Friday, 12 April 2013

Sorry to Pander to Our Weight Obsession, But

Shaving my head would be one way to lose weight.
  ...I have lost ten pounds since March 11. Ten pounds in a month doesn't sound unhealthy, does it?  That's about two pounds a week, which various calorie-counting sites assure me is safe and healthy, especially as these sites, like a certain National Health Service nurse, don't like my BMI.

Since this site is for women, I feel a bit guilty writing about weight at all. It's something many of us worry about too much. However, it's something others worry about too little.

My American friend Lily once said that the only time in her life she ever gained a lot of weight was when she moved to the UK for the year. She thinks the very air contains fat. All you need to do to gain weight, she says, is breathe.

Well, that's not quite true. What is true is that Britain's ancient daily eating schedule has been blown to smithereens with the introduction of snacking between meals without a corresponding rejection of beer and high calorie foods. The most easily found, bought and eaten food in Edinburgh is the meat pie. Edinburgh runs on meat pie, fish and chips and beer. When you are running around Edinburgh and feel a wee bit peckish, it is the easiest thing in the world to pop into Gregg's and get a chicken lattice pastry. Cost: about £1. Calories: 426. That's a lot of calories for a snack.

Meanwhile, the Toon is awash with drink. A social gathering without a drink is almost unthinkable. The only social events in Scotland where drink would be inappropriate are AA meetings. Even at children's birthday parties, the mothers are in the kitchen drinking Chardonnay.  And, personally, I like this native custom. I'm just sorry there are 175 calories in a big gin and tonic.

Then there's the marriage factor. One of the health risks of getting married is that you gain weight. First, you no longer need to leave the house to get company, so you stay in, often watching TV. Second, some people get complacent because they don't think they need to worry about staying in shape now that they have landed a life-long companion. Third, women tend to eat portions the same size as those their husbands eat. (This is a very bad idea, as women do not need as many calories as men do.) Fourth, you are not necessarily in charge of what you eat anymore. If your husband loves to cook, as mine does, he might give you twice as much to eat for supper as you or your mother did.

British food plus British drinking habits plus the married lifestyle = weight gain for your poor Auntie. So after a few false starts, I slashed my calorie consumption to the lowest healthy level for women my height and started going to the gym five times a week. And I kept leaving food on my plate until B.A. got the message and stopped giving me so much.

I'd love to tell you I am making this heroic effort because I have been seriously moved by the warnings of the National Health Service, which blames death not on the Fall of our first parents from Grace but on body fat, booze and cigs.  It would be nice to claim that I merely followed the dictates of Reason and the NHS.

But the truth is that my friend A takes photos at almost every Sunday Lunch, and I didn't like how I looked in them.

Hitherto I have carried fat well, which is to say it tends to hide in secret places--like around major organs, probably--so my friend L was shocked when I popped on her scale two or three months ago and she and A and I all gazed at the hideous number. But, really, those photos. Blah.

Photos are great motivators, I must say. When I was 27 and 117 lbs (I'm a medium-boned 5'2"), I had two photos of Demi Moore in her post-G.I. Jane incarnation, gently torn from a magazine, on my wall. (Yes, she had grown her hair again.) One was a back view, actually, because I wanted my back to look like her back. It wasn't quite there yet. (Seraphic smothers a sigh.) She really looked like a living Greek statue.

Fifteen pounds to go. I'm not dropping more than that because I am not just losing fat, I am getting muscle back and (all together now!) muscle weighs more than fat.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how the mirror lies but photos do not? I don't know how that happens! I too would love a beautiful back and also firm toned arms. I don't go to the gym because I would easily talk myself out of it but I do Tai Bo and Kathy Smith dvds at home.

Losing 10lbs in the beginning so quickly isn't a bad thing. I would just urge you, from sad sad personal experience to up your calories a bit. Otherwise as soon as you do that or drop the 5 weekly gym visits your weight will go up again. Also think longterm, as metabolism slows as we age. I know one woman starving on 1000-1200 a day because she kept her calories low in her youth.

