Weighty Matters

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Portion Perspective

Pretty much every day, I throw a small apple into my lunch bag to eat as an afternoon snack. Apples are good for me and they’re easy to eat. Not much preparation needed to pick up an apple and bite into it.

Today I was so busy at work that I ended up eating lunch later than usual. I did a protein shake for lunch and the ones I’m drinking now are particularly filling. So, when the afternoon snack time came around, I wasn’t hungry. I skipped and ate again at dinner. I was hungrier a couple of hours after the meal and reached for the apple I hadn’t eaten earlier.

Apple slices with a dollop of natural peanut butter make for a favorite treat. For this, I opted to cut the apple into slices. I put everything on a small plate and brought it to the table. Before I started to eat, I looked at the snack and thought, “Wow. That’s a lot of food.” It puzzled me that an apple that was definitely small when intact and round seemed so much bigger when sliced. I wondered if it was all because I’d put it on a smaller than normal plate — one about the size of a saucer. Maybe a group of slices should look like more than a whole apple with all of its parts united. Anyway, it got me thinking.

It’s hard for me to judge. I have horrible portion perspective. Each day I still work on retraining my eyes and stomach. The portions of food I eat are, by physical limitation and mental choice, far smaller than they used to be. I know this, but it still takes practice to teach myself how much of a serving is enough. Usually, I end up dishing out more than I want, need or can eat. It’s out of habit and I haven’t completely reshaped my eyeballing system of measurement. Yes, yes, I could solve it all if I weighed and measured but I’ve never been one who developed using those tools into a sustainable new habit. I keep trying. I’m just not there yet. I do my best to remain mindful about my eating so that even if I start out with too much, I don’t eat more than I need. I don’t want to cram so much food into my stomach that I’m uncomfortable or feel sick. Most importantly, I want to accustom myself to normalizing smaller portions.

I read a magazine article today with actress Allison Sweeney. She’s the host for Biggest Loser and has battled weight issues in the past. She said something eminently sensible in the article — that she always feeds her kids small portions, knowing that if they are still hungry they will ask for more. I need to be that sensible. Perhaps I should start taking a lot less than I think I need. Really drastically reduce the portion I initially serve myself on my plate.

Then, if eating mindfully, I will be able to feel whether I’ve had too little or had enough to satisfy my needs. Portion perspective is a learn-able skill, isn’t it?

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Biggest Loser Winner and CVS

For the last couple of days I’ve seen lots of press and social media posts about two things: How skinny the winner of the Biggest Loser looked on the finale and that CVS announced they will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Both of these topics have triggered reaction, that’s for sure.

I didn’t see all of the Biggest Loser finale on Tuesday night. I was so tired that I set it to record on DVR and went to bed early. So, I didn’t actually see the woman who won until her picture started appearing on Facebook. Wow. She sure as heck did lose a lot of weight! I’m of two minds about the results. On the one hand, she wanted to change her life from one of morbid obesity and while so doing, she wanted to win the competition. Obviously she succeeded. On the other hand, sweet goodness, she went from morbidly obese to downright skinny in a few months. Is she too skinny? Is she now an unhealthy weight? Maybe. Overall, what you and I think doesn’t matter. Determining what’s enough weight loss and what’s too much is up to her and her medical advisors. Also, even if she isn’t a healthy weight now, she was a fierce competitor and she wanted to make sure that she lost a greater percentage of body weight than the other two guys. Now that she’s won, if she wants to put back on a few pounds, she can.

Whether it’s a participant on a weight loss reality show or someone else who has had bariatric surgery, I have resolved to not judge their journeys. It honestly is not my place to assess what they’re doing and decide whether what they’re doing or have done is right. If I go down that road, then I’m no longer assessing the reality of their situations, I’m making a judgment based on what I think. Their journey or their goals and what paths they travel to get there, are honestly none of my business. I have more than enough on which to focus with my own journey, goals, and paths. They can take care of themselves.

When it comes to CVS, I applaud this gutsy decision to deep six tobacco products. I always found it ironic that you could walk to the back of the local CVS for the medications to help when you’re sick and then at the front pass by the shelves of cigarettes, guaranteed to wreck your health. I hate cigarettes and smoking. I regret that I ever smoked and celebrate the fact that I quit. I don’t get obnoxious about it with friends who still smoke. There’s an ashtray reserved for them on my porch. They understand that there’s no smoking allowed in my house. I also don’t do things like exaggeratedly wave my hands in front of my face when I walk by people smoking. I don’t fix them with my most effective death glare. Smoking cigarettes is a personal choice. I don’t lecture them about the consequences.

