I am not sure there has ever been a time in my life when I didn’t love being in the kitchen. Even as a small child, my grandmother had me in the kitchen, standing on a chair, right beside her watching her make pots full of fresh beans almost every day. My grandfather would bring me into the kitchen every morning to pick what type of fruit we wanted in our pancakes that day. I can’t even being to thank my grandparents enough for making me so comfortable in the kitchen.
My grandmother taught me almost everything I know about Mexican food. And cooking was our thing. Every day after school and countless vacations and holidays we spent in the kitchen. Whether she was teaching me the basics of salsa and guacamole, or the how-to’s of family specialties like soupita (her own unique twist on tomato soup with pasta) or Mexican corn dogs (hot dogs covered in masa and deep friend), or the staples of Mexican cuisine, she was always eager to answer my never ending questions. When she passed away in 2003, I knew the moments I would miss the most, were the moments we spent side by side in the kitchen, swapping stories, and enjoying each others company. To this day, I have to credit most of my cooking abilities to her. I treasure each recipe I know by heart and know only by taste, not by recipe.
But as I have grown older, I have had to learn that just because I know how to cook something, or just because the food is there in front of me, doesn’t mean that I have to eat it. However, I didn’t learn that lesson until after countless years of emotional eating through the ups and downs of elementary, middle, and high school drama and eating just for the sake of the food that was within my reach. While I tried and did lose some weight in high school, whatever I did lose, I gained back and doubled while in college. And while I was never really happy with my appearance, I often turned a blind eye to my eating and living habits. Looking back, I know it wasn’t because I wasn’t unhappy with how I looked and felt (I knew I was grossly overweight), but I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I would have to do something to change.
It wasn’t until February 2010 when my doctor sat me down and said that I had to do something about my weight that I finally accepted the fact that I wasn’t happy with the number I saw on the scale (nearly 200 lbs) and I was fed up with always being unhappy. I knew things had to change. With gentle suggestions from my doctor about how to change my eating habits (much to my surprise bagels every morning for breakfast were not the healthiest way to start your day), I left the doctor’s office that afternoon with more motivation than I have ever had in my entire life. Between hearing the awful reality of my weight problem from my doctor (whom I literally owe my life to) and the desire to change my entire life (also motivated by wanting to move on from a broken heart I was nursing), I changed my entire outlook on food.
To be honest, it was not an overnight change. It, however, did start with cutting out the bagel I ate every morning as I opened the coffee shop that I worked at. It involved slowing adjusting myself from 2% milk, to 1% milk, and now to the only milk I will drink, non-fat. It involved forcing myself into the running shoes I had my mother buy for me years earlier and walking around my neighborhood and using the gym membership I had, but never used. And it involved watching my portion sizes, meaning I could still eat foods like pizza, french fries, ice cream, and of course cupcakes, but I couldn’t eat them in the quantities I used to.
I have been at it now for almost two and a half years. I’ve had to learn that just because there is food within reach that I don’t need to eat it. There are always healthier options to chose from, if you just know where to look and how to order. And while getting out there is the hardest part, even the biggest couch potato can become a walker, jogger, and runner. All you have to do is reach a point where you actually want to change and accepting the fact that a healthier lifestyle can be a challenge, it can be the hardest adjustment of your entire life, you just have to give it time. Eventually it will become your second nature.
As of this afternoon, I am down 60 lbs and am only .06 lbs away from my goal weight. When I reach that magic number (decided upon through conversations with my doctor, my own personal weight loss goals, and the healthy weight guidelines developed by Weight Watchers which I joined last September to help me lose my last 40 lbs and to solidify my healthier outlook on food and exercising), I know I am still going to have to watch what I eat and exercise, but through this journey I have learned that my new way of life is how I should have been living all along.