Sweet Relief

I felt as though 500 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders.

Unless you have no pulse at all, you are carrying stress within you, even as you read this. We all do. It’s part of modern life. It comes from a feeling of being overwhelmed, and thinking that you can’t cope with a situation.

According to Wikipedia, that font of all human knowledge, stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression. So needless to say, stress is bad for you.

What I find particularly scary is how easily I fool myself into thinking I’ve gotten used to a certain level of anxiety. It’s as if I am coping simply because I’ve come to expect that I will have to wade through some crap, and that’s just the cost of doing business.

That doesn’t mean the stress, with all its toxic side effects, has disappeared. It just means that I’ve resigned myself to it. That’s problematic, because it also means that I’m no longer trying to do anything to relieve that stress. I’ve concluded that there’s no solution, so I just bathe in it, regardless of the pollution this brings into my world. After a while, I seem to forget it’s happening.

But every once in a while, some fortuitous thing occurs that removes a stressor from my life. That happened just this month. And the change within me has been profound. I started off by feeling slightly sick from the sheer release. Then I felt as though 500 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. Freedom! Sweet relief.

And then there was the inevitable shock that I had been carrying that weight for so long without even realizing it. (Actually, I knew of about 50 pounds of it, but not the full 500.) It makes me wonder what other burdens I’m carrying. No wonder I’m so tired much of the time.

I think I need to work on being more aware of what my body is trying to tell me. I need to address issues whenever possible, even though I hate confrontation. I need to stop walking around with my head in the clouds and take better care of me.

In the meantime, I’m going to go do a happy dance to celebrate my newfound freedom. Woot!

Happy Dance

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Big Fat Facts

I’ve been set up for failure my whole life.

Someone who loves me very much once gave me a step counter and a scale. She told me she was worried about my weight. She was afraid I was killing myself.

I burst into tears. I told her that I use my fat as a shield to hide behind, because I didn’t want anyone to get close. I told her I eat when I’m angry, and at the time I had quite a bit to be angry about. I told her I was profoundly depressed. I was also lonely, and food was the only comfort I had.

And then she left me with the scale and the step counter. Apparently I was supposed to snap out of it, and that ought to be easy.

The first thing I did was throw away the f***ing scale. Because numbers don’t mean a thing. They’re a measurement of success or failure that’s tipped toward failure. I won’t do it. I won’t beat myself up like that. I measure my weight gain or loss by the fit of my clothing.

But I did improve my diet and I did use the step counter, obsessively, for about 6 months. I was up to 10,000 steps a day. I was walking so much that I actually hurt myself. And I didn’t lose an ounce. Not one ounce.

Which made me feel even worse about myself. All that work, and nothing. What is wrong with me?

Since then, I’ve pretty much stayed the same size. I’ve been nagged by doctors and humiliated by teenagers and shunned on dating sites. I’ve been horrified by my own photographs and I’ve avoided looking in mirrors.

This has become my status quo.

And then I read an article entitled Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong. Now I see this issue in an entirely different light. Now I’m pissed off.

Here are some of the points the article made:

  • Doctors and researchers have known for 60 years that all diets don’t work. Diets. Don’t. Work.

  • They have also known that “losing just 3 percent of your body weight results in a 17 percent slowdown of your metabolism—a body-wide starvation response that blasts you with hunger hormones and drops your internal temperature until you rise back to your highest weight. Keeping weight off means fighting your body’s energy-regulation system and battling hunger all day, every day, for the rest of your life.”

  • According to the American Journal of Public Health, the chances of a woman classified as obese achieving a “normal” weight is 0.008%.

  • Weight and health are not synonymous. You can be overweight and metabolically healthy, in that you can show no sign of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, or cholesterol issues.

This article goes on to say that doctors are trained to basically try to humiliate people into weight loss, even though it’s been proven time and time again that that doesn’t work. It talks about the many ways society discriminates as well. It discusses how weight issues are not simply about poor lifestyle choices. In other words, telling people to step away from the ho-hos is not productive. Not even a little bit.

I’ve been set up for failure my entire life. And it’s not my fault. It has done nothing but make me feel bad about myself. I’m sick and tired of it. From now on I plan to stop looking at fat and start looking at health.

What I took away from the article is, yes, I need to avoid sugar. I need to exercise. I need to make healthier choices. I need to take care of me. And at the same time, I need to stop obsessing about my body.

