Category Archives: childhood obesity

How boring it can be!

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When I was looking for an image to add to this post, I searched “boredom” on bing.com. The first image that caught my eye was this tired, lifeless woman who seems quietly desperate to be elsewhere. The caption reads “souvenir seller”…my goodness, who would buy anything from her? It is the perfect image to add to this post, as I am bored of the same tired subject of weight loss.

I just finished reading a simple, free PDF book by Brooke Castillo called “If I Am So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?”.  Ms. Castillo is frank about not being a doctor or nutritionist, just a successful entrepreneur who managed to lose 70 lbs. and maintain it. In my book, that lends a lot of credibility to her pitch. I read the book quickly once through as she suggests, and will probably go back and print out the exercises, etc. There are a couple of things in the book that are different from others of its kind. For example, Ms. Castillo does not suggest we get rid of the temptations (junk food) in our cabinets or the scale in our bathroom. She insists they have a place in our life if we are to successfully and once and for all get rid of the excess weight that is keeping us from living our best days.

My “boredom” with everything related to my weight issue is hopefully the beginning of a once and for all permanent weight loss. No matter how long it takes (hopefully not beyond 2019), it is my intention to be rid of the 30 excess pounds on my small frame and never have them coming back to me. Intellectually, I know what to do. It is all about calories in and out. There are thousands of programs out there, for nutrition, for exercise, for inspiration…but everything really has its roots internally. At my age (63), I have read and tried everything. My problem is that I have secondary gains from this weight or I wouldn’t hold on to it.

That is where I am this morning: cogitating the secondary gains. I know they are there and serve some purpose. Today my goal is to be kind to me as I navigate my day from meal to meal. I have just enjoyed a delicious, lovingly prepared squash and cheese omelet, two strips of bacon and one half of an English muffin. I had eaten a banana earlier and I am finishing my second cup of black coffee. This substantial breakfast will hold me for several hours. I can honestly say that I rarely feel real hunger. I snack healthily every couple of hours. My problem comes at night when, after dinner, my husband and I enjoy watching television together and we like to have a cocktail or two and a couple of chocolates. If I reduce what I eat during the day, these “empty but delicious” calories would be no problem. If I increase how much I exercise during the day, the same would be true. But I don’t do either…so my weight either remains the same for weeks on end or (if the indulgence is greater), I gain a pound or two. Like many permanent dieters, I fight with the same few pounds for months at a time.

After childhood obesity, I successfully lost 35 lbs. when I was 19. I maintained that normal weight for decades. A medical emergency in 2000 caused me to gain 6 lbs. in the hospital due to a high calorie diet ordered by my doctor to protect my organs from the strong medication to treat my condition. But 6 lbs. is not 30 lbs. I no longer have any medical conditions (except some knee pain due no doubt to the excess weight) but there has to be some mental reason for this inability to get rid of the weight. I owe it to myself to stop making excuses and delve deep into my psyche. I think this is the big takeaway I got from Brooke Castillo’s book: I owe it to me, no one else is going to do it for me. I can and will succeed.

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Personal responsibility…

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It has been kind of an odd day. I woke up pretty early, didn’t do my laps because my husband was traveling and I was going with him to the airport. All went well with that outing and on my return home, I stopped in my favorite nursery and purchased a few things I needed for repotting an orchid. As a prize, I also bought myself two lovely, flowering African violets for my growing collection. I love my violets and their flowers tell me they love me back.

This particular blog has turned into my most honest one, the one where I often really do have a stream of consciousness, unapologetic narrative that deals with real issues going on in my life. I rarely read over what I write because it is a good exercise in purging myself of toxic things that might otherwise make me ill or require the help of a therapist.

I have shared that I was an overweight kid. Not obese by any standard but a good 10 lbs. overweight before my 10th birthday, causing my mother a lot of guilt, some embarrassment but mainly a sense of her own failure up close and personal. As a consequence of my fatness, I was not ever happy about a clothes shopping spree with Mom because pretty clothes in my size did not exist. My personality is such that I never really believed there was anything intrinsically wrong with me (we can credit Grandma for that, she never, ever made me feel inferior because I was fat), just that I enjoyed food and didn’t like to feel hungry.

