by Fabienne Christenson
“Overweight.” That was the verdict from my iPhone’s BMI index. I had been skinny all my life until now, but that had ended and I had to face the fact that I was headed in a bad direction. At almost 60, “Obese” could be in my future. If I didn’t want to end up like the rest of my family, I had to come to grips with reality.
There was a feeling of hopelessness mixed in with the revelation of my new status. I had gained and lost weight before, and ratcheting up looked like my fate.
Sometimes you can change your destiny. Your will has to be strong, and you have to know what the important things are, versus those which are merely compelling.
The first thing I had to do was convince myself that from now on, for the rest of my life, I would have to eat differently. I could not eat until I felt full. I could not eat everything I wanted. I had to rely on vegetables and some fruit rather than salt, sugar, starch, and grease. Love the vegetable, and eschew the sweet and starchy.
Next came the key to successful dieting: realize that you are not perpetually hungry, and act on that. Before I changed my ways, I got so hungry that I had to eat. After I changed my ways, I realized that I wasn’t really hungry. I could delay my meals or even skip one every once in a while, and I was not gnawingly ravenous. We are lead to believe that if we don’t eat three times a day and have snacks, snacks, snacks, that we will die of starvation. Not so. Our ancestors didn’t have regular meals and they survived. We can, too, and we should every once in a while. Eating well is good. Eating perpetually is not. We in Western Civilization are encouraged to eat perpetually.
I signed up for an app on my iPhone called LoseIt where I could record my intake calories, my exercise calories, and my weight throughout the time I would be dieting. Carefully note your weight every day and you will be invested in the results of your labors. True enough. LoseIt is free and very useful.
I started off like all dieters, full of zeal and optimism. Days turned into weeks and the pains of hunger grew ever louder. I sussed myself out as being just too used to being fed at regular intervals and ignored the hunger pains. Gum and coffee were my first lines of defense and worked well.
What is more important: diet or exercise? Do you need to lift weights? Cardio is more calorie burning; why do I need yoga? Do you cleanse? (The answer is NO.) How about supplements? (The answer is phffft.) Fads are not going to save you, you are going to save you. The only way is the Old Fashioned Way so get to it.
The first week I was down by three pounds. Every week afterward I made a relentless mark downward. Pretty soon I had lost five pounds and noticed a definite ease in doing Zumba! My clothes fit much better and I could stay away from the 14–16 size racks. Size 12 felt good.
Months now passed. Five to ten pounds were gone. I was feeling the same but glad to stand on the scales and see the change. Now I started to think about pretty clothes and when that dreaded “W” would melt off my tummy. At three months into the diet I had lost fifteen pounds but needed fifteen more to leave. I was going to live my life at 125, and that was a foregone conclusion.
Now I was within five pounds of my goal, and we were going to Belgium and Holland (homes of chocolate and beer). We walked so much every day. I had treats (gasp) but did not eat the whole thing. I made wise choices when confronted (steamed vs. fried, vegetables vs. meat and potatoes). I ate a few tiny pancakes, a part of dessert, and a nice beer. Got home and lost one pound (gained none!). My plan was working.
By June I was at my goal weight. I had learned so much. I could push away vast plates of mashed potatoes, eat half of what I used to, be satisfied by vegetables, and realized that I would have to always modify my eating habits if I wanted to remain at the weight I had fought so hard to encounter. I had to learn to like eating sensibly, and even love it. I had to learn to eat fewer treats, and to leave a lot of cake behind. I had to revoke my membership in The Clean Plate Club. They would have been traumatized by my orts anyway, now that they were more than half the serving.
I made my goal. It wasn’t always easy, but I did make it. Finally, I felt like a runway model, and I was only trim enough to be in the category of what my doctor said I should weigh. That is good enough for me.
Since my accomplishment I have kept the weight off. There are fluctuations but they settle down to the desired weight.
I am very glad I took off the excess and didn’t let it accumulate with interest. I fit in regular clothes and they look much better on me. You simply do have a tendency to put on a lot more weight after age 50 than before, and a huge ability to justify why that happens.
One of my friends at church told me that Episcopalians are twenty percent thinner than other denominations. I would like to think that is true, but I also think there is a bit of effort that goes into a statistic here. There is a lot of thought which is part of the loss. Thinking about what, how, and how to continue throughout life are essential. To me, the key was realizing that we are easily lead to believe that we need more more more food, and that is just not so. The big question is: are you hungry? Most of the time you have to admit not. So, don’t eat.
Fabienne Christenson is a cradle Episcopalian from Washington, D.C. who is now part of The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati Ohio, along with her husband, Gordon, a retired law dean and professor. Fabienne enjoys running her own business, Bible study, and being a Lay Weeder. She is a bit of a nerd as well as someone who enjoys writing.
image: Blue nude by Henri Matisse