Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What is Fat?

My husband had a horrible August. He was debilitated with Lyme Disease. We don't know when he contracted it, so trying to decipher how long his recovery will be is also a mystery. He never got the usual tell-tale "bulls-eye" bite mark and rash, or if he had it, it was never found by either of us. He began to feel unwell on August 3, and by August 6 he was unable to move from a lying position or a sitting position without some serious assistance. His joints were the main location of the pain. Even sleeping was painful because he had to use his muscles to move his body around and then he'd move onto a painful joint. After seeing 3 different doctors, his Lyme Disease was finally confirmed and he was put on a combination of strong antibiotics, pain killers, and anti-inflamatories. Under the supervision of the Great Physician, Texan Papa made a great recovery.

One doctor who TP saw, his rheumatologist, told him that after a person is cured of Lyme Disease, he or she will be left with a "mark". That mark can be different for every person, and is often determined by how long the disease was present in his/her system. Some marks include: facial ticks, paralysis, and neurological damage. Texan Papa's mark is Fibromyalgia. The doctor told him that the Fibromyalgia will be manageable through diet and heavy exercise. TP has decided to go all out exercising, eating healthy, and making himself healthy. We're talking, counting all his carbs, loading up on proteins, drinking protein shakes, watching his saturated fats, etc. Now, Texan Papa and myself are the same, a little bit, in that we vacillate back and forth between phases of eating healthy and watching calories, as well as enjoying our meals and not worrying about the ingredients. Now, he claims this is 100% to do with not wanting to have fibromyalgia for the rest of his life. I am so glad he has chosen to be proactive about his health. But, ya know what? It makes me scared, a little bit.

I am not what *I* would call overweight. Okay, but what is overweight? Is it defined by a percentage of body mass index? Is it defined by a pants size? Is it defined by a combination of my height and weight? Or is it defined by my pulse rate when exercising? Or if I can buy clothing in the "regular" sizes (up to 14 or 16 for ladies). I would say that neither TP nor myself are what I would call unhealthy. He is over 6' tall and just over 200 lbs. I am 5'6" and weigh 165. I wear a size 12 or 14. This may seem a little heavy, but realize that when I graduated high school I weighed 145 and the weight I am now is after 18 years and 4 children. Okay, now it sounds like I'm justifying. I hate that.

But what is healthy? In the past, when I have been super-focused on my carbs, my fats, my calories, etc. I went crazy. I thought about nothing else. My day revolved around planning meals and snacks so that I could maximize the healthy benefits while also minimizing my intake of bad by-products. I constantly looked at other people and wondered, "Do I look like that? Do my love handles look like hers? How does she get that muscle definition in her arms? I wonder what type of workout she does? I wonder how many carbs she eats in a day?" Is that healthy to be so obsessed with that type of thought?

The flipside is the side I'm on, I guess, after many years of an uphill battle of self-acceptance. I eat what I want but I respect limits. If I eat an unhealthy food, I try to eat a smaller portion or else I eat a larger portion of healthy foods to balance it. But I don't steer clear of foods I enjoy: white bread, Hershey's kisses, chips and salsa, sour cream, bacon, and I always cook with REAL BUTTER. I believe that food should not be a source of stress. It's not an enemy, it's not a friend. I think food should nourish us, but in a way that satisfies us. Sure, I will be kept alive on plain grilled chicken breasts, steamed broccoli, and spinach. But if I don't enjoy eating it, then mealtimes become something I do not look forward to. It would be like (for me) reading The Grapes of Wrath. So boring. Bland. Unexciting.

And, as far as exercise, I want to do it for my health, not for looks. I don't ever expect to get 6-pack abs. I don't want anything to be rock hard. I just want to have nice, pink, lean guts. Every time I run on the treadmill, I picture my pink muscley heart pumping away, getting stronger and stronger. I picture my blood racing through my veins as fast as I'm going on the stair step machine. As the sweat pours off my brow, I feel like my insides are being cleansed and after I step off the elliptical machine I am replenishing myslef with clean clear water. I can breathe, and I can bend, and I'm not sore. I can run and play. When I do get hurt, I recover quickly. I FEEL healthy. So what does it matter what I look like? What does it matter about the number on the scale?

