Round Not Pound–Losing Weight After 60
Powering Through A Plateau
Farewell Festive Flab
That Way Lies Madness, or, Don’t Click That Bait
Round Not Pound: Weight Loss After 60
My blog isn’t about weight loss–it’s about human loss, grief, and learning from it to try to live a better, kinder life filled with love and laughter.
But since the weight loss folks seem so interested (let’s face it, superficially interested–I accused them of “liking” and “following” just to get me to reciprocate, and even after I did that, they just kept liking and following) I thought I’d corral any talk of losing weight over here on a new page. I must just throw in a listicle on my “27 Things” page every once in a while, too.
“Round not pound” was something my late husband Mike wrote in one of his journals as he was dying, referring to my physical roundness–my ears, my face, my butt–which was something he loved about me. He knew there was a risk of me taking his writing about my physical self as some kind of criticism, so he threw in “not pound.” He wrote that at a time when just staying awake was a struggle for him, when he knew his mind and memory were going and his life was slipping away. To me that was an heroic gesture of love and kindness, that he used some of the last bits of his strength to remind me that he loved all of me (our wedding dance song, by the way) and to encourage me not to go on thinking of myself in terms of a number on a scale.
I’ve been fat all my life, and like everyone who grew up fat in America, have endured ridicule and embarrassment, loneliness, self-loathing, and decades of failed attempts to force my God-given body to become something other than it is.
Fat folks develop defenses: being the funny one, the smart one, the incredibly talented one, etc. As a fat woman, however, I often felt resented for my intelligence and my talents. It’s as if the thin world thought that if I had to be fat (which must be my fault, somehow) I could at least be stupid, and if I wasn’t stupid, I could at least have the decency to be silent.
But my brains and talent didn’t stop me from trying desperately to conform to an idea of acceptable physical size. Like so many others, I tried an absurd variety of diets. My earliest memory of dieting was when, after an afternoon bawling my eyes out about being fat when I was 6 or 7 years old, my Mom took me to a nutritionist at the local hospital, who put me on a complicated plan of counting “exchanges” that spelled out how much of this or that kind of food I could eat in a day.
My Mom kept two kinds of milk in the fridge: “fat” milk (whole or 2%) for my brothers (the elder of whom was pudgy himself) and “skinny” (skim) milk for me. She recoiled if I ever put butter on anything, and bought low fat and fat free, highly processed foods for most of my life while I still lived at home. Sorry, Mom, but everything you thought you knew about weight loss was wrong.
As a young adult, I paid for and lost weight on programs called Diet Center, NutriSystem, Atkins (the first one) and Atkins 2 (the later version.) I’ve been lectured at about Keto, Primal, Paleo, vegan, and vegetarian eating. I found a diet which I think was called the Palm Springs (Beach?) Metabolism diet back in the late ’80s that helped me lose 18 pounds before I was to be the maid of honor at a friend’s wedding, the one and only time I’ve ever been asked to perform that service.
All told, during my adult life, my weight has ranged from 127 to 255 pounds. I think I might have gone higher during my pregnancy, but I can’t remember. All that yo-yo-ing can screw a body up for good, and for decades, I just gave up.
When Mike was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, I panicked. You can read about a lot of it on the main page of this blog, starting with “The Bulgarian,” which recounts how I temporarily lost my mind at the thought of losing my husband, on through the subsequent years of my widowhood. I panicked about how I would take care of Angelic Daughter without Mike, who had been a stay-at-home-Dad. I panicked about keeping my job so I could keep our health insurance. And I panicked about Mike dying without ever having seen what this house we lived in could have been.
But something else happened in the middle of all that panic: my job at the time involved being on my feet in a warehouse eight hours a day, in constant motion, lifting, pulling, and pushing large, heavy loads of books and running around a lot helping and guiding groups of volunteers. Between that and caring for Mike and Angelic daughter, going to a laundromat every weekend because the basement was all torn up in my crazy remodeling project, and running out to pick up prescriptions or choose knobs for new kitchen cabinets or whatever, or to buy food from out because our kitchen was all ripped up, I didn’t have much time to eat. I started to lose weight, and I tried to help it along by eliminating carbs. I lost 50 pounds.
I kept it off until about a year after Mike died, and then it started to creep back. Valentine’s Day, Easter Candy, drowning my sorrows. Really, really drowning them. I realized that becoming a widow wasn’t going change my life by itself. I wasn’t going to suddenly meet a new man and fall in love again. I was going to be here, with Angelic Daughter, trying to keep her going while I was falling apart.
