In October I found myself at the end of my fourth marriage, obese and suicidal, knowing I had finally reached bottom and I was grateful for it.
In the weeks that followed my separation I realized that my age old ways of handling stress, anxiety, and depression were not working for me and were no longer an option. I vowed to never again consider suicide a viable option. I vowed that psychiatric hospital stays would never again be part of my future.
I realized I was on the verge of becoming an invalid and that if I let myself go there, I’d never recover. High blood pressure, exhaustion, plantar fasciitis in my right foot made it difficult to walk. Feet, knees, hips all felt like they were failing, and they were. My body was warning me that it could not get fatter and I heard it.
My husband and I have not decided yet whether to reconcile or not. I’d like to, I think, just not right now. He seems more hesitant to consider it. For now, although we keep in daily contact, we live separate lives but are still monogamous.
I am told and have been told for many years that I have mental illness. For now I’ll accept that because it helps me explain away the dozens of serious mistakes I’ve made in my life, causing me to be where I am today. Single, fat, broke, and 56 years old.
My primary focus now is improving my physical health with the hope that it will also improve my mental health. I have decided to write here for several reasons, 1.) I’ve got no one else to talk to about this new adventure I have embarked on; 2.) I might help others in a similar predicament; 3.) others might help me; and 4.) for years I’ve kept a detailed journal that I’ve come to realize is not helpful, in fact it is depressing, and it includes a lot of whining and very little self improvement; this blog will not be that.
So, back to October, on one of my last doctor visits before the big breakdown and final separation, I weighed 267 pounds (I am 5’8”). This is well over 100 pounds overweight but I plan to take my weight loss goals in increments and I plan to eat the way I am eating now for the rest of my life. This is not a diet. This is my new way of eating.
I am temporarily living with my parents, a fact which causes me quite a bit of embarrassment, but I have a limited income and don’t want to make any huge decisions right now so my primary focus is on regaining physical and mental health and not much more.
For two months I have limited or avoided snacks altogether; limited the “white foods” such as potatoes, bread, rice, and sugar. I also attempt to amp up my protein, not easy because I am a reluctant meat eater yet find many bean dishes to be too heavy.
As of a couple of days ago I was at 243 pounds, a 24 pound weight loss in two months. I know I cannot complain, but, come on, I am hugely overweight so this should be the time of big weight loss, right?
The truth is, if I were 20 years younger I would have lost a lot more. Losing weight post menopause is notoriously difficult. Luckily, I have no intention of being a svelte 140 pounds ever again. Being under 200 will be a massive achievement because I’ve been over 200 for many years. If I can ultimately get under 175 pounds, I’ll be extremely pleased with myself.
For a bit over a month I’ve added exercise in the form of deep water aerobics and lap swimming to my life. I am deeply committed to swimming at least five, and hopefully six days a week. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I attend the water aerobics class which is 45 minutes long. I usually continue in the pool for another 30 minutes on my own. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I mix water aerobics with lap swimming for one to 1.5 hours.
Going to the pool is the highlight of my day. If weather or appointments keep me from it, I feel antsy and lost. I was born and raised in Southern California, so water was a huge part of my childhood. I swam in the ocean and I swam in pools. I could not get enough time in the water.
I want to add other physical activities to my day because I recover from the swimming and then I wish I were swimming again. I plan to add yoga or a gentle martial arts (or both) to my schedule after the first of the year. I am limited to classes being offered by my city recreation center because they are reasonably priced.
Most fat people know a lot about dieting and I’m no exception. But anyone who follows blogs, health gurus, or reads Huffington Post knows that there is a ton of conflicting information out there.
To be honest, I’m a bit resentful that I have to eat at all and I do so with some reluctance. I am so determined to undo over 20 years of bad habits in the least amount of time possible, and I know that is not smart or the “right” way to do it.
I understand there are good fats, like avocados and nuts. But I also know that a handful of cashews can easily undo any exercise you may have done that day. I eat butter, in fact I treat myself to Kerry Irish butter, but I use it as sparingly as I’m able to. I don’t buy any food labeled “light” as I feel this just means it’s been messed with too much. I don’t drink diet drinks, I actually love water. I don’t bother with alcoholic drinks.
I eat fairly normally, overall, with a fairly balanced diet, but I pay particular attention to portion sizes. I know I should not eat pizza, for example, but sometimes it is what’s for dinner at my parent’s house. I eat two small slices and stop even though I don’t want to stop and could easily eat two more. I have nothing else the rest of the night.
I know that fruit and juice can be a way to consume too much sugar, so I limit those. I am a fan of keeping my gut clean, so I usually eat a soft prune once or twice a day, which counts as two fruits right there.
I’ll be honest, I am unenthusiastic about vegetables and salads and will eat them in phases throughout the year. I’m not worried about that.
