Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Would Be Different?

As I've had a little time today to relax and think about the direction of my life re: weight loss, I came to the realization that most of the time, I am pretty happy and content despite my obesity. There are drawbacks, of course, to being this fat: health risks, sore knees, fatigue (which seems to have lifted dramatically with the arrival of good weather), slowness, bigger clothes. But most of the time I feel like I am doing what I want to do. I'm living a life I want to live. But then I wonder... am I just *forgetting* how much better it used to be when I was 50 pounds lighter? WAS it that much better? What would be different, fundamentally, on a day to day basis if I weighed 50 pounds less?

I would still be doing all the things I am doing now. Would I take up running, or play some new sport, or wear a bikini if I weighed less? Would I spend my time differently? Would my family love me more? Would I be happier? What would change? Because frankly, if nothing would change, there is no reason for me to lose weight. Maybe that's part of the lack of motivation to work *hard* on weight loss.

Upon reflection and re-reading some of my old posts about how different my life was after losing 100 pounds, I've come up with some answers.

If I weighed 50 pounds less:

I would have more energy for everything I am currently doing, and would not need to rest in between as much.
I would be able to skate with my daughter again.
I would feel better about how I look when I am going out in public.
I would be in more photos with my family.
I might be able to get off my blood pressure medication, or at least reduce it.
I would fit into a lot more of my clothing instead of having 80% of it in Rubbermaid tubs in the garage and having to wear the same things week after week.
I would be proud of myself.

I have wondered if I could accomplish most of those things just by getting more fit. If I was biking and lifting regularly like I used to, I bet my stamina would improve, even without much weight loss. If I was stronger and more toned, I would be proud of that and feel better about myself.

Of course, there are sacrifices, too, living at 50 pounds lighter. I've lived them.

I can't eat the things I usually crave.
I can't use specific foods to "connect" to loved ones who have passed on.
I cannot use food to cope with sadness, anger, or stress.
I cannot *often* use food to celebrate and socialize... at least not on the level I like to.
Social engagements with food can be more complicated.
Loose skin. Sagging, hanging, loose skin and flab.
Dealing with people who get jealous, try to sabotage, or tell me I won't keep it off.

All of these, good and bad, are things I experienced when I lost over 100 pounds.

Here is what I think would be the most different for me... the thing that would make the biggest difference in my personal life, aside from possible health improvements. If I weighed 175 or 185 pounds, I would not have to hide and be embarrassed when I see someone I haven't seen in a long time.

I so dread seeing friends sometimes, and it shouldn't be that way. People who I met when I was between 175 and 195 pounds never even KNEW I used to weigh almost 300 pounds. I didn't bring it up; I liked being a normal person and it was almost like I was incognito... a formerly fat person mingling with normal weight people and fitting right in! I loved that. For whatever reason, I made lots and lots of new friends the year or two I spent 80-100 pounds lighter. And I only told two or three of them about my weight loss.

Since I regained this weight, there are some friends I haven't seen. A couple moved away; some were in groups and activities that I had to drop out of when I was unable to participate for 2 years due to my foot and tendon issues. Some I just stopped hanging out with although we stayed in touch over the phone and online. And now, when those people come back for a visit or I run into them in a store, it is really embarrassing for me. I see it on their faces. They glance at the obese woman coming towards them. Who is that? And then they look at my face and there is a flash of recognition and surprise, which they try to quickly hide. But I see it. I know it because even if you're not judgmental it can be shocking to see a person you knew as thinner, enrobed in folds and layers of fat. And I really hate that feeling, and I hate avoiding friends because I want to avoid the embarrassment of this.

Aside from health, that would probably be the one thing that would be the most different if I lost weight.

Now the question is, are the rewards enough to drive me to work hard enough to do this? Or are the sacrifices I'd need to make *too much* for me to handle, or want to handle, long term? I guess that is the tipping of the balance that, physical limitations and emotional issues aside, lead each and every one of us in this battle to either long term success or failure after failure.


Anonymous said...

It's the embarrassment factor for me. I was just thinking about that yesterday.

Before I lost weight, and now that I've regained it, whenever anyone asks me to do something--anything from public speaking to leading a therapy group to behind the scenes organizing of an event--my first thoughts are "but I'm fat." It's all I can do not to blurt that out as my answer to the request. (Like the person didn't notice that when s/he asked.)

When I was a normal weight, it was such a relief not to have to fight my way past that thought.

