I tend to think of weight issues, overeating, that whole arena, as being emotionally linked. As in: I'm depressed, therefore I crave comfort food. I'm anxious, therefore I jitter and mutter and grab food off the shelf to put in my mouth as if somehow it will magically also stuff my brain so full it'll quiet the worry. And to some extent, I think that's all true. But knowing it doesn't seem to stop the urge, doesn't seem to solve the problem.
I've been exercising a lot lately. Well, a good amount. Working those muscles, pushing and pulling on the Nordic Track, feeling those endorphins. I've even developed calluses on my fingers where the rope pulls through my hands. And yet I haven't Ė or hadn't Ė lost any weight. Gained a little, even. Disturbing. What was happening?
Well. Um. You see.
This is embarrassing.
I'm going to jump right to the conclusion here, okay? Maybe that'll make the confession easier.
I realized that food can equal comfort, yes, can equal mood stabilizers, yes. It can also equal money. A cornucopia, richness, the bounty of the harvest. Think about the words, their connotations. Rich food, a sense of luxury. I've been feeling poor lately, feeling frustrated and stymied with it. I can strategize, organize, plan ways to start bringing in a real (or even semi-real) income, but it's all in the future. I can't do much right now, not while Damian's still in school part time. Thus the frustration. Thus the emptiness. Leaving me wanting. Leaving me feeling greedy.
Chocolate, wrapped in gold foil, symbolizes money at Hanukkah. Traditional for the kids. Well, I've been eating my own kind of gelt. Valhrona chocolate, Scharffen Berger, small medallions made by a company called Lake Champlain. The good stuff. Rich, dark, spreads on your tongue like liquid gold. Just a little bit won't affect my weight, right?
But the urge for a little now, a little an hour later, a little after that, it does. Adds up like expenditures on a credit card. Time to pay the bill and oh damn, that hurts.
I don't know how to create true non-monetary richness in my life, not yet, but I'm thinking about it. But I can tell you this: it's not about the chocolate.
I've lost three pounds this week. My secret? No more chocolate. Sad but true.
Oddly, I feel richer for it.
Okay, this weight loss thing? Not happening. Needs to happen. Now. Right now this minute now, no dessert for you, young lady, you have to show some restraint.
How does it happen? How do you switch the "I mean it!" switch on and how can you be so passionate, so dedicated about it one day and so disinterested the next?
I think, as I've said before, that there are times in your life you can devote attention to the job of losing weight and getting healthy and other times you just don't have room in your brain for it. But then there are times Ė like the past couple of months for me -- when you do have room in your brain (albeit perhaps not so much in your schedule) but you keep climbing on that train only to climb off the moment it slows around the first curve. Why? If you know it works, if you know the only way to get to your destination is to stay on that damned train tootling along the track, if you've got proof from mere months back that this train does in fact chug along quite nicely once it gets going, why jump off and on and off and on? How can you stay on? What's this gravitational pull to the heavy ground?
My mother and I were talking about this a few days ago (sadly, she's gone now, her plane left yesterday morning, back to Nova Scotia and a real autumn). I was describing how sometimes I just have to put things in my mouth. It's not hunger, it's not even an obvious attempt to stuff down feelings, though it may be that under the surface. It feels more like a need. And I don't know how to stop it. Nor do I truly understand where it comes from. She said she thinks for me it's a combination of rebellion and a desire for comfort. That sounds exactly right.
When someone Ė or some group Ė says "Do this, do it this way, conform to my plan for you, be who I want you to be," I say "Fuck you." I'm not so good with authority. This got me into trouble in the editing room early in that career; I didn't have the proper subservience. I don't cotton to control from outside. So when I have to follow a diet plan, to account for everything I eat and don't eat, have to do this but not that, fall into line with the groupthink, I don't. Weight Watchers worked for me for a while because the flexpoints system allowed me to choose my own food, it simply gave me a way to measure when I was overdoing it and stop myself. But I'm reluctant to go back even though the Core Plan intrigues me. Because it's ultimately a corporate entity keeping an eye on me, tsking when the scale goes up or even doesnít go down, monitoring me and judging me. Not so good. My attitude isn't "Better do better next week!" or even the unhealthy but natural "Oh, Iím a desperate failure," it's "Fuck off, I'm going to go stuff myself, take that, scale bitch!" Rebellion. Teenage, unbecoming and self-destructive, yes, but there it is. I have to do this for myself or I'm not going to do it at all.
The other aspect, the desire for comfort, that may be easier to understand. More universal, anyway. When I get stressed, food serves to fill me up emotionally. For a few minutes, anyway. Then I want more. Because the good feeling, the buttery mouthfeel of pudding, the sweet tang of chocolate or the crisp edge/soft interior of a good French fry, that lasts for the moment you chew, the moment you swallow, the fleeting aftertaste, and then it leaves you with a longing for more and more and more because that moment, it felt good. Vestigial memory of nursing, that warm milky feeling that you were wholly enclosed, safe and protected in a nest of arms and everything was right with the world? Who knows. But it's there, and it goes deep. And when I'm not thinking or even when I am but I lack a solid alternative or an emotionally powerful reason to stop myself, I go for the cupboard to find something soothing to eat. In the moment it feels good but of course it's not a solution, not long term.
So what's the answer? My rebellious streak, I think, can be answered simply. I am no longer that teenager, nor that young adult. I don't have to prove I'm anyone's equal. I know I am. And I can choose my health-and-diet plan. I may go back on Weight Watchers, though this time online. I may do it on my own. I don't know yet. I'll experiment. But this is in my control and I do this for myself. I do it because I want my clothes to fit better, I want to look better in photographs and in the mirror and I want to feel healthier, the way I do when I'm eating better and working my muscles. The way I did last fall. If it's about me, there's a much bigger chance I'll stick to it.
The turning-to-food-for-comfort dilemma is harder. I don't have room in my life for a satisfying substitute. I can't go for long walks or take long baths or work my body hard every time I feel the urge to stuff my face. There's a small person's dictatorial ways and scheduling needs to consider. I have little enough time as it is. I want to write Ė no, I need to write, I have a novel to finish, after all Ė but today when Damian was at school, I did 25 minutes on the Nordic track, ate lunch, and paid bills. Then it was time to pick him up. No writing time for me. Long walk, long talk, long bath? A long time from now.
So what then? I'm still not sure. Exercise is key, though. This I know. The endorphin rush helps my metabolism which means I crash less. It gives me a kind of emotional equilibrium, too, therefore I need less of a snack boost. The rest I'll figure out as I go.
That ground rushing by under the train tracks may become appealing in a week or a month, I know that. I might want to jump off and eat a few dozen acres of bucolic landscape. So I make no promises, not even to myself. It feels shitty to break a promise and I have no plans to feel shitty. But I do plan to work on this. Because it feels good to do it. This initial switch from inertia to momentum is hardest. Well, and later on when it stalls out, the train slows around a dangerous curve. That too. But right now Iím in the first flush of "I'm eating right, Iím so hungry but I feel so good!" and I plan to savor it. Grumpy comes later. I'll deal.