The next time a doctor tries to shame me into weight loss, I’m going to suggest that a good start would be for them do their part to figure out ways to get me off prescription meds that have a weight gain side effect, m’kay? Until they do that, they need to shut up.

And the next time someone who has never had a weight issue in her entire life hands me a scale, I’ll tell her that even though she means well, and culturally it seems like this tough love thing is acceptable, she needs to mind her own business. Unless she wants to help me take on the underlying esteem issues, she’s of no use to me on the weight front.

From now on, I’m going to focus on taking good care of me, by eating good, healthy food and staying active, and let my body decide how that will ultimately look, because God knows it’s going to do that anyway. I’m going to work really hard at not listening to the opinions of other people. I’m going to stop measuring myself by other people’s yard sticks. I’ll take my health seriously, but I’ll never voluntarily step on a scale again.

And guess what? I’m never going to be a size three. You know it. I know it. If you’ve got a problem with that, then step away from the fat person. As someone in that article said, “I’m here. I’m a sphere. Get used to it.”


No picture. Not this time. Stop focusing on how things look.


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Putting the Logic Back into Biologics

The other day a friend was lamenting that instead of his usual solitary work environment, he was soon to be sharing an office with a coworker. “I’d like to be able to fart in peace without having to look over my shoulder,” he groused. That made me laugh. And it also got me thinking.

Why are we so programmed in this country to be ashamed of normal bodily functions? In some cultures, it’s polite to burp. Here, I’ve actually seen people blush when they sneeze or cough. I’ve even known people who have to turn on the sink faucet to block out the sound before they’ll urinate in a public bathroom.

We also have placed a heavy moral burden upon consensual sex, and how much we weigh or do not weigh. Heaven forbid someone be too tall or too short. Aging seems to be a source of shame. We’re supposed to keep all our body hair under strict control. And don’t even get me started about the stigmas attached to physical or mental disabilities.

Are you sensing a theme here? All of these things are biological. They are a natural part of being human. Everything from sweating to vomiting is a necessary physical process. We have limited control over our bodies.

I must admit I’m an extremely gassy person. When I went back to college in my late 40’s, I was often surrounded by young people who still cared what others thought. My occasional unintended farts would shock them. So one day I said, “Look. I’m old, I’m fat, I fart. I burp, I sneeze, I cough, and I puke. You’re just going to have to get over it.”

Seriously, though, I’ll tell you what: I’ll try not to fart during the National Anthem if you try not to act as though you’ve never farted in your life. The age of the Puritans is long past. We have so many other things to worry about. Let’s move on, shall we?


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When Things Fall Into Place

For me, there is nothing quite as satisfying as those brief, random moments when the chaos that usually swirls about me suddenly becomes a comprehensible, stable, solid whole. Maybe it’s because I’m a worrier and a planner, but that “All’s Right with the World” feeling often eludes me. That makes it all the more precious when it does stop by for a short visit.

For example, during this whole home buying and moving process, I’ve had a to-do list that’s 12 pages long. I’ve often woken up in the middle of the night, thinking of something important to add to it. If I don’t sit up, turn on the light and write that thing down, I’ll lie awake and go over it in my mind for hours. I’ve taken to leaving my to-do list on my night stand. If you want to see me absolutely wig out (and trust me, you don’t), just hide that list.

My stress level spikes around those to-do items that require me to rely on other people. Is it a West Coast thing? No one around here seems to be the least bit dependable. That drives me up a wall. If my friends need me, or I’ve made a professional obligation, you can count on me to follow through. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it, unless I’m dying. How hard is that? Apparently it’s pretty freakin’ hard if you are anywhere near the Pacific Ocean. Go figure.

But every now and again, all the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place. People show up on time and do what you so desperately need them to do. And maybe a little extra. “Oh, you’re trying to get rid of a washing machine? I’ll be happy to take it off your hands, too!” “Need some extra money? Well, here’s some overtime!” “Sure! I’m available to clean your carpet on the only possible day you have available for me to clean your carpet!”

I love that feeling of weight being lifted off my shoulders. At times like those, I can breathe. I never realize I’m holding my breath, but apparently I do it quite a bit. But then, all of a sudden, whoosh! Oxygen to the system! It rarely lasts long, and those moments are always unexpected, but I’ll take ‘em!


