When I stepped on the scale last Saturday morning, I saw a number that I never wanted to see.
I always thought that if I hit this certain number, I would be devastated. But oddly enough, seeing it didn't bother me. For one thing, I know that body weight fluctuates each month, and scales aren't always accurate.
While I wasn't devastated when I saw that number, it was a bit of a wake-up call. Since the beginning of the year, I've been trying to clean up my act. (Literally. My goal is to eat "clean.") I got rid of all the unhealthy food in my kitchen and spent more money on groceries than I ever have in the past. The most unhealthy food I got was pickled banana peppers, so I left the store feeling simultaneously proud of myself for taking that step and amazed I had managed to spend that much money. Seeing that number on the scale just made me think that I've got to work harder to reach my goal for this year.
Later that day, I was a course marshal at the Mississippi Blues Marathon. I stood for hours at the intersection of State and Amite streets, giving encouragement to the participants as they ran and walked their last mile, watching the many different types of people pass by. When I had signed up to volunteer for the marathon, I was picturing the kinds of people who run with water bottles strapped to their back, who constantly look at their watches to keep time, who have only the best running gear. Running pros, I guess you could say.
While many people like that did pass by me, they weren't the only ones there. People from all walks of life ran and jogged and walked. Some were on the half marathon; some were on the full marathon track. A woman pushed a little girl in a stroller, at times walking and sometimes running; men with no shirts sprinted past me; some participants ran with a race pacer trailing them; some groups of people ran and walked and jogged, yelling thanks to me and the police officer directing traffic.
I stood there in the pouring rain, watching as these people kept going, regardless of the fact that it was cold and their shoes were getting soaked. While a few looked miserable—it's inevitable; I would be miserable, too—most just kept going. They still smiled as they passed by. All that seemed to matter to them is that they were doing it. They were running a marathon or half marathon. I couldn't help but feel a great amount of respect for every person that passed by me.
Twenty-six miles would be tough, even just walking the course. The full-marathoners walked and ran more than 137,000 feet, and of course, the half-marathoners did about half that. Either way, it's a long way. As the race wore on, we got updates on the last participant's progress, and as the police officer called out the locations to me, I couldn't help but think that many of the places would take at least 10 minutes to get to by car. But she still did it. She did the marathon. Another course marshal said that the man who won the marathon was practically sprinting on the last mile. He did it, too.
A marathon can be a good metaphor for healthy resolutions. Some people take giant leaps; some take baby steps. But regardless of speed, they're still making that journey. They're still climbing the mountain no matter how long it takes or how hard it is. And it is hard. For example, on Friday night, I made a Thai pizza and decided to gobble the majority of it up. So yeah, it's tough to say no to the things you want sometimes.
I think in any healthy journey, it's imperative that we realize one thing: A setback here and there isn't the end of the world, and actually, it's nice sometimes to treat yourself. Eat healthy; exercise; do all the healthy things; and occasionally let yourself have that treat that's been on your mind for days. Do all those things, and chances are, you'll succeed. Besides, what's life without a little bit of decadence? But, of course, all things in moderation.
There's also another part of this vicious cycle that I have yet to conquer—this idea that I'm not good enough. For years, society has basically told people that they have to look a certain way to be worth anything. Men have to have six-pack abs. Women have to be a size 2. And hearing those things takes a toll on your psyche whether you realize it or not.
It has also caused damage in another way. Because people are so used to hearing those things, they tend to be very critical of other people's appearances. I can't count the number of times that I've heard family members call me fat. If certain people catch me eating junk food, they'll comment, "That's not on your diet." People may believe that they say it because they want you to be healthy—which is commendable—but I think that, subconsciously, they want you to fit into the societal norms.
I've gotten to the point where, when someone comments on my weight without offering constructive criticism, I just remind myself that it's my journey. Not theirs. And besides, I look good regardless of my weight. I'm worth more than a number on a scale.
A focus of this issue is honoring your New Year's resolutions or goals. We all know that the big problem with resolutions is keeping them. Statisticbrain.com says that 38 percent of people who make resolutions often have weight-related ones. After the first six months, only 46 percent of people will keep their resolutions. Shape.com says reasons we don't keep our resolutions include doing it alone, not having a plan, not believing in ourselves, having lofty goals and giving up too easily.
The word "resolution" itself means the act of resolving to do something. So make a plan. Do something. And keep feeling good about yourself while on the journey.
Assistant Editor Amber Helsel graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. Her hobbies include experimenting with food, writing and art. Email her feature story and BOOM Jackson ideas at [email protected]