If you know me, you know I take goals and New Year’s resolutions seriously. One of my big ones this year was to take control of my weight again. Unlike the last few years, nothing could stop me. Not pulling my knee early in the year running and having to cut out everything sinful to keep from getting derailed. Not new flare ups from my asthma that kept sending me to the pulmonologist. Not a fall of near-endless travel. As I get close to the end of the year, I haven’t lost the whole 30 pounds. But I’ve lost 20 on the scale, and likely more than that in fat. But that’s not the only way I’m measuring progress.
At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t run more than a minute at a time. In fact, a minute was brutal. I have always been intimidated of running because I’m bad at it. I am really, really slow. Now, I routinely run for an hour at a time. (I’m still slow.) I also have always hated strength training, preferring mindless intense cardio instead. But in the last few months, I’ve thrown Orange Theory Fitness in along with Soul Cycle and running and it’s made a huge difference. More than that: There are locations everywhere. So it’s kept me from getting derailed when I travel.
There were ups and downs this year, but what really helped me push through a frustrating plateau this fall was the app Noom. (We had a thread about it here when I started using it.)
One of the things that I like is it pushes you to write down your “ultimate why” of wanting to hit your goal, and dig deeper until you find it. This was important for me psychologically, because a lot of times I get mad at myself for hating my body so much, feeling like my desire to lose weight is just more of the patriarchy at work. Coming up with a better “ultimate why” of losing weight than “I want to look good again” would help keep me on goal.
Initially, I came up with this: “I have a crazy, unpredictable job, and I face a lot of outside pressure and criticism. If I can have control over this element of my life, it will help me feel more confident and more in control of everything else.”
I felt like that was both honest and a good reason. And it has kept me pretty motivated. This week the app encouraged us to revisit our ultimate why, and someone in a group chat made me realize that I have a much deeper one and a much better one. One that has driven me to achieve more than almost anything else: Cheating my biological fate.
Both of my grandmothers and my mom had/have Parkinson’s. I grew up with nightmarish, hazy memories of how it impacted my grandmothers—the falling, the bruises, the dementia—and when I found out at 22 my mom—the single most important person in my life—had just gotten diagnosed with it, I felt like my world was crumbling. Like my single most important mooring had just been cut away. It was devastating. I couldn’t face my mother becoming what I remembered of her mother. And then it sunk in: A feeling of near-certainty that I would get it. Or one of my siblings would get it, at least.
Sure, things skip generations, people have told me reassuringly since. But that was hardly any comfort. I’d rather this didn’t. I’d rather get Parkinsons if it meant that my children or my nieces and nephews didn’t. (I realize this is not how disease works. Fears aren’t rational.)
My mom has had a better road with Parkinson’s than my grandmothers, thanks in part to advances in medicine, and thanks to a positive attitude, her faith, and that she’s stayed active. Still, the deterioration every time I go home has been difficult to watch. I’ve come to treasure our 2am conversations in Memphis. She’ll frequently have some sort of muscular pain that gets her up in the night, just as I’m wrapping up work or getting in from seeing friends. We always seem to meet up in the living room about this time.
I told her recently that I was sorry this happened to her every night. I frequently wake up at about 5am with stress, and I hate it. She said she thinks it’s a gift. It’s a quiet time where whatever she needs to deal with floats to the surface. That’s my mom.
I have pushed myself to overachieve in everything because of this fear. I’ve traveled the world, because my mom never got to travel. I’ve built companies. I moved to Silicon Valley in my early 20s at the peak of the bubble. I’ve written books. I grab opportunities the first time they come up, even if I’m scared because I don’t know if I’ll get another shot. I don’t feel like I can put anything off. I’ve been sprinting for 20 years, professionally speaking, and I’m exhausted.
As I was going on this weight loss journey, I tried to think of how to talk to my kids about it. In a way that models something that positive when I turn down bites of their ice cream or get up early on vacation to go for a long run. Recently, this came out, “I want to be as healthy as I can be so that I can always be here for you.”
And that lead me to my real ultimate why: I can’t control if I’m going to get Parkinson’s. I will have lived a full life if I do. (My mom was diagnosed in her 60s…Maybe I can even squeeze in a $1 billion IPO…) And I know I have the right partner in my life to help me through it if I do. But what will make a difference is being in the best shape of my life and having healthy habits when it hits. And maybe if I can feel like I’m doing my best to prepare for my greatest fear becoming a reality, I can ease up on the sprint just a bit.
With apologies to Noom, I’d love to know what your “ultimate why” is—no matter what the goal you are striving for is. So that’s one of our questions today.
Here’s the other one: What makes a good written bio introductions to put on materials for award nominations?
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