Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Compassion and Fat Loss

Here is the "After" photo
that goes with the "Before" seen above.

Yesterday I read about the eight year old boy who was placed in foster care because his weight had reached 200 pounds.  His mother had sought medical help for the boy's breathing problems, and it was later determined that it would be in the boy's best interest to remove him from his home.

I don't know what the eight year old was eating, or what foods were made available to him by his mother, but I do know what it's like to be eight years old, and completely unable to get full or satisfied for very long.

Ever since I can remember, I have eaten more food more quickly than anyone around me.  Some of my earliest clear memories are from my fourth birthday when I happened to have the mumps.  I vividly remember the bowl of alphabet soup that I ate instead of a special dinner followed by cake and ice cream. For the first time in my young life I was indifferent to food.  For one brief shining moment I was free of the compulsion to eat until I was more than stuffed on bread and sweets.  By the way, that is what I constantly craved, bread, cookies, chips, and cake.  I vividly recall climbing up on the kitchen counter to reach the cupboard that held the Wonder Bread.  I can still see myself tearing away the crusts and balling the bread up in my fist before cramming it in my mouth.  If I wasn't so afraid of getting caught, I would have eaten the whole loaf on several occasions.

I was good at not getting caught.  Imagine if you will, becoming a thief in your own home at six years old.  I craved time alone so that I could sneak food.  By age six I was trying to slow down and eat less.  I was beginning to be embarrassed by my behavior.  Why was I done with dinner  when everyone else was just getting started?  Why was I the only one who wanted seconds... always?

I was officially put on a diet by a medical doctor wen I was eight years old, just like the boy in the news story.  The doctor was a fit, handsome young man with a kind smile.  I remember him very well.  I think moments of deep shame take on a special vivid clarity that lasts and lasts, especially for children.  He looked me in the eye, smiled and said,

"How would you like to count calories?'

And so it began, my long miserable career as a failure at dieting.  My misery didn't end until I finally discovered that there were foods I could eat that didn't make me insane with hunger.  I could eat these foods until I was satisfied, and not gain weight.  What was even better was the fact that if I took part in exercise that I enjoyed and that made me feel good, not too much, but a little under an hour most days of the week, I could actually lose weight without succumbing to a binge every other day.

The vital point is that until I found the foods that didn't trigger my binges, there was no stopping me. Only constant, jail-like vigilance would have kept me from overeating.  Probably the worst thing was that trying to eat moderate amounts of things like whole grain bread, cereals, rice,  pasta, and bananas made me insane with hunger.

Today, most of my menu consists of leafy and fibrous vegetables, high quality protein, and pure fats like olive oil, and butter from grass fed cows.  I can eat fruit, plain yogurt, and cheese if I'm careful as well.  I have some cream in my coffee too.  There's probably only a handful of medical doctors who would approve of the way I eat.  I shudder when I think of what the standard American diet might have been doing to that boy's appetite.

If he was anything like me, he felt desperate and ravenous all the time.  Am I being a drama queen?  Probably, but that may be what's needed.  I'm crying so hard i can hardly see my keyboard right now.

Ok, better now.  I will close with this.  Now that I am at normal weight people who have never had a weight problem will sometimes make statements that surprise me.  They usually boil down to, "Those people just eat too much, and they hardly move!"  This comes from educated, generous, community minded people who I respect, and when I hear this my heart breaks.  They simply don't understand the horrible urge to overeat combined with the fatigue and body shame that keeps us sedentary.

How many medical doctors do you know who have overcome obesity themselves?  How many P.E. teachers?  How many nutrition educators?  How many celebrity trainers?  (Here I do know a few, Jillian Michaels and Jim Karas are two I can name right now.)

I had to accept myself and my limitations before I could transform.  It all started with compassion.  To the mom and the eight year old boy who are at the center of this story, may I offer my compassion.  I am working on solutions too.  They just take a lot more time.

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