It was the final week of a year that almost broke many people around the world. I was one of the lucky ones in 2020, or so it felt to me. My health was good. My business was growing. My family was happy. But something was still missing in my life.
Three days before Christmas I had a call with Hannah, the young woman with whom I would be working in January. She is the adult daughter of my close friends. I’ve known her for more than five years but we had never had a serious conversation. She was nice enough, and pleasant but there was something that had kept her from getting too close to me all this time.
I knew what it was, this unspoken thing forming a wall between us. I could feel her looking at me when I was in the den with her parents and she was coming in or leaving the house. A quick “hello” without making eye contact and then she was gone. I had attempted to engage her in conversation on a number of occasions. The last time was two years ago at the park when the non-profit I volunteer with had a picnic. Before I could say hello she slipped away and I didn’t see her again that afternoon.
Hannah didn’t want to be around me because I reminded her of herself in twenty-five years or so — overweight and alone. When I got home from the picnic I undressed and stood in front of my full length mirror. How did I get to where I was? I was thinking this out loud and sat down on the cool tile floor and cried.
That was in the fall of 2019. I was now committed to losing weight and turning my health around. I would make it a goal for 2020. Not a resolution, mind you. A goal. A goal to be well thought out, pondered, and set in place. A goal that was different than a dream. A dream without a plan is simply a wish. My goal to lose one hundred pounds during 2020 would be a goal with a plan. My dream could be realized. After spending a full week in planning for the new year, setting goals, reviewing previous goals and achievements, and finally getting it all just the way I wanted it, I closed my legal size planner and went to bed.
January came and went in a flash. My business was doing very well. I was publishing yet another book. Everything seemed to be falling into place, but one thing was still gnawing away at me. February arrived with a welcome rainstorm and unwanted heavy winds. Each day I went through my morning routine. I wrote, showered, volunteered, wrote some more, spent time with friends, and went to bed by nine. Each day I reviewed my goals and course corrected anything that needed to be revised. I went through the motions of living a full life, when it was anything but. Each day I was avoiding the one thing that mattered most to me. All this time and I still had no plan to lose five pounds, let alone a hundred. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror because I was literally the elephant in the room.
February was coming to a close. A visit to the doctor showed that my weight was up to 302 and my A1C was on the high side of being “pre-diabetic.” The doctor insisted on ordering several prescriptions, a glucose monitor, and other supplies. After the fourth text from the pharmacy I finally picked it up.
“I’ll pay for all of this stuff, but I’m not diabetic. I’m going to lose weight,” I announced to the lady ringing up my order. She smiled without looking up from the register as I took the large white bag and walked with a purpose out to my car.
At the end of February, 2020 I received an email from Denise Wakeman about a 10 Day Challenge for people interested in losing weight and getting healthy. I’ve known Denise since first coming online as an entrepreneur in 2006. She was also going to be speaking at my marketing event in Los Angeles the first week of March. I signed up for the Challenge and knew I could ask her any questions about it while we were together. Also, it was scheduled to begin the day after my event ended. My thought was that I could still eat anything I wanted through that weekend, and then I would find out more about intermittent fasting. I mentally checked it off my list of goals to accomplish in 2020, even though I still didn’t think of this as my plan to lose a hundred pounds.
Over that weekend the world shifted ever so slightly off its axis as the Coronavirus took hold. By Friday, March 13th the U.S. had called for a state of emergency. Flights were cancelled and store shelves emptied. I can remember visiting Sam’s Club that weekend and being astounded at the sight of almost no meat or household essentials available. I was moving along every day with the Intermittent Fasting Challenge and seeing that this could actually work for me. By the end of the following week I had become accustomed to eating for only an eight hour window of time each day. Although I had yet to lose any weight, I was more comfortable in my skin and my focus each day was more clear. I signed up for the Fast Factor Circle run by Denise Wakeman and Dr. Ellen Britt so I would have daily support and ongoing training as to how to make my fasting practice work for me.
