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January 18, 2007

Brevity, thy name is ... someone other than me.

Apparently my cable company now has the "Discovery Health Channel" and as far as I can tell, the entirety of programming is about plastic surgery, weird births and super obesity.

Also: Yay me! Found my channel!

Truth be told though, I watch these shows ("The 740 pound woman" and "XXXtreme Obesity" and "Jackie's Story") with a box of kleenex at hand. You know that part of the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" where Evelyn Couch tells Mrs. Threadgoode that she wishes she had the nerve to just be done with it and get really, really fat?

That's me. There but not for the grace of God go I. I know I don't weigh 740 pounds, but I understand what it's like to feel weird and alone because of your weight. I watch these programs almost as a how-not-to. I don't want to end up there.

This next part is really long. You might want to get a cup of coffee. I am maybe wordy.

I don't write about my weight too much on this public diary, but every night I fill up pages and pages of my personal (paper) diary with blah blah blah about size and weight and everything. I don't talk about it a lot in person or want to share many of my thoughts online. For one thing, weight is a personal issue. But mostly I don't want the advice that seems to immediately spring forth from people, especially those who've never struggled with their weight. Go on this diet! Take this supplement! Stop eating at 7 p.m.! Just exercise each day! Don't eat carbs! Eat carbs! Lift weights! Have some self control!

I know folks are just being nice or helpful, but I've had enough people be "helpful" about my weight throughout the years that it has made me a little resentful. If by resentful you mean kind of want to shove a snickers up their hiney. Anyone who has ever had a weight problem usually knows more about dieting and food and calories than anyone you'll ever meet. We know exactly what to do, we just don't do it.

I had to figure out why, for me, I chose to gain weight. It was a choice, even if it was a subconscious one. Writing it all down has helped me get a better picture of my life, and weight, and how my size has been an issue for other people my whole life. I still have a lot of unanswered questions. Like: Why is it that when you weigh less people seem to value you more?

I still don't know the answer to that one.

I always managed to hover somewhere between normal and just a bit overweight, with a few blips of either skinny or kind of fat thrown in. But I started really gaining weight when Mr. X left. I just hunkered down with some sorrow and some food and got down to the business of hiding.

That's it -- I was hiding. My extra weight offers up a layer of insulation between me and the world. I have often had a problem with men being overly aggressive, but when I am this heavy they pretty much stay away. (That part is great ... until you want to start dating.) When you are heavy, people's eyes pass right over you. You become bigger, yet somehow more invisible.

My weight is also a really handy thing for me to blame stuff on. For example, if I am not successful at something or don't get a promotion or don't get invited to a party, I can blame it on my weight. At first I was kind of horrified by getting fatter, but then these benefits kicked in (hey, everything has it's payoff or else we wouldn't do it) and I didn't mind so much. I had less problems being accosted by men on the subway (trust me, these are not the men you want to be accosted by) and also, I could eat anything I wanted. It was comforting.

During that really hard and sad part of my life I didn't mind gaining weight because I felt more protected, more invisible. I really needed time to be solitary and I tell you what, getting fat can make you solitary. Or keep you there.

It took me a long time to figure some things out and I don't think I have it all the way worked out, not by a long shot, but for the first time in maybe my whole life I'm okay. I have challenges and lots of work to do, but at a fundamental level I'm mostly happy with my new self. My life as a thirty-something divorcee with a herd of cats and some quirks.

So now being overweight isn't really giving me the payoff it once did. Or, more specifically, it's no longer good for me to be bad to myself.

But I cannot go on another diet.

I am exhausted by a lifetime of dieting, a whole life of counting calories or fat grams or carbs. I have been on the grapefruit diet, the peanut butter diet, the Revolution diet, the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, the Zone, South Beach, Somersizing, the milk shake diet (that one was AWESOME, except I gained seven pounds), you name it. I have tried it.

The one thing I haven't tried is just eating natural, nutritious foods with the sole aim of being healthy. I have always been an ALL OR NOTHING dieter. Either I "eat clean" and stay exactly on plan, whatever that plan is, or I mess up and then go on a three-week (or three-month) bad eating marathon. This is not good. This isn't the way you treat someone who you like. I want to start treating myself better, like I matter, like I deserve to live a good and healthy life.

