It’s Not Easy Being Fat

Now that I’ve lost 60 pounds and four dress sizes, I have something to say.

755I’m shocked at how much better I get treated now that I am thinner. No more sharp comments about my size when I’m on an airplane. Help offered in stores–and politely. Offers of help carrying items that are exactly as heavy as when I struggled with them six months ago. I am the same person, but the world I find myself in is not. It’s a big surprise. And not a pleasant one. We are a lot more judgmental than I had imagined.

* * *

Now, for the tougher love: Diets don’t work. I’ve been overweight for about 12 years. I’ve lost 400 pounds on diets. And gained back 405. So this time I did not go on a diet. I changed my relationship with food. It’s called behavior modification. What didn’t work on my diet was dealing with lost weight. Once I’d met my “goal,” I told myself I could handle an occasional “treat.”

Trouble is, I couldn’t. A once-a-month treat of french fries became a once-a-week scale1treat. Then I’d order fries anytime it was an option. Ice cream was a daily good-night send-off. It started with one-quarter cup. It ended with a cup a night, more if it was a flavor I liked. The list goes on.

I finally realized that I had to change my behavior with food. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. Food is my friend. My mom was an excellent French cook. My husband is a chef. I am a foodie. And in the long run it doesn’t matter. I was helpless in the grasp of  sugar and carbs. So, nothing for me to do but restructure my eating habits. For the rest of my life. There can’t be a “treat just this once” because it starts the battle with my will power over again. And eventually I will rationalize my way out of it. So, awful as it is, this is better. I know how to change my behavior one day at a time. I don’t try to outguess the future.

* * *

model_with_stuff_on_her_head_7-1_m-400x300When I mention how much weight I’ve lost (which I occasionally do in my goal-setting and time management class), I always get two replies. Two people will raise their hands. The first one will say that their weight loss was mine plus 10 pounds. The second one will claim to have lost as much as I did plus 20 pounds. No matter how much weight I say I’ve lost, the two hands will always go up and claim a weight loss 10- and 20- pounds more than mine.  Statistically, this is unlikely. Socially, it’s not surprising. We are a competitive culture, and being the best and first with the most is something we want to claim. No one has ever claimed a weight loss less than the one I claim. Interesting.

–Quinn McDonald fits into a medium size T-shirt. This makes packing a carry-on much easier. It now fits at least one more outfit.

46 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Fat

  1. Congratulations Quinn. As another recovering food-aholic I applaud you and your “One-Day-At-A-Time” philosophy. And a big fat “PPHHHBBBTTT!” to those who are “oh so much better than thou. Smug sanctimonious slugs.

    It is funny how different things are for men. I am large. Overweight and according to the tables in the magazines and doctor’s offices, clinically obese since I am more than 25 pounds over my “ideal” weight. However, no one says much of anything to me about it. Maybe because I am a man, or maybe because I am carrying a lot of muscle along with the fat. But people mostly stay mum on the subject. BUT when I say I am fat, I get told that I am NOT.

    “You are large but you carry it well.”
    “That’s just the way you’re built!”
    “You have some tummy fat, but the REST of you looks fine!”
    “You’ve always had your mother’s body shape!” (round).

    I am trying to control what I eat, but as I age even eating less seems to put on the weight. My efforts so far this year have resulted in my not gaining any weight. No real losses, but no major gains. Unfortunately, winter is coming and up here where the nights get cold in September, it means the bear in me wants to start storing up fat for the long cold winter nights ahead. Sigh.

    I guess I will just have to feed that bear less and walk it more.

    • Walking the bear in Winter is no easy feat.
      For us in the desert, winter is the time to be out and have fun. In summer, when the temperatures hover between “roast” and “broil,” we estivate. (Hibernate for summer climates).

      I think men don’t get judged as harshly as women do–not for their looks. And I think women are meaner to each other, say far more catty things, than they ever would to a man.

      And women send each other mixed messages, too. “Oh, you can treat yourself every now and then!” followed by “oh, cheesecake goes straight to the hips. Bless your heart.”

