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Having My Cake and Eating It In a Victoria’s Secret World

Impatience isn’t second nature to me; it’s first nature. As a person steeped in impatience, I’m grateful to exist in the days of instant gratification with overnight shipping and high-speed internet shopping. Remember dial-up internet? It took entire minutes for web pages to load. I’ve learned (and re-learned) some things can’t be rushed, no matter how impatient I am. For example, babies can’t be forced to come on their due date no matter how many bumpy car rides I take, no matter how far I walk, or how much I beg the doctor.

Catalog, victoria's secret,

It took years for me to learn that the “quick and easy weight loss” mantra is a myth, peddled to those of us addicted to the drug of instant gratification.  My journey began in adolescence, the product of hormones, genetics, and ignorance. It was fueled by my perception of my reflection in the mirror.

It amazes me how subjective looking in a mirror is. It should be completely objective– what you see now should be the same thing you see in five minutes. Maybe a hair’s out of place, or you’ve added lip gloss or a different shirt, but there’s no way you could have morphed from great to dumpy or gained ten pounds. Yet, that was (is) often my perception. I’ve lived the gamut between size 3 and size 14. There were times I could look in a mirror when I was a size 3 and see a size 10 staring back at me and there were times I was a size 14 and saw a size 6. But I was never happy, because I knew the see-saw could tip either way, at anytime. I thought if I could lose weight and keep it off, I’d always see the truth in the mirror.

For years I labored under the misconception that losing weight should be a breeze. Every diet promised I’d never be hungry and the weight would melt off. So I tried them for as long as I could stand them: Weight Watchers, Bob Greene (one of Oprah’s weight loss gurus), the high-carb diet touted by a charismatic, high-energy woman with a shaved head whose name I’ve forgotten. I know they’ve all worked for somebody, but none of them worked for me. I was always hungry.

Fat skinny reflection in mirror

Then came the Atkins Revolution. It seemed perfect. If you limited your carb intake, your body would burn your stored fat cells. My brain translated that into, “Eat as much as you want, as long as it’s not carbs.” So I did. I had four eggs for breakfast every day. That was the least of my gorging. But I’ll refrain from any more examples because, frankly, I’m embarrassed by the tricks and loopholes I used to cheat the diet. The sad thing is I didn’t think I was cheating. I’d complain to my husband that I was following it faithfully and GAINING weight. When I finally called it quits, I’d gained twenty-five pounds.

The Southbeach Diet promised to succeed where Atkins failed. I promised to stick to it faithfully. I did for a little while. But it was too hard with five little kids, and as Lorna so beautifully put it, “Unless a person is presented with a “crisis” that forces him/her to change, the person will remain comfortably in the old patterns, even if the old patterns are uncomfortable.”  I could still look in a mirror and pretend I was a size 10 instead of a size 14.

Then came my “crisis” in the form of pictures. Of me. Wow, was I really that big? That was way bigger than the mirror led me to believe. And I hated myself. It sounds dramatic and silly, but it was true. The first thing I did was talk to God. I’d never prayed about my weight before because I thought  that was a vain and frivolous thing to pray about. But I was desperate. “Look, if You want me to be this big, fine. I’ll stay this way. But give me the grace to accept it or give me the grace to lose weight.”  I realized I wasn’t meant to accept it. So I did what I should have done from the beginning. I went to my trusty family doctor. He sent me to a dietitian.

And in her office I finally learned the truth. If I wanted to lose weight, I would have to be hungry. Exercise was important, but eating less was more important. How many women have you ever heard this about: “Over-exercising is to blame for the skeletal condition of her body?” Not one. Exercise is about toning and strengthening. Weight loss is about food.

anorexia

Is the body the result of an addiction to exercise?

And my impatience came head-to-head with my “crisis”. Those first few months (OMG, how could it be months and not weeks?) were awful.  How could I, the most impatient person on the face of the earth, live with the hunger? How could my poor family live with me? I had to leave the table when I’d finished my allotted portion, and I’d go pray or watch TV or gnaw my fingernails (they had no calories and probably some fiber). I was too hungry to exercise.

And the weight began to come off  S L O W L Y……. S L O W L Y. I fell often and I’d get discouraged. I weighed myself once a week and the numbers went up and down, like the see-saw I’d been riding for years. My husband encouraged me to record my weight in a spreadsheet and graph it. That helped immensely because even though it seemed like a bumpy ride, I could look at the graph and SEE that my weight was steadily (but oh, so slowly) diminishing. So I hung in there. And I learned to eat less and my stomach learned to be full with less. It took me five years to lose forty-five pounds (six clothing sizes). I had friends that were losing that much in one year.

It's a bumpy road, but the chart helped.

Had I known how long it would take, I never would have started. So I thank God I didn’t know. The seven years since my visit to the dietitian have flown by. I know that the rest of my life will be spent balancing precariously on this see-saw. But it’s become intuitive, like balancing on see-saw really is.  Sometimes I’ll go out to dinner and eat cake and drink a mocha martini and enjoy it without guilt or fear. Sometimes I’ll really, really, really want cake (or the entire box of Cheez-its) but I know it’s better at that moment if I don’t have it. Sometimes I still can’t see the truth in the mirror.

