Tag Archive | healthy eating

lose 14 pounds in three years

The Red Dress

Image via Wikipedia

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 everyday, 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

  Haiku:

Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

Are they the same thing?    By Julie

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I Speak for the Fat People-last part

I was heartened to hear once, a man describe his joy-spreading tactic.  Essentially, he spends half of his time acquiring special little chocolates and the other half, gifting them to people as morsels of universal love.  I am either becoming a very cynical nutritionist or a very empathic human being.  The collective psyche is longing for the morsel of joy even at the expense of the perfect waistline.  The truth is that we have appetites and hungers because we are merely human, not because we are bad people.  However, when all of these human tendencies accumulate into extra pounds, getting rid of that weight is very difficult.

A few years ago, I attended a conference on an obesity-related topic.  As a group we were to brainstorm how to counsel a postpartum woman with a BMI of 30.   The exercise had me squirming from the get go.  As the attendees were getting rather  dead-ended in their attempts to master this case-study, the presenter, a physician and researcher at a major university said, “Let me offer this idea.  I am often in my office at my desk and on the phone.  I could just sit there and talk on the phone, but instead I stand and pace as I am talking.”  My agitated brain said, “Yes, let’s file that idea to use.”  Not with my clients but in this article.  I could picture Homer Simpson stuffing one more donut in his face while muttering “Ah, vigorous pacing. That’s the ticket.” I wondered when was the last time this guy got out of his office and realized the experiences of real people, real fat people.

TARTA DECORADA HOMER  Y BART SIMPSON

TARTA DECORADA HOMER Y BART SIMPSON (Photo credit: YOCUNA ARTE EN AZUCAR)

Hardly are all defined cases of overweight problematic. Some in the field maintain that the goal is for all individuals to attain an “appropriate” BMI.  Short of that, they will be at risk for various health problems. My intuition and much science beg to differ.  Many people are fine–if not perhaps better off–with a little extra weight on them.  Pavarotti once said, “The reason fat people are happy is that their nerves are well protected.”  My own observations reveal that the neurotically thin tend to be more frayed than their rounder counterparts.   Besides, BMI is just a tool.  At times it is a cruel tool—or at least a not very nice one.  It makes no allowance for age, fitness, or even natural body type.  Whether we like it or not, our bodies will shift and change as we age.  Nature, with no ill intent, seems to want to round us out a bit as we mature. That is how we get to be grandpas and grandmas.  Appropriate BMI does not necessarily confer lack of health risks–only ones of a particular nature.

Do not get me wrong.  I am not undermining the seriousness of the obesity crisis that we are facing.  I understand its consequences perhaps more than most.  I see the implications of weight that people struggle with on a daily basis and I strive to alleviate the challenges through educational, lifestyle and nutritional support.   I bemoan the forces that are propelling our society into ever-expanding levels of girth, especially those that are now affecting our children.

Still, I feel a need to call TIME OUT!  To stop the madness that makes those who are the statistics speechless.  To stop pointing the finger merely at the individual without an understanding of the deeper forces that are at play.  There are multi-factorial causes that lie at the root of the weight gain epidemic.  Many are so abstract or insidious that it is very difficult even for the experts—let alone an ordinary individual–to understand what is going on.  Though overeating, bad eating, food addiction and poor lifestyle choices are definitely a part of it, the magnitude of the communal weight gain doesn’t seem to make sense based on calories alone.  In the causative mix lie politics, hormones, pharmaceuticals, poverty, nutrition misinformation, dieting, food sensitivities, sensory science, profits, changes in the components of our food, environmental toxins, personal and spiritual alienation and lifestyles spinning out of control.  There are strange bedfellows in each and every fat cell.

Now, back to our friend the Lorax.  For the record, the Lorax, our venerable spokesperson, was rather portly himself.  Based on his picture, I’d put him at a BMI of about 27.  I’d describe him as neither apple nor pear-shaped but rather pickle-shaped.  According to Dr. Seuss, “He was shortish. And oldish. And brownish and mossy.” The final message of the Lorax in his plea to save the environment was UNLESS.   “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

I too, am rather shortish.  Oldish, brownish and mossy may someday also describe me.  For now, my intention is not to imply an ultimatum.  It is, however, to bring a greater sense of compassion and understanding–and a broader lens to the discussion and to the approaches to care.

I do not intend to deny the role of personal responsibility—be that for everyone.  It is a big piece of the puzzle.  Though it is critical that we address the current weight epidemic–we should not do it with an assault on the fat people.  We must not slap everyone silly in an attempt to squeeze them into a size six dress or Speedo swimsuit.  Besides, who would be left to sing the blues? And though I’d have been happy to find my grandmother at the gym, it could not replace the experience of cuddling up on her big, warm lap with wonderful smells wafting in from the kitchen.

Let me know what you think.  Thanks.

Related Posts:  I Speak for the Fat People: First Part and I Speak for the Fat People: Middle Part

In health, Elyn

my plate

my plate

My Plate Haiku

Hunger tiptoes in

From bellies, hearts or minds

Feed me now she calls.

by Eva