Barriers – Breaking Them Down



Some of you may remember back in May one of our members shared her story about her journey towards going from zero fitness to completing a FULL marathon. Since completing her marathon Mary has had ups and downs and for me I felt that a lot of Mary’s experiences and emotional attachment with food would strike a chord with those of us out there who also struggle with self sabotage and emotional eating. I asked Mary if she would like to share her story – and what she has written is more than I would ever have asked for. A truthful, honest and deeply personal account of her ups and downs with her emotional relationship with food. What I hope it will bring is that glimmer of hope that – no – maybe change cannot and will not happen overnight…..BUT if we keep on reaching through and challenging ourselves to improve, even if it’s one small step at a time, we can and we will break through the barriers we create in our minds. Mary has already proven 10 fold to all those people who doubted her and carried on against the odds to train and complete 26.2 miles – and now hopefully this will be the start of her next stage and continued growth and improvement towards her weight loss goals.

The concept of weight loss seems simple enough right?! Eat less + Move more = Lose weight! For some people who have never had issues with their weight it can be hard to grasp the deep set issues that some people have with food that make this simple formula so hard to follow! But for those of us who struggle and continue to struggle with our relationships with food it is not always quite as simple as it appears on the surface. For many of us we develop an emotional relationship with food. Rewarding ourselves with food for happy celebrations, soothing our souls with food when we are down – often any situation can be resolved with food and eventually it becomes a vicious cycle and habit that becomes difficult to break. For many of us it almost has an “addictive” type quality to it and the urge to eat purely for the sake of eating can become overwhelming. It is very easy to sit down on the outside and tell somebody how “easy” it is to lose weight. Believe me – I have told myself how easy it SHOULD be, and when I am in a good state of mind mentally it really does become so much easier………but when emotions start to get involved a seemingly easy task becomes surprisingly difficult to achieve! The thing we need to remember is that each and every person is different. Yes, for some of us it really is a case of just allowing ourselves to get a little bit lazy and stuck in a rut with our food and exercise – changing a few portion sizes around and adding a little more exercise and the scales will move. But for those who have battled for some time and allowed bad food habits to take hold a little more – it is the emotional barriers that also have to be broken, and over coming and breaking through those barriers to help enable us to move forward.

My Story of Breaking Barriers – Mary Webb

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

I am so nervous as I start to write this as I am anxious as to what emotions I will experience and also what home truths will come to the surface. Hannah suggested to me to write my story over 2 weeks ago and I’ve been quaking ever since about delving into what is hidden and having to face myself, extremely uncomfortable feelings and sensations.

The past year has been sensational in so many ways and I don’t think the magnitude of what I have accomplished has fully sunk in. This time last year I was 8 weeks into a running plan Hannah had devised for me and I was losing weight and very focused. I enjoyed the tangible progress I was making each day in being able to run for longer and I found the focus this new healthy lifestyle gave me. It helped me stay grounded and deal with other tough situations going on in my life. I hadn’t ran in over 20 years so I started slow and steady, doing run/walks and built up my endurance, adding extra minutes of running each day. Some runs were powerful and steady and I could feel my progress. Other runs were desperate altogether, with aches and pains, cramps, and lots of heavy breathing, tantrums and tears and times I felt like giving up as it felt my progress was going backwards. But I persevered and kept lacing up those runners.

Breaking Barriers - Running Cheaper than Therapy

Under Hannah’s guidance and encouragement I trained for my first marathon, despite being obese, and built up my endurance over 6 months of tough, grueling training. My confidence soared every week as I got through all of my long runs and even though there were tears and many moments of self-doubt, I still kept lacing up my runners and getting out there on the roads to run. Part of my training involved taking part in the Wicklow Gaol Break Half Marathon back in March. It was my first race ever and I was so excited. Every experience on race day was so new and it was incredible to be there watching other runners and wondering what their stories were and getting swept along in the excitement. I was fit to burst picking up my race number and my t-shirt 🙂 Running with other people and in an actual race was an exhilarating experience and the adrenaline rush was addictive. It was the best feeling in the world. I finished strong, for me, taking 13 minutes off my PB the previous week. I was nowhere near fast, finishing in 3 hours 4 minutes but I didn’t give a fiddlers, I had run MY fastest 13.1 miles, I was running my race for ME, I was only competing against myself and I felt sensational. A mile is still a mile, whether you run it in 6 minutes or in 15 minutes. I had learned that having patience and being consistent with my training, that my passion and self-belief in my own goals and dreams were fueling my ambitions for myself and anything, everything was there for the taking. I didn’t compare myself to anyone else, I just got out there and did the best I could for me, every time I got out on the road and during my first race. I felt very proud of my achievement and my journey so far in getting there and nothing could have touched me, I owned my journey, my accomplishment, and felt very comfortable in my own skin.

