Friday, August 6, 2010

The tipping point

I bet each of you can remember the moments that led up to you finally making the decision (for once and for all!) to do something about your weight and regain your health and in so doing to open yourself in ways that are personal, private, complex and honest by blogging about your journey. Maybe for you, it wasn’t really one thing that sent you down the path, maybe it was lots of things that finally made you reach the tipping point. Today I am going to give you a glimmer of what set it off for me. I know now that part of regaining my health is about self-discovery. Learning and sharing more about what got me here in the first place is part of my self-discovery and healing and I know it is what is needed as I move forward in this journey to regain my health. I must understand more about why I do the things that I do in terms of food and overeating.

First a little about my story to super chub or obese
My parents and my youth are now captured in the word dysfunctional. I did not of course know that when I was growing up. I simply did not know any different. My mom had serious mental health challenges and my father was emotional and socially stunted. My parents divorced when I was 9. My mom was a single mom during my adolescence and for the most part worked more than 1 full time job to care for her 4 kids. My father was basically absent. We often had no food (or anything good to eat) in the house and we rarely ate any meals together. I know that my parents did the best they could with us, but as you can imagine there are many wounds. I never realized the significance of having little structure around meal times or food in the house until recently. It was feast or famine in my house. We either had a lot of food (my mom got paid) or we had none (we were out of money). In my late adolescence, my absent father became part of our life again. He did not know how to be a supportive and engaged father, but he tried in his own way. He was critical of all of us, and with me, it was often about my weight. You get the picture.

I have been overweight for most of my adult life. As a young adult I was perhaps 10-20 pounds over my ideal BMI. As I moved into my forties, I started to gain weight mainly because of overeating and some binging. I was perhaps 30-40 pounds overweight until about 1998. It was at that time that I gained another 25 pounds that put me, although I did not admit it, in the obese category. In this past year (2009-2010), I gained another 10 pounds. You can see the trajectory by now; well on my way to becoming morbidly obese by the time I am 60. Plus, I am at high risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and of course heart disease among a whole host of other diseases.

I tried other weight loss plans over the years, but none were really successful. Why? You might ask. I was not ready. I was in denial first of all that I had a serious weight problem that was endangering my health. Besides, there was always some life event or celebration coming up that would make it impossible for me to eat “diet” food. I was always putting my weight loss off till Monday, the first of the month, after my Birthday, Easter, 4th of July, Christmas, winter, spring, summer or fall. You name it, it was reason to weight (wait). Second, I was not a mindful eater. I ate good food, but too much of it. I did not understand portions. I also thought that regaining my health and loosing weight meant that I would have to deprive myself of the foods that I like. I was not ready to give these up. This pattern of denial and not recognizing that I was eating dis-ordered kept going over the next 10-12 years. Until June of this year.

What happened, you ask? Well, for one I read Marion Nestle’s book, What to eat. By now you know that I have adopted her motto: eat less, move more and go easy on the junk food. But, there is more: I was not able to walk as much as I used to, especially up stairs or a hill. I found myself taking the elevator just to go up one flight. I always have been a walker, but it was getting harder and harder. My stamina was gone. My knees were hurting. And my clothes were getting tighter. On top of that: my mother had recently passed away. She had insulin dependent diabetes among many other things. My husband is a health care professional who takes excellent care of his health. He has spent his professional career caring for the elderly and understands too well the cost of not taking care of ourselves: it comes in droves as we age. We might be able to postpone it. But not taking care of ourselves will catch up with us. Again, through diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic and serious diseases. One day he was talking about some of the folks that he cares for and it just clicked with me that I had to do something and now. I finally got his message. It just clicked. I finally understood that if I do not care for myself, my family and others will end up caring for me when I am older (and I AM older now!). This is simply unacceptable to me. It is my family, my sweet grandbabies who will pay the price of my denial and of the years of putting off taking care of myself. My time has simply come to take care of me. To be kind to me. To love me in a way that I have never done before. It is about time. That time is now.

If you have been reading my blog you know that I am slowly building a new history of mindful eating (Thanks, Leslie for this brain child). I am following Nestle’s little adage by eating less (1200-1500 calories a day), moving more (at least 30 minutes per day of vigorous exercise), going easy on junk foods (budgeting them in) and eating lots of fruits and veggies. I am also borrowing from other weight loss gurus like Geneen Roth and Jon Kabat-Zin (Mindful Eating). That is it. I have tremendous resolve because I am out in the open. I have burst past (FINALLY!!!!) my own denial. I am beginning to understand why I eat or desire the things I do and have. I am learning to plan for all the special life events, birthdays, holidays, BBQ’s, parties, movies, sports events etc. I am coming out on top.

Why am I sharing this story with you? Two big reasons: one, (and this is not a badge of honor): I am older than many of you at 56. I am like many of you because I have been chubby, large overweight and now obese for many years. I am embracing this journey in ways that I never have before. I know I will be successful because there is something different this time in me. For me it is being open, honest, and upfront about an issue that I hid behind for many years. I want each of you to do better than me. To get at your issues with weight earlier than I have in your own life. Second: Because I want you to think about the consequences of not taking action, not being kind to yourself, and avoiding the truth to your family and the people who you love and love you, including yourself. It is not fair to them that you will (and you will) be at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and a whole host of other illnesses. It is not fair that they will have to care for you as these diseases ravage your body and take away your quality of life.

What about you? Have you reached your tipping point?

I end many of my communications with the two words: take care. Take a movement and think about them. They are powerful, moving and deeply personal. Take care of yourselves, dear readers and followers. Thank you so very much for reading my blog and this post. Michele


  1. It's really amazing that events as children can lead up to poor food relationships as adults. You are definitly on the right pathway... and I love the motto from "what to eat"... I will have to read that.

  2. Fantastic post. And I really think I reached my tipping point for good this time. It just feels so much more REAL, ya know? Thanks for this post. I loved it.

  3. Thanks to both of you. Yes, Dr. Fatty, it does feel more real this time. m

  4. I'm right with you, Michele. This is it. I feel like it's finally sunk in that the way I'm eating and exercising now is the way I'm going to eat and exercise for the rest of my life. My next birthday will se 60 and I plan to be around (but NOT round) for many more years to come--healthy, happy, and fit.

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks so much for checking out my blog and becoming a follower. I've reading almost all of your posts and you are right, we do have a lot in common, so let's be an encouragement to each other.

    My blog is new, but my weight loss story certainly isn't and like you, this time I'm losing it "mindfully" because it's going to be the LAST time!


  6. Michele -
    As always, I value your honesty and am SUPER impressed at the level of candor you're reaching via this blog. Thanks thanks thanks.

  7. Thanks so much to all of you for your comments.I FEEL your support; I really DO!

  8. Awesome post!! My breaking point was 1/01/10. Just had enough of being sick all the time. So grateful that my body was telling, enough is enough. I got the message!!! Thanks for commenting on my post today!!!!

  9. "...there was always some life event or celebration coming up that would make it impossible for me to eat “diet” food. I was always putting my weight loss off till Monday, the first of the month, after my Birthday, Easter, 4th of July, Christmas, winter, spring, summer or fall" ... I could have written that. This is why I'm blogging, too, because I'm serious about this and I want to hopefully inspire others to lose weight too the way other bloggers (like you!) have inspired me.

    Thank you so much for sharing this brilliant post. I want to hug you!!!