Invention, Reinvention, Rewind: Tales from the Scale

The other day I finally got brave enough to step on the scale after a long hiatus that included a hysterectomy, the losses of a loved one and two dear animals, an extended holiday season filled with the usual debauchery, and stressful new job duties. I knew this didn’t bode well at all as I stepped up gingerly, closed my eyes in trepidation, took a deep breath, and re-opened my eyes, ready to take my medicine. Nada. The screen was blank. Either the batteries were dead, or my scale was playing possum in a desperate act of self-preservation.

After some wry laughter at the irony of it all, I replaced the batteries and stepped on Mount Everest once again. Woah. That explained why my clothes are fitting (or not fitting) the way they are. Ugh. Not as bad as it’s been in the past, but still a bit soul-deadening to be back at this place yet again.

A ‘before and after’ shot from a few years ago.

Sadly, this ain’t my first weight-gain rodeo. My entire life has been a roller coaster ride with the scale, up and down…mostly up. I have always loved to exercise and have consistently done so since undergrad. I have been on most every diet out there (diets don’t work, by the way- just an FYI from the trenches), and I know all the ins and outs of healthy eating. However, I also have had an unhealthy relationship with food for as long as I can remember, running to it for comfort and escape in stressful times…and I lead a very stressful life- always have, and probably always will. I also battled anorexia and bulimia in my twenties and early thirties. Not something I ever want to revisit.

I think it’s time for a bit of reinvention in my life. I admire some of the famous pop artists who have reinvented themselves time and time again; people like Madonna; people who seem to be able to shed their skins periodically and become something new and different. It is a gift, I think, one that requires great self-awareness, confidence, and vision, no matter what you think of their final product. It also requires self-discipline…something that I have a lot of, but not always in the areas in which I need it. I’m not planning on any wild new looks or artistic sounds, but is is time to make some changes.

I have recreated myself in my own way over the years; I’ve completed three degrees, won university teaching positions, I’ve pushed myself past heartache and sorrow to build a new life in a new place all on my own. I got certified to teach kickboxing, ran several 10Ks and a half marathon, and threw myself into yoga. I have been a caregiver, and I’ve come back to strength and health with hard work after major surgeries. I started this blog and have published two books. And – I’ve lost large amounts of weight, more times than I care to remember. So my question is this- why do I find myself at this frustrating crossroads yet again?

(Cue music from ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’…)

Once I put my mind to something, Dan says I am unstoppable. When I tap into the routine of losing weight, I do really well; I am focused and disciplined, super motivated to see the numbers on the scale go down. Once I reach my goal, however, something in my brain clicks, and I seem to think that I am then somehow invincible, that the weight could never possibly come back this time- even though I have lived this self-defeating cycle so many times before. Ever so slowly, my eating habits begin to revert to more unhealthy patterns, most especially when stress takes the wheel, as it always does. Rinse, lather, repeat. Sigh. The older I get, the harder it is to tap into that zone, it seems.

Perhaps with the wisdom that comes from stumbling through fifty-five years of life, I can finally see that food is not my enemy, nor am I a weak or bad person. I am a very human woman who needs to somehow once and for all learn to manage the stress I live with on a daily basis, because- if I haven’t figured it out by now- stress and I seem to be attached at the hip. I love Maya Angelou’s quote:

I have taken steps toward change, sputtering at times though they may be; I’ve kept up with my pact to do daily yoga, I met with my primary care physician last week to discuss my concerns and talk about solutions. I’ve had a heart to heart talk with Dan, who said as he always has, “Honey, whatever it is you need me to do to help you, I will do it!” I know this man loves me- he offered to banish his beloved frozen yogurt and all chocolate from the house. Cocktails, too! Bless him. That’s not the solution either, though. I have to get to the root of the problem.

