How I Got So Fat (telling the story for the last time)

I’m very fat.  I gained 30 pounds when I broke my hip and was bedridden for three months and couldn’t do any real exercise for six.  During that time I might have done things differently – like do isolated strengthening exercises that didn’t involve my hip (after the first three months because before that if I moved my body in any way I was in excruciating pain) and I could have eaten much lighter food to make up for my complete lack of movement.  I certainly could have chosen not to eat so much food out of boredom and depression.  But that’s not what I did.  I started drinking beer more heavily (which eased my pain in more than one way – I should have opted for pain pills instead of beer – but I didn’t) and I ate lots of sweets which I normally don’t.

Following that first 30 pound weight gain we made a move to Oregon and commenced the most stressful years of our lives.  I take psychiatric drugs for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety and OCD.  When we moved I couldn’t handle my anxiety so I upped my dose of Paxil which previously hadn’t caused any weight gain in me because I’d been on the lowest dose but when I upped my Paxil I gained 20 more pounds that year.  I didn’t know at the time that it was the Paxil.  I was still eating way too many sweets and cheese and having seconds on meals and drinking a ton of beer – so it was obvious to me that I needed to address my bad habits to stop the weight gain and start losing.  I started exercising more rigorously and frequently and I stopped eating all sweets, I cut down on my beer consumption, and took greater care with my meal portions and being much more moderate with my cheese and bread consumption.  At first I lost a little and I was really encouraged but because I was in a constant state of panic I upped my Paxil again.  I gained another 20 pounds even though for that whole year I was working hard to lose weight.  It worried me but I figured I just needed to give it more time.

The fourth year we were here I upped my Paxil one more time.  Yes, it really was helping to keep the anxiety from exploding my head.  That year I gained another 20 pounds.  I started wondering if I had a thyroid problem or some other health issue that might be causing me to gain weight no matter how much I exercised or watched my portions and avoided snacking and desserts.  I had my doctor test me and thyroid issues were ruled out.  So I let it go and tried just living with the fact that I was huge and nothing I did seemed to change it.  But the next year I started taking Kung Fu and after a lapse in the beer restraint I recommitted to drinking in moderation and still every time I got on a scale it was higher than before.

I had horrible visions of having to be removed from my house with a crane.

I was then at my highest ever: 268 pounds.  Finally I went to my doctor and we looked at my charts over the years and she made the connection between the Paxil and the weight gain.  She hadn’t caught it before because she wasn’t the one prescribing.  I got off of Paxil and started taking Celexa instead and immediately lost 11 pounds.  I worked hard and lost a few more.

Since then the stress of my life has only escalated and I have been for months now drinking too much alcohol and eating more food than I’m actually hungry for and not exercising as much as I need to.  I have been in a very dark place and it’s had a profound effect on my habits. I haven’t regained all my weight but some has crept back.  I am putting this whole story down here on my food blog because it’s important to me that others know that three quarters of my fat was not gained because of bad eating and drinking habits or lack of exercise.  The bulk of it is medication related.  However, I have fallen back into snacking late at night on cheese sandwiches and eating seconds of my dinner and eating more food than I’m hungry for and drinking too much.  As long as I am in this depressive cycle it’s going to be hell trying to reestablish healthier eating practices and regular exercise.

Yesterday I found out I am going to be going to Blogher Food in Seattle in June.  This has given me a very clear motivation to work harder to get back on track with my health and fitness goals.  I have been to two Blogher conferences now being super fat and completely ashamed of how I look.  I don’t want to do that a third time.  I don’t have time to lose all the weight I need to lose by June but I can at least aim for a goal that will make me look less like Alfred Hitchcock and more like a lady.

I don’t diet.  I gained lots of weight with my pregnancy and it took me two years but I lost all of it not by dieting but by exercising, relearning what a single portion of cheese really looks like, counting calories until I got more honest about my intake of foods, especially those foods I have a weakness for like cheese.  I still ate cheese, I still cooked with oils, I still buttered my toast, and I still ate plenty of pasta.  I lost 40 pounds this way and until I broke my hip I maintained my weight.  I felt great.  I wasn’t thin but I certainly wasn’t fat.  I had good self esteem and I ate what I consider the healthiest diet for me which is vegetarian, lots of vegetables, some fruits, grains (polenta and pasta being favorites with some rice), lots of legumes (lentils, black beans, kidney beans, split peas), eggs, nuts,  and dairy in moderation.

I want to get back to feeling good about my own body.  I’m tired of being ashamed and feeling uncomfortable.  So in another post I’m going to lay out for my own purposes (and yours if the subject interests you) what my ideal diet looks like in more detail.  What my best eating and exercising practices consist of.  This way I can revisit it to remind myself when I start slipping.

