I have such a long row to hoe, on my weight loss journey. I do not like associating my lifestyle transformation to a diet. With a lifestyle change, I can accept that every day is not picture perfect. There are days, such as Monday, where I want to indulge on chocolates throughout the day. I accept that, but I also know that I cannot do that every day.
I have made a conscious decision to not allow cheat days either, because they are so restrictive. I eat what I want, for the most part. There isn’t anything stricken from my food choices; however, I have modified tremendously how much of it and how often I will indulge. Macaroni, for example, is a favorite food. Yet, because it is 10 points, on the Weight Watcher scale system for 1 cup, I will eat it only once a month. 10 points for one measuring cup of macaroni is absurd. I really enjoy snacking on peanut butter and Ritz crackers. Sometimes, I just want some peanut butter, and this is typically how I would consume it. What I had no idea of was how easily those points add up, if consumed carelessly. If I need a peanut butter fix, I will just make me a peanut butter/jelly sandwich. One tablespoon is enough to spread on one slice of bread; it is 200 calories or 5 points for 2 tablespoons; I just need one. I still do not eat it as often as I use to, but have found a better/lighter way of getting my fix.
To quench my sugar fix, I have found balance with cookies, smaller portions of cake, 1 cup of orange sherbet, or fresh fruit. We are in the season of watermelons! I love watermelon, although it is difficult finding the seeded ones I love so much. I can indulge on a big bowl of strawberries or a sweet banana. I also really like grapefruits and oranges. At any given time, I always have a huge array of fresh fruits, in my home. I still haven’t given up my sweets. I have just modified the type of sweets I eat, primarily. If I want a slice of chocolate cake, I will eat it. I am simply thinking about my food, and the difference this makes is amazing.
Finding a balance is so important for me. I also do not give my daughter horrible sweets. She loves bananas, mangos, and watermelon. I try to give her as much fresh fruit as possible. She is so young, but I am responsible for shaping how she views food.
I am no expert, but this has worked for me. I do not want to live in the gym, so my option is controlling my food, and I have found success.
I have always known that I was overweight. However, I had never experienced a negative reaction to my waistline. After moving to Charlotte, I realized that there was a very negative perception of overweight people. I was young and naïve. I have worked hard all of my life. I am the farthest thing from lazy. For God’s sake, I had chopped cotton, down in the rural parts of The Delta. I have usually worked two jobs; although, I was completing my degree. Socially and physically, I have never felt any restraints. What I wanted to do, I did. So realizing that I was, supposedly, lazy, unhappy, sad, and lonely was more shocking and sad. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I moved to Colorado, which has a 19% obesity rate (Calorielab 2008).
I remember an incident, after moving here. I went to have dinner with a co-worker and met some really great people. One of the girls and I had become really good friends. She later revealed too me that when she saw me walking in, she immediately thought “oh my, here comes another large, unhappy, mad-at-the-world black woman.” I was so shocked, by her admission. Along with her admission, she offered an apology and acknowledged that my life had order and an independence that she longs for. This gives meaning to NOT judging a book by its cover, right?
Now, I wonder how often does this happen? How often am I seen, and immediately dismissed into the unimportant bucket, before I am heard? I don’t want that to happen, because I am pretty PHAT, regardless of my waistline. I am driven, smart, and has a supreme case of curiosity that will keep me grounded, forward-thinking, and ambitions.
I recently found an article that stated that the power of weight loss does not come easy for some. In this case, young black and white girls were studied. It was found that with daily exercise/activity Caucasian girls can easily keep up a healthy weight. However, for the African-American girls exercise needs increasing; although, they were unable to decide how much more exercise was needed. In fact, their study concluded, “But for black girls, there was no clear link between physical activity at age 12 and obesity at 14 (Pittman 2012).” The conclusion, in my opinion, stated that obesity is inevitable for some African-American girls.
This article did not offer any other avenues for the black girls to make a healthy weight loss. As for me, I have learned that no matter how active I am, my weight is not going to change, unless I begin the process of introducing healthier choices of food and utilizing portion control. These things should not have been introduced, at the age of 12 and 14, but at the earliest stages of being a toddler.