I learned to sew in my early teens and never knew what size I wore because I made my own clothes. I was a happy kid despite the rejection from Mom and the relentless teasing and taunting of other people. My other (positive) traits became strong. I felt a need to be helpful, funny, responsible, etc. and those attributes did not feel like burdens. For the most part, I enjoyed being me although I do admit that I had imaginary friends who loved me unconditionally for more years than I care to admit.

Today, after the long and rather hectic day, I decided to take a look at the Discover part of WordPress to see what was new and exciting in the world of blogging. I came across a blog written by a fat person (I am one so I don’t feel I need to apologize for calling the blogger that too) writing long and hard to thin people she feels were/are judging her as she is getting on an airplane to travel. I admit that the writing is excellent and the thought process also. The long blog made me curious to see other blogs by the author so I visited her page and found one that was specifically about one of the popular weight loss programs in existence for about 60 years. It is the only one I feel really works and one that has taught me all about nutrition, calories, and getting to know good habits for maintaining weight and fitness.

It has always been my belief that we are each responsible for our lives. Unless there is some real issue, mental or physical, most of us should be able to accept that most of our decisions are responsible for where we find ourselves in our life. I believe that it is true that some of us have more of a tendency to have a hard time putting on or taking weight off but for the most part, it has to do with calories in (eating) and calories out (exercise, etc.) All diets will work if given enough time and most people who lose weight can maintain their loss if they continue to follow a routine of eating in a healthy manner. If one is consuming too many calories for their height/body type, etc. even from good food, one will gain weight. There is no way around this. To say that a particular diet plan is simply a business endeavor designed to make one fail and keep re-joining is to disrespect one’s power. I know what she means in a way but I can’t really accept the thesis. I have about 30 lbs. to lose. When I traveled 25 lbs. heavier than I am now in my small frame, I could feel the sides of the airline seat squeeze me in and so I purchased a first class ticket…these days, minus those 20 lbs. I can sit in coach and spend the extra cash somewhere else.

The blogger’s arguments against weight loss plans are not without merit but to simply give up the idea of travel because the preparation just along the weight issue (will people stare, will people not want to be seated next to me, will people insult me, will people assume laziness, etc.) is a nightmare very sad to me. I envision myself 30 lbs. lighter by the end of this year. My motivation is maximized when I look at pictures of myself 15 years ago because I remember that I never felt deprived foodwise but I always stuck to a more or less healthy, normal eating pattern. Years of dieting in my childhood and teenage years has made my metabolism very slow. This is something I know. I also know how many calories I can consume to maintain my weight. Extra calories without any extra exercise will make me gain weight. Although that is not the end of the world, being fat interferes with the way I want to live my life.

I want to wear belts and dresses. Right now, they don’t look good on me. I want to be able to go into my closet, pick out any item and know that it fits. I used to be able to do that, I am annoyed because these days I often have to try on a few things before I find something that is clean, ironed and fits. I want the old days back. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with paying for it when I can see that trying to do it on my own simply doesn’t work for me.  So while I accept that the blogger has a right to feel empowered by her rejection of following a plan, I think it is important to point out that some of us thrive (without obsessing) by sticking with it. Discipline, commitment and optimism are key to losing weight initially and perseverance and attention are required to maintain. What is wrong with that?

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0 point foods!

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I weighed myself this morning even though my official weigh-in date is Mondays. I was very
pleased with the number…well not pleased with the number per se, but pleased that the number is
less than it was on Monday morning when I started the new plan.

