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.

“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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Zut Alors! I gained two pounds.

IMG_8724.jpgAnd that’s how it begins.

You eat one Chinese takeout dinner with rice. One egg roll and some pizza at the local Tech Meetup and THERE IT IS.

Boom. Two pounds. Precisely, 2.2 lbs. 

Like the creature from the black lagoon, those fat cells jump back into your life to remind you they are simply laying dormant, deflated, ready to pounce– waiting to blow up bigger and stronger than before.

For nearly an entire year now, I’ve only lost pounds with tiny fractional variations up and down within ounces. This is the first time I’ve gained.

This is war.

War is hell.

The Long and Winding Road

Photo credit: Marc https://goo.gl/WAva8b

The weight is coming off slowly now.  Every week, fractions of a pound. Sometimes, I gain a little, and that can be frustrating, even if it’s just fluctuating water weight (I’m measuring everything now).  But I’ve taken care not to fall into the trap I fell into before and to become obsessed with losing weight, to let it control me and let the manic desire to be thin and “normal” to take over my everyday life.

I want to adapt to a new way of living.  I read a great article in the New York Times a few months ago that explains what I’ve been doing more or less.  I have a new relationship with food.  I changed the way I eat.  This, more than anything else, has made the difference.

I’ve lost about 53 pounds now.  Yes, I still have a long way to go.  But the difficult part ahead will involve some more introspection, psychological commitment, and good old-fashioned, patience.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. The excess weight that I wrapped around myself served as a fortress that shielded me from male attention.  It rendered me invisible so that I could ward off any possibility of romantic entanglements by making myself as unattractive as possible.  It was safe in that space.

I could start working out more rigorously and attempt to lose weight more quickly at this juncture.  But this would not serve me well physically or mentally.  First, on the physical score, it would be punishing on my body.  I do not wish to punish myself.  I deserve to be fair and kind to myself at this stage of my life.  I don’t hate myself for being fat.  I don’t even hate that I gained so much weight and feel fairly certain that anyone else who endured the shitty circumstances that I did would have found themselves in a fat suit too.  Second, on the mental considerations, it’s kind of the same deal.  I don’t need to shame myself into faster weight loss.  This is where I got into trouble before and eventually gave up because it just wasn’t worth the effort. Additionally, I am not conjoining my self-worth with my body image.  Something very important, and I’d encourage anyone who’s going through a similar journey to view these two as distinctly separate.  It’s unfortunate that society isn’t as enlightened, but so be it.

My only regret about this slow path is that it will take a very long time to get to the weight I want to be to do the things I want to do, such as ride horses.  But as I was discussing with my brother over the weekend, because it’s just one day at a time, one step at a time on a long road, at the point of my arrival, I won’t have to change a thing.  I will be “there.”  I will have literally changed the way I eat, sleep, exercise, meditate, process stress, etc.  There will be no interest in going back to the way I used to live.  In an odd metaphorical way, it’s like I’m walking down a very large mountain path with a slight slope that extends for miles and miles.  It may take years before I get to my destination, but when I finally arrive, it’s almost as if I will be arriving as the young woman I used to be before all that crap happened at the top of the mountain.

BeFit not BeFaT!

JustinI’m continuing on my path.  Justin, my trainer, and the co-owner of the BeFit Studio where I submit myself to his sadistic antics every week is pictured in the photo on the left. Although I tell him every time I see him I hate him, and I hate his wicked routines, I keep showing up.

We were discussing today, while I’m making progress having lost about 40 pounds, I still weigh as much as a football player.  We were trying to agree on which position now fits me best.

Where I probably started at as a burly Offensive Center, I could now possibly pass for an Offensive Lineman.  I told him my goal was to be a skinny Quarterback, but he told me some Quarterbacks can be big too.  In other words, I have some more flexibility and can start to feel some strength in my muscles, but I have a long way to go to get into fighting shape.

On that note, he convinced me to buy a bike.  I did that today.  I bought a sweet Fuji quasi-Mountain bike.  It cost more than I wanted to spend, but I decided it was an investment.  Florida has a lot of bike trails.  You can literally ride for miles on bike trails.  I have kind of hit a plateau with the personal training, and I need something more aerobic to get me moving the extra pounds around.  I think a bike can do it, so I’m going to try it.  Plus, it will get me outside in the winter sunshine.  I like that idea.

2018_FUJI_CROSSTOWN_23_LS_LAVENDER

I made a promise to myself that when I started this whole, “I don’t want to be fat anymore” thing that I wouldn’t do anything that was horrible, like exercise I hated or starving myself to the point of feeling miserable and surly all of the time.  I told myself I was going to give myself a break and take it slow and EASE into a new way of living.

