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If You Are Reading This – I Owe You An Apology

Almost four years ago, I started doing something that I never should have done.

I stopped being a blogger. You see a blogger, is someone that regularly writes material for a blog.

I was a blogger, a very passionate weight loss blogger for the better part of five years from 2010-2015. Many of you followed me along my journey from desperately seeking slender at 420lb. and my challenge to get my BMI to where I needed it to be to have weight loss surgery. Many more of you joined me through my weight loss journey, through the death of my father and through my reconstructive surgery journey. Together we ran half marathons and traveled all the way to Wilmington, NC, where I began pursuing my dream to become a personal trainer and help those affected by obesity.

Then it all started to change…

Though I still passionately pursued my dreams, and in fact, made them a reality, I stopped sharing that journey with you.

Looking back at it now it’s easy for me to see what transpired. It’s a little harder for me to admit it, own it, and write about it. When you write something down in words and publish it for the world to see, you can’t take it back. You are now vulnerable and exposed. I used to be good at being vulnerable and exposed. That is what many of you admired about me.

But once we got to that part of the journey together, when I had torn down all the walls that I had built up behind my weight, given up my relationship with food and realized much to my surprise that losing weight didn’t instantly fix everything that was wrong in my life, all that was left was the woman that had started building all those walls to begin with.

I convinced myself that I didn’t have anything relevant to write about.

I wasn’t “desperately seeking slender” anymore. I had achieved slender. I had accomplished the healthy lifestyle that my father and wished for me. I told myself that if I kept writing about all the stuff that was going on in my life I would just be the “skinny bitch” that everyone wanted to shut up and stop rambling on about how great their life was while everyone else was still in that desperately seeking slender phase.

But that was far from the truth. I had plenty to write about. I just didn’t want to write about it. I didn’t want anyone to know how much I was struggling. I didn’t want to be honest, exposed and vulnerable. I didn’t want to be judged or gossiped about. I was scared. So, I started building walls again.

This time I build them with silence, exercise, a busy career, and “love” instead of food.

Losing all the weight had made me a healthier version of myself. I was fitter and in much better physical health. I had a much better chance at the “happy and healthy life” my father had wanted for me so badly. But I was nowhere near happy. I wanted to be happy. I was chasing happy like a coyote chases a road runner. But if you’ve ever seen Wile E. Coyote chase Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon, you can only guess how that was working out for me.

This presented a whole different issue. Here I was, trying to make a name for myself in the fitness industry as a weight loss and wellness coach and while I had won my battle with obesity and emotional eating, I was in a whole new battle with emotions, my past, my mental health and myself.

It’s time to own the truth, be honest and vulnerable again…

Some people might call me an addict. In truth, once upon a time I was an addict. A food addict. Now, I’m a recovering food addict. As a recovering food addict the one thing I know beyond any shadow of a doubt is that I can’t ever go back to that addiction. I can’t let myself slip back into that dark place. I’ve been there before. I’ve fallen off the wagon. It ended up with me weighing 420 lbs. for a second time in my life and having to find the strength courage and perseverance to start all over.

I’ve been emotionally and verbally barraged by someone I dated for the unhealthy behaviors I used as my coping mechanisms enough times to have almost been convinced that addiction was my problem. But I know, at the core of who I am, that is not what my problem is.

No matter what my vice is at any given time. I can trade it for something else. If I want to. I stress the I in there. Because it must be something I want. Not something someone else wants for me.

If you try to bully me, pressure me into doing it, beat me up for it emotionally, nag me about it all the time, argue with me about it in a fashion that board lines emotional abuse, what you end up with is Pandora in survival mode and victim mode.

I’ll fight back just like I did when I was a little girl being emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually or verbally abused. Whatever fashion you come at me in, I will come out swinging in the same manner. And when the fight is over, I will do what I do best, find some sort of escape from it.

Because that is what my issue is… I am an escapist.

There is always something that I am using to distract myself from whatever reality, issue or emotion I don’t want to face. Something that makes me “feel better,” whether that’s emotionally, mentally or physically. Sometimes I make some good choices regarding what I use as my escape, other times, I make some horrible ones.

We can talk all about addiction vs. escapism in blogs to come. Because I promise you, there are more blogs to come. We can talk more about food addictions, healthy emotional outlets, unhealthy emotional outlets. We can talk about how losing weight doesn’t fix everything. We can talk about battling re-gain, about weight maintenance. We can talk about exercise, fitness, and nutrition. We can talk about how desperately some of us that have been affected by obesity seek love, to the point that causes us even more emotional and mental trauma.

