The tyranny of eating whatever you want.

Folly is an unruly woman;
she is simple and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way,
“Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!”
But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.
Proverbs 9:13-19 NIV

fol·ly/ˈfälē/
Noun:
1. Lack of good sense; foolishness: “an act of sheer folly.”
2. A foolish act, idea, or practice: “the follies of youth.”

There’s a sort of giddy feeling that comes when I’ve given in to folly, not caring about what I eat, how I look, how I feel. It’s seductive, like the serpent was to Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Go ahead and eat it. It won’t hurt you.” Or, “Go ahead a stay there on the couch. You’ve had a hard day. You’re tired. You need the rest.”

It’s a false sort of freedom. It looks, tastes and feels like freedom, but then it becomes a prison. It’s the tyranny of eating whatever you want. It’s a freedom that leads to death. As the Proverb says above, “But little do they know that the dead are there.”

Gone is the nice clean feeling inside. Gone is the confidence in knowing I’m doing the right thing. Do I really stop and count the loss when I’ve given up on my goal? I am counting the cost right now. I am making a course adjustment before all of my efforts are lost.

My big sister gave me a great pep talk via email yesterday. She’s been losing weight with the help of Weight Watchers. Thought I’d share her wisdom here.

“I know it is hard to keep the focus, but giving up can’t be an option.  Just means figuring out emotionally where the walls are.  You are doing better than you think.  Remember where you used to be.

…I have really seen that I can’t do it just by eating less, or just by working out.  They really have to go together, which then makes it a life style.  I also watch Biggest Loser (Tues, 8pm) and that helps motivate me–seeing other people make excuses and what it sounds and looks like.  I am also having to break thru this next layer–my middle third–where my body wants to settle in.  But I am feeling SO MUCH better just for myself.  It is like getting out of debt, freeing.  I don’t feel so embarrassed everywhere I go.  You’ll figure it out.  Just don’t give up!  Keep picturing the things you will do when you are the goal size you want to be.  I’m trying to think, dream, of what those things are for myself.  I think getting my scooter was one of them.

Well, there’s my dissertation on that!  Just don’t give up, but don’t be hard on yourself either.  Be the boss of yourself, not a victim.  You are so much stronger than you know.  Who cares about the past, there are no choices left in it, but there are all the choices for the future.”

Time to go straight on my way, ignore the voice of folly, and listen to the voice of wisdom.

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Self pep talk from the past…

This is the button that popped off of my size 16 pants. Buttons don't lie!

It’s been over a month since my last post on February 8th. Blog silence is not a good thing. It means I don’t have good news. I haven’t been keeping my commitment to lose weight. I don’t want to bore you all with my pathetic excuses. Most of all, I don’t want to discourage anyone. Losing weight and keeping it off is possible. People do it all the time. So I’m working on getting my head back in the game. I’m wishing I could have bottled up the motivation I felt last fall for how I’m feeling right now. Sigh.

I’m going to start with a note I wrote to myself almost ten years ago.

July 27, 2002

Life is great! The future is bright! There is so much to accomplish, and instead of feeling overwhelming, it’s motivating and exciting! Remember that Jennifer!

When it gets hard, and you’re down, and you’re wondering what’s the point – think of how incredible it’ll feel to accomplish this seemingly impossible goal.

Write when you want that pizza, that buttery popcorn, that hot fresh bread, that chocolate, that ice cream. Think of how uncomfortable it makes you feel to eat that – how too-full, bloated, gross gross gross you feel. You don’t even enjoy it all that much anyway. It just makes you feel huge, sick… and think of the lovely indigestion it causes.

And then there are the feelings of failure, of self-disgust, of self-recrimination. And how that can lead to more mistakes, more failures. Failure breeds failure, and success breeds success.

Oprah calls it that “Holy Moment” when you’re tempted and you want to give in. You have a choice. Do you give in, or do you take power over that temptation and say – Dammit, No! There is so much freedom in knowing what to eat – and it is liberating to do the right thing! That’s Biblical even – the freedom in obeying God.

