Thin Lies

I’ve lost 30 pounds since August 2012. I like how I look, but why do I feel like Lance Armstrong?

To quickly recap my body’s lifelong adventures, I’d always been thin growing up, through little fault of my own. I did “work out,” playing softball and dancing several times a week, but I basically ate whatever I wanted. My mom told me to enjoy it, because it wouldn’t last. I ignored her. French fries are so a dinner!

In college, I stopped working out only because I stopped going to extra-curricular activities because sports in college are srs bsns, not a way for mediocre athletes to get exercise. But I kept eating whatever I wanted, and I didn’t gain weight, figuring metabolism was my secret super-power. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, being poor and overworked, I ate whatever was the easiest, and finally (boo) started gaining weight.

In Japan, I gained even more, weighing the most I’ve ever weighed, and it didn’t make any sense. Food is healthy in Japan. I biked to work and anywhere I went every day. I was taking Aikido. All I ate were rice and sushi and vegetables. It didn’t add up.

When I got home from Japan, I was so sad to be away from all the friends I’d made, unemployed, and living with an ex, I just wasn’t hungry. Ever. I sat at home all day, applying for jobs hour after hour. To break up the monotony, I started doing workouts that aired on the FIT network. I was SUPER poor — and again, not hungry — so all I ate were cucumber and tomato sandwiches. I dropped 30 pounds in about 4 months.

Fast forward two or so years, I got my old job back, joined clubs and writing groups, took Improv classes, made new friends, stayed in touch with old friends, got myself a gentleman caller, and — surprise! — I gained about 20 pounds. Yay?

When I was at my new “adult lowest” in post-Japan depression, I was feeling pretty good health-wise, but I was still in the “normal” range of weights for my height, according to interwebs. When I was at my highest, I was right within the “overweight range.” The next range, many more pounds from overweight, is “obese.”

When preparing to fit into a wedding dress, I started back on the diet — cucumber and tomato sandwiches. When I got sick of those, Lean Cuisines. I no longer got the FIT network, but I bought DVDs and did them every day, sometimes twice a day. I gained 10 more pounds.

I should mention that when I got back from Japan and found a job, I went to a doctor who diagnosed me with an auto-immune disease that often has the side-effect of weight gain in women. I told him I’d just lost 30 pounds, so he agreed I just wasn’t expressing that symptom.

However, looking back, I have a feeling that this disease was why I’d gained so much weight in Japan despite working out and eating right. The weight loss upon my return to America was just a side effect of being so sad you don’t feel like eating.

So here I am, working out like a crazy person, eating right, and I’m GAINING weight. Already stressed with wedding preparations, there were a lot of tears. I kept saying to people around me, “You’d think that going from NOT eating right and NOT exercising ever to doing BOTH, I’d lose at least ONE pound.” No. Nothing.

Muscle weighs more than fat, people said. Whatever. I wasn’t starving myself, and I wasn’t body-building. I got married at maybe 5 pounds below my highest weight, and immediately gained those 5 pounds back at the Honeymoon. I was at my highest weight  – the same weight I hit in Japan — from March of 2011 until August of 2012.

I go to the doctor all the damn time for my super fun auto-immune disease, and on one such trip, he asked me to change into a gown for a yearly physical. I’ve been in school plays, so I’m not usually shy in situations like this. As he was examining me in less-than-clothes, he says — AND I QUOTE — “This reminds me, we need to talk about you losing some weight.”

I mean, no one likes to hear that, but I’m not going to argue with the guy. I *wasn’t* working out. I *wasn’t* eating healthy. Sure, the last time I did both nothing happened, but I couldn’t swear to him that I was trying.

I joined a self-defense course and went 2-3 times a week. I started playing Dodgeball once a week. I started playing softball once a week. I watched what I ate. 4 or so months later, I showed up in his office again, and he told me I should join Weight Watchers. I hadn’t lost one pound.

He looked at me with veiled skepticism when I told him how often I worked out, and he retorted with things like, “Well, softball isn’t really working out, is it? You really only run if you get on base.” He prescribed me medication that he said would help curb my appetite, but I had to keep working out and eating right. More than I was already doing, of course.

I asked him if it wasn’t the auto-immune weight-gain side effect he’d mentioned years ago, and he kept coming back to the fact that I’d lost 30 pounds “no problem” in 2008.

I didn’t cry in the office, but I cried later on the phone with my mom. I cried again on a drive to the grocery store with Tyler, after mentally marking things off the grocery list I could never enjoy ever again. Yes, I am dramatic.

No one really knew what to say. Tyler knew I was frustrated with my weight, but should he support me to take a weight loss pill even if it would solve that? My mom thought I was a fine weight, but gently reminded me that some women do let themselves go after getting married, so maybe you, wait, why are you crying, stop crying and hysterically slamming the phone off the wall, I didn’t mean you, I just meant some people. My friends thought I should find a new doctor, but I *WAS* overweight. I couldn’t just shop around for a doctor who would lie to me like a gay best friend and tell me I’m perfect no matter what.