All of the other perks are pretty good, too. :} So one wonders why we let the "sacrifices" stop us.


Betsey C. said...

A very interesting post, Lyn. I think that if a normal eater read your list of cons, he would be confused as to why you could not do most of those things in moderation. A normal eater would just eat moderate portions at social events, etc. But we compulsive overeaters are wired differently. We always want "more". If there is a pan of brownies sitting in my kitchen, I cannot have one small piece and be satisfied and then forget about them. Those brownies will occupy my mind in the most uncomfortable way.

What's the answer? I believe it is focusing on health. To be healthier is my primary goal, and outweighs all the other reasons. I just have to keep trying, every day, every meal, to lose this extra 50 lbs.

M. said...

It's interesting to me that you listed not being able to use food as an emotional crutch as a "sacrifice" when you know that's not a healthy behaviour and what you're really doing when you engage in it is sacrificing your emotional health. I used to be an emotional eater. It was one of a few unhealthy coping mechanisms I had up my sleeve but I haven't really engaged in any of them for years.

It's not a sacrifice that I'm making for my weight; it's just not helpful to me. It doesn't solve my problems and it doesn't really make me feel any better. I don't think recovering alcoholics view abstaining from alcohol as a sacrifice either — the sacrifice is what they give up by drinking.

Maybe you need a change of perspective. Invert the lists. These are the things you're sacrificing by choosing not to work on your eating and exercise:

- Not having to use food to control difficult emotions, being able to connect to lost loved ones in a deeper and more meaningful way than through food, being able to celebrate and having the celebration be about the people you're with rather than centring the event on something inanimate and consumable.
- The ability to connect with other people like your daughter through shared physical activities and hobbies.
- All the time you have to spend resting, which you will never get back.
- The sense of mental peace and wellbeing that comes from knowing you're engaging in behaviours that regulate your health.
- Photographs of yourself with loved ones. Future memories of this period in your life.
- The sense of pride and the self-growth that follows achieving a personally challenging goal.
- The "escape from obesity" that you set out to attain.

This is what you gain from the status quo:
- Constant agonising over whether you want to lose weight, and how, and the minutiae of what plan to follow and which spices are "okay".
- Worry about lifestyle-related health problems. A medical intervention for your blood pressure.
- Stress on your joints and plantar fascia.
- The "freedom" to indulge in emotional eating.
- The feelings of shame and embarrassment you describe on meeting someone you used to know, and the sense of failure that accompanies giving up on a long-cherished goal.
- A familiar sense of identity.

The way I see it the choice isn't about whether it's "worth" trying to become thinner or just trying to become okay with your current weight. It's between the challenge of trying to improve your health — including your emotional health — or living with the daily anxiety about diet and weight and the feelings of shame and embarrassment as well as the blood pressure medication and the feeling of missing out on time and memories with your family.

Lyn said...

Very good thoughts all.

M, that is a really interesting and useful way to look at things differently. One thing that stood out to me as I read your comment was

"Constant agonising over whether you want to lose weight, and how, and the minutiae of what plan to follow"


"living with the daily anxiety about diet and weight."

Is it strange that I don't have these issues anymore? Maybe I should. I can't help but think that if I was stressing and worrying about diet and weight it might be helpful to me as a motivator. But I don't. There is no daily anxiety or agonizing about it. Most days, diet and weight is a fleeting thought here and there when I am choosing what to have for dinner or a snack, or when I run into someone I haven't seen in awhile. Maybe that's also why I find it hard to even blog once a week... nothing to really say, and I have to sit down and consciously think about diet and weight for that ten or fifteen minutes a week. Your comment has me thinking... maybe this is a fault. Maybe, if I was *more worried* about weight and diet, and thought about it more, or if it stressed me out more, I'd actually work hard to do something about it rather than just gliding along losing a couple pounds a month. Maybe I am becoming too comfortable and accepting of the weight, so that diet doesn't seem to matter as much anymore.

Heartful said...

I could have written this post.

Anonymous said...

I totally get it, Lyn. I have wanted to lose weight for years but cannot seem to give up the comfort of food. I eat to feel happy and I eat when I am sad. I bake my Granny Francis' sugar cookies whenever I want comfort. It's almost like she is there giving me a hug. I want to be skinny but I might want those other things even more :(

Karen said...

Abstinence brought me the ability to match my inside me with my outside me. I'm just glad I stopped beating myself up with the moderation myth.