I found myself thinking about motivation this week. I was so jazzed about weight loss this time last year. I read the Weight Watchers boards and the Bootcamp Buddies boards and billions or at least a dozen weight loss weblogs and all the links therein. I weighed and measured and experimented and walked through supermarket aisles resisting the siren call of the sweets shelves and I was so very proud of myself as the pounds dropped off. Magic, I thought. This is so easy, I thought. Why doesnít everyone do this?
Part of it then was the relief. Iíd carried around the extra poundage for years as if it were my Dantean curse. My penance, my sentence. I suffer the insecurity and low self-esteem that caused and was caused by this, my extra layer of fat. I suffer because I deserve to suffer even if I donít quite know why. I am round and sad and uncouth and this is my fate.
So of course when I started seeing the pounds drop away, I was thrilled. No necessary penance after all. Instead, a cage of my own making. The bars withering away with every bite of apple instead of cake, Wasa cracker instead of bagel. I was a convert and giddy with it.
But the points counting got tiresome and the regimen got difficult and my body felt good the way it was and life got complicated and emotionally charged and my weight stopped going down no matter how diligent I was. And it was so easy to say forget this. So easy to say Just for this one week. Just for now. Just until this crisis is over. I needed comfort and comfort was still food. I thought I had enough control, I had enough of a buffer, and I had gotten deeply enough into the routine of this weight loss that I could slow down and at least maintain.
I didnít. This may sound odd, but it was very much on purpose and with glee aforethought that I didnít. I ate too rich, too much, too often. I stopped exercising. And it felt good, nearly as good as it had felt last year exercising and being oh-so-careful. It wasnít like Iíd lost the motivation, it was like Iíd gained the anti-motivation. Motivation to lose the weight-loss mindset. To fall into indulgence, to swim in it. And when my clothes started getting uncomfortable and my reflected image started getting rounder again, I tried to imagine going back on the diet-and-exercise path. I couldnít. What had seemed so easy now seemed like some kind of fantastical, improbable dream. How do you gain the mindset? How do you lose it? Where does it go and how do you retrieve it?
I have some thoughts, not fully formed yet. But they go something like this: when I lost the weight, I was feeling good about myself. Good about what I was doing. I had a passion for it. But a passion is hard to maintain. And when I hit a months-long plateau, the passion slipped away. Triumph had sustained me. When I lost that, I lost my forward momentum. And weight loss is a lot of work. When I had to use that same mental/emotional juice for something else, I stopped the regimen. And because it hasnít really been that long, I hadnít created solid enough new habits. So when I was under tremendous stress this spring (the kindergarten tangle, among other things) it was far easier to slip back into the food-as-love mode. And until I started feeling good about myself again Ė my recent photo job helped, as did winning a victory in the school battle Ė- I couldnít turn that around.
I donít know how it works for other people. I only know that for me I have to feel upbeat and positive about myself and my life in order to lose weight. Love yourself, allow yourself to do this. More, though, I think itís crucial to not be beating yourself up about this slip and that slip. Itís crucial to think ďI can! Iím strong and mighty, I have a food scale and Iím not afraid to use it!Ē rather than ďI have so much to lose, how did I let this happen? I suck!Ē
Some people may have to hit bottom before deciding to do something about their problems: their alcohol or drug abuse, their smoking addiction, their unhealthy eating patterns. For me, I think itís the opposite. I have to feel energized and positive and only then can I get on that Nordic Track and sweat my way down the scale. Recently Iíve looked in the mirror and shrugged: ďYeah, Iíll get rid of that extra bit,Ē rather than ďUgh.Ē Makes a big psychological difference. Huge.
Weight loss stats for the week:
Ate sensibly. Well, sort of. A couple of decadent desserts but only after very light dinners. Lots of fruit. Not enough veggies.
Exercised once: Nordic Track, 30 minutes. Yes, once. Yes, I know. Not good. Yeah, well. It happens. This week, Iíll do better. I have motivation: Iíve gotten addicted to Nip/Tuck, have to work out to watch it. (Of course, I did work up a sweat rolling primer on the walls in Damian's closet one afternoon and also more sweat moving stuff out of his room another morning, so my total exercise quotient is closer to three days' worth. I think. That kind of thing is harder to measure. What if one box you move is light? What if two thirds are light but the others are really heavy? Is it still the same as a short bout of free weights?)
Scale says: Down one pound. Itís a mystery to me. Just as Alison-Jane said recently, you canít let the number on a specific hour of a specific day in a specific week rule your life. This is also one reason I left Weight Watchers; too close attention to the scale: "What was it last week? Oh, then you havenít worked hard enough this week." This week, of course, it would be smiles and congratulations and yes, I am pleased, but weíll see what it says tomorrow and next week and next month. Iím in this for the overall, not the single weigh-in.
On to next week. Damianís room wonít be assembled until Tuesday at the earliest, but I can still work out in and around the chaos. I think.
So after I wrote about how I was going to jump back into Weight Watchers with both feet and a renewed vigor for toting up points, IÖ wellÖ I didnít. I was ready, kind of. But then I scraped acoustic popcorn off the ceiling in my office and painted stripes on the walls and it was so much work, how could I exercise on top of that? And if youíre not exercising, eating less is a pathetic half-assed dietary attempt to make you feel like youíre doing something even when youíre not. Or so I told myself. And then vacation came along and Irvine andÖ wellÖ I left my Nordic Track at home and temporarily lost my points-counting bible andÖ wellÖ
Iím back. Again.
I figure it this way: if something is hard, you often have to try a number of times, ramming your bike into the wall, falling in a tangle of spokes and legs, getting up to try again. And then it clicks in your head and youíre pedaling along and it feels right and true and you keep going, at least to the end of the block and back. And then maybe you have to take a break but when you get back on the bike, itís easier than it was last time.
Besides, whatís the point of beating myself up? It doesnít change anything. And itís much easier to do this in a good mood.
So I started again this week. Not counting calories or Weight Watcher points, though I may pick that up in a week or two if this non-food-log method doesnít work out for me. Right now my plan is:
Exercise: Do at least 20 minutes on the Nordic Track (working up to 40) three to six times a week. Do free weights every other day. Add ab crunches and push-ups in the next two weeks.
Food: Eat less. Eat healthier. Weigh and measure food when appropriate. Watch portions. Eat lots of fruit and veggies. Lots and lots and lots. And lots.
Keeping track: This blog. Iíll post here once a week, on Saturdays. Iíll tuck it behind a ďmoreĒ button so you donít have to read it if weight loss blogs bore the crap out of you, though I do hope to talk about more than the bare facts of how I did. Iíd create a new blog but thereís a limit to how many different personal sites one woman can handle, yíknow?
So there it is.
Weight (yes, Iím going to admit my weight): 153 lbs. Down one pound from last Saturday, so good. Iím perfectly happy with a single pound a week, as long as the trend is in the right direction. Down fourteen pounds from my high last summer of 167. Up ten pounds from my lowest weight this past winter (143 lbs). So it goes. It was a tough spring. No regrets. Goal weight: 125 lbs. To lose: twenty eight pounds. Deadline: none. Iím just gonna do it, is all.
