Why I Let Myself Go and How I Got Myself Back

I let myself go. In a big, big way (pun intended). When I look at this picture on the left it breaks my heart. The girl in this picture was desperate. She was severely depressed. There was no joy in her life and she had to force herself to get through every day.

It’s a weird dichotomy – the way I relate to this girl. I can look at her and see that she is me. I can get back into that dark place and feel every ounce of pain, rejection, loneliness, fear, panic and hopelessness that she felt.

I can remember the way she isolated herself – walking away from friendships, letting relationships fall apart – all because she didn’t want to be seen. I can still feel the rawness of all of that and I’m crying right now remembering those awful, overwhelming feelings.

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On the other hand, I can feel like I hardly know her, like I never met her. Who is that girl? How the hell did she get so out of control and where the f*ck was I when that happened? Please tell me that I fell asleep and  like a fatted calf I was massaged and tube fed twinkies and beer for a year!

Why did I let myself go? It wasn’t like I stopped caring about my body and resigned myself to be fat but happy. I was miserable. I hated the way I looked and I was embarrassed. I stressed over food every day. So how in the world did that happen? Why did I let myself go?

Instead of controlling my emotions, I let my emotions control me. It sounds benign enough but it’s deadly. It’s letting go of the reigns and being a passive observer of your life.

My emotions were real so it was easy to initially justify letting them take over – I was legitimately sad. I was legitimately overwhelmed. I was legitimately frustrated. It felt good, at first, to give myself a pass because life was hard. My job was stressful so I deserved to treat myself. I was making financial sacrifices to pay off debt so a reward was justified. I was lonely so it was ok to embrace the one thing that made life feel a little less desperate.

Cloaked in the disguise of “letting myself feel”, I became a victim. There was no joy in my life. My mom would ask me what makes me happy and the honest answer was “I can’t think of anything”. Anything.

I had completely isolated myself from everyone in my life and the only thing that brought me solace or comfort was food. I could be alone, turn everything off, not think about my problems or my future and be totally in the moment with my pint of salted caramel ice cream. In those moments, it was just me and my mind-numbing substance of choice – food. For those few moments, nothing else existed.

The thing is though, food didn’t provide solace. In hindsight, it was a numbing agent. A distraction.

I wrote here in detail about the turning point that made me take back control and start to transform my life. It was not easy. Of course I knew I needed to change and I desperately wanted to change but it was hard to admit to myself that I was the problem.

It wasn’t anyone or anything in my life, it was just me and the choices I was making. I despised the idea of characterizing myself as “lazy” but the cold, hard truth was that I was lazy. I wasn’t in control.

I had no self-discipline, no self-control, no motivation. But how do you just choose to love yourself enough to take care of yourself? When you’re deeply depressed how to you motivate yourself to pull up out of the hole and work towards a better tomorrow that you don’t yet believe in?

You get selfish.

Hear me out! Selfish is not a dirty word! You start getting focused on what YOU need first. And before you jump in with arguments about being a wife or a career woman or a mom and those things coming first, let me just say that you’re not your best at ANY of those things if you aren’t bringing your very best self to the table. You’re not. Yes, I still worked a full-time, very demanding job throughout this journey. Yes, I was still a wife. Yes I was still a sister, daughter and friend. But I decided that getting my life back on track required 100% dedication to myself. Building that initial momentum in my fat loss journey required time, attention, laser-focus and lots of practice.

Where I’m at in my journey today, I am motivated by the changes in my body and how far I’ve come. But when I first got started, I didn’t have any of that. I built my confidence and momentum one meal, one workout, one day at a time. I would pass by the donuts at work and think “Good job, E. Right this moment, you’re building a healthier body”. I’d push through a tough workout and think “In this moment, you’re becoming the woman you know you can be.” I viewed every small choice as a building block – a step closer to the life I knew I deserved.

I wrote out a personal mission statement. It was a description of the type of woman I wanted to be. I wasn’t that woman, gosh I was so far from that woman, I didn’t even always believe it was possible to be that woman, but I claimed her. I asked myself what choices that woman would make. I asked myself if I wanted to take a step closer to my old self or towards the new woman I was creating. It was a practice. It was a singular focus. But it got easier every day. And it wasn’t long before I started to see results. The results became my new substance of choice. The pride I felt. The excitement I felt. The eagerness to see what would come next.

