My doctor put his arm around me, looked into my eyes and said, “I’m going to be hard on you. You have to lose 40 pounds, 30-40 pounds.” I expected to feel defensive or angry, but instead a click rang through my being that, translated into words, might say, “Finally, someone told me!” Because of damage, probably from chemo and too much aspirin in my life, the best way for me to avoid esophageal cancer and also protect myself from greater risk of other cancers was to drop pounds.
Since that time, despite my mind’s contention that I could never lose more than 10 pounds so needed to set expectations low, I’ve been losing weight, which sounds more passive than it is. For me, each meal, each snack presents a moment of decision when I need to do some emotional eating heavy lifting and choose what may literally give me a longer life over instant mouth joy. Yet with the help of Weight Watchers Online to track my food meanderings, dampening way down the daily carbs, multiplying vegetables, and working with a personal trainer to pump iron in ways I never thought I could, I’m doing what I previously didn’t think I could.
Coming from a family for whom bagels and cream cream was our drug of choice, I know well the path to obesity. In fact, everyone in my immediate family does (or did): by the end of the year, all three of my siblings will have had some kind of gastic bypass surgery, and I’m very proud of all for their hard work to reclaim their health. My mother is my weight-loss role model, having changed her diet toward health and longevity some years back and holding to it. My father, in contrast, didn’t focus his considerable drive on his health, and in his 50s was diagnosed with diabetes. By his early 60s, he died from pancreatic cancer (not to say this cancer correlates with being fat, but diabetes and obesity are risk factors).
It’s no wonder we’ve had such a challenge, given our family and Jewish culture, which worshiped at the holy trinity of cream: sour cream, whipped cream and cream cheese. Being a picky eater, I grew up downing hot dogs, bagels and malteds, which didn’t daunt my skinny child body but set up a world of weight issues when puberty changed the landscape.
Now I’m going back to that active, slim (or slimmer, at least) child I was: more
excited about life than food. It’s hard, it’s wonderful, it’s scary, it’s full of temptations (oh, what will the holidays wrought?), and tiny triumphs. I’m doing this as a way to love my body/love my life with love being the operative verb. Whoever I truly am, I’m coming more alive with less.