Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How I got here and how I'm doing...

It's the day before my birthday, so I thought that it might be time to reflect a bit on my history and process.

Among many other aspects of my family history and culture, I came from a family whose genetic makeup makes us very efficient at storing energy for times of famine.

Both my grandmother and mother were also wonderful cooks, as were my aunts.

Both maternal grandparents and my paternal grandmother were overweight (I did not know my paternal grandfather).

My mother struggled with her weight most of her life, but in her late 40's and early 50's she dieted and lost significant a amount of weight and kept it off. Ironically, she developed swallowing problems due to Parkinson's Syndrome in her late 60's and in her 70's became unable to eat, requiring supplemental feeding by tube.

After being an infant and young child who didn't eat very much and apparently worried everyone, (they literally believed that my survival was at stake) the family went to great lengths to get me to eat more. Eventually, I learned that eating pleased the people I cared most about; that food tasted good; that seconds were at least as good as firsts. I grew up; puberty hit and weight trended upward.

I was a tad overweight but managing within a few pounds. I was not particularly devoted to sweets or junk food, nor did I do a lot of emotional eating (though, one might argue that the learned behaviors around portion size had a basis in emotion).

While at college, I hurt my back, and, in retrospect, probably had my onset of MS.

I ended up having lots of medical intervention and medication and less and less physical activity.

So, between my skewed sense of portion size and my limited ability to exercise on a consistent basis, I began gaining weight in earnest. I spent numbers of years gaining and losing the same 20 to 30 lbs.

After a while, I stopped dieting and stayed within about a 25 lb. range without it but was unable to either lose weight or exercise.

In 1973 I had back surgery, which stopped the worst and most persistent of my pain but did not stop all of my issues.

Sometime in the early 1980's I was diagnosed hypothyroid and a couple of years later, with osteoarthritis.

In 1983 I was diagnosed with MS.

In 2005 I had knee replacements and have gradually been able to increase my ability to move with less pain.

Between 2006 and 2009 my blood pressure and cholesterol were creeping up.

I knew that by losing weight, I would decrease those factors and I worked really hard but the going was extremely slow. I was still only able to do exercise episodically.

Late in 2006, I joined Spark People but there were lapses in my tracking and I didn't use many of the other tools on the site except for reading some of the articles.

Still, between 2007 and 2009 I lost 25 lbs.

Late in 2009 I began being much more assiduous about my tracking, got access to the services of a nutritionist, who made some very specific suggestions about portion sizes, gave some good feedback and provided some personal accountability, and found a way to get back into exercise in a way that didn't set me back.

I showed the nutritionist the Spark People site when we were tracking and charting intake. She was quite impressed, not only with the tracking and reports but with the information available.

More recently I began to consider seriously the things I was reading here about better results being obtained by people who use more of the Spark People tools and resources, including the Community features. I began to consider that many aspects of this advice are very familiar to me and that I believe them to be valid in other areas of my life. My education and training is in Clinical Social Work. I do educational and support groups because I believe in the power of education and mutual support, so why maintain my heretofore "lone wolf" approach to weight loss? Wasn't that a self-defeating blind spot?

I began to use the login point wheel, to read and respond to other members' blog posts and messages. I resumed posting on my blog.

I also began to do more than pay lip service to looking at this process as more than a "diet" and to commit to a lifestyle change over a long period of time. Seeing it that way makes it less discouraging when setbacks occur and easier to see them as mere setbacks rather than moral lapses or defeats.

I had been making steady, though slow progress, until my recent illness at which time, even though I was unable to eat adequately or exercise at all and was stuck for a month at the same weight. I received wonderful support from my family and friends and from my SP friends, of every vintage.

I think that at another time I might have let myself believe that it wasn't worth continuing the process. Instead, I took the counter-intuitive step of building up my intake to the lower end of my calorie range while maintaining a balance of nutrients and doing whatever minimal level of exercise I can, when I can.

Today, at my weigh-in, the scale finally moved; down 2 lbs!!!

It's just another step, but one in the right direction.

Some "historical" photos:

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