The Psychology of Fat

I will start this post with a great report: I have lost all my “pandemic” weight, and the last time I weighed myself, my weight was lower than it has been in the past three years.

I have been going to the Y, and I’m continuing my simple no sugar, no carbs routine. That’s it. As far as the physical weight loss, as I’ve discussed before, it’s just a matter of discipline.

However, on the psychological front, it’s not so easy.

Unlike a lot of weight bloggers who’ve struggled with obesity from the time they were children, I was not always super heavy. In my youth, teens, and college years, I was thin. I was a cheerleader for years. Lithe, strong, and generally living in a “normal-sized” body. The massive weight gain began in the 90s for me when a pdoc put me on an Rx that gifted me 100 extra pounds. It was like a runaway train. I tried several times to bring that weight down, but eventually gave up in exasperation.

The weight morphed into something else more sinister though. The weight was what I would come to dub a “spray-on male repellent.” I was able to move about my career without the unwanted advances of creepy men; it was so freeing in that way.

It also afforded me the ability to live my life without inviting men into it with complicated relationships that always seemed to end in ruin. Even more unsettling is the deeper, more fragile realization that the abundance of fat cells wrapped around my organs and bones acted like a bubble wrap, a physical protection against being kicked, punched, and thrown down a flight of stairs. Heavy, I know (pun, intended). To understand this at a root level, there is a book: “The Body Keeps the Score” that I have not read, but I hear it referenced all the time in my women’s work.

On my last appointment with my new pdoc, I struck up a conversation with him about this. He said it’s absolutely a factor (weight gain as protection). He said it’s not uncommon for men to gain weight too to ensure they won’t be tempted to cheat on their spouses. He said he hears stories like mine all the time.

I’ve been working hard here in this phase of my life to face my demons, to heal.

Losing the weight is part of my journey. I’m hopeful I will get back to the young woman I was before trauma derailed my mind, my spirit, and my lovely body. Of course I won’t ever be young again, but I can be that strong, healthy woman again.

I’m working on it.

It’s fun to stay at the Y – M – C – A

So, I joined the YMCA.

It’s awesome!

Our local YMCA is as good of a state-of-the-art gym as any I’ve experienced in large cities like Austin, TX or Orlando, FL. What’s even better is the price and the fact that I am not locked into a contract. Plus, my health insurance will reimburse me $20/mo if I visit just 12 times a month. Because of my (cough, cough) age, that means this amazing facility only costs me $29 a month.

There’s an upbeat vibe at this YMCA and it makes me feel good just to “be there.”

I’m starting out my exercise program slowly, but there’s tremendous room to grow at this facility, including private trainers. My schedule is fairly flexible now, so I can get the the gym when there aren’t a lot of people there.

The good news is I’ve gone beyond losing my pandemic weight, and I’m on the road to getting back on track. I’m down 32.4 lbs now.

This, You Can Do

So, it’s been 18 weeks since I got serious about losing my 30-lb pandemic gain. The last time I weighed myself, I was down 28.2 lbs. That was a few days ago. I didn’t weigh myself today, and I probably won’t weigh myself tomorrow, but I’m confident I will hit this goal any day now, if I haven’t already.

The simple math will tell you that if you divide 30 by 18, I would be averaging about 1.67 lbs a week. That’s not exactly how it happens, but the loss is for real. Yesterday, I bought pants that were 4 sizes smaller. I love that.

