"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Re-inventing the body... the background

I'm breaking the "blog rules" here and writing a lot today but my message has to get out there because many people struggle with their weight. It can be a stubborn 10-20 pounds or a more extreme problem. I want to share with you my struggles at the start of yet another journey into weight loss in hopes that some of you will find it inspiring or helpful. Not only that... putting it out there keeps me honest.

As I said yesterday in my blog... I share freely and willingly because we all have places where we struggle. I can't stand in front of you and act like I "have it all together" because it would be a lie. Truth is that nobody has it ALL together. It's my hope that I can just get it more together and can help some of you do that too in my process.

Let's start with the basics.... I am fat. No two ways about it. I was a fat baby, a "solid" kid and a "heavy" college student (my freshman 15 turned into the freshman 40 thanks to a job working desserts in the cafeteria). Many times in my life I was at the "acceptable" range of humanity and lived maybe 10 pounds above the top of my weight scale for my height and build. Not bad, but certainly not perfect. I had to "hide" my fat behind skirts or long shirts. It made me a bit uncomfortable and self-conscious but not too bad. I wanted to be thinner but didn't quite have the where with all to figure out how... or the desire to say no to the "goodies", ice cream in particular. sigh

One day, I became very sick with mono. The illness held on for years when I was finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since I was sick of being in bed (4 years and counting), I decided that I would do whatever it took to try to get healthy. Part of my plan was to extensively research foods and in the process I discovered that just like you put gas instead of molasses in the tank of your car, you needed to put fuel that the body recognized verses sugar in your body to let it run at optimal efficiency.

I became obsessed with research! I read scads of books on nutrition and health. I read books about how our food is processed, how our meat is raised. I read information linking cancer to all the pesticides used on our crops and on the animals that we eat! I will tell you right now... it was astonishing!!!

Not only did I become a walking book of knowledge (an incidentally, no one else wanted to KNOW about it - because they wanted to eat their food in complete oblivion and hope for the best), but I started to believe and live what I was learning. It's amazing to me that we all close our eyes because we just don't want to deal with certain things. I get it - I do it too - but I'm trying to stop. The truth really does set you free.... it's those things that we deny, ignore or don't attend to that get us into trouble!

What happened to me was that I started to get a bit healthier. I say a bit because I went from the land of the dead to the land of the living - but I still didn't really feel well. But I persisted! And I lost 70 pounds and became a slim, wonderful machine for the first time in my life. I was SKINNY!

However, now I got all kinds of other comments from people. "You are too skinny", "put a little meat on your bones.. your face is too bony... you don't look good". I could eat a huge amount of food and people would watch me eat and comment that I would gain all the weight back again (on lettuce??). I got skinny by eating and fat by starving... go figure.

Fast forward a few years and a few kids. I managed to live at a nice size 6 for quite a few years... with a bit of fluctuation for child birth. It was a beautiful thing.

One day, I was feeling especially sad about the way other things in my life were going, namely our livelihood was at stake. To soothe my soul, I sent my husband out for a pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice-cream . He came back with two pints and we each settled in to the chocolate decadence to soothe our pain.

Things did not improve in our world and so the ice cream became a nightly occurrence and the pounds started to pack on at an alarming rate! When the dreaded unemployment came and we moved our family away from our world and our friends and settled into real poverty the weight gain continued. We no longer ate the ice cream but settled into pasta, bread and cheese as a staple diet (because it was all we could afford). This went on for a quite a while as we visited to food bank and were forced to eat all the processed foods that I knew would poison my body and bring my health down again.

Now let me just say this.. I was not an "over-eater". You know those folks, the ones on "The Biggest Loser" who admit to their evening binges. I was just getting older and my body was not processing what I was taking in. I didn't sit down with a bag of potato chips a night and binge - but I did make poor choices in food. I paid the price.

I was frantic, frustrated and became quite depressed. My weight now started to balloon and I worked very hard to find a way to lose that weight again. I exercised regularly but it didn't touch the pounds. I started eating less... smaller portions of bad food. As my weight increased, I ate less and less and less.

And then it stopped. I stayed fat at about 80-90 pounds more than my initial weight and nothing would budge it... nothing. (That's not really true, it LOVED to go up). I went on regular walks with friends and worked out at the gym up to 2 hours a day.... nothing.... Unfortunately, I continued to eat the "wrong" foods because I couldn't afford to feed a family of four all the "right" foods.

Ten years later - here I sit... Now, at this ripe old age, other things start happening. High cholesterol, high blood pressure.... high risk. Health insurance prices go up.... Anxiety elevates with exercise as I experienced pain in my left arm.... better just sit it out. Clothing choices are ugly.

To make matters worse I entered a profession that "exposed" my problem (pardon the pun). As a professional photographer and being on the speaking circuit leaves you open to people taking your picture! I'd suck in my stomach and push out my face and still... I looked BIG! I thought REALLY - am I THAT heavy? I didn't see that me when I looked in the mirror. (Little tip here... we adjust to a certain weight in the mirror and don't see what is really there - fat or thin.) Viewing those images caused a terrible drop in self-esteem as I realized that new people who didn't know me, saw THAT person and I felt like a loser. My first impulse was to hide. But anyone who knows me knows that's pretty impossible for me - I'm an out there kind of person.

The spill-over wasn't good either. Although my husband and one of my daughters had a very effective metabolism, my other daughter unfortunately inherited my propensity to gain weight. Now I'm looking at her health going down and bringing other worries in there because of some of the available poor foods in the house and in her world. It is the gift that keeps on giving - only worse.

America is the fattest nation in the world. We are raised on junk food... it's cheap and excessive. Poorer communities have more problems with their weight than the wealthy for they have the resources to eat right and exercise. Poverty breads hopelessness. When one feels hopeless, often they will reach for a vice... eating being the most socially acceptable.

I ate for joy. Not a lot. No. Maybe one night I'm feeling a bit discouraged with the way my life has turned out and I got to the golden arches to get a nice "snack size" creamy treat or a quick trip thru the drive through for a Mcdouble for my dinner. That's all it took for me to stay in the fat zone. I know others do it and don't get fat... but I guess I'm not them and that was the FIRST 'get your head out of the sand' moment for me to take in order to turn the corner. I resented that I couldn't live life to the fullest without paying with extra pounds!

We all have to find out what "truth" will make us move forward and awaken from our slumber. We all need to look at our habits and understand that you will not get different results by doing the same thing. Sometimes little changes are enough, and other times desperate times call for desperate measures.

This is what woke me up... I was going to get a photography award and walk in front of hundreds of other photographers. The cameras were coming out and I was supposed to wear a cocktail dress. UGH - do they even MAKE them in my size?! Well yes, of course they do but did I want to look like an elephant on stilts walking across the stage? I think not! I still have a little sense of pride left. I decided that enough is enough... yes, right before the holidays.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what I decided to do....

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