Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The first time I was called "fat" was when I was 8 years old. It was in school and our gym class was going through a height and weight check. The gym teacher said our measurements aloud as she marked them in her book. I remember her words clearly - 46 inches, 62 pounds. The girl who was directly ahead of me spoke clearly and convincingly - "62? You're fat!"

If you look at height/weight charts, 58 pounds is average for an 8 year old child.
So, yes, I was 4 pounds above the average but I probably wasn't fat. But that's all it took. That's when the scale entered my life.

I've mentioned before that I grew up in a poor family. I don't say that for effect - it's simply truth. My mother did wonders with her food budget and we went without in many areas for her to put meat and potatoes and bread on the table. Those were my father's favorites and she did what she could to supply them. I don't remember many suppers where those three things were not on the table. Not eating was not an option. You didn't turn your nose up at food.

As time went on, my self-consciousness grew. As I look back at pictures from my childhood, it appears that the weight started coming on in junior high. I judged myself as fat. I compared myself to thin friends and classmates and always saw myself as too big. Of course, I didn't compare myself to those who were heavier than I - I just didn't see them even though they were there. The slow creep of weight continued into high school and then college.

I played racquetball in college - during my Freshman and Sophomore years - up to three times a day but let that slide when I got involved in theatre and competitive speech. But when I moved to Minneapolis and took a full-time job here, I decided that it was time to grow up and really make a conscious effort to be healthy. I started exercising every day and making healthy eating choices.

My weight, however, continued its upward creep. My size 12 went to a size 14 and then to a 16. Doctors said 'eat less - exercise more.' So I did. I ate less and less and less. I exercised more and more and more. No change. I ate carrots and fruit and fish. I cut out bread and potatoes and sweets. No change. I swam 40 laps a day in an Olympic size pool. No change. I started every morning with a 4 mile walk, then later in the day did 45 minutes of cardio on the elliptical machine and did a circuit on the nautilus equipment. No change.

Last year, my new chiropractor asked me to keep a food diary. I did. I was diligent. I wrote down everything I ate - and I do mean everything. If I ate a grape from the bowl on the counter, it went on my list. If I took a yogurt raisin from the bowl in the break room at the office, I wrote it down. When he examined my three week diary, he questioned me - "Did you write everything down?" "Everything" I said honestly. His response - "You don't eat very much." That's what I've been trying to tell people.

I will be honest with you all -- I got tired of the fight. I got tired of people in restaurants looking at me with disdain if I ate food. I got tired of people, sometimes total strangers, commenting on my weight. I got tired of doctors and nurses reacting with surprise when they see that my blood pressure is a relatively consistent 110/60. I got tired of my friend saying to me "If I exercised as much as you do, I'd be a pencil."

I'm not a pencil. I will never be a size 6. And, finally I decided that I am who I am and I am happy with who I am. I am healthy. My blood pressure levels are excellent. My cholesterol levels are within normal standards. I exercise daily. I eat fresh fruits and vegetable and lean proteins. I am no longer listening to doctors tell me that I need to eat less and exercise more.

When I relayed this decision to my accupuncturist, she applauded me. Then, because she's been treating me for several years now and has agreed with me that my lifestyle and my weight just aren't in sync, she referred me to a doctor. Because I trust her, I went to see this doctor. Who did some tests. Who discovered that I have a thyroid condition. And I have had. For years.

What are the symptoms of this thyroid condition? "Difficulty losing weight. Fatigue. Abnormal menstrual cycles. Cold intolerance. Muscle aches. Dry skin." I think my friends and family will recognize me in the description. Years worth of these symptoms. What's the answer? Eat less and exercise more? No. The answer, apparently, is medication.

So I haven't really changed my exercise habits or my eating habits. I still swim and walk. I still eat fruits and veggies. I still go out for happy hour with a friend now and then and I still have the occasional pizza or ice cream. And I now take one little pill every morning. And, as of today, I'm down 30 pounds.

If that weight stays off - great. Dropping a few pants sizes is never a bad thing. If the weight comes back - well, I guess that's fine too. I am who I am, and I've decided that every pound of it is good.

Today's image:

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