Let me give you some tips about what works for me, as I’ve been able to lose weight like this a few times now:

  • Do not stress out about losing weight. Your self-image should be grounded in more important aspects of your identity than your appearance. For whatever reason you’ve decided to lose weight, be easy on yourself. Try not to even think about it. Look at it like another side-hustle project, like getting around to finally organizing the basement or writing your memoir.
  • Don’t weigh yourself every day, and don’t obsess about your weight on the scale. I invested in an expensive, wifi-enabled scale that measures my fat content, my water weight, my BMI, even my bones. Those numbers are constantly shifting… even my bones (?)…, but if you do everything on this list, you will lose weight. Be patient.
  • Skip everything sugar and carbs. No bread, pasta, rice, noodles, crackers, rice… No sugary desserts ever. Never. No fruit– too high in sugar. No juices with sugar. If you drink coffee, drink it black or get used to an artificial sweetener. I buy large packages of Stevia. My goto snack is sugar-free Jello. And sometimes nuts and cheese.
  • Empty your cupboard bare of everything that is wrong for you. Remove everything in your kitchen that comes in boxes, bags, and most canned goods. Throw out everything in the fridge and the freezer that you should not eat, no matter how much is left. I was fortunate there was a food drive in my town a few weeks into my new regime. I gave away three bags of food. The rest I gave to my sister.
  • Make a good, hearty breakfast every morning. I make eggs, bacon, tomatoes with a little avocado every morning. Avocados have carbs, but I’m careful. I also like to make omelettes with fresh vegetables. 
  • Learn to cook, in general. Buy Atkins, Paleo, South Beach cookbooks. Try to find a used bookstore. Cookbooks are cheaper used, and sometimes have good notes in the margin. I copy recipes I like and keep them in a folder for easy access. 
  • At restaurants (like life) ask for what you need. Look at the menu. If you want an entré, but you can’t have it with bread or on pasta, ask if the kitchen can make a substitution. I’ve never had an issue with this. My dining experiences have been terrific. Same goes for bar choices. Vodka, Rum, Gin all have zero carbs. Ask the bartender what cocktail options are available or can be creatively concocted without sugar. 
  • Walk, walk, walk. I’m a person that hates to exercise. But, I don’t mind walking around town. When you can physically walk rather than drive, always take that option. According to my Apple Watch, I walk a couple thousand steps every day just doing random things around my place. 
  • If you’re feeling frustrated because it’s not going fast enough or you hit a plateau, post an update on social media about the weight loss you already accumulated. People love that shit and will go bananas with support. I personally find that morally conflicting, but it does do the trick. It makes you feel better, and it will get you over the hump to keep going. 
  • Start a weight loss blog! It’s fun to track your progress. 🙂 

I Wanna Be Sedated

So, I’m down 22.4lbs. That’s only 8lbs shy of my goal to lose my pandemic gain. I will get there. And I’ll continue on my path from there.

How am I doing it? By walking around this beautiful, sleepy town. I’m not killing it on the Peloton or hiring a trainer or joining the gym. I’m just walking around. I gave up my car last September and I walk everywhere I need to go.

Living in the Midwest, life is simpler. It’s slower and more peaceful. But there is healthy food and healthy living here. I am not in a rush to lose my weight, or in a rush to do anything for that matter.

I’m content to take in the beauty around me knowing every step I take is leading me in the right direction. It gets lighter every day.

A Return to Tech Gadgetry

I brought my Withings scale with me out here to South Dakota, so it tracks all my stats. After some research, I decided to invest in a wearable. I opted for the Apple Watch over the Fitbit or the ones that are linked to my Withings scale. The Apple Watch has all the health tracking I’m interested in, plus it fills in gaps that complement my nearly all-Apple product tech environment. I also ordered new Airpods that should be here by Tuesday. Once those arrive, I am going to start walking a lot more.

The weather is really great now in my city. Walking alone should do me a lot of good. I’m taking it easy for this first phase. Like I’ve done before, I don’t want exercise to be a PITA or to be something I hate to do, or I will stop doing it. I’m actually interesting in tracking my progress.

I got the watch yesterday, and I can already see the difference having a wearable makes on the number of steps I go through just doing normal things around the house.

The good news is I’m on track. I’ve lost about 10 pounds since I last wrote, so I’m on my way to disappearing the fat person that’s clinging to my inner self.

