Archives for 2015

A mystery of obesity

I have a friend, Maggie, who only commands respect from those she knows well.  People who see her in the grocery store can’t see her character.  They probably make assumptions about her based on her appearance.  She is a brave, honest, generous, loving woman.

She takes children into her home and into her heart, when their own mothers can’t care for them.  She isn’t wealthy.  The family must ask for financial help from time to time.  She has provided emergency care for months at a time for 3 different young girls when their own mothers could not care for them.  That is the embodiment of love and generosity.  A casual passerby might assume that her quick ponytail and sweat pants point to someone who doesn’t care.  They can’t see that she just invests her time and energy into children, instead of her appearance.

Maggie homeschools her children.  She has 5 biological children ranging in age from one to thirteen.  She believes that homeschooling is the best education for her children.  She braves the chaos and curriculum to provide what she feels is best.  Outsiders don’t see how her passion for her children’s academics impacts her ability to have time for herself.  They just see a busy, disheveled stay at home mom.

Her honest nature compels her to profess her true self even to people who disagree with her. Without preaching she explains her spiritual journey and colorful history. People trust her because she is open and vulnerable.  She knows that some people might criticize her, but she prefers honesty to hiding behind a façade.  If you ask her how she is, be ready.  She will tell you the truth.  Someone just meeting her might not know how to relate to her.

Another reason people criticize Maggie is that she has had a lifelong battle with weight issues.  Even though she is not a typical suburbanite, stay-at-home mother, she struggles with a very typical problem.  She is very overweight. This affects her body image, her fashion, her energy, and her health.

It would be easy to assume that she is a lazy, slob who doesn’t take care of herself. That assumption would be false. She goes to the gym regularly, takes care of her hygiene, her home and her children.  She is so motivated to change her body shape, that she started an accountability group for herself on Facebook.  She chronicled her exercise habits, her successes, her failures, and her goals.

I have known Maggie for seven years.  I have seen her through several pregnancies.  Through all her efforts, I don’t see her body dramatically changing shape.  When she exercises regularly and eats right, she makes progress and feels good. Still, she remains obese.

The source of her problem perplexes me.  If she were someone else, I might think that she just eats junk food in secret.  But Maggie has been so open about all her struggles and life.  If she had an eating compulsion, she would say “I have an eating disorder.  Help me, please.”  She doesn’t say that.

Maggie might have a metabolic disorder, but I don’t think so.  If she had a medical condition that predisposed her to obesity, the problem would be isolated to her. But obesity is definitely not isolated to her. Maggie has a beautiful eleven year old daughter, Maura.  Maura was lean and athletic until age 9, but now she is steadily gaining weight beyond what is healthy for a growing girl.  Maggie’s husband has a large midsection so common in American men.  So I wondered if the problem lied in their household habits or familial genetic disposition

So what is happening in Maggie’s home that keeps her from getting the body she wants?  Is there something about Maggie’s home environment that makes the family overweight?  Maybe, but look at the statistics for obesity published by The Center of Disease Control.  The CDC considers obesity to be a national epidemic.  Clearly Maggie and her family are not alone in their struggle.

Maggie and her family live in Colorado. While Coloradans are leaner than many in the nation, it is still a major problem for men and women.  20% of adults in Colorado are obese compared to 35% in the country as a whole. That’s an alarming amount of Americans struggling with weight.

Race and poverty are also correlated to high levels of obesity.  Maggie is Hispanic and her husband is black and their daughter is mixed race.  Do they live in a food desert where they don’t have access to healthy foods?  That is a real problem for many ethnic minorities and people living in poverty.  But Maggie lives a few blocks away from many well stocked grocery stores, including discount a health food store. She has access to affordable, healthy foods.

Most people, including Maggie, understand the basics of nutrition and exercise, so why are we getting fatter?  The statistics point to obesity being a national problem, not just a personal problem.  Millions of loving, honest and brave people, like Maggie, suffer socially from teasing, shaming and being at the butt of jokes.  So much emotional suffering from a societal problem.

Why does Maggie struggle year after year to shed the unwanted pounds? Solving her mystery would shine light on the obesity problem as a nation.  She is a wonderful person and deserves to walk tall and proud.  Her body should reflect her effort, just like her actions reflect her heart.  People who pass her in the grocery store should see the efforts of exercise and eating right.

Many wonderful people around the nation are trapped in a body they struggle to transform.

Do you know anyone like Maggie?  What do you think make Americans fat?  Share your thoughts.

Success or failure in a bikini?

Which philosophy of failure and success do you embrace?

  • You can’t succeed unless you try. Mistakes and failure are part of the journey.

Or…

  • Don’t try do! 2nd place finishers are just the best losers.  Be the best at everything you do.

Which school of thought is the most productive?

