Project Healthy Holly
When I first started working with Jennifer in 2017, we were given a homework assignment to answer the question, “why now?” Why is this time different than every other time I decided to try to lose weight? Looking back now at that writing assignment, I can see how my “why” has shifted over the past two years. It began with an intense desire to lose weight, to wear the kinds of clothing that I wanted to wear, and to generally feel happy all the time. It was, as I can see now, a little narrow minded and also likely a large part of the reason why I was never successful in the past. My goals and my values weren’t aligned because I was plugging in the wrong set of values. What I learned in that first year of Project Healthy Body was that my why was about fighting for my life. Increasing the amount of years that I get to spend with the love of my life and our two children became my why. NOT DYING was my new why.
Here is an excerpt from that homework.
Why now? When I started this journey to health at the beginning of the year, I must not have truly believed it would be the answer for me. Otherwise, I would have taken my measurements. If I truly believed it would work, I would have taken the measurements to know the data and look back at my progress. When I started this process, I was hyper focused on the number on the scale – weighing myself multiple times per day – feeling great when the needle moved down, and feeling frustrated when the needle moved up. I wanted to lose weight to be prettier, to fit into clothing and even into airplane seat belts. I wasn’t thinking about getting to spend more time with my family, or the pain in my joints, or NOT DYING. I was thinking about what other people think of me…of putting the world ahead of myself. Even in wanting to lose weight, I put myself last.
That foundation began to crack when Jennifer told me that she’d looked up my BMI, and that I was “literally fighting for my life.” I immediately broke down in tears, and for the first time was flooded by the idea that I was fighting for my vitality. I thought of my children, and my husband, and cutting short our time together. I thought about the care that my mother, and my grandmother put into their health, so that we can extend this wonderful life together – and how I’d taken mine for granted.
That was the marker that started the real change. Why now? Because now I know better. My health isn’t something that I can now ignore.
Why now? Because it’s working. Ridding myself of the garbage in my body, the garbage in my mind, and the garbage in environment is working. I have clarity, both physically and mentally that I’ve never had. I believe in showing my true self. I believe in the power of sharing my experience, good or bad – and that has always been part of my identity. Now I know that my authentic self isn’t a 10/10. I got real with where I am truly at – and that person is at least 100lbs overweight, that person puts everyone ahead of herself, that person dealt with a lot and worked to keep everyone else ok, instead of making sure she was ok. Because I lacked the tools to have regard for my own well being, I cared for myself in the only way I knew how….with food. Lots of self care = lots of food.
Why now? Because I love myself enough to have the courage to become my authentic self. Because I know she is in there, and I know she is amazing.
My why has not been static. My will to live is still the foundation. But my foundation has spread, in the way a glacier moves without any discernible notice – until a length of time has passed and the distance is visible. In 2018, my why evolved from losing weight and wearing smaller clothing, to taking the two autoimmune disorders that I have more seriously, and finally, to the health of my family.
Although Craig and the girls were enthusiastically folding into the healthy lifestyle that I was practicing, they were still somewhat peripheral to the extent that I was dedicated. That year, Craig’s health changed. He started getting hives (some, enormous) up and down his trunk, front and back. He was cold all of the time and lacked his usual energy. He suffered from brain fog. He looked pale and was losing weight, but not in good way. I could feel when he was trying hard to keep up, pushing himself to contribute at work and at home, when what he needed was to rest and try to heal from this unnamed attack. Thankfully, Craig is not a man who avoids doctors out of pride. He stayed on top of his appointments as doctors ruled out possible causes. There was no rhyme or reason to what made a good or a bad day, so we marched on until we had more answers.
Then one night, we attended a Bruno Mars concert. We had seen him once before and it was one of the best concerts we’ve ever been to; still is. We had a good friend with us, a lovely dinner beforehand, and about three cocktails each. When the concert started, there were a lot of pyrotechnics and extraordinarily loud explosions. All three of us were standing up and dancing, but I could tell that something was off with Craig. He motioned to me that he was going to run to the bathroom and be right back. Only he didn’t come right back; an event security officer did. He asked if I was Holly, and told me that my husband had collapsed in the concourse.
