To everyone on the outside looking in, I am the woman who has it all; tall with natural blonde hair, blue eyes, a great smile, clear skin that makes me look about 3 or 4 years younger then I actually am, a happy marriage, a fruitful career, a close relationship with my family, a large number of close friends, a beautiful house in the burbs, a thriving social life and two wonderful dogs who are more entertaining then anything on television. Yet there is one major thing that causes me to forget everything I have going on in my life; my weight. My long history struggling with my weight is a difficult to discuss and even more difficult to combat. Today, I have decided to come out of the pantry, face my issues and do something about it.
No matter what I achieve or what I do, it always comes back to the intense self-loathing I have because I’m fat. Every few years I am able to muster the strength and determination it takes to fight my weight issue; waging a battle against my natural tendency to be heavy and transform my fleshy curves into muscle, eat well, exercise and dedicate my entire being to becoming thinner. For a brief period of time I am happy with my size, but what it takes to accomplish this feat is intense and overwhelming and the happiness is fleeting. The last time I was able to lose a significant amount of weight, I devoted 20 hours a week to the gym, consumed 800 to 1000 calories a day and avoided social situations that would include food or drinks. While attaining happiness with my size, the real me, the one who enjoys long dinners with friends, full-flavored beer and discovering new cuisine, was missing.
It is hard to avoid food without avoiding friends and family. Food cannot be avoided; we must eat to live and cannot give it up cold turkey. Additionally, our society revolves around food. We meet our friends for dinner, we have doughnuts at work meetings, we have picnics, barbeques and birthday cake; every major and most minor events in our lives are marked by some feast. Food cannot be avoided, so “foodaholics” must learn to live with it and actually form a healthy relationship with food. Not to dismiss what it takes to stop drinking, but I always thought alcoholics are lucky; they don’t HAVE to drink in order to survive. They can avoid consuming alcohol and attending situations where alcohol is present; try that with food.
Obsessing over food is time consuming. Women would take over the world if time was spent on other activities then how to get into a smaller dress size. There are many other things in life to spend time obsessing over and so many causes we can devote our time to; imagine what we could accomplish if the same amount of time spent focused on weight issues was shifted to local or global causes.
Realizing the unhappiness in denying myself the finer tastes of life, the time lost with family and friends and the guilt of focusing on my weight rather then the world causes the “lapses;” eating pizza and hot dogs, ordering the fancy coffee with the whipped cream and avoiding the gym for more time to enjoy life. The pendulum swings and the thin person who avoided friends and family because of the fear in being around food is replaced by a fat person who avoids social situations so no one witnesses them consuming a bag of pretzels dunked into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Any Yo-Yo dieter will appreciate the emotional highs and lows that are experienced with the scale; how wonderful it is to be thin but how miserable it is to maintain it. Finding the happy medium, the place where a person is both happy with their size and their life, is a magic place that far too few people ever find. Every weight loss program stresses that diets do not work, that the only thing that works is a lifestyle change. The issue is how easy it is to accept a lifestyle that is conducive to weight loss for a short period of time and how hard it is to change your whole life when the world is not changing around you to allow for the time, energy and support necessary to stay thin.
Through all the times I have lost the same 30 to 60 pounds, I have discovered that losing weight… or maintaining a healthy size, takes just about as much time as having a second job. For those naturally thin, they can’t possibly understand the number of hours a week it takes to lose weight. Not only is there the obvious time commitments that must be allotted to exercise, but planning healthy meals takes longer then throwing non-healthy ones into the microwave. What is easy and saves time is the ability to order take our, grab fast food or pop a pizza into the oven. Much harder is choosing a healthy menu, grocery shopping more frequently to keep fresh produce around and cooking without the aid of rich sauces to add flavor to the blandness that is inherent in healthy cooking. It isn’t a surprise that Emril can make his dishes taste so good. Everything tastes better with butter!
Healthy eating is not only time consuming, it is expensive. The local salad bar has yet to offer a dollar menu. Vegetables are expensive and go bad so quickly that many stop buying them because they perceive them as a waste of money. Check out the advertisements received from grocery stores and notice that the items on sale are usually the unhealthiest things in the store… but who could resist getting 3 gallons of Ice Cream for $1.99? Families on tight budgets are often forced to forego healthy eating so they can just put some food on the table.
Today I embark on my latest journey to lose 30 pounds, one I have started many times before with varying levels of success through crash diets, obsessive calorie counting, pills, exercise bulimia and hypnosis; ultimately resulting in me putting the weight back on. All these changes do not align with work and personal commitments; there is no time to visit the gym 3 hours a day, to weigh every ounce of food I put in my mouth or attend weekly meetings where I talk about my feelings and challenges. I refuse to avoid my friends and family so I can lose a few pounds. Life is too short. Instead of focusing on my weight, I am going to follow a new path and focus on my life. My motivation will come from what my body can do and not what it looks like. My new program will challenge my friends to pick up a basketball rather then a burger and to leave work at a reasonable time to walk the dogs. Inspiration will not be found by fitting in my wedding dress again, but squeezing in an extra lap around the lake; my will to continue pushing myself based upon my desire for a stronger body and not a thinner one. My hope is this new attitude on my body and my life will allow my body to naturally find a size that is healthy and not force it so low that it shuts down or so high that it can’t move. Learning to accept that a body’s natural and healthy weight may not be model thin and instead embracing the power and beauty that is being strong and happy. This could be the magic equation we all need to overcome the yo-yo and find happiness with our bodies and our lives at the same time.