Friday, August 19, 2011

Changing My Tune

The other day when I cleaned my room, I found an old weight loss journal. It's just a handful of pages in a 3-ring binder, but I grabbed them and set them aside to read when I had time. I have hung onto that journal this long, may as well see what's in there, right?

So tonight, I sat down to read. It was like a time capsule, back to the days when my youngest son, who will turn 16 soon, was still a little nursing baby. I was 27 years old, had just moved into this house, and my main focus in life was... losing weight.

I was still married to my first husband and blissfully unaware of the struggles the next decade would hold, and I was so excited to be on my latest and greatest dieting adventure: Winning at Thinning. Included in the weight loss kit I'd purchased was "Magic Diary Paper" to record my feelings on. Much of what I wrote is oh too familiar. I will spare you the multiple pages of ramblings, but here are a few highlights.

June 18, 1996: 204 pounds
Today is the fattest day of the rest of my life.

June 19: 202 pounds
I'm really going to do this! I want to be able to feel good, eat healthy foods, and ultimately be able to run and play with my family without feeling like I'm lumbering.

June 20: 199 pounds
Hooray! I did it! I'm out of the 200's! I'm back at the weight I started at last time I lost weight. I know I can do this! In only 3 months I could be back down to 165 and feeling great! Hooray!

June 22
I'm getting tired of this. It takes an awful lot of time. But ok, I'll promise to do it for another week and if I've lost 3 pounds by next Sunday I'll keep going because it's worth it. Slow but sure.

July 2: 196 1/2 pounds
Eating will not solve anything. It will only make things worse.

July 6
I'm doing fine today but getting a little cravey for sugar. But I'm sure I'll do great, since I am weighing in tomorrow morning.

July 10: 192 1/2 pounds
It's getting harder. I had a bagel at 11 last night. I want sugary hot oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips. I feel like this is TAKING TOO LONG!!! I am SICK OF IT! I have to get through this one day.

August 1: 187 pounds
Wow! I have lost 17 pounds! It makes me feel so good that my body is getting healthier and better all the time.

August 18
We bought the house. Now, the stress is trying to get it ready to move into and getting moved this week, and the baby is sick, etc etc. So I was off the diet all week but I promised my diet buddy I'd go back on, and I'm really trying. It's so hard to get anything done when I have to constantly hold a sick baby!! I have to do better.

August 29: 187 pounds
Ok, I've been basically eating garbage all month. But no more! Last night, I promised my friend I'd stay on plan. I promised I would not eat white chocolate, peanut butter ANYTHING, candy, or anything which gets over 1/3 its calories from fat. I can do it.

September 8: 180 pounds
I need to remember that no food, no binge is worth prolonging this weight/fatness. No food is worth having such huge legs.

September 13: 177 pounds
I can't wait until I have no more fat around my knees! I hate how fat my legs look! I know I can do this. I have to keep exercising!

September 23: 174 1/2 pounds
I am in control of me. I am ever so close to my  thin 165 pounds I remember being. I'm not going to let anything stop me from reaching that longed-for goal.

October 12
I am tired of going on-off-on-off this diet. I am tired of not having any nice clothes to wear because all my nice clothes are ten pounds away. I am tired of trying to get a husband out of a cinnamon roll, a friend out of a cookie, a mother or father out of a package of Reeses pieces. I am sick of it. I am going to do this thing.

(What follows is an angry rant/tirade about the state of my marriage at that time, and how I was going to lose weight to spite my husband because I didn't think he wanted me to be happy and have a life).

November 1
I am angry at my life, which makes it very hard to diet. I don't want to stop nursing my baby to go on the diet pills my doctor prescribed [phen fen]. I've been starting to wean him but I really don't want to. I really have my doubts about it working. There is so much to do in the way of housework and mothering alone, that I feel overwhelmed and just sit here and don't do any of it. Maybe what I really need is an anti-depressant.

(an aside here... I think I was suffering post partum depression after my last child. I had four children in five years and also two miscarriages in that time. It was a lot for anyone, really.)

January 13, 1997: 187 pounds
After eating like crazy for two months and gaining 13 pounds, I promised my friend no going off the diet without calling her first, I can do it if I stick to this plan. I am (again) tired of being fat.

April 8: 184 pounds
I can do this. I am going to have a life. I have sold nearly all our baby things. [Youngest son] is almost walking, and just maybe I can start to have some semblance of control of my life.

April 1, 1999: 238 pounds
Wow. Two years and 50 pounds heavier. This fatness is not fun. I want it off for good! I have no energy. I want to feel better so I have to take better care of myself.

