MORBIDLY OBESE! The words used to describe one who is overweight by at least 100% of their preferred body weight. The words used to describe - ME!
Morbid - gruesome, grotesque! Obese - fat! The words are cold - cruel - demeaning. I am certain that a thin person penned those words. How does one let themselves become 'morbidly obese'? I honestly don't know. It's like the chicken and the egg. Which came first? Was I depressed because I was fat? Or, was I fat because I was depressed? It doesn't really matter - the fact is, I was fat.
I know that I always felt like I was a 'fat' child, but looking back at pictures of myself when I was young, I realize that I wasn't fat. I went through the chubby stage like all children do, but I was the 'perfect' weight when I was married at age 18. At least, according to the weight charts, I was. I enjoyed doing active things - hiking, dancing, soccer, baseball - anything involving activity.
But, somewhere during my life, that changed. My weight fluctuated drastically. While my friends would stress over gaining 10 or 15 pounds, I would fluctuate by 80 - 100 pounds. I lost weight easily, but also gained it just as easily. Until I turned 40, that is. That is when the loss was no longer easy. I had my last child at age 40. I began steadily stacking on the pounds. Although I went through stages of weight loss, the net result was a huge gain. Until I was about 200 pounds overweight. MORBIDLY OBESE!
I no longer enjoyed activity. I had friends, but we no longer danced. We no longer hiked. I watched sports, but did not participate. Traveling meant buying 2 seats when flying. I had to have belt extenders for the car seatbelts and airplane belts. The flight attendants would wrap them up and very discretely hand them to avoid the embarrassment of letting the other passengers see them. Although my family loved me, they were ashamed to be seen with me. I developed Type 2 diabetes. I had high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I depended on prescription medications to control all the diseases that I have as a result of being overweight. I knew that my family would be better off if I just flushed the meds and let myself die. I became more depressed - and more obese.
And, then it happened! I went to the doctor for my 6 month diabetes checkup. My doctor, who had weighed in the 300 pound range, was thin. Six months earlier, he had been heavy, but now, he was thin. I couldn't believe my eyes. And, I couldn't believe there was really a program that could help someone like me. I resolved, at that time, that I would take that leap and let myself be transformed back into the person I once was. I told my daughter about the program, but not my husband or anyone else. I was afraid to share that information for some reason. You see, the activity that my husband and I could enjoy together was going to dinner - or to a winery. Anything that involved food. And, I was afraid that he would be upset to have to give up those things.
I went in for my consultation and signed up for the program right on the spot. I knew that if I waited, I would convince myself that it was too expensive - or too hard - or not the right time - or some other lame excuse. Then, I went home and confronted my husband with the information that I had signed up for a weight loss program and it was going to be hard and demand a number of changes in our life style. To my surprise, he was very supportive. Why shouldn't he be? My brain doesn't always work in a logical manner - which may account for some of the reason that I let myself get to this point in the first place. He was going to get back the person he married and fell in love with. For the first time, he knew he had a chance to travel with a person who could walk down a street with him - or dance a couple of dances - or go to dinner and be able to make healthy choices for food selection. He would have a wife with whom he wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in public.
A Long Road!
When you are nearly 200 pounds overweight, the weight loss process is going to take awhile. No one notices that you are losing weight until you have lost a great deal - in my case, I had lost over 50 pounds before it was even slightly noticeable. Discouragement and disappointment will be feelings that need to be addressed. I experienced a 2 pound gain in my first week on program. I sat in the counselor's office and cried. I couldn't help myself - I have never felt so discouraged. I honestly feel that the first weight that was posted on my chart was in error, but it took a tremendous amount of discipline to continue through the next week. But, the next week, I showed a 7 pound loss. I felt exhilarated.
There are subtle things that keep you going. I first noticed that my face was thinner - I no longer had the red, puffy look. Then, there was the first time that I went into a public restroom, and the handicapped stall was occupied. I went into a normal stall and realized that I could close the door without going through all the contortions of straddling the bowl while trying to squeeze enough of me into the stall that I could swing the door shut. I also realized that I could stand up without the aid of the handicap bar. I no longer depend on Rolaids to control the acid reflex - I had gotten to the point that I had at least 8 Rolaids each day. My blood sugar average reading has been reduced by 30 points. The bath sheet (I don't use a bath towel) wraps around me and stays in place without gapping open in the front. I have eliminated a number of clothing items from my wardrobe, and am wearing a smaller size and more fashionable items. The best thing, though, has been the positive comments that I get from my husband on a regular basis. He is pleased with the progress that I am making, and continues to voice his support and pride.
We enjoy going out to eat on a regular basis. Not always so much for the food as for the socialization. We have made friends of our regular servers and owners of a few special restaurants in our area. The owner and chef of our favorite restaurant have made special menu items when I tell them I will be there for dinner. I call ahead and let them know that we will be there, and then I look forward to a healthy and beautifully prepared meal fit for a queen.
