Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What not to say to someone who has lost weight

I can't show my current knitting projects (explanation coming soon, I promise), but I can talk. And I can type. And I can perform a community service by giving unasked-for advice (that IS a community service, right? Right?).

So, here goes. First of all, I am fat.

I was not a thin child, and I've been fat all of my adult life, despite yo-yo dieting, which I formally gave up in my 30' s (I'm 55 now). Since the last diet disaster (well the diet wasn't a disaster, I lost 75 lbs and ran 6 miles a day. But I couldn't keep the weight off), I stopped trying to lose weight, and accepted myself as I was. That worked out fine- my family wasn't worried (beyond general health concerns) and no one ever gave me that *you have such a pretty face, if only* crap (I would have bitten anyone foolhardy enough to say that). I come from a long line of large folk, and we love to eat and don't love to move around. Fat was pretty much inevitable. I accepted it, shrugged, wore size 24 jeans, and ate chocolate chip cookie dough for breakfast.

I was perfectly happy living that way.

And then on September 15, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. I had just come home from my knitting group and a trip to Mega-Mart where I'd bought several packages of Reeses Peanut Butter Pumpkins (2 of which I ate on the 43 mile drive home), when I got the news.

A bit of backstory: I met my husband when we were both 18, and we married shortly thereafter, and for 37 years, we've been best friends. I rather like him, and I'd like him to stick around for awhile longer, with his feet and eyesight intact. There was no history of diabetes anywhere in his family (or mine, come to think of it), so the diagnosis was something of a shock to both of us. But we decided, that very afternoon, that very instant, to change. And we did it.

And by change, I mean change everything. We bought books, we studied recipes, we asked questions, and started the process of turning our lives around.

It wasn't easy- my addiction of choice (or maybe not choice, since it was an addiction) was constant eating- grazing all day long. A bowl of popcorn here (with butter, of course), a handful of tootsie rolls there, second and third helpings at meals. Cutting back on food was horrible at first. It took me easily a month to learn to distinguish when I was actually hungry and when I just wanted to eat (which was all the time).

My husband had less of a struggle (he was not fat, and wasn't a grazer, though he loved his huge bowls of sherbet at lunch) and his job has always been strenuous. But he didn't do cardio excrcises, and he likes his chips and dislikes diet pop, so it wasn't easy for him either. I joined Curves (an organization I recommend highly), and he bought a treadmill, and we both learned to sweat. And to count carbs. And to test blood sugar regularly. And to get by with less. Far less. And amazingly enough, to be satisfied with less. And we've come to understand that this is just the first stage of the rest of our lives- he's not going to become un-diabetic. This change is permanent because it has to be permanent.

And now, almost 4 months later, we've adjusted to the new life and are doing well (okay, I really wanted fudge at Christmas, but I did resist, and the urge to make it has gone away. Almost). My husband is managing his diabetes with diet and exercize, and we're both healthier than we've been in a very long time. He is 33 lbs lighter, and there are 34lbs less of me to love and I just bought a pair of size 14 jeans (from C.J. Banks, which means they're really 16 or a little bigger, but by damn, the tag says *14*).

Which brings me to the point of this post. When you see someone who has recently lost a visibly large amount of weight, do not, under any circumstances, say to that person, "Wow, they said you looked good, but I didn't believe it was possible."

That's a good way to get bit.


lisabeedesigns said...

you bring inspiration to me in so many different ways! Way to go! (both in the acceptance of yourself as you are - big or little - and in your efforts to increase your healthiness.)

Anonymous said...

My husband and I don't focus on the weight but how we feel, although we are both about 20 pounds more then we should be. Way to go with sticking to it. I love sugar and baking and I know it would be hard to give up but knitting is taking its place. Keeping the blood sugar stable is one of the best and most preventative things you can do against losing the sight or the feet. ( I am a nurse in a nursing and I have seen what diabetes can do if not taken care of)

Elizabeth said...

Kathleen -- I think you should sic one of those cats on whoever said that. . . the ones in the trees make me good and nervous!

Knit'inCrazee.... said...

Thank you so much for your post. My dh suffers w/ diabetis and he has not yet come to the conclusion he needs to do something, its been years.........

