Way back in early 2008, a decidedly unpleasant trip to the doctor sent me on a downward spiral. I had stopped smoking two years earlier and replaced one vice for another. Food had become my new passion and I ate like there was no tomorrow.
The medical assistant that weighed me in gave me a shy, unsure smile as we both read the digital scale. "Is that right?" I asked slowly.
"Yes," she said. "It was calibrated last week."
"Well, I guess I did it,"I said. "I'm now officially a middle-aged fat woman."
"You don't look middle-aged to me," she said.
I noticed she left out the fat woman part of what I said, but it didn't really matter. I was heavy. Overweight. And totally distraught.
"I'm so glad you were able to stop smoking," one of my doctors told me. "You've added ten years to your life expectancy."
I wasn't so sure. I had gained nearly 60 pounds since I had quit smoking and routine, ordinary tasks had become exceedingly difficult.
Here are a few examples:
I could no longer bend over to put my shoes on; I had sit down and prop my feet up on the bed to tie my shoes.
I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for breath.
Walking up the hill to get the mail required me to stop and catch my breath at least once.
Other activities that were now next to impossible to enjoy included going to movies, going to a ball game, flying somewhere or going to a concert. Heck, I couldn't even sit in a booth at a restaurant because I couldn't fit.
Eventually, I stopped doing most of those things.
Over the next two years, I gained another 40 pounds which made the total over a 100 pounds that I had gained since I gave the old smokes the heave ho. Yes, I could certainly breathe better but I was so heavy I couldn't enjoy the freedom of being a nonsmoker.
There was nobody to blame but myself. Nobody held the fork to my mouth; no one had to convince me to "have one more chip". No, I accomplished that all by myself.
Over the years, I lost some of the weight but it always came back.
In my defense, I do have several medical conditions that can slow the metabolism and take medications that can cause you to gain weight. But they can't shoulder all the blame; most of it was me. Just me.
Shortly after my birthday in 2013, my mother mentioned that she was going on another trip and it might be nice if I came along.
What? Me on a trip? Me on a plane?
"I'm too fat," I said a few days later.
"Well, lose some weight," she said simply. "It's time to get back into the world and stop hiding."
"I don't know if I can," I said.
"Sure you can. I'm not getting any younger, you know. You just have to put your mind to it."
Somehow, as only a mother can do, I got the nudge that I so badly needed. It hasn't been a "lose weight quick" plan or a "strictly starve yourself to death" plan but a sensible everyday goal of just not eating as much.
That didn't work every day, but some days it did.
Lately, I've had some intestinal issues that have necessitated an even bigger reduction in my caloric intake and my choice of foods. For now, lettuce and spaghetti sauce are forbidden foods. I've adapted to not having lettuce (I never was a big salad eater) but going without spaghetti has been challenging. I do love a big plate of spaghetti, especially Gold Star Chili from Cincinnati.
I'm also avoiding spicy foods, eating out so much and have really laid off the potato chips which is a HUGE accomplishment in itself.
And the good news is this: I have now lost nearly 60 pounds since that fateful conversation with my mother. We've taken two trips together and are going on another this coming fall.
I got on a plane, went to a concert and go to the movies at least once a month.
I still have about 40 pounds to go and it might take another few years. But, that's all right, because I can now put my shoes on without any help and when I do go out to eat, I sit anywhere I want to.
It's a good feeling.