...end of entries...

Interspersed between all those little bits were menus, calorie counts, pep talk to myself, lists of rewards for each weight loss goal I would hit... all the usual weight loss stuff. I think it is significant that I hit 174.5 pounds and then went back to gaining. This time around, I hit 175 and then regained into the 180's-190's again. What is it about 174-175 pounds? I have not gotten below that weight since 1994 when I got down to 165.

Now here I am, 42 instead of 27, my baby not only walking but almost driving, and I am still living in the same ridiculous loop of weight loss. I have spent the past 16 years at this. It makes me want to cry. It really does. I don't want weight loss and fatness to be the background music of my entire life. You know? I feel sad that all those hours and efforts and focus was put into *dieting* and with what result? 278 pounds in the end? And in the meanwhile, my kids grew up. And every hour I spent worrying about my diet was an hour I could have spent focused on those babies, who are grown now and I can never get that back. It pains me.

I don't know, but I am ready for a new background tune.


Princess Dieter said...

Unless you can be content at any size, then weight issues will always be int he background, occasionally i the foreground. Sorry, but I can't see it any other way. It's something that we have to accept. Just like I have certain medical issues since birth, and want as I might, they aren't going away and they will always dictate something about what I do/don't do/can do/will do/won't do/mst do. Daily.

What you may want to think about is not setting up these low numbers to aim for. Maybe just say,"I want to be in the 180s for my knees' sake and will reconsider the 170s at that time" and don't give yourself a deadline. Just a goal of losing 10 pounds slowly over the next 6 months or more. If you pressure yourself to lose the 2 or more pounds a week, you might get back in that frenzy of deprivation/binge. Just eat nourishing food in moderate quantities, and if all you get is .25 of a pound loss a week, then it's a pound a month, 12 pounds in a yaer, and you are in the 180s. Your body may adjust and you lose faster. But as long as you are under 200, take your time and see how to find a way to eat that is sustainable, even if you are never skinny. Never 164 again.

I do think when eating disorders are in the game (and we who got huge have issues, period), sometimes, we have to accept LESS than ideal. We have to seek health and stop obsessing with looks.

Your knees. Your energy. No headaches. Being able to move and do things with the kids. Focus on THAT. Not..."I gotta get thin arms and legs and be down to X weight again."

You really may need to allow yourself to be a snail for a while and be okay with that. Let the body know it's not dieting so much as living with and understanding of limitations. We are burdened, but we have to learn to accept that doing the same cycles over and over is not healthy and leads to a sort of....psychic damage.

Just think health...not fat. HEALTH and calmness and not bingeing. If you never lose another pound but stop binge-ing, you'll have done yourself a great, great service.

Oh, dang. It's late, I'm sleepy, and I probably rambled incoherently. Apologies...

Be well...break the cycle...and be well...

LHA said...

Probably most of us reading this blog could (and possibly did) unearth a similar weight loss diary. Just about everyone has had many, many failed weight loss attempts in their past. It seems discouraging when I think back over all of my "diets" and failures...and every diet was ultimately a failure.

However, now that I am focused on eating less, but not totally restricting my food intake it is certainly going better for me. I know that the reason I am fat today is because I starved and deprived myself off and on for so many years. That is an absolute truth. So, there is no use in continuing that pattern. If WW, or South Beach, or Jenny Craig.....or any of the one million strict eating plans works for you, then great! They don't work for me and they never will. I lost weight on many diets but I failed to really change my eating habits or my relationship with food so I could not keep the weight off.

My wish for all of us is that we are as happy as possible, as healthy as possible and enjoy life as much as possible. Overeating won't get us there, and neither will starving ourselves. Thanks for a great blog, and continued good luck to you on your journey, Lyn.

Anonymous said...

I hear you with the regret of wasting time and energy on negative body image and the desire to change the background tune.

The 180's don't seem to be a weight worthy of using diet pills or thinking that life has to be put on hold imho.

I agree with Princess that health and happiness are more vital than an ideal or what our society says is ideal.

I applaud you Lyn for going back and meeting your old self and runinating on what you want for yourself now and in the future.

~Mrs. Chupchake

Anonymous said...

Wow to the doctor who told you to stop breastfeeding and take those dangerous pills! Not a Mom, but doesn't breastfeeding cause you to lose weight quicker? There is still so much ignorance in the medical community about weight loss, it's astounding.


Kyra said...

I'm here with you as well. I'm restarting my efforts, my baby is 13 now, but I too have been at this forever. I won, so to speak, for a few years, maintained at the 170's (I have NO IDEA what it is about that weight, some people have benchmark points where their body likes to hover) for many years - very healthy, then went off the rails last october.

