17 January is the day most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions, according to ‘they’ – the anonymous, ubiquitous, generalists who share little titbits about everything from the latest cancer cause to miracle diets that ‘we’ quote. Other ‘theys’ claim fail Friday – a bit of a catchier name – which is the 22nd this year. I say NO to resolutions. I hate being a cliché, predictable and without imagination. My mind wars are mine alone, original and 100% Rebecca, and I don’t need a magic date once a year to straighten them out. That said, I'm a bit of a hypocrite.
I stepped on the scale today – my version of shock therapy. Yikes. I’m astonished how much weight I can gain from a few weeks (maybe five) of over-indulgence. Sweets found me. Wine and champagne found me. Endless courses of buttery food found me. And through it all, my mind raced with excuses like “it’s just once a year” or “it would be rude not to eat more” or “it’s the Christmas spirit” or “we mustn't waste, there are starving children”. Why the starving child rationale? My mom always said it as if starving children would suddenly be saved if I ate the few errant vegetables left on my plate. Why the Christmas spirit? Is holiday cheer better spread by getting embarrassingly drunk, saying outrageous things, sobbing over the same movie every year – mine is Love Actually – being drugged by anything with the word ‘sale’ overhead to spend a month’s salary in an hour, perfecting our passive aggressive queuing techniques or wishing desperately we hadn’t given away our maternity pants while mindlessly reaching for another cookie? Is this behaviour the prerequisite to celebrate peace, love and happiness? I think the air is different for one month every year and we all take long, deep breaths.
After the shock of the scale, I squeezed into my almost zipper bursting skinny jeans, covered the Christmas bulge with a long, loose cashmere jumper and headed to John Lewis on Oxford Street. I wasn't meeting Cathy* there today, but we spoke before I entered the store. Her voice was as resolute and cheerful as ever, almost as if she were effortlessly scaling the Shard while planning her next mission. She is fierce. We talked about the London Marathon, about raising money for the charity Victa** and her next business venture, all of which Cathy will accomplish and blow away like she does with everything she touches.
As I walked into John Lewis, a strange heaviness began building inside me. Was it the Christmas bulge? I looked around, past the make-up, past the perfume and past the skincare (my favourite pick-me-up). It was still. The moon was gone, leaving only sad remnants of Christmas past in the form of sale ornaments – much like the dead Christmas trees lining the streets of Wimbledon, turning into brown mulch while awaiting, almost in desperation, garden waste collection. I prefer the idea that my Christmas tree has a long and happy life on a big farm in the country, surrounded by other happy trees, but that story works better on children, not in January to console ourselves as the trees and ornaments vanish along with their other holiday friend: New Year’s resolutions.
Cathy never bothers with the ruse of resolutions. While the rest of us were drinking too much, eating too much and taking a sabbatical from the gym (yours truly included), Cathy was up every morning at 6:00 am (except Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) running, weight training and doing other unhuman-like feats of balance and strength as part of her typical fitness routine, but with an extra kick in preparation for the London Marathon. Unlike the rest of us, Cathy doesn't have fat days – she left those behind more than a decade ago when she decided her UK size 24 body didn't fit her healthy mind.
I have fat days (even months depending on the stage of my yo-yoing). I always know I'm reaching my rounder self when I divert my eyes from the floor length mirror I must pass to shower. It takes skill to avoid glancing at the mirror or only focus on the good bits, but I am a yo-yo dieter so I've mastered that deception. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s the side or front view I hate most, but I don’t look, so I don’t dwell.
Although I am moaning about my holiday weight, I'm not fat. My battles reside entirely in my head, elevated by looking in the mirror, remembering how thin I was in my 20s and then thinking about how bloody hard I have to work out to stay thin. Dieting has never lasted for me. It’s too much effort and there’s guilt associated when ‘cheating’ (which is usually pizza, Indian, red wine and chocolate for me). Instead, I exercise. I am not at the Cathy level, but I walk everywhere, lift weights, do cardio and have just added pilates to my fitness routine. When I am disciplined, my body stays fixed. When stress or emotion build up, I yo-yo.
The biggest challenge for me is that once I start my yo-yo cycle, it’s painful and even shameful to stop (a nice trick I play on myself). Eventually, I reach the tipping point and I pull out my scale, take a deep breath and step up. Shock therapy works. Then I promise myself to make better eating choices and not over-indulge, which works until my next holiday when I have a new excuse to go wild. Yikes. It looks like I'm with the crowd who promise to get in and stay in (this part’s tricky) good shape. I guess I am predictable.
By the time I reached the fourth floor in John Lewis, Cathy’s voice was echoing in my head at the same pace my heaviness was building. Cathy was bullied, she was told she wasn’t clever and she ate her way to a UK size 24, but her story is a happy story***. Cathy overcame her daemons and changed her life. She is now an enviable UK size 8 with an equally as remarkable sculpted physique and if that weren't enough, she spends her time changing the lives of everyone she meets. What resonates strongest with me about Cathy’s story is her conviction, her honesty and her forgiveness – of herself, her former teacher and even her bullies.
At last it was clear to me. With a little kick from Cathy, I finally understood the source of my heaviness and the reason I yo-yo. It’s all me. It’s the little voice in my head that rages war on my self-esteem. It sounds so terribly boring and common, yet it’s painfully true. The advantage of creating this heaviness by myself means I can erase it too. Hallelujah. Pity party over. Here I go.
THE ANTI-NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION SOLUTION
Today is the first day of my anti-New Year’s resolution solution with a promise to myself (alright, it’s many promises, but all under the umbrella of being my best self). I will never run a marathon like Cathy or even 12k, but I will find my inner strength and nurture it like she did hers. I will be fierce. I will stop my yo-yo dieting and self-sabotaging patterns. I will redirect my mind clutter to productive energy. I will dump regrets. I will cheat without guilt. I will try not to be so tough on myself that it spirals at dizzying speed. Heck, I’ll even look in the mirror.
With Cathy as my inspiration, I am RUNNING FOR MY LIFE TOO.
*Cathy Martin is the founder of Skin by Cathy, an aesthetic beauty business. www.skinbycathy.com.
**Victa supports children and young people who are blind or partially sighted and their families across the UK. http://www.victa.org.uk/
***Read more about Cathy’s story here. http://madlegsmedia.com/blog/2015/12/8/running-for-her-life
DONATE: Now for the gentle plea. Cathy is running in the London Marathon to support Victa, a charity that helps blind children. Support Cathy because you identify with her struggles, you admire her strength or you believe the world needs to be filled with more Cathys. Support Victa because it’s for blind children and their families, and making someone’s life a little easier – even a miniscule amount – is what we do in a civilised society (and it feels good too). Donate because you can and please donate generously. Go here to do it. Don’t put it off. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=CathyMartin