First of all, I weigh the exact same weight that I did one year ago. There, I said it. Does this mean I am a failure at weight lose? Well, if you measure weight lose by inches, pounds and clothing sizes; then, yes, I am a failure at losing weight. However, if you measure weight lose by the infrequency of how I binge, how more self-accepting I am of myself and my body image than I was a year ago and how I want to eat more healthy than I want to eat “trash”; then, I would say that I have lost “something”. It might not be actual physical poundage but I have lost a lot of the obstacles that landed me where I was morbidly obese, miserable with myself and acting against my own best interest.
What then did I lose this past year? I lost a lot of my former character defects: pleasing others, perfectionism, rationalizing, minimizing, categorizing, cowardice and, sometimes, denial (on a good day). Although it seemed to me that I was either treading water or spinning my wheels throughout most of this year I also began to notice some significant changes in “me” and some of that change came by surprise. I think this quote says where I ended up:
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou ‘canst not then be false to any man.” —William Shakespeare.
Today, I have the courage to say to you, dear readers, that Plan A did not go like I had thought it would. When I began this journal regarding my weight lose, I honestly thought that I would check in once a week (probably) and “report” how much weight I had lost, whether I passed on that piece of chocolate cake or ate it in secret, how many miles I walked or ran and the poundage of what I was lifting on any given day. Well, as a person who “used to” suffer from OCD, that is how I thought it would be as well. I am great at keeping records of what I ate, how many minutes I exercised and whether or not I was following along a predictable line but as I really got into this; it took on a life of its own. It began to “own” me and not the other way around. Oh, did I also say that I am a recovering “control freak” too?
What I learned in this past year is that my body is boss. It knows what is best for itself and it will “take over” even the most persistent attempts that I have in making it do “what I want it to do”. For example, during the summer of 2011, I decided (in a burst of extreme effort) that I was going to tackle my weight lose through extraordinary expenditure of energy via Power walking on my motorized treadmill followed by Power lifting of my free weights as well as hundreds of body sculpting exercises. Not only did I push beyond pain, I embraced it. I said, “Bring it on!” and I did. How dumb! How stupid can a college-educated person be? As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”. I was chasing down pain medicine with bags of frozen peas afterwards. Within four months, I had re-injured an old groin injury (say, I said “old”, as in I didn’t learn the first time) and for almost two weeks, I couldn’t even put any weight on my left leg. I hobbled around but I then decided that I wouldn’t let that stop me; I would do a “work around”, so I proceeded to figure out a way to continue to brutalize my body while nursing this re-inflamed older injury. Then, my “bossy” body told me in no uncertain terms: “Kill it kid. Time Out!”
So, I turned my attention to “helping others”. I had also been a part of a “buddy challenge” in an online diet group. Once that challenge had run its course, I decided to grab the reins and lead a new one on my own. I soon discovered that I was in my “element”. I just plain loved it. It was a blank slate so I got creative. I made up some really fun ways of moving your body that everyone (including some grand kids that joined for the fun of it) found quirky but effective. Some ideas came to me while I was actually doing something else: like folding clean laundry and getting tired of doing that, I began tossing rolled up socks into a laundry basket. Soon, the basket got farther and farther away and so I had to sharpen my aim. Then, I timed myself. How many rolled up sock pairs could I toss in the laundry basket in 5 minutes? Silly but effective in breaking a sweat. It also took some weight off of my leg that was “mending”. For a person who had recently lost his leg to diabetes it also gave him some much needed movement in his upper body.
Then, the buzz saw hit a knot in the wood! Group dynamics. There are two kinds of fat people: people pleasers and “heel diggers”. The former will say “Yes” to anything and everything, irregardless of whether they can, will or want to. The later will say “No” to anything and everything for the same reasons. When they butt heads, watch out! The first group minimize what it will take to do something. The second group will catastrophes what it will take to do something and, therefore, elect to not do it. In the long and distant past, I was a mediator. It kicked in almost immediately until I realized that, just like myself, these were learned behaviors for these people and until they either realized this about themselves and then were willing to step even one foot away from this center of comfort they had created, they were going to be this way. That was then that I had to release my desire to control and my need for everything to turn out in a neat perfectionist planned way. Some “excess weight” just got lost at that junction.
After the first of the New Year in 2012, I decided that I wanted to start my own sub-group based on some of the things that I had learned about myself and my relationship with food. My adult daughter thought the title was magnanimous but I settled on “The Way”. What I wanted to share with others was the same objective that I had when I began this diet blog two years ago: I wanted to find “the way” to a “normal” relationship with food. In words that I have often said: I want to make peace with food. Much to my surprise, the response was overwhelming. Within a week’s time, I had over forty people who had signed up for my group. I was ready to begin.
Within the first two weeks, I had to settle a “she said, she said” online fight; remind someone that taking another person’s work is not nice, it amounts to “stealing” and if she didn’t rescind I would take action (which I did); and proceed to “fall in love” with some of the brightest, clever, endearing “angels” I have ever had the pleasure to meet on the internet. They taught me so much about how the human spirit can soar like an eagle and plop like a big turd while at the same time embracing a new way of life that was both wonderful and frightening as well. I love giving so I rewarded their efforts with “prizes’ for the most weight lost, the most amount of miles walked and for having the most team spirit. I also learned about how some people will never seem to give themselves a break and how they can’t accept good things from anyone no matter how much they earned it. I learned that I had to quit being so hard on myself and love myself right there and then because if I don’t love and accept myself, how can I expect anyone else to? I left some excess weight at that door as well.
I had to drop my perfectionism when I had to tell my dearly loved group that I would have to “step down” in mid-summer (and mid-challenge) because i was broke from all the giving and I was not following my own “rules”. It was one of the hardest things of recent that I had to do but I knew it was the right thing to do for me and “them”. I had full confidence that if they looked at themselves in the mirror honestly, they would realize they “knew the way” to permanent weight lose as much as I was beginning to.
What I later admitted to both my husband, P., and a friend, was that while trying to save others, I had nearly lost myself. It took a lot of courage for me to stand my ground (one emailed me and pleaded with me to return as their group leader, which I graciously declined) and for me to look at what had happened to me in the meantime. What started out as a sincere and genuine desire to lead others to permanent weight lose and a more sane relationship with food ended up with me “losing myself”.
Besides being financially broke(r)[ not a word but even more broke than I had been when I started], I was also trying to keep things together with my food plan by eating foods that I would never consider in the past two years: separated chicken parts ( say what?), HFCS (the empty food filler from Hell) and counting ketchup as a vegetable (echoes of Reagan’s school admonition). I had slid in my standards. Why? I had stopped remembering the cardinal rule” “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.” I was gasping for air but there was no one to see it, feel it or respond to it. I also had to stop looking for someone else to rescue me. The cavalry was not coming that day nor would it ever.
Although it has often been said that “no man is an island”, when it comes to losing weight or making any other kind of life changes, sometimes, believe it or not, it is best to go it alone. I would never have traded anything for the experiences that I have had in the groups that I have been a part of. I have laughed, cried, loved and cherished all of those people but I made their happiness more important than my own. Did I say I also needed to learn balance in my life? Yup!
So, now that I had that year of being detoured, I am back on finding my own way. Once again, the insides are a whole lot skinnier today than they were a year ago. Now, I just have to get the outside to match the inside.
…to be continued.