We know everything we need to know. Doesn't make this any easier.

I regret the time I have spent on it, but don't forget that you HAVE been a part of your child's life these past 16 years - you weren't locked in a closet counting calories, and forgetting what the outside looks like. You WERE there, just preoccupied now and again. And to be fair, if you weren't preoccupied with the weight, it may very well have been something else. We are nothing if not fabulous multitaskers!

I'm pulling myself along by my bootstraps once again, I have even started blogging again (I'm linking to you, BTW, hope you don't mind.) It's an ongoing thing, but it isn't all of who you are. My journals would make it seem otherwise, but it wouldn't be true - and it's not true for you either. No regrets, just forward progress!

Anne H said...

WOW - what a treasure to find that journal!
And wow to the comments!

lisa~sunshine said...

I agree with others... what a treat to find that journal and go back through it and revisit yourself.. I have tons of journals here myself..

The biggest comment came from Princess Dieter.. she didn't ramble incoherently at all.. she makes a lot of good sense to it all.. I think finding a way to make yourself feel and be healthy is the best.. not worry about the weight you are or if your arms are skinny.. Worry about more things that are important to you...

Like eating the whole foods.. increasing your exercising to build yourself up to be able to do more of the hiking while on vacation.. Doing things that will help you feel better and help your knees which you have said before is reduced sugars..

Maybe switch focuses off weightloss and onto physcial activity?

I really think the art of all this is to find a way to maintain.. once you find out how to maintain.. then you will be free of the ups and downs.. The art of maintenance is key.. I think it's so much more important than any diet, lifestyle change or anything...

I'll be curious to see what you decide to do..

Leslie said...

I hear you loud and clear Lyn. I have found journals from back in the late 80s, when I was in my mid 30s with tiny and as yet unborn kids. Same thing...pages and pages, decades - of food journals, feelings, self hatred way out of proportion to reality (all self hatred is out of prop., but this was screechingly so).

What I'm realizing is that I use food for everything, and it doesn't work. I have a great life today in every way except...guess what? weight and my eating. I really get that I'm going to have to suffer the pangs of not overeating for probably months before I see myself through to a more peaceful place. I'm getting very close to being truly sick and tired of being sick and tired. Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Princess Dieter. For most women, weight issues will always be in the background. More so for those of us who have been very heavy. That's just the deal. It's not great, but you're not alone.

Diana said...

Lyn, I rarely disagree with you, but this time, you're wrong.

That was NOT wasted time when you were struggling and trying to lose weight all those years. I think it shows how strong-willed you are and how much you wanted to get healthy for your family, not just for yourself.

You're a loving, caring mother and you knew, even 15 years ago, the importance of your own health to your family. I applaud your perseverance throughout the years.

The fact you're still trying to get healthy is further poof that you are an amazing and strong woman.

I kind of look at this whole eating disorder problem (that we share), as a bit of a curse. Really, I guess it's more of an illness. Some have this problem, some don't. Some have the strength and will to try to beat it, some don't. Some win, and sadly, some just give up. And some, like us, will never give up hope.

Even though we haven't reached our goal, we're still trying. In my book, we're still both winners.

I kind of look at it not as time wasted to try to fix something that is broken inside of me, but as time invested in my heath.

I have no doubt that if I hadn't tried to lose weight these past 40+ years, I'd most likely be bedridden, diabetic, have congestive heart failure, and I'm positive I'd be in the 300-400+ pound range.

So even though I also wish I could have had different background music in my life, I'm glad that at least I never gave up and I'm still trying...just like you.

And if you had a clue how long it took me to write this comment 1-handed, you'd know just how much I admire, respect and like you. :)

NewMe said...

Consider seriously studying the precepts of HAES (health at every size). Read Dr. Linda Bacon. Your health and your weight are not one and the same.

You are certainly not alone on the lose-binge-regain-hate yourself roller coaster. Start studying some radical alternatives.

NewMe said...

Oh, and start reading Dr. Arya Sharma's blog:

Erika said...

This is a weird idea...but do you think you are scared of losing all the weight? Of getting there, and thinking "what next?". Dieting, or whatever you want to call it, has been part of your identity for a very long time. Are you afraid of what will happen in maintenance? Just an idea to think about...

PenPen said...

