Work for the Miracle

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As many of you know, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the subjects of weight loss and obesity for a few weeks now. (Can you be “a bit” obsessed??)

I’ve been reading books and blog posts by women who have won the battle (either to lose weight or to learn to love themselves the way they are). One thing they have all have in common is that there is no easy fix, no magic formula for becoming slim. (How I love—and hate—that word “slim.” Like “svelte,” it conjures up an image of a woman gracefully gliding through life, which is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do, no matter how “slim” I become.)

On the contrary, losing weight requires discipline and sacrifice, no matter how you do it. And even after losing the weight, like an alcoholic you have to be ever vigilant against falling into the bad habits that caused you to gain weight the first time (or second or third or fourth—you get the picture).

Today I’m happy to present Marilyn Polson, author of the daily weight loss blog, Wait for the Miracle. Marilyn inspires me to keep going and work harder to attain my goal. Marilyn has lost over 50 pounds since May of this year and she accomplished this mainly through diet and exercise. (She still has approximately 30-50 pounds to go.) It may seem like she’s discovered a quick fix, but believe me, she has worked hard to get this far.

Marilyn has given me permission to share her “fat” story. Maybe you’ll see some parallels to your own life. At the very least, I think it will help you to understand the mindset of a person who struggles with her weight. Although everyone is different, there are some things that all fat people can relate to.

Here, in her own words, is Marilyn’s story:

I grew up in the Twiggy era, where stick thin was in. I was not stick thin nor was I ever going to be. I wasn’t fat; I had curves and a rear end larger than it should have been, but I was still able to wear my bikini and hold my own. I wore a size 10 most of the time until my 20s. I was normal; I didn’t stick out in one way or the other.

Food however, was an issue for as long as I can remember. I felt like our dinner table was a battlefield. I was a very picky eater and my father had no tolerance for that. What Mom cooked we ate. There were no special meals prepared and you sat there until you finished your meal. Usually Mom cooked two vegetables and you had to eat one. As long as there were peas, carrots or corn I was fine. When those were not an option, I knew it was going to be a long meal. I made a vow that when I had my own home I would eat what I wanted and when.

When I married at 19 that is exactly what I did. My mom had never taught me and my sisters how to cook, but luckily my husband’s mother was a woman before her time and she taught all her kids how to cook. From day one my husband took on that chore. Even though he was a good cook, most of the time we ate junk. Mac and cheese was a constant because it was cheap. We ate a lot of casseroles because they were also cheap and easy. KFC was a steady pick; we both loved fried chicken and neither one of us ever learned to make it right. I loved my chips, Cheetos, ice cream and chocolate. One thing I could do was bake so there were always cookies, pies and cakes to enjoy. I was happy.

I always used to hide my M&M’s; even then I didn’t like to share. My nieces would come over and think it was a game to find where they were hidden. If they found the M&M’s they could have them but I didn’t help in the search, secretly hoping that my stash wouldn’t be found.

My husband joined the Army and off we went to Oklahoma. We didn’t have much then so food became an even greater issue. Some weeks mac and cheese was all we had because it was all we could afford.

I battled with problem pregnancies. Whenever I started to bleed heavily, I was not permitted to eat for 24 hours, sometimes longer, in case I had to have surgery. Mentally I would eat all I could when I could because I never knew when the fast would begin. That was the start of binging behavior. By the time I was 24, I had had four miscarriages and was told that I shouldn’t get pregnant again. I did manage to lose enough weight to be “normal” again; my average size was a 12. That wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, but I still felt fat.

My husband was a very jealous man and Army life made matters worse. He was never violent toward me but if a man was talking to me he would punch first and ask questions later. It was humiliating. I consciously decided to gain weight because I thought I would then become invisible. Men would no longer talk to me and that issue would resolve itself. Only it didn’t work. I have a personality that people find easy to approach and the problem persisted.

By the time I was 30, we were living in Texas. I was an apartment manager and we had a problem at the family pool with a drunk who had unacceptable behavior. I went out to ask him to leave the pool area and he said to me, “I bet you were a fox when you were young.” I was crushed. I was already not taking turning 30 well. Now I felt old and fat. So I ate more. It got so bad, the girls in my office started emptying my desk drawers and throwing away the food. I just went to the store and bought more.

My husband was now a full-fledged alcoholic and life was getting too big to handle. Food was now my best and only friend. He worked late, I ate. He came home, I ate. The cycle was non-stop. The more he drank the more I ate. Even then I was a size 16 and at 5’4” I was certainly overweight but felt that it was still still manageable.

In 1990, my husband left the military. Life was hard but at least I was home again. I joined a diet program and lost most of the weight. I was 140 pounds and back to a size 12. I even became a group leader part time. We needed the money and I enjoyed the meetings.

