I've been on a diet for two weeks and all I've lost is fourteen days. ~Totie Fields
Last summer I read Oprah Winfrey's book about her journey of weight loss and I could relate to her battle. Like her, my feelings about my weight colored every aspect of my life. It hovered over my life like the cloud of dust that followed Pigpen.
When I got married my husband was pretty happy with me except he pointed out that since I was a little hippy, I could look better by losing just a little weight. I never found relief from the nagging thought that I was terribly flawed, so this set me up to try any and every thing to change myself, especially to try and please someone else.
I gained a lot of weight during my first pregnancy so the solution was to go on a diet, or so I thought. Every doctor and woman's magazine offered the best way to lose weight-- calorie reduction. Just cut back to about 800 calories a day, 600 if you really wanted to lose weight fast, which involved a lot of radishes. Breakfast: One poached egg, 1/2 grapefruit, 1 slice dry toast and coffee without sugar or cream. Lunch: 1 1/2 ounces lean meat, salad or vegetable, small piece of fruit and a small glass of skim milk. Dinner: 2 1/2 ounces lean meat, salad and a veggie, small piece of fruit and black coffee. A diet that involved no snacks, no dessert, no cheese and a lot of will power. Since I got so hungry later in the day it made sense to skip breakfast-- drinking lots of coffee and save the calories for dinner. I was hungry -- all I thought about was food, but my metabolism was still pretty healthy so I successfully took the weight off. Then I became pregnant again, and then again. I gained 50 pounds with the third child and immediately after found myself expecting the fourth one. Not wanting to gain anymore "baby" fat I dieted. I knew it wasn't safe to diet during pregnancy, but I did it anyway. I remember while making Hubby his favorite cookies every day, I ate radishes so I wouldn't be tempted to eat the yummy chocolate. I can't look a radish in the face today, but I lost weight by the time the baby was born.
This was the pattern I followed for 20 years, gain weight, go on a diet, lose weight, go off the diet--feel like a failure for not sticking with it, gain even more weight, hate myself for being fat. My husband didn't help, he nagged me constantly. I read everything I could on the subject, trying every diet I could find. I weighed--me and the food, measured--me and the food, counted, planned, prayed, journaled, sweated in saunas, worked out in a gym or exercise class, walked, drank shakes for meals, tried weird things like the plankton diet, tried herbal remedies and extra fiber and thought about food --constantly. I followed stupid rules such using smaller plates, not eating before bedtime, chewing my food 2 thousand times and parking in Outer Mongolia at the grocery store just to burn off two or three extra calories walking into the store. Diets were the main topic of conversation among the women I knew. I tried everything, even getting powerful amphetamines from my doctor-- all that accomplished was getting a lot of housework done. I finally gave up, and hated myself for doing that. If I had more money I would have tried things like fat farms or liposuction. I was beaten.
The only good thing that came out of those years was exercise-- I loved dancing, aerobics and riding the bicycle; I was always pretty strong with low resting heart rate and blood pressure.
About the time I quit dieting, the medical profession decided that ultra-low calorie diets were not safe and didn't work. Well duh! Severely restricting calories puts the body in a starvation mode--it thinks there is a famine-- and when that happens the body hangs onto every calorie it takes in and the metabolism slows way down allowing a person put weight back on quickly when she resumes eating normally. So I had believed a lie. After 20 years of living like this, my metabolism was pretty much trashed and it didn't matter what I did, I couldn't take the fluff off. What it did to me emotionally is incalculable.
I started experiencing pain in the knees and the doctors told me to walk two miles a day. Everyone, even Oprah, said walking was the best form of exercise, so I walked. And walked. I got a tread mill and walked on it for five years. I hated walking and I would have to force myself to do it; I realize now that my body was telling me that I was hurting myself but I refused to listen. One day when I complained of increased pain the doctor ordered x-rays and he compared them with scans taken 6 years earlier. The early x-rays showed some cartilage loss and the recent one showed total loss. How could doctors tell an over-weight woman with knees going bad to wear them out even more by walking? I was spitting, cussing mad. I was angry for a long time and maybe I still am angry, but mostly at myself, for believing yet another untruth. In the end, after years if pain, both knees had to be replaced.
I am not saying people shouldn't walk or run for exercise, some folks love it, but God created all sort of people with all kinds of body types and to impose one kind of exercise on all of them is insane. Imposing one kind of eating plan is also insane, but we buy into it because society tells us being fat is wrong and we must submit to all kinds of torture to get rid of it. I get angry at a society that tells us that if our appearance doesn't fit in a stupid ideal standard, that we are terribly flawed and should hide in shame, or die, or worse-- go on a diet.
I do not diet, nor will I ever again. However this doesn't mean that I eat just anything; I needed to come up with an eating plan I could live with. For me low-carb works best. I don't count carbs though (counting and planning makes me think about food and that is the last thing I want to think about.) I just don't keep anything in the house that has sugar or white flour in it--simple. I eat when I get hungry---simple. No more punishing myself Sometimes I plan a meal but it is OK to just scramble some eggs or open a can of tuna. I refuse to live in a state of deprivation in order to live up to an insane societal standard or worse the insane standard I have inflicted on my self..
However, the most important thing I am working on is to heal the emotional damage I have done to myself over the years because I felt less than; I felt embarrassed; I felt like a failure. I failed to recognize my value as a human because there was a little too much of me. Even though society and the medical profession are part of the problem, I did that to me. From now on, I will walk with my head high, look others in the eye and I am going to tell my story as often as I can in hopes of healing myself and helping others to value their worth. To start with, the word fat is no longer in my vocabulary. I am .... fluffy.