Round Not Pound: Losing Weight After 60

Since I used “weight loss” as a tag for a few blog posts that mentioned it in a paragraph, I’ve gotten a steady stream of “likes” and even a few new followers, all of whom seem to have blogs that focus on some kind of regimen, experience, or product relating to losing weight.

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.

Nope.

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,

Ridiculouswoman

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