At 40 I was healthy and at a good weight but then I decided to quit smoking. I started to gain weight. The doctor told me to do something I couldn’t do if I smoked so I started running. I worked up to two miles a day but I didn’t stop eating. I ran right up until I got too fat to do it anymore! My metabolism was shattered.

I started every kind of diet you can imagine and nothing worked. I was injected with urine from pregnant women; I took diet pills, drank protein shakes, and ate odd combinations of food that were supposed to complement each other (as long as there were no vegetables involved!). Adkins worked for a short time but I couldn’t stick with it. I moved from diet to diet getting more and more frustrated.

I was divorced in 2001 and all my friends told me to lose weight or I would never attract another man. I told them all I didn’t need any man who didn’t want me as I was. I was self-sufficient and I was going to enjoy my life. After all, I went from my daddy’s home to my husband’s home; I had never lived on my own. It was about time I learned to please myself. This was actually a great excuse to binge even more. I hid my pain in food. Still not a cook, I had take-out on the nights my mom didn’t cook for me. Snacks were staples; that sweet and salt cycle. I ate until the pain went away.

I found myself hovering around 200 pounds and was mortified. I started another diet program in 2003 and lost 35 pounds and felt good again. I started going dancing for the exercise and socialization. I needed to learn to be around men; I hadn’t dated since 1974! Dancing was great; I could get used to being close and not have to deal with any other issues. And then I met John.

John liked me just the way I was. He was kind to me and affectionate. I didn’t know how much I craved that until I received it. He was constant motion and another alcoholic. (I never learn the first time!) We had a ball; we went dancing and bar hopping all the time. I rarely drank so I was the DD (designated driver). We both found what we needed. And then binging reared its ugly head again. We ate out almost every night: wings, pizza, steaks, junk, junk and more junk. We married in 2005 and the cycle continued. When I tried to diet it was useless. Our lifestyle did not support any kind of moderation.

In 2007, John had a spiritual awakening and stopped drinking cold turkey. What I prayed for became a reality. Our life slowly started to make sense and change; except I was not able to stop binging. I joined other programs and learned about eating addictions. I ate for the very reason alcoholics drank. I learned that binging was a behavior, not an emotion. That helped me to gain some control. I also learned that most diets had built-in binge food. Once I figured that out I was able to view dieting differently. I didn’t lose weight but my attitude started to change. I was not ready for the total surrender yet.

In May of 2011 my physician told me that if I did not lose weight I was headed for diabetes. That scared me silly. My dad had food-related diabetes and while it didn’t lead to his death, it certainly didn’t help. I did not want to become a diabetic. I was ready. I was also 241 pounds and miserable.

I decided to Google all the diets in Central Florida and one by one eliminated the programs that I knew I would not work. I read and I made phone calls. Once I found the program that I felt was right for me I made the appointment and got started. June 1st, 2011 was the beginning of a new life.

I follow this new program even when I think I cannot. I also added all the things that every diet I ever used told me to do. I use small plates and silverware, I corralled a support system, I exercise, I journal (blog), anything I can think of I do. Now it is working. I feel better than I have felt in years. There are no more excuses; I must lose the weight.

I don’t have a goal or target weight yet. My doctor and I will decide that when the time comes. Right now I am just going to focus on day to day and not worry about the long term. I set small goals for myself and give non-food rewards when they are met. I pray constantly to my God for support and strength. I believe this is important. I never allowed God to be a part of the process before. Now I can tell when I am leading the way and when I surrender. It is amazing. I don’t know how long this will take but I am willing to keep moving forward and live my life. I am doing this for me. I want a life worth living today.

Marilyn in June, 2011
8-31-2011
8-31-2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read my own “fat” story here: “My Big Fat Story.” It has a lot of similarities to Marilyn’s except that at the time I wrote it, I hadn’t started to lose weight. If you have a story of your own you’d like to share, just go to “Contact” and drop me a line.

 

 

 

 

 

How 9/11 Changed America

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I’ve heard people say that they think 9/11 brought us closer as Americans. They point to the way we responded to the crisis when the towers came down: all those who willingly risked (and sometimes lost) their lives in order to bring others to safety. I’ve heard about the bravery and courage of so many on that day, it’s hard to not be stirred by their stories.

But the way we respond to something bad in our lives doesn’t just mean how we respond at the moment the bad thing happens. It also means how we respond afterward, when the sky has cleared and the dead have been buried (those who could be found, that is). I’m proud of the Americans who reached out to help after 9/11. But I’m not proud of what we have become since then.

Before 9/11 we thought we were invincible. We thought nothing could touch us. I understand that 9/11 changed that belief and made us paranoid about it happening again. I’m not saying that those fears are unfounded. But instead of making us more empathetic about all the world’s people who experience similar (or worse) tragedies, we adopted a “Poor me!” attitude. 9/11 was horrible and shocking, but it pales in comparison to things that happen daily in other parts of the globe (or even our own nation).

