Confessions of a fat guy
If the big fixes -- diets, gyms, even surgery -- haven't worked for you, try some of these ideas.
This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.
It's expensive being fat. Or, to be more precise, it costs a lot trying not to be fat.
A recent study by the Canadian Obesity Network showed that, over the past year, people who spent money on weight-loss initiatives forked out -- clever, huh? -- an average of $2,666. That figure included a not-surprising $900 on commercial weight-loss programs, $766 on gym memberships and $400 on special diets, and a rather shocking $600 on prescription diet pills.
The study didn't say whether this spending was cost-efficient, but I suspect not. I know about such things: I'm a fat guy -- officially obese. I weighed 242 pounds this morning, and was surprised by that. Usually, after a three-day holiday weekend, I top 245. At 6 feet 2, I am supposed to weigh between 172 and 197, depending on my body type. I haven't visited that neighborhood since 1987.
About a third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the American Medical Association. And lots of them are spending big money trying not to be. Judging from anecdotal evidence, it's not working. Most slim down, chub up, then give up.
Everyone knows the reasons: bad eating habits and too little exercise. Unfortunately, the cure doesn't come in an expensive pill or an overpriced packaged meal. It comes through lifestyle change, which is not so easily digested.
I am a recovering alcohol and drug addict -- 26 years clean and sober. While that requires a laborious and never-ending process, it is easier than losing weight for me. Why? Because you stop using drugs and alcohol entirely, but you can never give up all food. The fridge is always in the next room, always with something in it. Post continues after video.
In Alcoholic Anonymous, someone always finishes your sentences with "yet," as in "I haven't lost my job because of my drinking -- yet." The same applies to me and my weight: My health hasn't suffered -- yet.
Probably because I walk a lot -- I love it -- and eat tons of fruits and plenty of vegetables, I have great blood pressure and very good cholesterol readings. My doctors always give some version of the same speech at my annual checkups: "You're in great shape for a fat guy, but don't let that weight get away from you."
Trust me, I've tried. In the '80s, I went from 260 to as low as 171 by running 30 miles a week. In the '90s, my self-designed nothing-after-8 p.m. diet plunged me from 253 to 214. For the past 15 years, I have wandered around the 240 mark. I say that is my "natural weight" and consider myself svelte if I drop to 237. But I am lying to myself -- and I know it.
In truth, I think about my weight a lot -- especially when I look in the closet or at a mirror. I try to hide behind other people in photographs. I cringe emotionally when people give me that quick body scan when first meeting me. Inside, I hate even my dearest friends for their clever little comments.
Fifty percent of those in the Canadian study said being overweight has impacted their relationships with friends and family. The other 50%, I suspect, are lying.
Here are a few thoughts -- financial and otherwise -- that might help you if you see more than a bit of yourself in the self-portrait I just drew. These will not necessarily make you slim, but they might keep you healthy longer.
- Keep walking. The experts say 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. Alternate your routes, having 1-mile, 2-mile or 3-mile loops so you can fit a walk into any day's schedule.
- Establish a routine. First thing in the morning, after lunch, after work; it makes no difference. Just make it a priority and stick to it.
- Enjoy the walk. You won't continue doing something if you dislike it. Look at the birds, the flowers, chat with strangers or even strange neighbors. No death marches.
- Take the stairs. Really. It only hurts a little bit, and then only at first.
- Stay busy. Idle time is the bane of the muncher. If you know you eat less when with others, stay social. If you get up and nibble between innings of a baseball game, tape the game and zip through the commercials.
- Keep the goodies out. If you consider a pint a single serving of ice cream, don't bring it home. You will be surprised to learn you are too lazy to actually drive to the store just to buy Ben & Jerry's.
- Throw stuff away. The company’s gone, but the leftovers aren't. You know who's going to eat the half bag of Costco-size potato chips. Toss it.
- No third helpings. Actually, you shouldn't have seconds, but we're trying to be realistic here. No one can rationalize that third dip.
- Be wary of gyms, etc. Not saying they don't work, but most of the people I know who love going to the gym were already what I considered fit. The problem with programs and diets is that they end and you are still who you are.
- Relapsing is only a little mistake. OK, you gorged yesterday at the barbecue. You don't make it better by gorging today. Keep at the little things; they do add up.
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