Do one thing. That was my mantra. Make one small, truly manageable change. I began with coffee.
Coffee had been the scrooge of my existence since I was child. It was something I associated with my father and not in a good way. I was shocked to find that my days had become dictated by the
Had I been on a diet, I would have failed.I wasn’t prepared to try again and fail better.
It was the summer of 2005. I was tired of being fat. No one likes to use the word fat. We call it overweight, or pleasantly plump. But it was my body and I was, as the nutritionist I would one day hire told me, big all over! I was a fat forty-something. This is not body shaming. I was embarrassed by my body. And disgusted with myself. Which just made stopping at the corner Starbucks that much sweeter because what better way to wallow in self pity than to do it with a Grande Latte and a blueberry scone?
No one should be known by their coffee order.
Starbucks was ubiquitous that year. There were three within a one-mile radius of my home. I had two elementary aged kids and I lived in my car driving carpool. I tortured my kids with how often I stopped. To school. Home from school. Before and after sports. I had become, like my father before me, the coffee rider. I stopped at Starbucks so frequently I was known in each of these Starbucks by coffee order. If my husband stopped at Starbucks on his way home for me, he would order, “Grand non-fat ½ shot hazelnut latte” and the barista would ask, “Oh, is this for Erica?”
No one should be known by their coffee order.
I had read so much about the calories hidden within the rich foam on my lattes, the added sugar of the hazelnut syrup, the ridiculous amount of milk. I was not a believer. In my hand, that cardboard cup was nothing more than water, coffee, milk and a dab of sweetener. Like my love of pizza, I was blinded by the warm comfort only a food craving can bring. But something clicked that summer. I couldn’t breathe and I was hot even in air conditioning.
Deciding to trust the internet experts, I challenged myself to reduce the calories in my coffee order. I went from a Grande latte to a tall cappuccino, no sweetener, and absolutely no pastry. I didn’t give up the frequency. I maintained my thrice-daily (if not four or five times) habit of stopping. And I expected nothing. I wasn’t on a diet.
Had I been on a diet, I would have failed. I know that because for a good eight years I had failed over and over again. I wasn’t prepared to try again and fail better. The mere numbers of what I needed to lose overwhelmed me. Who could lose that much weight without surgery or falling into a coma? Which is why this small change, so manageable, hardly noticeably in my daily rituals, hit me like bucket of cold water on a hot day in August. I lost ten pounds. Without even noticing.
I was still fat. But I was ten pounds less fat, and I hadn’t done anything other than save some money at Starbucks.
What if I had held the power to change all along? Coming face to face with the impact just a small change could make put into question all the inept justifications I had lived by for the last decade.
I would like to tell you that this serendipitous weight loss inspired me to great change. It didn’t. It made me more depressed. What if I had held the power to change all along? Coming face to face with the impact just a small change could make put into question all the inept justifications I had lived by for the last decade. What if, instead of making grand sweeping proclamations (which I had been known to do), I will never eat cake ever ever again! I had just said I wouldn’t have more than one piece? Or only on Saturdays? Or only on my birthday, and yours?
Who knew having less coffee would wake me up?
I hired a nutritionist in September. That was twelve years and 80 pounds ago. It was a long journey, sometimes easier than at others. There were moments I resented her hammering away at my food habits and my flimsy excuses. She said things like, if you want fair go to Pomona, that’s where you’ll find the county fair! She was in her nineties and she taught me to look at my life honestly. To live by small changes, and to create a healthier weigh of life (choice of word intentional).
This mantra, do one thing, is it’s own way of life. We are inundated through our 24/7 digital media stream today with all types of diet and nutrition information, self-help gurus, ways to be more present, things we should do for self-actualization. Don’t begin there. Begin by looking at your own habits. What you know, in that deep truthful core of your self-knowledge, that you can change, even with a little tweaking? Because sometimes, the greatest gift we can give ourselves is a little honesty, and a little, — and I mean little — change, and permission to do just one thing.
What you would you do, if you could change just one thing?
Editors note: Weigh of Life was a phrase coined by Hermien Lee, Nutritionist extraordinaire. who passed away at the age of 92 in 2009. She was a force and a good friend. Every time Erica drops a piece of chocolate or a handful of potato chips on the ground, she is sure Hermien has knocked it from her hands!
Read Erica W. Jamieson’s story, Coffee Riders, (Spittoon, 2013) about finding common ground with her father over their mutual coffee habits. Her first story post weight loss, The Jeans of My Dreams, appeared in Self Magazine 2006.