A Hair’s Breadth from Rock Bottom

Here I sit for, not for the first time, being much closer to 200 lbs than I would like. I’ve been here before and in some ways it feels like I have slipped into this larger version of myself like one would slip into a pair of well-worn house shoes. Despite my discontent, I am also comforted by the extra weight, and its protective layer. It has been a really cold winter.

But, like so many times before, I am also at a loss as to how this happened.

Initially, I blamed my doctor’s changing my birth control pills. I was suffering from terrible acne, had been since I stopped nursing my son two years ago. So, she suggested a higher dose pill. With a healthy blood pressure, she gave me the green light to stay on the pill (given my age) and wrote the script. It seemed shortly thereafter that I ate and ate and ate…this was in late October. Now, I look at pictures from Halloween longingly; I didn’t even realize at the time that I was thin, healthy and looked a great deal younger than I do now.

Having been plump most of my life, this happens to me frequently. Every time I was at or near ‘goal’ weight, I didn’t see it. There was always an issue to me whether it be a flabby tummy or porch swing triceps; I was never content. Not even that summer I got all the way down to a size 6. I could always lose more in my mind.

Yes, I know this is a sign of some eating disorder or perhaps, body dysmorphic disorder, but am I really so different from every other average sized woman in America? Don’t we all fret the closer we get to those double digit jeans?

The most troubling part of this most recent gain is I really had trouble pinpointing what I did wrong and what I needed to do to fix it. For example, in the past, I would see the numbers creep, join Weight Watchers and then watch them decrease. But, this time…I joined Weight Watchers and gained more!!

By the beginning of January, I had gained close to 15 pounds and was depressed, beating myself up mentally, refusing to buy clothes that fit (cause I was gonna lose it all…soon), and really just utterly lost, contemplating extreme dieting that I had not taken part in in years. But, at the end of January, I had a shift in thought.

A light bulb turned on and shone brightly.

I wanted to lose the weight, I wanted to get up and run and shout, exercise, make healthy choices, have my family be proud of me…but I had absolutely no energy. I started reading anything I could online about this health craze vs. that health craze, desperately looking for something to do to increase my energy and motivation. It was like I knew what I needed to do, but I just could not lift the mental fog that was hindering my energy and my ability to get up and go.

Then one day about two maybe three weeks ago, I stumbled upon a documentary called Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead. Wow, I thought. That’s how I feel. At 36, I felt too old to be young but at the same time knew that 36 is too young to be old. I asked myself repeatedly, can I live the next 30-40 years feeling this tired? This wrung out? This disinterested?

Every time the answer was no…So, I watched the doc. You know, ‘cause misery loves company.

The documentary was inspirational. Joe, an Australian businessman, was obese and felt much the same way I did; additionally, he had some chronic autoimmune disease that required he take steroids each day. This combined with his weight made him “a cheeseburger away from a heart attack.”

Joe’s solution was to juice for 60 days (and consume only juice) while traveling across America. I was skeptical. I thought for sure that the film was going to turn into some propaganda laden, 2 hour long commercial for some juicer or special program that I could order at the end of the film for $19.99.

But, I was wrong.

While Joe has written a book, and it includes juice recipes and tips, and he did have a really nice juicer, none of the expected browbeating propaganda was present. And, as the film progressed, I watched Joe shrink before my eyes as he also gained more energy and was able to eliminate most of his daily meds. Additionally, he met some really interesting people along the way and built even more interesting relationships.

My first thought was, wow! Can juice be the answer? Something as simple as that? No miracle pill, no major mind overhaul, just juice? I still wasn’t convinced. For about a week, I did more soul searching and really tried to get in touch with what had changed in my diet and attitude in the last few months.

First, in late September, I decided I was not going to be a casual smoker anymore. I had started smoking a few cigarettes a day when my husband had his second back surgery. We both got into this gross habit while he was home recovering, and it stuck. There is something sweet about the release as you exhale from the first drag of a fresh cigarette. I did some of my best thinking that year I was a smoker, on my back porch, a cancer stick in hand. At the time, I was having 2-3 cigarettes a day and told myself that I was not really a smoker and that eventually, I’d quit.

Well, a year later I was still smoking. Carrying around gum and body spray, I had convinced myself that I was not a smoker; I only smoked at home and on road trips, and it took me a week to smoke a whole pack…at the end of September, I smoked the last cigarette in the pack and told my husband I wasn’t buying anymore.

That was it; I had quit smoking.

Second, at the beginning of last summer, I made other health changes. In June, I had planted a substantial garden. Over the summer the garden thrived, and I slowly started eating more and more veggies from the garden and less and less processed foods. My eggplant was so prolific I couldn’t give them away, and I had to search for new recipes. The changes to my diet were gradual and mostly subconscious, and I had also made the very conscious decision to stop drinking diet soda. I was having joint pain and read somewhere that uric acid from too much soda could be the issue. Giving up diet coke was and still is more difficult than quitting smoking.

Lay a diet coke and a cigarette next to each other, and I will choose the diet coke every time. Add a piece of fried chicken and it gets complicated.

