When I say “a little,” I mean somewhere in the range of 30 pounds over the past two years. That was on top of the roughly 20 extra pounds I’ve been cushioned with since 2009, when my youngest child was born. None of these pounds have come easily. No, they’ve been the result of hours, maybe whole days spent counting calories, points, steps and serving sizes. I’ve exercised nearly every day. I’ve read books and magazines. Several times I’ve ordered a medium DQ Blizzard instead of a large.
Clearly, my methods are coming up short.
This shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been shown again and again that food restriction – or dieting, in its many forms – does not generally result in long-term weight loss. Almost all people gain the weight back, often plus some extra. Some people don’t, but they are few and far between and I am not one of them.
So, I’ve tried to accept myself. So I’m fatter. This is only what I look like, it is not me, and the fact is that I feel pretty happy these days. The trouble is that even if I can accept my fatter self and become a body-positivity advocate and go out and buy clothes that actually fit, instead of wearing the same things all the time – even if I can do all of these things, I don’t want to.
I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to because I’m not comfortable like this. I don’t mean because people might look at me or judge me or find me unattractive. Of course, there is that, but I’m talking about physical discomfort. I feel heavy, like a human-shaped sandbag. I feel slow and encumbered. My knees and my feet hurt. Yes, there is health at every size, but for me, this size does not feel healthy. Most likely because it isn’t. And so in the evening, nearly every evening, I think: oh my God I have got to start eating less.
And then, nine times out of ten, I eat something.
My husband doesn’t understand this at all. He is fully and quite naturally gifted with the skill I call “eating like a normal person.” I don’t mean to imply that the rest of us are abnormal or in some way less-than the “normal” ones. What I mean is that my husband eats when he is hungry, and doesn’t eat when he’s not. Sometimes he eats too much. He almost always eats what he wants, except when it’s not available. He’s able to watch TV for long periods of time without eating a thing, or maybe he might eat a half a package of Chips Ahoy. Last time we went to DQ, he got a large Blizzard and a medium, which he later reported was “enough.” He’s six feet tall and weighs around 180 pounds, a weight which fluctuates maybe 5 pounds in either direction. He doesn’t think much about it.
Meanwhile, I sit here panicking as I watch Melissa McCarthy dropping dress sizes. Don’t leave us! I want to tell her, in my most exceptionally selfish moments. We need you!
So I’ve made up my mind, and I’m making myself accountable by telling it to you: from now on, from this day forward and as God is my witness, I AM GOING TO EAT LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.
There’s likely to be a lot of learning that has to happen here, so it’s lucky for me that I like to read a lot. Right now, what it means to me is that I need to eat what I want to when I’m hungry, and know that I don’t need to eat when I’m not. It sounds so simple it’s almost embarrassing to say. To my husband, and to anyone else who’s never dealt with eating as if it were an enemy to be conquered, it probably sounds pretty ridiculous. Those of you who get it will know that it’s not.
Just eat less and exercise more, people say, and I get it. I know. This is pretty much all you need to do to lost weight, and I know it because I’ve done it tons of times. The problem is that for many of us and certainly for me, restrictions of any sort are not sustainable. For me, restrictions always turn into Oreos. I do not want to spend my life in fear of food. Yes, I want to be thinner. But more than that, I want to one day finish my large DQ Blizzard – or maybe even a medium or a small – and think, yep, that was enough.
Eating like a normal person is hard. But I am going to figure it out.
More to come.