Project Healthy Leili
We all have skeletons in our closets. But not everyone’s skeletons actually lived in their closets, like mine did. For years, I opened my closet doors to find a tangle of shirts, pants, sweaters and heaps of clothes staring back at me. Eventually, it got so out of control that I started using my floor to store clothes so I would not even have to open the door. Every time I looked into the closet it was a painful reminder about my constant failure to control my weight. I would keep the doors closed and think, “I will get to it later.” That sentiment was a good metaphor for how I was living my life, and how I viewed my own health. “I will get to it later”. My family, career, education – everything – took precedence over me taking care of myself. I tried to convince myself that it was okay that my closet was a mess, and that ALL of my drawers and cabinets looked like that too because I was a “good” mom and a “good wife” and “successful” at work. It was almost like I had earned the right to be fat and disorganized. The truth was that I wasn’t fooling anyone – I was a mess. My closet, like my life, overwhelmed me.
The old me (before Project Healthy Body) found a strange comfort in my clutter. I let my clutter define and consume me. I was holding on to literally everything. My father died, so I couldn’t possibly think of getting rid of his checkbook. I got a sample of a moisturizer, nope can’t throw that away – I might want to use it. A dress from college? Well, it might fit again someday. I had better hold onto to that other old frock too. You never know when I might go to a party. I surrounded myself with clutter and built a wall of fat around my body.
A couple months into the Project Healthy Body program, I had lost enough weight that my pants no longer fit. Jennifer told me it was time to clean my closet. Actually not clean my closet, but purge my closet of anything that did not fit whether it was too big or too small. She even wanted me to get rid of my “just in case” clothes…you know the pair of pants you keep “just in case” you gain back all the weight. And she wanted pictures! I was scared out of my wits! This was one of the hardest things I have had to do on this journey. But it has played a key role in my continued success.
I started by asking myself a lot of pesky questions like:
“Why do you want to keep that?”
“Do you even like that sweater?”
“How do you feel when you look at your closet? Relaxed? Calm?”
Not even close! When I looked at my closet, I felt a mixture of panic, frustration and like I wanted some chocolate, like now! I realized my closet is literally the first thing I see in the morning. How am I setting my healthy lifestyle up for success, if I open my closet every morning and feel dread? The truth is you can’t. I realized it was not about the stuff. In fact, it was never about the stuff. It was about me committing to myself. By throwing the stuff away, I was making a conscious decision to believe in myself. After years of self-doubt, believing I could be a healthy person for life seemed unimaginable. My health coach (Jennifer) showed me that I am worth it.
After I purged my closet, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I was so empowered! However, there was a part of me that did not trust this was real, so I waited and waited. I waited for the stuff to creep back in, for the clutter to take over, and for my old ways to return. Only, it didn’t happen. My closet stayed organized. So I took that empowerment and tackled my junk drawer. And then I tackled my makeup drawer. With each space that I organize, I feel like I move forward on this journey. The before pictures embarrass me. They reveal my flaws and expose my secrets, but I realize I cannot change who I am if I do not let go of my past.