Discipline and Creativity

I live across the street now from a well-stocked grocery store. I walk about 100 feet from my front door into this cornucopia of fresh produce. The best part about getting focused again on healthy eating is the “periphery” shopping. All the essential food is on the exterior of the supermarket. All the terrible stuff is in the aisles, so I don’t have to waste my time in those. I like buying fresh food too. I’ve mastered the discipline to only buy what I came to buy, and I have a list on my phone when I walk through the door. The fun part is the creativity that comes with putting together meals that fit within my boundaries (no carbs, no sugar) and that I know I can cook.

Technically, I live in a city here in South Dakota. The population of the city is about 29K which is the size of a small town in New Jersey. The whole state is the size of a small city, to be honest. But, I don’t talk much about that here. I’m happy to be here. It’s really not a bad place to live if you ignore the prevailing red state politics. I’m old enough that conservative ideology doesn’t impact me directly, and I don’t have any younger family here. That’s not to say I don’t work to help change the the culture here. But, it’s tough. I do my part.

I’ve lost a few pounds so far, but I’m losing faith in my scale. My water weight, for instance, is wildly irrational. It measured I gained 7 lbs in water weight in 2 days. Huh? The scale is expensive and it’s synced to my computer and iPhone, so I don’t want to buy another one yet. I’m just going to have to bear with it. I have a long way to go, so it doesn’t really matter what the scale says right now.

I have an interesting idea about a post I might do about the measurement I have for the fat percentage I’m carrying around. It literally measures out to be a normal-sized adult person. I will attempt to do that in a future post.

Blame it on the Pandemic

I was doing fine. Fine, fine, fine for a very long time. Until I wasn’t. Let’s blame it on lock-down and quarantine. I moved across the country in the spring of 2020 right as the pandemic was settling in to ground us all to a halt.

Look what happened:

To be fair, I wasn’t sitting at home eating ice cream and cake. I was eating pretty normally. But I did resume eating carbs, and there you have it. Simply adding a normal amount of carbs– I’M TALKING TO YOU, BREAD– to my regular diet, filled out all these fat cells lingering around in my body.

So frustrating.

So, here I am. Back on the Fatcinating blog. Back with my friends who will hopefully support me through another slog of getting this excess weight off. It’s not like I was down to my ideal weight anyway. But the extra weight is too much. It has to go. I’m not sure I can fit into the summer clothes I brought with me out here.

Ugh.

“I do not yield. Not one second to you. Not one second!”

Negative thoughts get in your head.  They eat away at your self-confidence.  I used to watch this phenomenon with interest as a cheerleader on the sidelines during football season.  I could tell when we were going to lose a game when the psychology of the team “turned.”  It was weird.  It was like an uncontrollable social contagion.  No matter how hard the coaches tried to pump up the star quarterback and all the athletes, if the team was spooked, the game was over. It was a sixth sense, and I could feel it every time.

So, when I saw that recent uptick on the scale, I was worried.  That’s why I blogged about it.  Thanks loyal readers for giving me some confidence.  I hunkered down this weekend and flushed out my system.  Drank a lot of water, swam, and I think I should be okay.

Here is some reverse psychology:

This morning, I happened to peruse my “Memories” tab on Facebook to see what I was doing last year.  I found this photo of me and my friend Jon: 

Of course, I had carefully cropped it so as to not post my gigantic self in the photo.  I’ve posted this photo before on this blog.

I think this dinner was the final straw, however, when I realized I had to do something about my weight.  That I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the rest of my life that large. Again, I have to make the point that I am not shaming anyone who makes that choice for themselves, and who knows, maybe some day, I will be okay with it again. 

But, for now, I still want to do things that I can’t do as a large person. So, the trek to lose weight began last year at this time.

I decided to go to that same restaurant tonight.  I asked the waiter to take a photo of me. The photo’s not great, and you really can’t see much of a change in my weight, but I have lost over 50 pounds since that dinner last year.

So, in the words of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, (thank you ma’am), “I will not yield one second” to those negative thoughts.  I have made a lot of progress.

And I’m still in the game.

Update: Lost those 2.2 pounds plus .2 more this weekend.

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