Fat Enough


I’ve always been fat.newborn

Always.

I have never had a Barbie-doll shape. As a teen, I was told that I had “good hips for having babies.” – because that’s something every adolescent wants to hear. It, of course, translates to, “Yo, you have a fat ass.”

It does. It helps to create a negative body image. How about just, “you are beautiful just the way you are.” What the hell is wrong with that?

In high school, I listened to things like that. It didn’t matter that I was tall, and mostly thin, with washboard abs. It didn’t matter that I modeled. It didn’t matter that on a fat day, at 5’8”, I weighed-in at about 120 pounds. In my head, I was fat.

I fulfilled the expectation of having babies, and with each, I got fatter. After my third baby, I was a horrifying 135 pounds. I was fat!

POCONO

the vest

The commentary changes as one ages. It changed from, “good hips for having babies,” to “oh, you’re so much bigger than you were in high school.” Well, yeah, I’ve had three babies, and gained fifteen pounds. So, my BMI went from under 19 (the charts don’t go lower than that), to a healthy 21. But I wasn’t as thin as I had been in high school, when I was considered fat enough to easily birth babies. I inched from 130 to 140 to…

I hurt my back in 1989, and as a result, I was unable to do any sort of high, or even moderate, impact exercise. No more aerobics for me. Goodbye Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. Weight became a whole new challenge. Up and down my weight went.

closefat

melbirding

I was never big on sweets, but I drank a lot of Pepsi. So that had to go. I successfully weaned myselfaugust09 off of soda in 2004. I lost fifteen pounds in a week. I did all of the right things, read all of the right books, and dropped three sizes. Thank you, Jillian Michaels.

But then my schedule shifted. Meals became…random…eat when the opportunity presents itself. Dinner at 11 p.m.. I began drinking Mountain Dew on days that were “long days”. Two, sometimes as many as four, days a week began when I left the house and 7 a.m. and ended when I made the thirty minute drive home from a class that ended at 10:30 p.m.. Caffeine, I drank Mountain Dew to sustain myself; that’s what I told myself. Other than soda, my diet was healthy, if not time-wise, at least food wise. But, ounce-by-ounce, my victory was chipped away. I inched from 140 to 145 to…

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My clothes got tighter, and had to be replaced with larger sizes. Once, twice, a third time. I suffered with heartburn, headaches, exhaustion, and weekly Rheumatoid Arthritis episodes.  I was short tempered, harried. Frumpy.

Frumpy! That wouldn’t do.

I looked back through old photographs of all the earlier fat me’s—I looked at how thin I was—at PURPLEhow deeply ingrained those tiny voices from the past are. I thought about how society—American culture—thought I should look. I thought about the patriarchy and how detrimental it is to the female psyche. I thought about how every woman I knew bought into that, that image of what a woman should be. That unrealistic image that says, you will never be thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough; you’ll never be enough (because you’re not a man?). I thought about how I define the word fat for my Composition 1 students; it used to mean rich. I thought about how American culture encourages me to be unhealthy: eat this American-processed food. It makes you ill? Take this pill, have this operation, do therapy. Medicate. Anesthetize. You are healthy enough. Well, I’d had enough, enoughs for a lifetime.

And so began the quest, to be the fat me of previous years. I needed to do this for me. To be healthy, whole, pain free.

I needed to use the gym membership I was paying for, in the first week of June, I did just that. I began using the recumbent bike four times a week. I stopped drinking Mountain Dew—eliminated soda from my diet completely (well, with the occasional exception of a Dry Lavender Soda).

On June 19th, I bought a Jawbone Up. This simple act radically changed my perception of myself. According to the documentation, a healthy human being needs to take 10,000 steps a day. The average person, in the United States, using an Up took 5,500 steps a day. In the first week, I averaged a little less than 4,000.

Damn it. So, what to do? Well, obviously walk more, a lot more. But I realized quickly, that wouldn’t be enough. People have asked me what I have done to lose weight, so here it is:

Phase 1:

Change mindset. Do this for me. Let go of old tapes in my head.2013-06-21 13.30.10

Eliminate soda. Check.

Reduce gluten. Check.

Eliminate dairy. Sort-a check.

Eliminate half and half from my coffee, replace with vanilla almond milk. Check.

Reduce cheese and butter. Check.

Eat breakfast every day. Working on it.

Ride recumbent bike thirty minutes, four times a week. Check.

Walk a minimum of 5,500 steps per day. Check.

Within two weeks, I had lost fourteen pounds! No one noticed. But onward! All heartburn episodes disappear.

Phase 2:

2013-08-16 08.47.10Eliminate meals after 9pm. Check.

Eat a GMO-chemical-laden Nutrigrain bar every day before leaving for work. Check.

