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.
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.
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.
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.
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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