By the numbers.
My entire life, Iâ€™ve been heavier-than-average. Iâ€™ve had my times of adorable chubbiness (primarily before the age of, oh, seven or eight), my times of fatness, my times of chunkiness, my times of curvaceousness. My times of picking the language that not only describes my body but perhaps more appropriately describes how Iâ€™m feeling about it at the time. Or how others are making me feel about it.
When I was a kid I got teased. Not bullied; certainly not in the way that todayâ€™s children must suffer at the hands of tormentors who can reach them not only in school but also online, electronically, constantly. (I seriously thank God the internet didnâ€™t exist when I was a kid.) But I didnâ€™t just get teased because I was fat, I got teased because I had a ridiculous overbite, and I was the first kid to get glasses, and the first kid to get boobs, and on and on. Mostly I think what that did was make me stubborn.
Iâ€™ve talked before about some self-defeating mental loops Iâ€™ve caught myself in over time. Here is a typical one, I think this one started in high school:
I sure like that boy. I bet if I were thinner heâ€™d like me. But if thatâ€™s true, how terrible! Iâ€™m more than just what I look like! And so is he! If I try to change myself JUST for that boy, or any boy, that would be wrong! But being thinner would be nice. Because then maybe that other boy, the quiet one, he would…no! I am not dieting to attract a man!Â
Around and around and around. Itâ€™s a nice idea at the base. But I think in a lot of ways it was an excuse.
There was no way for me to think of my weight without emotion. Either I built myself a shaky kind of high ground, as above, or I tore myself down and dug a hole. I did know, on some level, that it was really about treating myself better, not about numbers on a scale. It was about what I ate, not because â€śitâ€™ll go straight to my hips!â€ť but because what we consume is important. It is our fuel, and gives us the energy to do what we can with these brilliant flashes of life weâ€™re given.
Maybe I knew that under it all I should treat myself better, but it still took a lot of things to start moving my stubborn mind. First there was exercise. Because, I reasoned not incorrectly, I was damned lazy. ANY exercise was more than I was getting, ergo I could add that one thing and not take anything away and boom! I would lose weight!
And I did, a little.
Then I got diagnosed with Type II diabetes, and met with a nutritionist. She was very cut and dry. â€śYou need to eat 188 grams of carbohydrates per day or fewer,â€ť she said. She also gave me pamphlets and a blood glucose meter and a lot of smiles and compliments, but she gave me a simple number to hold onto. Keep exercising, and watch only carbs. Simple! Iâ€™d lose weight and help control my blood sugar!
And I did! More so! I still needed drugs to help my enfeebled pancreas, though.
Somewhere along the way, and Iâ€™m not sure where, I realized that by treating myself better I felt better. I didnâ€™t just feel better about the way I looked, though – I felt better about the way I felt. I had energy, for the first time in what felt like forever. I walked with a spring in my step, not just because I was toting around a few less pounds but because I was treating myself well. I hadnâ€™t precisely hated my body, no. But I had been neglectful.
Still, the emotions and comfort associated with food are strong. I lost weight, and then during the summer and fall when my father sickened and died, I gained some back. Not all that much. But some. And then came that eternal winter, Snowmageddon, and what did I do to entertain myself those long, snowy days? I baked. Cookies, scones, whatever. And I ate. I took some to friends, and to work, but I ate a lot too. What a comfort, a cold snowy day and a warm scone. Or five.
(For the record I never ate five scones.)
(At one sitting.)
I gained a little more back. And Iâ€™ve been wobbling around on this plateau ever since, over two years now. Itâ€™s not a bad plateau. I treat myself so much better than I used to. And I have turned into a person who loves to exercise, even if people who buy that crap about how you canâ€™t possibly be heavy and healthy at the same time wouldnâ€™t believe it.
That plateau bugged me. Because it was my emotions, coming back. Not just eating my way through loss and loneliness, but grudge-holding â€śitâ€™s not fairâ€ť emotions. Itâ€™s not fair I canâ€™t eat like I used to. Itâ€™s not fair that as hard as I work out, I canâ€™t budge that scale. Itâ€™s not fair that so-and-so can eat five scones in a sitting.
Right, itâ€™s not. So?
A couple of weeks ago I finally got a new little toy, one several friends had first. Itâ€™s called a Fitbit, and itâ€™s kind of a marvel. Daily, now, I track what I eat – not out of grudge-holding, not out of health-related-alarm, not because (heaven forfend!) anyone told me to, but because itâ€™s fun! Itâ€™s like a game! The game is called, can you burn more than you consume? I get up and work out, boom! A tally of my deeds is presented to me! I eat a sensible lunch, boom, a tally of my sensibility shows I am keeping my equation balanced! There is even a certain pride when I eat a decidedly non-sensible lunch, because I am honest with myself and the tracker, and I can own up and say, â€śHey, know what happened? The equation got a little skewed.â€ť
Iâ€™ve lost like three pounds in three weeks, but thatâ€™s not what itâ€™s about. What itâ€™s about is knowing. And not judging. So help me, after all this time, reducing the whole thing to simple math might be the thing. Math isnâ€™t judging me. Math doesnâ€™t care how many calories are in that scone. Itâ€™s just a tool. So that if itâ€™s working, I know why, and if itâ€™s not working, I also know why, and can make changes if I want to. If I want to! I donâ€™t have to! That little gadget is just as pleased as punch with me when I eat steamed broccoli as when I have a scone! Here is your number! Here is your tally! Here is how well you slept! Look, you climbed some steps, hooray!
Math. Math, a calmer mind, and a few gold stars. Whoâ€™dâ€™ve thunk?