The wrong food is a prison, it is a kind of slavery, and it keeps you stuck in a spot and limits your world. It is death. It leads to terminal illness. What kind of hope is that? None. Hope is life. Hope is what keeps us alive.

Remember how good it feels when you’re addicted to exercise?! The rush, the adrenalin, the power, the knowledge that you are being productive and good to yourself. Best of all, the feeling afterwards. That warm shower, washing away all the sweat and soothing your muscles, the nice clean clothes, the pleasant, buzzing, relaxed feeling afterwards. It feels great!

Addiction transference: It’s not the food. It’s the issues behind the food.

1-800-GET-THIN Billboard. Image source: http://thecurvynerd.com

Last week, I caught a local (southern California) morning TV news story about a forty-something woman who had gotten the lap-band weight loss surgery. She thought that getting thin would make her happy. She believed their marketing slogan, “Let your new life begin. Call 1-800-GET-THIN!” She lost over 100 pounds, but found herself as unhappy as she was when she was heavy and became addicted to meth. What? That’s crazy!  Maybe not. The commentator said it was an issue of “addiction transference.”

Addiction transference? Interesting. The news piece stuck in my head for several days. Whether a person loses weight because of surgery or via diet and exercise, it’s the same cautionary tale:

  • Being thin isn’t going to magically make you happy and solve all your problems.
  • Discarding the fat suit doesn’t magically transform you into a completely new person.
  • You can’t run away from yourself by changing your appearance.
  • All the crap inside you that made you fat in the first place? It’ll still be there when you’re thin if you don’t deal with it.

I scoured the TV station’s website to find a link to the story to share, to no avail. I did find an extremely interesting article on the lap-band website: Addiction Transference and Lap-Band Surgery:  It’s easy to trade another addiction for your food addiction.

I had two observations after reading the article.

  1. I was glad that the company acknowledged that addiction transference is a possible issue for their patients. Hopefully they make the patient aware of it ahead of time and take proactive steps to prepare for it.
  2. I was annoyed that the article emphasized the physiological reasons for addiction rather than the emotional ones. Here are a couple of examples.

“The first theory that has been initially proposed is the idea that patients develop addiction transference in order to fill the “void” that is no longer there because of their treated obesity. However, as more research begins to take shape scientists and psychologists alike have found support for the theory that the major addictive pathway in the brain that is responsible for alcohol and cocaine dependency is also responsible for obesity problems… In addition, researchers have suggested that obesity essentially acts as a cover or type of prevention for other major addictions such as those to alcohol, gambling, or even cocaine.”

“Treating obesity through a weight loss surgery does not necessarily mean that one would experience a compulsive disorder or other type of addiction. It simply means that obesity surgeries essentially uncover another type of problem that may be going on in the brain, such as an abnormal level of dopamine that has been found in those patients that do develop addiction transference.”

The article made addiction transference sound rare. According to the site, “the American Society for Bariatric Surgery estimates that only about 5% of individuals develop this problem. On the other hand, U.S. Bariatric, a major weight loss surgery center in Florida, puts the number at 20% or above.”

Consider the source: I’m reading an article provided by the providers of lap-band surgery. Of course they’re going to want to blame addiction on something physical in your brain. God forbid they should hold a person accountable for their emotional issues and choices. That’s not what they’re selling.

To be fair, I must add that the article concludes by saying that if someone is at risk, the patient should seek extensive counseling and possible medication to treat addiction transference.

While writing this post, I was playing Words with Friends on Facebook with my husband. This ad popped up. It makes Jennifer Hudson sound so healthy emotionally, like she is comfortable in her body, no matter what size she is. I hope it is true for her!

When I started my weight loss journey, I considered lap-band surgery for about two seconds. I know it’s helped a lot of people, but there’s just something about it that bothers me. I know I need to fundamentally change myself inside and that can’t be achieved by having a superficial surgical procedure. I know I need to change my habits, deeply ingrained in me for over forty years and it feels like cheating to take the short cut. I know it won’t solve the real problems of why I got fat in the first place. There is no quick fix for that. No way.