Vow to find a better breakfast choice. Working on it.

Subscribe to Jillian Michaels app. Check.

Add a 15-minute weight circuit to gym activity. Check.

Increase minimum step count to 6,500. Check.

In three weeks, I was down by 22 pounds. A student walking in the hall notices. All Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms disappear.

Phase 3:

Vow to find a better breakfast choice. Working on it.

Add mall walk three times per week, approximately 2,500 boring steps. Check.

Reduce time on recumbent bike, increase weight circuit to 30 minutes. Check.

Increase steps to 6,800. Check.

Focus on weekly counts to eliminate guilt of daily shortfalls. Check.

Phase 4:

Vow to find a better breakfast choice. Working on it.2013-08-17 12.01.17

Eliminate processed sugar, replace with organic coconut sugar (except in lemonade, because that was gross). I noticed no difference in my coffee. Check.

Add a walk through Garden Ridge to mall walk making it less boring, increase overall mall steps to 5,000. Check.

Incorporate inch measurements in success rate. Check.

Eliminate recumbent bike. Increase circuit training to 50 minutes alternating weight and laps around the gym. Check,

Increase steps to 7,000. Check.

Weight loss: 31 pounds.

Phase 5 (where I am now):

Experiment with breakfast choices. Egg white omelet on days off…a nut-granola mix on workdays. Who knew breakfast could be so challenging? We’ll see.

Eliminate remaining (few) processed foods.

Increase step count to 7,500 daily.

Things I still need to work out:

Obviously, breakfast.

Incorporating writing time without sacrificing exercise time.

Twenty pounds to go. I won’t have a Barbie body, but I will be happy with myself and live a long life in which I will be able to disrupt the patriarchy! Who’s with me?

22 thoughts on “Fat Enough

  1. I’m with you. I recently woke up to the realization that all of the processed food I’ve been shoveling in my mouth for the past 50 years is making me sick and tired. I’m sick and tired of feeling this way, so I’m doing something about it, a little at a time. No, I’ll never have a Barbie body, but she doesn’t really look happy anyway–the smile doesn’t reach her eyes.

  2. Brava! I’ve heard those same tapes all my life, but lately, weight control has become more about health issues than body image (although I must admit that I like myself better when I’m thinner). I’ve been losing weight, too, but nobody seems to notice (compared to my husband, who has lost significantly more and truly looks like the guy I met more than twenty years ago). But that’s okay. I FEEL better, stronger, healthier. So thank you for this post and the affirmation that yes, we do this for ourselves. Keep up the good work! (What about oatmeal for breakfast on non-work days? Do you not like oatmeal? I’m talking about the long-cooking kind, not instant. I actually *look forward* to our oatmeal mornings! You can dress it up in any number of healthy ways.)

    • I like oatmeal and eat it in the winter, on days off, or late mornings. A “real” breakfast is a challenge, because I leave for work at 7am — I am not “preparing” anything at 6am…not happening. :( I bought some granola–stuff, but it’s sticky; so no using the computer while eating.

  3. Steel-cut oatmeal is even better–with a few chopped up walnuts in it, a little bit of milk and sweetener. Usually I have an egg on health-nut whole wheat toast and 2 slices of low sodium turkey bacon for breakfast. I find that the protein holds my appetite in check until lunchtime much more than a bowl of cereal. (I know turkey bacon isn’t the greatest food in the world, but it’s the only processed meat I eat, and pork bacon, while delicious, would just not be very healthy. Turkey bacon is also a lot easier, and faster, and less messy to cook.)

    I gained weight after quitting smoking 17 years ago. I lost 38 lbs 3 years ago on Weight Watchers, and kept it off successfully until about 6 months ago, when I started eating foods that had made me fat in the first place, like bags of Twizzlers and Snickers bars and potato chips and ice cream (etcetera…), and I quit exercising regularly. I gradually gained back 17 lbs and couldn’t fit in my clothes anymore, which was upsetting, since I’d donated all the larger sizes. I’m back at Weight Watchers and I’ve got 8 more to lose. It’s not coming off easily. I’m going to a new gym, doing weights, cardio…and…I also had a back injury, and a spinal fusion a few years ago…I tried yoga last week and I’m in a lot of pain, unfortunately–I was really looking forward to doing yoga. I’m afraid I’m going to have to resort to trying Zumba. I’ve been avoiding it like the plague because my mother loves it so much, and it sounds ridiculous, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a sweaty klutz. I need to do something though. I don’t like to walk— I find it incredibly boring, and it’s always either too hot or too cold here in Nebraska. I was wearing the Weight Watchers’ ActiveLink monitor that sounds somewhat similar to yours, but it only inspired me for the first 3 weeks. Since then, I’ve felt like it’s just reminding me of how inactive I am, and it’s nagging me, so I cancelled my subscription to it a few days ago and stuffed it in a drawer.

