This is a special post from FFTFL tribe member Lorrie “Hellcat” Bamford and told in her own words.

I just celebrated by 46th year on this planet. I traveled a lot. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. I danced and sang, a lot. I loved a lot. 46 has been a good year. But it has been a good year because of what I’ve learned about myself and life around me.

I headed out this morning to get in a run this first day of being 47 years old. My husband kissed me goodbye and said, as he always does, “Have fun.” I moaned and grumbled because I knew this was going to be hard. I’m not sure if that’s fun. All my runs lately are hard.

But as I ran this morning, I realized many things. Yes, it’s harder. It’s a lot harder with this extra weight. Everything is harder. Climbing stairs are harder. Activities are harder. Running is harder. But it was still fun. My body can do amazing things – even with this extra weight. I’ve wanted to write this blog for some time now. I don’t know why it has taken me so long. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Denial. Hoping “things would turn around” before I had to put it all down on paper – before I had to put into words what I’ve been feeling and living and thinking.

But today, I FINALLY learned and accepted something: ALL that negative chatter – embarrassment, shame, denial, fear of judgment, fear of disappointing people (THE BIGGEST ONE), letting down all those people who have told me how proud they are of me (the logical result is they won’t be proud of me any longer) – it’s all complete bullshit.

Here’s the deal. I’ve gained weight this year. Lots of excuses and reasons: dealing with the emotional side of my completely messed up view of body image and my completely messed up relationship with food, some injuries, but mostly, just letting loose of the restrictive plan I have been on for the better part of a year – and guess what? I’ve gained weight. Not all of it, but enough of it.

I wish I could say (and genuinely mean it), “Who cares? Be happy in your own skin. Be happy with all you are.” But that too is complete bullshit for me. I DO CARE. You see – I HAVE BEEN ON THE OTHER SIDE. Once you have been on the other side, it is really hard to go back and stay there.

When I was well over 330 lbs., I hurt all the time. I was an unhealthy smoker who was miserable and limited in my life. I. Hurt. All. The. Time. I was taking 9 pills a day for many health-related ailments, all related to my weight. That was my reality.

The deception with that life was I didn’t KNOW what it was like to NOT HURT. Does that make any sense? I didn’t know what it felt like to be HEALTHY. I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I figured everyone hurt all the time.

The hard truth now is – I KNOW.

I know what it feels like to be in the best shape of my life. I know what it’s like to wear those size 12 jeans. I know what it’s like to run a 10K at a 10-minute mile and place first in my age division. I know what it’s like to run 26.2 miles and not want to die. I know what it’s like to be off all medications and feel good – every single day.

Today – things hurt. Everything is harder. Running is harder. Boxing is harder. Burpees are harder, almost impossible to do, but definitely harder. Everything is harder. I now know everything that hurts in my body. I am ACUTELY aware of every single part of my body.

The REAL DANGER of being back on this side is you STILL HAVE TO focus on THE GOOD of your body. I need to LOVE my body, regardless. It truly is a danger zone because if you constantly focus on the negative bullshit voice, you’ll continue to punish yourself with negative choices and never make your way back. When I was at the top of my game – even with all those good things mentioned above – even with running a 10K at a 10-minute pace with ease…. Even looking like this:

Lorrie Bamford 10K

ALL I could think about was getting under 200 pounds. I still felt like a failure because I wasn’t less than 200lbs. I couldn’t appreciate the muscle mass, the body build that I have, the amazing level of health I had attained – I couldn’t see any of that. I was not in ONEderland (under 200 lbs) and therefore, I was not whole. I was not a success… yet.

I couldn’t appreciate where I was and all that I had accomplished and that I was as healthy as I had ever been. It wasn’t enough. All I obsessed about was that number. The reality was – no matter WHAT that number says, it would not have been good enough.

I would have wanted it to be less. I could have gotten under 200lbs and that would not have been good enough. Until I fix what’s in my head about my body and my relationship with food – nothing will ever be good enough.

Why? Because I had/have negative body image. And still do – it’s probably something I will always struggle with on some level.

I started therapy for binge eating disorder because I thought it was about the food and mind over matter. No, it’s about loving myself, my body, perfectionism, creating boundaries, and healing my relationship with food.

So…. How can we get and maintain a positive body image? First, remember this: NOTHING can take away what you’ve accomplished. Gaining weight does not erase the great things I have gained: my health, getting off all medications, being the first woman to win the Homeland Get Healthy Challenge, running not just one, but TWO full marathons last year, running two Ragnars, dancing, boxing, and still being a quitter – a quitter of tobacco. I hope that I motivated others to take control of their health and make choices to be healthy and alive! And these are just the health-related milestones.

All those things still happened. And NOTHING can take any of that away. Those things can still be celebrated – ALL of our victories on this journey must be celebrated and CAN NEVER be taken away.

Lorrie Bamford race medals

Second, once you’ve been on the other side of health, it’s hard to keep going down the path of unhealthy choices. You can for a bit, but you can feel every single pound. You can feel every single choice. Weight aside, I just feel awful when I am not eating real food and not fueling my body properly and not loving my body properly as it DESERVES. Love your body, appreciate your body, feed your body and treat it with kindness.

Third – our bodies are AMAZING. NO MATTER WHAT the scale says – our bodies can do amazing things – whether it’s walking, climbing, or running. I can still run. My pace has suffered – but I CAN STILL RUN. There will be a day when I can no longer run… Today is not that day.

So, in summary – I’ve been on the other side. If you haven’t – know this – it is an amazing place to be. And I will get back there. BUT THIS TIME – I want to truly appreciate that level of health. I no longer will obsess over being in the ONEderland (weighing less than 200lbs). I’m not a petite gal, and I never will be. And that’s OK – I am strong. I am fierce. I may not be the fastest, but I can run. I can climb. I can live healthy and feel my best. That’s what matters. Loving my body for what it CAN DO. Staying off all those medications (which I am). Staying away from tobacco (which I have), and celebrating every little life achievement. And APPRECIATING every single achievement.

If it feels good – it is good. And no number on the scale can take that away. My path to wellness continues. It’s been physical, spiritual, and an emotional/mental quest. It’s ALL related, and it’s ALL connected. One piece can’t work without the other. For some, it comes easy. I’m not one of those. It’s been a long, hard road – but one I’m committed to staying on. The journey continues… I don’t know where it will take me. I know where I’ve been – and I want that back. And this time – I want to appreciate it and celebrate it. One day at a time. So, I’m on my way back. I want that level of health – not because of the principle of gravity, but because I felt good. I know what it’s like to feel bad – and to feel good – and I want to feel good, again.

Read Lorrie’s original blog post.