Do you find that you sleep better now and has it affected your daily life (running for the bus etc.). I find exercise gives me an initial high but by 9pm I'm wrecked, which is a good thing.

Also, this is the body God gave us, we should mind it as much as we mind our souls. When I'm chomping on my second purple Yorkie bar I often ask myself is gluttony really better than lust? It is the more acceptable sin for Christians isn't it?


p.s. How have you managed not to talk yourself out of 5 gym visits a week?!

Jam said...

It's true about photos. I don't look "fat" because I'm tall and have a curvy hourglass sort of figure. But all that chocolate goes somewhere, or rather it doesn't. Someone took a picture of me sitting at a table during a meeting, and yowza, is that lump of flesh me?

Seraphic said...

Sinead, girls aren't supposed to eat Yorkie bars!!!! I'm quite sure it says so on the wrapper.

My mirror is also a horrible liar. What is the point of a mirror that lies? What am I, Snow White's Mother-in-Law? "Oh, Seraphic, you are the fairest of them all." "Oh, uh, really? Thanks, mirror!"

I'm definitely eating more than 1200 calories. Especially on Sundays. Meanwhile, when I get to my target weight, I will go to the gym only three times a week and review the calorie situation. I need to go to the gym anyway, for the sake of my brain. Without exercise, I get depressed.

I have managed not to talk myself out of gym visits by saying to myself "Now I can listen to loud Top 40" and "At the end, I can have a look at the scale!" It's the music and the friendly neighbourhood scale that keep me going. Oh and the gym is only a 20 minute walk away. That is very important!

MaryJane said...

I am so glad that other people's mirrors and cameras are affected by the same weird problem mine have. Personally, I'm happier believing the mirror. And now that photos are digital, I don't have to look at them very often! :)

Anonymous said...

That's exactly why I choose them because I'm just contrary like that. :-D Reverse psychology works.

Getting personal here but do you shower afterwards there or wait until you get home? That's what gives me hesitation, showering there, which would involve my long wavy tangled hair or sticky walk home.. It is all about convenience isn't it?


Seraphic said...

Unless I have remembered to bring a towel, I just go home. Really, it's only a 20 minute walk.

Seraphic said...

Unless I have remembered to bring a towel, I just go home. Really, it's only a 20 minute walk.

KimP said...

Good for you Seraphic! Ten pounds is a wonderful achievement and must be celebrated! I have found everything you say about weight gain and marriage to be absolutely true. I've been married a year - somehow seven additonal pounds to my person was my anniversary present. How'd that happen?????

Shiraz said...

Seraphic, why, oh why, did you have to tell me how many calories there are in a large G & T? I have been studiously avoiding acquiring this piece of knowledge for years!

okiegrl said...

Ha! I prefer to think that the camera is the one that is lying! The camera does add about 10 pounds, because it is converting 3D reality to a 2D picture. I always think I look F-A-T in photos... I have a more rounded face structure, but my BMI is right where it should be.

Anyways, congrats on the weight loss so far! Being healthy is something to strive for.

Has anyone else tried keeping a food journal? I didn't realize how horrible my eating habits were until I kept one. I might not have been overweight, but oh wow was I eating a ton of empty calories.

Seraphic said...

I kept a food journal for two weeks, but not until I was determined to be super-healthy, so I didn't have to confess to a lot of bad stuff. Now I just look up the calories of everything. One Polish chocolate-covered marshmallow (aka "birds' milk") is over 100 calories. This is the equivalent of a medium sized apple or two cookies! Yarg!

@Shiraz. You are now married and living in the UK, so there is no better time to wise up to the wicked calories lurking in your G&Ts.

urszula said...

Ah, ptasie mleczko... Thankfully I have no car to get to the nearest Polish deli so I've been avoiding that downfall successfully :)

Shiraz said...

Seraphic, I know this is true, but SIGH. Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss.

I admire your dedication -- I have always had an aversion to gyms, so I am hoping warm weather continues, so I feel like walking, etc etc.