About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weighty Truce

(Where are we in the weight loss wars? That's the question from Grace over at Mama Rehema's , our host for this week's Fun Monday. In the first month of a new year and after the excesses of more eating and less exercising of the recent holiday season, Graces wants to know about the diets and fitness plans we've tried, or are working on right now. Well, truth be told, we tend to approach the whole fitness regimen--eating right, exercising, destressing, maintaining balance--as an all out war. Many of us win a few skirmishes, but lose the war. But, perhaps I should only speak for myself. And that is, after nearly 60 years of weight wars, I've called a truce.)

Recently I've been preserving old family photos by scanning them into chronological computer files. One file is of my own school pictures from ages four to eighteen. How interesting to study these snapshots of time and place and note changes in appearance and hints to an emerging personality. There's the sweet , almost baby faces with those shy eyes, of the younger years. The years of unfortunate hairstyles and sometimes bad fashion choices--the rhinestone necklace in the fourth grade, the bad haircuts and perms, and that one year when I decided to be a redhead. One thing was consistent though, I have always struggled with my weight. Looking at the faces in these pictures, I see that there were years when I lost the struggle, and years when I won. For example, in this photo I was seven years old and already beginning to be a round little girl.

Growing up in the country in the 40s and 50s it was okay to be a fat kid. In fact, a fat baby was considered a pretty baby. Women who had some "meat" on their bones were desirable. That meant their husbands would not be saddled with a sickly woman who wouldn't be able to put in the long days of farm work and still bear the number of children that a farmer needed for his on-demand labor force. My mother, Bonnie, was such a woman--physically big and the dominant force in our family. Notice how she's holding me in this photo taken in 1946. Looks like I'm already trying to make a break and not getting too far!

That included any attempts at dieting. When I started trying to lose weight to be more like my school friends, Bonnie told me I'd eat what she prepared, lots of cheap, home-raised country food. In her opinion I was just fine. This attitude was such a contrast to experiences I heard about from my friends or read in books. Some children suffer for years trying to live in a home where every bit of food they ate was monitored by a parent, usually a mother, who didn't want the shame of having a fat kid. If you've dealt with this yourself, I'd recommend these two books: Thin is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel and, even more compelling, Passing for Thin--Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self by Frances Kuffel. Frankel is a former magazine editor and Kuffel a literary agent. They know how to tell a memorable affecting story. If you have been fighting the weight wars--often with family, friends and colleagues as adversaries--then these two women's stories from childhood to adulthood may show you a way out.

But enough about the past. By now you're probably asking yourself, "So where's Faye's weighty truce?" Here it is:

1. At 63 years old, I'm never going to lose the amount of weight that I need to, so I'm going to be content with losing 20 pounds ver-rr-y gradually.

2. Be happy that I'm strong, healthy and active--concentrate on keeping my numbers in the good range (BP, CHO, etc.). Continue to challenge my body through exercise like pilates (still going for an honest to goodness roll up without help) and distance walking.

3. Eat real food, including cake if I want to, not that diet or drive through junk. Work on the portion size.

4. Keep happy and in tune with my body and spirit by daily attention to what I'm doing to ensure that I continue to live a strong, healthy, and fulfilling life.

My ace in the hole for maintaining this truce is this book which I've used on and off for the past year. Those of you who are writers are probably familiar with Julia Cameron. She's written many books on artistic creativity and the writing process: The Artist's Way, Walking in the World, The Right to Write, The Sound of Paper. And now there's The Writing Diet, Write Yourself Right-Size. The premise is simple really:when you feel the urge to take up the spoon and fork, grab a pen instead. Write to figure out why you need/want to eat and is there something else you should do instead? Start each day with what Cameron calls Morning Pages, three pages of stream of consciousness writing where you become more in tune with your own needs and desires, or as she says,"instead of eating, find out,through writing, what's eating you so you can make peace with it." The plan works for me. Last, year, during the three toughest months of my life I followed the morning pages practice and kept a food, exercise and spirit journal every day and lost weight and maintained my sanity. When I go on oblivious pilot and don't follow the plan, I gain back the weight. I'm back to using my pen as a weapon because "the pen is mightier than the fork"!

