If you were here, I would do better. I'd call more. I'd visit more. I'd listen to all of your stories no matter how many times I'd already heard them. I'd ask more questions about the boy you were and the man you became. I'd let you know that you were the single biggest influence on my life. I'd let you know that if you were proud of me, you should also have been proud of yourself because you are the reason that I am who I am. I'd let you know that I love you and that I miss you every day. I miss you so much.
Okay, so I didn't really think anyone was reading when I posted that last entry. But, apparently at least one person was! Not only was Ambyland kind enough to leave some words of support awhile back but she also came back to see how I was doing. I appreciate that so much! What a world we live in, where a perfect stranger can reach out, and with a few words, make someone feel a little less alone. Thank you, Ambyland!
I really did feel as dark as that last post sounded! It's been a fantastically, yucky year so far. First Dad died. I'm devastated by that. I loved him so, so much.
And the very day he died, we found out that my mom needed a heart bypass in addition to the two valve replacements we already knew about. I've been worried sick about her. I flew to Hamilton with her a couple of weeks ago and she had the surgery. She made it through the surgery...against the odds she had been given. Now she's in the hospital back in our home city. She's taking longer to recover than the average heart patient because she has many, many other health problems. I'm normally a very optimistic person (not really evident in this blog!) but optimism is hard for me right now. I was optimistic about my dad's chances for recovery and he died. So I'm still worried about her.
Then, on Mother's Day, we had to take Berio to the hospital. She was complaining of hip pain. They thought it might be a bladder infection but admitted us anyway, to rule out a hip joint/bone infection - which would require surgery. After two days in the hospital, hip infection was ruled out, bladder infection was ruled out and she was better. Now we have to do more tests. And I'm going to be scared all over again until we know for sure that she's okay.
I'm eating my emotions away. I'm self-medicating with food. I eat until I feel so full that I couldn't imagine eating anything else. I eat until I feel nothing but self-loathing and disgust for my lack of willpower; until there's no room for anything else, like grief and fear. And self-medicating this way is killing me. It is literally killing me. And that starts the sadness and the fear. And that makes me want to have a snack. It's a vicious, vicious circle.
However (yes, there is a however!), I firmly believe that I will get through this all. Because that's what I do. I keep going. I never give up.
The first time I went on a diet, I was in the seventh grade. I remember being in the locker room at school, talking with my friends. I think the gist of the diet was to eat dry toast and drink lots of water. Some of the other girls were incredulous. “You’re on a diet? You don’t need to be on a diet!!” I thought they were just being nice, although I did appreciate the compliment. I don’t think that particular diet lasted long, but it was the first diet in an almost 30 year (and counting) relationship with the diet and fitness industries.
When I was in the ninth grade, my stepmother joined Weight Watchers. I decided to follow along without actually joining. It worked. I lost nine pounds. But, of course, I gained it all back once I stopped tracking my food. Eventually, I joined Weight Watchers myself, twice. I also did the online version, twice. I tried counting points without actually joining, way more than twice. Next up was the Cabbage Soup Diet. You know, the one where you eat nothing but cabbage soup and one or two very specific foods per day for a week. I think I lasted until the day I was supposed to eat nothing but cabbage soup and bananas. I hate bananas.
It was all downhill after that. In addition to Weight Watchers and the Cabbage Soup diet, I’ve also tried Atkins, South Beach, Body for Life, the Mayo Clinic Diet, the G.I. Diet and Spark People to name, uh, a few.
In fact, I once calculated that I’ve probably spent in the neighbourhood of ten thousand dollars on trying to lose weight. That sounds crazy, I know. But when you consider that over the course of the past 30 years I’ve purchased books, magazines, videos, treadmills (yes, that’s supposed to be plural), free weights, gym memberships, personal training sessions and memberships to various weight loss groups…well, it adds up.
Have a look at your local bookstore shelves. There is a diet for everyone! They’re written by everyone from doctors to self proclaimed skinny bitches. They promise that if you follow their rules to the letter, and only if you follow the rules to the letter, you will lose weight and be happy. As if being fat and being happy were mutually exclusive. Even the fast food industry is hopping on the bandwagon. Ever heard of a little chain called Subway and their average Joe spokesperson named Jared? Every diet has a face. Jenny, Florine and Tony are everywhere. They develop diets and exercise equipment. They write autobiographies and cook books. They merchandise the hell out of themselves and put their names on everything from t-shirts to stuffed animals. Work out videos are developed for whatever the new exercise craze happens to be. I’ve seen salsa workouts, belly dancing workouts, step workouts, boxing workouts, 10 minute workouts, 30 day workouts, and now there’s Wii. Using your Nintendo console, you can play Wii Fit, My Fitness Coach, Wii Sports, Outdoor Challenge, and Cardio Challenge. I bought most of these, too.
I’d tried everything. And then, one day, I realized that none of it was working. I was still fat. So I decided to try the opposite approach. I stopped dieting. I was referred to an eating disorders clinic and started counselling with a dietitian and a social worker. They applauded me for my decision to eschew diets. I was free! I could eat whatever I wanted, when I wanted it! Well, provided it was healthy. And provided I monitored the portion sizes. And…wait, wouldn’t this be considered dieting? I was confused. I made it to half a dozen sessions, didn’t lose any weight, and never went back. I decided that I could do the ‘not dieting’ thing on my own. I promptly gained another 20 pounds.
