Looking back on my life, it seems I’m always on a diet.
Or thinking I ought to be on a diet.
Or contemplating a new diet.
Or cheating on my diet.
Over my lifetime, I’ve probably lost the equivalent of the combined weight of an entire boy band.
As I write this, I’m on a diet.
My doctor calls it an “eating program.”
(But I’m not fooled by New-Speak nomenclature.)
My partner has always been supportive, and never once said anything negative about my weight. When I go on a new diet, he is there for me. (We've been together for 16+ years, and he is at the same weight as when we met. Annoying, I know!) Several years ago, I was doing really well on my Weight Watchers program—steadily approaching a milestone goal, and my goal weight actually seemed a possibility. I was feeling good, and good about myself.
Then I got my cancer diagnosis. (Actually, it was my second diagnosis, but not important to this story.) After consultation with the Oncologist, and much prayer, we agreed to begin a Chemo-Treatment Protocol, designed to stop my body’s production of testosterone and slow the growth of the cancer.
Most people undergoing cancer treatment will lose massive amounts of weight. Usually their hair as well. They will look drawn, pale and wizened. They are sick, and it’s obvious.
But not me!
I was apparently the punchline in what can only be deemed a twisted divine joke.
As my body stopped producing hormones, it apparently re-focused all that time and energy on the task of producing FAT. My eating pattern and food portions didn’t change, but my metabolism went on vacation, and I gained weight. Gradually, the persistent bone and joint pain and unrelenting fatigue brought on the medication changed my activity level. Walking hurt. (Hell, everything hurt!) And I gained weight.
In fact, the first year of my treatments, I gained 60 pounds!! Most of it concentrated around my waist.
Who gains weight doing cancer treatments?
One person actually questioned if I really had cancer.
“You don’t look sick,” she said, with an obvious gawk at my bulging waistline.
I was stunned at the suggestion I was inventing my disease. As if I would suddenly yell out, "April Fool." (But again, off topic!)
Last summer, a friend posted a picture on his Facebook wall he’d taken of us at an event. I was mortified. I was suddenly concerned the photo would be seen by Japanese whalers, and I’d become a target.
I decided that in spite of the pain, ignoring the fatigue, and regardless of the resistance of my body’s now-dormant metabolism, I had to do something! (I would be horrified for all eternity if my death ended up on the local news: “A crane had to be used to move Mr. Prickett’s massive body to the funeral home, where he was placed in a piano crate for burial.”)
I began walking. Just around the condo complex. I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but it was activity. I began seeing a nutritional specialist, and I’m on a structured meal plan that includes the use of an Android app where I log all my food and exercise.
It seems to be working. I’m down about 25 pounds.
(Though I had a bit of a setback recently. The last treatment hit me stronger than usual, and I fell and hit my knee, making it nearly impossible to walk. And I haven’t “bounced back” quickly from the jarring injury and the resulting pain.)
Lately, I’ve been pondering my weight and my diet history, writing in my journal any and all insights about myself that might be helpful about why I’m like this, how I got here...and once again, confronting the possibility of change (i.e., weight loss).
I’ve look back over the journal and there are some embarrassing and painful assessments. And for some unexplainable reason, I’ve decided to share a few. (I have always tried to be transparent here, and perhaps I need this accountability.) Time won’t permit sharing all the “confessions” from my journal, since they now number about twenty. I’m combining many of them for the sake of brevity. (Though this is already one of my longer blog entries.)
1. I have a negative body image.
I’ve always seen myself as fat, and I’ve always been insecure about my body. I dress to cover it up (or upholster it), never wearing anything that's tight or clingy; I don't even own any golf-type shirts. In high school, I was too self-conscious to shower in the locker room. I always wear a shirt while swimming. I am intimated by gyms. I won't even change clothes in front of my dog.
Personal Note: I look back at pictures of myself when I was in my twenties, and wonder how I could have thought I was so overweight. (Now the hair and clothes are a different matter!)
No matter how much weight I lose, I look in the mirror and see a FAT guy; I can never “see” my weight loss. (So I rarely look in the mirror!) I do know that my self-esteem and motivation during a diet is directly tied to the numbers on the scale. For me, the diet isn't "working" until someone actually notices that I've lost weight. When I do lose, I have nightmares about suddenly (magically) being too fat to wear my smaller clothes.