  2. Congratulations on your weight loss and figuring out what will work for you! I’m not altogether organized yet about my plans for my future eating choices but I’ve started walking at the gym five nights a week. I’m trying to go Julia Child on everything (moderation, moderation); we’ll see how it works for me. I don’t think I’m as strong or as determined as you are!
    Again, Congrats!

  3. Thans you for the information Quinn. What a change you and Kent have made and with such good results! It comes close to what we once ate as human beings a long time ago.

    • The Native Americans has almost no diabetes until they started eating the White Man’s diet. I can eat mesquite flour an tepary beans with impunity because they release sugars slowly and over time.

  4. Obviously, I still need to lose weight. A few days ago, while riding in our neighborhood funicular, a toddler spit up his drink in the direction of my pants. The attractive young and slender woman next to me got all kinds of apologies. At my age, I am getting quite used to being invisible, but at least there have been no rude remarks so far. There is no sense in abusing someone who is not really present.
    Congratulations, Q, on the weight loss! It’s simply fantastic. You have chosen a successful but incredibly tough path. You have my total admiration.

    • That’s another phenomenon that surprises me–how women become invisible as we age. Our culture values “pretty” and if you don’t have it, you are “less than.” I also find that there are a lot of assumptions about older women–we are supposed to love all children, not mind disruption, as if we were the loving grandmas to bad behavior. So strange. And so very wrong.

  5. Quinn, you are so right about people feeling the need to one up someone even when it comes to weight loss. There’s another sort of person to be aware of and that’s the one who makes a joke of your weight or attempt to eat nutritiously. Some friends were coming over for coffee and treats and I spent the better part of the afternoon baking up a variety of goodies, not only to serve, but also to pack up containers of the home baked goodies for each guest to take home. I was sipping my cup of coffee and one of the guests felt the need to make a comment about my not eating and said that I had been doing quality control when I was baking and so I had had my fill already. I gave her an icy stare and said that actually, I wasn’t feeling up to eating sweets and was sticking to coffee. Later, I caught this same guest in the kitchen packaging up more treats to take home. I stopped her and pointed out that I had already made up good sized containers of treats for each person to take home. Then I added that I wanted to keep some goodies in the freezer so that I wouldn’t have to bake for other people who were dropping by. When did it get socially acceptable to comment on whether or not someone was eating, especially when the one making the comment was a guest in my home?
    My weight is my business and if I want input from someone, I’m going to talk to someone who has M.D. after their name, not someone who feels the need to make a joke of my life. Sorry if this sounds bitter, but I’m really annoyed by people who feel the need to make inappropriate comments and then try to turn it back on me because I don’t find their type of humour especially funny. What is even more interesting (?) is that these same people come over and think that they can just roam through my home without being invited to take a tour. I caught one guest that same evening going through canvases in my studio and taking a look in my bedroom. I called a halt to the tour and made a point of telling her that it was very inappropriate for someone to go into a studio and go through canvases that were propped up and facing the wall, that this was a sign that the paintings were not ready to be seen as yet. Quite frankly, I don’t think anyone should feel that they have the right to go into a studio and pry into what I’m working on unless I have invited them to go in to have a look.
    As for my weight issues, I’m working on them and I’m not particularly inclined to discuss my eating plan and make it into the evening’s discussion. I’m working slowly, steadily and on my own to get to where I’m comfortable with my body. I will get to that point, but I’m not so certain that I’ll be “friends” with the same group of people. If you can’t be my friend without making me the butt of your jokes, then you won’t be my friend when I find the person that has been hiding inside me for so long and bring this person out into the sunshine. Am I being too sensitive? I don’t think so, but I am sticking up for my right to be treated as a person.
    Thank you Quinn for choosing to make weight a topic of your blog! I value your insight and your opinion. And, I now know that I’m not the only one who sees a difference in how we’re treated.

