Weighty Matters

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Food Judgment

I have a hang up about people judging my food — what and how much I might put on my plate and choose to eat. Even if people don’t notice and couldn’t care less, I imagine that they do and, in judging my food are also judging me.

No, I’m not just paranoid. In the past, people did indeed judge what I was eating. Not everyone, probably, but enough that I noticed. Still others actually verbalized their judgments. One instance stands out in my memory. Mom and I were having dinner with another family member at our house who’d brought a home baked pie with her for dessert. After we finished eating the main dish, the family member offered each of us a slice of pie. She specifically asked me if I wanted a piece. It was good pie and I said yes, please.

I went out to the kitchen to bring in coffee and tea. I plainly heard the family member say, “I can’t believe Mary’s going to eat dessert.”

Is it any wonder that I was such an accomplished sneak eater? I developed that ability at a very early age. It didn’t matter if people were right in the next room, I could open the refrigerator, a cabinet, or a squeaky drawer, open a package, and eat with nobody else hearing me.

But I digress.

During every diet I’ve ever been on, I know I ran into times when people monitored what I was eating or just looked to see if I was on track. I think when I wasn’t on diets, people probably looked at my plates. Maybe they wanted to understand how much food it took for a woman to get to my size. I don’t know, but trust me, no matter how subtle they might have tried to be, I was hypersensitive to it, so I picked up on the glances or outright looks. I also automatically assumed that they were critiquing my food choices, or my amounts. Whatever the case, these were not positive experiences. As a result, I rarely ate openly in front of other people. I took what I believed to be a “normal” amount of “proper” food and consumed it at the table and then pigged out when I was alone.

Ever since I had my weight loss surgery, I’ve noticed that I still wonder whether people are watching my food. I imagine that now they’re curious about how much I can physically eat and that they’re also assessing whether I’m eating what I “should” or eating stuff that I “shouldn’t”. If I’m out at a gathering and there are sweets, I assume that people will think I’m being bad if I take a cookie.

I’m much better off at work around my friends and people who know me well. They understand that, sometimes, a person just needs to have a small piece of chocolate. Nobody scolds me or smacks my hand. Nobody gives me disapproving looks. It’s safe.

Honestly, the whole question of whether people around me continue to make judgments about my food and eating could be an entirely false issue. I likely stress myself out about this without reading. Maybe my fear of being judged breaks down into False Evidence Appearing Real. At this point, I don’t know, but I realize that it’s better to live with less stress.

So, I need to be aware of my thought process and call myself on it. When it comes right down to it, my choices are my choices and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, does or says. Probably what I need to work on is to stop categorizing food choices as bad or good, inappropriate, or appropriate, etc. It’s like I’m the one that starts the judgment process and then anticipate that everyone else will do the same.

No matter what I choose to eat, I need to make it okay. My choices are my choices.


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!


Food Plan vs Diet

You might have noticed that I rarely call what I’m doing dieting. That’s deliberate. I hate thinking of being on a diet so I try to keep my brain trained on following a healthy food plan which, right now, is also intended to be a losing plan. But not a diet. 🙂

Why, you might ask, am I so resistant to a simple word? I admit that there are a lot of negative memories and experiences infused in that simple four letter word. When I think of a diet, I automatically think of every single extreme, desperate, or even crazy thing that I tried over the years. Many of these were medically supervised, thank God, or I could be dead.

I can’t remember if my first structured commercial diet was Weight Watchers, or if it was the fat camp that I went to when I was 11. Here’s all that I’ll say about fat camp — it knocked off the pounds and we were definitely physically active, so it wasn’t a bad experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn enough to transition the benefits to my every day life for very long.

What I remember most about Weight Watchers was Mom driving me to the weekly classes, hating the weigh-ins, and Mom also buying some of the foods. (This was long before WW had their full lines in grocery stores.) I also remember being forced to eat tuna, which I hate. I don’t like any seafood. The only way I could choke it down was if I drowned the taste in mustard. Still, Weight Watchers is not a horrible, extreme diet to follow. Even back then it was well thought out.

So, those were the least extreme diets in my life. Now let’s get to the other end of the spectrum. In college, some doctor released the first liquid protein diet. My father checked it out and I believe it was a sign of how desperate my folks were for me to get healthy that he ever greenlighted me for it. Mom took me to the first appointment. Basically, all I took into my system for months was this viscous red, godawfultasting protein liquid. Not very much of it at that. It’s a wonder I never passed out, but I lost weight. My body fed itself on its stored fat. I took the train into NYC from school every week for a check up and to get my new supply of liquid. I was deep in ketosis, had to constantly guard against bad breath, and emotionally miserable. I can’t remember how long I stayed on this diet — maybe six months? — but I never did reach goal weight. Of course, as soon as I stopped and began eating, I put the weight right back on.

Next on the extreme scale, was one that earns its ranking for weirdness and unproven methodology. A local doctor claimed that shots of human placenta would accelerate weight loss. I don’t remember now if that was before or after my Dad’s death. I know I was an adult and Mom went with me the first time for moral support. I can’t even remember what the eating guidelines were for this program. The doctor was definitely on the creepy side. I didn’t last long with this effort.

The most successful diet I went on, prior to the weight loss surgery effort and my current success, was another one that focused primarily on protein. Nine ounces of protein a day and a cup of salad a day. No starches, no fruit at all. I ate so much chicken that year, I’m surprised that I didn’t cluck upon waking. I lost 103 pounds. Because this was another extreme plan, I went to the clinic three times a week for monitoring and also attended the weekly discussion class.

Sprinkled among the years were more attempts with Weight Watchers and forays into other popular plans like Optifast and other similar ones. I was a yo-yo dieter for sure. In 1996-1997, I consulted a nutritionist and had decent success, helped by one of the popular “diet” drugs. That drug was later pulled from the market because of it possibly causing heart problems.

After that, except for a couple more Weight Watchers online attempts, I really didn’t have any big loss successes until I decided to do the vertical sleeve gastrectomy. One could say that my current food plan is pretty extreme, but it doesn’t seem crazy. I eat enough and it’s well balanced. There just isn’t much to it. Honestly, I think I eat healthier now than I have ever, and not just in terms of quantity. I really do make an effort to eat lower fat and less sugar. I don’t eat a lot of junk starches. Fast food restaurants, which were once staples in my weekly eating, are now places I drive by instead of drive-through.

It’s almost two years since I had the surgery. Two years where I have either steadily lost weight or, when I’ve plateaued, at least maintained the weight loss. This is a record for me in terms of time. It’s been a terrific confidence boost too. I grow less scared that I’ll ultimately screw up again with every day that I soldier on. I still want to lose the remaining pounds. When I do, I don’t yet know what the maintenance food plan will look like. However, I feel really strong and positive that I can incorporate this one for life.