How easily one can take stairs two at a time, when your world is suddenly upside down. I could hardly recognize Craig, as we approached. He sat slumped against the outside of the bathroom wall, as ghostly white as our bedroom sheets that have been thrown in with the dark colors too many times. Instead of taking an Uber home that night, we took my first (and hopefully only) ambulance ride to the emergency room. Among the teenagers who had overindulged to the point of uncontrollable vomiting and vowing NEVER TO EVER DRINK RUM AGAIN, we waited. Still, we left without answers.
We had a similarly horrifying experience on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the following February. Luckily, it didn’t end in another ambulance ride – but it was just as scary for both of us. Not long after that trip, we finally had a diagnosis that we could cling to and familiarize ourselves with so that we could avoid some of the more triggering behaviors. Lupus (SLE). It is a chronic and incurable autoimmune disorder, and is often described as the disease of many faces – which is what can make it so difficult to diagnose.
It has been one year since getting the official diagnosis. How many times have we thanked god for Project Healthy Body and the path toward greater health and vitality that has changed our family. Beginning with me, then trickling down to Craig and the kids through osmosis, to catapulting Craig into the same passionate goal as mine: to live together in health for as long as possible.
In my family, autoimmune disorders seem to be as common as women with double-n’d names (Mary-Ann, Holly-Ann, Kelly-Ann, Quinn, Wrenn – not a joke). Craig and I work hard to keep our symptoms from flaring up, through diet and other strategies like getting good sleep, mild exercise, and keeping stress as low as possible. Grains, dairy, sugar, and beans seem to be my biggest triggers; gluten, sugar, and dairy for Craig. He also claims that if he doesn’t play enough golf, or get enough sex, he gets flare ups – but I’m not positive that’s true. Still, in light of all of this, we “occasionally” indulged in some of the behaviors that we know will set us back. For me, it’s typically cheese. For Craig, it’s bread and sweets. The point is that our “sometimes” foods carry with them more consequences than the average person or PHB client. Yet, we continued to struggle with them sometimes. It wasn’t until 2019 that we finally kicked one of them out of our lives for good.
Late last year, I started to notice that my seven year old daughter Quinn wasn’t looking as vibrant as usual. She had dark circles under her eyes. Her teeth weren’t as white, and her breath was often sour. She was irritated and cranky quite often, which isn’t her nature – at least not until age thirteen, if memory serves. Some of her symptoms like her overall look and lack of focus were familiar, and I wondered if she too might have thyroid issues, like me.
We took her to the pediatrician, and all of her blood-work came back fine (though, her thyroid was a little off). All of it, except the last test, which was for Celiac. There are plenty of false positives with blood-work and Celiac disease, so to be absolutely certain you have to have an endoscopy and biopsy done. She was/is such a trooper. I could tell that she was afraid, but I could also tell that she just wanted answers so that she could feel better. It’s necessary to make sure that there is gluten in the system to get a conclusive result with the biopsy – which is hard, because it’s the one thing that makes her feel terrible. As we suspected, the result from the procedure was a positive diagnosis of Celiac disease.
The diagnosis was a mixture of happy and sad feelings for all of us. On one hand, we knew that Quinn was going to feel like a new woman without gluten in her system. On the other hand, it’s hard to see her cry when her friends at school are eating donuts or cupcakes. Now that some time has passed and we are all more comfortable in the dos and don’t of Celiac, the change has been overwhelmingly positive. Like Lupus catapulted Craig into better health, so did Celiac for Quinn. She knows how to read labels, what is safe to order at restaurants, and understands what the consequences are, if she is accidentally cross-contaminated with wheat products. And it’s not just Quinn who has become healthier. Our entire house was scrubbed and rid of gluten – literally, I bleached and wiped down our pantry shelves that had trace amounts of flour. Just like PHB helped all of us get healthier and not just me, Celiac is helping all of us get healthier and not just Quinn. We don’t “occasionally” have pizza, or bread, or crackers, or any kind of grain product that isn’t completely gluten free anymore. They absolutely can’t be occasional foods for Quinn, so they are no longer occasional foods for us either. Not just because we are supporting our daughter, but because those foods weren’t serving any of us.
In PHB, we often tell our members that there is no “there” there. For years, I was chasing a destination – and the destination was skinny. Then, instead of chasing a destination, I started connecting to my why – and my why was longevity. And then, instead of chasing my longevity, I chased OUR longevity and well-being. If the past is a good predictor of the future, my why will likely have several more iterations before reaching my final destination (yes, none of us are getting out of here alive). With a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work and dedication to our health, that will be a long, long time from now…for all of us.