I lost touch with someone only to find out today that he died at the young age of 27, about to graduate Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School with a passion to make a difference. Shock and sadness are the expected reactions, but then I thought of all the times I spent with him, and realized my only memories – literally every single memory – is of his smile. And his laugh. Oh my gosh that laugh!
That passionate joy is what we each can only hope to leave in this world.
We didn’t know each other long but he left a smile in my journey.
Today, aspire to be the smile in a friend, acquaintance or stranger’s journey ❤️
In the picture on the left, I had just lost 70 lbs, down from my high of 210 lbs at only age 13, 5’2” tall. I was so happy. I felt BEAUTIFUL. I felt proud of my weight loss journey. And I saw not an ounce of fat. That pink jacket fit like a rockstar. I could wear juniors styles for the first time in ages. People would see me and my mom and finally see me as the child, not the larger parent. My cheeks were rosy and my smile shining.
The picture on the right is also beautiful. I am 27 in this photo, 5’7 and wise enough to know my weight doesn’t matter. I’m more than a number. My beauty on the right has absolutely nothing to do with fitting a societally accepted size. It has to do with the confidence in the woman posed for the camera.
But society told that preteen she was fat.
And fat was bad. And weight loss was good. Society showed that teen in small, probably unintentional ways that losing weight was good. Doctors shoved health under the more easily explained heading of weight loss because it was a clearer goal to offer.
And as a doctor, I admit doctors are wrong to do that.
Weight loss is never the goal. Because that smile is not from losing weight. That smile is from walking for the first time since an chronic illness; it’s from feeling confident in who I am as a new bat mitzvah; it’s from a feeling of health and joy, not at all from a number on a scale I didn’t even step on that week.
So let’s agree to stop congratulating weight loss.
Let’s stop evaluating beauty by a size standard – in my eyes, these before and after photos show two equally beautiful ladies.
And let’s emphasize the beauty in a healthy smile. (A dentist’s tooth plug 🦷)
Photos of that new leggings feeling start this post, because the smile these photos capture is real. It’s strong and authentic.
But now for the real talk, my friends…
Have you ever planned on a gym day and then… life happens? An injury, work commitment, party or family medical emergency and 💥 plans go out the window. It’s hard when you get in the flow of going to the gym to break that cycle. You don’t want your fitness journey progress or your fitness motivation to suffer!
So I have two pieces of advice:
You found that motivation before and you WILL find it again. Remember, at one point you weren’t even going to these gym workouts and classes. That drive that got you through the door hasn’t gone away. That drive is in YOU!
And most importantly,
Why do you want a fitness journey in the first place? If the goal of feeling healthy and building muscle is to live in a gym, then you are either quitting your current life to be a fitness trainer – all the power to you – or you are doing these workout routines for the wrong reason! Fitness helps build your stamina and strength to be a confident and engaged protagonist in your own life. The life lessons you learn reaching a top speed on a treadmill and the cardiovascular health you gain over time help you take long walks with your friends through Boston and help you navigate workplace turmoil. They help you be best engaged in the life you already have OUTSIDE the gym… so by necessity, you have to allow space for that ‘outside the gym’ life! Unless your goal is to be that trainer or athlete, the gym should never BECOME your life. ((And even then, your networks outside the gym matter.)) So if missing a day or week of workouts for LIFE is going to get you down, re-examine what your workouts are really about.
Fitness can encourage a strong mindset and sense of self. AND a healthy fitness journey requires checking in with yourself along the way to re-examine your motivations and whether you maybe do need a fitness break… just to prove to yourself you can take that break and jump right back in.
I believe in you, and I want you to see how strong you are, too!!!!
Right now, I’m feeling strong. But when I saw this reflection twelve hours ago, I felt weak. I didn’t like what I had seen.
I was judging myself for not getting to bed (puppy parenting problems). I was tired and my self perception shifted momentarily because of that. For a minute, I didn’t acknowledge the beautiful woman smiling back at me.
But that beautiful woman never left. That beautiful soul never stopped smiling.
Our perception of ourselves tends to shift with our emotions and energy level. It’s natural! It’s imperfectly human.
Which is why – in sticky notes or phone memos – the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is place reminders in our lives of what we see when we are at our rested, fed and emotional best. Because that best is always in us, always reflecting back. Sometimes, it’s just hidden by a rainy minute or a hectic life (we all have one!).
But let’s start acknowledging that beautiful soul NOW:
Look in the mirror and tell that beautiful reflection how gosh darn gorgeous he/she is. Because YOU my friend (yes, all of you and all of my patients are ‘my friends 🙂) are stunning and a beautiful gift.
Wishing you love and joy this Valentine’s Day. So yeah, love yourself enough to ask a stranger for a photo in a gym. You rocked that #makesweatsexy workout! Or ask for a hug from a friend. You ARE an awesome human!
I’m a doctor – a dentist. And I’m an impromptu dancer. I’m a fan of being playful and silly and smiling just because. I’m a fan of living in the moment and letting go of the worry that clouds out creative energy.
I wasn’t always this way. It took nights of tears and stress in high school, studying for exams because I never was perfect enough. (FOR WHO?!?!?!)
It took realizing that all the energy I wasted worrying could have been used to take steps forward.
It took letting go of that need to be perfect and accepting that hard work and self improvement were enough. It took realizing I was enough.
It took making friends who let me dance in the middle of a crowded room just because. Even if they don’t always join in.
It took a lot of time and self growth to believe in the magic within myself. And it was worth it.
So how can you get to this joy?
Let’s start – all together – with a healthy smile in this very moment.
This is my reality. Colorful. Joyful. Creative and fascinating.
What’s your reality?
I took this picture on my walk to work this Sunday morning. The sky was a gorgeous shade of sunrise. The trees were a beautiful landscape of winter. The patient I was walking towards was in the most challenging of circumstances as our team helped navigate a life-altering, life threatening medical decision. And I was tired from a full day and night of work with only an hour of sleep, and yet, I was inspired. I was honored. I was grateful to be on this walk to this patient on this Sunday morning.
Life can be stressful, tiring, overwhelming and chaotic.
Yes, friend, we can relate.
AND even in those moments of chaos, we can take a ‘Yes, and’ approach instead of the ‘Yes, but.’ Yes I am tired and this situation is very emotionally and physically hard, AND I am honored to do this work for this kind and scared man and with a generous and grateful team.