Now Monday is almost over so be sure to head over to Grace's place for other Fun Monday accounts of the diet wars.


ChrisB said...

I grew up a couple of years ahead of you and after the war I think my parents thought they were being kind to feed us as well as they could. I was always a fat child but hated it, especially when I got to my teens and I was teased at school.

I like your philosophy and wish I could be as positive as you.

The Church Lady said...

Sounds like a recipe for life! I like your philosophy.

Molly said...

Looking at your first picture makes me smile. I have a very similar picture with the same hairdo.

You make a good point with "Keep happy and in tune with my body and spirit by daily attention to what I'm doing to ensure that I continue to live a strong, healthy, and fulfilling life."

BS said...

I have always been a "plus size" girl - what matters most is how I feel AND right now, I need to lose a few lbs. I'll never be smaller than a 16 - but don't want to go up into the 20's - the clothes just aren't stylish (imo). Seriously - lifestyle and attitude is the key.

Pamela said...

I was never heavy until I passed 40.
Then I had a sick mother, and a sick daughter, and it just spriraled out of control. Never regained it.

My mom cut all of our hair. My brother called our hair cuts T-bangs. I don't know the origin of that but it stuck.

m (the misanthrope) said...

Wonderful post as usual, Faye! Very insightful and thought-provoking, thank you! I was fascinated with your explanation of how, "back in the day", a fuller-figured woman was considered preferable. Women needed to be strong and capable of dealing with the rigors of daily life.

Isn't it funny how society's standards of beauty have changed? I seem to remember reading about a Renaissance-era artist (I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember his name) who painted full-figured women. These were the "pin-ups" of the day. A curvier woman was deemed more desirable, because in a time when many people didn't have enough food, a full figure meant that a woman was strong and well-fed (and, possibly, wealthy).

I really like your philosophy. I feel that there is too much pressure on women to be "thin", when they really need to focus on being HEALTHY. Bravo to you and your fabulous attitude! And once again, I believe I've written more in your comments section than I have on my own blog :-) Sorry!

Patience-please said...

I love reading your writing! And I LOVED your Jan 20th entry...

Faye said...

chrisb--food is love? that was the attitude in that time. I don't remember being teased much, but I had only a few select friends who thought I was funny enough to hang around with.

church lady--I've had--have--a good, adventurous life. I should be positive.

molly--did your mother also have a rule about no "hair in your face"? That was my mother's--no bangs allowed.

bs--I too have that size that I'm not going over. In retirement I have this half joking rule that at least once a week you need to put on some pants with a zipper and waistband just to check how things are holding!

pamela--problems can either knock the fat off or help pile it on. I've experienced both extremes. And T-bangs? Know what they look like but not permitted by my mother, although she did cut my hair.

misanthrope--you're right about cultural perceptions of beauty. My big butt was admired in the West Indies where I lived for a few years (called a Portugese bum--don't know why except that it was flat instead of bubble!) Thin women were referred to insultingly as "mawgadogs."

patience--thanks, that's good coming from a writer. And I too have enjoyed different people's impressions of the inauguration. BTW, just saw a news account that Paducah is covered with ice. Hope your power holds out.

Lane said...

What a lovely looking little girl, young Faye was. Those eyes!

I've loved all of Julia Cameron's books (except Floor Sample. That one not so much) and shall definitely look out for this one.

I love your last line "the pen is mightier than the fork".
Is that from the book or you? If it's you then wow!

Janis said...

You have a great outlook on how to live your life. That book sounds very interesting.

colleen said...

I think of writing as taking my psychic blood pressure or getting a tarot reading.

I hadn't heard of this book till now.