Marathon Race Day arrived on May 12th in Kildare and I was so excited taking my first steps at the Start Line. I knew I had a long few hours ahead but I was pumped, I was excited, I knew I could do it 🙂 I had lost a few stone but not as much as I’d hoped so I was still carrying a lot of excess weight so my goal for the marathon was to come in over that Finish Line in under the cut off time, under 7 hours, and I did. I completed my first marathon at Run Kildare in 6 hours 54 mins :). I was ecstatic. My family was there to cheer me over the line, as were my friends from home and also my new friends from Why Weight Ireland and I was on top of the world. I felt wonderful. I felt I could do anything I set my mind to. I was battered but I felt like a warrior. I’d had a lot of time to think while I was out there pounding the roads that day, and much to reflect on. Even though I was still very overweight, I was comfortable in my skin and my focus on my body was what it could DO as opposed to what it LOOKED like. I was so grateful that I could move my body, that I had been blessed with the capability to train hard for this epic race, I was so thankful to be there, allowing myself to endure for another few hours. I was happy out. There were times over the previous training months where it was absolute torture getting out for a run, my legs were in bits, my mind was melted, there were calls to my mother after every single run to share either my pure delight and wonder at a savage run or my despondency at a desperate run, roaring “Christ Mammy, I’m a pure crap runner!….SOB!!” 🙂

I was elated in the moments and hours after my marathon feat. Here is an excerpt from my marathon journal, recalling how empowered and strong I was feeling ……

The atmosphere was extraordinary and I was very happy. The next time someone roars at me at how fat I am, how obese I am and how repulsive I look to them, with such distain in their voice that in the past it made my eyes water from the blow, I won’t even flinch, it won’t even get in under my skin because it won’t even register as being worthy of a response. I am MORE than what I look like, I am MORE than someone else’s perception of my attractiveness. I have completed a full MARATHON!! My accomplishment on Sunday has shown me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to once I believe in myself and do what I have to do to make it happen. And it’s true what they say, the training is the hardest part, once you follow your training plan you will fly it on the day. It’s extraordinary what you can achieve, once you believe”.

The thing is, within a few weeks of finishing my marathon; I seemed to be losing that self-belief I’d fought so hard to own and to experience. I had taken a couple of weeks off from training after the race as I was aching, walking funny, and the soles of my feet were covered in blisters and a few toe nails were saying farewell! LOL! All through my training I was so proud of what I was doing and my self belief and self respect was reaching new highs, I was thinking to myself “When I finish this 26.2 miles of blood, sweat and tears, my self esteem and self regard will know no bounds and there should be no reason for me to doubt myself or my abilities. I will focus now and lose all this flabby weight, I will ROCK, I WILL BE ON FIRE!!!” 🙂 The euphoria did last for a while but before I knew it I was back in a pit of despair and feeling so, so melancholy. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that after such an epic accomplishment that I was back to doubting myself and feeling like a failure.

This past Summer I horsed back on all the weight I had lost with Hannah and some more besides. I was back to blending in with the background, hiding myself away, not wanting to be seen, isolating myself, shallow breathing as it seemed like I was taking up too much space, and completely mortified if anyone saw me. I felt disgusting, revolting for the size I was. I was practically masochistic as I replayed painful things that have been said to me in the last few years by people I‘ve loved…..”My God, Mary! The state of you! Sure, you’re morbidly obese, absolutely repulsive!!”……”You’re MASSIVE! You’re not who you used to be!!” and didn’t want to be around me anymore because of what I’d done to myself, followed then with, just to drive the boot home, “But you FAIL at EVERYTHING YOU DO! I can’t watch you anymore fail at absolutely everything you do!”………… like a broken record this has been playing in my head the last few months and stupidly I have taken it on board, believed it and let it sink in as fact.

