Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Million Ways

I had to go pants shopping yesterday because my current trousers are extremely baggy.  During my intensive clothes hunt, I realized I may have reached the pinnacle of fitness for my body.  I couldn't wear a size 8 which was the last size I wore after Ben's pregnancy.  I had to try either a size 6 or even a 4 for pants.
Diane in 2010.
It was a satisfying feeling.  Now, you must know, this took me 42 plus years to do it.  I was never this trim or shapely.  Weight loss has been hard to achieve for so long.  That is why I sympathize with either side of the fitness battle.  It takes a mountain of effort and a persistence of a lifetime.

I  read an interesting article in the New York Time's travel section.  Michelle Higgins wrote about a conundrum with morbidly obese airline passengers.  How do airline companies treat people who struggle with their weight.  Do they publicly embarrass them, secretly hoping it's  a wake up call for them?  Or should they look upon them with compassion and find a equitable way for large people to travel.

I am on the side of being empathetic toward overweight or obese people.  Granted I have never been morbidly obese, but I did have a BMI of 37 post pregnancy(it is considered obese).  Sometimes overweight people find themselves in a no-win situation.  They may also lack the knowledge or self-motivation for healthy change.  Luckily, I was able to climb out of the hole I dug myself into.  Not everyone is that fortunate.  I know I don't want to be that large again, but I still feel some kinship with those that wrestle with their weight.

Diane and Ben in 2001
The United States is a strange country to me.  We love the idea of thinness and fitness but not quite 30% of Americans are obese.  That means we are more than overweight.  We are extremely large people.  And what type of people do we watch on television or view in our magazines?   The perfect human specimen.  Supposedly, the average female model is  23% thinner than a typical woman.  Why do we set an unattainable goal for ourselves?  Eating disorders are prevalent among models and actors.  How do we find a more realistic view of ourselves?

I want to share some of the wisdom that I've acquired over the course of my forty-two plus years.  I started dieting when I was in my teens.  Gosh I was so hopeful.  I never could fit in with the athletic set but I thought I would try.  I tried counting calories but failed miserably.  I just never learned how to eat right.  Yes, I was a little obsessed with my weight.  I thought it was the key to my happiness.  My adolescence was all about image and I believed I didn't have the right look.

My weight problem escalated in college.  I probably gained another forty pounds while working in the fast food industry.  What a place to be for an overweight young woman!  Unfortunately, I didn't have very good eating habits as a young woman.  I was eating high calorie foods and not exercising enough so I put on the weight.  I felt powerless under my condition at the time.  It would take another  five years before I could master my health.

After I was married and finished graduate school, I was confronted with my physical state.  I saw the doctor for a check on my noisy knees.   My physician said the best way to treat it was to lose about fifty pounds.  I was upset and didn't like his prognosis.  However, it got me motivated to learn how to eat better.  I discovered that initiative helps tremendously with weight loss but later realized it wasn't the only ingredient.

Mike and Diane in 1999.

I started to exercise after my wake up call.  I would ride my bike indoors on a trainer after work.  I liked riding my bike so much I even started commuting.  It felt good and I thought I turned the corner with my weight struggles.   I also stopped eating second helpings during meals and ate salads for lunch.  After six months of this routine, I dropped about 40 pounds.

I got pregnant shortly after achieving a healthy weight.  Since this was my first pregnancy, I had no clue how to eat in that condition.  I pretty much let myself go and didn't worry about how much weight I gained.  Unfortunately, that attitude helped me reach the same obesity level I had before kids.  My weight gain was frustrating.

I decided to join Weight Watchers which was a good thing at the time for me.  After about a year, I was able to lose about sixty pounds.  That was a huge success for me because I don't think I was that thin even in my high school years.

Diane and Ben in 2002.

