6-pound Lament

I wonder what combination of tricks will help me lose weight this time?

I know Weight Watchers works if I just do it. In the morning I have good intentions and I’m determined to succeed, to once and for all lose the 6 pounds that stand between my clothes fitting comfortably and not. Disappear my Buddha belly. By evening, I am ready to sabotage the die-ette and eat some crackers (1 point), a piece of cheese (2 points) or a Dove ice cream mini (3 points).

Whenever I diet, I am setting myself outside my normal eating patterns and entering the Land of Crave and Denial, a place I’m sure to sneak out of or completely bust out of eventually.

Because I know I’m going to want what I can’t have, I’ve ruled out other diets like Atkins, Paleo, etc. There’s no way I’ll succeed by banishing whole categories of food – bread, pasta, sugar, fat, which in my mind equal toast with butter, pasta with anything, sugar in my coffee, ice cream, dark chocolate, salty nuts, potato chips, and anything fried.

I don’t want to diet, and yet . . . there’s this shelf of a belly, the same six pounds I’ve gained and lost for 30 years. Which is stupid. Why do six pounds or a piece of cheese matter?

There’s a body positivity movement afoot to accept your weight and quit worrying about a perfect shape. I admire the young women who feel sexy and at ease in their own bodies and proudly disregard their muffin tops and big thighs. But I am of a different generation, one that was taught from a tiny age to aspire to a perfect figure. Anything less than that and you are made to feel like a less valuable person. Which is also stupid. But I can’t get it out of my head, can’t stop mentally shaving off the extra pounds to see my perfect shape, or more realistically, my pretty good shape.

It’s not that I’m huge. I weight 20 pounds more than when I married and looked good objectively (or is that as an object . . . something set on this earth for other people to look at?)

I’m trim, but not thin. My extra weight isn’t a health issue. For now. But I dislike how I look. I wish I looked different. I’m not aspiring to lose 20 pounds. Just six so my clothes fit better. So far, I’ve avoided buying larger sizes. That’s the line I won’t cross. But if I gain any more weight, I’ll have to.

Besides eating a lot of fish, salad, fresh fruit, chicken breasts, veggies and walking for at least 45 minutes every day, I have all kinds of tricks like—

  • Every day, I can have a planned cheat, like one sweet thing a day—a cookie or a Dove ice cream mini.
  • I don’t eat low-cal chocolate or cheese. They’re a waste of calories and I’m only going to eat more of them until I have the real thing. Instead, I eat small amounts of the good stuff—like one Dove dark chocolate Promise, not five. It really does satisfy my chocolate crave.
  • Have a 4 o’clock snack – a little hummus or a small piece of cheese and 2 or 3 crackers to tide me over until dinner.
  • Drink some ice water or herbal tea at night instead of a mojito, a beer, or a glass of rioja.
  • When the chip crave overwhelms me, I eat and enjoy a 1 oz. bag of chips fromSuperAmerica. A setback, yes, but better than a big bag of chips.

All of that works until it doesn’t. Until I don’t want to do it anymore. Until I crave more salt and sweet. Until abstinence sounds too pathetic and silly. Really? I can’t have a cookie? I really have to feel bad about caprese salad with creamy fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, basil, and good olive oil?

Which is why I have those six pounds to lose. Again. Which is stupid.

An excellent article, “Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner inspired me to reflect on my uneasy relationship with my weight. I highly recommend it.

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Revising My 10-Point Plan for Happiness (a.k.a. the Lure of Possibility)

More than 30 years ago, a good friend and I regularly launched what we mockingly called our “10-Point Plan for Happiness.” Our plans always included these steps: Quit going to the bars so much, especially during the week. Stop dating losers. Work out more. No more French fries/potato chips/chocolate or whatever indulgence was tempting us that week. Oh yeah, and save more money. But over the years, I’ve shortened up the list.

Even as my friend and I made those resolutions, we knew we were likely to backslide.

But there’s something very appealing about setting goals and having a plan—it helped me feel in control of my life. Setting goals is the means to accomplishing something and the counterpoint to daydreaming, but never doing. If I just follow these simple steps, I can make my life better—who wouldn’t want that?

Butterfly

Believing change is possible is ingrained in the American psyche. The lure of possibility is undeniable. If you’re fat and out of shape you can be transformed, especially if you win a chance to be on The Biggest Loser. If you’re clueless about clothes and your personal appearance, Stacy and Clinton can reform you on What Not to Wear. If you’re a philandering politician, you can humble yourself, ask your spouse and voters to forgive you and after some time has passed, you can be re-elected like U.S. representative Mark Sanford (ex-governor of South Carolina).

I believe real change is possible, but it isn’t fast or easy—it takes a lot more effort than making lists as I did in my 20’s or a going on a whirlwind clothes-buying spree. The people I’ve known who have reinvented themselves worked hard at it for years.

Sometimes my life feels like it’s one big Continuous Quality Improvement project. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the changes I need to undertake are refinements, not sweeping transformations. So I try to be a better writer, and I tinker with how to squeeze in more time for projects I enjoy, travel, family, friends, and fun. That focus has made my life richer and more fulfilled.