    • You will be interested in reading the blog tomorrow, I’m pretty sure. I have also found that I have to set the tone in my house. My guest room is my studio and guests often feel that it is fine to browse through my journals because they are on a shelf and not locked away. People who enter your house and have no boundaries need guidance from the home-owner. And those who turn on you because of it are showing signs they don’t want to come back.

  6. Hell yeah! You go, Quinn!

    Here’s my reply – I’ve lost weight, but less than you! I went shopping recently and found the XXL dresses to be too BIG! So this story says to me: change your relationship with food; I did, and it worked great for me!

    Rock on. 🙂

  7. Isn’t success addictive? Fantastic Quinn! And you can read that putting the stress where-ever you like.

    How wonderful to have been able to change your approach to food . . . and health! Getting healthy is so much better than thinking about deprivation. It seems to me that people who lose weight successfully and keep it off have the same mindset . . . “I will get healthy!”

    And yes, we are very judgemental about weight, age, race, beauty . . . the list goes on. I’m in the ‘disappeared’ age group: old enough to no longer be objectified and young enough not to have achieved novelty value by dint of advanced age. I’ve realised I rather like it as it allows me to observe without being noticed.

    • There will be more tomorrow–that decision making point. But meanwhile, the “disappeared age” is a wonderful time. You can get away with more because people don’t admit you are there, and draw a lot of conclusions because you have life experience. It’s a great time!

  8. I have been in awe since you first talked about changing your relationship with food. I, too, have lost lots of pounds. Hundreds even. And gained each back with a few extra each time. I have not yet found the fortitude to really change how I use food. I admire you for tackling the root cause and for sticking with it. You give me hope. Thanks.

    • Changing your relationship with food is incredibly hard. You will do it when you are ready to do it. And then you will find strength to do it. But it will never be easy, and it is a new battle every single day.

  9. One of my least favorite put downs of fat people is how we’re to blame for the rising health care costs. Even if I have no health conditions and don’t see a doctor for anything, people will take one look at me and assume I’m the enemy.

    • Yeah, busybodies are all over. And they aren’t any help. The other thing that makes me grind my teeth is the people who tell me (when I didn’t ask) that my weight is my own fault, so I can’t expect any sympathy if I get sick. Yet our state doesn’t require motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Fat people are the last group that we are still allowed to embarrass in public.

      Two years ago, at JournalFest, a woman (and total stranger) at my table in a group activity told me about a diet that “would help me.” She went on and on the dangers of being fat. I fixed her with an even look and said, “Are you calling me fat?” She said, “Well, uhhhhhh, no.” And I said, smiling, “then let’s just talk about this art project.” Passive-aggressive people are always tough to deal with, but easy to shut up in the short run.

  10. You are so inspirational Quinn! You have made incredibly difficult choices and I’m so impressed with your amazing willpower.

    • You are a huge helper in my life. You loved me when I was fat, and when I whined, you helped me laugh again. And you are the only one I have ever told how much I weighed. Can’t wait to see you again!

  11. Interesting that you are sharing this today, as Julie at Balzer Design blog just shared her weight loss now! And I applaude you guys, for even trying. It’s so much easier to “just be” than to change and fight your own behaviors – but it’s a good thing for your health.

    Yay you Quinn! Your rock!

    • Thanks, Hanna. I didn’t know Julie Fei Fan Balzer also lost weight. I follow her blog, but I was traveling this morning. I’ll have to head on over there. Thanks for letting us know!

  12. how can I pass this message on to a friend who is VERY overweight but keeps saying, I’m OK with the size I am. her knees giving out, back having probs. pepsi for breakfast!! her doctors never seem to mention the “W” prob? any suggestions?

    • If she’s OK with her size, you can be, too. It’s not your body, Phillippa. Unless she’s asking you for your opinion, don’t give it. The best thing you can do is not talk to her about her weight. Unless you go to the doctor with her, you don’t know about those conversations. Maybe she doesn’t tell you because she’s had enough criticism in her life. Be a good friend who loves her for her creativity, her good characteristics and for the friend she is to you.