I just read your post. It was as if I were reading something that I would have written in the past....well, for that matter, not so long ago. It made me hurt inside! I've struggled with my weight since I was about 12 years old...I am now 37. The last time I had lost a significant amount of weight was back in 2007, I lost 70 pounds. Then I started a new job ... a very stressful job and we started having problems with our teenage daughter. Guess what, within 2 years I not only gained all of the weight back but added an additional 40 pounds. Talk about feeling like a total failure. I was almost 300 lbs. I got to the point were I decided for myself that I could no longer go down this road. My health was starting to be affected by it and my mental state was extremely affected by it. I was giving up...I was going to stay fat for life...AND I was going to stay sad. It had already defined me and I felt defeated AND at that point, I knew I had to get help. I decided, after much research, to have the vertical sleeve done. I found a great surgeon and went through surgery on June 23, 2011. I've now lost 50 lbs. and have 100 more to go.

I'm not telling you this so that you will think this is the answer. There's a lot of hard work that's put behind it on my part. I still have to be very careful about what I put into my mouth because I can still gain weight...I just have a tool to help me now. It's not for everyone but I just want people to know that there are options if you ever hit a point were you decide that things will never change no matter how hard you try. And by the way, I don't regret the surgery at all and would do it all over again! I'm now in control of my weight instead of it being in control of me and my life. I wish you all the success with your weight loss and keeping it off and know that there are others out there that totally get what you are going through. Hang in there!

Desert Singer said...

We do the best we can with what we have where we are. I have to believe we go through things for a reason we don't (yet) know... for reasons we may never know (!) But for everything you (we) go through, we are learning to put the right thoughts into the right pail on the right side of the life balance scale -- and one day, one huge, wonderful day, we'll realize we have more good stuff on the balance, than the not-so-good. I hope that makes sense.

I have diaries that say "if I reach 150 lbs I'm going on a diet" - I was in jr high school, 5 foot 3, large boned (which I now believe), and while not skinny, I was healthy.

It has been the last two years that my head is playing new tapes, and this year that my weight has dropped. If you've not heard of "The Work" by Byron Katie, take a look... I've just touched the surface and it has helped me re-frame so much crap thinking.

Anonymous said...

try to be as loving, gentle and kind with yourself as best you can. be a good mother to yourself--as you are with your children--the rest will take care of itself. try trusting your Self to find a way through all these feelings. watching your children grow up and start to get ready to leave the nest can bring up many feelings...of sadness, joy and even loss. it can feel both confusing and wonderful. i was glad to read your post recently when you talked about recognizing that restricting and binges go hand in hand--that each results in/from the other. very insightful. be well in peace. <3

Anonymous said...


I started reading your blog, from the beginning, as I begun my (latest) weight loss journey at the end of May 2011. (Though I admit that I haven't caught up to all of your posts of present day just yet). I had tried calorie counting previously, and hadn't had much luck sticking to it. This time, though, I have an android phone, with an app that makes it ridiculously easy to calorie count (including bar code scanning packaging). My phone is always with me, and I can always check whether I can 'afford' to make the choice I am trying to make. In the past, I've dropped 30 lbs. in a short period of time and it was EXCRUCIATING. It took over my life, I was hungry and unfocused ALL of the time (on anything that wasn't weight loss, that is). Now, with this new-to-me app, I've been able to find meals that work for me and help me stay within my calorie goals, and I FEEL satisfied, content, and happy. And, when I exercise, I can eat more on those days, and I know how much more I can eat after logging in my exercise, and still keep up steady weight loss. This time, I've set my weight loss goals very modestly (1 lb. per week), and I have done this pretty steadily (from 195 to 169 lbs). Time will tell if I'll be able to reach my goal (140 lbs) and maintain my goal weight, but I do not FEEL stifled - I feel in control and healthier, and as if this could go on this way the rest of my life, forever, and I will still LIVE.

I find your story enlightening and inspiring, thank you thank you thank you for sharing! I wish the best for you, and for us all!

(Not sure if you've mentioned trying something like this already - it works better for me than sparkpeople on the computer had for me in the past, so I thought I would share...)

Werner said...

Man, all this sound soooo familiar. Great post Lyn. It has me looking back at my own old writings of past attempts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn,

This post really struck a cord with me. Growing up, my mother's weight was pretty much the soundtrack to my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of her telling me that she was fat and "going to change." "For her health," of course. Every meal revolved around her most recent diet effort. She went from being ecstatic that *this* diet was going to be the one... only to inevitably have it fail and be depressed and miserable again. She went through long periods of angry bitterness, unhappy that she wasn't allowed to eat the food that "everyone else" could have. I can honestly say that her endless quest to "finally" lose the weight ruined a lot of her life, and by extension, robbed me of a lot of the fun we should have had together. It also gave me a host of complexes about weight, size, and food.