Exercise this week:
Nordic Track four times. First time: 18 minutes. Second time: 20 minutes. Third time: 10 minutes. (What? I was tired!) Fourth time: 23 minutes.
Weights three times. I did two sets of each one and approximately 12-15 reps each set. Well, I didnít do two sets yesterday. My knee started to hurt. Gotta watch that. And wrap it. I lifted twenty pounds for the one-handed exercises (standing row, I think itís called, and one other). Forty pounds for the squat. Twenty in each hand, you see. I like consistency, it makes things easier.
Eating habits this week: Well, I ate. Yes. And it was good. Yes. And it did include veggies for dinner every night. Also chocolate bread pudding Thursday night at our favorite seafood restaurant. Yum.
Next report: Saturday July 31st.
Funny thing, I think I started this weight loss regimen last July, right around this time. I think that bodes well, donít you?
Oh, and if you feel like it, feel free to leave your stats in the comments every Saturday, keeping me company in a kind of mini-Weight Watchers style dialogue. But Itís also okay if you donít. Iím doing this because of my own need for accountability. If one or more readers do it with me thatíd be awesome but itís not strictly necessary.
Itís been a while since I've written about weight loss, hasnít it? Thereís a reason for that. Yes, the obvious one. After I quit Weight Watcherís, I fell off the wagon but good. I feel no guilt, though perhaps a bit of chagrin. I had an intensive March, a busy April, and a stressful May. I didnít have the emotional wherewithal to be careful about what I ate and conscientious about how much exercise I got.
I do think itís possible to lose weight when youíve got a lot going on in your life; I lost ten pounds around the time Damian was diagnosed (on purpose, I should add), though I quickly regained it plus some. But it is harder. Weight loss is like a job. Not a full time job, thankfully, or nobody would do it, but itís an extra commitment. Time to plan your meals, to figure out how to organize your life differently, to shop with more focus and attention, time to exercise enough to lose the weight and firm the body. Itís self-sustaining at a certain point: the endorphins make the exercise become its own reward, healthy food makes you feel better and gives you more energy, the compliments and the way you fit into your clothes give you the positive reinforcement to continue.
But then something throws you off track. And once youíre off, it takes nearly as much willpower to get back on as it did to start in the first place. Iíve tried a few times over the past few months but in a half-hearted, canít-I-get-away-without-a-food-log? sort of way. And of course I couldnít. And of course I didnít. I still felt greedy, felt deprived at the very idea of not being able to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I wasnít ready. But somethingís shifted lately, and itís not just that my jeans are a little too snug now. Itís the same thing that happened just before I started on Weight Watcherís last July. Iíve been eating the same indulgent way but not enjoying it as much. It felt like almost a duty. Like a habit of thinking. I Must Eat Sweet, Rich Food. I Must Be Decadent. Itís almost as if something changes inside, that greedy needy part of my brain finally releases me and I can turn back into a weight-watching careful person. I like this woman, the one who sweats hard every day and who takes pleasure, not just in the weight loss, but in the way she feels along the way, in control and powerful.
I believe now that I need breaks. When losing weight starts to feel like an annoying chore, itís time to stop. When it feels like something I miss for my own self-image and sense of well-being, itís time to start again.
I ate twenty one pointsí worth of food today. I also did twenty two minutes on the Nordic Track. Iím ready again.
Tomorrow marks a week since I unofficially left Weight Watchers and stopped counting points. It feels so strange; I donít write down every bite anymore and yet I still consider myself on a weight loss plan. Just a more idiosyncratic one. I find myself running tallies in my head, toting up the overall value of dinner, and then realizing, duh, I donít have that little notebook in my everpresent backpack anymore. Iím free!
Donít get me wrong, I think journaling your food intake is a very good idea. Without weighing and measuring my food, constantly adding everything up, Iíd never have lost twenty three pounds. But the point is to give myself a little more breathing room now. To see if I can do this without quite the same obsessive worry, that feeling I was always about to go over my points allotment, the guilt when I did go over even if it was planned and I still had flex points left. That feeling of being trapped inside a box that said Target: Twenty Points A Day. Instead of all that, I want to listen to my body and see what Iíve learned from the past six months. See if I can make this work on my own terms.
How did I do this week? Well, itís been interesting. Ironically, I think Iíve stayed within my points allotment (including flex points, that is). Iíve learned new eating habits over the past months and theyíve stuck. I eat broccoli with a sprinkle of miso dressing or air-popped popcorn or goat cheese on a Wasa cracker (ie: edible cardboard) for a late afternoon snack now, and that feels natural. When I crave chocolate, I eat a Haagen Dazs chocolate sorbet bar (two points). I eat a chicken thigh for dinner instead of thigh plus drumstick. I havenít fallen off the wagon yet.
I do give myself some freedom, though. Yesterday I had eggs benedict with smoked salmon and a lemony homemade hollandaise sauce. It was yummy. It made me happy. I donít regret it. But I was doing that on Weight Watcherís too; flex points are great for that kind of occasional indulgence. So I think Iím still good to go. Which means Iíve learned the necessary lessons. Or so it seems right now, though I realize Week One off the WW plan is early days yet.
One thing is different, though. Iím hungry a lot more. Ravenously hungry. Eat a whole horse hungry. Every three hours. I had to go shopping today to have enough stuff so I wouldnít accidentally gulp down one of the cats in my frantic hunger. Itís like Iím back at the beginning of the diet and my body hasnít adjusted to the lower calorie intake yet.
This is very weird. Either Iím pregnant (god forbid) or my now-daily workout is paying off. Lifting weights every other day, aerobics on off days. Building muscle, burning fat. I can feel firm bulges in my lower back now, on either side of my spine. I donít think Iíve ever had muscles there. Iím not sure what theyíre supposed to do, but theyíre kind of cool. I just hope the hunger subsides. Oh yes, and that my scale shows some new numbers. Lower ones. And soon. Next week would be good.
I like this, though. I like being on my own. Well, not entirely on my own, since Dan is also working out more now and eating better; heís my fitness buddy. But Iím without that corporate stamp of approval in my official little passport. I liked Weight Watchers because I had felt so lost without it, groping for answers in the dark. How much to eat, what kind of food was best. How to handle the cravings. Now I know. And the truth is, Iím not a joining-the-club kind of person. Iíd rather do things on my own or with friends. Not within a larger structure. So this suits me fine.
As long as it works.
Iím leaving Weight Watchers. Why does it feel so much like breaking up with a needy boyfriend? I know theyíll try to woo me back with cards and letters, guilt inducing ďyou canít go it alone, weíre meant for each otherĒ messages. Theyíd call and leave pathetic voice mail, Iím sure, complete with sniffles and forlorn tones, but they donít have my phone number. Thank god for that.