Fast forward through the spring, past the summer, and into the fall of 2020 and I was on top of the world. Even with what was now called COVID-19 running rampant all over the planet, I was able to separate myself from this and focus on my life — my health and wellbeing, my family and other relationships, and my business. Oh, and I had begun losing weight by the very end of the Challenge and had now dropped a whopping 27% of my original body weight.
In November I began a Certification Program for Intermittent Fasting. Yes, I finally had a plan to achieve my weight loss goal and wanted to share my growing knowledge and ongoing experience with others in a professional coaching environment. Everyone who saw me even periodically over the previous seven or eights months remarked at how good I looked. I would beam and tell them that the doctors were thrilled that all of my numbers were now within the “normal” range and that I was having so much fun going shopping in my own closet!
Even though I would be completing my coaching certification program until the early spring of 2021, I was already thinking about working with my first client. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran into my good friends at the Farmer’s Market in Santa Barbara one Saturday morning and they wanted to know more about my dramatic weight loss and how young I looked. I briefly shared what I was learning about something called autophagy and how it was related to my intermittent fasting practice. Then they asked me if I could help their daughter, Hannah to have similar results.
Yes, Hannah is my first client. And when we spoke three days before Christmas in 2020 I was pleased to finally have the opportunity to connect with her. I took it slowly, knowing that her journey would be her own and that I was only there to guide her to a lifestyle that holds the promise of changing her life, forever. She wasn’t very forthcoming on the phone. I think it’s more difficult to communicate with someone when you can’t see their eyes and their smile. We exchanged holiday greetings and pleasantries. She began to apologize for not talking to me more when we saw each other, but I stopped her.
“Hannah, you’re a young woman with your own life and friends. I did not expect you to abandon them and hang out with me.”
There was a pause and then I continued.
“I saw those photos of you and your friends hiking up to Tupelo Ridge. The only way I would make it up that high is if a helicopter dropped me off at the top.”
She laughed and I laughed a little louder. The ice was broken. Now we could talk.
I asked her if she was interested in trying intermittent fasting, or if it was just her mother’s idea. A little of each, she told me. And then she started to tell me a story and the floodgates opened wide. No one can understand… All of my friends are married… No one will ever love me… And it’s the hardest at Christmas.
The silence was deafening so I cleared my throat.
“You’re right. I or anyone else can’t understand. And I won’t share my stories because they’re boring and predictable. I take that back; I will share my stories with you as we get to know each other better. But not the boring ones, only the really exciting ones where I’m the superhero.”
There was more laughter and that’s when I asked her to tell me more about what she meant when she said it would be the hardest at Christmas.
For the next half hour she described in excruciating detail what the holidays were like with her family. Everyone was married, even the relative who lost his wife just after Christmas last year had recently remarried. Lots of kids, so many babies, and the women looking like models and fitting into their skinny jeans just months after a baby had arrived. And more food than anyone could imagine. Someone was always adding something new to the tables and for the four or five days everyone would be together it was almost non-stop eating. Someone would be watching her every moment to see what she was eating and how much. She said she felt like everyone was looking at her, but not truly seeing her. They felt sorry for her, she believed. But they also loathed spending time with a fat person.
“Some people act like they’re allergic to fat, or that if they get too close to you they’ll catch it. They act like it’s my fault.”
I seized this opening.
“Why do you think you’ve been overweight for so long?”
“I don’t exercise. I know I eat the wrong foods. I think my father was heavy, but I don’t remember.”
We discussed families and weight and fathers who were gone too soon. I was seeking commonality so that Hannah could trust me.
“You know our relationship around this is completely confidential. It has nothing to do with my friendship with your parents or with anyone else we mutually know. My hope is that we can share stories and ideas and recipes and successes with each others. Ones that other people won’t care about or understand.”
She liked that idea. Then we talked more about the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day and what it’s like to be surrounded my people and food you love, and feeling like they are judging you every moment and won’t love you if you eat too much.