Eating out isn't always a pleasant experience, however. There was the time that we were out of town on a business trip and my husband wanted sushi. We went to a Japanese restaurant and a quick glance at the menu confirmed that there was nothing there that I could eat. We proceeded to another restaurant down the street where we had dined on a previous occasion. They had changed hands and were now a sports bar featuring burgers, fries, onion rings and other equally fattening foods filled with carbs and fat. Our third choice was a slightly upscale restaurant that had real food on the menu. I explained to the server that I was on a "very restricted" diet and would need some healthy food choices. He looked me in the eye, and said, "Well, why did you come here, then?" His attitude raised my ire and I firmly told him: "Because I am hungry and I KNOW you have foods here that can be prepared in a healthy manner! And, I expect you to cooperate with me and bring me something that I can eat!" He backed down, and I was able to order foods from their menu that were pretty much in line with the program.
Then, there was the time that we were on vacation and went to a Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas for lunch. My husband asked the server what the best thing on the menu was and she responded, "macaroni and cheese". I was shocked when he ordered that delicacy while I struggled through a plate of broccoli and snow peas, steamed without butter. I was in pain - I wanted that macaroni and cheese so badly that the tears were streaming down my face. But, that experience showed me that I can get by without the foods that made me fat in the first place. It also let him know that macaroni is NOT a choice that he can make if he really is going to support me down this path.
There are times that staying 'on program' is impossible. We travel a lot, and occasionally find ourselves in a situation where the only choice for a restaurant is one that does not offer a selection of vegetables. In those cases, I just do the best I can and order a salad. Even though lettuce is not considered a vegetable for the purpose of filling the 2 cup requirement, I have resorted to having a salad with mushrooms, cucumbers and maybe some grilled chicken in place of my program lunch.
My support system
Everyone has been wonderfully supportive. This has been a learning experience for my family as well as for me. After the 'macaroni and cheese' incident, my husband is very thoughtful when ordering his lunch. And, most of the time, it doesn't bother me to sit alongside someone eating one of my favorite food items. My family members revel alongside me with each pound lost. And, when I lose 1 pound during the week instead of 3, they support me and help me deal with it in a positive manner rather than feeling defeat. The counselor and staff at the clinic are all so nice - they have all traveled the road I am travelling. They have enjoyed the success - and have suffered a few setbacks along the way. They offer the hugs and smiles that make the journey an enjoyable one. My facebook account is full of supportive and complimentary comments from my friends and supporters. I am making some plans on how to celebrate when I finally reach my goal. We have a vacation to Hawaii planned for our 46th wedding anniversary. I told my husband that we should plan on renting jet skis when we are there. More foods will be introduced into my diet, but they will not be used as a reward. We have a couple of special bottles of wine that are going to be my reward when I meet my final goal. A comment made by my son has kind of been my focal point. I told him that I had lost 60 pounds and he exclaimed, "Mom, that is more than one of those big bags of flour!" He then told me to go down and try to press 60 pounds on our weight machine, but then thought again, and pronounced, "No, maybe you shouldn't do that - it is a lot of weight and you might hurt yourself!"
Why is it that something that is so good for you, and makes you feel better once you have done it, is so hard to motivate yourself to do? I actually liked the first couple weeks of the program when the counselor said that I shouldn't do any more exercise than I was accustomed to doing - which was none. The theory is that when you begin a weight loss program, your body will feel hungry anyway, and if you begin using more calories than you are used to using by exercising more, you will feel more hungry than you normally would. Made sense to me! I used that excuse for the first 21 weeks of the program. I have a very nice treadmill that makes walking relatively easy. And, there is a park immediately behind my back yard with a paved walking trail around it. It should be easy for me to walk in one of those two places, but I have procrastinated in so many ways. I finally convinced myself that "I can do anything for 20 minutes." So, I started walking on the treadmill. I am on my second week now, and I have to admit that I do feel better when I walk than when I don't. I have started playing little games with myself, though. Some of the protein packets that I eat three times each day are restricted items. They are restricted because they contain a few more calories than the others. The program only allows one of these restricted items in any one day under any conditions, but I have started rewarding myself with one of the restricted items only on days that I do some form of exercise. That seems to be working for me, and eventually, I am sure that I can give up the little games and the exercise will become a part of my daily routine.
I also believe that if I can come up with some type of activity that I enjoy doing that provides exercise benefits, it will be easier to become more active over time. Once my knee gets stronger, I think I will try dancing again. I actually find myself looking forward to some of those moments. And, it would be nice to be able to stroll along a sidewalk or on a sandy beach with my husband. I truly believe those days are ahead, just over the horizon.