I lost about 8 lbs last summer without even trying. I was focused on my garden and my writing, as I am most summers, so this weight loss was completely without thought. How wonderful!! In addition to quitting smoking, I was eating more fruits and veggies, stopped drinking soda and was eating vegetarian more days than not.

As the fall wore on and Halloween approached, I continued with my new healthy choices, some conscious others not. And, I felt good! I was the happiest I had been in near a decade. I was no longer teaching full-time and was focusing, finally, on my own writing. But, then the holidays crept up on me and the Halloween candy came into the house. And, I started to eat and eat and eat.

It started small, a piece of candy here and there. Then, by Christmas, I had fallen into this terrible habit where I would, after putting the kids to bed, grab a variety of candy and 100-calorie snack bags and eat them in bed, watching T.V. or writing.

As I was doing this, it was like the more I ate, the more I wanted. I am an emotional eater.

But, this did not start with emotion. At first, I just wanted a piece of candy or two, then three. Then I’d add in some baked chips and forgo the apple or banana altogether; and as time wore on, the more I ate, the more I wanted and the less appealing fruits, veggies and vegetarian options were.

I was starving and gaining at the same time.

I was also depressed, snapping at my husband and kids, refusing to do anything on weekends but watch T.V. and do only the required household errands. I had hit rock bottom, again.

What my soul searching revealed to me was that, at least initially, I was not eating out of emotion. I was eating because I just could not get enough. This was an issue, and it became obvious to me that I needed to change the food choices I was making. So, I just paid more attention to things without making any changes for a couple of days.

When once I was having no diet soda, then I was having multiple cans a day; I weighed myself one day, then abstained from soda that day. The next day I weighed in again; I was 2 lbs lighter. Water weight I know, but maybe the soda was why I was so bloated: my face swollen and my wedding ring imbedded in my flesh.

I cut out the soda, again. I then made note of how much processed food I was eating as opposed to whole foods. And, it seemed like the more I had, the more I wanted. I found myself asking, is all the hype true…you know the organic, whole food bs?

Once my soul searching was over I had decided that the culprit had been, initially, overindulgence in processed foods which led to more overindulgence which eventually led me to emotional eating of the worst kind where each night I was sitting in bed eating hundreds of empty calories and berating myself for the eating.

I needed change. While I was contemplating my issues, I also watched more documentaries on healthy eating and came across quite a few that promoted healthy eating, unprocessed foods and juicing. I wasn’t consciously trying to gorge myself on hippie propaganda. But, the more I watched, the more I read, the more it made sense, as I saw myself in the people interviewed. I had experienced the downward spiral many times, and I wanted it to end.

I bought a juicer. Still not fully convinced, I did not splurge on the $300 machine that Joe uses, and I did not even purchase the $150 Jack LaLane machine. I bought one for $40 on Amazon and spent about $30 on fresh veggies. I was motivated and ready to incorporate real change into mine, and secretly my family’s, life.

I ordered the juicer during a snow storm…and instead of two-day Prime shipping, it took a week and a nasty email to Amazon to get my juicer. On the evening it came in, I made my first juice, my husband and 12 year old eagerly watching the juice spurt out of the obnoxiously loud machine.

The first juice I made was ok…in my excitement, I put virtually every veggie I’d bought in the juicer and way, way too much kale. Needless to say, I was in the bathroom 20 minutes after consumption for the great release, and my husband had already sworn off juicing.

I put the rest of the juice in a glass bottle for the next morning and figured I’d try again tomorrow. The next morning, I took the juice out of the fridge and drank it slowly waiting for my coffee to brew. The effects were subtle at first. I just felt more awake and aware, pre-coffee. And, there was another trip to the potty. That was a week ago. I have lost almost 6 pounds since then.

Now, first off, I am still eating. I did not, nor do I plan to, do a juice fast. I have stopped drinking diet soda, I have stopped eating ‘most’ processed foods and I have two to four juices a day instead of or with my snacks. And, I am not hungry. I am also eating more raw nuts and seeds, and my juices have gotten better, having figured out the ratio of this or that and also discovering the yumminess of juiced herbs and ginger.

I do not know if this will continue. Perhaps, I am losing only water weight, but I am also moving more quickly, taking random walks with the dog in the middle of the day and I am less irritable. I am also more aware and energized, my skin has improved and I am more regular than ever before.

Maybe this is the juice, maybe it is placebo, but at least for right now, I think I’ve figured out what to do to get back to that size 10 almost 8, maybe even that size 6 from many summers ago.

One thought on “A Hair’s Breadth from Rock Bottom

  1. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I’ve felt horrible lately and it put me in a way too serious funk around Christmas. I did the same as you, no dr peppers and lots of fruits and veggies, right at the end of the summer. It’s crazy how much better i felt. It still didn’t stop me from grabbing that soda when my family stressed me out. Once I drank one, I couldn’t seem to stop. I picked up Dr Ornish’s book The Spectrum and have been using that as a guide.

    I love you and know that you deserve the world. Here’s good luck to both of us.

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