I gained back 40 pounds. There are so many moments when I thought, “Ah, why bother? I’m over 60, I have no friends, and there’s never going to be another man. Fuck it. Get me some chocolate and a bottle of wine.”
Then about a year into the pandemic, I started to have heart palpitations. My blood pressure was spiking up to frightening levels. My doctor, a naturally thin person who has obviously never lived in a body like mine, was useless: all she could say was, “it must be that you’re not getting enough exercise” at a time when I was working out, hard, at least 4 times per week. When the blood pressure went up to those scary levels, all she did was prescribe blood pressure medication.
Ten seconds on Google told me more than my doctor had told me in ten years about what was probably going on. I picked up the blood pressure meds, but I didn’t take them. Instead, I took some common sense measures that I knew I needed to take anyway, and in three weeks my blood pressure was pretty much back down to normal.
I did it because I need to stick around for Angelic Daughter, and make sure everything is in order for the inevitable: but for her sake, I want to delay the inevitable for as long as I can.
On April 11, 2022, I started a new regimen that recognizes that bodies like mine, which have endured endless rounds of loss and gain, need a metabolic reset. I’m not plugging anything (at least not until I get paid to do it, HA!) but I chose this path because, based on 55 years of dieting experience, I knew it would work for me, and I was ready to stick to it.
I’ve lost 32 pounds in 5 months, and I plan to stick with it for another 50 pounds, with minor allowances for holiday celebrations in November and December. I’ve started to feel good, and I think I’ve started to look good, again too, in that round way that Mike loved.
I’ll be back with weekly updates, and more details on what has been working for me. Until then, I remain,
Your not-quite-as-fat-as-she-used-to-be, feeling pretty good, fully vaxxed, boosted, boosted, and boosted again,
Powering Through a Plateau
First of all, I obviously didn’t succeed in providing weekly updates. Let’s change that to “I’ll update when there’s something to say.”
I set some goals for the number on the scale I wanted to reach before Thanksgiving, and again before Christmas. I knew I was going to loosen up a little over the holidays, and I was determined not to waste all the hard work I had put into losing weight by gaining a lot of it back.
I made my goal before Thanksgiving. I used a strategy of portion control plus intermittent fasting (if you can call it that–I just don’t eat anything after 6 p.m. until breakfast the next day–that’s why the morning meal is called “break fast,” like break your fast, isn’t it?) and it got me through a five day holiday weekend. I came out with a net gain of only three pounds.
Then came December. I love baking Christmas cookies and enjoying holiday treats, from hot cocoa to peppermint bark, but again, I was determined not to let the holidays knock me completely off my “program” and set me back so much that I lost my motivation. So I set another reasonable goal, to get rid of those extra Thanksgiving pounds, plus four, to give me a cushion for some holiday relaxation.
And then nothing happened.
For what seemed like forever.
Plateaus happen, but this one came at exactly the wrong moment. I’d been following my plan since April, and I was really looking forward to some holiday traditions–the downtown excursion, cookies, eggnog, cocoa, and the log cake I make once a year.
For eight months, the weight loss was slow, but steady. And suddenly, nothing.
When I was younger, I’d let a plateau frustrate me so much that I’d give up. I thought, “this damn body. No matter what I do, it isn’t going to work. Hell with it. Gimme a beer and some chips.”
But I’m older now, and I hope I can claim I’m wiser, too.
Even though I work out four or five times a week, I have come to accept that at my age, my body’s processes go more slowly. So it can take days after eating a good meal for my body to process that food. Which is as discreet a way as I can think of to say that, at my age, even I eat a lot of fiber, the gut cleansing effects won’t be felt, or produced, or whatever, in the bathroom, for several days.
Mike and I used to refer to that production as a “morning event.” Starting around age 50, that “morning event” can be the highlight of your day. Seriously. Just sayin’.
So weight loss after 60 takes not only determination and a positive attitude, but a lot of patience. I had three weeks until the day I was to take Angelic Daughter on our annual Christmas excursion downtown, followed by clam chowder (with potatoes! and cornbread!) on Christmas Eve, eating Santa’s leftover cookies on Christmas Day, wine with Christmas feast, and a few slices of bouche de noel.
And the scale hadn’t budged.
