In the next few weeks, I am going to be doing some writing based on assignments. My answers to suggestions on writing topics from other blogs. But this week is probably my most important assignment. Mandy, the best trainer ever, sent her clients an e-mail asking us to think about some questions and answer them so that we can find out more about ourselves and our weight loss journey. I think the goal is to make sure we understand ourselves, where we have been – so we can get to where we want to go.
These questions are uncomfortable for me. I often live under the delusion that weight for me is an input/output problem. But it is so much more for me. As long as I can remember, I have mourned or obsessed about my weight almost every day. There isn’t an interaction or an activity that I participate in that isn’t somehow colored by my excess weight.
It makes me sad. But I need to not focus on the sadness, but this day, this moment, this opportunity to change my life.
And I am feeling pretty cocky right now. It has been almost two weeks since I have started living some changes that I need to make. And I am ROCKIN’ it. I am going to the gym consistently, eating pretty darn good (vegan, limited sweets). But this is an uphill battle for me. And I figure it is best to answer these questions while I am high, so that I can seek motivation and answers when I am low. Because I will be low again – and it is getting through the low times that is the test of my mettle.
So, here goes. As an aside, these are questions that Mandy discovered on Oprah. Bob Greene, Oprah’s trainer, came up with them. These were Mandy’s instructions: “These should NOT be surface answers, they should be deep. They should be things that you are really searching within yourself for the answer to.”
1. What are you really hungry for? Meaning: What are your goals/desires in life? I take this question as when you take a look back throughout your life, what do you want to have accomplished.
This is a tough one for me to answer. At age 16 I decided to become a genetic counselor. My life became about meeting that goal – studying hard to make straight As and taking internships and jobs that would get me to that goal, and saying no (partying, skipping class, taking a light load in a semester) to things that would keep me from that goal. And then I got the seventh ranking in the graduate school program, and they only took the first six ranked applicants. I got the bad news about 13 years ago. And since then I haven’t had any one big dream that drives me.
And I don’t think I want one. Last year the best conversation I had was with my friend Amy, she and I were talking about being “forced” to live in Kansas City. Both of us have had opportunities in life where we could have lived anywhere we wanted, have done anything we wanted, but both of us were relieved to live in Kansas City. For me, living in a smaller place keeps me from being overwhelmed by options. And I think that is true for my whole life. I can do anything, but at the end of the day, too many options overwhelm me. I like boundaries – I like to be required to make the best of a limited set of options. What an odd thing to admit, and I know I am not saying it quite right, but it is true of me. (And I was relieved to have a conversation to find out it was true of somebody else.)
With all of that said, though, I can’t easily come up with an accomplishments list – because I don’t have a set of accomplishments in mind for my life, and trying to pick some and drive towards them makes me unhappy. But I do have a picture of what I want my life to look like in twenty years, so I offer that to you as what I am really hungry for:
1. DH and I have enough money to live comfortably and I don’t have to push myself as hard at work. We are debt-free in a house that is sufficient, but not grand. We have enough money to take a really fabulous trip once a year.
2. DH and I have a marriage that is based on a knowledge and respect of each other, we have good conversations and still flirt with each other.
3. I have a handful of friends that are really close and that I see often. They can be counted on in emergencies, and they count on me in emergencies.
4. I am an accomplished hostess and am known by my friends for having good meals and a welcoming home.
5. I am healthy and have maintained my weight for 20 years. I jog more days per week than I don’t. I can do a staggering amount of sit ups and push ups for a 54-year old woman. I have low cholesterol and blood pressure and no chance of getting diabetes. When people ask me how long I have been vegan, I can say “20 years!” But even better would be that being vegan wouldn’t be such a unique thing 20 years from now.
6. The twins are happy in their lives and optimistic about the future. They both have college degrees, and post grad if they want them. We have been able to pay for their schooling so that they start their adult lives in a good place. I have a strong friendship with them and they both realize and appreciate what I have provided them, emotionally and monetarily. They feel their life has been richer by having me in it, and they feel I have contributed, in at least a small part, to the great people they have become.