2. Each time I go on a new diet, I’m convinced it will finally solve my weight problem.
Weight Watchers, Grapefruit, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, South Beach, Medifast, Phen-Phen, Slim4Life, Rotation, Atkins...
Yes, I've tried them all...and more.
But the only lasting loss was money and motivation.
Then it's on to the next diet.
(It's the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result!)
I have learned that I'm better with some kind of structure, but I don’t do well on severe restrictions. (e.g., No carbs, ever. Only eat Cabbage Soup) If you tell me that I can eat anything except cauliflower, then...well, you get it.
I know that "slow and steady" wins the race, though quick and easy is more what I wish were true. (I'd volunteer to take a pill if it made me thin overnight, and if I could afford it, I would have bariatric surgery immediately.)
3. My relationship with food is baffling.
I don’t have an answer as to why I’m fat, and I'm not interested in blaming anyone besides myself. (Well, and Daniel Peter, who invented Milk Chocolate!) I don’t know if I have severely repressed food issues, dating back to a mother who over-indulged on the gravy. In most areas of my life, I'm very disciplined. Why not this one? I know I'm a good person, and I've had some solid, worthwhile accomplishments in my life of which I'm proud, but I usually think of myself as a failure...because I'm fat. I'm generally loving, compassionate and non-judgmental to others, regardless of the horrific things I've heard them share with me. But I will berate myself mercilessly because I'm overweight. (I’m in therapy, and perhaps eventually we’ll get to all these. Right now, we’re concentrating on coping with the complications of a life-threatening illness.)
4. I envy big people who profess to be comfortable with their size.
I admire them. But I resent them, as well. And if I'm honest, I always wonder if what they are telling me is just compensation. Or resignation. (Talk about petty projection!)
5. I have no idea where motivation comes from, nor how or why it leaves.
I don’t understand why I suddenly feel the urge to start a new diet, and a few weeks (or days) later, have no interest in continuing. I wish I knew why I choose ice cream instead of an apple. I've learned I do better when there's an accountability, like a regular weigh-in with my Nutritionist. I don't respond well to shaming and screaming; that was my childhood, and I just revert to angst, self-recrimination and withdrawal. And eating. ("Where's the Snickers bar?") Nike tells me to "Just Do It." I wish someone could tell me why I just don't.
6. My latent introversion increase with my weight.
People who’ve been part of my churches, or heard me speak are surprised that I’m basically shy and introverted. Because of my “calling” and public career, I worked to overcome it. But I’ve noticed as my weight goes up, so does my desire to withdraw--indoors and inside myself. It was easy to blame the fatigue and the pain, but mostly, I'm ashamed.
7. I’ve abandoned the goal of being thin.
I was looking at a Recommended Weight Chart for men my age and height, and I haven’t been that weight since high school. (If I weighed what the chart suggested, I would like sick!) I don't want to be THIS fat, but I’m trying to be more realistic...and considerate...to myself. I’m 62 years old, in bad health, most movement is painful and I’m undergoing cancer treatments with debilitating side effects. I’m gonna try and cut myself some slack!
I didn't share these "confessions" as a Reformed Fat Guy. This is not the beginning of my new direction as a Guru, advocating a new weight-loss product or program. I’m clearly not proclaiming that I've resolved my “eating demons” or that I’ve reached my weight-loss goal. Granted, these aren’t masterful insights or brilliant conclusions, just some honest insights about myself. Truthfully, they aren’t new revelations, but this is the first time they’ve been compiled. I’m certain they aren’t even unique to me; other dieters could probably make some of the same statements. (They can start their own blog.)
Personal Note: Feel free to share your own personal confessions, experiences or insights. But I'm not soliciting advice, therapy, supportive rebuttals ("Bill, you're not fat.") or invitations to a plan/program that worked for you, regardless of the word "miracle" in the description. I don't want to read "this amazing" new diet book.
I am not interested in joining a multi-level marketing group for vitamins, shakes or DVDs. I don't want the phone number of your Personal Trainer.
Now, maybe I should go for a long walk.
Or...take a nap!