All great obervations for a counselor , group, life coach or trusted friend. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

It has been my experience from listening to alcoholics and addicts tell their story that they do, indeed, see giving up alcohol/drugs as a sacrifice. They mourn the loss of their drink/fix.

While addiction (food, alcohol, drugs, sex...) is a very harmful way to cope, it is the rare person who has no unhealthy coping mechanisms. In fact, I've never met one.

M is very fortunate to be above all of that.

As far as your reply that M's comment made you wonder if you were at fault for not worrying enough...made me chuckle. :} A lot.


Pol said...

Hey Lyn, I know you were seeing a therapist before and you didn't like her in the end, but I think that it would be really good for you looking for another one, no matter what you decide in the end.

I am seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a dietitian, all of them at the same time and I am not obese, but my problem with using food to cope is HUGE. But seeing these people has completely changed mi relationship with food. I am at last enjoying my meals and not bingeing every time I feel anxious.

Maybe instead of thinking so much about it, you need to see someone else that can help you find another perspective, maybe you just have to try something new.

M. said...

I didn't say I have no unhealthy coping mechanisms, Deb. That's a disingenuous reading of my comment. I said "I haven't really engaged in them for years". If I didn't have unhealthy coping mechanisms I wouldn't be talking about trying to overcome them.

I also didn't say that addicts don't mourn the loss of their fix. What I was getting at is that for long-term recovering addicts the framing is necessarily different: the larger sacrifice that you have to keep in mind is what you give up by going back. Because that thought is the only thing standing between you and relapse. Russell Brand has written about this: "[My sponsor] picked up [the phone]. And for another day, thank God, I don’t have to [use drugs]."

Winner at a Losing Game said...

Having had weight loss surgery, some of the cons you listed, have been my experience. For several months, I was sorry I had the surgery. Now, 76 lbs lighter, I don't regret it. It isn't easy as sometimes it really bugs me I can only eat 5 bites of food at a time. But then I look into the mirror and I am not that bugged. I guess, like most things, there are trade offs. At this point, I would not trade the weight back for anything. I feel like I have not lost a thing, but instead, gained a new perspective and way of life.

Anonymous said...

M. I do not usually do a back and forth with commenters on someone else's blog, but since you addressed me--here is my reply.

My comment was not untruthful in intent nor did it purposely misrepresent your statement. I said, "it is the rare person who has no unhealthy coping mechanisms. In fact, I've never met one. M is very fortunate to be above all of that."

You said, " didn't say I have no unhealthy coping mechanisms, Deb. That's a disingenuous reading of my comment. I said "I haven't really engaged in them for years"

Saying that you haven't engaged in unhealthy coping mechanisms for years is equivalent to my statement that you are fortunate to be above all that. You did not say you were "trying to overcome" those coping mechanisms. You said you were not...were not...using them. No trying was indicated.

You may not like my comment or my interpretation of your words, but that doesn't mean I was being disingenuous. Just like my take on your comments doesn't mean that you are being an arrogant twit.

I won't respond again. I don't enjoy playing the "let's parse words" game.

M. said...

Not engaging in unhealthy behaviours is not the same thing as being "above" them. That's the whole point. Where in any of my comments did I say that I never have the impulse to engage in those behaviours? I said the reason I don't do it is because I recognise that it's bad for me, not that it's easy not to do it, or that I don't ever have the urge to. You're making a lot of assumptions based on the way you want to interpret what I'm saying.

I'm also going to say that calling someone who is speaking from their own struggle and trying to offer a perspective that helps them and may be helpful to others an "arrogant twit" because you don't like what they're saying is pretty rude.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn!

I'm sure you're over advice/recommendations etc. everyone has so many different things that work or don't work, and one size is NOT fit all.

But I do have a question - have you ever considered intermittent fasting? It goes against all the common themes of eating breakfast/every few hours to keep your metabolism running etc. But I've found amazing success with the Fast-5 diet (a 5 hour eating window, and often people follow the 8 hour diet). This essentially allows the body to switch into fat burning mode in those 19 (or 16) hours. When you do eat, it's not about what exactly (although within your calorie limit), but just having your eating period, and then the kitchen is closed.

It's totally changed me in terms of hunger and satiety. I enjoy what meals I like in that eating window, be it 4 small or 2 large meals, and then I'm done. In the fasting time I drink coffee or tea (black) and just get on with my day. There are also numerous studies suggesting how beneficial fasting is for long-term health, allowing for healing in the body etc.

