Yesterday, I went for my monthly weigh-in as a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I’ve been within two pounds of my goal weight for more than five years now, and as long as I maintain my commitment to go to a meeting once a month to weigh in, I’ll likely stay on goal. But it’s not easy….
During those months as a child when I was mostly confined to bed with rheumatic fever, food was something I craved. I don’t know if it was because I was bored and eating was something to do, or if there was something else about the illness that increased my appetite. What I do know is that I gained weight while I was ill. After I was up and about again, I once heard my mother say to someone, “She waddles!” referring to what I looked like when I walked after having gained weight while in bed. Those two words affected my self-image for a long time and to some extent still do. Not only did I gain weight while I was ill, but I also developed earlier than a lot of my peers, so for several years I felt like a giant. Eventually, I turned into an average-sized adult, not overweight, but by then the damage was done to my self-image. It has always been hard for me not to think of myself as fat.
I lost ten pounds without trying during my first couple years of teaching high school; the associated stress and anxiety apparently melted the pounds off. But that’s probably the last time I lost weight without needing to put forth a great deal of effort. When I became pregnant the first time, I weighed the least I ever have in my adult life. Over the next years and after two pregnancies, I gained weight that was hard to shed. Sometime in the 1980s, I mustered the self-discipline to lose 15 pounds. But then those 15 pounds slowly began to come back, plus a lot more. By the mid-1990s, I was significantly overweight, although never what I would consider obese. With our 25th wedding anniversary trip with the Pelicans planned for June 1996, I once again put forth a great deal of effort and lost about 50 pounds by the time we went to North Carolina to celebrate.
I kept the weight off for a while, but then gradually it crept back on. I never gained back the full 50 pounds, although I was getting close. I joined Curves, the fitness program for women, in December 2003 and lost about 15-20 pounds through diet and exercise, but within a year, I was diagnosed with cancer. The combination of recovering from major surgery and enduring six months of chemotherapy sapped almost every ounce of energy I had, and so I quit going to Curves. Unlike some people who lose weight when they’re on chemo, I gained weight. I blame not only the lack of exercise, but also the steroids I was on as part of the chemo regimen and the fact that I didn’t discipline myself very well on what and how much I ate – I was just glad when I was able to eat and enjoy food, and carbohydrates in particular usually tasted good.
I clearly remember one time at church when a nurse asked me, “Are you on steroids?” When I answered yes, she went on, “I can see it in your face.” From then on, I was self-conscious about the puffiness in my face that increased and subsided as treatments came and went. People would say, “You look good,” and I never knew exactly what they meant. After chemo was over, people often told me I was looking better, so I must not have looked as good as they claimed while I was still on chemo. I knew I must really be better when that same nurse finally told me I looked well!
But the fact was that I was 20 pounds heavier than before chemo. So back to Curves I went; however, losing weight seemed to be an even bigger challenge this time around. I’m not sure why, except that there was a lot of stress in my life at the time, and I think I “fed” the stress. Finally, in May 2007, with the encouragement of my boss who had just lost a significant amount of weight, I joined Weight Watchers. I went with her to the meeting where she celebrated achieving lifetime status and I joined that night. Over the next eight months, during a very stressful time at work when I was in charge of closing a training institute where I worked after funding ended and my boss left, I faithfully attended meetings and counted points, and slowly the pounds came off. I think my success with weight loss then had something to do with its being one thing in my life I could control, when the work situation felt very much out of my control. All told, I lost about 30 pounds, and in January 2008, I celebrated achieving Weight Watchers lifetime status.
I no longer slavishly follow the Weight Watchers plan (OK, I can hear WW leaders all over the country collectively gasping in dismay!), but I do go to a meeting once a month. It is my way of being accountable. My WW membership is free as long as I stay within two pounds of my goal weight, and in more than five years of being a lifetime member, I’ve never had to pay. I lose a pound one month, gain a few ounces the next month, but never enough to put me more than two pounds over my goal weight. I’ll admit that as each monthly weigh-in approaches, I’m particularly vigilant and sometimes I have to do some serious point-counting or cutting back on certain favorites like chocolate to make sure I don’t go over. But the bottom line is that because I am committed to attending a meeting every month, I don’t ever want to have to pay, and I really don’t want to gain back all those pounds I’ve lost several times, I’m able to stay on goal. I’ll never be a “skinny-mini,” but I’m trying to be okay with that and finally get beyond the “waddling” comment my mother made all those years ago. Hurray for me!