Facing Weight Gain and a Bad Knee

Buddha on the rocksWhen I lost weight the last time, the successful time, I started out heavier than I am now but my body was pretty much the same size. The biggest difference is that my knee is in crappy shape and is seriously limiting my comfort level in standing or walking for any length of time.

Every once in a while I see myself reflected in a window or my shadow lurching as I walk, and it looks pretty sad.  I look old, fat, and disabled. The excess pounds aren’t helping, I know, but the knee is just not structurally sound anymore.  But having surgery isn’t something I can wave a wand to do.  And it won’t, and shouldn’t, abrogate my personal responsibility for shedding some pounds to relieve the strain on the joint.

It’s been almost 7 years since I went to WW and buckled down to make serious changes.  I was a quiet person in class for a long time and didn’t make a big deal about working the program; I just did it.  I started working out at the gym in limited ways until I could do more; I brought lunch most days, and pretty much eliminated a social life so I could make this the only thing I did.  I was afraid to deviate,  afraid of temptation, afraid of failure.

Well, it’s time to face facts. I have failed and failed spectacularly.  I’m not comfortable in this bigger body.  Finding cute clothes, in my closet or elsewhere, is impossible.  My stamina is minimal for walking and standing for any length of time.   It’s taken me 5 years to regain this weight, which for me is a pretty long time.  But having been through menopause and with this problem knee which limits exercise, I know it’s going to be a lot harder to get it off again.  And that’s discouraging before I even start.

I read blogs from others of you who are in maintenance mode or close to it, and even with your struggles, I feel pretty isolated.  I’m not sure what to do, to be honest.  I don’t think I can face WW again and wonder how to manage sticking to a restrictive plan on my own.  I have done a very poor job of it so far so that doesn’t bode well.  I may actually ask my doctor if I can come in and weigh in at the Health Plan once a month so I have that accountability – for free. But maybe I need the structure and community of WW, if I’m able to make myself go.

I’m giving myself this week to think through what changes I’m willing to make, knowing from experience that making too many at once is a recipe for failure.  I want to cook up success instead.

I Had my Annual Physical Today

Child's drawing of a doctorThe problem with having a physical exam at 1:20 is that anything you eat for lunch shows up instantly on the scale.  It’s short-term gain, mostly from all the liquid that I down on a continuing basis practically from the time I get up in the morning.  But I knew it was going to be bad enough going for the exam, so put off eating lunch until afterwards, which meant I munched on stray food like, oh, a sleeve of Thin Mints that were inexplicably in my office.

It didn’t start well.  For almost a year, I had my physical exam on the calendar for yesterday at 1:20pm.  Imagine my surprise to come home from work on Monday and discover that the exam was, in fact, on Wednesday, in direct conflict with a standing meeting.  Oops.   On the other hand, it’s spring break and the health center was almost empty.

On the other hand, the first part of any visit is getting on the scale.  It was not pleasant and it was up considerably from last year — I wasn’t surprised, but I hate hate hate hate having to do that first.  At least this time the scale was in a private room and not in the middle of the hallway.  It’s not surprising that my blood pressure was up a bit.

Next it was on to the tiny exam room and the Paper Gown.  I had a sinking feeling about this, too.  I was to put the Paper Gown on with the opening in the front, climb up on the little table, and wait for the doctor.  Except the gown was laughably small and I sat there, holding the Paper Drape up to my chin, tears running down my face.

It’s hard enough to go to the doctor in the first place, fearing that any problems or issues would be put down to obesity, whether that’s actually the underlying cause or not.  Waiting for the reprimand, the lecture, The Weight Discussion, is made more difficult by wearing the Inadequate Paper Gown.  One of these days I will actually follow through and buy myself one to bring so I can be more relaxed.

I know, I know.  The answer is to be thin and not have to worry about it in the first place. But I’m not there.

My doctor and I talked about the effect of stress on my general health, including the fact that when I’m stressed, I eat.  The goal now is to just stay on an even plane and not gain more, and take little steps like writing down my food and drinking more water.  I didn’t get a lecture on changing my diet, having bariatric surgery, or signing up for a personal trainer.  Thank God.

Getting regular physical exams, especially the routine ones, is so very important for all of us, especially those of Us who are now in the AARP age group.  I live alone and if I don’t take care of myself, no one else is going to do it for me.  I do routine maintenance on the car just because it’s time to do things like changing the oil or buying a new battery.  The same is true for having a mammogram or colonoscopy when it’s time.  I have both of those coming up later this year and despise them – but I will go.

Seeing Myself Through My Brother’s Eyes

Heart shaped glassesThe other night I had a long phone visit with my brother in Texas.  We only see each other once a year or more but we stay in touch regularly through phone calls, usually ones he makes while driving somewhere in his truck.  It’s the most private time he has and although I make fun of the fact that all the calls happen that way, I cherish that he makes them – and tell him so.

We were catching up on stuff and he asked me how my knee was doing.  I  almost started to cry when I said that it hurt a lot and that the doctors didn’t want to operate because of my weight – not as a surgical risk but because a replacement wouldn’t last as long in a heavy person as in someone who is lighter.  I was feeling once again like a fat failure.  I almost didn’t hear what he said next, but it was important.

He said that he, his wife, and the kids (he named them all, in birth order – maybe in case I’d forgotten) all loved me exactly how I am right this minute.  That if I didn’t lose a single pound for the rest of my life, they would love me and want to spend time with me because of who I am as a person.  They want me to be happy because I make them happy. They didn’t want me to hurt but they didn’t want me to feel inadequate or insufficient in any way because to them, I am neither.

