I decided not to space out book reject parts two and three with a blog in between because this section reads like a blog I’d write anyway. In the second installment, I got married and was 215 pounds by our first anniversary. Here’s what happened next:
Part of the gain came from an underactive thyroid that wouldn’t be diagnosed for another year. Most of it was self-induced. At the paper, we ordered in lunch two or three times a week. My usuals were a tuna sub smothered in mayonnaise (with a side of baked Lays and unsweetened iced tea); a vegetable stromboli swimming in olive oil and a side of garlic cheese bread (only one slice, though. I shared the other piece); or a Wendy’s chicken salad with an entire packet of light dressing and a baked potato with extra reduced-fat sour cream. When I wanted to eat “healthy,” I walked a block down the street to the coffee shop for a cheese sandwich with extra lettuce, sprouts and tomatoes between two large pieces of homemade whole wheat bread. I’d order a large coffee, too, and dump a quarter cup of half and half in it and called it a serving of dairy.
Losing weight became urgent in the fall of 1999 when my blood pressure measured 140/110. I’d had high blood pressure for 14 years, regardless of what I weighed, and was on medication. During those years, I watched my sodium intake, yet I overate on a regular basis, causing my heart to work overtime to digest excessive amounts of fat and carbohydrates. I was often flushed and full after a meal, not understanding the toll all that food was taking on my blood vessels and internal organs.
My doctor upped the strength of my medication and gently suggested I lose weight. Surprisingly I didn’t recoil. Her advice didn’t feel like a personal attack for the very reason I didn’t think much about losing weight on my own: life was good. For once, losing weight wouldn’t be some kind of revenge against myself. Instead, I welcomed the challenge as the grounded, happy person I was.
I researched diets online and found the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which was not popularized in the mainstream at the time. DASH was similar to the old Weight Watchers exchange program that I followed militantly in 1987, and since it felt familiar and, more importantly, was structured and easy to follow, I decided it was the best way to get to 150 pounds.
I created a three-ring binder in which I filed the DASH diet information as well as pictures of exercises I cut out of magazines. On the cover I taped three photos of myself from the time I weighed 138 pounds for five minutes back in 1990. One of the photos was of me drowning in the size 20 pink dress I wore when I married Jason (husband #2) in 1985. I was thinking, as I smiled for the camera, how lucky I was that I’d finally tamed the obesity demon and was residing in the land of the thin. I threw the dress away after the photo was taken, believing I could discard a painful and obese past just by tossing a dress in the garbage.
I shook my head as I put the photo in the binder. How smug I’d been. This time was different. I was going to lose weight and keep it off because I was married to the right person, my kids were happy, I liked my job, and had no issues to deal with. The past was behind me and I was enjoying life despite being obese again, so things would only get better the smaller I got.
I stocked up on healthy foods and immersed myself in DASH on October 12, 1999. I religiously marked off every fruit, vegetable, protein, carb and fat I ate immediately after I ate it. When I wanted a snack, I carefully measured two teaspoons of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light and poured it over air-popped popcorn. On the days I completed three sets of sit-ups, leg lifts and bicep curls while watching “Donny and Marie,” I’d stand over the sink and eat a half a can of water-packed tuna and a dry Wasa cracker. By December 12, I’d lost 25 pounds. Only 40 more to go.
But (and there’s always a but) if losing weight is like walking and emotional challenges are like chewing gum, I soon remembered that I didn’t do both well at the same time. Despite my best efforts to balance a diet and the rest of my life, I was blindsided by my daughter’s school project.