I watched the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” this past weekend. It’s a story of personal triumph, of one man taking responsibility for his choices, specifically what he eats, to change his experience. Along the way, he shares what he is learning and inspires others to make healthy choices in their lives. His choice is to juice – to drink only fruits and vegetables for 60 days – to reboot his body and cure his auto-immune disease. It works, and he also drops the excess weight he’d been carrying around. He offers information, support and recipes on his site Reboot Your Life. The title of the documentary (Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) is how Joe describes himself at the beginning of the film. I must admit, I’m intrigued by Joe’s approach and am considering doing the 5-day Reboot. It certainly sounds like a healthy way to recharge your system, and who couldn’t use more fruits & vegetables?
A few years ago, if someone were to make a documentary of my life, it could have been called “Fat, Depressed and Nearly Lost.” I was 40 pounds overweight, taking antidepressants and wasn’t sure which direction to go in my life. Unlike Joe, who truly changed his life in 60 days and solidified a new lifestyle within 6 months, it took me slightly longer.
As I turned 36, I realized I had been on antidepressants for 12 years — one-third of my life. For some reason, that really struck me. It’s a long time, and I decided it was time to try life without medications. I also felt, after several stints with different therapists, more than one self-help book, and much personal growth, I was better equipped at 36 to handle the triggers that had led me to depression’s door before. I met with my physician to discuss it, because it is important to taper your dose to limit the withdrawal effects. I had tried to withdraw from them a year or so before this time, and the dizzy spells and accompanying nausea were so bad I couldn’t do it. This time, I was prepared and tapered my dose much slower. It took about 6 weeks for me to completely get off of them. And…I’ve been fine. I have gotten sad, and even cried sometimes, but I haven’t had the depression return. I’ve also noticed a more vivid experience of my positive emotions. It seemed to me that the antidepressants insulated me from feeling my emotions, and without that buffer, life seems more real.
With that huge accomplishment down, I decided to tackle my weight. I knew that one side effect of antidepressants can be weight gain, but I also knew I hadn’t been making great choices — my portion sizes were out of control and I wasn’t exercising regularly. That summer I was 36, I was wearing a size 14, but it was getting tight. (I refused to buy anything bigger.) I remember avoiding wearing shorts and how my thighs had gotten so big, it was difficult to cross my legs. I was very aware of my stomach when I bent over or rode my bike. I felt awful about my appearance and hardly looked in the mirror, except just at my face (to put makeup on!). So I made a decision that I wasn’t going to stand for this anymore. I started counting calories, exercising daily, and put the next year’s Danskin triathlon back on my plan. (I had skipped a year and realized how important it was for me to have a date to work towards.) The weight came off very slowly, and it took me about 9-12 months. I’ve fluctuated a little bit since then, but I’ve been able to maintain a size 8.
As Joe Cross notes in his documentary, “What I gained was far more than what I lost.” When you accomplish a goal, even a small one — 2 lbs less or one dress size smaller — you feel more positive about the situation. That gives you momentum to keep going. It’s important to celebrate those small victories to keep you moving towards your goals. While it may seem like there are several hundred or thousand steps to take, you won’t get there without taking the first one. And each step gets you that little bit closer.