So I press on… 🙂

P.S. And let’s not forget that one “side effect” of lap-band surgery is Death. There’s that. In looking for a photo for this post, I found Curvy Nerd‘s: In the News: 1-800-Get-Thin woman dies after lap band surgery. Her concluding statement was startling, but true:

“This is what we do to people — they are willing to risk death in order to be ‘skinny.'”

Sick of being sick.

“From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
—From “Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” by Bronnie Ware (fantastic article, by the way), reposted at BeyondTheOpposites.com

No, I’m not dying. Thank God. I don’t have a terminal illness. Thank you Lord. There are many people so much worse off than for me. I have only temporarily lost my health.  I shouldn’t complain.

But right now I’m sick of being sick.

I was sick with a cold/flu the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s. Like, in-bed-for-three-days sick. Our third wedding anniversary in the middle of that week was a total bust. I was much improved the first week of January, and my husband and I went out a couple of evenings for dinner and a movie or show. We took in some comedy at the local Improv. One male comedian joked about women who let themselves get fat after they get married. He complained that his wife told him, “If you really loved me, it shouldn’t matter how much weight I gain.” He replied to her, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t get fat!” The men in the audience laughed hysterically while the women were silent. He said, “I know you women out there are pissed off at me right now for saying that, but it’s true. You know it’s true.” I cringed. I’m thankful for my husband all the time. He married me when I was at my heaviest weight.

Sunday night, I was ready to hit my eating plan full throttle for this serious next weight loss push. I prepared my intentional, healthy snacks and lunch that night, then went back to work on Monday. Several of my coworkers had been ill the week before, and some were still out sick. Ugh.

My husband and I had a fantastic workout at the gym on Monday night. Then Tuesday came, along with the all-too-familiar cruddy feeling: burning eyes, sore throat, headache, body aches.  I went to bed Tuesday night at 7:30pm, didn’t get up until 8:30am the next day and emailed-in sick.  Then went back to bed until 1pm. How many hours of sleep is that? Like 16? Sheesh.

Back to work Thursday and Friday. I ate normally, which means stuff like turkey sandwiches and shredded beef tacos. I’m feeling better, but now I have a hacking cough which, experience tells me, will last for weeks. Drives my poor husband nuts.

It’s just so frustrating. Starting is hard. Getting into the mindset is hard. Then a ginormous wrench gets thrown in.

Trying to figure out why I relapsed. My husband thinks I started too hard and fast on the food and exercise after being sick.  That along with one really bad night of sleep on Sunday apparently created the perfect storm.

And now I’ve gotten my husband sick. Eegads.

I’m trying not to fret too much about losing my flow. The amazing feeling I had throughout the fall as I dropped the weight. I want that feeling back. That focus. That commitment. That excitement. That hope. Right now I just want to feel better, which sometimes means having a chocolate chip cookie.

Doesn’t help that I’m PMS-ing, a time when my personal reality is completely altered.

My inner critic is saying, “You can’t stick with anything for long. You always quit after a few months.” Shut. Up.

Well, one hopeful sign of permanent change is that we miss the gym. We can’t wait to get back to the gym. It’ll still be there tomorrow.

I miss my health. I want it back.

Origins of my lifelong struggle with weight

I’ve been struggling to answer a question my sister asked me over a month ago:

How does the journey seem to you?  How are you making yourself ready to be that size?  It seems like you almost have to go back to the age you were at that weight last and emotionally work through what has happened in your life since then, sort it out and put it in its place as the adult you are now—kinda like your body’s time clock of life.

The question has prompted me to explore the origins of my lifelong struggle with weight. My perception of myself has always been that of an overweight girl. How can I get myself to believe otherwise, to let my head catch up with my body?

As I delve into the past, I don’t want to have a victim mentality where I blame others for my choices. These are only possible reasons and influences for my struggles. Any blame for my excessive weight lies squarely on my shoulders: I have been the one who has put the food in my mouth. And sat on the sofa. Me alone.

Generational issues with weight: It started before I was even born…

Circa 1946: Mom and her little sister

My dear sweet Mom, God rest her soul, was probably the biggest influence on my attitude toward food and body image.