Start with the definition of success. Dictionary.com defines success as:

“The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.”

 

Read the story of two women who have different philosophies about failure.  Decide if you are more like Jasmine or Bethany.

 

Jasmine and Bethany both want to lose weight to wear a bikini in Hawaii.  Jasmine and Bethany are both hard-working, bright, ambitious young ladies.  But, they have focused on their career and education goals and neglected to take care of their health.

 

Late nights studying included fuel to keep them going.  The fuel was quick, easy calories like pizza and soda.  Who has time to chop vegetables when cramming for an early morning exam?  When they did well on a test, they celebrated with going out for a drink or to dinner.  It never occurred to them to celebrate with a run or tennis match.

 

When Jasmine realized that she would graduate with honors, she invited Bethany to by going to Hawaii.  While they achieved this goal, they had very different paths of getting there.  Jasmine encountered many speed bumps along the way, but she took every failure as an opportunity to learn.  Bethany also had a few disappointments along the way, but she could always find someone else to blame.  She never talked about her own mistakes.

 

When Jasmine her first exam back, it had a big red C on it.  She knew she would have to change something to finish law school. She decided hadn’t studied efficiently enough and took steps to change that.  She eliminated Facebook, told her boyfriend not to call when she was studying, and joined a study group.  Tests always made Jasmine anxious, so in college she learned breathing techniques to help calm her.  Some of her high school teachers would be amazed that she was in law school at all.  She was never a star student, but she had lofty goals. She just kept learning and adjusting and never stopped trying.

 

Bethany got a B on her first test in law school.  She was stunned.  She had always been a straight A student.  She credited her own smarts and long hours studying.  High school and college were easy for her.  Law school was the first time school was challenging for her.  She blamed the B on the professor, saying that the test was unfair.  She got angrier and angrier at the world as she earned more and more B’s.  There was always an excuse and she didn’t change her habits dramatically.  Bethany didn’t feel like celebrating finishing law school because she is graduating Cum Laude, not Summa Cum Laude.  But she couldn’t turn down the chance to go to Hawaii with her best friend.

 

Both Bethany and Jasmine had 15 pounds to lose to feel comfortable struttin’ their stuff on Waikiki.  The flight was 2 months away.  They made a plans to eat healthier and exercise more.  Jasmine enlisted the help of her friends and family and Bethany joined a weight loss program.

 

The first week went great!  They stuck to their diet plan and went on daily walks. The both lost five pounds. Feeling successful, they gave each other high fives and lots of compliments as they entered their second week.

 

The second week was more difficult.  A friend got married and had a lavish wedding with an open bar and tons of tempura shrimp.  Neither one stuck to their diet plan.  Then, a bitter cold front hit the area and they could not get outside to exercise.  Jasmine gained one pound back.  Bethany gained a pound and a half back.  Jasmine felt discouraged, but decided to learn from the failure and changed her tactics a bit.  Bethany felt devastated and almost gave up.   Jasmine gave her a pep talk, and Bethany agreed to try again.

 

For the next six weeks, each time Jasmine didn’t lose as much as she wanted, she figured out what the problem was and adjusted her strategy.  The week before the flight she went bikini shopping.  She had lost a total of 10 pounds.  Although she didn’t lose enough to feel good in a bikini.  She felt healthier and proud of her partial success and picked out a flattering one piece swimsuit.  She decided to keep her healthy new habits and continue her weight loss quest.  Jasmine adjusted her idea of success to fit with the situation.

 

Bethany also ended up losing 10 pounds by the week before the flight. She blamed her “failure” on the weather and her mom.  Her mom took her out to lunch weekly. She went bikini shopping and decided that she WOULD buy a bikini because that’s the goal she set for herself.  Knowing she still had some bulges, she vowed to starve herself for the next week. She kept her goal the same.  She could not stand the idea of 2 failures- not graduating Summa cum Laude and not wearing a bikini in Hawaii.

 

The two friends went to Hawaii.  Jasmine felt confident and happy on the beach.   She flirted and laughed and played.  No one, but herself and Bethany, knew that she hadn’t reached her weight loss goal.  The friends Jasmine met on the beach saw a vivacious young lady trying new things like stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling.

Bethany put on her bikini, but did not feel good about it.  She still was not comfortable wearing it.  Often, she hid her body under a cover up.  She hardly got in the water because she didn’t want people to see her.  People around her didn’t care or know that she had just lost 13 pounds and finished law school.  They saw a young lady withdrawing and not willing to participate in the fun.

 

So who is successful in this scenario?  Bethany or Jasmine or both?    It’s all perspective. Who accomplished their goals?  Should people change their goals when they experience failure?

 

Do you relate more to Bethany or Jasmine? What happens when you experience failure?  Please share your story.