I wasn’t always a big girl. I was a normal healthy size and weight as a child and a teenager. My relationship with food was normal; I enjoyed my treats like anyone else but didn’t overindulge. When I was 17 I joined the local rowing club, training 4 times a week and I absolutely loved it. I loved the challenge and skill required to race as a team and the hours of running, resistance training and time on the water building our strength and power. We entered many races during regatta season and I was in my element. I owned my body and enjoyed what it could do.

In my mid twenties however my relationship with my body and with food seemed to change dramatically. Looking back now I can pinpoint when I started to overeat and slowly but surely put on weight. I am a survivor of childhood rape, which occurred over a few years when I was a child and young teen. I have received the appropriate counseling (and still do) and my family and friends have been so loving and supportive, particularly my wonderful mother Carmel. I would be lost without her constant love and courage. When I was in my 20s my abuser died suddenly. I attended his funeral, just to make sure he was indeed dead. Since then however I have put on weight every year since and more and more each year. That was nearly 14 years ago and I am now 8 stone overweight. I believe I wear all these layers of flab as a protection, I can hide behind it, I feel safer behind it. The slimmer I become it seems the more exposed and vulnerable I feel.

However I am suffocating beneath this “protection”. I’ve come to realise that it is more painful to hide myself away than to come out of my self-imposed cocoon and flourish likeBreaking Barriers - Break Through The Wall I know I can. I am the only person that is confining myself behind walls and defences that I have built around myself. I want to blossom, I want to flourish, I want to sparkle! I want to lose all this excess weight. I am the only one stopping myself from doing so. It’s up to ME to shape and control my days. I shape me, no one else. I alone am responsible for the quality of my life. To know and finally believe these truths is very empowering. My mother Carmel and my sister Emma have staged more interventions with me over the Summer months that my eyes watered every time I saw them suddenly at the front door, trying to help me see myself in a better and more loving light. Also my Aunty Ann was as exasperated with me, declaring “ My God Mary, if you could only see yourself how WE see you, how wonderful you really are!!” Thank you ladies for being there 🙂

Over time I have become my own bully, believing criticisms as truth and berating myself for not being good enough. I know that I am worthy of having joy in my life. I am choosing now to see things differently. I’m realising that I deserve better than what I have been allowing myself, and this is making it easier to let go of any negative messages that have come from others. A couple of weeks ago Pat Kenny interviewed Mickey Harte, the Tyrone football coach, on Newstalk radio and what Mickey said really touched a chord with me. He said that if you don’t engage in things that are hurtful and you put it aside, you don’t then let it get in on you. He quoted Fr. Vincent Travers, that if somebody gives you a present and you choose not to accept it, with whom does the present remain? It remains with the giver. He went on to say that this is equally true of criticism or people who are being hurtful or speaking hurtfully about you, it only has a value if you take on the value of the hurt. You can actually deflect the hurt and let it stay where it belongs; it’s a grace to be able to look at life that way.

So now, what’s my next step? I know that emotionally it will be difficult losing the weight but every last pound that I work for to lose will be so worth it. I will not give up. I will not quit. I know that I have an innate worth that I am tapping in to and I am excited about my journey ahead. Hannah Nolan and Why Weight Ireland have been a big part in my self-discovery this last year and now it’s time to take it to a new level and work at losing this 8 stone of baggage. I’ve signed up for the next 6 months with the food diary and Hannah has a list of sweat and tear inducing workouts and plans for the next few months that will keep me busy! LOL! I’m looking forward to having my stars put up on the wall in the studio with each stone I lose and finally being able to leave my hand prints too when I reach my goal weight. Dublin City Marathon 2014 is also on the cards for next year so an exciting, exhilarating year ahead! 🙂

Let There Be No More Breaking Barriers

Nothing is impossible beautiful girl, be kind to yourself, stay strong, stay beautiful, be yourself. Believe. 🙂

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