My Mom was eight years older than her little sister. Mom had to take care of her a lot, especially while their parents, who were heavy drinkers, went out and partied. Her mother and sister were thin, stylish and beautiful, while my Mom was stocky, sturdy and plain (only in her family’s eyes; I see photos of her growing up and think she was adorable).  She always felt like the oaf in the room who could never measure up.

Several years ago, my sister found a bunch of letters written to my Mom from my Grandma. My Mom was 19 years old and living with several girlfriends, just before she met and married my Dad at age 20. In those letters my Mom was nagged constantly about her weight:

  • 9/9/1954You must peel off a few more pounds and don’t forget to take your vitamins.”
  • 10/20/1954 “Now kiddo, you’re going to get bawled out, but good. If you don’t take of twenty pounds by Thanksgiving, we’re not taking you and Carol home with us. Now I mean it. Daddy was very disappointed when he saw you hefty again. Quit worrying about your job and you’ll not eat sweets.”
  • 11/15/1954 “Hi skinny! I hope. Are the pills working? They should, but be careful.”
  • 12/13/1954 “It was nice to see you even if it was for only a few minutes. You’re looking marvelous and we are so happy you’re not fat anymore. How are the pills holding out? I just hope you don’t always have to take them.”

You get the gist. It’s painful just transcribing it. Those are spirit wounding words. I could feel my Mom’s pain, knowing how she felt about herself back then. Our Mom never, ever, ever talked to us like that.

Check out this photo of my Mom at age 21, just after she had her first baby. And she felt fat.

My parents met at a dance, got engaged after one week, and married three months later.  They had seven kids. They were married for 52 years until my Mom died of Alzheimer’s in 2007.

My Dad dearly loved my Mom. However, about the same time my parents got married, my Dad’s brother married a cute, confident, petite woman with whom my Dad always compared my Mom. It was tough for Mom, going to family events and knowing my Dad wanted her to be more like his brother’s wife. It was a lifelong comparison in which my Mom always came up short.

Mom at her smallest size in many, many years, wearing her snazzy outfit and expressing her joie de vivre

Mom was always at war against her weight. In her 60’s, she finally found a diet that worked. At her new petite size, she was having a blast buying fun clothes and accessories. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004 at age 68, she was at her lightest weight in probably 40 years.

My family of origin.

I’m the youngest of seven. Mom and Dad had three girls, three boys, then me. By the time I was eight, my sisters had moved out of the house and it was just me and the boys.

Mom and me (age 9) on a family trip

For the majority of my childhood, my Mom stayed at home to take care of us. We were so, so blessed to have her. Mom was my confidant when I got home from school, listening to me talk about my day over milk and cookies or cheese and crackers.  When I was a teenager, Mom and I watched soap operas together in the summertime — a guilty pleasure. When my Dad drove up our long driveway, we’d scramble to turn off the TV and start cleaning or cooking, as if that’s what we’d been doing all day. We’d smile at each other. We were complicit in our deception.

Me at age 7 scarfing on lemon meringue pie. It was Thanksgiving, after all. 🙂

We were a dessert-after-dinner family, so there was always cake or cookies in the house. I remember one time, Mom made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and they were gone before I got to have one. From that point forward, I always made sure I ate plenty as soon as they were out of the oven — just in case I didn’t get any later.

For a couple of years Mom worked at a cookie factory called Grandma’s Cookies. She’d bring home cases of the stuff. My favorite: chocolate mint — those wafer cookies with mint on top, covered in fudge.  My brothers and I would constantly badger her to let us have some. My exasperated Mom finally gave up. She put 10 cookies in a baggy and told us that’s all we could have for the entire day. I remember waking up the next morning, excited about getting another bag of cookies. I’d often finish them by noon. But I’d find a way to sneak into the freezer or cupboard to get more.

I remember my Mom saying to me, “You’re always thinking about your gut.” It was true.

I recently found a diary I wrote at age 10, in 1980. There were clues there… Even at an early age, food redeemed a bad day.

Today I had a terrible day. Even though it’s Sunday, I had to go to the Andersons (they are old people from church) with mom and dad. I was wasting a lot of time there too. I was just sitting around. We did get to have caramel corn today. We stopped at Dairy Queen. I got a dilly bar.

