Weighty Matters

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Looking at Overweight People

I never used to think much about other overweight people. It’s almost like I didn’t really see them. That sounds strange because they were not rendered invisible when I was in their vicinity. Obviously I knew they were present, but my thought patterns might have been absent, or at least turned in another direction. I didn’t see them for them because I was too busy thinking about myself in relation to them.

I know for a fact that I never looked at another heavy woman and thought, “She’d be so pretty if she lost weight.”

Melissa McCarthy has a new movie out so she is all over the entertainment news right now in television and print interviews. She is a beautiful woman. No qualifiers. She’s simply beautiful. Smart and talented too. She’s built a great movie and television career over the years. I wonder if anyone ever looked at her with a sad shake of their head and told her she could be a big star if only she wasn’t heavy. If they did I hope they seasoned those words before they ate them.

I’ve noticed that lately when I see someone who is obese, I experience an almost physical flow of compassion. I get this feeling for them that’s akin to me thinking, “Oh, honey. I know how miserable you are because I was there.” Then, as if that wasn’t enough projection, I follow it up with, “Trust me, life will be so much better if you can find a way.”

It’s presumptuous of me to look at another overweight person and assume that their life isn’t terrific that, in fact, it could be improved. It’s annoying and a titch arrogant to think that they aren’t happy just because I was unhappy deep inside where nobody else could see the hurt and despair I carried around.

Instead of merely witnessing the other person, I internalize the encounter, viewing it through the lens of my experiences.

I’m working to change this. Just because I struggled, and continue to struggle, with self-acceptance, doesn’t mean everybody else does. I don’t want to hang mental labels on others just because that’s what it always felt like people were doing to me.

I just want to experience people as the people that they are where it counts — their personalities, their character, who they are as human beings. I don’t need to assess their health and fitness. If they truly are suffering emotional or spiritual woe, then compassion is appropriate but it shouldn’t be based on assumption. That, I’ve come to realize, is another type of judging. The last thing that I, or any overweight person, needs, is to be judged and suffer from comparison to someone else’s criteria.

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Taking Off My Fat Suit

From time to time a news reporter or a talk show host dons a fat suit and makeup to experience life as an obese person. I think Dr. Oz recently did it but I can’t remember which news reporter(s) I’ve seen. I remember in most of the stories I’ve seen they shared that they felt awkward, stared at, scorned by others and, in general, made to feel “less” than other people. They also discovered to a smaller extent than reality, the physical discomfort of being obese.

Right now, I’m in a physical state where I’m still overweight but have achieved significant weight loss and really improved my overall body and shape. I don’t suffer with “fat eyes” to the extent that I used to. I can look in the mirror and see my real body and be happy with my appearance. The only self-love allowance I need to make is over my sagging skin and the drooping flabby belly that I still have. Some of that will go away as I lose the remaining weight and the rest will go with surgery. I’m not happy with the wrinkly skin, but I accept it as a temporary state.

This alone is a huge, healthy step forward. “Fat Eyes” is a horrid, destructive, self-esteem crushing syndrome. I don’t know if it’s akin to what people with anorexia experience, but anytime we don’t see our physical selves the way that we really are, I think we mess with our minds and how we feel about ourselves. I’m grateful that I’ve recovered in this area, too.

At least I have when I’m looking in the mirror and when I’m in situations or places or with people I’m familiar with and comfortable around. When I go into the unfamiliar, I sometimes still struggle with the mental picture of myself as an obese person. Then I start to anticipate how others see me, react to my presence, all that kind of junky stuff. It doesn’t take over, but I’ve learned that I need to be aware that I do this and proactively guard my thought process and feelings against the junk. I’m going to think of it as taking off my fat suit.

Like the reporters who only had to be fat during the time they wore the prosthetic suit that packed on the pounds, I don’t have to think or act like an obese person any more. I have the power to choose to what extent I let the old thinking and reactions affect me. And that, my friends, truly is a powerful, liberating thought.

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Good Doctor’s Appointment

I just got home from Miami and my doctor’s appointment, with a little retail fun thrown in for good measure. I’m really pleased with my day in general. I had a scale number in mind for this morning and I met that goal. That was for my “morning naked weight”. I automatically add four pounds to that number to estimate what I’ll weigh on my doctor’s scale in the afternoon. So, I felt pretty good, all things considered. I knew I’d lost seven pounds since he last saw me. That’s not a huge weight loss in three months but I get to factor in that those three months included the holidays and the ongoing plateau. I think that plateau is finally over.

You might remember that the last time I saw the doctor I posted my lowest number of pounds lost between appointments since starting the whole journey. His suggestion at that time was that I cut my calorie intake by 25% — a suggestion I rejected because it meant I would be eating only between 600 and 750 calories a day.

I chose instead to strengthen my commitment to exercise and make sure that I worked out at least six days a week and hit my 10,000 step goal the majority of days. That’s when I began getting up an hour early every day and I’ve maintained that through the weeks. I also got more vigilant about hidden sugars in products, started eating more vegetables, and did my best to be less likely to snag a junk carb.

As of today, I feel like I’m really in the home stretch with fewer than 30 pounds to go before I reach goal weight. That sounds so amazing to me as if I’m “only” 30 pounds overweight. To many people, that number would not be any kind of “only”, but remember, I’ve lost more than 180 pounds! To me, it’s not only an “only”, it’s a freaking miracle. I am just a few pounds away from One-derland — that magical, marvelous state of weighing less than 200 pounds. Folks, I passed 200 pounds when I was 13 or 14. I can scarcely believe that I’m soon to weigh less than I did when I was a teenager.