I do think about protein which is essential especially for older people who have not kept their muscle mass and are trying to replace some of their fat for muscle. I often eat a boiled egg with a bit of butter for breakfast. I have to eat something or I will not have the strength to exercise!
Lately my favorite breakfast is sautéed mushrooms on toast. I slice the mushrooms and sauté them in a small amount of butter (a teaspoon or so). When they are beginning to brown I add salt, pepper, and turmeric and stir for another minute. Then I pile them on to a piece of sourdough wheat toast. It is hugely satisfying.
To me, the mushroom falls into a category that is in between meat and vegetables. It has flavor, fiber, vitamins, and protein. I could eat mushroom toast almost any time of day. (Same with avocado toast). I attempt to use the smaller piece of toast in the package with a huge mound of mushrooms on top.
If I were living alone, I would eat a little differently than I do now, but I do not want to inconvenience my parents or cause them to drastically change their own diet to suit me. That’s ok. If it’s something I know I shouldn’t have much of, I don’t have much of it.
Going out is a huge waste of money and I rarely bother anymore. If I had someone to split a meal with it would make more sense, but portion sizes in America are utterly out of control as you can see on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives”.
As far as my weight loss, by the time I had lost a measly ten pounds I began to feel better. I stood taller. I had more energy. I felt my body around me and I felt smaller. I would have to remind myself that I was still fat, because I already didn’t feel fat! Amazing to think that a ten pound weight loss can have that kind of effect.
As of now, with the 24 pound weight loss, my clothes are becoming ill fitting. I am postponing buying clothing because I don’t have the income to buy a new wardrobe. Lately I am wearing some black knit jeggings I bought three years ago, but now they fit me more like regular pants and I must use a belt to keep them up.
I don’t care. I’m not trying to win a fashion show.
I have spent money on face lotions. I’m very aware that I am 56 years old and that, no matter how much weight I lose, I will never look young again. That said, there’s no need to throw up my hands and make no effort whatsoever. I have super dry skin and being in the pool doesn’t help. I often use night creams in the day time because my skin is so dry.
My most recent treat was buying a Burt’s Bees night moisturizer which has pomegranate and white birch in it. I don’t know if it’s doing anything, but it smells so good I don’t care. [UPDATE: I’ve since learned that many night creams have ingredients in them which should not be used in the sunlight, so don’t follow my lead here unless you are sure your night cream is “safe” for day use.]
The first time I went to the local pool I was quite nervous. Would I be the fattest one in class? Would it be too difficult for me? Would the water be too cold to enjoy it? The first day I went to a gentle class which took place in a shallow, warmer pool. The class was absolutely too easy for me and left me frustrated because I longed to move my legs in the water, not touch the bottom.
The next day I went over to the diving pool where the deep water classes take place. I asked the women in the pool if it was hard and they said, “No. You’ll love it. Get in.” So I did. I learned right away that you’ll get out of the class what you are willing to put into it. Many women enjoy chatting throughout the class, but I keep to myself. I am there to work out hard without hurting myself and that is my entire focus.
Every single day when I enter the pool I feel like a child melting into her mother’s arms; it feels so good, there are almost no words for it. And when it is time to get out, I get out reluctantly.
I went to a normal fitness center before I went to the pool for the first time and although it was not very intimidating, I am simply not comfortable with recumbent bikes and elliptical trainers and weight machines. I could force myself to go ten or fifteen minutes on the bike, and it felt icky; like work. You’re supposed to do something you like, I hear, and that is why swimming will always be my primary exercise.
I am (we all are) graceful in a pool. We can stretch our bodies as we are unable to do on land. I am hopeful that when I do begin a yoga class in January, that I will be somewhat more flexible than I would have been had I not taken water aerobics.
I see people of all ages and sizes entering the pool and I admire all of them. There are people who are barely able to walk down the ramp to the shallow pool but once they are in the water they are able to move; it’s such a freeing feeling to be released from your weight.
I usually do laps in the deep diving pool because it’s usually fairly empty, but now and then I go into the lap pool. This pool intimidates me somewhat because I am not able to do constant laps for an hour. This is why I push myself in the deep pool and then keep moving in other ways until I am recovered enough to do it again. Every time I go into the pool, I increase the aerobics part of it. There’s always plenty of time for stretching in between.
I am certain that I use every muscle group when I go to the pool. The water also provides resistance which you can learn to maximise to increase strength.
I’ll be honest, I’m usually quite sore in the evenings, but when I get in the pool the following morning, I feel no pain whatsoever. I am so incredibly lucky that my city has a top notch pool just minutes from my parent’s house. It has made all the difference in my health and recovery. There are many things I am grateful for at this pivotal time of my life and they will be the focus of my second post.
For now I realize I am typing to no one and that doesn’t bother me. After a time, however, I hope that other people with an interest in improving their lives will join me here with encouragement and advice. I look forward to meeting you and reading your blogs as well.
Oh, and I named my blog after a line in a Kate Bush song: