I think any post about health, weight, diets, food plans and the like needs to be prefaced with history and experience. How can you listen to someone speak about dieting if they’ve never had to diet? Sure, they may be experts in nutrition and know the most perfect food plan to a healthy body. They may literally be THE MESSIAH OF FOOD when it comes to eating right. But if they haven’t walked a mile in my fat shoes, then I have a hard time listening to everything they say. Jimmy Hendrix asked “Are You Experienced?”, and so do I.
I was never, and never will be, skinny or thin. Well, I was thin once for a few years, but more on that shortly. I clearly remember being 8 years old, and my parents taking me to Macy’s in Brooklyn for a new winter parka. I was standing in the kids section, looking up at the big sign that said HUSKY. That wasn’t a brand, it was a category. I was husky. Gee, thanks for that label. Why not just say “Fat Bastards” or something. I also clearly remember the thin kids teasing me saying “Fat Matt The Water Rat” in grade school. I’d chase them and they’d run knowing I’d never catch up to them. Dumb kids never realized they’d have to slow down in school eventually. I got even. I digress.
I grew up in a typical dysfunctional family. I don’t think there’s more than 2 or 3 of us that aren’t overweight. We were much like every other family, overcooking for holidays, over serving for meals, overeating for no good reason. Food was comfort. Hurt yourself, have a treat to make the tears go away. Failed a test, have a lasagna. You get the idea.
My best friend from age 7 through 18, and even to this ripe age of 38, was Craig. Craig came from a sports oriented, thin, fit family. He tried his hardest to get me moving, and was often successful. We played ball all the time. We rode our bikes everywhere, too. If only he would have wired my jaw shut, I’d have been as thin and fit as him. I was eating Suzy-Q’s for breakfast as we walked to school, and it was gastronomically down-hill from there. While I was, luckily, not morbidly obese, I was always heavy and overweight. I did manage to shed some tonnage and was around 200 lbs through most of college. Looking back now, that wasn’t a bad weight for me, given I’m 6′ tall. I’d be grateful to be back at 200 now!
A pause for my readers. Some of you may be heavy. Some of you may indeed be morbidly obese. I recognize that my high may be half of your low in terms of weight. I am not trying to put anyone off, make anyone feel out of place, or feel bad. I’m merely sharing my experience, strength and hope. More on THAT later. If you are heavy, I am just like you. I may be lighter or heavier than you. But only a number separates us. Nothing else. Please, keep reading.
I came back from college and was a hefty 240 or so. At the time that was my top weight, and I was miserable. A family member had joined Overeaters Anonymous and was
successfully losing weight and keeping it off. OA, and other a 12 step program, wasn’t foreign to me. Another family member had been in AA for 4 years. I understood the premise and value to a 12-step program. I had decided that I too would join OA. I stayed in the program for a few years. I successfully lost 80 lbs, getting down to about 162 lbs. That was when I was skinny. It was short lived, maybe a year or so total.
I learned a lot in OA. I learned the triggers that caused me to eat. I learned how to get help and refocus before I ate. I learned that specific events caused me to seek comfort in food. Those events were being happy, being sad, being angry, being stressed. Through OA I learned that I could listen and lean on other’s experience, strength, and hope. People in OA would share their stories, both of being in “recovery” and before, which would help me deal with my own life issues and weight. The lessons I’ve learned in OA have stuck with me, and even 17 years later I refer to them now-and-again. I may have a new high weight, but I haven’t forgotten what I learned.
Over the ensuing 9 years I slowly crept up to a top weight of 280 lbs. I can’t imagine getting
any bigger than that. Not that I COULDN’T get any bigger, but looking at the photos, and thinking about howI feel now, I can’t imagine being bigger. Perhaps the lessons I learned in OA kept me from going further. Perhaps Divine Intervention. Doesn’t matter, I am grateful for that. I can’t, and won’t, blame any one thing for my weight gain.
In Q3 2004 I started getting thin again. I quickly lost 80 pounds using Weight Watchers Point plan. I liked the flexibility of the plan, which allowed me to eat healthy while still having ice cream each night if I wanted. In addition to the very structured food plan, I was exercising 90 minutes a day 6 days a week. I do not believe I could have lost 80 pounds in about 5 months on the plan alone. I worked out pretty hard to get those results. I don’t specifically endorse the food plan, and think that each person needs to consult their doctor before starting any food plan and exercise plan. Again, just MY experience, nothing more.
I had started a new chapter in my life in 2005, recently divorced and meeting Robin and then moving in with her. I continued my workout through most of 2005, and eating healthy as well. Unfortunately, demands of work and life began to take a toll, and I soon stopped exercising completely. I also began eating poorly as a result of those demands. For the next 2 years I slowly crept up from 202 lbs to 262. Robin, madly in love with me, always told me I was cute, sexy and she didn’t mind. However, I began to mind, and in April 08 I started Weight Watchers again.
With just the food plan I lost about 17 pounds in 6 weeks. I was feeling good, wearing almost a full size smaller clothes. The food plan was just as manageable as it was when I started in 2004. I unfortunately found 7 of those pounds during my 2 week lake house vacation. I could have followed the plan had I wanted to. Self Will Run Riot! .
So where does that leave me right now? As I write this, I am on my fourth straight day of 60+ minute workouts. I went right back to my food plan the day I returned from vacation. The scale hasn’t moved a notch since Sunday, but that doesn’t matter. Physically I feel better, and mentally too. I am intent on continuing this lifestyle. That is how I will leave you. Continuing this lifestyle. It’s not a diet. Diets don’t work. Changing your mindset and your lifestyle does.
One last thing. That stuff I opened this post with about not listening to people who don’t have “fat experience”. Please note I said I have a hard time listening to EVERYTHING they say. I am not foolish enough to think for a second that professionals and hobbyist alike with knowledge of both healthy eating and fitness can’t help me on my path. I refer to them constantly. Even if they are simply sending a twitter tweet to me encouraging my workout, or giving me a healthy eating tip, I still listen to MOST of what they say
Take a second and share your experience, strength and hope below. Leave a comment and let me know this voice in my head was heard!