My sweet little family…

I don’t care a thing about being skinny anymore- I truly just want to be healthy and to age well, maintaining good quality of life for as long as I’m fortunate to still be kicking. I feel the extra weight in my knees as I walk and run, feel it as I do forward folds and planks in yoga, and I know it is the source of some of my back and hip issues. I don’t like what I see in the mirror, and I can’t fathom living the rest of my life hating my reflection or shaming myself because of a number on a scale or the size of my clothes. I am a successful woman professionally and lead a very happy life, but every single day I feel like a failure when I can’t seem to control portions or stress-eat some dessert or drink an extra glass of wine that I didn’t need.

Heading to my terminal in Atlanta…

I don’t know the magic bullet to solve this- if I did, I’d be a millionaire, I suppose. All I know to do is to keep taking small steps forward, exercise every day, keep doing yoga, meditate, do my best to make healthy choices about what I eat and drink, write my feelings out so that I don’t stuff them down with food…and most of all, stop squandering my joy worrying about some extra weight like it makes me less of a person (no pun intended). Life is way too short for that craziness. Weight loss is such a complex issue; everyone is different, and I have to find what works for me…I’ll keep searching until I do.

As I often tell my students and as I often write, positive self-talk is incredibly powerful; what we think, we become. My plan is to become more healthy, and I’m going to do my best to focus on those thoughts and outcomes, see that happy and smiling woman (who is already happy and smiling) finding success in handling stress and achieving good health in a way that I can maintain, once and for all. All good thoughts appreciated. I’ll keep you posted along the way.

On the road again!

8 thoughts on “Invention, Reinvention, Rewind: Tales from the Scale

  1. I hear you! I’ve been there and have but on a couple of extra pounds since taking on a very stressful promotion. I’m trying to exercise more and eat less. And it all goes back to stress and how I handle it. Right now I’m attempting the “Frozen” method – Let it Go.

  2. Good luck! I’ll share the three things that worked for me… maybe they’ll spur some ideas for you about what will work for you?

    1) I began to brush my teeth after every single meal or snack. This helped me regulate my eating so that I ate at only the set times, rather than grazing or unintentional snacking throughout the day.

    2) I learned to feel whether I was eating more than the amount of calories I was burning in a day. With your experience with mindfulness, yoga, breathing, and music, this is absolutely something you can do! It’s just a matter of tuning into the biochemistry and the feeling of less than, as much as, or more than. It’s pretty fun! Now, when I want to lose, I do less-than a few days a week, and when I want do maintain, I do as-much-as, and when I want to gain (which, believe it or not, I sometimes do!), I’ll try more-than.
    Caveat: I’m not sure if this is a good practice for someone who has had an eating disorder, as, from what I’ve read, for people in recovery from an eating disorder, it’s best not to be too restricted with eating! But maybe the tuning-in and mindfulness aspect of this would work? (Not sure, really…)

    3) We’ve moved to the Eat-Right-For-Your-Type diet, which is a sustainable approach to eating rather than a short-term, lose-weight diet. We’ve been on this for 16 years, and it works so well for us in terms of supporting all-around health!

    And… I really like your Maya Angelou quotation, as self-compassion is one of the best seasonings for any approach to weight-loss! 🙂

  3. Good luck! It is a hard road, isn’t it, especially at our age (I’m 54). I have a thyroid disorder (Hashimoto’s), and my endocrinologist suggested going gluten free. And I know–everyone and their grandmother is now “gluten free,” but it really helped me, I think. I just stopped eating breads and cookies and those wonderful things that I love so much. (The gluten-free options taste hideous, for the most part, so I eat them very rarely.) Plus, in the process I just wound up cutting out most sugar. And now when I do eat something really sugar-y (or have a lot in one day), it literally makes me sick to my stomach. So, next time I think to eat whatever, I just remember how it turned my stomach, and that really kills the urge to eat it. My sugar “fix” is a bag of Dove chocolate bars (those tiny ones) I leave in the freezer…

    And I’m glad your piece focused on all the other things you have going for you. So many times, as women, we really do focus only on our outer appearance, and not all the other “blessings” (for want of a better word) that we have.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Elle. That’s when I do best- when I give up sugars and breads. So hard. I have to get back to it, though, as I know it will help me feel so much better (and will make the scale happier, too :)). Yes- life is so good…I just want to feel great as I’m going through it all. ❤️

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