Long time coming, part one

I love food. I love to eat. I love to talk about food and cook food and buy food and see other people enjoy food. I love to watch food TV shows and recipe videos on the internet. My palate has never been very exotic, but I have always made up for the lack of variety with quality and quantity.

And of all the things I love the most, the most heavily featured components of my diet for years, have been carbs and sugar. Potatoes, cakes, rice, cookies, bread, cereal, pasta, usually in combination with each other. That’s what made me feel full and satisfied. Those are comfort foods for so many of us. The good stuff.

A year ago, losing any significant amount of weight seemed very out of reach for me. When someone is a little chubby, as I have been over the years, losing 30 or 40 pounds or so is a daunting task. Imagine, then, staring down a 100-pound weight loss, maybe more, and how impossible a job that seems at the starting point. Imagine weeks of conventional dieting yielding results of two or three pounds here and there, and knowing how long you would have to work to reach your goal based on that progress. It’s no wonder people get discouraged and give up. It’s an incredibly difficult mountain to climb.

But it’s a decision to climb it, even when the odds are against you. I’m going to say that again: it’s a decision. Twenty years from now, I will maintain that this is the most vital, meaningful, impactful nutritional philosophy I know – you take control of your weight when you’re ready, and not a minute before. You can pay thousands of dollars for a meal plan and a personal trainer, but if you’re not truly ready to change, you might eat a bag of Kit Kats at 11:30 p.m. when no one is around to stop you. It’s a matter of personal choice, the choice to prioritize good health over momentary satiation.

And I get it, God knows I do. No one has known the joy of a dozen peanut butter cups in one sitting more often than me. I had myself convinced that being skinny was probably awesome, but it would never be worth giving up a good feed of garlic fingers with cheese and bacon. It’s everywhere and it’s delicious, so it’s easy to understand how and why people eat the foods they do – they’re enjoying life, which so often involves indulging in our favourite meals. And the prospect of depriving ourselves of that joy is something most people can’t and won’t do.

I don’t know anything now that I didn’t know this time last year. I may have learned new techniques, sure, but the fundamentals don’t change, the math of weight loss is always the same – burn more than you take in. More importantly, the psychology of weight loss is always the same – change the way you eat if you want to change the way you look, and only you can decide when you’re truly ready to make those changes.

I have made many excuses over the years about why I “couldn’t” lose weight. It’s so much easier to have a health problem to blame it on, trust me. I have several. I have a severe thyroid problem, which has thrown my metabolism out of whack. I have Multiple Sclerosis, which has presented its share of physical challenges over the years. That’s how I justified eating a spinach dip appetizer followed by a plate of chicken parmesan – “I might as well eat what I want, all my health problems are preventing me from losing weight, anyway.”

That was an excuse, as it turns out. It was a cop out. It was me not being accountable to myself for the poor choices I was making. My various health issues weren’t helping, but they were only exacerbating my weight gain, not causing it. Despite my excuses, I knew that. So did the doctors. So did my husband.

That the power to change my health was in my hands this whole time, was a humbling and sobering realization. But the moment I really took a step back and accepted that the same person who ate deep fried mozza sticks could not blame obesity on a poorly-functioning thyroid, was a real turning point.

I will continue next week.