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28 June 2014


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Beware. Novel length comment coming:

"it was an achievement I had never thought possible, and it opened up all sorts of possibilities for me as well as leading to a lot of reflection on my identity."

I relate to this in a small, but meaningful way. My mother is 4'11, probably 50 pounds overweight (sound familiar), and is absolutely, thoroughly, and completely convinced it is not possible for her to lose weight. I have heard my whole life that, due to her genes and height, she cannot lose weight even though she is on a continual "diet." I could go on here, but won't.

My childhood and adolescence was spent obsessing by both of us that I not be fat like my mother. The extra pounds you gain as you first begin puberty were treated as a crisis and I was put on Slim-Fast. I had very unhealthy attitudes about eating tilting toward the disorder side all through high school even though I was very weight appropriate. I thought I was fat or fatish although one look at old pictures would prove I was delusional. (Just calculated my high school BMI: 19) When I went to college I did put on a bit of weight but that was because I was eating regularly and in the hubbub of the excitement of college, it didn't bother me except for that niggling thought in the back of my mind that I should lose some weight. When I got married, I almost immediately put on 10 more pounds and I was devastated. I was doomed to be fat just like my mother after all. There is no escaping your genes. Even though I didn't put on any more weight, I spent four years upset about it, convinced there was nothing I could do. (Calculated BMI: 24)

After four years of marriage, we started discussing the possibility of getting pregnant. In my mind, this was a turning point. If I were to get pregnant with the extra weight, I thought I would never, ever lose the weight because everybody knows that pregnancy dooms women to be fat forever. About three months before we were going to attempt to conceive, I was in a wedding and I was terribly unhappy with how I looked in the pictures and decided it was now or never. I consciously decided to start counting calories and measure my intake. And then, if by magic, the weight started to come off.

I cannot explain how shocked and surprised I was that I could actually lose weight. I had spent my whole life brainwashed that it was out of my control and solely determined by genetics. Over three or four months I learned what portions sizes really looked like and learned to resist my eating triggers. (I like to eat when I first get home from anywhere whether I'm hungry or not.) I lost about 12 pounds and felt, for the first time in my life, happy with my body. (BMI: 21.8) I was soon pregnant and wasn't sure what that would bring but was confident I could lose weight again if I had to do it.

It was a revelation. I do have some control. I am not doomed to only gain weight until I'm am certifiably obese. It is possible to have a healthy body image. Of course my mother says it is just because I have enough of my father's genes to counteract hers.

What I did is nothing on the scale of what you did, but I think I learned a similar lesson. It is true that I did obsess about it for those few months, but once you learn what to do and learn to view your body as accomplished and not a cruel joke, it is easier to implement the needed steps later. So I do agree with you that it is not a choice between being fat or being happy. These things can coincide as long as your "not-fat" goal is appropriate for your age and state. If I were trying to reattain my high school dimensions, I would be unhappy indeed.

Melanie B

"Athleticism of a certain individualistic type is a family value for us. (It runs in Mark's family of origin"

I think that's a huge obstacle for me to overcome. Athleticism was never a high priority in my family of origin or in Dom's. Neither one of us is particularly interested in being athletic for its own sake and my geekery tends to focus on literature and theology and I have a hard time getting interested in crunching numbers and the kind of things you find interesting challenges.

For us to embrace the kind of several times a week gym going that you do so naturally would require a radical reordering or priorities and schedules for our family and would be fighting against our proclivities. I've never in my life been the type to exercise regularly other than taking daily walks, which for me has always been seasonal except the two year period when I was in grad school and didn't own a car and had to walk everywhere.


Jenny - fascinating comment . Every word of it. Especially the idea that accomplishment begets confidence which begets more success ( willingness to put up with self-denial) -- This is why learning to swim was such a turning point for me.

Melanie - I really only make it "naturally" to the pool about twice a week. Have to shuffle and scramble to get that to three times. Can't do four at all!

Melanie B

My dad, on the other hand, has been a daily swimmer for ever. As far back as I can remember, he'd get up at 5, go to daily Mass, go for a swim and then go to work. He still does it now, except for the work part. Now he goes home and naps. And he might go to a later Mass. He had his stroke while swimming laps and ironically that's probably what got him to the hospital quickly enough that he could get treatment and have minimal lasting damage. Had he been at home, who knows how long it would have been till he was found.

But his exercise routine, like his prayer routine, was always just something he did on his own. It was never something we shared in. I don't think he knew how to let us in.


That is interesting too.

We haul all the kids to the gym a couple of times a week. I never really know if it "counts" as family time for them or not -- each of us is doing our own thing while we are there (unless they are in swim lessons, younger kids in child care, older boys might swim or try to throw a basketball through a hoop or use the exercise bike, Mark and I take turns with the baby). It's a convenient and easy way for us all to move around, especially in the winter when it's far too cold to go out. Sometimes in the middle of a school day that isn't going well, I will take the kids there -- it reboots the day, and I get a hot shower all to myself if nothing else.

The three oldest kids can go with Mark to the local climbing gym, too. They love that and we try to do it a few times a year.

I am envious of friends who regularly get their kids outdoors for a real hike, but it rarely seems to work when we have such a wide variety of ages. I mean, we can do it occasionally as a diversion or family activity, but it doesn't work to give everyone satisfying exercise. Family gym night replaces that.

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