Someone asked me the other day how I had lost weight, and one of my dearest friends answered, "She quit eating."
She winked at me - I knew she was just messing with me, because we were at a graduation celebration and I was eating from a plateful of 'celebration' food - cream cheese dip and tortilla chips, pasta salad, etc. But I've heard enough comments from my experience and others' to know that when you lose enough weight, one or more of these things go through some people's minds:
1. you have become obsessed with your looks and have taken drastic measures (e.g. quit eating) to lose the weight.
2. something is wrong in your marriage
Unfortunately, sometimes these are the reasons. So I want to set the record straight, at least in my case. I lost about twenty-five pounds over a two-year period (which isn't drastic by any stretch of the imagination) because I focused on being healthy.
I wish I had known thirty-five years ago what I know now, but I wouldn't have believed it; I was always looking for some magic trick or shortcut into a bikini. Two years was way too long to wait. From the time I was fourteen until I was pregnant with my first child, I had lost and gained hundreds of pounds by going on every fad diet I heard about, as well as by fasting, using diet pills, and even brief bouts with anorexia and bulimia in high school (before any of us had heard those technical terms or the warnings about them.)
Pregnancy and breastfeeding jumpstarted my dead metabolism. Once I got it back, I was careful not to go on any more drastic diets and jeopardize losing it again; for twenty years I maintained an okay weight by eating what I wanted and just cutting back on dessert or snacks, or working in more exercise.
But two years ago that changed. No matter what I did, the pounds were slowly increasing. I cut back on cookies. I exercised more. No effect. The old tricks didn't work anymore. So I had the doctor check my thyroid...three times. Normal. Normal. Normal. But another test revealed I was sliding downhill into menopause.
Everyone knows you gain weight in menopause, right? You also break bones easily, and genetic health problems come out of the closet. In my case this could include heart disease and all of its cousins (aneurysms and arterial blockages), plus diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't lose any weight without going to drastic measures, and I didn't want to do that. But I refused to succumb to the other problems without a fight. I would focus on my health - on strong bones and a healthy heart. I might not ever fit into a bikini again, but I'd do my best to stay healthy so I could take care of my family. I wanted to be able to play with my future grandkids, like my parents did with mine.
I know how I am, though. I had to take babysteps or I'd get discouraged and quit. My first step was giving up sugar. I made it my Lenten promise, to give me a little more incentive. I stopped eating all candy except dark chocolate. It was really tough at first, but by the time Easter came around, I had no problem turning down a Reese's peanut butter cup. That borders on a miracle.
Next I cut back on fat, then bread and salt and processed foods, little by little. I started eating lots of salads and fruit. Once I quit eating sugar, everything tasted better! I kept a bag of natural almonds with me so when I got hungry I could eat a handful of those instead of grabbing a candy bar.
At the same time, I quit accepting excuses from myself for not exercising every day. I quit thinking of it as a selfish indulgence and made it a priority. For me, it was best to do it first thing in the morning before I was fully awake and able to protest. I didn't rush myself, but started slow and easy, gradually adding distance and speed and weight. Now I run three days a week, I jump rope and lift light weights two days a week, and almost every day I stretch and walk a mile with the dogs.
It surprised me when the pounds started dropping off, especially since I never pass up a slice of cheesecake or homemade pie, or a warm brownie. My mother was worried that I wasn't eating enough, but my kids assured her I eat all the time. My husband still tells me, "Don't lose any more weight!" I remind him I'm not trying to...I'm just trying to be healthy and strong.
But, I have to admit, it did feel good dropping a few sizes and feeling comfortable in a bikini again ...I'll enjoy it while it lasts.