73. A Bag of Potatoes

73. A Bag of Potatoes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

A Bag of Potatoes

To lengthen thy Life, lessen thy meals.
 ~Benjamin Franklin

I squinted at the woman in the photo taken at my aunt’s birthday party. “Who is that fat lady sitting next to Uncle John?” I asked, “I don’t recognize her.”

My aunt hesitated and then answered, “It’s you.”

I was shocked. The fat lady I didn’t recognize was me!

I looked at the photo again. It really was me. It wasn’t the “me” I thought I was—it was the “real” me.

I was fat. I was 50 pounds overweight. I’d gained it all in the past two years. I was putting on 25 pounds a year and at this rate I wouldn’t live long because diabetes and heart trouble run in my family.

I went to a doctor expecting him to give me a medical reason for my rapid weight gain.

“You’re two pounds away from being obese because you eat too much and you don’t exercise. Lose weight or die,” he said.

Obese? Die?

I’d been living in denial for two years. I’d noticed I was buying clothing that was extra large when I used to be a size 10. It was harder to bend over, tie my shoes, climb stairs and trim my toenails. I told myself I was just getting old. I never told myself I was getting fat.

It was easier to blame it on my age. After all, no one can help getting old.

If my problems were because I was fat, that made me, and me alone, responsible.

It wasn’t about food. It wasn’t about hunger. It was about loneliness, boredom and depression.

I was lonely. I was divorced and my children had grown up and left home. I was used to taking care of other people. Now that I was alone, I wasn’t motivated to take care of myself.

I’d been using excuses for not dieting or exercising: If I had a man in my life, I’d have a reason to lose weight. If I had a social life, I’d care about how I looked. If my children visited me more often, I’d get into shape so I could go places with them. If I had a friend to diet and exercise with. . . If. . .

Now I realized that I had to take care of myself because I was worth it. That had to be a good enough reason.

When I was at the market I saw large bags of potatoes. Each bag held 10 pounds of potatoes. I felt like a bag of potatoes, heavy and lumpy and bumpy, dull and uninteresting.

I stacked up five bags to represent 50 pounds.

I was carrying around the equivalent of these five bags of potatoes every day.

I bought one bag of potatoes and took it home. It represented one-fifth of my excess weight. I carried the bag of potatoes with me constantly, up stairs, down stairs, every step I took. When I sat down to watch TV, the sack of potatoes sat on my lap like a baby.

I ate smaller portions of food and used a saucer instead of a plate. I ate four small meals a day and nothing but fruit or water after sunset.

I put the bathroom scale in front of the refrigerator and weighed myself every time I opened the door to get food. I found I opened it a lot less. I taped the “fat” photo of myself on the bathroom mirror to remind me how I never wanted to look again.

When I lost the first pound, I removed a potato from the bag. Each time I lost a pound I’d take out another potato. When I lost 10 pounds and the bag was empty, I bought another bag of potatoes and started over.

When people began to notice I’d lost weight I told them I was on the “Potato Diet”—I don’t eat the potatoes, I carry them around!

I’ve lost 31 pounds so far, more than half my goal.

I can climb stairs without puffing. I can trim my toenails without looking like a contortionist.

When I started to control what I ate, I gained control over other areas of my life. I had more money because I wasn’t wasting it on junk food and having pizza delivered twice a week. I was saving over $100 a month on pizza alone and put the money into a special account for a new wardrobe after I’ve lost 50 pounds.

My house is cleaner because I have more energy and it doesn’t seem like such an effort to do housework.

I feel better about myself and I’m happier and more cheerful. I’ve been walking to the library and have joined a book discussion group and made some new friends.

My life has changed.

The next time I see myself in a photo, I’ll say, “I know that lady! It’s me!” and I’ll feel proud.

~April Knight

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