I went to bed hungry last night. I haven’t felt hungry in a few years. I am shocked that I could
have let myself get this heavy, which I have mentioned previously and which I won’t really dwell
on. My husband returns on Tuesday. It is my intention and goal to set up menus for our meals
which will satisfy both of us. I know now that my downfall in the last three years has not been that
he is a great cook (although he is) but that I do pop the odd cookie and chocolate into my mouth
and forget that I ate it and repeat the process a few times a day. With this new weight watchers
freedom plan, it doesn’t make any sense to have one cookie for 2 or 3 points (my max is 23 points
per day) when I can have a hard boiled egg for 0 points or a fruit or a vegetable for the same 0!
Oprah is happy because she can eat bread! I don’t care about eating bread, I’d rather be able to
enjoy my nightly 1 1/2 oz of expensive excellent Hennessy cognac!

By this time next year, I hope to be back at my normal weight but I will be patient and go with the
flow not making anyone suffer because I am on a “d-i-e-t” and not making myself suffer when I
have a less-than-stellar eating day. I think about food and weight all the time. When I was normal
weight, I remember just being very matter of fact about it. I ate almost the same thing for breakfast,
lunch and dinner every day except Fridays when I would have two slices of sicilian pizza (hopefully
the corners) and a large helping of freshly steamed broccoli. I did that for years. Then the weekends
were more relaxed but did not include sweets, cake, or alcohol.

When our children were little, the house was replete with food. My feeling was that all food was
valid, nothing was bad, nothing was special. I was never “tempted” by anything. In childhood
our kids were normal weight (except one year when our son discovered McDonald’s and gained
a lot of weight) and candy and cookies would get stale and disgusting because they were not
enticing to them. Naturally, as they got older things have changed. They have discovered that
they like asparagus, lobster, and a whole bunch of other items they would never touch in their
younger years! I have discovered what they really like is the taste of butter, and bacon…as in
asparagus wrapped in bacon and lobster drenched in butter. Oh well, I did the best I could, now
they are adults and know what’s what.

I have had a good week. It went by very quickly. I learned how to make a few zero point meals
and have even been able to roll over some points to use on the weekend. I will be making chili
on Sunday and I intend to enjoy every bite of it. I have noticed that food really, really tastes
good when one has not been eating all day!

More random thoughts on fat…

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I have been thinking about the post I wrote yesterday. I wrote that I could say someone was fat because I am fat and know that we prefer to be called fat rather than overweight, etc. But when I woke up this morning, I realized that it’s not true…we would rather no one singled us out for description of any kind. On the other hand, I am a writer. That means that when writing fiction, or a screenplay for example, there are elements of a person’s physique that need to be described. If a character has a big nose, or crooked teeth and these are aspects which are somehow important to the development of the story, then they must be described as such. I am not sure what I am thinking is translating properly onto the written page but I am going to continue to write without too much editing. I don’t think there is much danger of lots of people visiting my page, it is an exercise that I do mostly for myself because it (blogging) is by far the easiest way to make sure I write every, single day.

My mother was always preoccupied with my weight. I have never felt it as much as I have in the past couple of years (probably because I weigh more than I ever have in my life!) and I see my mom every week as she lies on her bed and stares vacantly at her surroundings. My mother was fat during most of her life, although she did have a couple of successful encounters with Weight Watchers. She worried all the time about my weight and decided to go to Weight Watchers once herself so that she could force me to join her. I was only 15 at the time and really didn’t have the wherewithal to refuse. It was a very bad thing to refuse my mother anything, she could be very unpleasant to be around although at the moment it escapes me what particular thing she did to make
it so. Yell? Silent treatment? Physical violence? I really don’t remember because I mostly complied with her directives and kept her happy. But I digress.

Mom has been bedridden for more than 6 years. She has dementia. She is cared for at home because she was a very hard-working woman who was smart about making sure that when she retired she would have a steady source of income. She continues to earn her keep by living. I am glad she is alive. I love my mother beyond words even though our outlook on life and people were so different. Anyway, back to the weight thing which is on my mind constantly even though I have tried all kinds of ways to simply accept the fatness and move on. I went to renew my driver’s license earlier this week. They took my picture. I compared my picture to the picture they took 6 years ago, the last time I had to renew. 6 years ago was probably also 40 lbs. ago. How did this happen?