Within my family, I have decided to start now. My 17 month has just now become picky. She does not do well with green things. She likes to play with her peas, squish between her fingers, and give them back to me. However, if I add them in a soup, and I do not allow her to self-feed, she will gobble it up. Her dad has been able to successfully get her to eat spinach. I think she likes the seasoning he uses. If I am eating broccoli, and I feed it to her, she will eat it. At this age, I have found that most things are eaten, based on the introduction. My daughter is of me, metaphorically and physically speaking. She copies everything I do.
Based on this article, I can probably feebly defend my waistline, though I will not. It is still my responsibility to make sure my health and that of my family leads to the road of success. This article also explains that obesity is more than just laziness and will power. With the obesity talks on the table, hopefully our policy-makers and consumers can talk evenly and equally about the nature of this beast and how to contain it.
Pittman, Genevra (2012). Black girls don’t benefit as much from exercise. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47694881/ns/health-childrens_health/
Calorielab (2008). Mississippi is the fattest state for 6th straight year, Colorado still leanest, Rhode Island getting fatter, Alaska slimmer. Retrieved from http://calorielab.com/news/2011/06/30/fattest-states-2011/
I am almost certain that I can come up with a ton of valid reasons why I have been overweight most of my life. I can probably dredge up a horrible story from my childhood, or a horrible moment while dealing with the pressure of peers. In truth, I was not a bullied kid, in school. I was not one of the popular kids, but I got a pass, because all of my classes were with the smart and popular kids. When I was in school, being smart was not a bad thing. However, I have identified what triggered my weight gain. I was very, very young. At one point, I was a very active child. I could almost outrun any boy; I could climb a tree better than most; I tried or out raced everyone on my bicycle. Then there was a transformation in my home life that changed everything. I could not go out as often, the older I got. So, I began reading and listening to music, which were great indoor activities, but not activities that promoted exercise in a growing child. At the age of 14, I had become plump, and I was reading 7 novels in 2 weeks. I read Roots, The Color Purple, and tackled Gone with the Wind, before the age of 15. I had developed an enormous thirst for reading. I was a really good singer too, so I used that to take part in talent shows or events to stay busy. My mind flourished, although my body did not.
In addition to my lack of exercise, I ate more. The foods that were available were not served in the healthiest way. We ate sugar on our beans and turnip greens. The natural sweetness of a sweet potato increased, because of added brown and white sugars and butter. Corn bread was sweeten as well. Anything that was not a meat had sugar on it, and that was just fine with me. No matter how poor we were, we ate. There were not any lessons on how to eat well, and it was not expected.
As an adult, we must become accountable for our own behavior, especially when we know better. There is an adage that says, “you do better, when you know better”. Around the age of 25, I began exercising. I had a gym membership; I loved water aerobics; I loved to dance, which I did most weekends, for hours at a time. However, I maintained my current obese weight, became stronger, and lost a pound here or there, but it was not a physical transformation for me. And because I did those things, I thought I was healthy. I was active, busy, an intellect, had a social life, dated often, and for the most part felt that I had it together. What is it that I did not mention or try to change? This answer is what I have since figure has and will always be my downfall, if it continues to go unchecked. My food! I am a sweet eater. You can take off the skin on my chicken, boil or bake it, and I would not care. I will eat must green vegetables, and did not mind sautéing in olive oil. However, I wanted my lemon or strawberry cake, ice cream, or this delicious peach crunch pie I make from scratch. It’s full of butter and sugar, and it is not complete without a healthy scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Oh, dare I not forget my sodas. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar.
What have I done? I have identified what triggered my early stages of obesity. I have taken steps to further find ways of at least keeping hypertension and diabetes away. The stage I am in now is understanding my food, so that I can experience a healthy physical transformation. I still want my sugar; however, I am finding ways to give me that through naturally sweet things. Fruits! If I want to bake a cake, I use Splenda or the fancy new phrase of ‘portion control’. I drink about 40 to 60 ozs of water a day, no additives. For that extra, if I want something different, I drink crystal light. I am far from having it right, but I am getting there.
I have a little girl who needs her mommy, and deserves every opportunity to have success in life, and she cannot have that unless I transform my mind and spirit, which will eventually change me physically. Anyone that is reading this and identifies with my story, it is not going to happen over night. It is not easy. We just need to decide what is important in life; what we want from it; and how we can carry out those very personal goals. I am not a work out guru. If it is not fun, I am probably not interested. So no, I do not want to go jogging. However, I will take a walk with you, down this beautiful trail or garden or along the beach. We can have a play date with our kids at the park. Or, we can rent some bikes and cruise.
