To be fat in the 1980s was a big deal.
I remember many days when my brother, slightly bigger than the rest of the kids his age (but not at all big compared to many kids today), would come home from school exhausted after enduring hours on end of bullying over his weight.
Diet after diet, my parents tried their hardest to help him lose. But no matter what they did, no matter what he did, my brother could not shed the weight.
He most likely eats for a totally different reason now, probably more to emotionally squash the pain than to nourish his body.
But unlike the 1980s, today there are millions of us just like him.
It’s no secret that our waistlines have grown. A lot.
And while we could sit here and discuss all day the reasons behind that and the people we could blame, the truth is, the entire world plays a part in our problems with obesity.
- Technology, a good thing, caused us to be more sedentary, a bad thing.
- Fast food, a tasty thing, introduced us to easy access to large portion sizes, a bad thing.
- New science in the food industry, a good thing, brought us highly palatable, processed food, a bad thing.
- And most importantly, our brain, a good thing, seeks at any cost to comfort and protect us from difficulty, a bad thing.
It’s almost as if we humans have lost all ability to control ourselves.
I had the type of childhood where you ate what was given to you without complaint or you didn’t eat at all.
Rarely didn’t we go out to eat; we simply didn’t have the money.
My mom gave us cereal for breakfast, a small snack, sandwich and chips for lunch, an afterschool snack, and dinner.
I never went without food and really don’t even remember complaining, except on nights when we had something I didn’t really like, which really wasn’t often.
In the summer, we would purchase a huge tub of ice cream, and we could have a small cup after supper.
And like most Southern families, we barbecued on Sunday and had all the fixings.
But I specifically remember only getting candy on four occasions a year: Easter, Halloween, Christmas, and when I’d saved up enough cash to walk to the gas station with my best friend, Jana, to buy Laffy Taffys and York Peppermint Patties.
Nowadays, kids have candy at their disposal 24/7, not to mention multiple snacks per day and all the fast food and eating out they could want.
Highly palatable, easily processed food has become so affordable, we don’t realize it’s also become highly detrimental to our health.
We’re also unaware of the additives being placed inside the products we buy that are growing our addictions to these foods. Our brains are quite literally changing like drug addicts’ brains in order to crave more of this highly palatable food, so that even if we want to pass it up, we simply can’t pass it up.
Around the age of fourteen, I began to use food and alcohol to distract myself from problems at home.
It started innocently enough. I would come home from dance class starving, but once again, I’d be left alone to fend for myself after my mother took a night job, my brother moved to my grandparents’ and my dad moved to another city.
I would ask friends to bring me food: fast food, little debbies, potato chips. We would watch TV and eat, eat, eat.
For years, I was able to mask the issues I had with food. (Alcohol, not so much. Most people were pretty aware I had a problem with that, even when it seemed like “normal teenage” drinking.)
I would eat whatever food had been cooked, then get in my car, go to a fast food restaurant, and eat again.
I never gained weight. Not even a little. Call it good genes, a high metabolism, or sheer luck, but I remained a 0-4 for a pretty good while.
Then, after the birth of my fourth child at 30, in 2010, a move to a new city in 2012, and a hysterectomy in 2014, my weight gain jumped drastically.
I didn’t feel like I was doing anything differently, yet, the scale was moving up faster than I could step on and off of it.
I began to yo-yo diet, and I would enter periods of deep depression and anxiety over my weight gain.
No woman likes to feel ugly. And I felt very ugly and alone.
What I eventually realized (after years of this back and forth madness) was that I had tied my value into my looks.
I’d long used my looks to get me what I wanted, and now that this part of my life was over, I felt worthless.
So, I made a decision, and it changed my life.
I decided that I would start to find value in my value alone.
Sounds strange, right? But it’s true. You’re valuable simply because you exist.
We all are.
And when I started to tell myself that, eventually, I believed it.
A funny thing happened, too. I found myself believing it about other people as well.
Whereas I used to judge others pretty harshly (while being an excellent lawyer for myself), once I started seeing my own value, I began to see their value, too.
This practice of valuing my existence created a gratitude in my soul that has completely taken my mind off of my weight.
Still, I’d like to be healthy. So lately, I’ve been focusing on staying sober, getting regular checkups, lifting heavier weights a couple of times a week, walking my dogs, and eating healthier seventy-five percent of the time.
The most important new focus I have is on my relationships. Good relationships equal healthier people.
I’m losing weight extremely slowly, but from the research I’ve read, that’s a good thing.
You see, losing weight too fast can throw your metabolism for a loop.
That whole brain-trying-to-protect-you thing will go into overdrive.
So the slower the better.
It may takes years to get where I’d like to be, and you know what? That’s okay.
Because as I always say, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey that’s makes the living good.