I didn’t panic. I didn’t stop eating entirely or suddenly try some crazy magic tonic someone is selling on Facebook or Instagram. I just reduced my portions a little, and stopped eating at 4 or 5 instead of 6 p.m. I kept up my workouts. I “front loaded” my days, eating a larger and satisfying breakfast, a snack, and a small lunch, composed of what I otherwise might have eaten for dinner. Then I’d have my afternoon snack, and stop eating for the day. I didn’t get hungry. Just switched to water and tea, used my ten pound, rather than 8 or 5 pound, dumbbells when I did my workout, and tried to practice better “sleep hygiene” by getting to bed earlier.
And the plateau broke, just in time for Christmas. The scale kissed a number that represented my 40th pound lost.
Good job, Annie. Go ahead and have a mimosa and a cookie. Or five.
Farewell Festive Flab
I watched the scale carefully throughout the year-end holidays. I made and ate cookies. I ate lunch out with Angelic Daughter. I drank champagne, wine, and even beer–for the first time in 8 months.
I had a number in mind I didn’t want to go above.
Yeah, so OK, that was an unrealistic number. I overshot by 11 pounds. I regained 12 pounds in 11 days. But did I panic? Did I throw up my hands and give up? Did I double down and snarf down a second bouche de noel slathered in chocolate buttercream frosting?
No. No I did not.
Because I knew in my bones that this was “bullshit weight” and it would come off nearly as fast as it went on. I went back on my regime for the three work days during the last week of December. I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve anyway, so I didn’t find much reason to overindulge in anything other than some bubbly and a nice new year’s meal with what was quite possibly the best gravy (gravy!!) I’ve made in several years.>
Back to work on January 3, and back to my eating discipline and my workout routine.
I lost 4 pounds overnight.
And that’s what I mean by bullshit weight. My slow burning gastric processes were just trying to catch up with my holiday indulgences. Lost another 3 by this morning, and now I’m back to plateau land, but we know how to handle that, don’t we? Just keep on keepin’ on.
My point here is that if I think of weight loss as “going on a diet,” and that “diet” has a beginning and an end, I am doomed to failure. I’ll lose weight, but I’ll gain it back and then some when my “diet” is “over,” guaranteed.
Because weight loss requires that I change what I eat (and drink), when I eat, how much I eat, and how I exercise, permanently.
Which means that if I put on a few pounds over a holiday, so what? I “go back to normal,” where “normal” is healthy eating in rational portions and regular exercise. When the party’s over, the weight will come off again. It may take a while, but so what? I’m just living my life.
But if I “crash diet” or starve myself in advance of a special event, a holiday season, opening day at the beach, or whatever, my body will run screaming back to the cave, where it will zealously guard every precious calorie, because it thinks drought has killed all the game and shriveled all the berries I could hunt and gather, and I am genuinely starving. Congratulations! I’ve got the kind of body that, when the great famine comes, will be the last one standing.
But I’ve learned that in the meantime, if I want to be healthy, happy, and whole, I must find a rational way of eating whole, real food in sensible portions. Rid my pantry and my life of highly processed foods. If I can’t tell what’s in the box, I don’t eat it. In fact if it comes in a box or a can, I probably shouldn’t eat it at all. And I certainly don’t eat it if I have to have a Ph.D. in chemistry to understand the ingredients. I’ll save the booze and sugar for special occasions. After a few months of healthy eating, I didn’t really want them anyway. Well, the Christmas sugar I wanted, and the champagne, but they were easy to give up again when I went back to (my new) normal.
I’ll have more to say when I get back down to that 40 off, and have made some headway on the final 40. I’m cutting portions again because I just can’t eat as much as I used to, and I’m keeping my very early, and very small, dinners, hoping that the final forty won’t take as long to drop as the first did. But I’m also not going to focus on reaching a specific goal within a specific time. I’ll just be living my life!
As I do, I’m wishing you a happy, healthy “new normal” of your own that doesn’t involve a “diet,” but a positive lifestyle change, and I remain,
your holiday heftier but working on it,
That Way Lies Madness, or, Don’t Click That Bait
Your Facebook feed and your Instagram reels are packed with people claiming to be experts, the discoverers of cures, the bearers of truth, and the oracles of insight into everything the mysterious “THEY” won’t tell you. Maybe the before and after pictures make you curious, maybe you think “eh, what the hell, I might as well check this out–it’s only 11:30p.m. and I don’t have to be up until 6 tomorrow.”
That way lies madness, my friends. Don’t click that bait.
