I've been on a personal journey of growth and healing for several years now. Last December, on Christmas Day, 2016, to be exact, I stepped on the scale and saw a number I NEVER thought I'd ever weigh. 207 pounds.
I'd like to say it broke my heart, but it didn't. I knew exactly how I'd gotten so heavy - one bad choice at a time. Bad choices in food, bad choices in life.
What that number on the scale DID break, was my pride. Over the past twenty years or so, I had tried all the different "right" things to lose weight, like Weight Watchers and all the diets. I'd also tried some "wrong" things to lose weight, like weight loss pills and fasting for three days at a time.
I lived in a state of perpetual denial to myself. "It's just ten pounds . . . it's just twenty pounds . . ." until the "it's just" was SIXTY pounds. I'm only 5'2" tall - sixty pounds is massively overweight for my frame. So I finally got serious about my health, my overall fitness (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness) and my ability to ride my horse.
I used to be a professional pianist; eighteen months ago I took a church gig at a local, beautiful United Methodist church to keep my chops up. It's a great gig: the piano is a good instrument, the acoustics are quite good, and the people are some of the most loving, genuine Christians I think I've ever seen.
The minister there - an ubercool guy with tats and earrings who is so sincere and so dedicated to his teaching and his ministry, I'm sure God smiles on that man each and every morning - he, too, fights the "battle of the bulge." He invited me to join a small, private group of ministers in an e-forum for weekly accountability. I was honored they would welcome a hired-gun, non-Methodist pianist into their forum. That group has been a God-send to me. Some of those folks have lost 100 lbs and kept it off for years, so the mentoring and inspiration they offer this gal is fantastic.
Between Christmas and the end of May, ten pounds came off. Hallelujah! Pass the carrot sticks!
197 pounds of me left. Wow.
About the same time this spring, the vet told me Kaliwohi was overweight and if I didn't address that issue, my mustang might end up a very ill boy. Mustangs have extremely efficient metabolisms and his diet of grain and orchard grass hay was far richer than his body could effectively utilize.
Time for some serious changes.
I started hauling my oversized bum into the saddle at least three days a week. I began a yoga practice. I cut Kaliwohi's grain down to a handful, and his hay down, as well.
And I went public.
In a BIG way.
For the past seven weeks, HorseNation.com has published a weekly column, where I'm detailing my journey towards fitness - for me and for Kaliwohi. When that first column was published, with excruciatingly unretouched photographs of me wearing riding attire (read: every. single. bulge. shows.), I steeled myself for harsh criticism by the world.
In my mind, I expected comments like, "How could you ever let yourself go SO badly!" "You're too fat to ride a horse!" "Don't you know about the 80/20 weight ratio?" (Yes, I do; Kaliwohi, at a healthy 850 lbs, should carry no more than 20% of that - or 170 lbs - including tack; at his starting weight of 900 lbs, he should carry no more than 180 lbs, including tack). "You're just a middle-aged wannabe!" and on and on my inner demons ranted in my head.
What actually happened, however, was a far different response. Thin people were supportive! "Yay, you, for taking control of your health and your riding!" "Yay, you, for being so honest!"
But what genuinely surprised me were the comments by people as heavy, or heavier, than me. I discovered there is an entire world of equestrians who love their horses, love their sport, and struggle with obesity.
I didn't expect people from all over the world to contact me with words of support and inspiration.
I didn't expect people from all over the world to ask me to help them, to form a group, and to lead them.
I'm honored beyond words, and I strive to give these lovely fellow humans some encouragement, some accountability, some inspiration, and some HOPE, each and every day.
Two days ago, I stepped on the scale and saw 186.8. Twenty pounds gone. So many folks have helped me celebrate this milestone with texts and emails and kudos on social media. I'm grateful for each and every one.
But I still have forty pounds to go, and when all THAT is gone, I will have to look in the mirror at the ONE person who has complete control over whether I keep the weight off, or regain every pound and then some.
So, along with inspiring others, I think it is wise that I inspire myself, as well . . .
The First Letter
Dear Thinner Me:
I am SO proud of you and SO happy for you! TWENTY pounds! YAY, YOU! You should feel proud, better, fitter, and far more accomplished now that you've reached this goal.
And you've done it SO publicly! Even folks from your high school - yes, including that guy you secretly crushed on way back when - now know that Esther isn't the trim young woman they remember. You've let the cat outta the bag, girl, and now there's no turning back. Your decision to "go public" and share those damning photographs of you at 197 took SO. MUCH. COURAGE.
Brave girl. Bravo!
Remember when I was you? When you weighed 207 on the scale? When every article of clothing you owned was either uncomfortably tight or so tight you couldn't even get it on at all? Remember how ashamed and embarrassed and unworthy you felt?
Keep those feelings tucked away in your memory, like your favorite blanket from childhood - the light green one with white kittens with pink bows around their necks - that is safely tucked away in the cedar chest.
Remember this: processed food and advertising is The. Enemy. Pull out those negative feelings whenever high-dollar marketing and sugar start to tempt you like a viper. The advertisers say, "eat this and you'll be happy." It is a lie.
The truth is: eat that and you'll regain the weight and then you'll feel ashamed and embarrassed and unworthy.
Processed food and excess sugar and lack of exercise are slowly killing millions of Americans. And you were almost one of them, sweetie.
Thank God God loves you enough to force you to address your habits and finally, finally come to terms with the fact that you've eaten badly for decades and not handled stress like you should have.
Kaliwohi has lost fifty pounds! Yay, you - you're such a great horse-mama! He's getting into great shape and you are putting in the time and effort to take him from being an unbacked mustang to becoming a solid riding horse. It will take years, just like it did with Sam, and with Lady Grace, but you'll get there. Just keep stepping into the stirrup and getting those saddle pads wet. Time and communication are what build trust-filled relationships.
So. Now. Let's refocus on your goals.
Start to view 187 as your STARTING POINT. 167 is your new "twenty pounds gone" goal. Getting under 185 is your new short-term goal. Then get "the first five pounds" gone (182). Then get below 180. Then set your sights on 177 ("ten pounds" gone). (bonus: 177 will be thirty pounds gone. Halfway to your Big. Goal.)
177!!!! Lordy, girl - when you get THERE, you'll be the same size you were in 2006! ELEVEN YEARS AGO. Where did the time go? Where did YOU go over these past eleven years? Hang in there, kiddo - you're finding yourself again, buried in the rubble of too many "trying to please WHOEVER" efforts and too much "I don't want to hurt WHOEVER" efforts.
YOU deserve a HAPPY LIFE, girl. DO NOT sacrifice YOU for ANYONE. NOBODY. Do you hear me?! I - the 207 pound version of yourself - was the outcome of all your efforts to close yourself down and please others. The 207 pound version of you was the result of the bad decisions you've made and beating yourself up over your past mistakes.
Stop it. Just STOP it.
Yes, you've made mistakes. Some of them were dreadfully bad. But you MUST forgive yourself and MOVE ON. The past is the past. It is over. Leave each mistake behind you; treasure each lesson you've learned. Forgive yourself. And let it go.
You were born to shine! Your entire purpose for being is to radiate kindness! Some people think that's foolish. Some people think you're naive. Some twisted people even think you have "ulterior" motives. But that's as dumb as thinking a daisy has a bad motive, or a butterfly wants to cause harm. Their negativity and lack of spiritual illumination is NOT. YOUR. PROBLEM.
Shine on, sweet girl.
And know this: no matter what, no matter who, no matter anything: GOD LOVES YOU.
GOD. LOVES. YOU.
And so do I.
- 207 pound Esther