Weighty Matters

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!

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4 thoughts on “Weighty Matters

  1. Oh, the never-ending battle to keep weight under control. Of course, it doesn’t help those of us with a generous helping of family genes that predispose us to weight gain that the food provisioning in the U.S. have tilted in the direction of permanent obesity.
    When I think of myself as overweight, which all the charts say I am, I occasionally see someone who is truly HUGE, and then think–wow, that is not where I am. The food supplying in grocery stores speaks volumes to our national weight problem. I am thunderstruck in the cooler sections of stores to see how little space is devoted to vegetables compared to snacks, icecream, pastries etc.
    Someday researchers will discover the metabolism mechanism that ticks inside those of us who struggle with weight. Then, perhaps the yo-yo-ing of losing/gaining/losing may come under control.

    • Yes, despite the reminders and extra incentives to eat healthy and exercise, there are oh so many temptations out there–from restaurants that serve humongous portions to grocery stores that display unhealthy snack foods in prominent eye-level places. I have tried to come to terms with being one of those people who will always have to work at it–unlike my younger brother who appears to never have had a problem. Funny how genes work!!

  2. Yes, hooray for you!  I’ve done serious weight loss work two times, and am working on it again.  Very hard work at this point in life, so do keep it off, Harriet!      Judy

  3. Pingback: Taste Your Words | Pieces of Peace

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