Knowing that is one thing, and I did know it.  But hearing it right that minute mattered so much.  It was heartfelt and honest – and was a balm to my heart and wounded spirit.  Obviously being smaller is better physically and medically.  But knowing that I am loved unconditionally by people who mean the world to me – well, that helps give me strength to work on hard things and know that I’m not a failure even when things don’t work out.

So on this Valentine’s Day, where we hand out chocolate and candy and little cards to virtual strangers, please take a minute to think of someone you care about and tell them how you feel.  Not necessarily your spouse – maybe a friend, a neighbor, a sister, a colleague.   Heartfelt words carry truth and power and you have no idea what positive energy those words might create in someone else’s life.

I’m Not in a Very Good Place Now

Buddha on the rocksIt’s been hard for me to read most of the weight/diet/exercise blogs these last few weeks.  Although you are all writing about yourselves and your own lives, I read and feel judged and lacking – and realized today that it was because (duh) I was judging myself against your successes and ripping myself up inside for not measuring up.

I am morbidly obese.  I’ve gained and lost pounds so many times and am just so sad that I’ve gained back enough that I finally gave away four winter coats in smaller sizes – so that other people can stay warm and so there’s room in the closet for something that covers me.  My knees are bad and I drink too much diet soda.  I don’t exercise as much as I should.  I’m in reasonably good health, all things considered, but it could be better.  I don’t expect to live as long as the thin women my age, and frankly, that’s okay with me; but I want the kitty to be cared for, so that’s a motivator to take care of myself.

I’m not saying this because I want your pity, your sympathy, or most especially your advice.  I could write the book on how to lose weight because I’ve lost it so many times.  I just haven’t found the *click* inside that lets me keep it off.  I hold myself to ridiculously high standards of perfection that set me up to fail, then feed myself comfort food to feel better.  Yes, counseling is a good idea.  I know it, and you’ve told me a dozen times.  Please don’t tell me again; we’ll consider that advice already given.

My Christmas trip to visit family, which should bring joy, has me tied up in knots.  I know we’ll have the Weight Conversation, the Diet Conversation, the Health Conversation, and of course the Church Conversation – and, given the election results, probably the Political Conversation.  The morbidly obese non-churchgoing liberal Democrat is on her way, crying inside that the people who most understand me aren’t related to me and won’t be part of my celebration.

But it’s not just about me.  Christmas is about family and tradition and being there for them in their lives, even if being there stresses me out.  I can deal with it for a week and come home to my small world, my routine, my solitary-ness, my kitty.

I’m a good person, a good friend, an excellent librarian, a loving cat-mama.  I’m smart enough to work at Yale and if I’m old enough to belong to AARP, I’m old enough to make my own choices.  I just need to own them.

I don’t want to diet. I want to eat sensibly in moderation, to enjoy a variety of food, to ease the stress on my knees, to be comfortable in my body and with myself.  That may be mutually exclusive.  All I can do is try and take things one small step at a time.

My Clothes are Hopeless

Much as it pains me to admit, I’m back to wearing fat girl clothes, mostly badly fitting pants, big shirts and non-clingy sweaters. I don’t have any real idea of what fits and what doesn’t, other than that the pants are looking ridiculous.  The ones that more or less fit me looked like clown pants by the time I got home.

It’s discouraging to be very round and short, with a hanging belly that puts my waist lower in front than in the back – because that means that pants with zippers just do not work.  Given that, finding pants that are comfortable but still look even moderately appropriate has been impossible.

I’m too big right now to fit into the things I wore last year, and haven’t been able to find things that I could actually wear out of the store.  So I’m shopping mostly online, waiting until packages arrive to try things on and then returning the things that don’t fit. I don’t want to spend a lot of money to get clothes in my bigger size, even if I can find them.  But I do need some pants that don’t make me look or feel stupid.  And hopefully that will be even warm, because the colder mornings are upon us and winter is just around the corner.

The problem is that most if it fits weirdly.  Even I know that clown pants are not in for the well dressed librarian.  I can’t bear to have things be tight on me because I feel fatter, but I also know that loose clothing makes you look bigger than you are.  It’s a conundrum.

But I don’t know how to find a look that will work; the best I can do is get good pieces, usually sweaters that “float away from the body at the hips” — which is a lot easier to describe than it is to find when you are in the really big sizes.

I’ve watched Stacy and Clinton for years and see them pull outfits together all the time.  They just don’t do it from my closet or the clothes that are readily available.  I’m always stumbling at trying to figure out what I have that’s appropriate, that isn’t too hot or too casual, that I can change easily with a scarf or some other snazzy accessory.  Those aren’t sitting around the house because I’m bad at figuring them out, too.  I’ve never been good at or particularly interested in girl stuff.

Although I don’t want to be subjected to the shredding that happens to people in the 360 mirror when S&C tear their existing clothes to pieces, I really could use someone to help me how to make it work for ME, at my current size. It’s hard to not be able to go into stores, or even buy from catalogs, and have things fit well.  But for me to really know if they do, I guess I need to understand what that means for my body.

I need someone to tell me all this with honesty and caring, while not also saying, “you know, it would be a lot easier if you were thinner.”  Because I already know that.  And I know that gaining weight or just redistributing the body shape is the answer, but that isn’t going to help me find pants for right now that don’t look like clown rejects. I wish I had a magic wand to make Tim Gunn appear and “make it so.”