Friday, July 13, 2012

It's not how you do it

This isn't the sort of blog in which I write about the details of my daily routine and weight loss, at least not anymore. It's not that I don't believe such things may be helpful to some people, but rather that I realized a long time ago that each person has to follow a different path in terms of the mechanics of what they do to manage their daily food and exercise routines. I mainly try to address the broader issues that affect the relationships that people, especially those with life-long problems and severe overeating or compulsive eating problems, have with food.

That being said, occasionally, I do pause to talk a bit about the smaller things. I do so mainly to offer a realistic portrait, track my own behavior more concretely for my own records, and to show people that I'm human, too. To that end, I want to talk about how things have been going since I went through the monumental changes I've been through in the past 3 or so months and where my relationship with food stands at present.

Left: now, right: about 25 years ago (not my lowest ever, but the pictures of my lowest ever aren't as well posed to display my body)

First of all, I've been looking at  old pictures of myself from 23-26 years ago when I initially lost a lot of weight and seeing my body at its thinnest. I never weighed myself at that time so I don't know what my  lowest weight was. However, I think that I am probably about 10-20 pounds heavier than I was at my absolute smallest ever, and I certainly didn't spend long at that weight. That weight was achieved at the height of my exercising (that's 90 minutes a day - 45 of aerobic and 45 calisthenics, 5 days a week). It was done by not eating any fat or sugar and eating a lot of whole grain carbs, low fat dairy (especially cheese), and fruit. I ate salads, but vegetables weren't as big a part of my life then as they are now (because I'm a better cook and have broader tastes). It was done in a way that was nearly impossible to sustain without devoting my life to my body, and that is why I regained.

The body I have now, which is slightly heavier, was achieved through the processes described in this blog. That is, moderation,  no limiting of sugar, fat, or any particular type of macro-nutrient (such as limiting carbs or whatnot). Because of physical difficulties and the bare basic facts of adult life (having to work and have time for relationships), I could not exercise beyond walking and modest weight lifting and stretching. In other words, my current body, which is very much like my hard-fought body of two and a half decades ago, was achieved with far less time spent daily on exercise, far less Draconian dietary changes, and a lot more mental effort than physical. The irony is that it was achieved in almost the same total time (in years), and beginning from a likely higher weight. Certainly, it was achieved with a less youthful metabolism.

Of course, my current body is far from ideal. I'm still technically obese. I'm still fatter than I'd like to be from the viewpoint of going out and looking for jobs, but at least I can move. I can go out and play Frisbee in the park with my husband (and I have!). I can walk without back pain. People aren't staring at me or making fun of me all of the time. I'd like to lose more weight and will continue on the path I'm on with moderation in all things. However, I have to accept that this may be where my set point is likely to stay.

When I say that, it is not an admission of defeat, but an acceptance of some real possibilities. First of all, I'm not in my early 20's anymore. The reason I'm holding my arm and making a muscle like that is so you can see all of my bat-winged glory. I've been working on building arm muscle for firmness slowly through the last 3 years and I have muscle definition in my upper arms, but I will never lose that extra skin. It has been stretched out and no longer has the elasticity to retract. The same goes for skin in all areas of my body, especially my lower belly, hips, and behind. There will always be a lot of excess skin, probably as much as 10 lbs. of it, on my body. I can live with this because I'm 47 years old and I would not subject my body to the mutilation of plastic surgery (cutting away healthy skin) for aesthetic reasons or to bring down a number on the scale. I also note that my waist is not as small as it got before, but that is the effect of gravity. I will never have the shape I had before. 

 Me at high school graduation.

Second, I have been obese my entire life. I was a fat child and finished my teens at a very high weight. The number of fat cells in my body is much higher than that of a person who was thin when younger and later gained weight. My body will deflate those cells, but it will never eliminate them. Fat cells, once added, are forever. This I have known for a long time. Having a high number of these cells causes fat bodies to be different (hormonally, neurochemcially, and likely more) than thin ones and that is the case forever.

In order to be appreciably thinner than I am now, there is a distinct possibility that I would have to devote my life to weight loss and only weight loss. I don't have the time, joints, or desire to become a slave to my body in this way. I'm in excellent health with no problems at all. There is no reason other than vanity to push so hard, and I'd rather be mentally healthy and fatter than obsessed and thinner. I do not want to be obsessed for the sake of acquiring a particular look and nothing more, but more than that, I want to live my life fully, not spend hours and hours pushing myself to exercise or fretting over whether I can eat anything at a social function because my diet options are so restricted.

My feeling right now is that I will continue to lose weight, but it will happen at a trickle over years. I think that it will be hard for my body to go lower, but it will slowly happen over time. It will probably be pretty inconsequential and only noted over a long period of time. It's also going to be very "up and down" based on having good days and bad ones through time. That's okay. I will just  stay the course and see where it leads.

The odd thing is that, though I'm not especially pleased with my body, I'd rather live in it as it is with the lifestyle I have than go back to the thinnest I ever managed with all of the time and effort I had to put into it. It's not ideal, but little in life is. I find more happiness in moderation and in not pushing myself to spend 90 minutes most days on hard exercise or depriving myself at every turn. If people want to judge me for that, then they're welcome to do so, but they can keep their thoughts to themselves because they're the only ones who are reflected in them and going to be affected by them. In fact, given all the talk about health and weight, anyone who does judge me negatively will endorse the fact that fat disapproval is about beauty, not health. My heart is in good shape. My insulin function excellent. I was thoroughly tested late last year, and I'm in better health than thinner people of the same age. 

The bottom line is that, looking back over my two great weight loss experiences in life, I ended up at almost the same place doing it two dramatically different ways. It doesn't seem to matter how you do it, as long as you keep doing it and keep moving in a particular direction. There is no one path for anyone, and sometimes, there's not even a single path for the same person.


Jan said...

I am so glad that I 'met'you. You have given me so much to contemplate over the months. Yet again another brilliant post about a subject I can relate to. I don't know if I will ever reach a point where I am happy with my body. I would like to think that I could so that I may experience some joy at feeling acceptable by others. I realise that this idea might be frowned upon but for me it is a real want. Actually I'm not sure if I even sound like I know what I am talking about-my thoughts don't always flow into words on a page.
Thanks SFG for a great post

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Jan, and thank you for your comment. I'm glad we have "met" as well as I knew immediately that you were the sort of good soul that a person can trust. You are such a lovely and kind person!

I don't know if, in this society, we can ever (any of us) be truly "happy", but I think that we can find peace and acceptance. I hope you can find that, and so much more.