The diet and fitness industries are billion dollar industries. And while I’m not enough of a conspiracy theorist to think that there are people in a back room at Jenny Craig working on ways to make us think that they want people to lose weight, when really they’re trying to keep them fat, I do think that these industries have a vested interest in people staying fat. If nobody was overweight, what would they do then? That’s not to say that I blame the diet and fitness industries for the obesity epidemic. I don’t. It’s not their fault and they can hardly be blamed for capitalizing on it. So whose fault is it? That question brings me right back to the diet books. For every diet book that’s out there, there’s a theory as to why obesity is so prevalent today. Some of the theories that I’ve seen include, we eat too much processed foods, we eat too much sugar, we’ve strayed too far from the diet of our ancestors, we don’t obtain all of our food within a hundred miles of our homes, we don’t eat the right combination of foods for our blood type, we don’t eat the right combination of foods period. There are a hundred more books on the shelves that each give their own reason why you’re fat. Who is right?
There’s a website out there that might shed some light on things. It’s called This is Why You’re Fat. Ironically, they’ve also turned that into a book. Although I doubt it’s one you’d find in the diet section of your local bookstore. It shows some of the creations that can be found in homes, and even in some restaurants, in North America. It features dishes called Year of the Triple Bypass, which is described as a “burger filled with Chinese BBQ pork between two pork buns” and the Fat Elvis, “a deep fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich sprinkled with powdered sugar”. Then there’s my personal favourite. A little something called the Fat Bitch. Does it even matter what’s in that one? Okay, so those dishes are extreme and they aren’t really the reason I’m fat. But obviously, my diet choices leave something to be desired. As I get older, I’m getting closer and closer to the truth, I think. Or should I say, I’m less and less able to live in denial. The reality is this. In order to lose weight, people need to eat less and move more. Calories in needs to be less than calories out. That’s it folks, that’s the big secret. That is what every single one of those diets out there ultimately advocates. Whether you’re reducing calories by limiting carbohydrates or whether you’re reducing them by limiting fat is secondary. The point is, you’re reducing calories. The trick then, is not to pick the one diet that works, but to pick a diet you can stick to. Or take bits and pieces from each of them and develop your own plan. Be flexible! If you’re a pasta lover then perhaps a low carbohydrate diet is not for you. If you don’t like to keep track of the food you’re eating you might not want to join a weight loss program that tells you to keep a food diary. Also, remember that there’s no point in striving for the unattainable. People come in all shapes and size and there’s a good chance that you won’t ever be 5’ 10” and a size 2. Especially if your raw materials consist of a 5’ 4” frame and genes that tend toward the stocky side. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is to realize that even the most committed dieter (and even the thinnest thin person!) will occasionally stray from the plan they’ve chosen. You can react to a detour by getting back on track or you can react by giving up and throwing in the towel. The choice is yours.
I’m no expert, unless years of research and personal experience count for something, but I think more focus needs to be placed on getting back to basics. Eat your vegetables. Have an apple a day. Drink your milk. Have your treats too, but make sure they’re just that, treats. Work hard. Play hard. These things will make you healthier and happier. This is what I’m going to try. And who knows, if it works, maybe I’ll write a book!
When my Dad was in the hospital, I wrote the following journal entry.
Jan 15, 2010
Dad was flown in to the city the day before yesterday. His heart is failing. His feet are swollen and are the size of footballs, his upper body is wasting away, he's got scabs on his arms and chest and an oozing wound on his leg.
He is stable, for now, in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
I come into the ICU and from across the nurses' station I can see into his room. He is asleep. I won't wake him. I pull a chair up to his bedside and take out this journal. It's not a new journal. In fact, the first entry was October 2006. Back then, it was mostly a weight loss journal. I guess it still is.
My father is dying. Maybe not today or this week, hopefully not even this year. But as surely as I know anything, I know this. My father is dying. He smoked and drank and ate like crap his whole life. And now, though he does none of these things, he's paying the price.
My mother is dying. Maybe not today or this week, hopefully not even this year. But as surely as I know anything, I know this. My mother is dying. She smokes and drinks and eats like crap. She has no intention of stopping even though she is being sent for heart surgery that she will likely not survive.
I don't drink and I don't smoke (anymore) but I do have a very serious weight problem. I've fought battle after battle in this war and I feel like I'm losing ground. It's serious enough that it will kill me. And I will leave my children, like my parents are leaving me. I can't even be angry with my parents, even though it's their own doing. After all, I know what it's like.
At this point, Dad woke up and I put the journal away.
Dad died three days later.
Death seems so far away, so abstract, until it touches it you. And when it does, the reality of it is crushing.
I have more to say, but I don't have the words right now.
I was a Daddy's girl when I was little. I remember visiting my grandmother one time and she noticed me looking at my dad. She said to him, "She smiles every time she looks at you!" And it was true. Dad was my hero. I thought he could do anything and I loved him so much. He was my safe place. Of course, as I grew into a teenager, my relationship with my dad changed. I suddenly thought I knew so much more than he did. I suddenly started resenting the choices he'd made, as if I had any right. I left home and, for reasons I will never understand, my relationship with him became hard. I became nervous when I thought about calling home. I still loved him but I was worried that phone calls would be weird. Maybe it was because we never really told each other that we loved each other and I was anticipating the awkward good-byes. But in time, as I matured, that strangeness went away.
I'm a (part-time) working mom to two beautiful girls, Bonsie (7) and Berio (5) and wife to a pretty cool dude. I started this blog to chronicle my journey to lose 100 lbs in the hopes that someday what I have to say here will help someone else. Did I lose the weight? Maybe I did and maybe I didn't. But I did realize along the way that being overweight wasn't the problem. It was a symptom.