My name is Toby and here is how my awful life got better.
Last week, an amazing thing happened. As I walked across the stage at my graduation, my head stayed high as I shook the university president's hand and accepted my bachelor's degree.
At age 35, I had made a giant stride toward my life goals and my future. My graduation gown hung straight down and I didn't waddle on the stage. What a change from five years ago when I weighed 440 pounds!
I remember sitting in the courthouse on the fateful day when I signed papers declaring bankruptcy, the end result of alcohol, drugs and the lousiest life I could imagine. From that rock bottom day, I started to climb a long flight of stairs toward getting my life back.
One day on the radio, I heard an advertisement for a local hospital-based weight-loss program and I signed up for the long haul. Through months of therapy, learning, crying, hoping and dreaming, I came out on top. I lost almost 200 pounds and rediscovered myself.
For much of the two-year program, I dreamed of the day I'd be done. I looked forward to not having to pay attention to every bite of food or track every minute of exercise by a target heart rate. But at the same time, I continued to work on my life, learning how to feel my emotions instead of shoving them away with food.
I discovered motivation doesn't drop out of the sky. Instead, it evolves from getting up and exercising when my alarm goes off rather than throwing the alarm clock across the room.
The longer I pursued a healthier lifestyle and recognized and dealt with my emotional needs, the better I felt. One thing that really amazed me was the shift in my attitude. I began to recognize that "being done" is a myth. I'll never achieve that dream but instead, I got something better.
I discovered that I can be hurt and lonely, like when my relationship ended last year, and not have to suffocate the pain with hamburgers and french fries. I realized I'm capable of creating a lot of fun in my life. I learned that I can laugh and feel joy without needing my favorite pastries to boost me to that level of pleasure.
Most of all, I realized I don't have to ever be done, and that life is better that way. I live my days with a new congruence with food. I look at it, think about it, eat some of it, and move on. I live in a daily state of learning and openness that gives me constant insight on how funny we are as humans.
Now I flow through life, stepping on lots of rocks along the way, which is far more interesting than a blank river bed. I live consciously, noticing things in my life such as irritation and how it hooks to chocolate chip cookies. I've realized that boredom doesn't come from having nothing to do but from my yearning for meaning in life.
By focusing on taking care of what I need, food has become a side trip instead of the main event. I've learned to live my life, not eat my life. To do that, I had to be willing to take care of myself, and stop blaming everyone around me. Most of all, I had to stop waiting for someone else to do this for me. I had to take responsibility for myself.
Boy, I hated that, and I ran from it for a lot of years. But now I understand it and accept the path of my life. I found out that my journey was not over a huge mountain, but instead, just a lot of little hills.
I'm writing this letter to you, Linda Spangle, because I never told you how crucial you and your business were in my life. Without your input and guidance, I wouldn't be here! But long after I stopped coming to your clinic, I kept reviewing your class materials and my notes from our counseling meetings. And when I was ready to give up and go back to my old way of life, I would hear your voice, gently but firmly reminding me to feel my emotions, express them in healthy ways, and "do the work" instead of reaching for food.
I have now maintained my new weight for almost three years, and I'm confident I will stay in a healthy range with it forever. Thank you Linda for helping me on this journey. I am forever grateful to you and your clinic for being there when I needed you the most!
In love and peace, Toby
Note from Linda:
I received this letter from Toby a bunch of years ago, and I treasure it so much. During the 25 years I ran my weight-loss clinic in Denver, Colorado, I saw a huge number of success stories. I lost track of the number of clients who lost more than 100 pounds.
But none of my successes impacted me like Toby's did. He will always be a shining star in my memories of the clinic. He was also a significant part the work that led me to becoming a successful author and speaker.