I want everything. I want to travel; be successful in my career; a loving and healthy family; one more baby; and a healthy physical transformation. I am currently losing 1 to 2 pounds a week. Since starting my journey, I have lost totally 26 pounds. I did find that I need help with understanding my food and thought that Weight Watchers (WW) was the way to go. Since joining WW, I have lost 16.2 lbs, since 3/19/12, and all I want to do is have fun doing it. So far, so good.
We have First Lady Michelle Obama asking everyone to introduce activity to our children and into our daily lives. We have Mayor Michael Bloomberg forcing change by trying to control the ordering size of beverages. We have Jennifer Hudson singing will power into losing the weight. What are the consumers (the obese) doing to take part? If they are not willing to become a part of this issue, then it will not change. The incentives for losing the weight only benefits the obese. It is their health care premium rates that will not drastically increase; they are not forced to vacate the airplane or pay for an extra seat. With their employers knowing that they do care and are actively involved in transforming their lives, job opportunities could also increase. It is a win-win for those that are obese to become actively involved in their lives.
Why is it so difficult for those that are obese to move out of their on way, which includes minimizing the ridicule, the doubt, and stereotypic behaviors?
Change is hard. There is so much uncertainty in change. The doubt and fear are crippling (Saltz 2007): What if I do not do well? What if I fail? What if I stop and cannot start again? Will the new look suit me? Can I handle the change, both physically and mentally? What if I gain, and not lose?
The war on obesity is not about food size or money, but that of a mental blockage, in my opinion. As Dr. Saltz (2007) stated, finding what triggered the weight gain is life changing. I cannot imagine a person wanting a pass over a job opportunity, mistreatment, or discriminated against because of their weight. Although, many of us may not do well avoiding misery, I am sure it is not sought after. That’s a part of life. We can wish life perfect; however, it comes with trials and tribulations. Some of our issues is weight; some have issues with drugs and alcohol. The vast difference is those that are overweight/obese cannot hide what is so obvious, and are immediately placed at a disadvantage. It does not mean that all obese people are slow, stupid, uncaring, uneducated, or writhing with loneliness and unhappiness. Quite often, we are seen, before we are heard, therefore escaping the stereotypes become very difficult.
The insurance premiums will continue to rise; the airlines will continue to increase rates. It will be the same story as the smokers. Anyone that is obese should expect this to happen. Right and wrong is not my argument. In sake of competition, businesses are going to stay competitive, and this is another way to increase revenue. What we must understand is that it is not anyone’s responsibility to correct this problem, but that of the obese. Yes, we can face the issue of whether it is morally or ethically wrong for organizations to make profit for what some consider as a mental disorder, but can we really blame them?
Understanding that creating revenue is a chain reaction, when more than one type of organization can find profit, in a problem area. The insurance companies can decrease reimbursement rates on physicians, because they are seeing the patient often. The self-funded employer groups can ask that certain diabetic supplies and high blood pressure medicines be excluded from the formulary or durable medical equipment policy. The airlines can increase rates for their plus size customers. Head hunters can assume that their percentage will decrease, because there is a perceived notion that someone overweight is not appealing or physically suited for a job.
The increasing health care cost of America’s most visible consumers are that of the obese. The obese are not the only cost drivers, but this is a campaign issue, due to health care reform. Obesity has an estimated annual price tag, nationally, of $190 billion (Begley 2012). This sticker price guarantees this issue is not leaving anytime soon.
So what can be done about obesity? We, you, them cannot do anything, only I can affect change. If this is in fact a mental disorder, then this has to be acknowledged and handled appropriately, by the obese person. If it is a choice to become overweight, then accepting all that comes with it, has to become a part of daily living.
Saltz, Gail (2007). Conquer your fears about losing excess weight. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19488269/ns/today-relationships/t/conquer-your-fears-about-losing-excess-weight/
Begley, Sharon (2012). The Cost of Obesity. The HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/obesity-costs-dollars-cents_n_1463763.html
I have been fat all of my adult life. I always justified it, because I had not experienced any health care scares, and I was fairly active. I hiked, camped, kayak, and loved the water. I didn’t have any issues putting a bathing suit on, and proudly displaying what ‘my momma gave me’. I felt that life was pretty gosh darn good. I went dancing almost every weekend. I didn’t smoke, abused alcohol, or any type of drugs. I just wanted to dance and dance. I think I am pretty good on the dance floor too. I just needed my bottle of water, and some rocking music. I have a thing for old 70s and 80s music. I could really ‘get down’ to that stuff!