Iím leaving Weight Watchers and Iím a little nervous about it. Not sure if itís the right thing to do. Itís been a kind of security blanket, a weekly reminder that Iím so serious about this, Iím paying money so someone else can write down my weight. And itís been good to me. Very good. Itís gotten me past that ten-pounds-down stuff-your-face-now wall Iíve faced too many times in the past. The ritual of the meetings, the discipline involved in weighing and measuring every bite, writing it all down in a little book and toting up the totals, all of that has been crucial, I think.
But Iíve been spinning my wheels since early November. I cycled up and down (and up and down) through the same two pounds for the two last months of 2003, then managed to slip down two for real in January/February and now am cycling through that new set of numbers, seeing them repeat and repeat and repeat on the scale. And I'm staying on the program, writing down my points and staying within the range and exercising regularly. And yet. Hello scale, my dearest enemy.
Somethingís off. I know weight loss slows as you get closer to your goal, and right now Iím around fifteen pounds or so from mine but still. This is unbelievably frustrating. I go to weigh-ins and lo! Iíve lost an ounce! (And they reassure me, ďhey, at least youíre maintainingĒ Ė gee, thanks.) Or I go and Iím down a whole pound and a half (last week Ė and woo fucking hoo, half of that was weight Iíd lost the previous week that simply didnít show up on that morning and the other half was dehydration). Or I go and Iím up a pound (yesterday, and the woman gave me a sad sort of look as I shrugged and tried to look nonchalant) but I know because I weigh myself every morning that the up-a-pound is as false as the down-a-pound-and-a-half.
And then if I stay for the meeting, people are saying the same things that were interesting six months ago but not so much now, and the topics are the same as they were back then, and I recognize only a few people in the room now, and I no longer feel part of that isn't-this-great? community.
Donít get me wrong. I think Weight Watchers rocks. I just think itís time for a break. Maybe a permanent break, but I donít know that for sure.
What I do know is that I donít want to take a break from losing weight. This is too important to me for a myriad of reasons, emotional and health-related. But Iíve been able to lose ten pounds at a time in the past without any outside help, no specific structure. I was never as rigorous about the dieting part but I was more intensive with the workouts. So this month Iíll try my damnedest to exercise six times a week (three times cardio, ie: Nordic Track and three times weightlifting/ab crunches/pushups) and work to maintain my smaller portion sizes and healthy/lowfat snacking habits and also make a point of, yíknow, COOKING. From Weight Watchers cookbooks (and any others I can dig up Ė feel free to recommend some). Healthy, low calorie/fat/points food. I haven't been so good about that. Eating low points, yes, but cooking real meals? Not so much. Who has time? But if it's important enough, I can find the time. And it's important enough. If I feel well fed, I can stick with this.
Yes, Iím nervous about this change. Oh yes. But itís not like it's a forever commitment. If Iíve gained even as much as two pounds by the end of March, back I go to the weigh ins and the half hour meetings. But maybe Ė just maybe Ė I need to do this, to shake things up and try this on my own and see whether it still works. Or even works better.
It's very strange to have a stomach bug while on a diet. For one thing, you're only supposed to eat bland, easy to digest food, right? Well, um. The bread is whole wheat, the cereal is all high fiber, the carbohydrates are all complex. There's nothing in the house right for a sick person. Where's the Wonder Bread and cream of wheat when I need it?
Then there's the fact that on Weight Watcher's you're supposed to make sure to eat at least twenty points a day, that's the rock-bottom minimum for anyone. But my target points for the day is twenty. So I'm essentially supposed to eat a more-or-less normal amount of food. I know it's insanity to try that while your stomach is doing flip-flops and contemplating exiting your body by whatever means, fair or foul. And I didn't even try on Saturday. Yesterday I did it by a fluke. Bagels are six points each, two slices of toast with jam and margarine is five. I filled my belly with bland starch and sailed on forward. Today was/is strange, though. I'm well enough to leave the house. And my body is hungry but irritated at the idea. As if the nobler thing would be to starve, but it just can't seem to get there. It makes meals difficult when your body is telling you it hates you for making it eat. My brain wants three course meals, my body wants to be anorexic. It's kind of a problem. So maybe Weight Watchers is a good thing. It offers a compromise. Twenty points is usually too little, a struggle, a pain in the butt. This weekend it's maybe just right.
Dieting the easy way: get sick. Or is that the hard way?
I think Weight Watchers has made a mistake. See, chocolate has points. A lot. And that's okay most of the time. I mean, sugar + fat = points. Sure. But they're leaving out one important issue.
Chocolate, when eaten just prior to or during a woman's period, has no calories. It's true.
So all that chocolate I want to eat today? I should. It's medicinally appropriate. And what's more? I shouldn't have to write any of it down in my food log. I mean, do you write down cough syrup?
Okay, Iíll admit it. I was worried. Two weeks off the plan, two weeks without diarizing (my spell check thinks thatís a real word, should I go get my speller checked out?), two weeks without exercise, without low-points days, without paying overmuch attention to what I was putting into my mouth. I had a few Wasa crackers, some Asian pears, some broccoli and some kale, but I also had some amazing chocolate truffles and some greasy but wonderful dim sum and oh yes, that pate and pastries the night of my birthday. And champagne on New Years Eve and cashew nuts and toffee from Danís work gift stash and more pastries and scones and sparkling cider and more chocolate and I think there was some white chocolate in there somewhere, not to mention two iterations of pear almond tarts and those sweet potato latkes two weeks ago, plus brisket and a custardy fruit tart.
I had a holiday, in other words. A full-on ďDieting? Whatís that?Ē indulgent vacation. And it was wonderful and I was not even a little ashamed or guilty. But I was worried. I wondered, as I accepted compliments on my weight loss, if while I smiled and nodded, I was right then and there sabotaging myself, shooting myself in the foot or maybe the belly, tumbling into the terrible waters of self-indulgence and willful self-deception. When you read over and over that the way to lose weight is to eat so carefully, so healthfully, and to exercise so regularly, itís scary to chuck all that even for a few weeks. Iíve fallen off weight loss regimens before. It felt pretty much exactly like this, only it went on longer. But would this too? It could. It can. It might. And god, that would be awful.
Today I exercised for the first time since Dan and Damian got off work and school. I warmed up, stretched my arms this way and that, twisted at the waist, pulled my foot up behind my thigh and then extended it in front of me, then I got on the Nordic Track and swished my legs and pulled with my arms in the rhythmic forward-and-back that stretches and works and gets the heart rate up and opens the sweat glands. Thirty minutes of that, plus ab crunches (100 regular, 70 on each side, 70 times bicycling my legs Ė until everything aches and then a little more), plus two sets of twenty push-ups. Then I collapsed on the bed feeling the thump-thump-thud vibration through my torso as my heart gradually slowed and the endorphin glow flooded my body.
I missed this. I missed the feeling of a body working hard. I missed the emotional gratification. I missed knowing that this hour today plus another hour tomorrow and more hours later in the week, that all those hours add up. Cumulative sweat, shifting the body under my skin in a slow transformation. Iíve grown accustomed to this as Iíve grown accustomed to calculating my portion sizes and taking extra veggies and dipping my salad greens in dressing instead of dousing them. Iíve grown accustomed to the feeling that Iím doing something good for myself. Coming back to it feels like coming home after a long trip. A welcome familiarity.