It also takes away the concern of "spreading out" the calories of your day, because the smaller window almost feels more indulgent in terms of eating.

Just a thought :) x

Anonymous said...

Lynn, please look up a closed group on FB called Eating the Food. They are letting new members join for just a short time only. It is a heavily moderated group with a goal of challenging all disordered food and fitness habits, while encouraging self-love and anti-fragility.
Please come see if there is help there for you. I would caution against posting at first, take some time and read the files so you can see what it's about.
I think it could change your life.

Anonymous said...

I agree, please find Go Kaleo and the group Eating the Food. They really might be able to help you find a balance. They've helped so many others.

CatherineMarie said...

Lyn, I noticed that some of the things you list under the "I can do when I'm thin" are things you can do now. Things like family photos. I wish I had more pics of myself at different weights... there is something called a #365feministselfie, look it up on FB or Twitter...maybe do something like that as inspiration for yourself?

Do skating with your daughter, but take a few breaks... Get yourself some pretty clothes so you feel good in the body you have. It makes such a difference.

I understand about the "food to connect with/remember people" What about making something once or twice a year for the "connect with people", and then find another way for memories to connect? For example, my grandmother loved crossword puzzles, so every Sunday, I try to do one.

Joanna said...

I was where you are when I was your age and I was where you are when I was 1.5 times your age. The thing you gain by cutting out sugar and fats (or the thing you lose by cutting out sugar and fats) is the overwhelming desire to eat large quantities and the desire to eat all of the time. I suspect that eventually you will make the big shift in your eating. It is still the same amount of hardship whether you do it now or a long time down the road. I vote to do it now while your daughter can enjoy a new robust you.

Karen said...

I ditto Joanna here. My relationship with others, especially my daughter, during the first 11 years is much different after I abstained from grains and sugars. I'm much more present, not using food to numb out.

Now my daughter is 14 and I can engage fully in a relationship with her, rather than me numbing out with food. My daughter needs me more than ever as a teen. Time will pass anyway. My joint pain is gone and my brain fog is clear. It's a true gift not just to me, but also to her.

It's work but worth it. We are worth the work to be free of the old behaviors. Good luck

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I'd apprreciate it if you'd publish this comment. First, tho, I do apologize for using your blog to leave a reply that should not have been left. Sigh... The tongue really is the hardest thing to tame. And the Holy spirit hardly ever lets me get away with indulging myself with unseemly words. You'd think I'd learn...

To M,

This is to apologize for purposely taunting you with the “arrogant twit” comment. Only God has the right to judge the motives and intents of the heart. He knows who you are and what your heart holds; it is not my place to decide the source your comment. I not only did that, but I went on to amuse myself at your expense with the arrogant twit remark. I’m sorry for that.


Xani said...

Great post. I think the most important thing you have said here is that you are generally happy and content with your life, despite the fact that you are unhappy about your weight. Most of the reasons you list as negatives for remaining at your current weight are external- what other people think about you, what size your clothes are, etc. I say focus on the happiness you feel, and health. You will NEVER please the "others"- no matter how much you lose, even if you were to eventually have surgery for loose skin, etc, it will NEVER be enough to please everyone. So don't even try. I believe it is best to focus on your internal happiness and health, enjoying your family, etc. Best of luck to you with your continued journey!

Lissa said...

Hi Lyn,

My mother-in-law is obese. I have never and will never ask how much she weighs, but based on your pictures I'd guess she's about 240 or 250 pounds (she's 5'7" I think?).

Here are some of the cons I've noticed about her weight:

- She can't hold both my sons at the same time
- She can't fit into the same chair as the bigger one; she tells him that "Nana's too big"
- She sometimes has difficulty walking around with us at parks, beaches, etc.
- She can't play on the playground with her grandsons
- If the toddler runs, she can't catch him. This has led to one frightening parking lot experience so far.
- It can be difficult for her to get down on the floor and play with them.
- She missed the top step once and tumbled all the way down right in front of me. She almost broke her wrist (again) and it was terrifying.

Here is what she's still able to accomplish at that weight:

- Being the best, most helpful, most thoughtful, insanely generous, attentive, loving, affectionate grandmother on the planet, and the world's best mother-in-law. My children absolutely adore her and I'd be lost without her. The only thing that bothers *me* about her weight is that she says she's resigned to the likelihood that she'll die before they graduate high school, or college, or get married, etc.