So, I'm nervous that one day the Papa is going to look at me and say to himself, "I just don't think she looks too good. She's gotten round around the middle. And look at her sitting there eating Pringles. Gross." I know for a fact he would NEVER actually say that to me because he respects me. But he might not keep from thinking it. I feel like I'm caught in a trap. I don't want to be overweight and unhealthy. But am I? How do I know? Like I said, what's the definitive answer for that? And if I'm not now, at what point will I cross the threshold from "okay, she could be doing better" to "get help now, you're going to have a stroke"?

And, on a personal note, for the first time in my life I feel very awkward while undressed around my husband. He still tells me he's attracted to me. Our love life is still the same. But every time I get a little itch around my mid-section and I feel the stretch marks, I die a little bit inside. When I see those cellulite dimples, I cringe. Sometimes I will be walking by a store and get a sideways glipse of my reflection in the window, and I don't recognize myself at first. I have seen so many shows about eating disorders and how young girls picture themselves as being much heavier than they actually are. I wonder if I have the opposite problem - maybe I'm not worried about my weight because I think I'm in better shape or I'm skinnier than I actually am. Already, when I go to the clothing store, I keep thinking that I can pick out clothes to put on, then when I get in the dressing room I put the item on, if it even fits, and I remind myself, there's a reason I don't have any clothes like this! I look horrible in it! It's like, my mind can't wrap itself around the fact that I'm not 22 anymore. I have had 4 children. My stomach was always my bad feature to begin with anyway. And I like cardio but I absolutely hate crunches, leg lifts, etc.

So, I guess I'm afraid of Texan Papa throwing off the shell of his former self and suddenly feeling dissatisfied with a person who is comfortable with being adequate. I like my eating habits. I like moderation. I like Cheetos. I wish I had a different mid-section, but not so much so that I am going to cut out pasta. Not yet anyway.


Anna See said...

I think it is natural to wonder how someone is going to see us when they are making changes in their lives. In fact, when someone catches the exercise bug and feels so much better, it must be next to impossible for them not to want to share that.

I like how you see food not as a friend, not as an enemy, but as something to nourish you. I do not exercise as much as I should (to make that heart muscle strong!) and I eat way too much, but I must admit that being around a lot of people who obsess over their weight has made me veer in the opposite direction. I just tune out and do what I want to do. I eat more than my husband does. My weight is on the low side, but I need to think beyond the number and think about "what is healthy."

Mandy said...

I hope all goes well for you guys with this lifestyle change!

mydogumentary said...

I feel like that right now. I just got married last year and feel like a big fat blob now. I've gained about 15 pounds and now I hate, HATE to get undressed even by myself! My husband is thin and he's an attractive guy and I feel like I've failed in the looks department. But I yo-yo so he's been with me through the thick and the thin.

MeadowLark said...

I just have a couple of thoughts to share:
1) When our spouse makes a change, yes we feel "obligated" to change as well. What if they look so "hot" they don't want us anymore? (Or at least that's what I worried about). If they're going to stop wanting us, they're not worth keeping anyway. (Bast*rds!!)

2) Cheetos are you enemy, but butter is your friend. As in, eat food that is close to "real". Your body will have a much better idea of what to do with it. Processed stuff is confusing to it.

3) I have also used the "but I'm older and have children" excuse. But we know better. I have a sister-in-law with five kids who still looks fabulous. But she works her tail off - much harder than I'd ever work. So really I'm saying "I am zaftig and would like you stop judging me, so I'm using the kid excuse, but the fact is, I am what I choose to be.

4) (and related to 3) Choose who you want to be and BE it. It's ok if we wanna be sorta 'curvy' as we get older. I would say it's much more important to be HEALTHY and that means cardiovascularly fit. I carry some extra pounds, but I can do real pushups and even a few chinups! So I'm a big girl... someone can just GET OVER IT.

anyway... good luck in your dilemna. It's not easy.

Pinky said...

Hmm. Deep thoughts, for sure.

I'm glad TP is alright, re: Lyme Disease, but Fibromyalgia is a beeeyotch.

What is fat? Well, we can either listen to our doctors, and take a text book approach, looking at cholesterol levels, etc...