I no longer believe that I’m capable of making major improvements to myself . . . or that I even need to. That’s not smug self-satisfaction, but another way of saying I’m learning to accept my flaws. I’ll keep trying to think before I speak. I’ll also try not to offer advice unless asked. However, I know I’m going to backslide sometimes, and even though I’ll fall short on those goals (and others), I’m still basically OK.

If the goal is happiness, perfection is not required  . . . or even useful. So my current Plan for Happiness has a mere three points:

  1. Be kinder to myself— accept and forgive my shortcomings.
  2. Continue to focus on being healthy (food, exercise, stress management), but don’t fret too much about any of those items.
  3. Continue to spend more time doing what I love, less on what I don’t.

What works for you?

Resigning as MVP of the Eating Team

Screen shot 2013-01-01 at 8.21.20 PMI like the idea of a New Year and New Year’s resolutions. I want to believe that change is possible.

Achievable improvement has lots of appeal. So at very least, I’ll lose the weight I gained as a MVP on the Eating Team (Best All-Around Consumption – entrées, sweets, snacks, and alcohol). Nothing but fruits, vegetables and low-fat healthy everything from now until at least March.

But seriously, in a perverse way, I enjoy being virtuous . . . for a little while. I’ll obsessively calculate my Weight Watcher points (but I’ll spare you the details). I’ll be pleased when I no longer need to cram myself into my jeans and disguise my newly acquired spare tire with big sweaters.

I have other loftier goals—to be more generous, to be more tolerant, to think before I speak, to improve my writing. But I regularly make those resolutions and then backslide, so I’m realistic about the resolutions—I recognize that all I’m likely to accomplish is incremental improvements.

I have also learned that any time I’m dissatisfied with how I’m spending my days, I need to recalibrate—I can’t wait until another New Year rolls around. Taking stock and making resolutions is an ongoing process for me.

At heart, I’m an optimist. Lodged in my belief that I can change is a belief that the world can change, too. I’m hopeful about America—despite the political stupidity and individual selfishness that is rampant in our culture. I still believe Americans collectively strive to be better than we have been, and at very least, we will make incremental improvements in 2013.

But for right now, I’m focused on eating a juicy tangerine—a change I can control.

SSSHHHHHH SSSSSHHHH The Scale is in the Drawer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrystel came upstairs the other day and said she weighed 79 pounds. I didn’t pay any attention to this. We only have one scale in the house and that is in the basement bathroom. I just figured that she stepped on it after she was done showering.

She had never mentioned her weight before. She is ten-years-old and not overweight. But then she did it the next day and again the next.

I had it in my mind to inquire about her sudden interest in her weight, but then it slipped my mind. Neither Jody nor I ever talk about our bodies or other people’s bodies. We tell them … if you are hungry, eat; when you are full, stop eating. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to eat it. They have our permission to leave food on their plate.

We have intentionally not made food a focus in our house. Though, Jody and I, do have controls on the amount of soda the children drink by having cold water available in the refrigerator and as a general rule they don’t drink soda at home. We also don’t deny them candy, but they have to ask for it.

Our thought is … if candy isn’t taboo then there isn’t any reason for them to hoard or hide it. It is December 27 and they still have Halloween candy left.

Jody and I haven’t ever been concerned about Antonio and Crystel’s weight—in large part, because they regularly exercise at Tae Kwon Do.

One disagreement that Jody and I have had about the children eating cropped up when the kids were little. Antonio or Crystel said they were hungry, and Jody told them that they could wait until breakfast. I told her later, “You just need to know … if they ask me for something to eat, I don’t care what time it is, I am going to let them eat. I’m not ever going to send a kid to bed hungry.”  We head off any arguments by giving them a warning early enough in the evening … “If you want to eat, eat now.”

One day after school, when Crystel tells me, “I weigh 80 pounds,” I remember to ask her about it.

“Are the fourth graders talking about their weight at school?”

“No. Why?”

I tried again. “Are your classmates weighing themselves?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

Well, why the interest, I think to myself. I don’t want to make too big of deal about it, because then for sure it will become a big deal. That’s how it works with Crystel.

I tried one more time. “Do you tell classmates what your weight is? You know some classmates might be sensitive about their weight.”

“Who? Who is sensitive?”

December 27 - Two Dolphins pushing Crystel with their noses in Mexico.

December 27 – Two Dolphins pushing Crystel with their noses in Mexico.

Hmmm. She is just like her Mama Beth, answering a question with a question. I wasn’t getting anywhere fast.

“I don’t know,” I said. I needed to change the subject. I asked her the first thing that came to my mind, “Are you hungry?”

Jody and I don’t have glamour magazines lying around the house, and Crystel hasn’t started getting any teen magazines. So … maybe she is just curious about how she is changing from day to day.

Doesn’t matter. The scale is going in the drawer, in the cat room, by the litter box.