I’m doing that.

So far so good.

So, still at it.

The other day, I was in a dressing room, and I was shocked that I was fitting into pants sizes 4 times smaller than I’m used to.  That was really incredible!  I texted Justin, (because I have no life and there was no one else to text, of course).  He was happy for me, and reiterated that he knew we were making progress. But, I was over the moon.  Wow!  This is really happening.  I will be on a horse… soon.

Just tired of being fat

IMG_0312People with whom I share my weight loss journey normally ask me, “Why?”  It’s meant to be a why now, or what happened to make you decide to work on this.  I always give the same answer: “I just got tired of being fat.”

As the pounds disappear (fat literally breathes out of you; look it up), I am enjoying my ability to move easier– to pick things up easier, to fit easier into chairs, to crouch down in a squat to fix a rug corner– all simple things that are suddenly available to me in a smaller size.  Nearly every day there is an affirmation if you pay attention.

That my clothes are fitting better is fabulous. I now have an entire closet that is not out of reach. Even the larger clothes are just loose and baggy, but I can still wear them if I want to.  In other words, I’ve not seriously “undergrown” anything yet. I guess I’ve dropped from a 28 in pants to a 24 maybe?  Not sure.  I’m trying not to buy more large size clothes.

According to my scale, I’ve lost 38 pounds.  That might not be the same as the trainer’s scale or the doctor’s scale, but the weight loss is noticeable now.  People still aren’t saying much, but that’s okay.  My kids can see the difference.  Another 40 pounds, and it will be unmistakeable.  My goal is to get to 240, so I can mount and ride a regular-sized horse.  I don’t know how long that will take.  Maybe 6 months.  Who knows?

Segueing into something a little more uncomfortable, I was hospitalized last week to recover from some traumatic stress related to the work I do.  I’m feeling better now.  Normally, when you’re a patient in a behavioral health facility, the food is abundant and oftentimes great.  That was the case where I was at a prestigious center in Princeton, NJ.  I’m so thankful (today is Thanksgiving) I was able to resist eating a lot of foods high in sugar and/or carbs.  I actually lost a couple pounds in the hospital, and that is nearly unheard of.  So yay, self-discipline.

Here is a milestone photo to show my dear readers (all 3 of you) my progress.  The photo on the left was taken this summer with a friend who visited with me from Montreal while he was here on business.  The one on the right is one taken a few weeks ago.  I can see the difference, can’t you?  The good news is I look happy in both of them.

 

 

I’m really looking forward to making more progress.  As I’ve written before, the fat cells serve as a functional shield, yet they imprison me in a cage I’ve created to protect myself.  So, with vulnerability and a bit of courage, I’m continuing on my path.

Happy Thanksgiving. A holiday that would be better remembered for love, hugs, and family, rather than food. 

I’m especially thankful this holiday for this blog’s readers.  I think I have at least one on this blog.  Let me know if you’re here with a like or comment?

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À Votre Santé!

doctorLike most overweight women, I dread going to a doctor– especially, most especially, a new doctor.

You never know if a doctor is going go treat you like a second-class citizen if you’re obese.  Worse?  They’ll diagnose you fat before they listen to what brought you into the office in the first place. There are some great pieces about this on the Dances with Fat blog.

I scheduled an appointment for a regular check-up with my new doctor here in Florida because I hadn’t had one in a while. To my surprise, I had a wonderful experience.  Not one person– the staff, nurses, or the doctor herself mentioned anything about my weight. Even after I weighed in on the scale. As part of the check-up, the doctor said she wanted to run a series of blood tests, and I complied willingly.

I took the blood tests and made a second appointment. The tests came back terrific.  No problems with cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid. All within the normal range.  The cholesterol could have slightly been better, but nothing to worry about at all. She did note that I had some B-12 issues, and I told her that was hereditary.  I remember my father having issues as he aged.  She was very concerned about this, and we set about to put a program in place to raise my levels.

Never once did she mention my size.

It’s as if I were a “normal” person, which in fact, I am. How refreshing. I will drink to that.

A New Year’s Resolution


In 2014, I’m going to stop caring about being overweight.

I’d like to be thin for the same reasons I outlined in my 2011 post when I kicked off my successful 50-lb weight loss program.  The weight loss was gratifying, but it reminded me of something I’ve learned about in my professional life called the 9x problem.  At 50 pounds down, I was feeling better, but my life was definitely not 9x better.  For all the effort and obsession I put into losing weight, I started questioning why I was doing it.