A few weeks ago the topic at my Weight Watchers meeting was holiday parties and how to withstand temptation. I sat smug in my seat. That doesnít apply to me, I thought. Iím going to, what, one holiday party? Iím not Ms. Social Butterfly, I thought. Iím essentially a stay at home mom, glorified with a bit of this and a bit of that, but really. And anyway, I have willpower, I have self control. Iíve done this before. I handled a wedding and yummy next-day brunch back in early September, I can do this no sweat.
That was before I found out about yesterdayís holiday party for Damianís class, last nightís Hanukah party, tonightís dinner party (we were the hosts), tomorrowís kiddy birthday party, and Monday nightís holiday party for Danís show. Oh, and another dinner party Tuesday night. And maybe a brunch to be planned and there was in fact a party last weekend too. And my birthdayís next Monday and Iíd be sorely disappointed if I didnít have a sumptuous dinner to celebrate.
Last night, I was going to be so good. So careful. I knew I could. Iíve done it before. That was before I tasted the homemade sweet potato latkes. And the beef brisket. And the creamy fruit tart. But mostly those latkes. Wow yeah. How many points do you think are in five of those fried suckers?
But boy were they good. And sometimes good is worth it, you know? It just is. Losing weight, being careful, thatís all well and good and yes, important in the long run. And I still feel committed to that. But if I let those latkes go with only a taste, would that deprivation make me feel virtuous or frustrated? I think thereís a point where you have to say yes to food. Yes to pleasure. Yes to living completely in whatever moment and near whatever wonderful food tray you find yourself. And then you eat apples and Asian pears and a dab or two of goat cheese on your fibrous Wasa crackers the next day and you fill yourself up on broccoli and kale too and oh yes, you get back on that exercise equipment and sweat to the steady rhythm of your feet swishing in those tracks and your arms pulling in constant point-counterpoint, back and pull and back and pull. You weigh and measure and feel your body reshape itself and you feel your muscles expand as your waist contracts and itís all good. But you had that indulgence and that was good too.
Iím a little nervous, I admit. Iím afraid Iíll plow right off that wagon into the snowdrift of fat and sugar and too-exhausted-to-exercise-today. My size six jeans will become size eights again and on up the scale. But no. I think I can have this under control. Eating like this is blissful, but only for a short while. Then it becomes too much. Iím ready to eat carefully again tomorrow. Or, well, maybe the next day. How does January 1st sound?
I got on the Weight Watchers scale this morning after last nightís latke extravaganza. (How does thirty points sound?) Iíd gone up four tenths of a pound. The same four tenths Iíd lost the week before. My leader asked, ďHad you planned to maintain during the holidays?Ē
Plan? No. Is it a good idea? Maybe, yeah.
(But I will eat carefully before and after parties, and I will oh yes get back on that Nordic Track. I miss it. It misses me.)
For a while, I was a Weight Watchers disciple. I bowed and scraped and gave offerings of carrot sticks and low fat muffins to the WW Goddess. I learned the language of worship: points and tracking, flex points and activity points and, well, points. I went religiously to meetings, thought carefully about what to wear at weigh-in and whether Iíd peed beforehand and was careful to avoid salt the day before that. I walked through the supermarket, chanting ďNothing tastes as good as being thinner feelsĒ like an idiot and when I was at a party, I took one cookie from a platter, feeling oh so virtuous and immediately running off to write it down in my journal. I raised my hand in the weekly meetings, full of suggestions and epiphanic moments from the week before. I smiled at my fellow attendees as one does in church, full of hearty well being and spirituality. I lost weight. I felt good.
I still feel good. But the Weight Watchers worship thing? Not happening so much anymore. Points are useful because theyíre a distillation of calories, fat and fiber, which means I donít have to do as much math. And I still believe in writing every bite down, not to mention every push-up. But both of those are just dieting commonsense. The meetings, the WW literature? Not doing it for me. So many trite sayings, so many painfully obvious statements, each treated like a passage from Dieterís Revelations. Only youíre not supposed to say youíre on a diet because this is no diet, it's a lifestyle change. Which it is, and it should be, because god knows I feel better in my body than I have in years (maybe ever), I have more energy and more stamina and this is amazing and wonderful (except for the part where it completely sucks, but thatís another entry altogether), but really. Come on. This is a diet. They sit around talking about how to lose weight, how to avoid temptation, how to change recipes to make them low fat. They give you stars and magnets for each milestone. What kind of milestone? ďI feel better about my bodyĒ? No, of course not. ďIíve lost ten percent of my body weight.Ē Yep. I agree that this should be celebrated, oh yes indeed. But to do that and then say itís not a diet? Can you spell Disingenuous?
At the heart of losing and keeping the weight off Ė at least for me Ė is a complex stew of self-esteem and self-image issues mixed with determination to break bad habits, along with a new understanding of how to work my body. What fuels it, what stretches it, what makes it and therefore me happy. Also how not to sabotage myself and why I do and accepting that yes, sometimes I will but thatís part being human, after all. I feel like Iím figuring some of this out as I go along, but my compadres in this are mostly weight loss bloggers and real life friends, not the corporately conceived friendliness of the Weight Watcherís meeting room.
And yet I will continue to go and most weeks I will stay beyond weigh-in. Not because I expect to glean pearls of wisdom from the glib presentation, but because I need to hear the voices of other people going through this too. I need to see their faces and, yes, their imperfect bodies and know theyíre figuring this out as they go along just as I am.
I feel like Weight Watchers, with their prefab weekly topics, is predigested Chicken Soup for the Fat Personís Soul and theyíre often asking the wrong questions, but nevertheless the answers I need are sometimes the subtextual ones of ďWeíre here, arenít we? We came back this week. Weíre doing it, yes we are!Ē
Well, that and this week I learned that you can buy a high-cocoa-content low-fat low-sugar chocolate bar at Trader Joeís for when those premenstrual Must Have Chocolate Now cravings hit.
In the waiting room at occupational therapy today, Damian decided he was thirsty. So when his OT came up, he was chug-a-lugging my sports bottle. He kept drinking while she and I chatted. When he finally came up for air, he explained that he needs water before he exercises. Which necessitated my explanation that Iíve been exercising a lot recently, which is no doubt where he picked that idea up. She said ďI can see you have. That explains why you look soÖĒ and she paused. ďSkinny.Ē
It was a compliment but it didnít sound like one. It sounded, in fact, like it was a little difficult for her to say. More difficult was knowing how to answer it. Sheís a heavy woman. Iím guessing at least 250 pounds. I like her. I respect her. Her weight is such a non-issue itís not in the same room as being an issue. But here it was for the first time, and it made both of us squirm.