The only problem I had with Weight Watchers (WW) is that the program doesn't teach you how to eat properly.  At this moment in time, I am sure there will be some WW fanatic that will tell me otherwise.  I was starving (and I mean, I am about to chew on Michael because dinner is late type of hunger).  I realize that you should reduce your calories to progress to a lower weight, but there has to be another satisfying way to do it.  In addition, Weight Watchers endorses manufactured food which is heavily processed and not natural.  I wanted a healthier way to eat.  

After I got pregnant and had my second child.  I decided to lose the pregnancy weight by using FitDay.  FitDay is a free website that helps dieters to keep track of calories consumed each day.  The website has a journal in which an individual can enter weight changes and compile calorie burning activities.  It was good for me to realize how much I was eating in the course of a day.  I was amazed at how easily calories could add up.  One drawback with this weight loss method is that you can underestimate the size of portions you consume and therefore undercount your calories.  Another problem with the calorie journal is that it only works if you are faithful to keeping track of food consumption.  I wanted a less intensive weight loss method. 

I did FitDay and started exercising in my basement with weights.  I didn't have time or money to join a gym and wanted convenience so I used Collage Video to find fitness DVDs.  I was able to trim myself down to my pre pregnancy weight.  Unfortunately I got pregnant again when I reached my healthy weight.

Diane and Tim in 2004.
Now, my third pregnancy as you know was hard to control because of being on bed rest.  I was unable to exercise at all so my weight ballooned.  I tried to be kind to myself.  It was hard knowing that I once was a thin person.  I rationalized all my weight gain by thinking I was sacrificing my body for my son (I would do it all over again, if I had to).  Outsiders may have seen me as an obese person but I knew I could loose the weight again after I was done breastfeeding.   Therefore, I am sympathetic to people that struggle with their weight because of my own experience.  Each person is on a different path and it might take him or her time to find a healthy way to live.

Well, I wanted something other than Weight Watchers and FitDay to aid my weight loss.  I tried the South Beach Diet because I didn't want to log in all of my food each day.  It actually was a good foundation for learning how to eat.  South Beach tries to fill a dieter's stomach with lean protein and fiber.  I still wasn't sure if I wanted to follow South Beach religiously.  

When I came across Walter Willet's book Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, his method of eating seemed like a more rational way to eat.  Willet's nutritional plan is less rigid than South Beach which is fine with me.   I started eating more vegetables and less potatoes because of their effect on blood sugar.  I also minimized my portions of protein.  When eating dinner, if I required a second helping, I would have more vegetables not protein or carbohydrates.  This worked great for my weight loss.

I also exercised about five out of seven days each week.  To keep myself interested in exercise, I varied my workout.  I used a bunch of aerobic DVDs for a workout and would do weight training on alternate days.  In addition, I walked two miles a day if I could fit it in my schedule.  I think the combination of eating well and exercising more really made me fit.

In year five of my weight loss after my third child, it has been slow and steady.  I know that's what experts recommend.  Diets only work if they are a lifestyle change and that might be the problem with short term weight fixes.  I have made permanent changes to my way of eating and exercise.  The last refinement that I made to my eating habits was portion control.  I found that by switching to smaller plates, cups and bowls contributed to even more weight loss.  

I see why it has been a struggle for myself and the average American.  I was taught that a rounded meal included a third each of carbohydrates, vegetables and protein.  Today I know a better plate consists of  half vegetables with a quarter each of protein and complex carbohydrates.  Likewise, it's important to exercise aerobically with strength training at least five days out of the week.  Oh and portion size means a lot.  The size of American dinner plates are too large.  It is better to use a luncheon plate or bowl for all meals.

That previous paragraph consists of my wisdom from the last forty some years of my life.  Nevertheless, the most important lesson I have learned about fitness and health is to be persistent and patient.  I have tried about a million ways to lose weight.  Sooner or later some of them worked.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share this journey. I'm dealing with 25 lb. since stopping smoking. Nicotine is both wonderful and very very terrible. Keeps you thin and kills you along the way.

    I agree that portion control is HUGE. We are switching to the salad plates and it does make a difference.