Recall, I am not unhealthy.  Blood pressure always normal, no signs of diabetes or history in the family, no heart problems, etc.  I just checked my year-end records, and I did not go to the doctor once this year for any health-related issue.  I’m in that 30% class of people obese, but metabolically healthy.  I know that just irritates everyone, but that’s the way it is.  Obviously, if something cropped up where my health was affected, I’d address the issue.

At 54 years old, I’m pretty sure my body has decided it wants to stay this way.  So, this blog will lie dormant until sometime (maybe, maybe not) I get motivated to “get back on the horse.”

Happy 2014.

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Back at it!

green2vegasSo, these are two photos I took last year and sent to my daughter to show her how I was progressing.  I remember at the time, especially the photo on the left, I was disappointed because I still thought I looked larger than I felt.  Eventually, around the time of the last post on this blog (well over a year ago), I gave up trying to lose weight out of frustration.

And now, I’ve gained 30 pounds back.

There you have it.  Yo meet Yo.

Yesterday, I signed up for Weight Watchers.  I had a lot of success doing this on my own, but I thought this time around it might be better to be surrounded by people who are struggling (succeeding and failing) like I am.  So, not sure what to expect, but it is a first step in the right direction.  I’m generally not a “joiner,” but figured the weekly commitment and lectures add some forced discipline too. Everything is still the same – would like to lose weight for reasons important to me, unrelated to health issues and well, morbidity.   I found out last week that I was selected among 5 women who will be featured in a national women’s magazine next fall.  That is as good an excuse as any to get back on track and work (again) toward becoming the woman I want to be.

So, here we go.  As usual, I’ll be chronicling what I’m learning and doing.  It will be nice to hear your comments and encouragement.  Hope you’ll hang in there with me.

Introspection on My Own Obesity

I’m squeezed into 1A here on a JetBlue flight Orlando-bound to visit with my daughter’s family for a few days.  I hit another milestone today.  I was able to get into this seat and fasten the seatbelt.  Something so simple that millions of travelers do every day was not available to me.  I used to bring a seat belt extender on all my flights.  Once in my seat, I would discreetly snap it together before the seats filled up around me.  I always tried to make sure I was one of the first in my section to board for this reason.  Everyone dislikes overweight seat partners.  I know this.

As I have been sitting here, I was thumbing through Texas Monthly and noticed something else.  I’ve been paying particular attention to fashion, jewelry, and hairstyles.  Now, I secretly think Pinterest is to blame for my sudden interest in all things girlish, but it did catch me by surprise.  Now that I’m on a path toward losing my weight, I’m feeling the powerful magnet pull of my inner femininity.   This is something very different and very welcome.

Thinking of how life is changing for me, reverting me back to my youthful image-conscious self, I started contemplating why I allowed myself to stay obese.  As I’ve explained before, a pharmaceutical drug put a hundred pounds on me very quickly in the 90s.  It was around the time I met my ex-husband (1995) that I was really beginning to put on the pounds.  He didn’t care about my weight and was always very complimentary about my looks, so I didn’t really care about the weight gain as we wound into our ten-year marriage.

But there was more to it than the malaise that sometimes comes with marriage.  For me, the weight was protection.  The layers insulated me from physical abuse in my subconscious mind – abuse from my past that I’ve begun to discuss on my personal blog.  I know it sounds weird, but I’ve been aware of this for a long while.  It’s as if I couldn’t be bruised or broken if I were, well, larger.  Further, after my marriage ended, the extra weight served as “male repellent.”  I tried dating and had lost some weight right around the time of my divorce, but I was still in love with my ex-husband and was unable to seriously consider a new relationship.  A decision I regret, but it was an unavoidable consequence resulting from the disintegration of our family.  After that initial stint, I was not interested in dating at all.  Obesity is the best way I know to not attract a new partner.  I regained those pounds and more, leading up to tipping the scales at 300 at the end of last year.  This was the wake-up call I needed.  I realized I was limiting my own happiness and decided to shed the toxicity that surrounded me – body and soul.

This post is more serious than my usual posts on this blog, but I have wanted to convey that there are complex psychological reasons why individuals stay obese.  Each individual has to deal with his or her own personal demons and should exist in a judgment-free zone.  I will always support an individual’s free choice to reject the societal pressure to conform to a commercial ideal of beauty.   For me, losing my weight is going to afford me the chance to live again.  Rather than dying slowly from the outside in, suffocating under the weight of my own insecurity and mental battle scars.