It was exactly five years ago this week that I first crossed the threshold of Green Mountain at Fox Run, the amazing women's health and fitness retreat that has so profoundly changed my life for the better. That was also a year when the Jewish High Holidays were in September, and I deliberately planned my trip to coincide with them, partly because it was a time when the band I was in did not have gigs, and partly because it felt fitting to spend those deeply introspective holidays learning to take care of myself. Before I left home for my month-long sojourn, I made two promises to myself:
1. I would try everything the program offered, every class, every therapy, every form of physical activity.
2. If I felt that the program made sense, I would keep on coming back to Green Mountain as many times as it took to get me to my goal of fit and healthy.
I kept the first promise easily. I did try everything and learned that I loved cardio on the fitball and that I could dance my heart out without being afraid of reinjuring my knee. I also learned that I hated Pilates and found yoga way too difficult and painful to be enjoyable, at least for the present. I had my very first massage, which was moderately enjoyable, but discovered that I liked Reiki way better. I also learned that despite my usual linear thinking, I responded readily to both art and movement therapy.
I've also kept the second promise. Most years I have gone back to what feels like my country home in both the spring and the fall, and when I got really sick during my visit last fall, I ended up doing most of my active recuperating there. Each time I have learned the next important issue to work on or the next technique I needed to adopt, in the same way that when we hike over lava in the dark we have to use our flashlights to find the next segment of the path. That first trip, what I took back with me was a reconnection between my head and my body; I had not realized before how much I was living from the neck up, not so much out of shame, but because I was constantly afraid of injury. Other trips got me involved more in intuitive eating, intrinsic motivation, guided imagery for stress management, and, most recently, functional medicine.
When a new crop of participants converge on Green Mountain every Sunday, the second thing people ask each other, after establishing where they come from, is whether this is one's first visit to the program. Over the years, I've seen the flicker of dismay in my questioner's eyes when I reply that this is my 3rd, or 7th or 12th visit. Mostly, the flicker stays a flicker, and they she goes on to say something like, "you must really like it here." I usually answer both the spoken and the unspoken question by saying that my whole life has changed, even though I haven't lost any weight yet.
Some people get it; they understand, even before completing their first day in the program, that this isn't going to be a quick fix. All of us who deal with weight management issues know how complex the problem is. Others are politely noncommittal. Only once did anyone actually manifest scorn; I avoided her for the rest of her time there.
For five years, I have steadily and steadfastly pursued my goals of increased health and fitness, believing with my whole heart that, as the program taught me, if I did what I needed to do to take better care of myself, I would lose weight, eventually, as a welcome side effect of my efforts. I became again a person who moves, who enjoys being active whenever orthopedic or respiratory issues don't get in the way. I've become calmer and more mindful, not just about hunger and satiety, but about everything. I've learned to turn the compassion and patience I have for every other person on the planet towards myself and stop thinking of my body as my enemy, even when it keeps me from doing what I want or need to do. I've continually dredged the pits of unacknowledged feelings that were driving me to eat for reasons other than hunger and finally cleared out what I believe to be the deepest one.
And I still weigh pretty much exactly what I weighed on my very first visit.
Does this bother me? Sure, I wish I weighed a hundred pounds less. Or even 20. But most of the time, I'm content to be patient because I know that I'm doing what I need and want to be doing to take care of myself. And I'm not depriving myself of anything or twisting my life into some unnatural, ultimately unsustainable round of rigors, so there is really nothing to do but what I am doing. I trust that if I keep doing it, and keep learning what "it" is, eventually the weight will let go, and let me go. If I didn't also feel the onrush of impending mortality (I turn 60 next year), I'd be perfectly happy to let things take their course without a panicky moment.
And the really good news is that I think that I am finally moving, albeit slowly, towards a lighter body and better health. Between purging myself of the guilt and grief that kept me stuffing my emotions down, dealing with low thyroid, metabolic imbalances, food sensitivities and, most recently, sleep apnea, I am finally starting to see movement on the scale, without actively trying to limit my portions or "exercise." Since the day I had my functional medicine evaluation, back in May, I've lost about 8 pounds. While the current lack of strength training in my life has meant that I don't feel that absence in any meaningful way, I know that this is huge for me, and the harbinger of many good things to come.
So, happy anniversary to me, and thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone at Green Mountain. And, as they say in Hawaii, imua -- forward!
A hui hou.