We set forth on a walk outside and up the mountain during the early hours of the day. It was me and my closest friend. It was at the hour of daybreak in the midst of a heatwave. The journey had hardly begun and already the air was thick and the sweat was building up. There was little to say at the time. There was only the incline ahead of us which picked up quickly.
The trail led us in a zig-zag, uphill direction through the woods. The terrain was slightly muddy, slightly rocky, and a good foothold was important. Every so often, I looked up to see the sky change from dim to light. I looked upwards from beneath the canopy of tall trees to eventually see the morning sunlight trickling through the leaves that moved in the morning wind.
I knew the climb ahead was going to be steep. My backpack was over-packed and too heavy and with only a short amount of time invested, I was already intimidated. I had yet to lose much of the weight —so already, I was carrying my own excess, let alone the excess of too much weight on my back. My breathing wheezed as if there was something in my airways and at minimum, it was best to describe myself as extremely out of shape.
In the beginning of this hike, all I could do is think of all the reasons why I should not have been on this mountain. In the early parts of my climb, all I could focus on was the humid air and the pain in my knees, which began early in our trip.
I thought about the battle I had within myself and the lack of courage I felt to challenge me. I was overweight and out of shape. I believed I was ugly. I felt ugly. I was tired. I was beaten. But I was also tired of feeling beaten. I was tired of feeling shame and tired of feeling my own self-rejection. It was me against me and to me, this was a battle I was tired of losing.
My friend was someone I have always admired and always appreciated. He was already seasoned at this. He had been hiking for a few years now. He was in “Hill” shape was we called it. He knew how to pick his backpack. He had also undergone a serious weight loss of his own. Dropping from more than 300lbs. and down to just over 200, the climb was something he was used to —or perhaps it would be fair to say, his body was more seasoned than mine.
The fact that I was in his company was motivation enough. This held me accountable to my performance. I did not want to face the humiliation and say, “Hey, can we go back,” because I knew there was no going back. This hill, this hike, and this climb was a commitment to me —and like it or not, tired or not, I was committed to all of the above.
Safe to say my fear of interpersonal shame wore heavier on me than the discomfort in my breathing. It is also safe to say that the pain in my knees and the strain in my back was less worrisome than the fear that I would be seen as less-than or incapable. However, this is not to say that my friend was overly pushy. Not all. In fact, on the contrary, my friend was supportive to me. He reminded me to keep hydrated and helped me to breathe in and out. If we needed to, we rested for a quick moment. We drank water. We looked around to see the sunlight trickle down through the canopy of the trees and then we returned to the uphill trail.
I was tired and it was hot. The air was thick and I swore I could hear the sound of my heart beating in my chest and echoing through my ears.
It was beautiful though, the surroundings, I mean.
The trees were tall and they had been there long before you or I or anyone we ever knew was alive or born. These trails were historical. In fact, Washington and his troops were in this very same part of the woods, which gave the trip a sort of surreal feeling because the trees I walked passed were perhaps just as tall and maybe just as mysterious then as they are now.
We passed by a small cave called The Lemon Squeezer, which was a hiding spot where some of the revolutionaries would hide the stolen goods that they picked off from the British camps.
Safe to say the toughest part of this climb was in the beginning. This is not to say that the climb was any easier or that i was less tired or more energized on the way up. This just means the more I put into my climb, the more I had invested in it —and the more I had invested, the more I realized that I could not turn away.
Midway up the hill, I knew the top of the climb was coming. I knew that if I stopped to turn around, then I would have to endure the walk dome alone. I knew that soon enough, I would catch my break. I knew that soon enough I would reach the top. And the top became this elusive thing because each time I thought we were close enough to see the top, the trail turned and took us another way up and upwards towards another incline. And the heat was picking up. My sweat was thick now. My knees were hurting and so were my ankles. My back was strained and that little voice inside my head was screaming, “Why are we doing this?”
I was uncomfortable and insecure and listening to the emotional mind fire off in a long, whiny ramble of complaints. The emotional mind only understands instant gratification. It wants to be fixed. It wants everything to be solved. The emotional mind does not want to suffer or fear. It does not want to feel insecure or unworthy. The emotional mind’s biggest fear is to feel exposed or ashamed. It does not understand long term investment—no, all the emotional mind wants is instant success. The emotional mind wants the biggest possible pay off with the least possible effort. However, this climb was far from the least possible effort.