What changed for me?
My husband and I had an unexpected pregnancy; our first. Needless to say, we were ecstatic, but I experienced my first scare about my size. Clinically, I was obese, regardless of my height; I am almost 6 feet tall. I knew that I wanted to lose weight before our first pregnancy, mainly because of the weight I thought I would gain, gestational diabetes scare, and high blood pressure, which could cause a very difficult pregnancy, and I did not want to expose my unborn child to any of that. What could I do now? Nothing.
I threw myself into a healthy lifestyle immediately. I drank ungodly amounts of water, fruits, and vegetables. It was an easy transition. I did not experience the horrible issues of morning sickness. The only thing that made me gag was gargling, after I brushed my teeth. Around my fourth month, I began to lose weight, DURING my pregnancy. I began to shrink, and my belly began getting larger and larger. Now, I have another fear. What pregnant woman loses weight during her pregnancy? Something was wrong, I thought. I was so scared. My OBGYN kep
t assuring me that everything was just fine, and that my pregnancy was a diet for me. He found it amusing. Our baby was still measuring properly and was at a healthy weight. Hmmmmph..
By the time, it was time for our daughter to arrive, I had lost about 15 lbs during my pregnancy. One week after she was born (8 lbs 15 ozs/22 inches long), I lost 35 extra lbs. I am letting you know that it is possible, strange, and I did not like it. It scared the bejesus out of me, even with a healthy baby girl. It just did not seem possible. I was also curious about how long this was going to last, because I knew that my mind had not changed about food, and it would all come back if I did not change.
Now the challenges had begun.
Lately, I have thought about the new challenges that are being fought against obesity. The moral and ethical parts can be argued by someone else; however, as a health care professional, I want to talk about the need or necessity in this matter. Starting with the idea of whether Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, is on to something by banning large soft drinks in restaurants and movie theaters (Baker 2012), with a few questions:
- Should Mr. Bloomberg force people on consumption?
- Can he do this, legally?
- Is this hard-line going to slow obesity?
I do not believe that anyone should become able to force such a change. Forcing a change is not going to truly address the issues of obesity. However, Mr. Bloomberg is trying to combat the issue of obesity, which has become a contributing factor in the rise of health care cost. We can all argue until we are all blue in the face that this is morally and ethically wrong, and it still is not going to change minds overnight.
Convincing a person that drinking water could help keep up their weight loss over the years, and greatly reduce the risk of many health care scares, should not become a forced argument. Which is why many doctors are arguing that obesity is a mental disorder (Caplan 2011). There are many contributing factors to obesity, and that is not going to change, until that person begin to take part.
Legally, Mr. Bloomberg cannot stop an individual from receiving a 16 oz soda and consuming refills, which are sometimes offered for free. Is he then going to force the restaurants to not serve free soda refills? For the sake of argument, let’s say that the restaurants do that, what is to keep the consumers from simply purchasing another soda? Raising the prices on cigarettes did decrease smokers, but after a while, it just leveled off and was essentially unchanged from 2004 to 2010 (CDC 2011). Will this be the same outcome with the attempts to slow the rate of obesity?
The power of fat is not going to slow, because of a law. It is not going to slow, because of public opinion. It is not going to slow, because of the lowered consumption of sodas. One cannot be willed to decrease their waste line, by either force or enticements. It has to come emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically from the inside out, and although Mr. Bloomberg has good intentions, it is not going to drastically decrease the rate of obesity.
CDC (2011). Decrease in Smoking Prevalence — Minnesota, 1999–2010. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6005a2.htm
Caplan, Paula J. (2011). Should Obesity Be Called a Mental Illness?. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-isnt-golden/201105/should-obesity-be-called-mental-illness
Baker, Sam (2012). Bloomberg’s hard line on soft drinks has industry shook up. The Hill. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/nutrition/230577-bloombergs-hard-line-on-soft-drinks-has-industry-shook-up