If anyone asks me what my mother died from, I’ll likely say lung cancer and strokes caused by her 50 year addiction to cigarettes. That’s the reality of it and it makes me sad every day. When she was alive, and before her cancer diagnosis, we shared the family home up in New Jersey. Mom and I had an understanding. If she needed something from the store, I would happily run out and get it for her — except for cigarettes. I absolutely refused to buy cigarettes for her. That was something she had to get on her own.

I used to shop in CVS a lot more frequently. They had my monthly prescriptions on file so I ran in at least once a month to refill. It was also my store of choice to pick up snack foods when I didn’t want to go to a full supermarket. Once I got off of all my prescriptions a little more than a year ago, and since don’t do a lot of snack foods anymore, I have a lot less need for CVS. There’s also a Walgreens a block away. Believe it or not, the new announcement has inspired me to shop CVS more frequently. I might even look for excuses to go. As long as they maintain the “no smoking” policy, I want them to succeed. I don’t want them to lose their other, residual product sales as a result of the tobacco products ban. Shopping there more often is a way to positive reinforce them for their bold move.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments on either of these topics!

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Public Eye

Early American Idol winner Ruben Studdard is a contestant on the new season of Biggest Loser. For some reason, this has me thinking of other obese celebrities I’ve been aware of in the past. Shelly Winters. Roseanne Barr. Jackie Gleason. Drew Carey. John Goodman. Oprah Winfrey. Aretha Franklin. The list really is endless.

I remember when a lot of entertainers played to their weight, or at least appeared to. They were material for countless monologues by late night talk show hosts and stand up comedians. They often made fun of themselves. As an overweight person, I never understood how they could stand it. I’d cringe inside whenever someone made a fat joke about one of them or, as often happened, to them when sharing the set or stage.

It was almost worse when one of them embarked on a successful weight loss effort. Yes, they’d get great acclaim for the pounds they’d drop. I can still remember when Oprah dropped something like 60-70 pounds on the Optifast program. She arrived on stage towing a little red wagon behind her on which they’d piled the equivalent of her weight loss in actual animal fat. I think she had on a long overcoat. With pure joy, she whipped open that coat to reveal her skinny self in a black sweater and tight jeans. What a moment!

She gained it all back and I can’t help but think that it was a more emotionally miserable time for her knowing that she was under intense public scrutiny. I hate it if I think that even one person eyes what’s on my plate and could possibly be assessing or, horrors, judging the choice. I’d want to crawl into a deep cave (with electrical power, running water, a bathroom and internet access, of course, but still a cave) and not come out into society if I was a person who lived her life as a celebrity in the public eye.

On a much, much, much smaller scale, I really craved a cookie tonight. I actually felt a little weird buying a small package and bringing it home. A friend has been staying with me for a few weeks. Living alone, nobody knows what food I buy and have in the house. Having someone around is different. It’s amazing how quickly I reverted to old thinking — the idea that if I make a food choice that’s inappropriate, I need to hide it. I was a champion sneak eater, a skill I developed when I was pretty young. I could open squeaky drawers in my family’s kitchen, open up a package of cookies and eat some without anyone hearing me in the other room. One of the things that I just realized is that I overeat more when I conceal foods. It’s like I need to eat it all and faster before someone catches me or discovers my secret.

Part of improving my relationship with food means being open and honest about it – in all respects. A big part of being successful on the journey overall has been that I’ve been as open and honest about it as I could. Hence the whole writing of this blog. In a way it’s me taking this trip in the public eye.

I just reread this post. You know, where I thought I was going with it at the beginning is not at all where I ended up. I thought I was going to muse on my empathy for overweight celebs. Yes, I have that empathy, but the writing process uncovered different stuff. The whole thing about eating more when I eat in secret is not something I’ve been in touch with, that I can recall. I’m glad that I got there tonight. It’s something I really need to think about and, more importantly, use to aid my recovery.

In the meantime, just to circle back around, I hope that Ruben succeeds on Biggest Loser. More importantly, I hope he is able to maintain his success, whether in private or in the public eye.

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