(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.