Sunday, September 08, 2013

I'm not tweeting about losing weight.

Six months ago, I enrolled in a Bay Area weight-loss program called JumpstartMD. Today, I've lost 33 lbs., and am on track to get to my goal of 40 down. Before I signed up, as I spent way too long contemplating how to "get serious" about dropping some avoirdupois, I had visions of using a combination of fitness apps and public encouragement. I admired the approach that Brian Stelter and Owen Thomas took: they both successfully lost a lot of weight, and more important have incorporated a healthy regimen, in part through reporting their progress and seeing the good wishes and attaboys of their followers on Twitter and elsewhere. I even reserved a Twitter name for this effort: @kvoxless.

But as much as I've embraced melding my public and private selves online in recent years, I kept stalling on announcing the "campaign". As I proceeded with weekly weigh-ins, tracking food and debating menu items, I didn't go live, and kept wondering why, or when I would.

I guess I am now. Good wishes are always welcome, but let's face it: as an older woman (therefore, by most any definition, invisible), it just felt wrong to tout my own effort in frequent updates. I don't care that much about every or step bite I take; why on earth should you? Add to that the fact that by nature I'm not inclined to much self-tout much. (Hey, it's not just me: a recent study by political scientists notes that women in the field cite themselves less in their work — a factor in career success.)

Nevertheless, here I am, telling you what I haven't told you. In part it's because this program, created by a couple of Stanford-trained doctors, really works for me. Needless to say, it's not revolutionary: I cut out starch, eat a lot of vegetables, some fruit, and a reasonable amount of healthy fish, meat and tofu (I like all three). That, and a Jawbone UP band to track steps, calories and sleep. What I have learned after many years of failed (or very temporary) attempts at losing weight is that, sadly, I need to spend money for results — and even more specifically, I need a plan with regular appointments. Where someone expects me to show up. A while back, it worked for me to show up for a trainer, and it's still true. I've spent plenty on gym memberships, but that alone doesn't make me go. Neither does a support group, a la Weight Watchers. (Pretty much one of my least favorite things in the world is going around the circle discussing substitutes for whipped cream. I fled a group years ago after the initial weigh-in, when the leader said to me, "Are we having a bad week?" Bad or normal, lady, you're not helping.) Neither, I knew, would I want a program based on expensive pre-made ugh-inducing food, as my hope was to develop better reflexes around eating such that I'd truly make it routine.

I'm from a long line of working class folk. None of them had time or inclination to exercise apart from their day jobs, which, reflecting the arc of western social history over the last 60 years, moved indoors and began to include desks. My dad's family were rural Norwegian emigrants in cold climates; that meant generations of eating potatoes, bread, meat and cheese (of course, my previous stand-bys). Most of them were overweight, with high blood pressure, heart disease — and they pretty much all died fairly young. My mom's side, mongrel Scots-Irish-English from Texas, were a hardier bunch (my mom and her four sisters all lasted well into their 80s and 90s, their six brothers almost as long), but it must be said most of them were not hard-wired for healthy living. (Ma was a bit of an outlier: she had a career and a garden, and was a good cook.)

So my genetic predisposition, plus the constant, painful awareness that comes from acclimating to being fat, led me to finally, finally take a step. (I have a high boiling point; the mental gymnastics lasted years before I took action.) What I can tell you is this: it feels wonderful to simply weigh less, because that means to have more energy and move more easily. It's gratifying, too, to have totally normal blood pressure instead of pre-hypertension.

At this point, I'm old enough to know that making a weight goal is not the end of this thing. I'll always have to walk by 50 bakeries and only rarely step into one. I won't keep Mitchell's ice cream on hand as a matter of course. And spaghetti is a very occasional treat. But the trade-off is now having a brain less crowded with worry and despair, and more room to pursue new notions and curiosities. And that, my friends, something I want very much to hang onto.

Photo courtesy


@dmf said...

Good for you, Karen! Thanks for writing about your weight loss efforts. I was so happy when I moved to SF a year and a half ago and lost 30 pounds, primarily I think from giving up my car.

Kudos Karen!!

louisgray said...

Congratulations, KVox! Making changes in one's lifestyle when there are so many demands that push the inertia the wrong way can be very difficult, but more power to you for doing it.

Unknown said...

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