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Baby Steps

“If you don’t start exercising and lower your cholesterol, you’re going to have a heart attack or a stroke.” This, from my doctor. My heart sank.

We’re talking major lifestyle change, here. You see, I used to have this amazing body. I mean, a killer, slammin’, take-no-prisoners type of body. Until I was 28 years old, if I had an issue with my weight, I’d simply make a mental note to lay off the cookies, and the pounds would melt away. Exercise? I didn’t need no stinkin’ exercise!

And then I stopped producing the human growth hormone, as one does, and began living with a tall guy and had the mistaken idea that I should keep up with him when we sat down to eat. I expanded overnight. That, of course, plunged me into a deep, dark depression. And I comforted myself with food.

I try not to look into mirrors. I don’t recognize myself when I do. Yes, something definitely has to change.

So about 9 months ago, I started making small alterations to my diet. And, lo and behold, I found I felt better. And as these small changes became habits, I’d add more dietary changes. Now I’m proud to say I’m vegetarian 4 days a week, and a lot healthier than I used to be on the other three. I’ve lost some weight. I still have a long way to go.

So when I went in for my follow up cholesterol test, I was really looking forward to the results. I was really proud that I’ve been eating so much healthier.

Imagine my horror when I discovered my cholesterol levels where even higher. This resulted in a stern lecture from my doctor.

Okay, okay, okay. I need to start exercising. It can’t be avoided. But how does one become an exercise person, for the first time ever, at age 52? At this point it feels like the couch cushions have been fused to my behind.

I’m certainly not going to become a jogger. The only time in my life I’ve ever run was when I was late for an airplane. That’s the level of motivation I require.

If the terrain around here weren’t so hilly, and there weren’t so many ghost bikes around to remind me of the many fatalities in this town, I might get a bike. But no. And long walks, all alone, are just too depressing to contemplate.

There is a public pool near me. I’ve never been there. I like swimming. But when I get home from work, I’m not very motivated to leave again. And when the weather is cold, the prospect of getting wet leaves me… well… cold. And let’s face it: there’s no job on earth that’s more sedentary than being a bridgetender.

Excuses, excuses.

So what to do? I’m a firm believer in baby steps. That’s how I changed my diet. Maybe I can apply that to exercise. I know myself well enough to realize that some radical, all-encompassing lifestyle change is not going to stick. But I can sneak changes up on myself, bit by bit.

So you’ve heard it here first. Today I brought some hand weights to work, and I plan to use them 15 minutes a day for starters. I’m trying to frame it as a gift that I’m giving to myself rather than a chore that must be done. Wish me luck.


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The Drawbridge Diet

If you work on a bridge, by all rights you should be as skinny as a rail. Once you’re on the job, it’s not like you can run down the street on a whim for doughnuts. As a matter of fact, if you abandon a drawbridge, I’ve been told, the Coast Guard can fine you $10,000 dollars and/or give you 10 years in jail. Impeding the transit of vessels, especially commercial ones, is a HUGE no no. I’ve never heard of them actually ever imposing those penalties, but that possibility was frequently drummed into our heads in Florida. No one ever says anything about this in Seattle, even though we are bound by the same Coastguard Federal Regulations, but the bottom line is, it’s very, very bad to leave a bridge untended.

So if you forget your lunch, you’re pretty well screwed. I’ve done that before. It has taught me to leave a power bar or two in my locker for emergencies, because 8 hours without sustenance is a long, miserable time. It’s even worse when you forget to bring something to drink, because while every bridge I’ve been on has running water that is supposedly potable, I wouldn’t stake my life on it. No, I bring my own.

One time during a typically hot Florida summer, on a bridge where the water was slightly brown and stank of rotten eggs, I forgot my thermos, and I called my boyfriend and asked him to please, please, please swing by and drop off a jug of orange juice or something, anything, because I had about a half inch of Dasani water left and that was it. He said he would. Nothing makes you feel more thirsty than not having access to water. So I waited, and waited, and waited. No boyfriend. I called him again.

“Oh, you meant bring it to you at work! Oh… well, now I’m on the other side of town and I’m about to go to bed, so… sorry. It’s in the fridge.”

Un-freaking-believable. I mean, who does that? I could never do that. I rationed that half inch of water and cursed my existence (and his) all shift long.

