34. Lightening My Load

34. Lightening My Load

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Lightening My Load

Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently,
but life itself would come to be different.
 ~Katherine Mansfield

Dr. Nath walked into the waiting room to address the family. He looked at the empty fried chicken buckets, cheeseburger wrappers and greasy napkins. Then his gaze shifted from the fast food remnants to the swollen eyes of Claire’s family members and he spoke.

“This how she got here, you know. We don’t eat like this in India. That is the big difference between us and Americans.”

For almost two months, my family, ironically enough, sat in the waiting room and ate as they waited for news about my aunt. Claire had undergone gastric bypass surgery, a last resort in an attempt to lose weight because she was morbidly obese.

But there were complications during and after surgery. Instead of healing and being sent home with post-op directions and a new diet plan, Claire was septic and in the intensive care unit fighting for her life.

Claire’s sisters and children took turns sitting with her and holding her hand. And whoever was not with her at the moment was making a run to the nearest fast food restaurant. They ate to maintain a sense of normalcy. They ate as a source of comfort. And they ate to pass the time.

Nearly every female in my family is overweight and I am no exception. I have been fighting my weight since college and I am losing. As soon as I stop paying attention to calories and fat grams, the pounds start creeping up. And before I know it, I have gained 20 pounds.

The signs of weight gain always begin in my face. And that’s unfortunate because it is the one place I cannot hide. My cheeks puff out and my chin doubles and soon enough, it’s obvious to everyone that I have been eating too much.

The truth is that I love food. I love to eat—a lot. I eat to celebrate. I eat when I am depressed, bored, angry, and upset. Sometimes, it seems as though my stomach knows no limits. I eat salty snacks and sweets. And though I do like the foods that are good for me, I rarely choose them when I have more palate-pleasing options.

Mealtime, for me, is more than obtaining nutrients and sustaining life. I don’t eat to live; I live to eat. I often plan my entire day around meals and I get very excited about them.

Just as I have perfected the art of weight gain, I have also gotten very good at shedding extra pounds. Throughout the years, I have tried weight loss pills, meal replacement shakes, and low-carbohydrate diets. I have eaten foods that were low in fat and high in fiber while counting calories, fat grams, and points. I have lost weight. And I have gained it back.

A couple of years ago, I joined a local weight loss group. I thought it would help to be in the presence of other people whose minds operated similarly to mine. I met Mary, the lady who woke up in the middle of the night (every night) to eat a sandwich. I empathized with Jen who stopped at Krispy Kreme after work, bought two dozen doughnuts, then ate one dozen and threw the box away before she arrived home. And then there was Leanne, the woman who often ate two dinners—one in private and a second when she went out with friends. That way, no one would know how much she really consumed. I identified with her most.

Going to group was very successful for me in the beginning. There was something about being held accountable each week (monetarily and to the scale) that kept me motivated. But the key to group settings is that you have to actually go to the meetings. And when I quit going, I started gaining.

A recent trip to the doctor confirmed what I already knew.

“You need to lose about 25 pounds,” Dr. Nath said. “You know your family history.”

I did know.

Fortunately, my aunt Claire did recover from her surgery. But because the process went so terribly wrong, the gastric bypass was never completed and she has not been able to lose the weight on her own.

My aunt’s situation was definitely atypical. Still, I don’t want to wait until surgery is my only option to do something about my weight. I also don’t want to take the same approaches to weight loss that I have in the past. It is time for a change—a change of body and of mind.

From now on, I am going to think of my body as more than an 18-wheeler on a giant set of scales that either passes or fails inspection. My body is more valuable than that.

Instead, I will eat foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. I will drink more water. And, I will exercise by swimming laps at the local pool, taking walks with my husband and dog, and dancing around my living room.

I am not proclaiming that I will never again eat a glazed doughnut. I know I will. But I am gradually making a life change and one that I can live with.

Today I stepped on the scale for the first time since I changed my attitude. I have lost the equivalent of a sack of flour. I know it’s just a start; but, it’s still worthy of celebration. My body weighs five pounds less. My mind and my heart feel even lighter.

~Melissa Face

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