Archives for posts with tag: Weight Watchers

(Yes, I know. Two posts in one day. It happens.)

I woke up this morning, thinking, “Today’s act of self-care is getting myself to my regularly scheduled Weight Watchers meeting.” I know. I just got home from the hospital. If I hadn’t been up for it, I wouldn’t have gone.

I’m glad I went. There are some very supportive and refreshing people in that Sunday mid-morning meeting. Unfortunately, our regular leader, Jody, was away at a conference. Jody is really quite marvelous. It’s typically chef’s surprise when there is a substitute. The substitute leader had good energy and was funny. However, she did not incorporate group input very well. My husband noted that she talked over people and that the things she said sometimes contradicted themselves.

I wasn’t enjoying her talk and at one point she said that our bodies have “always been loyal to us” but we are not always loyal to them. She also said that we deserved to have “our favorite body”. I have worked really hard against my perfectionistic tendencies as well as the thought that I can control my health outcomes absolutely. One of the other women responded to the loyalty comment, “I don’t know about that.” She is 80 years-old and has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was a child. She is also very active and runs a group foster home for teens. I also piped up, “Yes, so-and-so (the 80-year-old member), has had a chronic health condition since she was a child. Those things happen but they aren’t fair. I’ve had cancer. I felt like my body had betrayed me but I came to look at disease as a natural disaster. Sometimes they just happen.”

In response to the “favorite body” phrase I said, “Although that might be a helpful frame for other people, it doesn’t work for me.” Then she said, “I’m going to challenge you on that.” I replied, ‘You can’t challenge me on that. “Favorite” is subjective and determined by me, not by anyone else. I work to be happy with the body I have. I’m 51. I’ve had cancer. I will never have my favorite body. I was healthier and fitter when I was 20 and that’s the way it is.’ She replied by saying that “favorite” didn’t mean comparing. I said, “But favorite is comparative.” She didn’t get it and I could tell that she wouldn’t get it. It was clear that nothing was going to come out of the conversation so I stopped challenging her.

One of the points she made was that she was really talking about attachment. You have a “favorite body” like a kid has a favorite stuffed animal, no matter what it looks like or how it wears out over time. The use of the word “loyalty” also refers to relationship and trust, just as attachment does. Maybe it would have made more sense to talk about having “The Velveteen Body” after the book, The Velveteen Rabbit. I’m not sure the analogy works for me but it at least gives me something interesting to think about.

I do like that a Velveteen Body is one that is much loved, one that provides comfort, and one that is real.

On May 25, 2012 I walked into the Swedish Cancer Institute for the very first time.  I had learned of my breast cancer diagnosis the day before and I was there along with my husband and my friend, Nancy, for a consultation with the physician who would perform my first three breast surgeries, two lumpectomies followed by a right-side mastectomy.

I remember a few things from that morning. One of the strongest memories I have is a feeling of surprise when the physician’s assistance asked me to step on the scale for my weight. To me the word, “consultation” meant “talking” and that’s what I had expected. To relieve the tension, I joked, “I have to get weighed? That’s worse than having cancer!”

Granted, I was joking but as you know jokes come from some where. Who among us have not felt defined by a number, our age, our weight, our grades, or our annual income? Most of us have at one point or another, defined ourselves this way.  And the definitions can come with a great deal of negative judgment.

As a researcher and clinician, I also know that numbers can serve as useful data. There are two properties of measures that are important in yielding meaningful data. One property is the validity of the measurement tool. A valid measure actually measures what it is intended to. When I stand in front of the ruler on the wall of the doctor’s office, the ruler actually measures my height. However, not all measures are valid at all. For example, when I walk out the door in the winter time it sometimes “smells like snow”, meaning that I am detecting something in the air that to me is the odor of snow.  This predictive measure, as it turns out is not very accurate. It is not a valid measure of snow potential. I don’t even know what I am perceiving that makes it “smell like snow”.

The scale can be a useful measure. But is it a valid measure of value as a person? No, a scale, a good one anyway, is a valid measure of weight. It is not a valid measure of general health because general health is not defined by just body weight. It can be a factor in health but it is not all-encompassing.

Just like people say, “age is just a number” it can be tempting to deal with the judgment that comes with weight and just conclude that “weight is just a number”. This implies that it has no meaning or usefulness.

My weight has been creeping up steadily over the past year. I am almost to the weight that I was before I lost my last 40 pounds, nearly 4 years ago. Based on the way my clothes fit, I can tell that I am not as large as I was at that time, I assume because I am more muscular than I was then. But I am noticing that I am able to wear less and less of my wardrobe. I’ve gotten noticeably larger.

I did a great deal of work on my body image when I was going through cancer treatment. I learned to appreciate what my body does for me. I have a positive body image. I feel strong. But I also know that having had estrogen and progesterone responsive breast cancer that it is important that I maintain a healthy amount of body fat. Right now, it is clear that I have too much.

I’ve known this for awhile. Behavior change, developing new habits, and re-developing old good habits is really difficult. Every once in awhile I get to a point at which it seems harder to continue doing what I am doing than motivating myself to change. Last week, I asked my husband to start going to Weight Watchers meetings with me. I had been doing their online program  on and off for the last 10 years. Since I have not been following the program for awhile, I thought going back to meetings might be helpful. My husband has been having a lot of back problems and I thought that his losing weight might be a positive for him, as well.

He agreed. We went to our first meeting the next day, which was last Sunday. Three days down, many to go.

Measures can help guide me to follow my intentions and commitments in life. They don’t define my worth.

 

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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