This climb was steep and strenuous. The change in my nutrition was less rewarding to me than say, my usual comfort foods which I chose to eat in unlimited portions. I satisfied the emotional brain with the instant gratification of food. I stuffed feelings and fed my pain until my belly was full. I ate sweets. I ate fast foods, greasy foods, and worse, I ate them all in bulk.
Midway through the climb, I was on a new pathway of nutrition. There were no rewards in my new choice of foods—least of all, there was no rewards of things like say, a good meal where we ate so much i had to unsnap the button of my jeans. I changed my caloric intake. I changed my sugar intake and carb intake. My source of energy was from protein and healthy, natural fats. And now I was uncomfortable. Now I was in pain. Now I was feeling insecure and incapable. I was midway through the climb, wishing I was home or on the couch and enjoying the air-conditioning.
I wanted to go back but I couldn’t. I wished I could turn around but I would have been lost; plus, I couldn’t turn around because if I did, I would have to face the shame in telling my friend, “I quit,” and “We need to turn around.”
Besides, even if I did say this, my friend would have said, “No,” or he would have told me, “We’re almost there,” which I knew was a lie because I had asked him how much further and his answer was always, “We’re almost there,” for more than an hour of our hike.
I think I hated this my entire way up. I was not sold on the hike. I was not interested in braving the hill or swatting the flies away. It was pretty, yes, I agree.
It was nice to see deer in their element and watch them perk up when seeing us along the trail. It was beautiful, I agree, but the discomfort I felt was too much for me. I was too tired and carrying too much weight. I was sweaty. It was hot and there was no end in sight —until, at last, we reached the top.
And this is where the change came in.
I looked out at the world from a cliff of a mountain. I saw the way the mountains wove together below the cliff. I saw the way the color of leaves on the trees different in the spectrum of green and how the shade variation of color from the hilltops looked perfectly beautiful. The sunlight beamed down and the patches of clouds left shadows on the treetops.
Suddenly, I wasn’t tired anymore. Suddenly, I was exhilarated by the fact that I had made my climb. I was on top of a mountain in spite of myself.
In spite of my doubts and in spite of my fears, my worries, and in spite of my emotional nonsense, my intellectual mind took over and hushed the inner child by ensuring it through our ability to endure.
Yay for the intellectual brain . . .
The intellectual brain understands the ideas of long term commitment. The intellectual mind does not know about fear; it does not think about the concepts of worry or concerns itself with failure —all the intellectual mind thinks about is strategy to achieve. It thinks about the plan and the navigation of the trip. The intellectual brain does not think about doubt or gives in to insecurity —it just computes facts, not opinion. It moves. It goes. it achieves.
Sometimes we get stuck in our thoughts. And usually, the reason why we stay stuck or we give in is because of the investment we lend to our emotional statistics. Had I done this, perhaps, I might have quit.
Had I done this, perhaps, I might not have made up to the top of the mountain. And more importantly, had I given in to the emotional mind; had I listened to the long list of doubts and fears or given in to the outcries for the comfort foods and the old routines, which I used at one point to satiate that internal need (or cry) and had I given in, I would have never made it up to the top of the mountain.
I would have never lost the weight. I would have never learned how to eat properly, healthy, and I would have never learned which foods interacted with my body in beneficial ways.
I lost 60lbs because of trips like this.
I lost 60lbs because I chose not to give in. I chose to allow my intellectual mind to be the primary source of my decisions. I chose to ignore the child within and his cries and instead, I allowed the adult in me to parent that child.
I encouraged me from within. And when I stood at the top of the mountain and looked down, ah, the view was enough proof for me to see the benefits of my new life.
Always be mindful of your thoughts because that’s all they are. They are just thoughts, And be mindful of your fears and insecurities too. They are just feelings and they are only as threatening as you allow them to be.
Best choices in cases like this are as follows:
- Choose the right support group and stick with it
- Choose to be around people that push you to be accountable for yourself
- Do not allow yourself to be overrun by thought
- Replace negative thought with positive action
- Learn the secret of your endurance (only you know the answer to this)
- Learn what inspires you
- Keep that inspiration close to your heart
- And when you’re in the middle of a climb, don’t look down, just look up, and keep going!