by Sandra Radja
When I first met Tiffany she proudly showed me a “before” picture and I remained fixed on the photo and on her, switching back and forth trying in my mind’s eye to see the story in-between. We all love a great before/after photo except the cynic in me doesn’t really believe the weight watchers ads. But here was a real life example of transformation and so, I finally got to hear the story that belongs in-between the photos and put my Ayurvedic spin on it.
I have only known Tiffany in her current state – a vibrant, personable, disciplined woman excited about life and affecting those around her. She’s a mother of 3, a wife, a business woman, and a runner. All these things she does on a regular basis and owns the responsibility with them all. Her Prakruti is Pitta/Kapha but for years her life force was suppressed by gaining weight. Her Kapha was blocking her Vata and Pitta, namely her sense of personal growth and her enterprising spirit. That suppression came in the form of an environment that didn’t serve her highest good. It was this realization whilst watching a tv show on obesity that changed her entire outlook –on her self- worth and the mountain in front of her that she would need to climb, one step at a time and alone.
It is with great honor that she shared her personal journey with me to be shared with others.
1. How did you come to decide to lose the weight?
I was about twenty-two. I wasn't then fully aware of the depth of my level of self -disrespect or the lack of awareness for nutrition. The trigger point for me came when I was watching a show on morbidly obese people. This group of people that were being researched was so overweight that they could not even walk. I wondered how it had got so far for them without having had the same reflection on me. But then I was fixated on the “number”. I wondered if these people had a number when they would stop gaining weight. A light bulb went on and so I finally got off the couch, walked to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and asked myself “What is my number?” The answer came quickly when I noticed the scale. It read “230”. Okay, I now had my number that I would not exceed.
2. Once you decided to lose weight, how did you start?
I didn't have a mentor in my life. I needed someone that had lost the weight to guide me on how to succeed. I felt alone, but hopeful. I began my journey by cutting out fast food and soda. I typically ate fast food around five times a week and drank a couple of sodas a day. I would slip occasionally. I was slowly losing weight, so I thought I was doing well, but failed to change my thought process, so I still ate horribly. I ate processed foods and didn't control my portions.
It was approximately four years later and my ex-husband and I divorced. He and I got together when I was sixteen and divorced at twenty-six. That released some emotional anchors that I had been physically carrying in the form of weight. I had dropped about 20 pounds in that first few months. I started cooking healthier. I changed my thought patterns from losing weight to being healthy.
I started cooking with ingredients versus out of boxes. As I started feeling better physically, I also felt healthier mentally. The times when it got tough, I kept thinking about being healthy as that was a flexible, attainable goal. I didn't follow a diet plan from a book. I started eating healthy and cooking for myself versus going out for dinner or eating processed foods. I now crave fresh food, fresh juice, and fresh veggies from my garden. It's easy to not eat fast food now.
Exercising wasn't something I did in the beginning. I felt I was too overweight to run. I thought that walking wasn't enough, so why bother. Wow, I didn't think right. After I started hiking and seeing results, I continued to do a little more all the time. Now I run about 25 miles a week and just completed by second half marathon.
3. Describe the emotional anchors that helped you release the weight?
The realization that there was more to nutrition than eating came years later with hindsight. It wasn't until I had dropped weight, about 40-50 pounds (that was about 6-7 years ago) that people started noticing my weight loss and asked me what I was doing. I kept saying that I cut out soda and fast food. After repeating my story and evaluating my story regularly, it was then that I noticed a pattern of emotional anchors that had released followed shortly by a drop of 20 lbs (meaning within just a handful of months).
The first event happened when I set a tough boundary with my mom. I was timid to stand up to my mom out of fear that she would harm herself. When I took the stand and told her I wouldn't run to her or support the decisions she was making, the relationship changed and I dropped weight.
The second came when I left my first husband, Joe. We were in a ten year relationship that I felt was not suitable for either of us. Once I left, I had a sense of release that I ended something I shouldn't have started. I felt that I was making things right for the mistake of wasting so much of our time in a relationship that wasn't meant to be. I pushed and rushed the relationship with Joe that I should have let go the first time we ended things at 17 years old.
The third came a few months before I got pregnant. Oh...what an experience. It was May 2010, I was in my room, Chris was at the neighbors and the kids were asleep. I thought about what it was going to be like to be pregnant. I wanted to be a beautiful pregnant mom. I wanted people to look at me and feel confident about asking me when I was due. I have historically had a low self image. I then thought...when did I start self deprecating? Instantly a memory of me when I was 12 flashed in front of me. I was standing at the end of the walk way from the house to the barn. I realized that that was the year my parents divorced and my brothers graduated high school and moved out. My mom started dating young men. When my mom or the man she was dating would break up, I saw my mom take drastic measures to try and keep the men in her life to stay. I then realized that if that 12 year old girl was my daughter, how would I want her to feel about herself? Of course I would want my daughter to love herself and know she is beautiful. I then looked at myself as both a 30 year old woman and a 12 year old daughter. With the mother side of me telling this 12 year old that she is beautiful, worthy, important. I too, had to receive the message as the 12 year old daughter, as I would want my own daughter to receive the message as truth. Wow... the tears flowed with the hard realization of accepting those words. It was difficult, but necessary. I sat on the bed and started to journal. Chris came home at this time and witnessed my extreme crying and writing. He quietly sat and watched as he knew I was going through something that need not be interrupted. My body went into convulsions as the energy was moving through and out of my body. I then embraced my 12 year old self with my 30 year old self in this experience. The image of my 12 year old self after that experience was of freedom, release and youthful acceptance.