Oh, those brothers.

I always thought I was fat. Always. Despite looking back on family pictures and seeing evidence to the contrary. My brothers never let me forget.

This kid (me, age 7) was not fat.

One brother called me Hemisphere because, “You’re not as big as the whole world, but you’re as big as half of it.” It was sort of an affectionate nickname, but painful nonetheless. When I would walk across the floor, my brothers would yell, “Boom, boom, boom” in sync with my steps.  In adulthood, they have all apologized to me for any damage they may have done to me as a kid. (No worries, brothers! I’m over it. Love you guys!). Just thinking back on things…

As far as I can recall, when I was little, my Dad wouldn’t comment directly to me about my weight. He would say things like, “Put your shoulders back,” or “Stand up straight.” He’d make indirect comments about fat people in general — a not-so-subtle way to get his message across. It wasn’t until we were adults that Dad really started making comments directly to my sisters and me about our weight.

Kids can be so mean…

Me posing at age 13

In school, I wasn’t a nerd but I wasn’t super popular either. I didn’t get picked on and I had plenty of friends.  I played soccer from the third grade all the way through high school, but that was only about four months a year. I also played basketball from fifth through ninth grade. Those sports are probably what kept me from being an obese child.

At age 16, my legs were definitely getting thicker...

There were a handful of times when someone would comment on my weight — and about my butt, in particular. I remember those comments well because they were so painful.

1980, age 10. From my diary: “It’s getting harder and harder to like Stacey. She’s always being so mean. Today at basketball she goes, ‘You’ve got a big butt.’”

1982, age 12. On a trip to Victoria, Canada with my Mom and a sister, I was walking down the street by myself. An older boy I didn’t know hollered at me from a block away — a block away! He yelled, “You have a huge butt!”

1985, age 15. During a one-week summer soccer camp, I was only one of only two girls on an all-boy team. The team captain couldn’t see me standing behind a tall boy and asked my female teammate: “Where’s your fat friend?”

1987, age 17. Here’s a positive comment. : ) Going off to college, meeting new people, one girl asked me, “Are you an athlete?” I told her I played soccer. She said, “I thought so.”

Age 17, leaving home for college

1989, age 19. Going inner tubing down a river with a bunch of college friends. Behind me, a guy named Steve yells, “Jen!” I turn around. “What?” He says, “You have a big butt!” I tried keeping my butt under water after that.

So that brings us through the first two decades of the origins of my struggles with weight.

I’ll save the rest for another post…

Is this TMI? Too much info? Am I boring ya’all to tears?

Bargaining with myself.

Source: Pinterest.com

Until several days ago, I was holding steady at 190 pounds for four weeks. I know it wasn’t a plateau because of what I’ve been eating. I’ve been wearing a comfortable size 16 pants and size 14/16 or L sweaters and blouses (not XL or 1X). And working out makes me feel energetic, fit and firm.

I’ve been hearing these comments from people, which are actually greatly appreciated, but also give me a false sense of reality:

  • “There she is, the incredibly shrinking woman!”
  • “We have a new nickname for you! Skinny Bitch!” (This is a very, very friendly nickname from the girls at work, but “skinny” is definitely not apropos)
  • “You’re so tiny!” (Thanks, but sorry, “tiny” is not the proper adjective for a 5’1”, 190-pound woman)
  •  “Where did you disappear to?”
  • “You’re being so good.”
  • “You look great!”
  • “There’s no way you still have 58 pounds to lose. You’ll look gaunt!”

It’s such a mental battle. If I look and feel this good, and comments from others validates this, why do I need to keep going?

This is a crazy thought! I am nowhere near where I need to be.

And I’ve bargained with myself, thinking, as long as I’m maintaining, I’m doing okay. And this is true. I’ve been able to eat a variety of stuff completely off program without gaining. As long as I was “good” most of the time and working out at least a few times a week, I was able to maintain.

On the one hand, it’s good to learn how my body responds to certain amounts of food and exercise.

