Archives for posts with tag: weight

(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.

 

As you know, I participated in charity fashion show last week. I had mixed feelings about the fashion show part but strong positive feelings about the charity itself. The day started in the afternoon. We met at the venue for the show, practiced walking as well as entering and leaving the stage as a group.

There were about 30 female models and all of us were breast cancer survivors. Many of the women were pretty young. Some were middle aged women who had been diagnosed in their 20’s. Some women were recently diagnosed. One woman was obviously still going through chemotherapy. They were all friendly and appeared to have a good time. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the chance to meet some new people, a number of whom live in my neighborhood.

I am a bit of a ham socially, if I tell the absolute truth. I also enjoy public speaking and miss making research presentations at conferences. I am not the smoothest orator. As an “out loud thinker” I tend to revise what I am saying on the fly, sometimes mid word. And sometimes I repeat myself. This is also the way I converse. Somehow I nonetheless manage to communicate well. And even when I get nervous when public speaking, I usually get over it easily by saying something funny. Once I get an audience to laugh, it is much much easier to present because the presentation is so much more like an interpersonal exchange when people are paying attention.

But walking in front of people and trying to look pretty? That’s a bit intimidating. I love beautiful clothes. But I like what I am wearing to be a garnish rather than the main entree. I thought about my wedding and how incredibly self-conscious I felt to have all eyes on me.

I have done a lot of work to feel more comfortable with my own body, imperfections and all. And the challenge of this fashion show was not lost on me. This chance to challenge myself was one of the reasons I agreed to do it. Not the main reason, but a small reason. I knew I could do it if I adopted the right frame of mind and did my job.

I am pretty good at doing an assigned job even if I don’t like it or would never do it under other circumstances. I remember the first time I went fishing and actually caught something. I was 12 years-old and my family had gone to the trout farm a couple of miles away. This is where I learned that there is a fish food called, “Purina Trout Chow”. It’s pretty easy to catch a fish at a trout farm, especially using trout chow as bait. I am a sensitive person by nature. When I caught a fish and needed to kill it? I started crying, not a little but a lot. I was upset. My mom said, “But Jesus was a fisherman.” My reply? “Then Jesus was mean!”

Eight years later I was working at a daycare. We took the kids on a field trip to the very same trout farm! But I was an adult who was supposed to be a good role model for children. So I helped them bait their hooks, take their fish off of the line, touch the fish guts, etc. I just did my job.

For the fashion show I told myself that I was playing a role of myself minus my unproductive self-consciousness. It was easy to smile because I am a generally happy person with a nice smile. People respond well to it. I planned a couple of “moves” including a goddess-like arm raise to accompany the dress I wore that had a bit of a toga feel to it. The arm raise was inspired by Rupaul so to me, it was funny because Rupaul cracks me up.

I was happy with how I modeled. I smiled, I walked comfortably in heels, I showed off the clothes, and I used a little hip action and a few Vanna White moves, when appropriate. My hair and make up was done professionally and I was wearing pretty clothes that I liked. I felt happy and pretty. The experience also led to some deep reflection about my cancer, my life, and the preciousness of my life.

So all in all, it was a varied and satisfactory experience. Yesterday, I looked at the video my husband took on the night of the fashion show. I didn’t recognize myself. I was shocked by my appearance.

And that was the point at which I forgot my job as a mother. I blurted out, “I look fat!” I said it right in front of my 15 year-old daughter. To my recollection, I had never before made a negative comment about my body in front of my daughter. Reminding me that she really is my daughter, she took me to task for being a bad model of positive body image but she did it in a nice way.  I am really proud of her. In contrast, I was disappointed in myself for not treating myself fairly or with kindness.

I have been putting on weight lately and I went back on Weight Watchers right before I left for New Orleans. And I know that I am back on track. Honestly, I am only about 5-7 pounds overweight. It’s really not a lot. But it’s about 15 pounds more than I was prior to the winter holidays. That’s over a full dress size, well kind of. I usually wear dresses. And over the years, I have become a master at choosing dress styles that accommodate my historically variable weight. When I’m not wearing dresses, I wear spandex work out clothes and spandex is stretchy. It takes me awhile to notice that I’ve gained weight. Oh yeah, I had also stopped weighing myself. And even though I’ve continued to exercise regularly, I was eating more and more.

Realistically, I looked pretty. That was that stupid negative tape in my head that was shocked into a reappearance. But I didn’t look the way I thought I did. And for someone who has a hard time keeping my weight down and further, is supposed to keep my weight down for health reasons, I scared myself a little.

I had mixed feelings prior to the fashion show and I leave it with mixed feelings. As Rupaul says, “You better WORK.” I still have a lot of that to do as I continue to work toward self acceptance.

FYI: This is the goddess pose I copied from Rupaul.

FYI: This is the goddess pose I copied from Rupaul.

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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