We can even talk about that 10 lbs. of yo-yo weight gain/weight loss that if we tallied up would probably be another 100 lbs. of weight loss and in the end, constantly leaves us in that “Desperately Seeking Slender” struggle with obesity.

You see we have a whole lot to talk about. I was lying to myself when I convinced myself differently.

I used silence as my escape from the dark realities of life after bariatric surgery and weight loss.

I am not going to do that anymore. I owe you all a big apology for doing it to begin with. Because you see my friends, the truth is, if I had stayed open, honest and vulnerable with you through my journey, some of you who were experiencing the same sort of things might have had an easier time with it. You might have known you were not alone.

Some of you might have appreciated knowing there was someone else struggling with the same things. Some of you might have been more prepared for some of the issues, challenges and obstacles you might face.

I got called out on my silence.

Here I was trying to convince this woman I hold in such high regard, that the entire reason I wasn’t a blogger anymore was because I had decided that what I had to say was irrelevant to people, and that they didn’t want me going on and on. I was trying to convince her, and in truth myself, that I had gone silent because it was what I would have wanted. I explained how I thought I needed to get someone else, that was more in that phase of “Desperately Seeking Slender” to write for this blog and its previous reader base. I justified it all by telling her how I always tried to treat people the way I would want to be treated.

This is what she said…

 “You deciding what other people didn’t want to hear about was selfish Pandora. Maybe some people thought that you had found your “slender” and you left them behind, abandoned them, and that you didn’t need them anymore. The golden rule is to treat people the way you want to be treated. But the Platinum rule is to treat people the way they want to be treated.”

That hit home hard. First because she was exactly right. What I did was selfish. But even more so, because what she proposed some people MIGHT have felt. Was exactly how I would have felt. So not only am I guilty of not treating my readers how they might have wanted to be treated, I’m guilty of not treating my readers how I would have wanted to be treated.

I vanished. No explanation, no discussion. I used silence as an escape and the facade of a far to busy life and good intentions to justify it.

To each one of you who have read even one of my blogs throughout the years…

To those of you who might have read all the blogs I haven’t posted in this period of silent escapism and couldn’t because I didn’t write them…

To anyone that felt like I moved on and abandoned them, or worried about the reasons behind my textual Houdini act…

I apologize.  

It was one of those “really horrible” choices of escapism methods I mentioned I sometimes make.

Now that I’ve come to terms with the reality that I have done it, I am choosing not to escape in this fashion anymore. I am back. I am willing to be open, honest and vulnerable again. Today that vulnerability starts with …

I am sorry.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

We Will Always Have Disney Paris

… We will always have Paris!

There is a famous line from a famous movie of which I have never seen: “We’ll always have Paris.” From what I understand it’s a line used in parting as the lead character realizes that the end of their romance is over and he fondly consoles her by reminding her that they will always have good memories.

Obviously since I am quoting this movie, I will have to actually take the time to watch it. This might be a painful experience for me. I am not really big on 1942 black and white movies and no matter how good you tell me it is, I’m going to ask you why you need me to go back and relive the past. However, I can hardly use that as an excuse when that is what I am about to do here today.

Writing a memoir of my good memories and being pressured into watching movies that were made back when we lacked the technology of bright colors and high-definition picture are two very different things. Right? If you feel me here let me know.

I digress. The point here is that I have this amazing experience from my recent trip to Paris to share with you. My photos from it, unlike Casablanca, are in color, so in my mind that makes this entire blog a reasonable time expenditure from my normally busy day.

I’ve already written a very detailed account of my Paris trip that will be posted on The Bari Blog in the near future. I’ll spare you the details that will be given there and instead share the emotional side of my Paris adventure with you.

The emotional reactions that we have to things are unexplainable sometimes. As an example, I really thought that when I crossed the finish line of my first full marathon and completed the Dopey Challenge during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend this last January I would break down in tears of joy at what would be a monumental accomplishment in both my fitness and weight loss journey. I didn’t though. I felt accomplished. I was extremely proud of myself, but there wasn’t an overwhelming emotional reaction to it.

Honestly, I haven’t had that sort of raw emotionally overwhelming reaction to completing a half marathon since the first one I ran in honor of my father on Father’s Day back in June of 2013.  I’ve ran a few half marathons since then and while each and every one of them gives me that amazing sense of accomplishment and allows me to experience that all-so-often talked about ‘runner’s high’, none of them had quite touched my heart as emotionally and as deeply as that first one had.

Every run brings with it a different experience. Sometimes the joy I get from participating in a half marathon event is rewarding to me because I’m lucky enough to have the privilege of being next to someone who I have helped achieve the accomplishment of crossing their first finish line. Typically that is one of the biggest motivators and emotionally rewarding experiences there is for me.