On the other hand, it’s like I’m acting like a little kid. Seeing how much I can get away with, without getting caught.  When I’ve weighed in this past month and discovered no change in my weight, I gave a huge sigh of relief. I deserved to gain.

At my last weigh in, I finally dropped 2 pounds. I’m now at 188 pounds.

The weird sick thought in my head? Cool. I earned 2 pounds. I have 2 pounds to play with. How easily I forget that my body is still in serious debt. There is no savings account here. I’m still 48-58 pounds away from my goal. (I’m waffling lately, trying to decide between a goal weight of 130 and 140 pounds.)

By way of example… On Thursday, I ate on program through lunch. Then that afternoon? I had a Starbucks tall, nonfat, extra hot, with whip Mocha with 3 Petite Vanilla Bean Scones. Later, I had 2 Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s at work. Deadly freakin’ good. When I got home, I had a bunch of New York Style garlic bagel crisps and lots of jack cheese (I didn’t measure or keep track) with a glass of white zinfandel. Then a salad with Romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumber, avocado, grated cheese, and olive oil and vinegar.

What is going on in my head? I just wanted to stuff my face. That was a relatively full on binge, spread out over about eight hours. It hadn’t been a bad day. There was nothing wrong. No emotional angst.  Just this driving urge to fill, fill, fill. This was definitely not a day of healthy, intentional, off-program moderation.

My sister called that evening while I was preparing dinner. She asked how the diet was going. I said I was holding steady and maintaining. Not perfect. Kinda off track today. I think she could hear something in my voice, because she said quietly,

“Jen, don’t stop. Please keep going. You’re really inspiring me, and you can’t quit now. That food you’re tempted to eat won’t go away; you don’t have to eat it right now. It’ll still be there later.”

Her timing for saying this to me couldn’t have been more perfect.

My husband and I made it to the gym that night, although the food I’d eaten made working out very uncomfortable. My digestive system wasn’t happy with me.  It was still a satisfying workout and I slept great. I was pleasantly sore the next day, and I did not repeat my choices from the day before.

Here’s me bargaining with myself…

I’m not in a hurry.  If I lose weight slowly, I’m more likely to maintain the loss. It’s a lifetime change, not a flash-in-the-pan diet.

I’m going to continue to work on maintenance or minor weight loss for the rest of the month.  I have three holiday-related lunches at work this coming week. I’ll be conscientious the rest of the time and keep getting my butt to the gym.

My body is getting used to eating more food without gaining. Lindora calls it the Metabolic Adjustment Phase to reset my set point weight. All part of the plan.

Then after Christmas, once I rev up my efforts, I’ll bust past this set point until I get to my goal weight. Then I’ll need to train my body to achieve a new and final set point weight. Maintenance will be the life-long, ongoing goal.

Am I giving myself excuses to mess up over the next few weeks? Perhaps. Am I lying to myself? Maybe. But I want to be as positive about this as possible. Beating myself up, shaming myself, etc. will just make me want to quit.

Bottom line is, I will not give up. A year from now, I’ll be at my goal and in maintenance for several months.

Undeserved weight maintenance.

After the holiday week(end) full of frivolous food and celebratory relaxation, lots of my blogging buddies have either:

  1. Gained because they cheated, intentionally or otherwise (the gains are to be expected; just gotta get back on the wagon)
  2. Gained for no good reason; they were perfectly good and did not cheat (fully sucks)
  3. Maintained for no good reason; they were perfectly, terribly bad, and should have gained (fully lucky)

I’m in the #3 category. I stepped on the scale at Lindora today and my jaw dropped. I maintained. I didn’t gain or lose. It’s not fair – I should have gained 5-10 pounds after all the fun I had last week. I’m not going to squander my good fortune; I’m back on the wagon full force today.

And let’s not forget that I haven’t lost any weight in about 3 weeks. I’m happy I haven’t gained, but enough already. Time to get busy. Focus.

To top it off, I received an amazing email today from a coworker that humbled and motivated me…

Subject: you inspired me
Because of your success, I have decided it is time for me to drop half of my body weight. So I signed up for Weight Watchers online.
Thanks for being an inspiration to me.