And I share this with you because if I, the most impatient person on earth, can do something impossible, you can too.

 

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9 comments on “Having My Cake and Eating It In a Victoria’s Secret World

  1. I’ve gone through and read this and then came back and read it again and wasn’t going to comment, but because I’m me, I can’t just keep my mouth quiet.

    Let me say that I understand how everyone has their own struggles and know that weight and health are deeply personal things. But I took offense to the fact that you said, “How many women have you ever heard this about: “Over-exercising is to blame for the skeletal condition of her body?” and your flippant reference to exercise addiction.

    Just like those who are overweight are often stigmatized, so are those who are underweight–like me. It’s been years and it has nothing at all to do with a warped body image or a desire to look like a beanpole or meet some societal standard. For some, it can be the result of a medical or mental condition, and to assume that struggle isn’t as serious or difficult as someone trying to lose weight is rather ignorant. Yes, there are those who are waify and strive for some sort of perfection through starvation, but some of us eat shit tons and still struggle.

    I’ve written about it here http://www.bandbacktogether.com/post/2698/ as yes, exercise can be an addiction like drugs or drinking. OCD is real and it’s painful.

    Please know I’m not bashing you or this post, but just shedding light on the other side of the issue.

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    • Abby, I really appreciate your comment; don’t ever feel like you need to keep your mouth shut here. And I apologize for offending you.

      I actually went back and forth about putting the part about the model and exercise in. My point wasn’t to be flippant about exercise or being underweight, although I see how it comes across that way.

      I know so many people who complain about their weight, but they don’t want to change their eating habits.Instead, they put all their effort into exercising, and become discouraged when they don’t lose weight. I was one of them and I was hoping through an extreme example to give a different perspective and point out that what a person eats matters if they want to lose weight.

      I also didn’t mean to be flippant about those who are underweight. Things are so screwy these days. When I was heavy I got comments about being overweight. After I lost weight, I got comments from people saying I was too thin and I should put some weight back on! Many people ask if I lost weight because I’m ill. It drives me crazy to see a “news” headline about a celebrity that has lost or gained weight. Why do people think they have the right to judge someone else’s body?

      My purpose was to let people know that I’ve struggled all my life with this issue, but I was able to overcome it once I learned the correct way (for me) to deal with it. I hoped seeing how I overcame my weight issues would give encouragement to those wrestling with their own issues.

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      • We’re all on the same page in that we all have our “issues” and deal with them the best way that we can. Regardless of whether we’re underweight, overweight or at a healthy weight, it’s not representative of who we are or what we do. And quite frankly, it’s no one’s business but our own.

        Everyone does look for that quick fix and instant gratification when in reality, any change takes work. I’m so glad you’ve been able to arrive at a place where you can feel comfortable and healthy and that works for you. ;)

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  2. Abby is right, there is not a one size fits all BUT weight loss is what the vast majority deal with. For me it was not just size or lack of energy or not being able to do the kinds of DIY tasks I liked toi take on, it was having had the slow creeping aspects of diabetes taking their tool on me for some 25 years. I tried all that you did, then when I was in my late 50’s, decided that if I were to actually rtetire, I wanted more than sitting around. So I cheated, I went to the gastric bypass. It was the best decision I eve made, should have made it years ealier. I lost 100 pounds, have kept it ALL off in the past 3 years and feel great. yeah, i look a lot better, I keep my old pic of me outside my cubical to throw off people, and also to show how far i have come. I now look forward to retirement. Of course i had to get new clothing and instead of going to the big and tall stores (read fat palaces) I buy off the rack. This week they reported that weight loss surgery, especially gastric bypass over lap band and sleeve, is the best way to reduce and in some cases eliminate diabetes issues. i was diabetic for too long to be able to dump all insulin, but i went from 300 units a day to under 20 units today.
    I did this with my wife, as she was just prior to the two of us doing the surgery that she was pre-diabetic. So meal planning is easier. I encourage people to set goals, try the conventional ways but if you cant do it on your own after let say 5 years, maybe its an option to consider if health issues are there beyond just physical appearence.

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    • Thanks for sharing that, Larry. You continue to amaze me with things you’ve been through.

      And you’re right. There is not a one size fits all. We’re all unique. That’s what makes life so interesting.

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  3. I’ve had to watch my weight ever since I was a teenager. It has gone up too much but it could be worse. I try and avoid mirrors now to wase my peace of mind but sometimes a tightening belt can warn me to lay off the cakes for a while

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  4. Dawne, You wrote a wonderful piece about a common challenge people face. It was inspirational in that it was real and personal, and seasoned with humor.

    Congratulations on your success and maintaining your balance.

    By the way, the words you quoted from me sounded so wise. Are you sure they came from me?

    Like

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