I have a long, long way to go in my own personal struggle with food and exercise…which is a little scary to say when I consider how far I’ve already come. Sometimes I wonder why I was given this particular challenge in life. Things would have been a lot more interesting if my biggest problem was what to do with my gorgeous long legs or how to keep my $800 million invested wisely. Fate is a bitch.
There was a time, however, when I didn’t care about controlling my food intake. I was lonely all the time. I had some really great girlfriends, but my heart was yearning for Hot Mess Hubby long before I ever met him. I hadn’t had many positive relationships with the men in my life and dating for a plus sized girl is a pretty horrific experience (at least for me it was), so instead of dealing with my problems I comforted myself with food from sunrise to sunset. I didn’t care. I didn’t even want to care.
Eventually, I changed my mind…so I did the thing I thought I was supposed to do: I made an appointment with a nutritionist. When I arrived at my appointment, I was greeted by friendly staff and escorted to a small office with lots of plastic models of healthy food. I don’t remember her name and I’m not exactly sure where she was originally from, but I’ll call her Dr. No English…because I could barely understand an effing word she said.
After 10 minutes of me awkwardly smiling and nodding as she droned on about something called “chee-ken” and “broke-holy”, she broke out a worksheet that looked like it had been repeatedly photocopied by someone with a bad case of the hiccups. I managed to figure out that she wanted me to write down what I typically ate in a day. As I wrote, she smiled and nodded at the paper – which I found strange because you wouldn’t expect a nutritionist to smile and nod affirmatively when a client says they eat a whole large Dominos pizza for dinner at night. But she did.
With painful awkwardness, we went over the worksheet. I used to drive thru McDonalds every morning on the way to work and get 2 cheese danish and a large Coke. Not Diet Coke. Regular Coke. That’s a ton of calories already and I felt like a total loser having to write it down.
Me: “I know, I know…I shouldn’t be eating at McDonald’s, right?”
Dr. No English (nodding & smiling): “With mod-er-ay-chun!”
Next we went over my morning snack. I enjoyed a bag of Cheetohs and a Snickers to get the ol’ tum tum ready for lunch. And a can of regular Dr. Pepper. More smiling and nodding.
Back to McDonalds for lunch, where I usually had two hamburgers, a super size fries, and a large Coke. I mumbled something about too many calories.
Dr. No English: “Yes. Mod-er-ay-chun!”
At this point I’m wondering if I’m being punked.
Afternoon snack. More crap from the vending machine, followed by a dinner of the aforementioned whole pizza or greasy tacos. I figured it out once. I was eating almost 3,000 calories a day.
Dr. No English took the worksheet from my hand, smiled gleefully, and said “Can have! Can have taco. Can have pissa. Wit mod-er-ay-chun!”
Me: “Ma’am, do I look like the sort of person who knows the meaning of the word moderation?”
She laughed. Heartily, as if she thought I was joking, and then she said “No, you can do!”
I placated her for the rest of the time and left, knowing very well that I wouldn’t be back. I was rapidly approaching 300 pounds and scared to death. I lacked the ability for mod-er-ay-chun.
I decided to go to the one place that never failed me: the bookstore. Back then, the biggest bookstore around was about a quarter of the size of the average grocery store, but it was the best source of current information. And I found this book:
The Complete Book of Food Counts, 9th Edition: The Book That Counts It All
Well, not this edition…the stoneage edition. This was years ago. This book was the beginning for me. Desperate to control my unhealthy eating habits, I curled up on the couch with a pint of ice cream and a highlighter (I’m totally not shitting you) and started at the beginning.
As I made my way through the book, I highlighted every healthy food that I would eat. I ignored the bad foods. I completely skipped the “baked goods” section. I didn’t even glance at the “candy” chapter. I aimed for foods that were 30% fat or less per serving.
When I was done, I whipped out some paper and I made a list of all the “approved foods” I could eat. And then I went shopping.
That’s not the end of it, there’s more to share but not today. I had other lists to make and other decisions to ponder. But these were the first baby steps I took that really made a difference to me.
Y’all know I’m fond of reminding you that you have to find your own path. This is the beginning of what worked and is working for me – and that’s why I’m sharing my experience with you here. I’ll probably set the record for the slowest person to ever hit their weight loss goal, but I don’t give a crap when it comes down to it.
What really matters is that I no longer find it acceptable to eat an entire large pizza in one sitting. In fact, I rarely eat pizza at all. I can’t remember the last time I was at a McDonalds. I deserve a medal for successfully avoiding the Little Debbie section at my local grocery store for nearly three years. So while the scale may not be moving quickly, I am still changing. Most importantly, I’m learning to give myself credit for the work it took to get me here.
Everyone has to start somewhere. This was it for me.
I’ll be back in a day or two to talk about the other two lists I made that weekend…and to announce the opening of my Etsy shop. I’m getting crafty again. Holy crap, I’m a busy girl…that’s why this blog post took so long.
I promise to be back in a couple of days. In the meantime, are there tips and tricks that work for you? Share them here and help your fellow hot messes. We’re all in this together.