Sometimes it’s the simple joy of running next to one of my dear friends. I run with one of my best friends quite often and every time we run together I think of how blessed I am to have a friend that enjoys the half marathon craze the same way I do.

Paris was different. Paris had an emotional charge to it that I am not really sure I can explain, but I am going to try….

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Welcome to Disneyland Paris RunDisney 2016

When the opportunity to do this event came knocking on my door I knew it was a once in a lifetime chance that I couldn’t pass up. It was an opportunity I knew without a doubt my Father would want me to take. Unlike my previously sponsored runs, this one wasn’t about me taking someone else with me to have their first half marathon experience, it was about me going to France to represent the Bariatric Community and share that experience with everyone and that meant a lot to me.

I honestly believe that when it comes to fighting obesity we can achieve anything through determination, hard work and courage. I think those are three of the fundamental necessities of recovering from obesity.

Recovery from obesity is not a simple process. You have to be willing to keep fighting even when it gets hard. You have to be willing to make big life changes that are not always comfortable, fun, or easy.

You have to have the courage to face whatever is going on in your life on an emotional, mental and physiological level that has driven you into the depths of obesity.

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August of 2009 at Disneyland in California at my highest recorded weight of over 420 lb.

You have to be willing to triumph over plateaus that make you want to pull your hair out. You have to be willing to eat healthy when your emotions are on overdrive and all you really want is comfort food. You have to be willing to rally yourself against the social pressures of using food as method of having relationships with people. You have to be willing to exercise even on those days that it’s hard to talk yourself out of bed.

The fight against obesity is a battle where bluntly often only the strongest thrive.

And yet, each and every one of us possesses that strength. Each and every one of us has it in us. We just find it at different times in our lives and at different points of our journeys. I’m a prime example of this. I didn’t beat obesity the first time I fought it. Heck I didn’t even beat it the third or fourth time I fought it. I tried and tried and I feel on my face time and time again.

In fact if there was a big boss to fight at the end of a video game and it was named Obesity I would have probably thrown the game controller at the television screaming in a temper tantrum that it was too damn hard.

Once I came so close that I lost nearly 200 lb. and weighed the lowest I had ever weighed in my adult life. Then I gained every single pound back and had that entire journey to have to do all over again.

 

But my inherent belief that if I can do this, anyone can do this was exactly what was driving me to be at the start line in Paris. That message is the one that I feel the most obligation to convey to my community.

I’d been to Paris before, as an overweight teenager. If you’d asked me to run twenty-one kilometers while I was there I would have told you that I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t at a point that I was ready because we all arrive at that juncture at a different time.

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My dearly missed friend Joy Muller and I where we first met at the Inaugural OAC Your Weight Matters Convention in 2012

There was another big emotional drive for me in Paris. Several months ago I lost one of my dearest friends. A fellow bariatric patient, and someone whose presence in my life had made a substantial change in my direction. A mental health practitioner by trade, without ever really being asked to, she had assisted me in my pursuit of chasing happy after I had accomplished healthy. A fellow runner and fellow Disney fanatic, she had been a monumental person in my life. Joy was one of my true “ride or dies”. In fact, back at that first half marathon I ran, when I hit my wall and I wasn’t sure I could do it, she had been the one I called, in tears, looking for words of encouragement and motivation.

Finding out that I was going to be running in Paris had been a sudden thing. The opportunity first presented itself when I was in California at the TinkerBell Half Marathon and my friend Jess offered me a place to rest my head if I could figure out how to get myself there. I flew home from that trip and in a two-day turnaround headed out to Nashville to attend the WLSFA Annual Meet and Greet event. It was at that event that I had spoken to the folks at BariLife and knew that I’d be going to Paris for this run. Though that information wasn’t public yet, when I got home the following Monday, Joy was one of the first people who I called to tell it. I knew that as a fellow Disney maniac and someone who had been a pillar in my world, she was going to be super excited for me.

Five short days later on May 21st, when Joy passed away, I felt a grief I hadn’t felt since my father had left the world. It had taken my breath away. It took everything I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Now here I was in Paris, getting ready to run the event that we had talked about over and over again in the days before she had crossed life’s finish line and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that Joy was going to be with me for each and every kilometer of that 21 kilometer run.

I feel the presence of those I have lost when I run. It’s something I cannot describe or give a real world explanation to. This half marathon had a double dose of that going on for me because I just knew the whole way through that Joy and my Dad where up there cheering for me.

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The Facebook photo posted by my friends the morning of my Half Marathon prompted the most emotionally filled start line of my running career.