Something about this weight loss adventure Iím on, this trek toward a 22 BMI, has made me lose that self-consciousness about talking about weight. Iíve clicked on enough before and after pictures of women at all sizes, read enough accounts in weight loss blogs and forums, listened to women and men talking at Weight Watchers meetings, talked and thought enough myself about the myriad emotional and practical issues that come up along the way that, just like bowel movements and projectile vomiting lose their eww factor shortly after you become a new parent, this subject has lost the sting of taboo for me. But I know it hasnít for other people.
What I wanted to say to her when she complimented me in that dead tone was: ďItís been a long time coming. Itís an amazing feeling. (It is.) Itís easy. (Itís not.) It makes me feel giddy. (It does.) I know youíre a strong, smart woman. Take the jump! Come on in, the waterís fine!Ē (Well, a little chilly sometimes, sometimes overwarm, but overall, feels good.) ďBut only if you want to, of course, only if youíre ready.Ē
But I canít. I know sheíd take it as an insult, a criticism, a judgment on her body and by extension her theoretical lack of willpower. It wouldnít be. Itís been hard getting even 22 lbs off and the twenty or so more to go feels daunting and so far away. I can imagine what it would feel like to face 100 or 150 lbs. I can imagine wincing, shrugging, saying ďFuck it, too hard.Ē But thereís a man in my Weight Watchers group. Heís lost 90-odd pounds. He's probably past the halfway mark on his journey. I admire the hell out of him. Heís there every week, heís working hard at it. Heís going to make it to his goal and when he does, Iím going to stand up and salute him because he will have done one of the hardest things anyone can do. Hell, to come this far without falling off the wagon is impressive enough. Itís got to be amazing for him to experience his body that differently. Every week I think about telling him some of this, about saying ďYou impress me,Ē but I worry that heíd take it wrong. I worry that Iíd sound patronizing because I have less to lose even though thatís precisely why I admire him so much. Because he has and does and will and itís such a huge mountain heís got to climb and my little foothill seemed so enormously impossible at first to me. And so I havenít said anything, not yet.
I wish weight wasnít such a fraught issue, that it wasnít ringed around with so many superficial judgments about who and what it makes you to be overweight. I know thatís a ridiculously naive wish, but Iím willing to bet that if we could all drop the embarrassment and denial, if we could each acknowledge the elephant in the room and say ďYeah, itís there, and yeah, I can do something about it if and when Iím ready to but not until and unless that happens,Ē if we could all do that, if we could speak frankly about how it feels to be in our bodies and if we could flush away the stigma thatís attached to that Ė well, I donít know what because thatís so far from here and now I canít even imagine it. But it would be better.
If that exchange today was instead: ďHey, wow, you wrote a book,Ē I could say ďYeah, want to read it?Ē And she might say ďI always wanted to write one,Ē and I could say ďIíd be happy to share a few tips if youíre ever interested.Ē But in this case? Not going to happen. Sheís not going to say ďI wish I couldĒ and I canít say ďYou can if you want to but youíre a cool lady either way.Ē We canít go there because of the stigma of even saying the words aloud. It makes me sad.
JMS asked some important questions in her comment on my last post, so I thought Iíd address them here.
I'm also curious/concerned when you say you're not done yet. What are you aiming for? You've already dropped half a size, right? Lots of women would gnash their teeth in envy to fit into a 6 but you claim you're not satisfied. What, exactly, are your personal goals? What are your criteria?
First, I donít actually consider myself a real size six yet. I canít fit into six waist-high jeans, for instance. Iím still a definite size eight there. And I know sizes differ in various stores, too. It was still a pleasant shock, though!
Iíve dropped a total of three or four sizes, according to the Gap jeans department. Itís kind of weird, though, because Iíve only lost 22 lbs and youíd think Iíd only have lost two sizes, but these things are screwy and unpredictable.
Okay, Iím avoiding the bigger question, which is what goal Iím aiming for and implicitly if my body image will prevent me from stopping at a reasonable point. I do wonder if Iíll really see the full effect in the mirror when I get there, or if my brain will trick me into seeing fat thatís no longer there, like feeling a phantom limb. Phantom fat. But I do have some objective measures, too. Mainly, I want to have a BMI of 22 or 23. I know Weight Watchers considers anything between 20 (or is it 19?) and 25 to be healthy, but Iíve read elsewhere that 22 and below is optimum for health. And I can see it: my blood pressure has dropped from 120/80 to 120/70 already but it used to be more like 110/65 and I suspect thatís better. (Note to self: look that up, know for sure.) A BMI of 22 would put me around 122 lbs. Iím 145 lbs right now.
Also, I want to fit into my wedding dress. I looked pretty good around the time I got married (I was 29 years old, so Iím not going for a teenage body here), and definitely not too slim at 135 lbs. Thatís another ten pounds down from here. I may want to lose more when I get there, I may not. Iím leaving it open. I was 125 lbs in my early 20ís and I know I wasnít too skinny then either (though I was positively gaunt at age 18 when I was 114 lbs). So Iíll lose another ten or twenty pounds, definitely not thirty. My ultimate goal is to find a weight I can comfortably maintain the rest of my life and that allows me to enjoy my body and, yes, other peopleís reactions to my body too.
I see women on TV and in real life (there are an awful lot of them in LA) who I find too skinny. Women should have curves. We should have asses and tits and arms that have some meat and muscle. We should have hips that are more than concave pelvic bones. We should have ribcages covered by a warming layer, not ribs that show through lycra tops. Itís especially unattractive to be too slim when you hit 40 and beyond: your neck starts to look all tendony and odd and your face shows age faster and more completely. Weíre not meant to be muscle and bone, weíre meant to have flesh too. Iím not heading toward the anorexic, heroin-chic look, never fear. Will I be able to see myself objectively enough to know when to stop? I think so, though I canít know for sure. I look at myself now and I see someone who looks a hell of a lot better than when I started in July, but who still has a bit too much padding here and there and, well, just about everywhere. If I stopped now, besides not being at my ideal BMI, Iíd be annoyed with my mirror. And I want to love my mirror. And yes, Iím allowing for whatever bumps and lumps inevitably remain on my not-surgically-altered lived-in body. I look at pictures of me at my wedding and my body isnít so well toned (Iím in better shape now) but my face looks perfect to my eyes.
And I have a fail-safe in case I get carried away: If I canít tell when itís time to stop, I suspect Dan will tell me. He, too, dislikes ultra-skinny women.
Itís an interesting and difficult question, when to stop losing weight. I donít know the final answer for myself. I only know Iím not there yet.
Yesterday I went jeans shopping; I'd bought two new pairs a month ago but the lower-rise one of the two (cut below the waist, not a true low-rise) is practically falling off my hips. So, though it's indulgent of me to buy a new pair already, I did. I loved those pants, loved the way they looked and the way they made me feel wearing them. And I wanted a replacement immediately.
The saleswoman at the Gap asked me what size. I gulped and said, "Um. Six?" There was this part of me that, I swear, was ready to say ten or even twelve. I was starting to bust out of size twelve by the end of June and yes, I've been losing weight, but I still think of myself as size ten. Because those were my skinny jeans for so long. But now, size six? Is that even possible? I thought when I said it, the saleswoman was going to snicker and say "Sure, delusional lady, whatever you say." But she was polite and handed me the pants.
