Here we are, Day 25. Just what did I learn from all this? This project started on a whim. I woke up October 31st and said “I have an idea.” I am so grateful that I didn’t have much time to think about how honest I would need to be to do this well, because I am quite certain I would’ve chickened out. Luckily I didn’t because here’s what I’ve learned from this project: 1. I have felt bad about my body more than I’ve felt good. I’d venture to say is at least an 80/20 split if I look back over my entire 35 years. That makes me really sad. I am someone who’s been exercising regularly since high school and on some sort of diet since then as well – so for all that effort I shouldn’t spend so much time feeling badly about my hips. I realize however that I’ve let these feelings take me over at times – too many times. I’ve realized that the way the outside looks has very little to do with how I feel inside. This project has shed a bit of light on the discrepancy between what I see when I look in the mirror and reality. I suspect I look a tad better – even on my worse day – than I ever give myself credit for. It helps to know this. It allows me to calm down and get a more realistic perspective. 2. When I feel bad about my body it spills out all over my life. If my jeans feel a little snug or my face looks puffy or my thighs feel bulkier than usual, I feel agitated, cranky and upset. Before this project I often felt this way and didn’t put two and two together. Sometimes my mind would spin so fast from “these jeans are feeling tight” to me flipping out about how many workouts I could squeeze in this week, how good I need to eat this week and all the things I shouldn’t do if I want to undo this bad feeling. All this planning of course was after a wave of disappointment, anger, guilt, sadness and general yuck washed over me. This all happened in my mind in a matter of seconds, and I didn’t realize the profound effect it had on my mood and my interactions with others. At least now the process has slowed down a bit and I can recognize where the crankiness came from and deal with it….chances are there will be another day of tight feeling jeans in my future, so this is a useful skill. 3. It fascinates me that I chose helping women lose weight as a career. This job is not somewhere I can hide from my issues – well I could, but I doubt I’d be very good at it if I did. These past 25 days solidified for me that there’s no value in hiding about how negative body image issue affect me. I can do more good for myself and all of you out here, in the open. When that Amazon.com reviewer called me fat, it hurt my feelings but also I was scared she’d knocked me down from the expert status I’d worked so hard for – after all, who wants to get fat loss advice from a fat girl? I could look at myself and say I’m obviously not obese, but that didn’t really matter. Her words hurt because they are things I’ve said to myself time and time again – and like I said, what the outside looks like doesn’t matter if our insides are talkin’ trash. I could be 130 pounds or 330 pounds and still feel fat. Still feel badly about my body. Still be afraid to talk about it. As it turns out, her words freed me and when I decided to give up the notion that I had to be perfect, look perfect and make all this weight loss stuff look easy, I found my voice. There’s nothing to be scared of if you’re not hiding anything. 4. I know without a doubt now that I can change, in an instant, how I feel. There were days writing this blog when I didn’t feel good, struggled to find something to be grateful for and wondered why I’d volunteered to be so open and vulnerable. But when I quieted down I not only was able to feel grateful, I was able to feel better about myself. This lesson was invaluable. There will be those days when I ate too many carbs and gain 4 pounds of water weight. There will be days when I have cheese and wake up with a puffy face. There will be days when I’ve got PMS and I could look like Miss America and still feel flabby. But what I do know now is that I can change my thoughts, which will change my actions and I can feel better. In this same vein I learned that when I’m feeling crappy, even if I can’t turn it around in minutes, the feeling good is out there. It may be just a day away, but I can trust that I will feel better again. 5. I knew this before, but I think I was able to put it in practice these past 25 days – and that is that working my way towards a better body does not have to be filled with self loathing. I can hit the gym with a smile on my face just as easy as I can sentence myself to another mile on the treadmill. Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy for some of us. So if most of my days will be spent eating salad and doing pushups then I can do it feeling good or I can do it feeling bad. Either way I’ll be doing it, so I opt for happy. I’m very grateful for all the support my readers have given me; it’s made a scary process much easier.I hope this has been a valuable 25 days for all of you. I’ve received so many emails from women asking for the project not to stop – which I loved! While the Gratitude Project is at a close I’ve already got some ideas for what’s next, so sit tight! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Please have a great day….and feel good about yourself, make good choices for yourself and be grateful for what you’ve got as you move towards what you want.