So, my first diet was simply avoiding eating. I would typically not eat until dinner. I was so tired from lack of nutrients during the day that after my evening meal with my family I would go upstairs to my room to do my nightly homework and end up falling asleep out of fatigue. It helped me lose a few pounds but it was even more disastrous for the outcome of my grades. I managed to do this on and off throughout high school although once I began going to weekend dances with both girlfriends and boyfriends weight maintenance was not an issue. It took me decades later to make the connection with movement and weight maintenance. How ignorant I/we were back then!
Fast forward to my first and only pregnancy. I was twenty-two at the time, recently married and I had access to an abundance of food and a desire to learn to cook for the first time in my life. I went from 119 lbs (5’7″) to 198 lbs the day my child was born. This was shocking to everyone and I was numb! I had never weighed this much in my entire life. About three months after my child’s birth, I decided I needed to do something about my weight; something that I had never had to deal with to this extent before. At the time, one of the popular diets was the “Scarsdale” diet. It was developed by a physician in Scarsdale, NY for, I am assuming, suburban moms who needed and wanted to regain their lost figures. It was a bestseller, as most of these diets are, initially. It promised losing 14 lbs in 2 weeks, which has since become the “mantra” of any “diet of the day”.
Well, it did that by, of course, restricting one food group, which I don’t remember which one. The main premise of all of these diets is that by restricting one food group you will eat less and, of course, lose weight. No one tells you that any kind of calorie restriction on any diet; whether it is low carb, low protein, etc. you will lose water weight primarily because most diets are low sodium to begin with. If the “authors” would only say up front that reducing the sodium in your diet will have you lose 8-12 lbs quickly they would save us a lot of trouble of running around getting all of these specific food items (some of which have natural diuretic properties) when all we would have needed to do was “hide” the salt shaker!
Again, as my child aged (and I as well), I became more active. I began putting my infant in a stroller and walking to a nearby park. I took a part time job. I enrolled as a student. Within nine months I went from a very pregnant expectant mother with swollen ankles to a very busy, and slimming down, mom who was juggling her time between parenting, classes and a part time job. Guess what? I also didn’t have to make all those luscious made-from-scratch chocolate frosted chocolate cakes I was making when I was pregnant. Instead, I was grabbing a bite here and there at the food court in the Mall I was working in, having a salad at the school cafeteria and besides all this I had to take two physical education classes as part of a college degree I was working towards. The weight came off almost effortlessly. By the time my child turned one years old, I weighed 124 lbs and I was wearing a size 6. Unfortunately, this was not to last. I had averaged 135-140 lbs throughtout high school and I now believe that was my “natural” weight for my medium build and height. So, the artificially low 124 lbs became more difficult to maintain than I had expected. I was completely unprepared for actual weight management. In fact, you might even say that the weight lose was a fluke and I got “lucky”. I certainly wasn’t aware of how to maintain any weight on my own.
However, a new “element” in maintaining my weight lose became apparent. I was very unhappily married. For the first time in memory, I began to overeat to “sooth” my feelings. I can’t say I recall the exact moment or even food item. It just became a new habit that I had developed. Frustrated by my inability to maintain my weight lose, I overate. Now, that is not what most people would do, at least, not initially but that was what I did, mostly because I didn’t know why my body was behaving in the way that it was. I had never really had a weight “problem” but I obviously did now and I didn’t know what to do about it. To further exasperate the situation my also unhappily married spouse told me that he didn’t find me attractive. At the time he said this to me I was 160 lbs. It’s the high end of “normal” weight for me! However, in his defense, if that is possible to defend, he was accustomed to me being in the 120s so I probably did look fat to him.
Within a few years, we were separated and then divorced. I was now a single mom with a kindergardener. Feeling rejected by my former spouse and out on the “dating scene” again, I willingly returned to another relationship quickly. While a full time student by now, I met and fell in love with another student, my soon to be second husband. I will admit that I was unprepared for the added stresses of a new marriage. I had not learned to be truly independent or assertive of my needs. I felt guilt about my failure as a wife and failure to be the “thin” person I had been. Now, I had a new kind of eating to contend with; “guilt” eating. I think this is the worst kind because you feel others are already judging you on what you eat or don’t eat, how you look or don’t look and you internalize it all….the whole d**n mess! I had a new determination: to prove to myself and to others that I could “succeed” both in marriage and at weight lose.
This began the period that I would like to call the “beginning of the end”. I spent a lot of money back in “those days” on diet programs; you know, the kind where you go to an office suite in a high rise building where everyone talks in a hush that is both stern and aseptic. It makes you feel like you are in a doctor’s office although I am sure most of these people are primarily very good sales people. I won’t go as far to say that they “took advantage of me”. I was there on my own free will but I was emotionally vulnerable; at least, during those days I was. If you haven’t been to one of these programs this is basically how the “drill” works. They ask you how you heard about them then they begin to tell you about all the success stories while they usher you into a private room to weigh you. Of course, since you are feeling about as low as you can get, you are quietly brushing away some tears and feeling very “ashamed” that you “allowed” yourself to “get this way”. The person on the other side of the desk speaks in such a soothing way you certainly feel they understand “exactly” how you feel. Before you know it, you have your checkbook or credit card out while you signing some papers. A brief recap is spoken before you walk out the door feeling temporarily triumphant that you have “finally” found “The Answer” to your extra weight.
I could share names of these diet programs; you would recognize some and some you probably never heard of. That is not the point. The “concerns” that I have is that many of them are dangerously low calorie food plans which are often “supervised” by a non-medical person. Not to mention, they are really expensive and require the bulk if not the entire cost of the program up front. For someone who is 100 lbs overweight, that is in excess of $1000 for the program not to mention their own line of food products. Well, I barely had the money back then but I did have a second husband who was more than willing to put the money out there for me to join so I did. Again, I had problems asserting myself back then. I “figured” (wrongly) that if someone else was unhappy with my weight then I should be as well.
One food program, which is still actively on the market now, was going through litigation because the quick weight lose that it both promoted and which happened, caused some people to develop gall bladder disease. I was one of them. Within nine months after joining the program,and quitting (although all paid up, of course!) within four months, forty pounds and several thousand dollars lighter; I had my gall bladder out. After another program that was dangerously low in calories and again an initial weight lose of 40 lbs, I developed hypothyroidism (low thyroid output). My symptoms were hair loss everywhere ( I looked like a plucked chicken), sensitivity to cold, halted menstrual cycle, growing facial hair, developing adult acne and depression (gee, no wonder!). Essentially, it triggered early perimenopause. So, not only was I still overweight, and now considered clinically morbidly obese, I was also having “crazy hormones” to deal with. It took me years though to trace back my hormonal problems and I now truly believe it was because of how these diets impacted my body. Even though I began replacement thyroid and hormonal therapy, my metabolism nor my reproductive systems never returned to “normal” until decades later. Unfortunately, my “window” to have more biological children closed. I was starting true menopause by the time my endocrine system became “normal”. I think it was a high price to pay for something that not only didn’t work but also created additional health problems for me to contend with.