I brought them into the dressing room, still convinced I was going to slip them on and find a huge gap where the button and button hole not only didn't meet, but refused to even wave at each other across the great divide of my tummy. They buttoned fine. I bought them. Tried them on again last night to make sure they still fit, that it wasn't a sort of clothing store fluke. Strangely, they still fit. I wore them today. They look fantastic. I'm still convinced it's some kind of mistake, that there'll turn out to be a recall on size sixes to the Santa Monica store, they were mislabelled, sewn wrong, there's been a huge error. Because me? In a size six?
I had a busy afternoon and evening, social and interesting. But all the while, there was this little voice in the back of my head, chattering away and saying just one thing, "size six, I'm a size six, I'm wearing a size six, look at me, I'm size six."
I know size doesn't matter, I know that. It's how you feel, how you look to yourself in the mirror, how comfortably clothes fit. And I don't think it makes sense to shoot for a clothing size as a goal because that may not be the right stopping point for you. I also don't think it makes sense to shoot for a specific number on the scale. You'll know by how you look, how it feels to be in your skin. I believe all that wholeheartedly. Nevertheless, it's a measure. And walking around in size six black jeans today felt like stepping through the looking glass into an alternate universe. I'm that which I thought I'd never be. And yet it's a waystation on this road. I'm not where I want to be yet. I don't know what size that will be, but I do know what I'll see in the mirror and I'm not there yet. Hell, I'm still not quite in Weight Watcher's healthy BMI range yet. But hey, I'm a size six.
Iíve been working to lose weight since the beginning of July. Thereís no graceful phrase for the task, is there? Itís not a diet but a change in mindset and action. And weight loss isnít the only goal but itís the most concrete one. Itís a convenient shorthand but one that implies Iím in it for the short term Ė lose weight, be done with the thing, go back to pigging out. Iíll be damned if I know what to call it. Getting in shape, getting fit? That sounds so politically correct, sugar-coating (aspartame-coating?) the true intent. So losing weight will have to do for now.
Anyway. Iíve been working on this project of self and body (better? not so much? worse, even? damn) for four months now. Iíve had some hiccups along the way, some ďI canít do it!Ē moments, some ďI hate this!Ē pissy fits, some ďpoor fat old me, my body doesnít do what I wantĒ pity fests. But mostly itís been going well. Bit by bit I get more fit, have more stamina, more endorphins and healthier skin, my clothes fit better and smaller clothes fit again. All that good stuff. And Iíve stayed on the eating plan: counting my Weight Watchers points, measuring portion sizes, writing everything down, eating more veggies and a lot more fruit, switching to whole grain, changing my snack habits and even enjoying (pared down) expansive weekend dinners, inordinately proud of myself and my wondrous self-control. I was obnoxiously smug, in fact.
Until last week.
I donít know what triggered it. A combination of stress and exhaustion, I think. And no, it wasnít PMS. But I wanted to eat everything in sight. I felt like I absolutely had to put things in my mouth whether or not I was hungry, even if Iíd eaten ten minutes earlier, had to stuff my mouth my throat coat my stomach with FOOD. Comforting starchy sweet crunchy salty FOOD.
At least I was careful about it. I chose Pria bars, Asian pears, melon, lowfat chocolate cookies (4 small ones for a single WW point), nonfat chocolate sorbet bars (2 points apiece), Wasa crackers and rice cakes out the wazoo. And I wrote every single thing down in my food journal, wincing as I did, adding up the count and wincing again. And every night, Iíd say to myself, ďWhat the hell was that about?Ē And ďShit, my flex points are almost gone.Ē And ďI refuse to do that again tomorrow.Ē But every day I did it again. Compulsively.
I hated the way it made me feel, like I was waterlogged and squishing with it. Hated what it was doing to my self-confidence, my heretofore absolute knowledge that I was going to get to my goal weight and be so deliriously happy with it. For the first time this go-round, I thought I might fall off the weight loss wagon, lose my willpower and give in to whatever demon inside me craved more-more-ever-more. Iíve had this kind of insane-craving binge week before but since I wasnít working consciously to be healthy/lose weight, it just made me feel fat and slothful instead of precipitating the kind of flat-out fear I felt last week.
I had to change something. So I did. I talked out my stress with Dan and he helped me feel better about life stuff. So did my mom. I took naps and got to bed a bit earlier. I wrote some on my novel but let myself off the hook regarding page counts and forward progress. I took an entire morning off to read a good book and take a bath in Epsom salts. I brought the boom box into the bathroom, put on a plinky plunky New Age CD, and made the water as hot as I could stand. I canít remember the last time I did that. It felt amazing. Such luxury. A stolen morning.
That one bath broke the binge cycle.
The first day I ate normally Ė breakfast, a single snack when I got hungry, a sensible lunch and no snack till I got hungry againÖ that sort of a day Ė a wait until you feel your stomach talk back to you before heading to the fridge day, the first day that happened, I felt like crying. I was finally back in control.
I didnít know how much this mattered to me until I almost lost my way. I still donít even know why it happened. But I do know now that I can stumble and get back up. That insane cravings, so-called emotional eating episodes, can last days but they do end. That I have the tools to make it so.
This is a good thing to know.
I may have come off a bit holier-than-thou in that last entry. I donít mean to. Iím well aware of both how easy it is to gain weight and how hard to excise it. I am, after all, working to lose forty five pounds myself. I wasnít obese, not yet, but the scale kept going up, and I felt unhealthy and uncomfortable. But I know what itís like to come home at dinner time, too hungry to think about cooking something real. I know what itís like to have a long commute and nothing to eat in the car but goldfish crackers and nutter butters meant for a young child. I know what itís like to get so used to larger portions you eat a carefully-apportioned normal sized meal and walk away hungry and frustrated. I know what itís like to be so exhausted and overwhelmed the thought of exercise, of working your body hard, seems like the last thing in the world you should be doing for yourself. I know itís like to be so restless, bored, upset, stressed or wired that you want to stop it somehow and the easiest way, the most immediately emotionally satisfying way, is to stuff something sweet or lusciously fatty in your mouth. You may be craving something you canít have Ė a happier life, a calmer life, fewer worries Ė so you turn to something you can. And itís right in your cabinet or fridge and it stops the pain for a moment and you can rationalize it so easily. After all, that one square of chocolate/bowl of ice cream/bag of chips wonít put another ten pounds on all by itself, right? And it wonít, but the next hundred times you do that? It will.
So yes, I know how I put forty five pounds on my five foot not-quite-four frame and I know intimately how much commitment and discipline it takes to get that excess poundage off again. I know how I got this way, and I can guess how everyone else too. Itís a complex weave of loneliness, busyness, convenience, pleasure and exhaustion, plus some. The mix is different for everyone, albeit with common threads. I donít judge anyone for letting their weight creep up. In fact, I find I judge less now, twenty pounds down from my highest weight, than I did even four months ago. Iíve read more first-person accounts since then and thought about the issue a great deal and so I have a sense of what itís like inside everyoneís minds. Itís a lot like the terrain inside my own.
