Six months ago I started down the path to health and as write this, my final instalment, I feel a huge sense of pride in my achievement. With my elate.ie team beside me every step of the way, I’ve lost a very satisfying THREE-AND-A-HALF STONE (22kg) and 56 inches (142cm) overall. I’m now a size I haven’t been since my 20s – the magical number 12.
I’ve come full circle, really; I’m now going to be a support coach in the elate.ie group – I’m staying on during my switch from weight-loss to weight maintenance in the coaching programme designed for women in their 40s and 50s – and I’ll get to encourage other women embarking on the same journey as I did.
However, as I have previously written, this was always about so much more than shifting my excess weight. I wanted to regain some of the control around comfort eating that I lost when both my parents passed away suddenly. Today, I feel I’ve achieved just that.
And while the results of the physical change are gratifying, the transformation of the mind is so much more so, because I know only too well that weight is not the only thing that influences happiness – life is about so much more.
I also know that no matter your size, big or small, tall or short, we all face our own challenges. My own – this year alone – included my scheduled back surgery, my unscheduled broken wrist, cast on said wrist turning my fingers black, and my little rescue pup Jessie undergoing emergency surgery for cancer.
But you know what? I’ve changed.
Normally those life events would have thrown me face-first into the cupboard for some comfort and a bottle of red wine to wash down the sadness and anger – but the ball I started to roll back in July steam-rolled through them all.
Fast forward to today and as I head into the maintenance phase of my plan (Christmas roasties, I’m coming for you) I’m no longer worried about regaining weight. I feel my mind-set is strong and healthy and if I did slip, instead of continuing to slip, I’ll regroup and begin a new day. I feel better physically than I have in years, I’m more confident and don’t hide behind my clothes anymore, so I don’t intend in sabotaging all my hard work.
Along the way I’ve learned a lot about myself too – how resilient I am, how lucky I am to be surrounded by great friends and family, how fortunate I am to have supportive work colleagues and how loved I am.
Which is not a bad way to head into 2020.
I’m also beginning to understand that healthy living has no finish line and while I may be at my target weight, I want to continue with future-proofing myself as best I can. I know life will have more challenges along the way and I want to be prepared as mentally and physically as I possibly can.
Now, I’m not quite saying ‘ain’t life grand’ either. Yes, this was the first year I could attend a work Christmas party and not burst into tears being surrounded by so much merriment and cheer – but I can’t quite wholeheartedly embrace the festivities either.
Even now, every time I think about it, the sting of not having my parents to celebrate Christmas with me still hurts. They were both so full of fun and mischief that it’s difficult not to have them around at this time of year.
You never get over it, but time teaches you to learn to live with the pain. This will be Dad’s fourth Christmas away from with us and Mam’s third. December 25 is also her birthday- she would have been a vibrant 77-year-old this year.
Mam especially loved Christmas, making the pudding, buying a last-minute tree, the decorations, the presents, the endless shopping lists and all the excitement leading up to it.
Dad on the other hand would happily sit in his armchair delighted to have all the family around. The house bustling with activity as he waited patiently for Mam’s Christmas eve ham fresh from the oven. These are just some of the moments I’ll cherish, not the material things, but being around people you love who bring you endless joy by just being in their presence. Although opening gifts labelled “from Mam and Dad” and seeing Dad just as curious to see what’s inside as I was – that’s a gift you can’t put a price on.
Now we simply get through Christmas as best we can. We no longer celebrate at the family home; we knew the first year without them both it would feel too empty and there’s just no way to fill the void they left. So along the way we’ve created some new traditions alongside the old. It means our parents get to play a continuous role in holiday celebrations going forward.
I try to make Mam’s legendary ham and sausage stuffing, the ham a triumph – the stuffing not so much. My brother has mastered Dad’s seasonal Irish coffees – although I think he’d be grumbling about the whiskey measures. We’re even considering dabbling and making the sacred Christmas pudding Mam used to make – but not this year, it’s still too soon.
And yet while Christmas can amplify grief, life goes on – it actually does. We now have a new tradition in our family. We head to Henry Street pre-Christmas eve with my niece, nephew and sisters, do a bit of shopping and end our day in Anne’s Bakery – my Mam’s favourite spot for a cup of tea and cake. Before you ask, yes, I will be having a cream éclair, it would be rude not to – tradition and all that.
This is also the first year I have bought a real Christmas tree as a nod to my Mam and Dad. Now myself, my partner and his young daughter will enjoy our own Christmas traditions with the lights twinkling in the background.
So let me raise a glass, shed a tear, have a laugh or simply remember the two most wonderful, magical people who came along on this life journey with me and who will never, ever be forgotten.
Here’s to you, Mam and Dad. Happy Christmas.
Health & Living