It is always a blessed day when one is seeing Miss Henry. Miss Henry usually comes to see me early in the morning, so she is often already in the waiting room when I arrive at work. Sometimes, she is sitting alone with a book, but more commonly, she is engaged with someone nearby who she may or may not know. Many people in the community know Miss Henry. For those who don’t, it will only be a matter of time until they do.
Miss Henry should be staying at home writing her fascinating life story, but it is hard to keep that woman in one place. For someone reliant on a walker due to a very bad knee and whose abdominal girth way exceeds her height, you might imagine that getting around would be difficult. However, when one has many kind words to say and good deeds to do, staying at home is not an option.
I have been working with Miss Henry for three years and she has lost fourteen pounds. That is about 4.6 pounds per year or .09 lbs per week! I am very proud of her and she is tickled pink too. I know what you are thinking–these are not very impressive results and that this is not headline-making news. Pounding down the pounds are the hallmarks of success in this business and the goal of effective nutritional counseling.
However, if you sat where I sit every day, you might see a different picture. When we focus only on the numbers we miss a lot of important subtleties and positive changes that occur in the process of optimizing our health. To ignore these is a serious disservice to both the individual and the model of care.
Miss Henry is 65 years old. She was born and raised in the south as one of ten children and has raised children and grandchildren of her own. She has been responsible for the care and feeding of more people than most of us can even fathom. She still babysits, walks someone’s dog, tends to her partner, serves her church, cooks for others and takes a bus a few times a week to go visit her 91-year-old mother. She is black, but according to her family roots, she is also Cherokee, Irish, Jewish and therefore, multi-colored. Besides the bum knee, she has high blood pressure; and she has survived breast cancer. When I first met her she weighed about 300 pounds and used her shopping cart as a walker.
Through the time I have spent with her, she could have easily given up, and I could have too. Just for the record, in case you haven’t noticed, weight loss does not happen or sustain itself easily for most people–and some circumstances make it extremely difficult. It takes a lot of momentum and the attainment of a certain critical mass to move mountains so to speak, no matter what someone’s size.
Miss Henry knows food. She loves cooking it, sharing it, and shopping for it. For someone without a car, she always amazes me how she gets around for the best deals. Three supermarkets, Walmart, the Asian market, and the food coop are all within her domain. Oh, and she loves talking about it. For three years we have talked a lot about food. Even if I have not seen her for months, she will come in and tell me what she made for dinner yesterday or what she is planning for the next day. We have discussed eating more of some things, less of others and ways to support cleansing and elimination.
Miss Henry has had much to consider over the course of these three years including why she chose to overeat for much of her life. She has come to realize that she can care for herself as she has always cared for others. She asked for some support from her spiritual community, began to see the possibility of herself in a smaller body, focused on a red dress she so wished to fit into–and she watched Dr. Oz. Again and again, she slipped back into eating habits that she had hoped were behind her. Eventually, her excuses for overeating and her hunger began to decrease. She is now choosing to eat mainly vegetables two days of the week. Most powerful for me to observe was when she decided she no longer needed to say yes every time someone asked her to cook for a family, church or holiday event.
At first, she began walking the hallway outside her apartment and then joined an exercise program offered in her building. She started using some stepper machine that she had, and soon she was walking all over the city. Her frequent aches and pains began to lessen, her body became less puffy, her fat stores began to shift making her clothes fit more loosely, her blood pressure decreased and amazingly she began to rely on her walker less and less. If I had not been inquiring about these changes, and if we had not honored these transformations, the stubborn scale would have proved too discouraging.
When Ms. Henry next sees her doctor, the slightly lower number of pounds will hopefully give some modest proof of her efforts. However, for me, the important measurement that is often overlooked is how someone feels physically and mentally. I find that encouraging healthy practices is more beneficial than focusing on weight loss. Though by no means the biggest loser, this week, as Ms. Henry fit more comfortably in the chair in my office, she joyfully described just feeling lighter and having more energy. She is still the same beautiful and amazing woman but her face is glowing a little brighter.
Miss Henry always ends our visits with two exhortations. She says, Miss Elyn, whatever you do, don’t get fat. And, Miss Elyn, you have a blessed week. Bless you, too, Miss Henry.
How fine do you think the line is between health and weight?
In health, Elyn
Are we what we eat
Or do we eat what we are
Are they the same thing? By Julie