You might have clicked on this article because you wanted to learn more about my personal wellness journey. You might want to know how I’ve lost 100 pounds. You might want to know what I eat or how often I work out.
But there are two reasons why I'm not going to address those topics.
First, because although I've lost weight as the result of life changes I’ve made in the last 20 months, the force compelling me to make said changes has been less about numbers on a scale and more about simply finding ways to live life with improved mobility, energy, and quality of experiences.
Second, it's Women’s History Month.
As you probably know, the month of March has been set aside as a time where we take note of the historical and societal contributions women have made. I’m not even going to attempt to summarize womankind's collective impact thus far, but what I can do is use my voice to highlight the lessons that other women have taught me personally — specifically, the powerful things I've learned from women who have dramatically shaped my journey to creating a healthier and happier life from the inside out.
Here are the three specific lessons I've learned from three specific women — some you may know, some you may not — that have helped me write my own history.
What I learned from… Lindsey Rae.
I’ll admit it: The first time I met Lindsey, I judged the sh*t out of her. I looked at her skinny body, heard her perky voice, basked in the glory of her long, thick hair, and I made some assumptions. I figured she was disgusted by my larger body. I thought we would have nothing in common. I believed I would have to prove my worth to her.
And I was wrong. Like, dead wrong.
When we revoke another person's right to feel their own pain, we remove what makes us all unique.
They say that relationships are our biggest teachers in life, and my friendship with this spiritual-edged coach and mentor is proof of that. She's taught me something that has been insanely valuable in my life: that “pain is pain"; that I need to stop comparing my pain to other people's pain and playing the game of “Whose Pain Sucks More?” She's also taught me to address the natural inclination towards fear that we all sometimes experience when confronted with body types different than our own — the idea that heavy women are always assuming that slender women are judging them, for instance, or that slender women are fearful of heavy women.
Maybe you’ve looked at someone else and wondered what they had to be unhappy about in their life based on their seemingly ideal weight or looks or money or lifestyle, assuming their issues could not possibly be valid because they're nowhere near as bad as our own. But here's a newsflash: When we revoke another person's right to feel their own pain, we remove what makes us all unique. One person's challenges, pain, and sadness are not contingent upon your own ability to stack up compared to others. Get out of your head. Stop using others' positioning to determine you own. And understand that we are our only reflection.
What I learned from… Oprah Winfrey.
(It's almost cliché to say, but is there a single person reading this right now who hasn't been touched by Oprah in some way?)
Several years ago, Oprah penned the introduction for Marianne Williamson's book, A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever. A play off the 1976 spiritual and metaphysical text A Course of Miracles, Williamson's book offered a "conscious" approach to weight loss.
If I was willing to address that core pain, then, I would be able to change my entire relationship with food and my own body.
It may sound a bit out there, but I need to share with you the one nugget of wisdom I had never realized prior to reading Oprah's words at the start of that book: That the excess weight I carried on my body was a direct result of the anxiety and emotional pain I was lugging around.
Reading Oprah's Course in Weight Loss introduction made me realize that the big idea wasn’t to “lose 50 pounds,” but to focus on creating a happier life from the absolute basement level of my life on upwards. She taught me that if I wanted to live healthier and experience a reduction in my body size, I had to be really willing to see what I was unhappy with in my own life; that the physical weight I carried around was a reflection of the weight I carried around in my heart and soul; and that my weight gain was a result of lifestyle behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts that I had adapted directly from pain in my life. If I was willing to address that core pain, then, I would be able to change my entire relationship with food and my own body.
DING DING DING. That one idea has changed my life. Like, literally. Changed. My. Life.
What I learned from… Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa.
Each of us has an idea of what defines "beauty" and what makes someone beautiful, but most of the time this idea conforms to a specific standard that society monitors and shapes. We think that “beauty” is a certain size, a certain color, a certain weight and, frankly, a certain age. But when I was first in the presence of Gurmukh, I got a crash course in what beauty really is.
Known worldwide as one of the leading teachers of Kundalini yoga, Gurmukh is an author, a teacher, and the co-founder of Golden Bridge Yoga. At 75 years old she literally radiates beauty. When I met her, I sat and marveled at how a woman of her age — and one who's plastic surgery-free — could be so youthful, so brilliant-looking, so warm from the inside out.
With that idea came freedom and self-love and a tool to help me reach a state of kindness and compassion for my body.
Maybe you don’t think about getting older — and if so, more power to you. But me? I think about it. I think about the grey starting to creep into my hair, the gravity that has already started to hit my breasts, the lines blooming at the corners of my eyes. And while I am not scared of aging, I often think about the idea that beauty expires — that we expire; that women lose their relevance at a certain age. (Ever seen Amy Schumer’s “Last F*ckable Day” sketch?)
But then there was Gurmukh, standing in front of me as she taught a yoga class, breaking every misconception I'd ever had about the idea of feminine beauty — and in that, I found some peace. Peace that I could age. Peace that I could grow. Peace that I could break the idea of what it means to be beautiful, and glue it back together into something that worked for me. And with that idea came freedom and self-love and a tool to help me reach a state of kindness and compassion for my body.
* * *
Each of these women has made an impact on my perception of self, turning me into a better mentor, a better teacher, and a better friend. As this Women's History Month progresses, I encourage you to think about those in your personal life, on social media, and in society at large who inspire you and shape your journey.
Keep your heart and your mind open to being taught; it just might change your life.