A year ago, I got angry. I got very angry. I was a failure.
I was a failure, and I looked reality straight in the face, and I hated what I saw.
It is hard to believe that a number can make a person so upset, but that’s exactly what happened.
I had just left my cardiologist after a one-year check up on my blood clots, when I looked at his follow-up notes. There, staring me straight in the face, was my weight. And it was bad.
For the previous three to four years, I had specifically avoided glancing at my weight each time I went to the doctor’s office. I avoided looking at it because I knew it was climbing, and that meant that I was going to have to do something about it.
My weight and I have battled for more than 45 years. Since the day when my childhood nickname changed from “skinny-Minnie-fishtail” to “roly-poly,” weight and I have been at odds.
This was not a new phenomenon.
Before I left for Duke University during the summer before my senior year of high school, my pediatrician informed me that I was fat and had to lose weight. I was a football lineman. I wasn’t fat. I was strong and big. That’s what I kept telling myself, yet I knew he was right, and I hated him for telling me that, even after hearing that he had been murdered. In fact, I was mad at him for years: wrongly deflecting my anger at him instead of inwardly at myself.
I continued to gain weight through the end of high school, then into college, well into law school, and even more so into my professional life. I continued to gain weight until ten years ago when I determined to lose it.
And lose it I did. I went on the Alli© diet and went from 317 to 203 pounds in a year.
I started working out – moderately at first on the elliptical machine, and gradually transitioning to the stationary bike, and finally to the treadmill.
Once I was running, I began racing in triathlons. I felt great, and while my weight climbed a little, it remained between 205-230 pounds until 2015, when multiple injuries to my feet and legs sidelined me. However, it didn’t sideline my eating. I continued to eat like I was racing, and that didn’t work.
Then, twenty-six months ago, multiple intravenous thrombosis (IVT) blood clots, from my calf to my belly, led me to the Emergency Room and to a much-needed look at my health.
However, that self-examination did not come quickly. After more than a year of hand-wringing and melancholy thoughts, the reality of what I had done to myself really sank in. I knew that I had to do something different.
To make these changes, I researched a myriad of weight loss choices: Alli© once again, Keto, the coffee diet, and Weight Watchers, just to name a few. None of these tickled my fancy. They all seemed to work for many people, but I knew that I needed something on a more meaningful scale.
Then I heard a Noom© commercial on National Public Radio which piqued my curiosity. The ad talked about a cognitive approach to weight loss. While that seems like pretty fancy stuff to most people, for me, it permitted the approach to be one of intellectual curiosity.
You see, for the prior three years, I had watched as my chief of staff earned her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Almost every text book she read discussed cognitive learning and cognitive development. This was something that I understood and knew worked well in so many other settings. Why couldn’t it work for weight loss too?
A week before going to my 25th college reunion, I determined to pay the money and give it a try. A weekend of Bacchian festivities made way to a new beginning the following Monday at the end of October 2019.
Noom© gave me a coach, a team, and helpful hints every morning. There was a calorie counter, and a weigh-in every day. I learned little mind tricks to convince my brain of things that I should have already known. I convinced my body to do things that it should have been doing previously.
Most importantly, though, I learned why I ate. Then I learned why I should eat. These are two very different things.
To say we live stressful lives in today’s world is a grand understatement. All of us lead stressful lives. Whether it is work, school or family matters, stress is constant. For some of us, one way to relieve it is by eating. And normally, this does NOT mean eating healthy!
And then there is boredom. Boredom is another reason to eat. When one is trying to vegetate in front a television or smartphone, how easy is it to pick up a chip and eat?
In fact, these two things were THE reason I had gained weight: stress eating and munching out of boredom.
Learning that these were my “cues,” as the “Noomologists” call them, I was able to learn to make smarter, healthier choices. Green foods and unprocessed foods became staples of my daily diet. Different exercises became the norm: Walking and dancing, even if alone for 5 minutes a day, energized the body. Meditating, if only for a few minutes or doing a body scan for 8 minutes, put the mind in touch with the body and connected the two.
Additionally, smaller plates, green foods, and protein-rich and natural fat foods became staples of my diet.
By January, I had lost 40 pounds. By May, I had lost 90.
All the while, as the body changed, so did my mind. Food was not why I lived, it was only a thing needed to live. A piece of cake wouldn’t kill me: but eating a bag of chips was unhealthy. Ten baby carrots were healthy. French onion dip was not as good as freshly-made salasa, and a few chips wouldn’t hurt me in my quest.
These choices and learning to reshape my relationship with food allowed me to better understand my body and its need for food. Changing my thoughts about food permitted me to drown out the constant advertisements on television where a sizzling steak or a half-pound burger glared through the screen.
This is not to say it hasn’t been extremely difficult. It has been. We are inundated with ads for unhealthy foods every day. We see all of the sweets and chips and candy in the aisles of the grocery stores. We know that it is easier to pick up a quick meal at a fast-food joint than it is to cook something ourselves.
It is easier, less hassle, and sometime cheaper to do all of these things. The problem is that it is definitely not better for us to do so.
I can’t say that Noom© saved my life or made me a better person. (Some would say that I am angrier when I don’t eat!) What I can say, though, is that I have a better appreciation for why I eat now than I ever have before. The right choices are up to me. I am not a failure – and I am not angry.