I am not sharing this to invite anyone to tell me what miracle way of eating will fix me, cure my mental illness, or make my fat melt right off.  The way we eat is not a panacea – no matter how good you feel the way you eat your health is more complex than just being a matter of diet and exercise.  I will never adopt another way of eating just because some scientist (or friend) swears it will cure all my skin problems and magically cure my mental illness and make me thin.  I know that people will continue to seek the ONE TRUTH, the ONE DIET, the ONE TRICK, and the ONE CURE because people can’t seem to help themselves.  When they think they find it, no matter how many times they think they’ve found it before, they become apostles of their chosen panacea.  I think it’s stupid.  If you have a way of eating that works wonders for you and makes you feel great – that’s awesome.  But don’t assume or insist that eating lots of meat is going to fix me or that not eating gluten will revolutionize my body and I’ll realize that I’ve been sick with an allergy my whole life and didn’t even know it.  It might be true for you – and I salute you for having found this out about yourself so that you can heal yourself and feel great.

We’re all individuals and our bodies are not the same.  You honor yours.  I’ll honor mine.

6 thoughts on “How I Got So Fat (telling the story for the last time)

  1. miss Lila

    Gah, how is it that you can speak what’s in my own head so clearly? I’m very much in a similar place right now.. years of depression and inactivity have made me the heaviest I’ve ever been. I don’t love it. The rolls and the arm-fat and the double chin… I hate them. I do. I’ve done so much work in self-love and body acceptance and really my confidence is the best it’s ever been so it feels strange and sabotaging to admit that, but somehow liberating too. I love my body but I’m not happy with it. I’ve never been slim and I don’t aspire to be, but at least… not as fat as I am now.

    It’s surprising how much depression affects diet. I too have only recently realized just how badly I’ve been eating. Too many sweets and trash foods in the name of cheap + lazy (and depressed, as I’ve kind of noticed). I love that crap (also, beer) but yes, re-learning moderation. I must do it.

    But! Now I have motivation too! My bike just came home from the shop today (new chain and FANCY NEW BASKET RACK YEAHHHH) and I’ve just discovered an awesome produce shop only 4 miles from the house and the weather has been pretty awesome lately so goddammit I have no excuse not to anymore. The produce shop – and hence, availability of affordable produce (lots of local, too!) – is a huge help. Damn, I forgot how much I missed good produce.

    Of course, I just finished my second beer as I was typing this. And I’ll probably crack open another. I’m doomed.

  2. angelina Post author

    That’s so great about the produce place and your bicycle coming back all fixed up! Plus- weather makes a difference. I don’t eat many sweets any more – I stopped doing that three years ago – I’ve never had a sweet tooth in the first place, I developed one while pregnant which I strongly suspect was just a replacement for the cigarettes I was no longer smoking and the alcohol I wasn’t drinking. I stopped eating sweets on a regular basis when I was losing the baby-weight but then when I broke my hip I started all over again. Now it’s just an occasional thing. But whatever our weaknesses are – they get in our way. Depression is a real bitch and the worst of it is that for some people even getting out of bed can take an act of heroic strength and then once you’re out – there’s no energy for other discipline. I’m not that bad at the moment – but the inertia is definitely holding me down. I finally managed to get myself outside yesterday for a two mile walk and that felt great.

    So – you have to remember to be kind to yourself and know that dealing with depression is really super hard. People without depression don’t get it. If you can work to break the cycle of inaction you’re in it will help. Not liking how your body feels can add to the depression, or at least it has done so with me, so if we can chip away at the rolls it will help alleviate the depression. It’s a terrible catch 22. So you must not give up. I’m not giving up either.

  3. jacquie

    oh i hear you, i hear for you and very much agree w/ your comments regarding meds, needing to respect & acknowledge the right of the indivdual in saying what works for them and what does not, and with regards to general eating habits. good luck in the next step(s) of your journey. take care.

  4. B.

    Yes…depression is an ugly, dark, deep place to be. I don’t know that what I suffered would ever be called “clinical depression”, but I do know that the way I felt got in the way of everything else I wanted, or hoped, to do. I finally had to make a deal with myself, that each day had to include: 2 things done for the house. 2 things done outside. 1 thing done for somebody not related to me. (I could do more than these 5 things if I felt up to it, but I had to do at least the 5.) Sometimes the actions that fit my little template I’d made for myself were as simple as “take the compost bucket out to the compost pile.” Or, “walk to the mailbox & get the mail.” Something that might fulfill the requirement to do for somebody out of the family might be to call an elderly person from my church & see how they were doing. My normal housekeeping duties did not qualify for the “2 things done for the house”, however. I managed to keep up reasonably well with laundry & dishes, despite how awful I felt, because these tasks could be done by rote. I still didn’t like doing them, but they got done. So, I had to invent other things, like “straighten that stack of books” or “wash one shelf of the refrigerator door.”

    Perhaps it sounds silly to some….but it was what I needed to feel whole & useful again. Creating a little momentum for ourselves is a good way to get at least some interest in life back again. I thank God for duty. It can be the only thing sometimes that stands between ourselves & utter hopelessness.

    I really pray things will go well for you.


  5. angelina Post author

    B – I can promise you that I am one person who would never think such self imposed duties are silly when they give you a structure of discipline to ease depression and minimize the potential damage of complete inertia. That is such an important and useful approach to dealing with feelings of being overwhelmed and/or hopelessness. I strongly suspect that the depression you have suffered is clinical (as opposed to situational) but if you have found ways to deal with it and don’t feel you need professional help then it doesn’t really matter. Thank you so much for your prayers and good wishes – I share the same with you!

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