Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Post I Swore I Wouldn't Write

I never thought I would be so happy to have my pants fall down in public.

A few days ago I was standing in line at the bead store, and Finn was nagging me to pick him up.   He's close to 50 lbs now, so maneuvering him onto my hip is tricky.   I got him settled, and - zoop - my favorite pair of stretchy capri pants slipped down to my knees.

I have lost 18 lbs in six weeks through a combination of Jenny Craig and a moderate exercise regime, and it feels great.

I'm reluctant to post about it, because every time I would read a blog about weight loss, when I knew I needed to lose a few pounds, my eyes would cross and I'd click away.   

But I also realize something transformative is happening to me, and not just in the sense that I'm losing weight and getting in shape:  I care about myself, more than I ever have before.

The whole experience has been a lot like getting sober.   Just like when I was drinking, I've had nagging doubts and insecurities about my weight for years.   I've also had a big dose of denial.   I'm tall - 5' 10" - and have a large frame, so I hide weight gain fairly well.    I can put on 20 lbs and still squeeze into the same clothes.  Granted, they don't fit well or look good, but it fuels my denial because I'm not forced to go up a jean size.    But little by little, over the past six or seven years, I found myself shopping in Women's stores, ticking slowly up the rack to find clothes that would fit.

Just like with getting sober, something had to click.   I had to care enough about the problem - hit bottom, in a way - before attempting to lose weight made sense.    Usually I'd think about dieting when I had a formal event coming up and I had to find a dress that looked good.   Or my husband would make subtle (or not so subtle) comments about my weight gain, and I'd think that I should lose weight to make him happy.

The trick, as with all major life changes, is that I had to do it for me.     And to do that, I had to care enough about myself to make changes.

I don't really know what happened.  Six weeks ago I woke up on a regular Saturday morning, slumped into my sweatpants and oversized tee shirt, and thought:  I'm ready.   Two days later I was sitting in a Jenny Craig consultant's office, pouring my heart out, and coming up with a weight loss plan.

I can look back on my blog posts, starting in January, and see that this thought has been growing in the back of my mind for months.  Pre-contemplation, it's called.   I had that with my drinking, too.    Countless mornings I would think, enough of this already, but somehow by 4pm my resolve was gone and I was having a glass of wine.    But the pre-contemplation counted for something, because when the switch finally flipped I was ready to take action.

It was important to be truly ready, too, because the first two weeks were horrible.   I was agitated, angry, irritable, and all I could see all around me were examples of things I could no longer eat.   I felt left out, less-than, and was upset with myself for letting it go so far that I can't just eat like a normal person anymore.   Just like with getting sober, when all I could see were examples of the drinking life that was no longer mine.  

The key to making it through those first two weeks - both with drinking and dieting - was that I didn't want to cheat, because I was tired of letting myself down.  

If I was dieting for someone else - to impress my husband, for instance - when it got tough I would get angry with him for 'making' me do this, and I'd eat at him.  

On Sunday, we stopped at our regular ice cream spot on the way home from a day at the beach.   This place usually has a nonfat alternative, but they were out.    The kids and my husband all got dishes of homemade ice cream, and I didn't get anything.    It just wasn't worth it.   I am working so hard, making such great progress, and the ten minutes of pleasure the ice cream would provide were fleeting compared to how good I feel all the time.   

I know this territory.    When I'm hit with a craving for a drink (which, thankfully, isn't often anymore) it usually lasts about three minutes.   If I can wait it out, do whatever I have to do to distract myself, it always passes.   I'm finally content with the knowledge that one drink is never enough for me, so why have one?

It's the same thing, now, with food.    I don't want just one ice cream.   I never have.  I want to be able to eat whatever I want, without consequence, and if I can't have that  - then what's the point?    As hard as it is to resist temptation, the benefits are totally, completely worth it.   

And you know what?  I'm worth it, too.


  1. I'm really hoping I can swear not to write a post like this, too. I'm working through a book called Women Food and God (Geneen Roth) right now. Food is sort of my drug of choice. I'm not obese but I'm overweight now and I realize that I use food to PUNISH myself. Anyway, not to preach but it's a great book, full of epiphanies for me, and although I no longer keep a scale around, I am really hoping that as I make peace with my body and food, that my pants will fall down in public, too. Um, metaphorically speaking.

  2. This is a great post. So insightful. I'm so glad I found you.

    I also want to welcome you to my blog and thank you for your comment. It's a blessing to be able to share the journey. It's even better to travel with such good company. I'm following you, too.

    Take good care.

  3. Congratulations! 18 lbs. AND will power?? SCORE!

  4. Beautiful. Your writing is phenomenal. Thank you for sharing your journey and your talent.

  5. i'm in the "precontemplation" stage right now. :/ during the day i feel great- i follow my diet and exercise rules, but when night hits and the kids go to bed and i finally have some time to watch tv or read a book alone, my willpower completely dissolves, and i just don't care anymore. i'm currently stacking up on books, ticking up the clothes racks, and squeezing into my jeans... hopefully i'll find the will soon. food has always been my addiction. great post. i hope i can find my inspiration soon too.

  6. "If I was dieting for someone else - to impress my husband, for instance - when it got tough I would get angry with him for 'making' me do this, and I'd eat at him." <- This! Oh, so totally this. Made me laugh and tear up all at once. I've finally started exercising for me. It feels pretty damn awesome.

  7. Funny you should write this post. I discovered your blog through one of the momalom participants, by clicking on her blog roll, and finding that you're a twelve-stepper like me. Though I'm in it for eating, actually. Nearly ten years abstinent, as we say in my program.

    Really interesting that you mentioned the way that food is like alcohol when you were sitting in the ice cream parlor. It really is all about waking up on those tomorrows. What do we want our tomorrows to look like? More of the same or something different?

    Thanks for an interesting post!

  8. Congrats Ellie! I got on the scale the other day and I'm down to 129lbs. I'm 5ft6. It was not long ago 168lbs. All it took was sheer willpower, a divorce, a treatment center, family not speaking to me and caffeine. I'm starting to look like I traded booze for Meth. But I am sober today and I plan to be sober tomorrow. That's what counts.

  9. Hi. I'm a new reader and I rarely comment. But this is truly worth celebrating! 18 pounds is a huge deal. You haven't mentioned your weight loss in a while (I'm sure you think about it often), and it's just so encouraging to hear a success story. Congrats and keep up the good work!

    And thanks for the reminder of how hard the first 2 weeks are. I always have to remind myself that it WILL get easier after those 2 lousy weeks. If only I didn't keep gaining back those last 6 pounds...I wouldn't have to go through this so often!

  10. I'm a new reader too and also someone who rarely comments. I do not have a problem with alcohol but do think that food is my "drug." Your blog has inspired me to try and get healthy too. I'm down 4 pounds and am totally encouraged by your great success. Keep going!

  11. I don't know if I want to laugh (the pants), cry (the feelings I identify) or applaud (everything) so I'll just do all three. I'm super impressed, El.

  12. Welcome, Anne and Bennance! Anne - congrats on the 4 lbs! That's terrific.

    Thanks, everyone, for all your support. I truly appreciate it.


  13. Yes. You ARE worth it, indeed! And inspiring, really. I know you probably don't feel like you deserve to be put on a pedestal, but you do. Your hard work and wisdom is contagious and I appreciate you so so much!

  14. I don't know if I want to laugh (the pants), cry (the feelings I identify) or applaud (everything) so I'll just do all three. I'm super impressed, El.