Featured on CNN’s Weekly column about weight loss success stories, Jen Corn talks to us about how changing her lifestyle started with a new mindset. Jen’s struggle with her weight began early in childhood. Eventually her life became more and more limited, even finding herself struggling to walk. Family members had offered to pay for her to have weight-loss surgery, but Jen was determined to change her lifestyle instead for her health. In this article, Jen talks about the mental component to finding her healthy weight.
Describe your early relationship with food and the turning point in your life that gave you the resolve and mindset to change your behavior?
Food was a big part of my childhood. It was used to satisfy all emotions: I ate when I was sad (comfort) and I ate when I was happy (celebration). Occasionally I would binge eat, but mostly I was an all-around 24/7 eater. There were a lot of self-esteem issues growing up, which of course only added fuel to the fire to make it worse.
In March 2011, after seeing the picture of me at the Georgia Aquarium then later that year with the family intervention, I just decided that if I didn’t do something, my health and life was at risk.
Most of the articles I’ve read about you deal with what you eat, the 150-pound weight loss and your walking routine. But can you describe the mental transformation that you also experienced?
It seems most people don’t work on the mental part of the lifestyle change. Initially, I was very hard on myself, that’s why I refused to look in any reflective surface. I thought I was fat, even when people would still say I was pretty. The things I said to myself were things I would never say to my worst enemy:
- I’m fat.
- I’m lazy.
- I don’t want to go anywhere.
- (before doing a “walk” around the block with my Mom and Aunt, in a whiny voice) I don’t wanna go, my food hurts, my knees hurt, my back hurts, this sucks!
It’s really sad that women will often say the cruelest things about themselves, yet if we heard a friend or family member say the same thing, we would be quick to admonish them for being so hard on themselves.
For my Road Trip, I equated it to driving in an armored tank, I didn’t want anyone looking at me or even acknowledging that I was in the room. Even later, I still had a hard time believing that it was real. The Body Dysmorphic Syndrome was real…It took me a very long time to realize that the person staring back at me in the mirror was who I was truly becoming.
Then, my thoughts became a mix of positive and negative statements:
- Huh, my knees don’t hurt as much now.
- I’m not as fat as I used to be, but I still have a long way to go.
- I can’t believe I only lost a half a pound, why am I still doing this?
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I realized that if I were standing on the sidelines watching a loved one run a marathon, I would be cheering as loud as possible, so why not cheer myself on if I am the one who is actually doing the “symbolic” marathon? Being kind to myself has certainly helped me succeed and was part of why I started my blog in the first place. If I could be a good cheer leader for me, maybe I could be for someone else as well.
All the changes in my life were for the positive: my exercise, the types of foods I ate, my inner dialogue, and just life in general.
I slowly changed my eating/food habits. It was a weaning process. If I changed from my old meals to my current meals overnight, my body would not have had time to adjust and I would have struggled to successfully maintain satisfaction with what I eat now.
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I’ve also noticed that as time has gone on, some of the foods I would gorge myself on, no longer appeal to me. My body is used to eating a certain way, and if I drift too far into the old way, I get the message loud and clear from my body.
And, as I got closer to my goal, my thoughts became more positive and accepting of my body:
- Um, when did I start walking 5 miles?
- I can’t believe my feet don’t hurt at all anymore.
- Hey look at that, I have a collar bone.
Having a great support system around me was also instrumental in the positive changes occurring.
On your blog, you write that “it’s not about being skinny, it’s about being healthy.” What does success in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight mean to you?
Getting off medications, walking without pain, walking to the mail box without sounding like a smoker, looking in the mirror and not being afraid of who is looking back, and just a general happiness and willingness to participate in life rather than hiding away like a shut-in.
We end with an inspirational quote from Jen’s Blog “Road Trip:”
“What is truly important is blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, reduction of expensive medications and the ability to walk to your mail box with out being out of breath. Who cares what size clothes you wear and who says that thin is in?
Make your own road and take as long as you need to get there with as many stops as you desire. Gas, food, stretching or even sleeping. It’s your journey…don’t let anyone be a back seat driver, but make sure you keep plenty of supporting passengers along for the ride.”
Where are you on your own road trip?