I also think itís evil the way our culture condemns the extra weight it fosters, the way models and actresses are forced to starve themselves down to the bone and then their non-menstrual, concave bodies are held up as the sexual ideal. Large women (and men) are sexual beings too and can be just as beautiful but our eyes are no longer used to processing the world that way, and thereís something deeply disturbing about that too.
But thereís a difference between non-skeletal beauty and fat-as-health-risk. Obesity is a societal problem of enormous proportions (pun intended). We need to take charge of our own destinies and not let commercialism and big business dictate what we do to and for ourselves. When I was in college, a recurring slogan for the feminist movement was ďWomen unite, take back the night!Ē Another was ďThe personal is political.Ē Well, people, letís unite to take back our bodies and our lives. The personal is indeed political.
An interesting article in this Sundayís New York Times Magazine posits a new reason for Americaís obesity epidemic: an overabundance of crops, particularly corn. When corn gets dirt cheap, farmers harvest more so they can continue to make a living, thus flooding the market and of course driving the price even further down. Corn goes into snack food as cornmeal, of course, but also high fructose corn syrup and meal to feed chickens and cows, which then are cheaper to raise and bring to market. Instead of passing the savings on to the consumer, fast food chains start supersizing everything. So for the same price, you get more food. What do you do with more food? You eat it, thereby tripling your calories from the average Whopper-plus-fries quick fix meal. Hardening of the arteries, here we come. The farming explosion also explains the ever-growing number of crunchy, salty choices dangling from supermarket racks, enticing you as you walk by.
Thereís more to the article, a lot more, about how this happened with alcohol a hundred years ago (farmers had too much grain, grain went into alcohol which became so cheap, people started drinking it for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and about how Nixonís administration dismantled the New Deal-implemented grain reserve, put in place to stave off just this situation: cheap produce, farmers suffering the consequences. When did the obesity epidemic take off? In the seventies, after the end of the grain bank.
Food for thought, certainly. And a lot of it make sense. But Iím left with one nagging question: are we really that susceptible as a people to the vagaries of pricing and marketing to the point that we ignore our own bodiesí signals to stop eating when weíre full? Do we care so little about our health that we go for the fix of high fructose corn syrup and ignore the fresh fruit in the next aisle? Are we really a nation of five year olds, intent on our momentary gluttonous pleasure? How did that happen? Is it human nature or something else, some societal sloughing off of individual responsibility?
Itís obviously not a recent phenomenon Ė I mean, whiskey for breakfast? But itís a pervasive one. Acting without thinking. Do we need a New Millennium version of Prohibition for unhealthy eating, that external punishment for personal actions? Iíve always thought Prohibition was a ridiculous, overly puritan concept but now I canít help wondering. Is that what it takes? You donít expect five year olds to have self-control. They need rules, parental supervision. Do we as a childish nation need that too? How awful to contemplate. Nearly Ashcroftian in its paternalistic rigidity. Surely thereís a better way, but what? Suing the fast food companies doesnít begin to address the problem. Farm subsidies for less production would help, but I suspect we need a Democratic president for that Ė and a strong reason (a weak economy and a plummeting dollar) to do it. It could happen, I guess. But will it? In time? Did you know our children have a shorter life expectancy than we do and itís because of the health-related complications of obesity? Weíre literally killing ourselves here. A nation intent on instant gratification, not willing or able to look into the future.
I was planning to come here and say that I love Weight Watchers because I can eat a brownie with complete pleasure and no guilt, knowing I'm still on the program.
I was going to say that. It was even true while I was chewing, swallowing and savoring the chocolate crunchy-skin chewy-center pleasure of it. But somewhere near home, the regret kicked in. If I hadn't gotten the brownie, I'd be at my target points for the day. What will this do to my weight this week? Was it really worth it? Why did I do that? I was so close and now Iím so far.
Dumb voice. Dumb, predictable, pedantic voice-of-guilt. Because I exercised today for an hour, I earned a minimum of two activity points. (A point equals somewhere between fifty and seventy calories.) And I had plenty of flex points to dip into and enjoy. (Flex points are an above-your-daily-allotment weekly allowance of points.) Flex points are actually good to use so your body doesn't become used to a set number of calories per day and become efficient at using that number, thereby shedding less excess poundage. And itís not like I stuffed my face with sugar and fat all day; I ate my protein, my veggies, my fruit. I ate like a sensible person who wants to become a slim sensible person.
I know all this. I do. Intellectually, logically, I know that brownie was just fine, and boy did it taste good. But somewhere inside, I simply canít accept that I can indulge like that and not pay the price. That I can do this, that I can have fun and not deprive myself and still stay on course with this. If itís not hard all the time, is it still working? How can it be?
Yes. It can. And if Iím going to spend the rest of my life eating this way (though with more points once I hit my goal), I absolutely have to get it into my head Ė particularly my non-logical animal-brain guilt-brain that I can indulge every now and then and not fall into a sea of whipped cream disaster. I guess only time will do that, huh? Time and a new habit of thinking.
Over the years, Iíve watched my hair stylist, an attractive woman around my age. Iíve seen her hair change shape and color, of course Ė thatís her job, after all. Iíve also seen her body change. It happens as you get older, as you have kids, as you get stressed and overworked and overwhelmed. It happened to me, god knows. And I almost liked that she too gained weight with the years. Nice to have companionship in this image-conscious land of the skinny. But last time I saw her, toward the end of June, she looked great.
When I complimented her, she beamed and told me sheíd lost seventeen pounds on Weight Watchers. She said she had more to go, and I could see that she did, but it was amazing the difference that much of a loss made. Her face looked different, less full. Her body, that too, of course. I wasnít jealous. I was encouraged. If she could do it, maybe I could too.
A week later, I brought Damian to a kiddie gym class with his buddy Corey. Coreyís mom complimented the instructor, a faux-grouchy older man, on his noticeable weight loss. He beamed and said heíd lost thirty five pounds on Weight Watcherís.
Weight Watchers again. Hmm. I read through the growing thread on TUS, puzzling out if this was something I could do. I started following along at home. I couldnít count points but I could become more conscious of what I ate. I dropped four pounds in two weeks. Well, good. But ten pounds is my wall. I get to ten pounds and something happens Ė I face a buffet, a yearning for chocolate, a panic attack. I eat. And once I give in to the urge, Iím off the wagon but good. Until next time, when I lose that ten pounds and hit that selfsame wall again.
I joined Weight Watchers. I like its commonsense approach. No fad diets here, just a simple calculation of calories, fat and fiber (the points system), with encouragement to exercise and eat your fruits and veggies. Iíve been to eleven meetings now, weighed in and participated in the meeting afterward.
Iíve lost eighteen pounds so far. I'm well past that ten pound barrier and truly addicted to the process. Like my stylist back in June, my face and body have already transformed. Itís happened in such small increments, I look in the mirror and wonder how it happened at all, where the changes I see came from. But I canít wait to go in for my next haircut and show her what she started.