But knowing how impossible it is to indulge cravings on a bridge, it often surprises me that most of us are overweight. Yes, it’s a pretty sedentary job, but is it really that hard to leave the snickerdoodles at home?  If you’re trapped for 8 hours someplace and all you bring is healthy food, you should be able to control your diet better than the average drudge who actually gets a lunch hour and has access to snack machines and Starbucks.

I really can’t blame the job. I actually do eat very healthy food when I’m there. But then I come home to an empty house and don’t exercise and I eat my frustration and lonliness. So no, I’m not a size three. I’m a bridgetender.



Oh, how I hate acronyms. They set people apart. Either you are “in the know” or you aren’t. If you aren’t, is that your fault? Are you supposed to sit around memorizing a list, in the hope that you will hit upon every acronym that crops up in your life, now and forevermore?

Here’s one I’ve come across quite a bit on the dating website I’ve recently joined: HWP. Thanks to Google, I’ve discovered that it means “Height/Weight Proportionate”. As in, “I only date HWP women.”

This infuriates me on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. Oh, but begin I shall.

Let’s start with that tricky term “proportionate”. Is there some official guide that will indicate whether I’m in proportion, or, heaven forfend, am completely out of proportion? Who gets to decide?

Must I be measured before you ask me out to determine if I fit within your narrow range of acceptability? It reminds me of those rides at the state fair. “You must be at least this height to ride this roller coaster. But what if I don’t want to ride your roller coaster?

And if you consider my body warped in some form or fashion, some other man might still find me quite physically appealing. So without getting into your improperly prioritized brain, how would I know if I meet your qualifications?

If you are a well-meaning but deluded person, here’s some advice. Never use the term HWP. Most women, since practically birth, are trained to be hyper-critical of their bodies. A lot of them will see HWP and self-eliminate, because they can anticipate the potential for rejection. So you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people.

Most of all, here’s what HWP means to me: You are a shallow, egotistical a**hole with values so skewed that I wouldn’t want you in my life. So thank you for revealing that to me from the get go, rather than wasting my time.

All these women weigh the same amount. All these women are beautiful. [Image credit: fozmeadows.wordpress.com]

Be Nicer to Yourself

I made some offhanded self-deprecating remark the other day, probably about my weight, and it brought tears to a friend’s eyes. That stunned me. I don’t always think about the impact my words have. These were tears of frustration that I don’t see myself the way that she sees me.

I tend not to take myself very seriously, so when others do, it takes me by surprise. And in this particular incident it really made me think. If my words about me were toxic to her, how toxic were they to my subconscious? How much damage am I doing to my psyche when I self-insult? Does my heart take me more seriously than I do?

And I’m fairly certain when I do this, more than half the time I’m not even aware of it. It’s like I’m injecting myself with carcinogens in my sleep or something. I really need to pay more attention.

I have another friend who is downright brutal to herself. And she’s a kind person. She would never talk about anyone else the way she talks about herself. Why? Because she wouldn’t want to hurt someone. Why does she not deserve the same courtesy? If you can’t be nice to yourself, why should anyone else be nice to you?

Yes, I’m a flawed human being. Yes, there are things I’d love to change, but probably won’t. But the truth is I’m actually pretty great. I’m loving and intelligent and funny and compassionate. I need to start saying these things out loud more often. I deserve to hear it. We all do.

So give yourself a compliment. Right now! Good habits have to start somewhere.


No Joy in Plumpville

I went shopping for a bathing suit the other day, and to my horror I discovered that I’ve finally reached a size where all suits come with little skirts. Even I have to admit that it looks better that way, but it’s official: society no longer wishes to gaze upon my thighs. Ah well. It was a good run.

That reminded me of the time I was in a mall and noticed that Victoria’s Secret was having a sale. None of their underwear on the display case was my size. So I asked the skinny little teen-aged clerk if they had any. She got this amused look on her face and said, yes we do. We just keep it hidden in this drawer right here.

I purchased what I had come for, and being the non-confrontational type, I left. But I wish I had walked up to the clerk and said, as if talking to a puppy, “You’re sooooo cute! You actually think you’ll be that size all your life! I was your size at your age. The difference is, I’m a nice person, so I’m still liked. What will you do when you have no body AND no personality? Poor thing.”

I do derive a great deal of comfort from the fact that the aging process will bite that girl in the butt sooner or later. It’s the great equalizer. Karma in the form of cellulite.


[Image credit: bewonderfour.com]