Holidays and special occasions
One of the things I like about this program is that you don't cheat! You plan a deviation! I decided that Thanksgiving and Christmas days would be my deviation days. I had the same things that everyone else in the family had. I did make an effort to limit the portions, and I didn't have gravy on my potatoes. But, I did have pie and rolls, and partake of the traditional foods that have been associated with holidays in our home. But, only on the day of the holiday - no leftovers - nothing on the day before. I did find it somewhat difficult to go back on program the day after Christmas since we were out of town, and there were some very tempting sweets around. My daughter told me, "Mom, Thanksgiving only comes once a year." Yes, but Christmas comes once a year, my birthday comes once a year, our anniversary, mother's day, family members' birthdays, Valentine's Day, Easter - there is no end to the special occasions that 'come only once a year'. So far, I have been able to remain true to myself and keep my ultimate goal in mind. I didn't spend much time baking before Christmas, so not having the goodies in the house did make it a little easier to stay on track.
Setbacks and difficult moments
Some days are just harder than others! I have discovered that lunches are the most difficult for me to handle. I have never been fond of vegetables, and the ones I liked are corn, peas, beets, and carrots - all the ones that aren't allowed on program. I have discovered that it is hardest to remain on course when I have let the supply of approved veggies dwindle. There are some things that I like better than others - and if I don't have a supply of those items and have to substitute something less desirable, I find that I become grouchy and grumpy and very much out of sorts. So far, I have been able to conquer those times by going back over my journal and reliving some of the more rewarding weeks. And, it helps to remember some of the things that I have discovered that I actually like. Turnips, eggplant, arugula. Who would have thought that I would discover new foods at this stage of my life when my habits are so much a part of my existence. It is also easier to have an assortment of vegetables to make up the 2 cups worth. Two cups of any one vegetable - even the ones I like - are hard to eat at any one sitting.
It also becomes difficult to remain positive about the program when I am unable to check in for my weekly appointment for some reason. I had no problem when we were on vacation, but during the holidays when the clinic was closed on my appointment day was difficult for me to handle. I found myself very uneasy at the time of my normally scheduled appointment.
I am still "obese", but I am no longer "MORBIDLY" obese. I have lost a little over one-third of my total weight loss goal, and I feel fantastic. My blood sugar count has gone down substantially. I am still taking all of the medications, but I am putting together my arguments for my next visit to the Dr. to convince him that I can drop at least one of them off my list. And then one more and one more until they are all gone. There is still a long road ahead, but the destination is in sight.
The secret is to just force myself to take each moment as it comes, and work through those difficult situations minute by minute. For me, it is sometimes too hard to think in terms of a day, or a week, or a month, or a year. But, I can get through this minute. And, then the next minute, and the next. And before I know it, I have made it through the day, and tomorrow is a whole new day, and another opportunity to succeed. The reward is the pride I have in knowing that I am succeeding, and the renewed love in the eyes of my husband as he brushes a kiss on my cheek as he passes me in the kitchen, and the comments from my children that say, "Mom, I am so happy to see a healthier you!
Week 22 - a big week. Not only is it the first week of the new year, but it is the week that I go in for my first consultation after the holidays. Knowing that I took a planned deviation on Christmas day has made me a little apprehensive about my weight loss. I had no idea what to expect in terms of weight loss when I started the program, and made the goal to lose 50 pounds by the beginning of the new year, a 21-week time period. Since I met that goal by Thanksgiving and made a new goal of 70 pounds by the new year, I have not been sure that I could make it. My scheduled appointment times are on Thursday of each week - the days that the clinic would be closed for both Christmas and New Year's holidays, so I haven't had a consultation for 3 weeks. If I show a loss of at least 8 pounds, I will meet the new goal. During the past 3 weeks, I have introduced more exercise into my daily schedule. I have been walking on the treadmill daily, but can still find so many excuses not to venture downstairs to do the workout.
So, Thursday has arrived. I start the day by filling out my new weekly excel chart where I track my progress, including foods eaten, and the exercise done for the day. I did walk for 30 minutes, then drank 32 ounces of water. Then drank my protein drink for breakfast and left for my appointment. I had been both dreading and looking forward to the weigh in - and it was finally time. I stood on the scale and somewhat held my breath until it stopped on my new weight. 278! A 10.6 pound loss - over the holidays! I couldn't believe it - in fact, I got all teary and had tears rolling down my cheeks. I DID IT! Seventy-two pounds in the first 21 weeks of program. I am now officially over one-third of the way to my final goal. It even makes the exercise something to look forward to. The comments from my family and friends make me feel so good. Guess I will continue doing more of the same. Tune in next week for an update.
Interesting note: I actually looked forward to going downstairs to walk on the treadmill this morning. And, instead of a grueling punishment, I find this program to be fun. I am truly enjoying this journey!