Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Someone asked me the other day just what was the defining moment that made me decide to lose weight? You mean like the straw that broke the camels back, I asked? Hmm...
That's a good question. Which time? I've had so many defining moments, epiphanies, straws.
Maybe it was the time I struggled into a pair of snug jeans before we went out to dinner. I had to lay down on the bed to even get them zipped up only to forget this fact when I was done with dinner and had to use the restroom. The woman that walked in while I was lying on the floor -- feet sticking out of the stall -- trying to zip my jeans, shrieked "Are you all right??"
Um yes, please don't call 911...
I was the epitome of yo-yo dieters. I was a lifetime member of Weight Watchers many times over with a drawer full of pins and keys to commemorate each goal success. Some people rotate their clothes in the closet by seasons. I rotated by sizes -- goal, heavy, heavier, and heaviest.
My middle son even wrote a song about it. He played the guitar - badly. Think Phoebe on "Friends" singing about smelly cats. That was him in the coffee shop strumming away and screeching an Ode to Yo-Yo Ma:
" No not the talented fellow with the cello, but my Yo-Yo-Ma who's on a losing streak again, her mood is insane, the diet's to blame , her rules are a pain, but we love her just the same -- My Yo-Yo Ma" Thanks, James...
Every January 2 a bunch of us at work would start up the annual biggest loser contest. $20 dollars a participant. Winner takes all April 1st. Four years ago I walked into work on that post new years day -- that had been filled with football munchies-- and didn't see a sign up for the contest. I asked the usual crew of heavyweights where the sign up sheet was.
"We're not having the contest this year". Really? Why not? "Because you always win!!"
So why was I still fat??
I was flirting with high blood pressure. My cholesterol was in the 250 range. My fasting blood sugar was what it should be after a meal. I felt miserable because I felt like a failure. I hated to fail. I had to be perfect. If I started a diet on Monday morning and blew it Monday night, I had to wait until the next Monday morning at 8 am to start again. I had to be the perfect dieter or I wouldn't do it. My prior successes were just longer runs of being perfect.
I didn't exercise because I might not do it right. I might not look right. Have the right clothes. Join the right club.
As I said, my son played the guitar -- badly. But that didn't stop him from getting a real "gig", unpaid of course, at a local coffee shop downtown. He didn't care if he wasn't perfect -- or even good. The eclectic crowd of latter day beatniks actually loved him. He was just goofy enough and bad enough to be appealing. He had no fear of failing up there. His attitude was "To hell with them if they can't take a joke!" His fame was short lived though, right along with his life. He died suddenly four years ago. Sitting alone with my tears and memories I sometimes thought about another one of his attitudes on life. "Lighten up mother, we can't all be perfect". Ooo how that used to grate on my last nerve when he'd say that. Knowing he was thinking "Like you".
Maybe that was my defining moment. I'm not sure. but for whatever reason I was 49 years old and looking towards my next half century and thought it was time to conquer some fears. Starting with my fear of exercise. In all my prior weight loss efforts, they were always achieved through diet alone. It might have been Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, but never exercise. I decided that might just be the one thing that could bring about change.
No more dieting. I wasn't going to worry about what I ate yet. One thing at a time.
I joined the YMCA. I toured there first and found ordinary looking people just like me in various shapes and sizes wearing ordinary looking workout clothes. It seemed like a comfortable and affordable fit. The first time I went, I found the woman's locker room downstairs one flight from the main floor. I had purchased a gym bag and lock and felt all sportsy and athletic. The cardio room was on the second floor -- one flight up from the main floor. To get to it I had to walk up two full flights of stairs. I was huffing and puffing so much from the effort, that when I finally got up there I felt like I had completed my workout before I had even started it.
I asked one of the doctors I work for who is a triathlete, to please be my "secret" advisor. Someone to be accountable to. He readily agreed and advised me on everything from maximum heart rate to where to buy proper shoes. He absolutely agreed that starting with exercise would be the key. He told me it would take a month or so to become a habit, but after just about two weeks I'd feel so much better that it was like a built in reward. He was right. I felt like I was gaining confidence. I was thrilled to find that climbing those stairs was no longer such a chore. I started taking the stairs in my building instead of the elevator. I parked my car at the back of the lot for work and shopping. I walked on a treadmill but soon became interested in checking out the elliptical and bikes. I made friends at the Y. I looked forward to going after work. I started out with three days a week and when I decided to add strength training I increased it to six days a week.
AND I found that I was losing some of my urges to binge. Definitely I wasn't having those out of control cravings that so typified my prior eating patterns. I began to think maybe I could handle healthier eating. But NO DIETS. I decided to start with three things. Low fat, high fiber, low sugar. Use those guidelines when choosing food but not worry about portion sizes -- yet.
I became a label reader. I actually planned menus. Had fun trying new recipes. I made some rules for eating out -- like only salad, grilled chicken, or chili in a fast food restaurant. Stick with restaurants that had light or healthy selections. Next step was watching portion size and keeping track of what I ate. And I lost weight!
As they say, the rest is history. For three years I've been at goal more or less. The most I put back on was the 15 pounds while swimming in the river denial, but as you know, my daughter yanked me out of there! I run now and wouldn't think of skipping a workout. I preach exercise like a born again believer.
Most importantly, though. I allowed myself to occasionally stumble and be less than perfect. If I succumbed to temptation and over indulged , I didn't call myself a failure. I didn't wait until the first Monday in January to restart. I STARTED OVER WITH THE VERY NEXT BITE.
Because, after all -- we can't all be perfect....