The Magazine: Loss

by

 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

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Elizabeth Kaeton
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Thanks for that clarification, Ann Fontaine.

Three more comments - this article has obviously touched a third rail in my psyche.

1. I would love to know the source of the information - other than "a friend at church" - that "Episcopalians are twenty percent thinner than other denominations." And, why in God's name is that important? It's not. Don't include it. It makes Episcopalians sound shallow and silly. We're not, that point providing the exception to the rule.

2. I second the comment about "cradle Episcopalian". I was received into TEC more years ago than my present age and yet, when I hear or see that phrase, I instantly feel like an outsider. That makes me feel as if that is the point of the comment. None of us were born Christian or a particular denomination but we were all reborn in Christ at Baptism. Isn't that enough?

3. Finally, I understand the theme of The Magazine is "loss" - although it's not written anywhere on this page which might have put this essay into some kind of context - but isn't weight loss (especially dieting) stretching the theme just a tad?

I mean, had the author written with a bit more depth on the spirituality of changing body image, and with a bit more compassion and depth of understanding of how complicated and therefore difficult it is for some women to lose weight, and, perhaps at least acknowledged the enormous pressures placed upon women by our culture to "fit in" to a particular body image, I might _ MIGHT_ have seen the connection. Instead, the smug tone just makes me angry.

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Catherine McMullen
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Catherine McMullen

The essay is underscored with a smugness that is patronizing, annoying and not helpful. It displays no compassion or empathy for people for whom weight loss is far more difficult.
Also, can people please drop the phrase "cradle Episcopalian"? It implies some kind of superiority, like being a charter member of a club. I am not "cradle." I chose this church.

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Elizabeth Kaeton
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As I read this I kept hearing Megan Trainor singing in the background, "I'm all about dat bass," and thinking she is much healthier than the author of this piece. I don't get why The Cafe ran this piece. It did not "Speak to the Soul". Not mine, anyway.

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

This is in The Magazine not "Speaking to the Soul"

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Connie Clark
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Connie Clark

I'm quite disappointed that the magazine is willing to publish a quite typical weight-loss story, and especially that it published one that elevates thinness, small clothing sizes, and prejudicial attitudes about appearance. It also parrots the "mind over matter" meme that is so disturbing to most people who have struggled with serious weight or eating issues.

It's "better" if Episcopalians are 20% thinner than people of other denominations? Why? Maybe because "you can never be too rich, too thin, or too privileged?" (Overweight has become a marker in the class wars, in case folks haven't noticed). Does that also mean that the thinner Episcopalian next to me in the pew or on the altar is somehow "better" than me? (Also, who in the world would do a serious study of who weighed what in which church? And who cares?)

Please, Episcopal Café and the Magazine, I have a higher regard for you than this. Consider the pain of those who have not succeeded at weight loss, and there are many such in our pews, and if you must publish on this subject, look for a writer who can speak to it with more spiritual maturity and compassion.

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Mary Sheeran
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Mary Sheeran

We live in a culture where the ideal size for women is zero. Think about it.

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Elouise Weaver
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Elouise Weaver

Fabienne, Thanks for sharing your story....'losing weight' certainly is an interesting subject ! We live in a culture, where snack food (temptation) is everywhere, and available all hours of the day. (I was obese as a teen, for 2 years. But lost weight, and kept it off, for the last 40 years.) For me, its a fact, that I had to accept...'with my slow metabolism, and larger frame, I just can't eat that much!' . Yes, it can be a struggle, but I have choices. So , I choose to ... drink water instead of soda or juices, eat small portions, dessert is for special occasions, and I 'move' as much as possible. (our sedentary lifestyle can be brutal.) I have compassion for those that struggle with obesity, -- I think it may be a separate problem, with a different set of solutions. Weight Watchers, Overeaters Annonymous, and Celebrate Recovery, are a few good programs available, that examine deeper issues in a caring way.

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

I find the graphic pretty symbolic of the content. Cutting a woman into parts and only finding "thin" ones acceptable. Happy the Episcopal Church is thinner than other denominations? That makes us "better"? It is good to be healthy but flaunting weight loss when many struggle and don't find it so easy is problematic.

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Ann
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Ann

I appreciate the similitude and directness of this personal essay on personal weight. The no fuss, matter of fact approach is a refreshing break from all the hoopla and baggage that typically accompanies these self reports. Thank you for sharing your story honestly and straight forwardly.
And to Kristen's comments: I didn't read that this experience was "so easy" at all. And like you said it is her personal story. It sounds like you have a different story to share that is as viable and true. One's story does not need to be the container for all stories. I hope you feel loved enough to share your story.

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

Kristin and Ann, please sign your full name when you comment. If you need an exemption let us know.

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Kristin
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Kristin

I am glad your path to weight loss was so easy, but I read your essay and am filled with anger at the lack of thought, research, and compassion that goes into your prescription of 'don't eat'. I'm glad your path was so easy. But that makes you an outlier not the norm. And telling people who have not only been struggling with their weight, but with how people treat them, most of their lives does a huge disservice to their struggle. I realize this is a personal essay-- but the lack of awareness in it of the struggles of overweight people by the author & the editor who approved it is stunning.

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