    Things that work for one person sometimes don’t work for another. I do recommend finding that good breakfast though. According to just about everybody, it’s the best way to start out your day. Congratulations on your weight loss! I know it feels really good to shed those pounds.

    • Walking the mall is not the most exciting part of my week — But, I must say, losing 2 shirt sizes and a pant size is a good enough pay off for me. I have added stores I like to shop in… Garden Ridge, Home Goods, Barnes and Noble. I have ideas to completely redecorate my house, including costs. I pick up little things along the way…basket here, burner covers there… added weight to the walk.

      I have to find a food for workdays that requires NO preparation.

  4. Congratulations, Mel! This is so, so awesome. I have struggled with weight my whole life too, so I can completely understand. Two kids later and I’m thirty pounds heavier than I was before I had them. Good for you for making a change and for doing it for the right reasons. :)

  5. Awesoome. I’d like to reblog; I’m now 75, and was a skinny Minnie until my late 20s, giving up cigarettes; Now I struggle, and am able to achieve a pit bull grip on sugar and carbs within milliseconds. I love your authenticity; it always shows; in every area you write about. Total gratitude and best to you.

  6. Mel, Esther from Sorrygnat re-blogged this–wow–you and I are image challenged sisters–that is exactly my story 5’8 120 thought I was fat. Then looking back, I was so thin! (dare I say “hot?” ) spending so much time hating my body, now at 55 saying “Why was I such an idiot?” I’ve been able to keep mostly lean, but now seem to have hit a plateau–I think I’m going to have to really up the cardio (I do interval training for 10 minutes on the elliptical–think I’ll have to go to 30). Congratulations on doing all this for You, that is the best reason, and thank you for sharing your story, you made me smile. As for breakfast, I really like Kashi Go Lean Crisp-Berry :-)

    • We are so sisters! Even the exact same age! I upped the cardio by doing the circuit room, instead of doing the little stair stepper, I take a lap around the gym — I have to be back before the next exercise starts — keeps me moving.

      Isn’t Kashi, GMO?

  7. Congratulations to you and thank you for sharing your phases. I have lost 20 pounds over the past year. My energy level has soared through the roof. Still struggling with arthritis, but it is usually when I eat what I shouldn’t and do the physical work of a man (which I shouldn’t). I have another ten pounds to go, but am happy to get there slowly and steadily so they STAY OFF! <3

    • Reducing gluten and eliminating as much GMO as possible has caused my arthritis symptoms to all but disappear.

      I also make an effort to touch the earth everyday… I try to walk barefoot in the grass. I know, sounds crazy, but a significant study last year proved that people who touch the planet everyday absorb … electrons? Maybe. Anyway, people who walk barefoot absorb good energy from the earth and have stronger immune systems, and show signs of improved health. Of course, this study was only giving me permission to do what I was already doing — now, I just make an effort to take my shoes OFF before I go outside.

  8. I’ve struggled with being over-weight my whole life. Heard everything from, “You’re just big boned,” to “You sure carry your weight well.”??? A lot of what you’re doing, I’ve been doing for the last 9 months. No wheat. No preservatives. No soda. No refined sugar. Minimal starch. A healthy breakfast. I ‘work out’ 45-60 minutes every other day, which includes, water aerobics, gym, or brisk walking. But I’ve gained weight. I read your whole blog and all the comments, thinking I would find a clue to what I’m doing wrong. Any ideas anyone?

  9. Kerry,

    I have done all sorts of diets and exercise plans with varying results. For me, the most effective exercise is walking, just walking, every day. That’s really the core of what I have done. Between 7am and 6pm I don’t sit for longer than an hour. I use my workout time for toning, mostly my upper body.

    In the last decade I have had success losing weight by walking twice, over 30 pounds each time. I attribute the weight loss to walking. I also have a support team — people who cheer me on.

    This week, my goal is 7,500 steps per day. Until yesterday, I was over 3,500 ahead for the week (52,500). Yesterday, I only took 2,900 steps. To balance that, I will add the additional steps to today and tomorrow. I use the pedometer religiously; it keeps me on track. And ALL of my steps count–walking from the sofa to the bathroom or kitchen, walking to the car, through the grocery store, intentional walks through the mall, pacing while I am waiting for things… Yup, walking EVERYday. It’s not a workout, it’s a lifestyle. I used to have pain when I moved a lot, not I don’t.

    If you use any apps for support, find me! I use Jillian Michaels, MyFitnessPal, and the Up app. Click on Be My Guest at the top of the page and shoot me an email for my user name.

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