“Connie, I know I’ll be hiding food in my room and sneaking into the kitchen late at night to get more eggnog and dessert. I always hide food in my room when I’m staying with my family and I know that they know. And they won’t mention it to me even if they see me shielding a plate of cookies from view on my way out of the kitchen. It’s like this elephant in the room. And the thing that isn’t funny at all is that I am that elephant.”
I told her that the only thing I wanted her to focus on between now and when we would begin working together on January 4th was mindfulness. Enjoy the holidays, the people, the food, the gifts, and they joy of the season. But with everything you say or do or think about or eat, be mindful. I wanted her to get into the mindfulness habit to better face the situation and to be able to move on with my coaching after the first of the year.
We ended our call. I looked at the clock and saw that it was almost three in the afternoon. I quickly drove over to Trader Joe’s and picked up a gallon of eggnog and some bakery items. I was about to enter a type of Twilight Zone — I was going to take a walk on the wild side.
Between the day before Christmas Eve and the day after New Year’s Day — about eleven days — I allowed myself to slip back to my former habits. I was taking a break from my work online and had very few commitments related to my business. Because of the pandemic I would be staying at home throughout the month of December instead of traveling internationally to spend time with extended family in Europe. I carefully placed my items in the trunk of the car and drove home. I could already taste the eggnog!
What I experienced during this ten day period was not what I had expected. I thought I would give myself this time off as a break from my nine and a half month intermittent fasting practice. I thought I would enjoy eating at all hours and anything I chose. I envisioned Hannah at her family’s home, surrounded by people who loved her and wanted the best for her, yet continued to judge her on many levels. I thought of conversations I’d had with her parents, older sister, and a best friend from high school over the years. Hannah had never had a boyfriend and didn’t go to her Prom. She had friends but wasn’t always invited to go places with them. Her sisters husband had told me they wanted to take her out in their boat but they thought it might be too awkward. At the time I had thought “too awkward for who, and how, exactly?” but I didn’t say a word. I knew firsthand what it was like to be excluded because of your size and to pretend you didn’t care when you were hurting deep down inside.
My walk on the wild side reminded me of habits I had long since given up. One was eating candy right out the box or bag instead of a few pieces at a time. My home office began to fill up with everything I was bringing home. I would wake up in the morning and begin eating and drinking right away. My fasting practice consisted of an open window of “feasting” that lasted a few hours each day; what I was doing now was more like a free for all.
Then the achy joints set in, and the headaches, and the brain fog. And on the second or third day the ringing in my ears returned. I was bloated, tired, unhappy, and constipated. One day between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I just couldn’t force down another bite. As I set down the umpteenth glass of eggnog and another plate of cookies and a piece of pecan pie, I thought I’d finally had enough.
But the following morning I was ready for another eating marathon. If I were to properly serve Hannah and others like her — like me — then I needed to remember what it was like to be out of control with my eating. During the previous nine months I had dropped over eighty pounds. Now I had gained back three pounds and the pants that had fit so well just last week were now squeezing my stomach and thighs. I stopped going for my daily walks. I started staying up later at night and arising later each morning. My writing didn’t come as easily. And could someone please make that ringing in my ears stop?!
On Saturday, the second day of January, 2021 I was ready to get back to my schedule. I gave away all the treats to the neighbors. I’d drank the last of the eggnog the night before and knew that the stores would not offer it again until next Christmas. I had learned much from my experiment. Now I wanted to connect with Hannah and see how her holidays had gone. I left a message on her phone and told her I was looking forward to officially working with her on Monday the 4th.
Intermittent fasting has changed my life. It gives me complete control over my health and weight and emotions around food. It is the Holy Grail for me and I cannot imagine ever choosing to do something else. It is a gift I give myself each day and this gift just keeps on giving in miraculous ways.
This article was originally published on my site at https://mondaymorningmellow.com/my-walk-on-the-wild-side/.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, living a full life in a body that is now serving me well. It is my temple and I have promise to take care of it, while helping others to navigate their own journey. I am a teacher, a mentor, and someone who cares so deeply about serving others that it feels like something is missing if I do not have someone to guide and teach. Come aboard the Fast Factor Circle so we may connect and I will be able to share my experience with you more personally.