By Sarah, the Duchess of York
Everywhere I go these days people ask me where I get the energy to do all the things I do. It's a good question, and sometimes I don't know the answer myself. Yet the one thing I do know is that I just keep going forward rather than trying to resist my momentum. You see, I am grateful for my life today and I'd not be where I am had I not learned to harness my energy and take the kinds of risks you need to take in order to get what you want. Writing my last book for Weight Watchers, Reinventing Yourself,
made me realize just how far I'd come.
Since I have two teens at home, a busy career in America, and charity work that takes me all over the globe, you can bet there are times when I feel utterly exhausted. I can also tell you, though, that I've never felt more energized. This book is designed to help you rediscover and revitalize your energy level, first with an assessment of your life and lifestyle to pinpoint where your energy comes from, and second, by identifying ways in which your energy can be sapped. In my experience, nothing drains away energy quite like stress: You know you are overwhelmed, but don't know what to do about it. Like many women, I'm a multitasker and juggler who can simultaneously think, walk, and talk, all the while balancing a teacup standing on one foot. The sheer volume of tasks I juggle today is greater than ever, but instead of feeling bedraggled as I used to, now my energy reserve stays high.
What has changed?
Through a healthy diet, exercise, and a positive attitude, I've learned how to keep my engine in top condition. Reassessing my priorities and planning my life around them has made a tremendous difference, too.
In the days following my separation from Andrew, I could do little more than lie in bed with the curtains drawn. My life was in shambles, and the chaos and negativity surrounding me made it impossible to think clearly about how to pick up the pieces. The profound sorrow and shame I felt over the loss of my marriage left me reeling emotionally. And I was physically depleted, an ironic state for the woman everyone had dubbed as "fun, feisty Fergie," and a "breath of fresh air." It had taken years for me to reach the depths, and I am the first to admit that it was largely my own insecurities and unhealthy lifestyle that led to my fall.
I could not have been more in love when I married in 1986, and back then I had boundless energy as I embarked on my new life as the Duchess of York. In time, however, the stress of public life and my desire to please everybody became almost unbearable. The constant scrutiny and nonstop criticism fed my innate insecurity to the point that I felt unsuitable as a wife and mother. In essence, I felt like an absolute failure. My problem with weight was a clear indication that I was terribly unhappy, and looking back I can see why my countless quick-fix diets were like desperate gasps for air. In the end, the dreary cloud of negativity that permeated my life brought my world crashing down. Had it not been for my girls, Beatrice and Eugenie, I wonder how I'd ever have managed to get back up on my feet again.
For me, an important first step was becoming physically active again. Just the routine of a simple workout gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I started to eat better and that gave me energy too, but I still struggled with the impulse to binge whenever something upset me. There was genuinely plenty to worry about, not the least of which was how I would go about supporting myself as a single mother. My divorce settlement was small and I still faced paying back a huge bank overdraft, so when Weight Watchers approached me in 1996 to be its U.S. spokesperson, I was eager to work. However, despite my good fortune, the anxiety I felt over this new chapter of my life was overwhelming, and I admit the anxiety robbed me of the enthusiasm I should have felt.
I remember feeling numb when I walked onstage at the Weight Watchers press conference to announce my new role as spokesperson. The ballroom at the Pierre Hotel in New York City was jam-packed with press -- literally spread wall to wall with reporters, editors, photographers, and TV cameras. I'd come to fear the press back home, but somehow I mustered enough nerve to get on with the program and deliver my speech. In photos from that day I can see that my hair and makeup were overdone compared to my natural look now; even my clothes seemed to be serving as camouflage.
In England, news of my new job was not well received, and it spawned an outpouring of negativity about my pursuit of a paying career. If you can imagine the glares and stares that awaited me as I came through London's Heathrow Airport, you can understand how the renewed criticism of my commercial life and actions successfully squelched any optimism I'd felt about my new career. I was fighting for my future and for some dignity. I think it was adrenaline and my survivor instinct that convinced me to ignore the critics and just get on with it all.
My responsibility to Weight Watchers was reason enough to get on track with a healthy eating and fitness regimen. People who know me know that I am a person of absolute integrity; I speak from the heart, so I couldn't possibly take on the job of promoting the diet without actually doing it myself. It's said that the truth will set you free, and coming to America to speak openly about my personal battle with weight had a profoundly cathartic effect on me. From the start, I hit the road making personal appearances at Weight Watchers meetings. I crisscrossed the country. The trips were physically demanding and emotionally exhausting, with reporters questioning me at every turn about very personal parts of my life. But this sort of forced introspection caused me to start connecting the dots of my past, and in doing so, I found myself gaining fresh insight about who I was, where my life had taken me, and where I wanted to go. I was shaky and unsure of myself, hardly an icon for health or success. But somehow I managed to assume my new role thanks mostly to the enormous outpouring of support and goodwill that I received from thousands of Weight Watchers members who didn't come out to judge me as a fallen royal, but rather to cheer me on as one of their own.
I spend a great deal of time in America these days, and I really enjoy it. In fact, I take every opportunity to thank Americans from the bottom of my heart because, with their encouragement, I've had the faith and energy to move on in my life.
So that's my story. Now I want to know, what is yours? Do you find yourself always tired, just barely dragging yourself through the day? Or are you facing a particularly rough road ahead and want to ensure that your stamina will stay high?
We all live in the age of stress. I think women face a particularly demanding kind of stress because we wear so many hats. Unlike our mother's generation, we are more in touch with our own needs and aspirations, which, paradoxically, can be both liberating and stressful. If you are feeling overwhelmed in your life, chances are that you feel lacking in energy and drained of vitality.
The problem is, how do you stop that lack of energy cycle? It's probably all you can do to stay where you are right now. But here's a fact: there's no single step to break this cycle. You will have to evaluate your general state of health and your diet and exercise habits; you'll also need to honestly assess trouble areas that weigh heavily on your mind. If how you live now leaves you drained of energy, accept that something in your life may have to change. Only you can put a realistic plan into action and I urge you to find the courage to want to make a change in your life. Yes, that step into the unknown is frightening, but what have you got to lose if holding back will keep you feeling tired, saddened, and unhappy in your own skin?
In the coming chapters, we'll cover various ways that nutrition, exercise, and attitude can help give you energy. But I want you to keep in mind that the best diet and greatest trainers in the world won't work unless you can energize your soul, too. When your mind, body, and soul are energized, you'll feel as though nothing can ever hold you back.
Copyright © 2002 by The Duchess of York and Weight Watchers International Inc.