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Chapter One: Starting Over at 40
You could say that I am a person who lives for the moment; I try not to dwell too much on the past or look too far forward. But I recently turned 40. For most people, 40 is certainly a milestone, a time to look back and reflect -- as well as to look toward the future.
As the date approached, I began asking myself questions I suppose anyone at this pivotal stage would ask herself: How had I changed over the years? What lessons had I learned? Who, exactly, was the real Sarah and how did she get here? How would I rate those first 40 years and, perhaps most important, what would the next 40 be like?
As I began exploring these questions, I found myself doing a great deal of reminiscing. I smiled when I thought about young Sarah, a spirited redhead rambling the grounds of my family estate, Dummer Down, a dairy farm just over the county line in Hampshire. I can safely venture a guess that my only thoughts at the time were of my beloved horses. As a young girl, I was horse mad. They were unconditional with their love for me. They literally and figuratively carried me forward, bringing me to new heights.
If you had asked pony-mad young Sarah to look deep into a crystal ball and venture a guess as to what the future would hold, she probably wouldn't have given you a very clear answer. Maybe she would have shrugged and mumbled, "Don't know." I never dreamed of a Prince Charming, wedding dresses or the perfect married life, probably because what I saw at home was less than idyllic.
Back then, I certainly would not or could not have imagined the fantastic adventure that awaited me.
I would not have ventured a guess that when I would find my true love and marry him, he would just happen to be one of the sons of Her Majesty The Queen. I also could not have imagined that I would be a very young woman, trying to make sense, understand and just fit into the wonderful, yet very different, world my husband grew up in. I also would not have guessed that every dress I wore, every move I made or word I uttered would be scrutinized, analyzed and sometimes criticized by people who barely knew me. I also would not have thought that every time I stumbled when I walked or misspoke when giving a speech would become such a public event.
I'll tell you what else I would not have foreseen: the dissolution of my marriage, my mounting debts, my burgeoning weight problem, the illness that plagued my father or the tragedies that took from me my beloved mother and a dear friend. I also would not have guessed that in my mid-30s I would be a single working mother with two beautiful girls, trying to do all the things a mother tries to do for her children: support my family, raise my children with proper values in a sometimes maddening world, and give back to those who are less fortunate than I have been. Would young Sarah, the spirited girl with the mass of red curls, have seen any of this in her future? Probably not. Would older, hopefully wiser Sarah trade the sometimes winding route her life has taken? Probably not.
It may sound like revisionist history, but I truly would not want to wave a magic wand and change or recast the events that have shaped my sometimes tumultuous life. They have helped make me the person I am today. I do have some regrets, but don't we all? What I do wish, however, is that back then I had a mere ounce of the wisdom and knowledge that I have today. It reminds me of the George Bernard Shaw saying, "Youth is wasted on the young." I am truly grateful for the wonderful, fascinating people I have met and the places I have visited around the globe. I would never consider trading in the travels, triumphs or tragedies that I have experienced. Each of these singular events has helped me become the person I am today: a stronger, wiser Sarah. A Sarah I like and, most important, respect.
So what does all this have to do with weight? In the past, I have said that I hit rock bottom in 1996, when I was overweight, in debt and terribly unhappy. I also have said that in many ways my partnership with Weight Watchers has saved my life. After years of struggling with one of my oldest demons, my weight, I finally learned how to control my habits and, most important, accept and respect myself. I discovered that powerful secret many women who have lost weight know: that taking control of one's weight can be the first step to taking control of one's life.
I am not talking about quick fixes or mad miracles, but rather how old-fashioned hard work, perseverance and commitment can help one attain one's goals and find one's dreams. Weight Watchers has helped me realize for the first time in my life that if I can see the dream and want it badly enough, then I can achieve it.
My life has changed, literally transformed itself, into something completely different from what it was just a few years ago. What have I learned about myself since becoming a spokesperson for Weight Watchers? I have realized that weight problems (like many of life's problems) don't just happen. They are the result of months, sometimes years, of losing sight of what you need and want from your life. Sometimes that happens simply because you are too busy tending to the needs of others. Many times it's because you have taken your eye off the prize, whether that prize is losing weight or finding a new job or trying a new sport. We're tremendously busy these days, tending to our family's needs, adjusting and readjusting to all the curve balls life tosses out to us. Some of those curve balls can be exciting and challenging in a positive way, like marriage or motherhood; others are the important, life-changing thresholds (like turning 40 or the soldiering on through the loss of a loved one) we all must pass through. I often believe a woman gets sidetracked from life simply by living it.
All this has taught me a lesson I now respect and cherish: That even as the world continues to turn and life takes me down all these fantastic roads -- roads that can be twisting and bumpy and seemingly going nowhere -- I do not have to do it alone. If you turn to others for support and encouragement (as I have with my friends and family, fellow Weight Watchers members and the wonderful Leaders), you, too, can arrive at the end of your journey, safely and, hopefully, a little wiser.
These days I prefer looking forward to the next phase of my life. So if someone would pose that crystal ball question to me now, how would I answer it? I'm not really sure. But I do know that I sometimes feel as if I've already lived eight lives, and each one was certainly worth it.