And then there was you. The Bariatric Community and the amazing friends and family that I have within it…

When I woke up Sunday morning and grabbed my phone to rush out the door for the start line I noticed that there was an unusual number of posts on Facebook that I had been tagged in. I wondered what the heck was going on.

When I opened my Facebook app to investigate it, I was literally overwhelmed with emotion. My Facebook timeline was filled with posts of my before and after photo with a caption that said “Thank you Pandora, 260+ pounds lost, 32 Half Marathons, Inspiring Thousands” – Many of the posts included personal comments from people in the community thanking me for what I have done to try to motivate and inspire others as well as offering me words of encouragement for the event.

Tears fell down my face in what was without a doubt the most emotionally charged start line experience of my running career. Even now as I write this my eyes are watering.

I am unsure that words can convey the emotions that ran through me. There was a moment in this journey after I had lost my weight where I decided that what I wanted more than anything was to help other people fight obesity through fitness. When you make a decision like that, you do it because you want to help others. When the people who you want to help and that you care so much about do something like this, without you knowing that it is coming, it lets you know that what you are doing really is making a difference.

I felt something I can’t really say that I have ever truly felt in such a towering way. I felt recognized. I felt relevant. I felt appreciated. As I kept seeing my before and after photo with the words “Thank you” written on it, I kept wiping the tears from cheeks, and all I could do was hold my hand over my heart, try to catch my breath and keep whispering to myself “No, thank you.”

RunDisney uses the slogan “Every Mile is Magical” for all of their events. While I have enjoyed each and every RunDisney event I have done, they are by far my favorite half marathons, this run – this particular event – was by far the most magical run I have ever experienced. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was running through Disneyland Paris theme parks, it had to do with the fact that I had overwhelming sense of love and happiness right there in my heart every step of the way.

 

At the start line I vowed that I would do nothing but enjoy every moment of this experience. I stopped for any photo I wanted to take. I took moments to stop and appreciate every little thing that caught my eye and capture it to share with those that had touched my heart so much. There was never a wall where I was running out of steam or where I worried about reaching the finish line. There wasn’t a moment that I had to push. Every single mile was pure joy. This was by far the most beautiful, magical and emotionally rewarding run of my career.

Every moment of running through the Disney theme parks, running through the residential streets surrounding it, running through European countryside, cornfields, seeing castles off in the distance, every kilometer marker, every Disney character standing on the side of the course, every marching band and group of cheerleaders, each one was viewed with an appreciation and emotion I have never experienced during a run before. It was magic. Pure magic. And I had all the most important people in my life in my heart sharing it with me with every little rapid beat as I ran.

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An emotional moment  just after crossing the finish line of the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Val d Europe Half Marathon

Leading into this run I had concerns. I’d flared up my achilles tendonitis really bad trying to switch over to new running shoes and I was having to take extra special care and precautions to try to ensure that my ankles were not hurting too much to be able to run on them. Just a couple of weeks prior I’d had the experience of having to walk the last three miles of an event I was running because the pain in my ankles would not allow me to run. Yet on this day, on this run, for 21 full kilometers my ankles never once complained. All my worry and fears were gone and the only thing I felt was this overwhelming sense of love, appreciation, and closeness to those that mattered most to me.

If you had told that overweight teenager that was in Paris twenty-five years ago that someday I would be back here, and that I would spend nine months of my life on the year I turned forty, participating in a Disney based running adventure where I ran a total of 84.1 miles with countless training miles in between, I would never have believed you. Heck if you had told me that six years ago the day I was having my surgery I wouldn’t have believed you then either. I wasn’t ready to be that girl yet. I was nowhere near ready. I didn’t have the determination or the courage yet. Like I said earlier, we all get there at different times in our journey.

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The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Finish Line

But when I crossed that finish line… or I should say when I flew over the finish line, with my arms stretched out like wings and the RunDisney volunteer put that Castle to Chateau medal around my neck commemorating my journey from the Dopey Challenge in Orlando to the Pixie Dust Challenge in California to this Inaugural Half Marathon in Paris, I started to cry.

I knew that something extraordinary had just happened to me. I knew that my Father, Joy and my community were all proud of me, and I knew that I had just done something I would be telling stories about for the rest of my life.

Castle to Chateau Completed!

The finish line in Paris doesn’t actually say “Finish”. It’s in French, so it says “Arrivee” which translates literally to “Arrival” and somehow, this particular finish line had a completely different meaning to me. I knew the moment I approached it, because of the emotional response that I had to it that I had just arrived at a new point in my weight loss journey.

This was a defining moment for me.

This moment changed something inside me.

I knew, with more certainty than I have ever known anything before, that I was and am headed in the right direction and that I am nowhere near finished yet.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

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About (Pandora) The Author

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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