4) I've learned that earning something is far more enjoyable than simply taking it.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: "Don't you feel deprived? Don't you feel like you are missing out?" The short answer is: "No." It's actually the complete opposite. Now when I go to a party or there is a special occasion and I have previously planned to eat something that I wouldn't normally eat, such as a hamburger or dessert, I actually enjoy it and appreciate it more than I ever did before! Not only is it enjoyable to eat, but the best part is I eat it with no guilt or remorse whatsoever. I have earned that food. I don't have the burden of thinking about other poor choices I am making that just add to this one, because that is no longer the case. The same thing goes with exercise. When I work hard and burn 500 calories at the gym every day, and then see changes in my ability and stamina, there is SUCH satisfaction in knowing that I worked hard for those changes! I know it's in our nature to want a quick, fast, and easy fix...but it just doesn't exist. Not only does it not exist, I'm convinced that even if it did, it's not a substitute for earning it ourselves.
5) I've learned that you have to believe different things about yourself, and think of yourself as a different person, in order to makes changes that last.
Habits are so hard to break. And too often we have habits so deeply ingrained that we define ourselves by them. For example: I obviously led a sedentary life for many, many years. To the point that I realized as I started to make changes that I had defined myself by that. "I don't like to do active things. All of my hobbies are sedentary...reading, computer, television." I had to learn to look at myself and see someone new, someone who did things differently than I had done in the past. When I found myself letting the hours tick by without getting a work out in, I had to say, "I am a person who works out every day. I go to the gym and I burn calories and increase my strength every day." If I found myself considering using food in an unhealthy way, I had to say, "I am thoughtful with my food choices. I am a person who respects my body and treats it well. I don't use food as a coping skill." As I redefined myself and what I did, I found I not only changed my behavior--I changed what I liked to do! This may sound odd, but I have discovered that I really, really like to sweat. It's, like, better than Christmas. For reals. I NEVER would have thought that could be said about me, but now it's true, and it's because I chose to see who I was differently. I find myself thinking of things my kids and the Hubby and I can go do, like hiking or walking or playing outside...things I never would have considered. Before, I would have observed. Now I participate. See what I mean? Different.
6) I've learned that happiness and peace come through the knowledge that you are living the way you should, the results of living that way are simply a bonus...not really the reward.
I am not going to lie and say that losing weight and looking better and getting to donate clothes that are too big isn't a lot of fun--but it really isn't what has kept me going. I feel a peace and a contentment that is completely internal. It's a happiness that has to do with how I behave when no one else is looking. I feel peace because I know that I treat my body with respect, and that I show gratitude for all that I have been given by not being greedy with food or with anything else. When I wake up every day, the reward is that I like myself, how I live my life, and who I am becoming. The weight will continue to leave my body and I will continue to become more healthy and more strong, that is a consequence of the many choices I now make. But the REAL prize is looking in the mirror and seeing a woman who lives what she knows. There is a song that says in part "Do what is right, let the consequence follow..." I understand what that means more than ever now. Nothing feels better than doing what's right, in every aspect of your life. Nothing.
I hope that something I have written here may be something you can relate to in your own life. If your particular weakness isn't weight or food, I still maintain that the principles and lessons I have learned could apply to what you struggle with, as well. We all have ways in which we cope with life and its challenges. Some people eat, some people drink, some people cut, some people isolate themselves...there are a million ways to cope in a way that gives us immediate relief but is ultimately destructive. I have felt such joy as I have learned to cope in a way that actually makes me feel better long term, and increases my strength for the next challenge!
I know that I still have a lot to do, and a lot to learn. I'll keep you posted. :)