That I believe was my biggest breakthrough. I was then able to view myself for my character vs. constantly judging myself and my abilities based on my weight. In the past I would refrain from trying an activity as I thought people would judge my ability to succeed or fail based on my being overweight. Now I try more things as I know that I'm failing because I am learning a new game or skill vs being fat or thin.
4. What habits changed before and after weight loss?
Wow! Everything changed for me. The way I thought, the way I ate and the association I surrounded myself with. I started reading books on self- reflection, what and why I am the way I am. The more I discovered about myself, the more I wanted to improve my thoughts. I reduced the amount of television I was watching and at this point I have been without a television for about three years. I replaced my nonsense time (tv, movies, drinking) with being outdoors. I started hiking and being around people more. I remarried and was feeling an elevated level of confidence.
In relationship to my health, I still had much to improve. I was eating healthier, but I was not yet taking care of the rest of my body. Out of shame and embarrassment I was only having 2 or 3 bowel movements a week. I did not like to poop because I was embarrassed by the odor. (But everyone does it...I know). My husband, Chris explained to me that the poop I was storing in my body was toxic. Once I heard the word “toxic” in relationship to what I was doing to myself, it scared me. It was an instant improvement for me; I had increased my bowel movements to 5 times a week and now I am at 2-3 times a day.
5. What’s your daily routine like?
During the work week my routine starts at 4:40am when I start my morning with a 5.5 mile run. Being a working mom I need to find creative ways to get time to myself. At 5am while my family sleeps, I can have time to myself running and not take any time away from my family. To me it makes perfect sense.
Before waking the kids for school, Chris and I take 20 minutes to read. We frequently stretch it to 30 minutes to share what we just read. I work as an escrow officer from 8-5. After walking in the door from work, I start dinner. Evenings are typically spent reading, playing, games, park, walks, or biking. Without having a television we find the time we spend together is an increase in quality. We put the kids down for bed at 8pm. At that time Chris and I after making lunches for the next day, will spend a couple of hours connecting. I head to bed around 10:30pm.
My sleep patterns changed dramatically before and after weight loss. I have more energy now. I used to come home after work, sit on the couch and fall asleep around 8:30pm. Now I stay up until 10:30-11pm and I'm up at 4:30am to start running. I feel energized the entire day and sleep great.
My menstrual cycles have constantly been the same for me from my teenage years to current. I have constantly been regular with a 3-4 day period. It is typically light for the first and last day with 1-2 days of a heavy flow.
6. So what’s next?
My life is a continual journey. I am learning things about myself constantly. Things I like and things I recognize I need to release; habits and thoughts that I have suppressed that I am still working on. I am working on my ability to forgive. When I forgive, it's not that I say I forgive you, but I completely let it go from my thoughts and I will not punish you for the act a second time. I enjoy self- reflecting. Seeing how I can become more humble, relatable and compassionate towards others.
I desire to run a full marathon and be an inspiration to woman who feel that are too far overweight to even start. I am continually working on improving my self- respect. I am enjoying learning to love myself, it feels wonderful. The more I fall in love with myself, the stronger my character becomes to love others exactly where they are and to release judgment on myself and others.
I desire to have several acres of land to plant and harvest plenty of fruit and veggies for my entire family to receive. I feel that the weight I was carrying was symbolic of the baggage I have been carrying around emotionally. I feel that the times I have released a heavy emotional anchor in my life, I typically drop around twenty pounds. Seeing the strong connection between the two I was unable to deny the evidence. When people ask me how I continue to lose weight, I find it difficult to explain in a short answer as it has more to do with thinking than it does to do with food. Once I started thinking differently, the food part was easy to change.
Tiffany’s hunch was right. There was the sense of “baggage” holding her back. I’m not a personal fan of running because of my body type but in Tiffany’s instance her approach to her weight management was correct. It took the “movement” aspect of Vata to propel not only the fat to move from the body but also her thought process. Visualize it this way – Kapha was like a big bear too thick in sluggishness to realize it was sitting on a tiger and a bird and in turn suffocating them.
Prana, or the vital life energizing force, rides on the breath. In order to have the full expression of prana in our bodies we need efficient circulation. In some cases, that may mean learning how to relax to release the constriction of fear in the channels. In this case, there was a blockage. Kapha (earth/water) was blocking the flow of Vata (air/ether). With movement, came a whole new release on life. As the air became free flow it also stoked her Pitta, which helped in digesting her food into more nutritious tissue. When our food is properly digested we don’t crave, whether it’s snacks or otherwise. Rather than focus solely on food for her weight loss she focused on improving her state of mind and her environment – this was a sure way to achieve long lasting success.
Tiffany’s routine reflects the perfect environment for her. Her wake/sleep cycle works well for the body type that tends towards Kapha. If left unchecked, Kapha can become lethargic and lazy. An early start to the day is a good way to keep the prana flowing; it will ensure the rest of the day remains light. Kapha will also tend toward emotional eating – they are the great lovers of the 3 doshas and aim to ensure their family life remains happy. It is a tough situation for a mother and working woman to take the time out for herself, however in order to be fully present to our partners and children it is essential that the space for self-reflection be considered worthy of being a daily priority.
Her energy is better. Her bowel movements flow free and are regular. Her menstrual cycle is not affected by her running and continues to come like clockwork. She deals with stress better, her kids get more play time from her and she has found a loving relationship, which reflects her positive state of mind. Her self-reflection on letting go is exactly the attitude it takes to move Kapha via the act of forgiveness, which creates more space for Vata and Pitta to work more efficiently.
And best of all, she dreams big and her prana is strong. Just spend a few minutes in her presence and you feel like you might conquer your own formidable mountain.