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Someone actually said that?! Go ahead and bite them - and then tell them that is your new weight loss plan. Eating only "fresh" food :)

Congrats on your new healthy lifestyle!

TwinKnitting (Ravelry)

loribird said...

Wow, congratulations! So much change in just four months - it really is inspiring.
My FIL is diabetic and has a myriad of other health problems, and so my husband is starting, at 38, to realize that he may need to watch is health as well... I am glad to hear how much of a difference such changes can make.
Try in response: "Wow, I had heard you could be snarky, but I had no idea you could be so tactless as well!"

Melrae said...

Congrats on your life change! I have lost 110 pounds thru diet and exercise. I have maintained this weight loss for 5 years and it is the hardest thing I have ever done. But, I saved my life and it was worth every bit of effort. Why is it that the worthwhile things are never easy?

I wish many happy healthy years for you and your husband.

RuthieJ said...

Hey Kathleen, congratulations! Eating healthy is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad. I still find myself snacking a bit more frequently than I should and not walking as much outside this winter (wussy!), but the new year is a good time to get back on the wagon.
Best wishes to you and your husband on your continuing journey to good health and thanks so much for sharing your story.

Jeanne said...

Congrats on your accomplishment - and thanks for sharing - very inspirational!

AmyS said...

Good for you! I need to follow your example. Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes to you and your husband.

yvonnep said...

Great! Really great and inspiring! We can do so much more for/with love!

SockMama said...

hi there! your story is very inspiring... and all too familiar.
we're going through the same sort of transformation ourselves. Thanks for sharing and inspiring. :)

Kathleen Taylor said...

Thank you everyone! I have learned that having a support group makes a huge difference. My family here, the wonderful folks at Curves, and 2 of my sisters (who made the same decision earlier than I did, but for different reasons), and now my blog family- all of you help. And for those undergoing the same journey- we can do it!

LizzieK8 said...

I love the "You look so good NOW" comments....and I looked like what? before... :::heavy sigh::::

I'm 55, too, fat, and happy. Everyone else can go to the devil if they don't like it! :)

maxine said...

Congrats! I also recently switched to a low glycemic plan and have dropped about 20. I switched to be in better health as long ago I figured my body likes this weight best. That was what I told myself anyway. I am diagnosed with Crohns (under the IBD umbrella) and the improvement of my symptoms was near immediate, and the weight has come off without the dreaded excercise.

I imagine the greater success if I actually made an effort and with the new year I hope to get back to a regular and consistent yoga practice.

I like it that it has been easy, makes me think the universe is convergent and it is time. Glad it is time for you as well.

Teri said...

My husband of 37 years was a big round fellow when we first met. And I was in sort of a health food kick,so we did try to eat right. Along the way, he stopped drinking. Then a few years ago, my doctor suggested I try low carb. I convinced Jeffrey to try it too. He found out that he is gluten intolerant, so we've had to try different grains in our diet. I lost weight but it's come back since I went off the low carb. I just can't get my body to lose the stuff. I weighed 180 when I picked apples and somehow don't think I'll manage to attain that now that I'm older and in an office job. So basically, I'm now married to a skinny old guy who is in wonderful shape. You really can make life changes. And I don't think that folks should ever be snide to fat people. It takes time to lose weight and you have no idea if the person you see has actually lost a lot of weight and just has a lot left to lose.

Shay said...

one of my SIL's has dropped from a 24 to a 14 in the last year.

Not only does she look fabulous but she had to buy all new clothes ;-)

Congrats to you and husband both!

susanlikesrats said...

Hi, I saw your post at knitlist, so I wanted to check out your free pattern, then read a few of your post. Just wanted to say that I feel your pain regarding weight issues and comments from folks. I've got to lost some weight for health reasons (I could care less about appearance issues at this point in my life). But I do dread all the well meaning but hurtful comments. I wish people would simply not comment on appearance. But I have to admit that I do the same thing to other people, in the sense of mentioning, "Oh you lost a little weight didn't you, you look great" or "You cut your hair? Nice haircut!" I don't know why I say such dumb thing except that I think we all want to just be nice and give others some strokes. Most people enjoy a nice comment, it seems. But sometimes people stick their foots in their mouths, I think!