I am never hungry these days, probably because I rarely skip a meal or a snack. I would say my weight has been the same for the last 3 years and each morning I wake up with new resolve to have a “good” day. In the evening, I do enjoy a bit of chocolate and one or two small servings of cognac! Gotta be about 500 calories right there. In my opinion although there are no good or bad calories, calories are calories and whether you have “thyroid” problems or not, too few calories will make you lose weight and too many will make you gain weight. I need to give up something during the day so that I can indulge in my tiny slice of heaven in the evening. Today for example I ate a large croissant for breakfast with butter (not very much) and a tiny bit of jam. I just tallied an approximation of calories and it is about 600 since the delicious-tasting croissant was on the large size.

I am fat and I am very short and my metabolism (probably from dieting) has always been very slow. When I am in New York, I walk a lot and since I am mostly on my own, I find that I am too lazy or absorbed in other things to cook or go out for dinner so my eating (though healthy) does naturally scale down. My calorie intake is reduced and I am usually 5 lbs. lighter when I come home. I would love to blame my husband’s cooking on my weight gain, I would love to say I have a thyroid condition, I would love to say anything…but the reality (and I am good about facing reality) is that I have gotten older, it is no longer easy to lose weight and I have not been very diligent about portion control. My husband is already planning lunch, I am not hungry! I will not skip lunch but I think it will go in a different direction from breakfast. Perhaps a bit of cottage cheese and some vegetables. I am actually looking forward to that.

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Father’s Day!

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Here it is again, another Father’s Day celebration in which we must/should all
remember our dads. My dad is a quiet man whose perseverance despite all the hurdles
he’s had to face inspires me. I watch him as he tends to my mother who has been
bedridden for these last 6 years. It is amazing because I am not certain that if the
roles were reversed, she would have been able to do what he does for her day in and
day out. He is not a perfect person but he has qualities that I deeply admire and
for which I am thankful.

I was reading the other day about a book that recently came out called “Hunger” by
Roxanne Gay. I just finished reading an interview and I also came across some very negative
comments directed at a woman in Australia who also interviewed Ms. Gay prior to the launch
of her book and who then made some very unkind comments in the introduction. Backlash from
the public made her delete her comments and apologize but the damage to Ms. Gay was done and
I can identify with how cruel people can be about fat people either directly to them or
behind their backs.

I am not sure right now where I am in my weight loss/body image journey. I never really
think about being fat until I see pictures of myself where I don’t recognize me as me
but resemble my much heavier older sister! I think it is an ironic kind of punishmen,
self-punishment if you will, since I used to wonder how my sister “allowed” herself
to become so fat. I have had plenty of pictures to look at recently, as my son’s wedding
photographer took and sent us over 1,000 pictures to choose from. On the one hand, I look
too fat to me, on the other hand, I also look extremely happy! I joke that I’m never hungry
(a true statement) but I also know that being winded after climbing a flight of stairs or a
short hill is an aspect that might be changed if I lost a few pounds.

Anyway, my ramblings actually had to do with remembering that my father never, ever made
any comments about my weight when I was growing up. I understand too well the connection
between trauma and weight and always resented Mrs. Obama’s assumption that obesity in
school children was the product of unhealthy foods; it is a much more complex issue.
I believe that there really are ways in which our brain lets go or holds on to our fat
but most “normal” people can’t get that idea and focus only on food consumption. It is a
very complicated journey and as soon as I am finished with a few books I have recently
purchased, I will probably buy Hunger and see where and if I can identify
with Ms. Gay’s take on it.

Happy Father’s Day!

My Weight Watchers Journey

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Weight Watchers and I go back to 1970 when I was 15 years old and weighed 20 lb. more
than I should have for my age and height. My mom, who always worried that my “obesity”
was making people criticize her, decided that she needed to lose weight (she did) and
dragged me along with her. I was very successful, enjoying the “freedom” of a food
plan, and I got down to my goal weight less than 6 months later. It took a lot longer
than I anticipated, my metabolism already slow from years of dieting being forced on
me…but I digress.

