I was asked by my friend, Etienne, to write and share with you my experiences on my healthy living journey. Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Chloe, also known as Chiquita. I met Etienne over 24 years ago, when we were students at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. As sometimes happens with friends, we drifted apart and lost contact for several years. It wasn’t until a year ago, in mid-December 2010, that we reconnected.
What you may not know is that our meeting again last year marked a turning point in my life. You see, for most of my adult life, I have struggled with obesity and unhealthy eating habits. I reached my heaviest weight in May 2009 at 277 pounds. Now don’t get me wrong, I tried many times and ways to lose weight – fasting, liquid diets, diet books, and national weight-loss programs (in which I managed to lose about 70 pounds). But regardless of the method, or pounds, lost, I would always slip slowly back into my old eating habits – skipping meals, eating fast foods, sugary (and fat-filled) desserts, and drinking sodas.
Obviously the weight I lost, and even more, would come back on. Not only that, my self-esteem would take a hit with each weight-loss attempt. I hated the way I looked and felt. I was tired all the time, had knee-joint pain, and struggled with heartburn weekly. I was not physically active – choosing to exercise my mouth in front of the television instead of physically exercising my body. I basically had given up on myself. I figured I was just not meant to be thin, healthy, or fit – it was too hard, too expensive, and too painful to keep trying. Maybe some of you can identify?
Therefore, with all of this emotional and physical “baggage” I reluctantly agreed to reconnect with Etienne at a Chinese restaurant in December 2010. At first, I didn’t want to have him see me – I weighed over 260 pounds and I was worried what he might think of me. But I really wanted to see an old friend and catch up on things, so I went.
This was one meeting I’m glad I didn’t skip. Etienne was exactly as I remembered him – physically and emotionally. What shocked me was that he hadn’t aged – AT ALL – in fact he looked younger! On top of this, he looked physically fit, so I really wanted to know his “secret” and how it could help me. Turns out his “secret” involved changing his thinking!
Etienne shared with me his past unhealthy eating habits – eating fast food and sugary desserts – cakes, donuts, pies – on a weekly basis, as well as how these habits raised his triglyceride numbers to dangerous levels. Yet, he was able to reverse these numbers, and his health, by doing research and finding foods that were healthy, yet physically satisfying to substitute for the junk he was feeding his body.
For example, he explained how he eliminated white, refined sugar and used raw blue agave instead. I had never heard of agave and he explained how it was the nectar of a plant (called the blue agave) and how people have used agave for hundreds of years. He learned that blue agave is sweeter than sugar, yet is a low-glycemic food, therefore it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels as fast as white or brown sugar. By cooking and baking with blue agave, he was able to lower his triglyceride levels substantially within a few months.
Okay, I can get substituting certain unhealthy foods for healthier ones – that explained the “what” of what he did, but it didn’t explain “how” he was able to do it. That was the secret – the key. I found out this involved changing “how” he thought of himself.
Etienne explained he had to look within and see himself as someone worthy of respect, of being healthy, of looking good, and of having a life filled with purpose and meaning. He strove to surround himself with friends who would influence him in a positive way – and distance himself from those who chose to be negative and disrespectful towards him. I learned that the more I see myself as deserving of respect, the more I will treat others, and myself, with respect. This translates into feeding myself healthier foods, exercising my body and my mind, living in healthier ways, and surrounding myself with positive people.
It seems I was looking at the weight loss equation from the wrong side – only the scale side. Somehow, I thought if I could just reach a certain number on the scale – I would not only look great, but feel great, be positive, and life would be wonderful for me. Instead, Etienne taught me that if I can’t begin to see myself as someone wonderful and worthy NOW, then I would never learn to manage living a healthy lifestyle – that included eating foods good for me and maintaining a healthy body weight.
It is a marriage of mind, body, soul, and spirit. All of these attributes affect and are dependent on one another. They work together – dealing with just one, weight (body) for example, will not help me become whole, since I am not dealing with the other parts of my being (mind, body, spirit) that have contributed to my unhealthy living habits.
This has truly been a life-changing discovery for me and it has propelled me towards seeing myself differently, such as wanting to stand up for and respect myself (mind), eating foods that are nourishing, healthy, and delicious for me (body), seeing myself as someone worthy of good (soul), and surrounding myself with, as well as being a source of, positive influence from others (spirit).
Etienne showed me how I should never be afraid of foods or eating out at restaurants. My “fear” of eating out developed as I started to lose weight. Once I started eating healthy foods, I became vigilant about what ingredients were in the foods I was putting in my body. The thought of eating out worried me because I felt I was giving up control of what I was eating and relying instead on restaurant foods containing heavy creamy or starchy sauces, salt, MSG, oils, etc. Etienne stressed that I can remain in control of what I eat in any setting, including restaurants. For example, he showed me how I should stay away from certain foods – such as deep-fried and breaded foods, as well as those covered with heavy creamy or starchy sauces. He also taught me to ask for how I want my meals prepared – such as asking for meals to be prepared with less salt, less oil, no MSG, or no sauces (or just on the side).
The result of this new way of thinking and empowerment proves that it does work. I have lost over 120 pounds in one year – since December 2010 – with only 20 pounds to go until I reach my weight goal!! Not only that, I feel like I’m a brand new person – inside and out. I no longer suffer from heartburn or knee-joint pain, and I also sleep better at night. Others have even given me compliments on how much better I look. But most importantly, I have begun to stand up for myself and realize I am a wonderful person who is worthy of respect and deserves to be treated, and treat others, as such. This was something a “weight-loss” program could never do for me.
I am only at the beginning of this journey, but it has given me hope for a future that is filled with hope, promise, and love. Thank you, Etienne, for caring about me and sharing with me. I pray all who read his words and thoughts in this blog will learn to love themselves in healthy ways and make healthy changes that will not only affect their lives, but the lives of those they come in contact with. Take care for now, and I will share again with you my progress on this journey. Won’t you join me?