7. I know lots more about art, philosophy, and molecular biology than I do now. I have read a 1000+ books.
2. Why are you overweight? Meaning: How have you gotten to this point? Why has taking care of your body not happened?
Ouch. The physical reasons for the fact that I am overweight are pretty simple. I never exercised regularly until August 2006 when I started working with Mandy. I eat a lot, and most of it is in the evenings. I feel very, very hungry from 4 PM on. And most of my days on this earth I have eaten past the need to satisfy that hunger. I don’t feel “full” until I have eaten too much.
I was heavy pretty early on in life and always felt like I didn’t have anything other than my humor and my brains to offer, so I didn’t value my looks, which ultimately turned into not valuing my health. I have always mourned not having romance and all that in my youth, because I was so heavy and lacked self confidence, but I also think to some degree my excess weight protected me from the world and really living in it.
And I was a horrible athlete as a child – uncoordinated – so I associated physical activity with embarrassment and failure, so avoided anything that would require me to exercise in any way.
I have turned to food more than anything to get me through tough times and to celebrate the good times. And it became a huge addiction. One I still probably struggle with every day of my life. It is what it is.
3. Why have you been unable to maintain weight loss in the past?
I have only lost weight twice in my life – once when I was in high school and once in 2005. Both times I regained the weight because I fell back into old habits as soon as I stopped paying attention. Eating too much – eating because I was happy or eating because I was stressed. I don’t know if there is an answer beyond that. I felt like I had reached a pinnacle and relaxed – and the weight comes back in dribs and drabs, not all at once. I have spent my life falling off the wagon, day after day.
4. What in your life is not working?
I need to eat vegan. Being vegan allows me to eat the volume of food I want without the depression of feeling like I am not getting enough. And I need to be vegan the rest of my life. When I allow myself cheese here and ice cream there, my body doesn’t react well. I become sluggish, unhappy feeling, and craving more dairy. When I am vegan I can easily maintain my weight, sleep better, clearer skin, happier disposition, more energy. I am sure it sounds like bollocks to a lot of people, and it probably is for a lot of people, but it is so the answer for me. And being 14+ days into being vegan, I am reminded of it.
The other thing in my life that doesn’t work is quitting when I am not perfect. If I fail in my exercise or eating plan, I completely give up until I see the scale go up, and then I snap back into action for a couple days.
Again, I have spent my life falling off the wagon, day after day. I need to remind myself constantly that this is every day of my life – that every choice, every moment counts. I have one chance, and this is it. My friend Kelly who meets me at the gym at 5:30 this morning, said something very astute this week. She came over to say hello and good morning, sighed, and said “When the alarm went off this morning, it just hit me that this is for the rest of my life.”
It may not be to most people, but it was very inspirational to me. And now when I feel like I am about to lose or quit, I sigh and remind myself that this is for the rest of my life. And I need to do it to save my life. To fix the stuff that isn’t working in my life, I need to uncover and banish the excuses that keep me from exercising and keep me from eating right.
5. Why do you want to lose weight? If the answer is to be happier, you need to search for something else. Bob Greene said this and I completely agree with him. I’m paraphrasing—-If your answer is to be happier, it’s the wrong answer because 1 of 2 things is going to happen. 1) You won’t lose the weight and still be unhappy. 2) You’ll lose the weight and realize you are still unhappy. It’s NOT the weight…it’s deeper than the weight.
Here are the reasons I want to lose weight:
1. I want to live the majority of my life not relating to people with the pall of my weight over me. I don’t want to assume that people are judging my ability based on the fact that I am overweight. I want to know what it is like to not be worried about my weight.
2. I don’t want to die. The last visit to the doctor was scary. There is so much I want to do. And in order to do it, I need to lose the weight.
3. I want one perfect night where I wear a size 12 dress (I have modest goals) and look beautiful and dance with my husband – one night while I am still youngish where I feel beautiful. I know a lot of experts would tell you that is not a good reason to want to lose weight. But it is an image in my mind that gets me through a lot of temptation, so I am going to hold it close.