Monday, April 02, 2007

The Skinny

I started WeightWatchers for the first time in April 2002. My friend Sara and I went in together, unsure of what we were getting ourselves into and maybe even less sure about whether or not it would work. My starting weight that evening was 230 pounds even. I was 230 pounds, a smoker, wearing size 22 or 24 clothing (I’d stopped caring at that point whether or not things actually fit) and got out of breath when I tied my shoes. Pictures came back from my dad’s ordination ceremony that spring and I’d realized that I looked like all my other family members – all the family members that had been hospitalized for multiple heart and stomach surgeries or diabetes, experienced significant difficulty when trying to do things like stand up from a couch or stay awake behind the wheel of a moving car, and ate and ate and ate for lack of anything else to do or talk about. Visits to my grandparents’ house revolve around meal times – when you get up, breakfast. At 11:30am, lunch. At 4:00pm, dinner. It’s not a question of your level of hunger – it’s just what you do at that time of day. The ultimate irony? Visits to my grandparents’ house also include ingesting many, many things that are fat free, sugar free, low- fat, low calorie, etc., etc. They buy in, 100%, to the notion that these things are better for you, and still manage to be morbidly obese. Go figure.

Looking back, I’m able to identify behavior that led to my weight gain: depression, ignorance, eating at Chipotle three or more times per week, eating whole pizzas by myself, polishing off whole bags of salt and vinegar chips, skipping anything that remotely resembled a vegetable and rarely, if ever, exercising. At the time, while I was watching my weight climb, I was perplexed. I had conversations with my mom and remember telling her that I didn’t know why I was gaining so much weight. I even brought it up to a physician and had her tell me that I should run, not walk, for at least 20 minutes every day and build up from there, and eat 25 fat grams or less every day. That was it. Those instructions seemed somehow too nebulous to follow, so I didn’t, but I was realizing that something had to be done.

There’s a part of obesity that feels like freedom. Freedom to eat what you want, when you want. Freedom to eat things that you perceive as tasting good. Freedom to avoid being a slave to a gym. At some point I realized that what I was experiencing wasn’t freedom – it was slavery. My life totally revolved around food.

After a week on the WeightWatchers program, I had lost a couple of pounds to my friend Sara’s six. I plugged away and managed, without much difficulty, to lose a couple of pounds a week for months. Sara eventually left the program but I continued, learning about exercise and food intake and nutrition for the first time in my life, and taking control of my health.

It’s been an eventful five years, and I’ve had ups and downs with WeightWatchers. Sometimes I needed to focus energy on other things besides weight loss. But by summer 2004, I had lost upwards of 75 pounds. Try to pick up 75 pounds sometime and walk around with it. That was what it was like for me to move around every day as an obese person. No wonder I was so sedentary – it’s exhausting to move with that much weight on you!

Despite all the ups and downs, I’ve never actually set or hit “goal”. At the beginning, I wasn’t even sure what that would look like. This past summer, I’d managed to pack on some extra weight, and so returned to WeightWatchers just before Thanksgiving. It’s been going fine, but I’m staring the five year anniversary of when I first started this journey in the face, and I just want it to be done. So the goal is to hit goal by the end of this month.

This is proving to be easier said than done. When you’re not very far from goal, you lose slower, and your weight bounces up and down a little bit. What’s more, I’m in the final “points range” for WeightWatchers – I only get 20 per day. As a frame of reference, one Chipotle burrito is around 27 points, one slice of cheese pizza is 8 points, one cup of rice is 4 points, one egg is 2 points, one bottle of beer is 3 points, one piece of fruit is usually 1 point, etc. Once you start putting ingredients or meals together, 20 points are gone fast. So I find myself in the interesting position of deciding what I’m willing to do long term, and therefore what weight I’m willing to maintain.

The fact remains that I have never, ever been in good of shape as I am right now. I haven’t weighed this little since I was 13. I zipped up my wedding dress without any sort of corset situation and looked fabulous in it. The value of WeightWatchers for me at this juncture isn’t the weight loss as much as it is the support, but the stubborn part of me is still after those last 5 pounds.

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