It’s normal when you’re anxious to try to find a target for your fears. If you can identify the enemy, it gives you something to focus on. We were anxious after 9/11 and we needed to know how to protect ourselves from it happening again. I understand that. But I don’t think that excuses the distrust and hatred of not just Muslims, but of anyone who is “different.” Do you think it’s an accident that people are more emotional about immigration than they used to be? We think we’ll be safe if we keep all foreigners out of America (except for, of course, the acceptable ones).

Ten years ago, conservatives were critical of liberals, but they weren’t as outspoken as they are today. And they were more civil, even during political campaigns. Now conservative talk-show hosts say the most outrageous and hateful things they can think of, and no one blinks an eye. (That’s not entirely true: there are plenty of people who don’t like it, but we don’t have the voice conservatives do.) And it’s not just the pundits like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham, it’s also the politicians. Judging by the last presidential campaign, I shudder just thinking about how uncivil the conversation will be this time around.

I’m also appalled at how willing people are to give up their individual freedoms. Homeland Security is our country’s “secret police force.” They have powers we don’t even know about. We have no idea to what extent they can snoop around in our lives and it’s all legal. We can be detained without reason or with no representation. All it takes is the suspicion that we might have something to do with terrorism.

And to make matters worse, we’re just supposed to sit and take it. Protesting is compared to committing treason. Right after 9/11, even comedians toned down their political satire; they were that afraid of being branded as unpatriotic. I remember a hush over the country, as if everyone was tip-toeing around the elephant in the room: the reactionary policies of a paranoid President and government.

Has America learned anything in the past ten years about courage? Courage to stand up for our convictions, to speak our minds, to fight for what we believe is right? Have we learned anything about charity, about helping others, even at great cost to ourselves?  And most of all, have we learned anything about tolerance? Are we more aware that we are all interconnected? Has the world become smaller for us, or is America still the center of our universe?

When the towers came down on 9/11/01, it was like a nuclear bomb went off. And ten years later, we’re still dealing with the fall-out.

[Cross-posted on my other blog, I, Muslimah.]

What Do You Think of “Maggie Goes On a Diet”?

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Maggie Goes On a Diet hasn’t even come out yet and it’s already sparked world-wide controversy. There’s even a “Say No to Maggie Goes On a Diet by Paul M. Kramer” page on Facebook, for instance. Experts, educators and parents are weighing in (no pun intended) on the issue of whether this is an appropriate book for 8 to 12 year-olds. (Amazon cites it as being for 4-8 year-olds, which makes it even more controversial.) Critics worry that it will lead to eating disorders at worst and hurt feelings at best.

This video shows parts of the book and includes an interview with the author (who, ironically, is very overweight himself, a fact no one mentions in the interview).

My worry is about how this book gets in the hands of a grade-school girl. If the book is given to her personally the message she’s going to get is, “They think I’m fat.” Even if it’s true that a child needs to lose weight, there are more sensitive ways of approaching the issue. A fat person knows he or she is fat, especially in this society with all the images of skinny people on TV and in movies and commercials. Not only that, but he or she has been sent the message that fat people are marginal in our society. Maggie herself achieves “fame and popularity” as a soccer player, but not until she becomes thin. Admittedly, part of the book’s message is that Maggie is not only fat, but she’s also not physically fit and supposedly the author’s intent was to show kids a model of how to become more healthy. But the truth is, you don’t have to be skinny to be physically fit, yet you wouldn’t know that from this book.

There are other things I take issue with, like the part where the author writes that Maggie got fat from eating bread and cheese. No one food makes someone fat and in fact bread and cheese are sensible parts of any diet. I also wonder why the author doesn’t criticize the kids who tease and bully Maggie for being fat. He acts as if this is a given—fat people are going to be treated badly—and seems to view it as a motivator for a fat person to lose weight. When in reality we should be teaching our children that it’s not right to be mean to people who are different, even if that difference is that that they’re fat.

I also question the title. Wouldn’t it have been better, and more sensitive, to have called it, “Maggie Makes Her Dreams Come True” or even “Maggie Gets Fit”? The author says that the word “diet” has many meanings and not all of them are negative. This just shows his insensitivity. Telling someone that they need to go on a diet does carry a negative connotation. It’s code for, “You’re fat.”

If a little girl finds this book in the library or book store and expresses interest in it, it might be a sign that she is ready to do something about her weight problem. But if she doesn’t have a weight problem, that should be a red flag that you need to have a conversation about body image and eating disorders.

But perhaps the biggest problem I have with the book is that it targets girls. If the author had come out with editions for boys and girls, I would have felt better about it. Girls are already bombarded with the message that they must be thin. Boys, not so much. What made the author think that his best audience would be female? Perhaps because he knows that they’re more likely to be concerned about their weight? The facts are that boys are more likely to be obese than girls. [Source.]

What do you think about this book or others like them? Do you think they’re helpful or hurtful? Are you comfortable with the target of grade school girls?