I’ve always had an image of myself as a thin person. I was a thin child, and grew up disdaining those women who dieted constantly – especially when there seemed no need for it. Too many women seemed too thin to me: too anorexic looking, not healthy, and rather boringly consumed with dieting. I found the emphasis on looks over all else excessive, demeaning, and above all else dull. How absolutely boring to never to allow yourself the enjoyment of food and/or drink (too fattening!), and to constantly deprive oneself. All in the pursuit of “looking one’s best,” as if looks were more important than the content of one’s brain, or the love in one’s heart, or the work pursued with joy. I knew a lot of artists, for whom the pursuit of one’s real work – art – was joy; and then there was toleration of the job that paid the bills. So work pursued with joy was important to me, and looks could be part of that life, but didn’t play a primary role.
Of course, I was a reasonably attractive girl, and had a boyfriend I was in love with — so I had no need to rely on looks. I was also poor, and didn’t own a scale. Which meant that over time, the weight went on, nearly without my noticing it … and finally, it became an issue for me.
When? Long after the divorce, long after the devastating feelings of unattractiveness and loss had passed. During that time, my self-image was one of neutrality: I didn’t feel particularly attractive, but I didn’t feel ugly either. Just neutral. No expectations. And for a while, the weight stayed pretty steady (I did get a scale), and I could fool myself it wasn’t that bad. I flirted on and off with the concept of losing weight: tried to change my diet to be ever more healthy, tried to exercise a bit more … and it didn’t go anywhere. I managed to stay about the same. Five pounds up, five down, but roughly the same.
Then the scale broke, and I was without numbers for a while. I noticed I was getting uncomfortable, that my desk wasn’t fitting right, that my chin was not pretty, that my breathing was getting difficult. Then I went home to my folks for a visit, and stepped on a scale at their house … and was truly appalled. Oh, no, not anywhere near acceptable. Visions of drugs started dancing through my head: the drugs they put you on to control hypertension, and all kinds of other things that come with getting old and fat. Gall bladder surgery: who wants to go through that? Oh, and then there was my knee, which I was pretty sure was developing worsening arthritis.
So clearly this could not continue. Time to be serious. Time to lose weight. Time to exercise regularly. Two rules of weight loss: calories in have to be less than calories out; and exercise helps. Especially when the overall goal to is get more healthy. I made New Year’s Resolutions: watch calories. exercise daily. Not “lose 60 pounds,” because those kind of resolutions are made to be broken. Watch calories. Exercise.
But here’s the thing: I had been bored with the concept of calorie counting for years. I was very resistant to the idea of turning food into numbers. Food is food, math is math: and food is art, not math. What counts is quality, goodness, health benefits — not numbers. So this was a problem. I couldn’t depend on what I’d been doing before: moving to more whole foods, more organic, less processed, less sugars, cook more, watch the labels … because I’d been moving in that direction for years and not losing weight at all.
Fortunately, a friend introduced me to a website which counted the calories for me (there are a number of them out there). I can enter the foods I eat, the exercise I do, and get a running total of calories. It tells me how many calories I may consume and still lose about a pound a week. It helps. It also helped that another one of my friends introduced me to the concept of a cheat day: a day in which you do not count, you deliberately go over: it helps your body realize it doesn’t need to fight a famine, and allows it to lose pounds.
It’s now been nearly seven months, and I’ve lost over 30 pounds. At first the weight loss came relatively easily: I think my body really wanted to shed that extra weight. I went down about a pound a week for months. It felt good. Now, it’s much less steady, much more up and down — but my “five-pound-range” is slowly going down. Now the upper end was the low end three weeks ago. It’s a much more frustrating process. And perhaps I’m not being quite as good at the food: so many good things to eat and drink around right now … so many social events.
But the point is to keep going on: to keep thinking about it, to keep working on it, keep going. The website has become a habit, as has the walking and the yoga. It’s a deliberate choice now when I don’t do a walk or yoga: a decision my body needs a rest. Once in a while, it’s a lack of time. But I’ve been making time, and mostly it works. Its become a habit.
My knee still hurts: I’m still doing tests to get a real diagnosis. I don’t think I’ve turned into one of the mindless women I disapproved of so heartedly: but I do pay attention. And while most of it is about being healthy, having less pain, avoiding drugs — yes, feeling attractive would be nice as well.