With my new budget in place and no nonessential spending for three months, I decided to cut out all fast food because it is definitely not essential. In December I bought that book "You On A Diet" and read it all, mostly because what I have seen on TV with Dr. Oz focuses on nutrition, with balance, with real life and I need to figure out how to eat for the long-term. I know how to diet, but do I know how to eat nutritiously? Forever? If I take losing weight out of the mix, and focus only on health and energy and vitamins and minerals and taste ... uh, I have never done that. It's scary. There aren't any rules. If I mess up, it's not really "messing up" since it's just a meal in a long life of meals.

This is a HUGE SHIFT in the way I have always viewed food. Food was the enemy! It had to either be reigned in with a diet or it was out of control!

For several weeks now I've been NOT DIETING. Not "failing on my diet" or "about to start a diet" or "Back on the wagon!" I'm just looking at nutrition, homemade brown-bag lunches and dinners that aren't "perfect" on any diet plan (Yikes! carbs mixed with protein! a pat of real butter on a potato! alert the Atkins police!) but my meals are basically nutritious, full of flavor and good, fresh whole foods. And all of it is probably 1/100000th the calories of my "normal" days. I also decided not to weigh me (or the cats, ha) more than once a month.

I don't want to be crazy. I am tired of dieting. I am exhausted by the very idea of having to count or measure or weigh my food. I just want to be as healthy as I can be and eat stuff I like and have it be as nutritious as possible. And if I never lose a pound, I have to be okay with it. Breaking the dieting habit has been just as hard as quitting smoking -- I have been dieting for so long that the idea of never dieting again actually sounded crazy at first. It's not my ideal scenario to stay my current size forever, but I just cannot go on another diet ever. I have to be okay with what I've got.

With all this in mind, my life looks more like one long continuim instead of "in three months I will weigh..."

That gives me the freedom to make some very small changes. Since I don't have to lose thirty pounds by March X, or lose ten pounds by whenever, I can just try to pick stuff that makes me better (from the inside out) each day, on a case-by-case basis. I started adding a thirty-minute walk to my workday, because Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen say it's one of the best things you can do for your well-being. I would never have done this before because -- remember ALL OR NOTHING? All Or Nothing Me would say, "If I am embarking on an exercise plan, I must do 50 minutes of cardio 5x a week, then strength training, blah blah..." so a piddly 30-minute walk would have seemed like a half-hearted attempt and I was ALL OR NOTHING!! NO HALF WAY!!

My little daily walk is SO GREAT. It sure has helped my stress level on the job! At first I was afraid there was no way I could sneak in a whole 30-minute escape from my desk, but since I bring my lunch these days I don't have to go out and stand in line at a restaurant somewhere. Saves time! On days when I get home early enough from work (haha) I might walk on the treadmill while I watch TV, too. Just walk, a little at a time. But now I really look forward to my lunchtime walk, and it breaks up what can be a long day of holding down an office chair.

See? This is the sort of boring stuff I write in my paper diary all the time. Blah blah blah. Except this is the condensed version.

I guess I wanted to be disengaged from my own life for a while, and putting on the pounds definitely achieved the goal. But over the course of the past few months I have plugged back into life, and I like it. I want to enjoy it, and feel like I'm at least giving myself a chance. Walking is part of that, but eating better and really paying attention to what goes into my body (is it quality? is it healthy? will it give me energy and also satisfy me?) is the biggest part of plugging back into my real life. My healthy, good life.

It is a very strange place to be! I have always dieted to make my parents happy, or for cheerleading, or for a boyfriend, husband, to fit in with my super skinny friends, to fit into a dress, for the reunion/big event/whatever. I have never seen my life as a single long, whole path. It's just been various weights, up and down, "When I weight x amount..." or "By December I should be skinny enough to go on vacation..." "When I am thinner, I'll be happier, I'll live my happy, good life." Isn't that crazy? Who does that?

Not me, not anymore. Please. Let me stop being crazy, at least about this.
There but for the grace of God go I.

Posted by laurie at January 18, 2007 9:01 PM