The really sad thing is that I recently found a photo of the two of us. I'm about six in the photo and by then I knew without the slightest doubt that "my mom is fat." Imagine my shock when I looked at the photo and saw what appears to be a normal-weight woman. She's a little soft and rounded in places in that photo, but by no means "fat." If I had to take a guess, I'd say that she's about 180 (at 5'10.)

She's in her 70s now and still locked in the same cycle of diet/regain, diet/regain. I'm convinced that she will be until the day she dies.

Your post made me take a hard look at my life and my two very small children and decide that this is not how it's going to me for me, or for them.

So thank you, Lyn.


Anonymous said...

Oh Mama, How this resonates with me. Except I am 57 so I have had more time to accumulate special journals and heart wrenching plans I made and did not achieve. It can be downright depressing. But, it is what it is. How do you change the tune? I finally stopped writing as much hand ringing want. Now I treat my weight journal more as a list of food I eat every day and for the time being my weight, my waist, my calories. Have just made it a record. In my more private journal I revisit the subject from time to time but I don't dwell. There are other things to document.

Also you can learn from those old ramblings. The thing that stood to me in your journal was that within one month you say it seems like it is taking too long. Oh, have been there. Really the reason I am still at war with my weight. It takes too long.

I am on a good streak right now and I attribute wholly to finally stopping eating processed food. I have to wonder of the health issues you are having now are related to a radical change in your diet. I would just say cut out even more process. Buy yourself some real cream for your coffee and limit yourself to 1 T a day or 2T every 3 or 4 days. It's better for you, it satisfies you, it helps. And it sounds like you are making huge strides in that direction.

One thing I'll say is that I have had sad thoughts and been lacking in inertia since changing my diet. I totally credit you to making me aware that when you give up your drug of food you are forced to deal with the emotions you weren't allowing yourself to feel. I think that I am experiencing that now is actually a very good sign.


Karen said...

Like others here, those journal entries could be something I had written about my own diet journey. All I can say is that we can never give up. For me giving up would mean that I would end up one of those bedbound people weighing over 500 pounds...and then dying 20years too soon. The fact that I never got to that place represents a certain level of success. I still want to do much better...but I also know its been much worse and I am grateful to not be 80 pounds heavier, as I have been twice before in my life. Its just one day at a time for me...and trying to do the best I can.

Claire said...

I know you've said why intuitive eating isn't for you but have a read here:

I, like you, am sick and tired of dieting and hating my body for not doing what I want it to do. I've been dieting solidly for 6 years - in the last year, despite dieting, I've put on 14 pounds!

I'm done. I'm trying to be kinder to my body and end the stupid battle - BUT not in a way that means I put all the weight back on. That isn't loving my body either.

Anyway have a look, it might help, it might not. x

Anonymous said...

I am a long time reader. I have been a type I diabetic since I was eight years old. That means, I have taken several insulin injections and tested my blood sugar EVERYDAY for the past 20 years. I can't take a day off. I have a disease. So do you. It would be nice if we could just eat whatever we want. Trust me I would love to eat just one thing in the day and not have to account for it, but that's not an option. If I don't, my body is being damaged. I may not see the damage as it happens, and its effects won't show up for years. (And for those who don 't know the difference between type I and II diabetes, I can't live without insulin.) But every blind diabetic I know can attest that the non-accountablity isn't worth it. Treat your disease seriously. Eating whole and healthy is great, but all our bodies are not the same. If there are some foods (even whole, natural, organic) foods that you can't eat, then don't. If you have to measure all your foods, then do it. Your disease isn't going away. It can only be controlled.

Best of Luck,

Patricia said...

Now THAT is a comment (Anonymous August 23, 2011 7:46 PM) I agree with one thousand percent. I am a type 2 diabetic at the same risk of complications. My body cannot tolerate the medications I would need to take in order to relieve some of the pressure of dietary restrictions. So I'm left to manage my diabetes by managing my eating. Although the damage is not immediately apparent, the stakes are high and, as your commenter so eloquently put it, "[E]very blind diabetic I know can attest that the non-accountablity isn't worth it."

and this:
"I have a disease. So do you."

and this:
"Treat your disease seriously."

and this:
"If there are some foods (even whole, natural, organic) foods that you can't eat, then don't."

and this:
"If you have to measure all your foods, then do it."

and this:
"Your disease isn't going away. It can only be controlled."

Not what you want to hear, I know. Nonetheless, while of course I'm biased, I think this is the best advice you will ever get.