Weighty Issues

Some years ago, when my grandma was getting on in years, she started to lose weight. I had remembered her as carrying some extra pounds, but she was never fat or obese. When she lost weight, she also lost perspective and couldn’t see that she was getting too thin. If anyone told her of their concern, she accused them of jealousy.

Maybe some of you at midlife and beyond think it will never happen to you, but do a search on “anorexia at midlife,” and you’ll get a surprising number of hits. Apparently the quest for perfection doesn’t end in the teenage years.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on a weight loss journey since mid-December, and I often think of Grandma in these past few months. While I have needed to lose some weight (we have heart disease in the family, and my cholesterol was slightly elevated), I want to stay in balance and not try to get too thin. I’ve been doing Weight Watchers online, and it’s been a blessing on many levels. One is that I HAVE to eat a certain amount every day, which keeps me honest. I’m also re-evaluating my goal weight and deciding what is “good enough.”

This weight loss journey has brought up a myriad of feelings and fears. I guess I thought that those were for people with a lot of weight to lose, but I’ve had quite a roller coaster with the 12 pounds or so that I’ve lost so far. Anyone relate to these?

1.  How do I handle ________ (fill in the blank — Valentine’s Day dinner, kid visit, funeral food)?

The real dread is that I’ll fall off the wagon completely. One big dinner could turn into two or more, that slippery slope into relapse and weight gain. Lately, though, this hasn’t been a problem. If I’m going out to eat and the restaurant has a website, I check the menu and go in with a plan. If they don’t, I can divide my meal in half or more. If we’re getting pizza, I load up on veggies and have one slice, not the whole durn pizza.

2.  I’m afraid I’ll gain the weight back overnight.

This has been weird. On Weight Watchers, we have discretionary “points” that we can spend during the week. Hubby and I enjoy a “date lunch” on Wednesdays and a dinner out on Saturdays, and I make the rest of our meals at home. When we are out, I still have to remind myself that it’s okay to enjoy myself, that having a pleasurable meal does not mean I’m going to instantly gain weight back.

One reason is that I’ve had a lot of trouble losing weight in the past few years. My thyroid was off-kilter for a while, we traveled a lot, and after I crossed 50 my metabolism went south along with other body parts. My success of the past few months has been a pleasant surprise, and I’m pinching myself. My new mantra is, “What I’m doing is working.” I have to remind myself of that a lot so that I can enjoy our dining out, that building in some treats within reason is important.

3.  I’m learning that less is more.

When I first started measuring my portions (a big reason, I believe, as to why I’m succeeding now), I would look at my meager plate and say, “Where’s my dinner?” I decided that I could get a larger helping if I really wanted one. Funny thing is, though, that smaller helping is always enough. Always. In fact, I don’t have those extremes of being either stuffed full or ravenous. Instead, I’m nicely full until the next meal.

4.  Moving and Not Moving

I’ve been active for years, so the thought of exercising more seemed impossible. Instead, I’ve made a few adjustments. I walk more for mental health than exercise, and have stepped up the aerobic activity through exercise videos. Since my writing work is sedentary, I try to do some movement in the afternoon as well as the morning. I also use weights a few days per week, to build muscle mass and therefore improve metabolism. I’m working toward those Michelle Obama arms!

That said, I notice that I have to make myself take two days off per week. After years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I have to find a middle way of exerting myself, but not too much. Even now, having been symptom-free for years, if my heart rate gets too high I have a little “crash.” I usually take Thursdays and Sundays off from exercise (unless I want a walk or some gentle yoga).

5.  Depriving Deprivation

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that if it ain’t fun, I ain’t doing it for very long. Some diets are so boring they make me want to cry. We love good food, and deprivation doesn’t work. Fortunately, we love our veggies, and our meals are colorful, interesting, and delicious as well as healthful. Eating a healthful diet is always more pleasurable than junk food.

6.  Taking the Slow Road

While it’s fun to watch the numbers go down on the scale, I’m taking a leisurely approach. Last year I took a few sessions from a personal trainer, but I felt like he was pushing me to lose faster than I wanted. Losing weight slowly, I am getting used to being a smaller person again. Yes, it’s an adjustment. Sometimes we’re scared of hitting that ideal weight — we’re afraid of attracting attention or having to change our identities in some way. It’s odd to see that thinner person in the mirror.

This journey has been rewarding, even the scary parts. I’m getting closer to my goal and am enjoying the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. In the past, maintenance has been hard for me, mainly because I’ve gone “on” and “off” of diets instead of making a lifestyle change. I’m learning that there’s no “there” to get to. Once I hit the magic number, it will take gentle attention to stay there — and that’s what I hope to keep in mind. Not pushing, forcing, straining, judging, or beating myself up…just some loving care. Some days I’m better at it than others, but I’m learning. Day by day, I’m learning.

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