A Brief History of Me and Weight
May 20, 2002
I’m thinking a lot about my weight today, because this morning the scale showed the pounds I lost last week are back. Now, I know it’s likely just a temporary blip, caused mostly by water retention, but it’s still bumming me out.
I don’t clearly remember dieting for the first time. I remember one summer around the time I was in sixth grade my brother and I starting a shape up plan, keeping track of our weight, measurements, and exercise. I don’t know where we got the idea, but I do know we quickly abandoned the effort, it not being nearly as fun as other ways to spend our time. I wasn’t fat at the time, anyway, so it wasn’t like I needed to be working on my weight.
I took ballet lessons from about first or second grade into early high school. The owner of the school I went to most of that time, a tiny woman who’d danced professionally, would sometimes comment on my weight, ask me if I was on a diet. I would usually lie and tell her I was, knowing that was what she wanted to hear. I wasn’t fat then, either, just not built for ballet, having both hips and breasts.
The first time I remember dieting for real was in college. Despite the fact I was in the Honors College, freshman year I went on a grapefruit and protein diet I found in an old issue of Cosmopolitan. Later in my college career, I went on a more sensible diet, based on the diabetic exchanges. I got down to my lowest adult weight of 120 pounds (I’m about 5′ 7″). Why I felt I needed to do that is not clear; my starting weight for that diet was less than what my goal weight is now, so I was not fat then, either.
After I graduated and started working full time, I gradually gained weight and would periodically diet and exercise, returning to a version of the more sensible program that worked in college. Finally, in 1993, since dong it on my own wasn’t working, I joined Weight Watchers. The program at the time was very similar to the exchanges plan I’d been doing. There was a group at my office, and one of my best friends was going to go, too, so we went and lost about 30 pounds each and eventually reached our goal weights and did maintenance and became Lifetime members. End of story, right? Obviously not. When I relaxed my eating and exercise routine and stopped going to weekly meetings, the weight started to creep back on. When you’re Lifetime, you only have to weigh in once a month, and if you’re more than two pounds over your goal weight, you have to pay the meeting fee, which was around ten dollars at the time. When I found myself thinking about using laxatives and diuretics before weigh-ins so I wouldn’t have to pay, I got worried. Irrationally, I decided to stop going entirely rather than face the scale, or try to get back to the habits that had been successful.
I tried WW again a few times, sometimes in At Work series when they were available and sometimes going to traditional meetings at WW centers. Along the way, the program changed to Fat & Fiber, which I could and did abuse in all sorts of ways. There wasn’t enough structure for me, too many ways to eat too much of the wrong stuff and still be on program.
One of the problems I had then was picking a goal weight that was too low. Weight Watchers gives you a goal range, and you can pick any weight in that range (or can go above the range, with a doctor’s note). I really should have gone with the top of my range, as there’s no penalty for maintaining lower than that, if I wanted to keep losing. But I didn’t, and ended up with a number that just wasn’t maintainable if I didn’t want to exercise a lot and eat a little forever.
After I found a job I like and therefore wasn’t tempted to eat for stress relief and comfort on a daily basis, I went back to WW at a center near my job. I think it was at this point that I picked a higher goal weight. I lost about 20 pounds before life interfered again, this time in the form of both my parents getting cancer, which meant a lot of trips back to the Chicago area and a lot of road food and stress eating. I stopped going to WW again.
After some rough months, the situation with my parents settled down and I felt it was time to get back to my weight loss quest. This time, I started going to meetings at a center near my house. For a while, I went almost weekly, but then lost my motivation and just went monthly even thought the numbers on the scale usually went up.
Then I turned forty, which, being a nice round number, seemed like a good time to really get serious. That whole 39th year? Just practicing. Now it was for real. I’ve started keeping my food journal again and tracking the points and getting more exercise and the weight is coming off a bit at a time.
A plateau led me to start following the Wendie Plan, which is more structured way to do the regular Points plan. I figured I’d try this before giving up on the Points entirely and retreating to the exchanges system that’s really the only thing that’s worked for me in the past. I learned about the Wendie plan from one of my imaginary friends over at The Usual Suspects. The first week I tried it, I lost 2.5 pounds, which was extremely satisfying. Then came last week, and found those pounds again. Water retention, I love you not.
The key now is for me to keep reminding myself that the water will go away in due time, and there is hope, and I just need to keep doing the right things.