Or, we can decide that it's up to us to decide. If you're truly happy with yourself (and I wonder if you really are ;) then it won't even matter if TP does one day decide that he doesn't like your love handles. A confident woman is much more beautiful than an insecure woman, regardless of how much either one weighs. You know that. My Sweetheart can tell me all day long that he thinks I'm beautiful. Fine. But it doesn't really matter. What matters is what I think.
Only when I think I'm beautiful can I accept his compliment.

I'm long-winded, and I accept that.

La Pixie said...

Ive had a lifelong struggle with food and my weight. I know that my Boyfriend always tells me that Im beautiful, but if I dont feel beautiful, then Im not. you know? and if you are feeling like you die a lil bit inside, then whether or not youre actually fat doesnt REALLY matter. does that make sense? I think if you can make peace with it... thats the ONLY important thing.

Carrie Thompson said...

all I can say is thank you for being so honest and I feel for you and you need to do whatever You need to do regardless of hubbie. When I decided to change my hubbie basically said I will do whatever you need but dont expect me to jump on the bandwagon. He was honest and I appreciated it. but he has also been very supportive.

just do what you need to do and remember you are preggo! Keep that in the thoughts mrs. hormone central!

be healthy and safe and happy with yourself!

Eudea-Mamia said...

Wow - that is a difficult question. I'm with you on the whole 6-pack ain't happening thing. Even at 17, it wasn't happening. Now, two c-sections later, it requires medical intervention, and if I had to decide, I'd get a nose job first - everyone sees that. Abs, not-so-much.

As far as your hubby, one thing I have discovered about the opposite sex - they're less interested in what women consider the "perfect" body, and more turned on by a willing participant. If you not liking your body means you're inhibited around him, that is the vibe he will get. I'm not saying you have to wrap yourself in saranwrap, but loving yourself affirms his love for you.

So much easier said than done - I am only too aware of that. Forget all the diet aids - someone needs to develop a self esteem pill.

Hugs to you. Go easy on yourself.


Scary Mommy said...

This is always a battle for me, whether it's 10 pounds or 30. At the moment I'm working on the last 15 of my last baby, but as he approaches a year I don't think I can blame him anymore. Glad Texas Papa is doing ok!!

MeadowLark said...

I just found this and wanted to share it with you. Some men are BRILLIANT. Now if I could only train mine...

K: i am so sick of being fat.

G: you're not fat.

K: yes. i. am.

G: you're fat with sexiness.

that is the correct answer. well played, my dear.


Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

You should give Steinbeck a chance--he's pretty good :)

A good diet is a life long journey--you'll always make some mistakes but you'll get there. You want to eat well for little baby right now too :)

(Don't worry about that midsection--it's about to get much bigger in a very perfect way!)

Pinky said...

Dang, lady!!!
Congrats on the sweet BABY inside of you!!!
Awww, man!!!
How did I miss that????
I love little babies. Other people's babies.
mmmm. yeah. good stuff.
Much love to you!!!

Cassoulet Cafe said...

I just found your blog, and while I was reading this post my mouth was hanging open, because I totally could have written these exact thoughts, words and feelings. I didn't just "get it"...I live it!
I could go on, but I'm bookmarking this so I can find ya again.
So glad to have stumbled across you!

Donna-Michele said...

ALL of what you feel seems to be something that women go through early in pregnancy AND any time something big changes with a spouse... you have the one-two. So, you get to feel how you feel, and deal with it the best way you know how. Trying to be ok with changes if you really aren't makes you a fraud...so tell him, and get the kids all off somewhere and have a good nakid romp if you can. If not, thinking about it is fun.

As far as his Fibromyalgia (sp?)...yeah I got it after a car accident, stress onset. Magnesium helps. So does Mucinex! It gets rid of the gunk that builds up in your connective tissue that makes you hurt. So does massage sometimes, soaks in the tub, acupuncture and chiropractic too (sometimes). So does eating more fruits and veggies and fewer processed foods. Keeping a food diary will quickly tell if he has trigger foods... starch and processed foods are common ones. Gentle exercise if you are consistent is good. SO does him (and you)not worrying, and letting go of " have-tos". He will figure it out. LIFE isn't tidy... so let it be messy. It really is ok. Count your blessings if you can that his heart wasn't affected, or he doesn't limp or need a walker. The after affects of Tick Fever can be much worse. Sometimes the mark goes completely away too. Tell him we are cheering for him, and you both are in our prayers.