Six months after having gotten to my goal weight, I found myself having gained it all
back and then some. So began the story of my constant dieting, both with fad diets or
healthy ones. I, however, have always gone back to Weight Watchers because it was the
only sensible way to lose weight. Even today, I think it has merit but I think the
most important part of the whole Weight Watchers success has to do with the philosophy
that overeating and yo-yo dieting are not just about loving food. Issues must be
addressed and that is where it becomes necessary to attend meetings and share, at least
for me.

I joined the on-line Weight Watchers once or twice in the last decade but found that it
is not the same to go on line, no matter what the resources. In the country where I
live, there is no such franchise, obesity being so common it is actually the norm!

What prompted me to think about Weight Watchers today, I know not but it has been good to
reminisce, to see pictures of Jean Nidetch at her finest and to remember with optimism
that I know how to lose and keep the weight off, I just need to commit. I have not looked
at my scale in more than a week, I have also not overeaten and feel that at least for this
week, I have not gained weight. I can do this. I want to do this. But I also want to thank
the chubby body that I now have for always, always, supporting me. Although I am carrying
a good 40 lbs. more than I should, nothing hurts me, I am still an active participant in
my life and I am happy.

St. Nicholas Day

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St Nick

Our children grew up celebrating St. Nick’s day by putting their shoes
outside their bedroom doors at night and waking up to trinkets and candies
the next day. I can’t remember when we stopped this tradition, but it was
a lovely one which I hope they have fond memories of now that they are all
grown up. I know it was fun for me to shop for tiny little gifts that I
knew they would get a kick out of. I am glad I spent the time doing this,
nothing is quite as wonderful as great memories of childhood, which we don’t
all have.

My own childhood (up to about age 8) is filled with nothing but good
memories. It was only at around age 10 that my mom began to pester me about
my weight, probably due to her own feelings of guilt and knowledge of what
‘excess’ weight on a child meant (a call for attention)…in any event, I
can now (50 years later!) understand her good intentions and as the years
go by I find myself more and more forgiving of her focus on this “problem”.

As she lays in her bed these days, the victim of Alzheimer’s, I know only
love for her and admiration for the person she once was. I am not sure how
she would react to the current status of my weight (too much) but I think
she would be proud of the person I became despite that terrible stigma that
has followed me too many years of my life.

Easy/Hard to Gain/Lose

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A friend of mine recently commented that it was just as hard to gain weight as
it is to lose weight, that she had been on both sides and wanted to know our
opinion…

I have never tried to gain weight…it is very easy for me to do so, just increase
portions, stack on the carbs and there come the pounds. I think it is only
difficult to gain weight if you are ill or have an aversion to the foods that help
increase weight! It takes me a long time to lose weight. As a dieter beginning at
around age 10 or 11, my metabolism probably slowed down because no one knew 50 years
ago what we now know about dieting and the bad effects it produces. I look back at
pictures of myself at age birth to around 13 and I see a chubby girl but certainly
not a grossly obese one who needed to be put on diets. I wonder what would have
happened to my weight issues if my mom had chosen to look the other way and let me
figure things out for myself.

These days, I have been absent-mindedly grazing throughout the day. I have come to
the conclusion that there is some deeply rooted problem that requires me to keep the
protection of the extra pounds. Until I figure that one out, I might be ‘stuck’ at
this weight for a while. It is not a pleasant thought or feeling, and although I
love my body because it supports me and nothing hurts, I look back at pictures of
myself 40 lbs. ago and I lament getting to this place. One day at a time, one meal
at a time…easier said than done!