If you went ahead and clicked on that link, the one below the video that says, “learn more” you’re already lost. There’s nothing I can do for you now. You should have stuck to the cute toddler videos, and the ones with talking Huskies. But you didn’t, did you. And now your feed will be stuffed to the gills with ads and testimonials touting hair restoration, skin rejuvenation, and, of course, the sure-fire magic elixir for weight loss.
But you clicked, and now, you find yourself in a never-ending loop of promises that this, THIS is the secret that THEY won’t tell you. But the video will REVEAL the secret! The key to a thinner you, a full head of hair, a face that looks 20 years younger, or the only tonic you’ll ever need to guarantee you happiness and the ability to eat anything you want, in any quantity you want, forever.
All you have to do is make it all the way through at least 5, probably more, promises that the SECRET will be REVEALED in JUST A MINUTE, which turns out to be another 20 minutes, and then, when you finally make it to the end of the video, you’ll find you can receive this SECRET for the low, low introductory price of just (fill in a number from $60 to $7500 dollars here). BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! The SECRET won’t really help you as much as it could unless you but the full package, the additional products, and the COMPLETE PROGRAM!
You’re a grown up adult, and you know all this is nonsense, but you can’t tear your eyes away (unless you fall asleep before the end of the video, which you probably will). The rational side of your brain tells you that if someone had truly discovered the magic potion for weight loss, they would have invested the necessary resources to obtain FDA approval, and, well, legitimacy. They would have published research papers in medical journals detailing the results of double- blind clinical trials.
But no, they didn’t do that; because, as these snake oil salesmen explain, the EVIL WEIGHT LOSS INDUSTRY and those GREEDY DOCTORS WANT TO KEEP YOU FAT!!!, so you’ll keep buying ineffective medications and exercise equipment and food delivery programs and medical interventions that don’t work.
Well, as you may have gleaned, I’m not a fan of fat-shaming doctors, but neither am I an easy mark who falls for these wild claims online. (OK well, maybe I did fall for one of those hair oils – but it came in a plain box with no instructions. I threw it away without opening it. Bye-by, 39.95 plus shipping). I also admit to watching some of these videos, just long enough to figure out their angle. The thyroid guys? They seem focused on reducing inflammation. The weight loss programs? They think it’s all about your hormone type, or levels.
Buried deep behind these self-proclaimed “expert’s” assurances that they’ll tell you their secret right after they tell you something else for 20 minutes, are kernels of common sense that you don’t need their videos to understand. But in the meantime, their goal in life is to get you to click, get you to watch, get you hooked, and get their spindly (or well muscled, depending on the person in the video), fingers into your pocketbook, and never let go.
What seems obvious to me is that even if their miracle remedies, secrets, potions, lotions, powders, supplements, and essential oils work to do what they say they’ll do, do you really want to keep buying them, swallowing them, applying them, or mixing them forever? But that’s what you’ll have to do, because the minute you quit, you’ll find you haven’t changed your habits permanently, and you’ll gain the weight right back again. The hair products even admit that if you stop using them, your hair will, at best, stop growing, and at worst, fall out again.
So where are you now, bunky? Stuck in a rabbit hole you dug with a one-finger click.
If being mostly fat and briefly thin for over 60 years, ranging from 127 (expensive weight loss program) to 290 (years of beer followed by sober pregnancy), has taught me anything, it’s that without a permanent change in your habits, you’ll always gain it back.
But don’t despair. When I hit the wall and decided it was time to pull myself out of a six year widow’s funk and try to live as long as possible for Angelic Daughter (who hovers over me like an anxious Auntie, asking me if I’m alright with every sneeze or “dammit!” that comes out of my mouth after I do another stupid thoughtless thing like accidentally closing a door on my fingers or squirting myself with the spray thingee on the kitchen sink), I knew that for once and for all, I had to change, for good.
And now I’m back down the full forty after shedding the holiday flab, and well on my way to hitting “wedding weight,” the number on the scale the morning of my wedding day 30 years and change ago. I’m also in far better physical condition than I was back then. I’ve extended my workouts from 30 minutes to between 45 minutes and an hour 5 evenings a week. I feel great, and if I could just discipline myself to turn off the TV drama I’m currently binging an hour earlier each night, I’d feel even better.
I don’t feel deprived of anything. I feel healthy and energetic. I’ve discovered that I can indulge on special occasions without major damage, as long as I go back to my normal routine the next day. And what’s my routine, you ask? I’ll tell you in just a minute.…
Until then, I remain,