I have been a guest chef at La Cocina Que Canta several times in the past, yet this year I was exceptionally excited to visit Rancho La Puerta. The beauty of The Ranch is breathtaking and, being able to cook from Salvador’s amazing garden is a chef’s dream! But this year was very different, and not just because of the pandemic. Since 2018 I have lost 65 pounds.
It has been an incredibly wild and scary journey. The result is that I am in better health than I have ever been in my adult life. My blood pressure, heart rate, blood work, metabolic panel, and enzyme marker results are better than they were 20 years ago! I didn’t set out to lose that amount. I simply knew I wasn’t happy. I knew I needed to do something. If you can’t be happy in your own body, where can you be happy? When I looked at the suggested weight for my height, the facts were overwhelming. That amount of weight I need to lose seemed absolutely staggering. How could I lose that much weight?
Persistence and Patience
Like many, I have had ups and downs with my weight much of my life. Several years ago, I lost a good bit of weight but never actually met my goal. Then, a whole lot of life happened. I fell back into bad habits, and my weight crept back up. I knew that losing something, anything would be a step in the right direction.
Throughout the past few years, I would set a goal and meet it. Then, I would move my goal. Repeat. Move goal. Repeat. During this time, I also had a major love, home, and career upheaval accentuated with a herniated disk and the pandemic. It just made me want to work harder to reach my goals.
I did not put the weight on overnight; I knew that the safe way to lose weight wasn’t a quick fix. I am a firm believer in persistence and patience. I knew I had to try.
Back to the Ranch
While I had hiked at The Ranch in years past and participated in many of the classes, this year was going to be different. This year, I wanted to hike the Seven-Mile Mountain Breakfast Hike. A major part of my weight loss has been a result of walking. I now walk three and a half miles every morning during the week and then I’ll usually walk at least ten miles, often more, on the weekend. The Saturday before my week at The Ranch, I walked seven miles, but Atlanta is not the mountains. At The Ranch, with the great staff, I knew I would be safe. I was scared. I was nervous, but I wanted to try.
The day after I arrived, I did Pilgrim Hike, one of the pre-requisite hikes. It was great! I felt good about it and signed up for the Thursday morning seven-mile hike. The morning came, and after assembling in the dining room to collect our breakfast and gear, we were off! I was pumped with adrenaline. In my mind, I wanted to stay in the middle of the pack. On the way, the sunrise at Alex’s Oak was incredible! As we continued, I stumbled a few times – not a good idea on the side of a mountain. I decided I needed to be safe, not swift.
How to Quiet the Critical Inner Voice
I quickly moved to the back of the pack, about 100 yards behind everyone else. My negative inner voice started chipping away at my belief in myself. My pride was hurt. Doubt was creeping in! What was I thinking? Why did I sign up for this? Javier, one of the guides, offered me a short-cut and I said, “No, thank you.” I took a deep breath and literally started chanting in my head as I worked my way up the steep switchbacks, “I can do this, I can do this.”
I drowned the nagging of my negative thoughts with my positive ones.
If we listen to our inner critical voice and believe its destructive point of view, it can have serious negative consequences. I have a technique to manage my inner critical voice. I named her. This small tool differentiates the thoughts from my positive voice. It’s a great mechanism for separating the two. (I’m not going to share her name because I don’t want to offend anyone that shares it!)
I told her, “Hush up! I can do this.”
And, since I was a little slower than everyone else, I let go of the pressure to keep up. I was able to take in the amazing views. Then, we made it to the top! I cannot tell you the joy I felt at the top of that mountain. Later I found out some of the other guests wished they’d slowed down, too. Several of them told me they felt compelled to maintain a fast speed and while they enjoyed it, the pressure to keep up was too much.
Even with getting the gear, several group stops, having breakfast, photo ops, a tree-hugging session (!), and a special guest rattlesnake on the path that Javier had to relocate, we still made it back in under three hours, a very respectable pace. Reflecting on this accomplishment, I am grateful for many reasons. I am thankful for the opportunity to experience Rancho La Puerta, glad I challenged myself and pleased I was able to quell the negative thoughts. I was in the moment. I was pushing my body at my speed, not someone else’s. I let go of the outside pressures and internal expectations. It wasn’t the hike I thought I had wanted, but it was the one I needed. I tried – and I succeeded.
You might not always make it to the top of the mountain. You may not always make your goals, but I can guarantee you won’t make it if you don’t try.
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen.
For more information about Virginia and follow her on social, please visit virginiawillis.com