Doctor and I talked at length today about how much more weight I need to lose. Remember, he’s all about the Body Mass Index (BMI). He wants my number to be lower than a 30. I suggested the number in my head of 176. He said 170, then he did his BMI calculations and said that I needed to be down to 180 pounds to be lower than 30. That would mean I was out of the obese category and into the overweight section. He still thought I should aim for 170. I finally suggested that, instead of picking one number, we agree to evaluate it all when I’m somewhere in the range between 175-180. He was good with that idea. I will say that he gave me one other good nugget of information. He told me that I’d have less discomfort after I have skin removal surgery because people with BMI’s lower than 30 have less occurrence of adhesion during the healing time. Something to think about.

He didn’t urge me to drop my calories again, but he also offered up the suggestion that if I really restricted all carbs for two weeks, I could kick start my weight loss. Since I’m already not eating much in the way of bread, potatoes, rice, pasta or other starchy/flour based carbs, he means fruit, beans or other carby veggies. He feels that if I focus mostly on protein from meats, fish, poultry, eggs, Greek yogurt, nuts and, occasionally cheese, plus non-carby vegetables, for even two to three weeks, I could knock off a good chunk of my remaining weight.

I’m a baby. I immediately wanted to whine, “Nooo fruit? No hummus or or other bean protein for variety? Nooooo!”, but I refrained. I told him I’d evaluate my food plans and do my best.

It takes me about two and a half hours to get home, depending on the traffic, so I had a lot of time to think about it. Here’s what I know. I am not willing to completely give up fruit. I am, however, willing to look for ways to cut down. I will switch out my morning fruit/protein smoothie and go back to the straight protein powder and water drink for breakfast. I’ll choose vegetables or nuts for my mid-morning snack. If I have Greek yogurt for lunch, I’ll either mix up some with vanilla extract or use only strawberries or blueberries in it. (The doctor suggested those as better fruit choices than, say, grapes, watermelon or bananas.) There are plenty of lunches when I don’t do Greek yogurt, so that’s only a “sometimes” fruit anyway.

I’ve become a big fan of a small apple for my mid-afternoon snack. I’m not willing to give that up. If you compare a cup of apple to a cup of banana, you find that it has less than half the calories, less than half the carbs, and half the sugar. So I’m comfortable with keeping it in my food plan.

I won’t pile on the bean intake. Doesn’t that sound like a goofy sentence? I’m just not willing to give them up completely for two weeks because I need the variety in my food choices, particularly since I don’t eat any seafood.

The longer I drove and thought about it, the more I became willing to try the doctor’s suggestion for two weeks and see how it goes. I’m not starting right away, however. For much of next week, I’ll be involved in a business conference which means that I’ll have less control over when I eat and what’s available. My goal whenever I’m involved in these kinds of meetings is to do the best that I can and make good choices whenever possible. Once the meeting days and events are concluded, I have a solid several weeks with nothing to make my efforts more challenging.

It’s been a long journey to wellness. I’m on a roll. I’d love to see my progress go more quickly from now until I get to that goal weight range! In the meantime, I can do anything as long as I tackle it one day at a time.

Have I mentioned before that my doctor’s office is in the same large building as a Whole Foods Market? I always stop at Whole Foods before heading home. I could have bought lots of fresh, organic fruit. Instead I grabbed some roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts in their shells. I finally found celery root which several people have suggested to me is great steamed and mashed. I also bought a container of “cole slaw” mix — shredded cabbages and carrots. I’m going to experiment with some sort of Greek yogurt dressing for it. I think that will be a flavorful, fun way to get in some veggies and protein.

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Photographs and Memories

I was on a hunt last night for photos of a particular friend. I’m not one of those people who has old packets of photos neatly boxed in date order with labels on the boxes. So I had to dig through a lot of photo store envelopes, haphazardly piled. This meant that I went through many photos from mostly the last 13 or so years. I wish I could say that I was carrying around a warm, fuzzy nostalgic feeling after the experience, but that isn’t the case.

Mostly I’m sad. I’m huge in the majority of the photos in which I even appear. It doesn’t matter what the photo portrays, whether it was a party, a gathering of friends, a fun event, an exciting occasion — if I’m fully in the photo, I can’t see anything else or feel any of the happy that should be part of those memories. The only shots where I experience the joy are those where enough of me is concealed behind other people.

How pitiful. Miserable. I am mired in the sludgy realization that my obesity most likely robbed me of some of the happiness at the time the photos were taken and the way I looked then still steals the joy of the memory from me today. There’s a photo of me with my younger nephew at his bar mitzvah. We both have huge smiles on our faces and must have just shared some really great moment. Damn it. I know I was happy right then when the photographer took the shot, but looking at the picture years later only brings me pain and that regret.

There was one exception. I found a photo from 11 years ago of me with my dear friend Chrissy. Chrissy comments here at the blog and has mentioned her own weight loss surgery/journey so I’m not blowing up her anonymity. Anyway, in that photo, we’re both obese, but it didn’t make me sad to look at it. I was able to look objectively at where we were and be really happy that we’ve come so far. We both have achieved significant weight loss and regained a great amount of quality health. These things I can celebrate.

I need to process this and make my peace with the photographic evidence of my past. I want to reach the point where I accept and forgive myself for the effect my previous obesity has on my memories. I want to not cringe when I look at old pictures but recapture the pleasure and joy in those experiences.

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