Reluctantly and angrily, I started taking the appetite-curbing pill and immediately — like in a week — lost 10 pounds. It curbed my appetite in that I was not ever hungry, ever, and I also had trouble sleeping, possibly because my heart was trying to explode. The second I stopped taking the pills at the end of the month — and I mean almost cartoonishly literally — I gained ALL of the weight back. So. That was cool.

I reported back to Dr. You’re-A-Fatty who then prescribed me the same pill in EXTRA STRENGTH. I looked online to see if I was going to die by taking this, and everywhere I looked, it was described as “help for those with severe weight issues.” Okay, I’m as self-loathing as the next comedian, but I would never describe myself as having SEVERE WEIGHT ISSUES. Not to point thumbs, but Honey Boo Boo’s mother would be someone I would describe as having severe weight issues. Not me. Am I deluding myself? Am I a reverse anorexic, and when I look in the mirror, I actually see someone who’s kind of okay, when in real life I look like I’m minutes from getting a promotional Rascal Scooter in the mail?

I took the extra-strength diet pills, and I started up a private food journal, where I listed everything I ate and their calories. It was more for my doctor than me, because I wanted to prove to him that I was (still) eating healthy things, and when I continued eating the same things off the pills, the weight would fly back on, and so SOMETHING ELSE WAS TO BLAME. Like perhaps, my stupid non-working, auto-immune-disease-having body.

These pills worked. After having shot back up to my highest weight the moment I stopped taking the first round, I lost 30 pounds over the next 2 1/2 months on the extra-strength version. I could see the difference easily in mirrors and was fitting into old clothing again. A few people at work started noticing I had been losing weight.

I stopped taking the pills right around Thanksgiving time, which was terrifying, because Thanksgiving is delicious. I’d traveled to Georgia to see family that I hadn’t seen in two years, and they could really see the difference. They kept commenting on how proud they were of me. Fast forward to Christmas, and my family in Pittsburgh also told me how great I was looking. I ate my Nutri-Grain bars for breakfast, and when they looked at me like, “So THAT’s the secret,” I couldn’t help feeling ashamed.

I had been — and I still am — able to keep the weight off. I guess my doctor was right, that this pill was just a kickstart over some weird roadblock. I suppose the food journal helps a bit. I do feel like I eat a lot of the same things I did before, but it’s just more of a special occasion for a Five Guys burger or a breakfast omelette. I’m still working out just as much as I have been since January of 2012, back when my weight didn’t change for six months. Still grumpy about that.

Here’s the thing. Now that more of my friends are noticing — the ones who didn’t know about the pills — they’re telling me how proud they are of me, and how eating right really is the key, and how great working out is. I even started believing it myself. I saw a lot of New Year’s resolutions on social media about turning over a new leaf and really sticking to a workout regiment, and I almost piped in with how great self-defense classes are and how it’s really helped me.

My dojo wants me to write a testimonial about how it’s changed me, and how it’s sure to change others just as easily. The truth is, I do love working out at my dojo, and it has changed my strength and confidence…but it did all that back when I was 30 pounds heavier, too.

I didn’t lose weight by working out or eating right, because I’d been doing that since 2011, before my wedding and before the pills. I lost weight because a medication sent a message to my brain that I wasn’t hungry, and when it does that for long enough, eating a Lean Cuisine for lunch doesn’t make you want to gnaw your arm off the rest of the day; it actually works.

So how can I possibly take pride in my weight loss? Every time I slip into an old pair of thin pants I kept “just in case,” my pride is immediately replaced with the guilt that it’s all fake. It wasn’t earned through my own actions. I have friends who are trying to lose weight. I feel like the kid who gets an A in math only because his parents could afford the best calculator, while the people who do the equations by hand and understand the material better don’t get as high a grade.

My aunt recently asked me, “Don’t you feel so much better weighing less? Don’t you have more energy?” She’s lost weight through diet and exercise, but her being proud of my accomplishments made me feel like Lance Armstrong. No, I don’t feel any better. I have the same energy, because I’ve been working out all along! I just happen to weigh less now. It’s weird.

I guess I can take pride in the fact that I’ve been able to keep it off, but I had the same eating habits before. Arguably, I was eating HEALTHIER back when I was trying to lose without the aid of a supplement, but nothing was taking. I guess there’s no answer to that.

I’m certainly glad I weigh 30 pounds less. Truth be told, I would love to go 10 pounds more and weigh what I weighed in college, but I’m sure I’d have to give up my rare Five Guys bonus days.

Would I tell someone else to take the pill? I don’t know. I guess I’m gambling on not having some weird health issue down the line, even though my doctor told me the pill was nothing like those supplements you still hear advertised as class-action lawsuits on daytime television.

I’m grateful it all finally worked. I just wish I could take the credit.

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