  13. Over the years I have put on weight. I have always been a healthy eater so I am not sure what else i can do to lose the weight. I swim daily. Around 44 laps in a 25 foot pool. SO not too shabby. I have pretty low blood pressure and rarely get colds and such. So I live with it. But apparently others can not. My father is the worst offender. He never misses a chance to tell me how fat I am. Also my sister in law and her mother who never eat and are both very thin, never miss an opportunity to tell me. All it does is make me feel bad. I am doing the best I can. Ugh.

    • No one except medically trained people should comment on weight. There are many different body styles and shapes, all of which are healthy. I’m sorry that your father is so difficult. I wish you strength to deal with insensitive people, of which there are many.

  14. Quinn, may I ask you what you permanently skipped from your diet?
    I know about sugar, products with added sugar, honey, dried fruits, flower,
    rice because you mentioned these. Do you eat wholewheat bread and which fruits do you eat? Of course vegetables with starch will be off the list as well.
    When you choose yogurt do you take full yogurt or low fat? Sometimes lowfat dairyproducts have ‘fillers’to make them look less watery.

    I envy you for having such creative support by Kent!

    • Kent (aka Cooking Man) is a chef and after he saw how serious I was and would not accept change-back messages (more on that in tomorrow’s post) he joined me. He did food and cooking research and he has now lost close to 30 pounds himself. He goes to the gym more than I do—he is in love with spin class.

      I’m glad he found something at the gym he loves. The thing I love best about the gym is listening to my audiobooks. I like walking outside–but if it’s 90F or above at 5 a.m., it’s too hot for me.

      Two things make food taste good–sugar and fat. I eat no real or artificial sugars that are added to anything. But I will eat full fat yogurt because I make it myself and use 2% milk (which might as well be full fat). I also eat full fat cream cheese and sour cream. The “no fat” products generally have creepy additives that I am not interested in putting through my liver.

      What did I give up? Anything that has more than 12 grams of carbs per serving. I eat no bread whatsoever, simply because it’s generally a delivery system for something else–and I’d rather have my carbs from something else. The list of things I no longer eat is long: ice cream, pasta, pizza, pies, pancakes, breakfast cereal, crepes, cakes, cookies, crackers, sandwiches, corn, potatoes, polenta, grits, tortillas, tamales, enchiladas, any item that is breaded before it is fried, sushi, pearl barley, rice. No beer, wine, liquor. No dates, raisins, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup or brown rice syrup. In very small portions I eat bananas (no more than half), peaches, grapes and cherries. There are seeds and grains I can eat if their protein and fiber are high, and I eat them with salad or high fiber foods: lentils, cannelini beans, turtle (black) beans, tepary beans. I can eat limited amounts of dark chocolate, but not milk or chocolates filled with fondant or fruit.

      The list is longer, but I’m making you drowsy. I DO NOT recommend this as a “diet” for anyone. This is simply how I handled my carb addiction and lowered my blood sugar.

  15. Yesterday’s Sunday edition of the Helsingin Sanomat had a long article about over weight, health and how we tend to see over weight people that was really interesting. Amongst other things they told that 20-30% of all over weight or fat adults are perfectly healthy: they have no signs of high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. Non what so ever. It has to do with what kind of fat the over weight person has, which means that a person of normal weight or even a thin one can be too fat as s/he may have way too much fat in the liver and that’s was is really dangerous. And have you read the latest National Geographic? They had an article on sugar. Really interesting. Lot’s of stuff I knew nothing about. For example fructose is devious: liver turns excess fructose straight into fat. That’s why high fructose syrup is really bad for us. So all in all, your decision to give up sugar for good was a visionary one! 🙂 We all should do that!

    You can view the Helsingin Sanomat’s article here though it is, of course, in Finnish :/

    • My need to give up sugar was based on a lot of research. I wanted to know why I was so addicted to it. And I found out a lot of interesting things–one of them is that the body (and brain0 does not react the same way to all sugars. I’ll always miss it, though.

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