The cycle of life

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I write these words today filled with sadness because I have just learned that two of my friends have lost their fathers in the last day.  One was very elderly (in his 90’s) and the other was very heavy and ill.  As I recall my childhood and all of the ‘dysfunction’ that came with it, I am grateful that both my parents are still alive  (86) and that despite my ‘battle with the bulge’ I have actually enjoyed a close relationship with them both.  My father has never made any mention of weight loss or gain, always making me feel accepted by him at any size and Mom has been a victim of Alzheimer’s for 20 years so she is unaware of my current figure (or lack thereof!)!

It always seemed ironic to me that Mom bullied me on my weight as a child when she herself was always overweight and overeating in the classical mindless manner.  She wore her clothing extremely tight, not because she was trying to be a sex symbol but because she was the eternal optimist who thought she would be losing weight and refused to spend money on purchasing the right size.  I, on the other hand, prefer fitted (but not tight) styles at all sizes but do spend money upgrading (in my case ‘up-sizing’) my wardrobe and seem to have a range of clothing from XS (which I once fit into) to XL (which I am now squeezing into).  My mom did lose weight a number of times (on Weight Watchers!) but in her 60’s she really gave up the battle and decided to enjoy life and food without guilt or calorie counting!  At that time, I was in wonderful shape and we did many things together which included traveling and later on spending time with my children.  I miss my mother and see her every chance I get, grateful that they have the resources and she is cared for at home.  She always wanted that and I am happy she is there.

For today, I will remember that being overweight brings a host of other baggage, not only in an emotional way but in very real ways:   being winded after climbing stairs; not being able to get in and out of cars as easily or gracefully; not fitting properly in clothing; having to gauge whether or not I can walk  between two occupied chairs in a restaurant without having to ask people to get up and move to let me by…etc.  You get the picture.  I look forward to another successful day of reasonable eating.

Chubby Baby Obese Adult?

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Here we are on the second day of the New Year.  Yesterday was pretty successful in terms of eating reasonably and engaging in moderate movement. I feel motivated and am writing early so that I can move on to the other items on my busy day.

I weighed over 8 lbs. at birth! I was overweight and put on my first diet at about age 10.  At that time, I was overweight but not truly obese.  My mom worked outside the home (not a common thing back in the early 60’s) and felt guilty about leaving us to fend for ourselves during the after-school hours.  I was always a very responsible child (and adult!) doing whatever chores were required, hoping that my mom would focus on that and let the subject of the weight drop.  I envied my friends whose mothers were homemakers who made the cookies and tasty dinners so I spent a lot of my time at their homes, comparing and contrasting my own situation.

I think I was a happy kid who made the best of my situation, inserting humor and antics into activities and I know that my mother loved me even though she could never quite articulate the words.  As I matured, I came to see the ‘problem’ of my weight from her point of view. She believed that I felt neglected and ate to compensate for those feelings which then manifested in the extra pounds that made it impossible for her to ignore me which caused her to scold me for eating and turned into a terrible cycle of weight gain, reprimands, sadness, more weight gain, etc. I was successful on Weight Watchers for the first time at age 15, when I lost 15 lbs. and was at a normal weight for the first time in my life.  Six months later, I found myself not only having gained all the 15 lbs. back but adding another 5!  I felt terribly ashamed but not enough to do anything more about it.  By the time I graduated from High School, I was a good 30 lbs. heavier than I needed to be.  I have to say, however, my excess weight never really kept me from doing the things I enjoyed: reading, exploring nature, singing, dancing, having friends, etc.  I was never athletic and doubt the weight made any difference on that point. I was always very outgoing and my nature allowed me to look at life in a very philosophical manner.

An important event when I was 19 and working turned out to be the impetus for a dramatic weight loss that I was able to maintain for more than 20 years.  An office gossip mentioned that one of my co-workers said I should be transferred to another department because that was where all the ‘fatties’ worked.  I was so angry, I began an almost starvation diet that instant!  I lost all the weight I needed to (35 lbs.) in less than 4 months! Ah those were the days of losing weight quickly as a consequence of a sick sort of mental trick and the benefit of a young metabolism.

For today, I hope to make good food choices and practice mindful eating as I go about my day.