Yeah, I let myself go. Thank God, I got myself back.

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13 replies
  1. Sienna
    Sienna says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. The part where you say “I wasn’t in control. I had no self-discipline, no self-control, no motivation. But how do you just choose to love yourself enough to take care of yourself? When you’re deeply depressed how to you motivate yourself to pull up out of the hole and work towards a better tomorrow that you don’t yet believe in? You get selfish. Hear me out! Selfish is not a dirty word! You start getting focused on what YOU need first. And before you jump in with arguments about being a wife or a career woman or a mom and those things coming first, let me just say that you’re not your best at ANY of those things if you aren’t bringing your very best self to the table. You’re not. ” –> This is me right now. This totally hit home for me.

    I’ve always thought selfish was a dirty word. But you are so very right. It IS time to start focusing on me and do what’s best for ME. To become that woman I want to be. That I can’t see in the mirror.

    Thank you for this. You just helped to create my own ‘wake up call.’

    Much love.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Benton
      Elizabeth Benton says:

      Hi Sienna! So glad this post spoke to you! I honestly think that being self-centered is the KEY to being the best business woman, the best wife, the best mom, the best man, the best husband, the best whatever. Because only when you’re self-centered first can you bring your best to everything and everyone around you. GET SELFISH!!!! You will be happier, healthier and more productive. Everyone around you will benefit. XOXO

      Reply
  2. Erin
    Erin says:

    Were you on any medications during this time frame? I’m on a ton and I have a feeling it’s making me feel worse and not better. I’m wondering if I could workout instead of taking meds. My doctor just adds more all the time and I hate it.

    Reply
  3. Jasmine
    Jasmine says:

    This was very helpful to read. It was brought to my attention by my fiancé in a gentle way, that I had let myself go. Personally I didnt get bigger, I’ve actually lost too much weight and am now 99lbs. Someone else has mentioned that I may have depression and I’m starting to see the pattern. I’ve just been doing the bare minimum to get by each day. I don’t want to be this woman, I have little to no dicipline, and I need to be selfish.

    Reply
  4. Linda
    Linda says:

    Elizabeth, I truly hope you respond.

    I did the same thing. I’m currently 150 pounds overweight. I went through a rough emotional divorce 2 years ago. When I did, I felt like my life ended. I lost the love of my life (he walked away from the marriage – not because I was fat; the ironic thing is I was in fantastic shape then!) He just didn’t want to be married any longer. 25 years, down the toilet. I had to sell the house (which broke my heart) and find a new place to live. By God’s grace, I found a really nice condo to rent in the same area that I was already used to. But 3 months after I moved, I got sick. I wound up with IBS, which has been horrible to live with. When the divorce was final, I hit a wall. I did nothing but eat…junk food, candy, cookies, cakes – you name it. I pushed people out of my life. I have no friends because of it. I won’t even visit my family. I’m embarrassed by the way I look. I have no energy and I look like crap. I’m sad and I have zero control of my .life. I’m 52 years old and I feel like I’m 92. My joints are killing me, which really sucks.

    Today, I started a lower carb, mod fat, mod protein plan. I’ve started soooo many times before, too. I need to learn to stick to the plan. 5 years ago I did Nutrisystem and stuck to it like glue for 2 years (until the divorce hit). I lost over 100 pounds and felt amazing! I did cardio 7 days a week and did weight training 6 days a week (one body part per day). I looked like I was in my 30’s (people told me that all the time). I had confidence – it was awesome.

    I WANT THAT PERSON BACK!!! 🙁 I just need to know how to get her back. She was happy, confident, fit and could do anything she put her mind to.

    Any advice?

    BTW, YOU LOOK AMAZING!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Benton
      Elizabeth Benton says:

      Hi Linda. I always respond, sometimes it just takes a couple days. As for how to get her back – one choice at a time. Identify ONE single small improvement versus a diet. Practice that improvement and build consistency. When it gets easier, add one more change. I talk about these strategies constantly on my podcast. Changing your habits isn’t a religion. It doesn’t require a conversion to a different way of life all of a sudden. Small improvements, practiced consistently. Definitely check out the podcast. 🙂

      Reply

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