am or change my course.
I have started losing weight many times in my life, but I have given up all of those times because some mistake or setback became insurmountable. But this time, I’ve made a hundred mistakes, but I’m still going because they don’t get me down anymore.
Losing Weight isn’t My Main Goal
When your main goal in life is a negative (I’m not enough…I’m too much…I need to stop this bad habit…) it’s hard to stay on track. It’s hard to focus so much on the ways you’re not good enough. When I’ve focused on losing weight in the past, I have given so much room in my brain to dwell on negative emotions.
I don’t think about it like that any more. I want to see every country in the world. I want to explore those places fully. I want a writing career. I want to appreciate my friends and family. I want to love with my whole heart, even when it’s complicated or hurts. Those are my goals. Those make me a better person, give me purpose, and speak to my soul.
Losing weight has only been a focus because it helps me with those goals. It makes it more fun to explore. I think about places I want to go like Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, and I know I need to get fitter to enjoy the twelve-hundred steps I’ll have to take to get to the top. I think about going back to see family and friends, and how the road trip my brother and I went on last summer might be more fun as a hike next year. I want to have a career as a writer, and I think about the great adventures I want to go on and share with the world. And how much more fun these adventures will be if I can climb a little higher or hike a little faster than I can now.
I’m not a weight-loss expert. My big, life-overhauling, quitting-my-job-to-start-over-thing didn’t automatically lead to me losing weight. I’m not advocating travel as the answer to all your problems. You should not expect travel to solve your problems. I’m saying that starting over with my own personal dreams (which happens to be travel) at the center of my life changed everything else by default, having a domino effect that shocked and delighted me, cascading through my worst habits one, by one, until all that’s left is my Diet Coke addiction (which isn’t going anywhere).