Category Archives: Weight

One more Time

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I appreciate in the big picture of the world (like, Will we all get blown
up today?) my issues with dieting may seem small. But they are
struggles I have lived with for a long time and I am seriously trying to
make my peace with them and with my body. I am aging and
shrinking in height, so the disparity between my vertical and horizontal
is getting worse. I have always been an “apple” which I know is
especially bad for women. Now I am working with a nutritionist and
health coach to finally put this issue to rest. I am doing it the long,
slow way, as in the way everyone told me to do it all the years of yoyo
dieting. How can I convince people to stop throwing in my face all the
failures of my past? Yes I know I have failed, but that doesn’t doom
me to perpetually being fat. I want to get this right and I need
support, not nitpickers and naysayers. Is there something nicer than
“Please shit up!” that you can suggest?

One More Time

 
Dear One More Time:

Generally I prefer one-on-one communication to group emails, but in
this case I might make an exception, at least for your general social
circle, family, and folks that you think might carp at you just out of
reflexive buttinsky tendencies. What you want to tell them is what you
told me: don’t think of me as a loser, except in the good kind of way.
A draft email might be brief: Dear Ones: You know I’ve struggled with
weight for much of my life. You have witnessed my attempts to lose
weight and keep it off, as well as my failures. I’m asking you to erase
all the old tapes, to mute what you might think of as good advice for
this round of my efforts, and when we meet simply to wish me well
and ask how I’m doing in all aspects of my life. I am much more that
what I weigh, and if I seem thinner or heavier should not be the focus
of how we interact. Thanks for your love and support, and no thanks
to discussing this further.

On Her Side

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

A friend and I agreed to be diet buddies. I have about 20 maybe 30
pounds to lose. She has well over 100 and has a history of non-
compliance, but is now facing very serious health issues that she
swears have motivated her to change her ways. Since I figured I
would succeed faster than her on pretty much any program she would
choose, I allowed her to decide which of the multiple possibilities we
would pursue, as long as it included many servings of veggies and
fruits every day. We also agreed on alternate days to cook and share
entrees. Here’s the problem: No matter what she makes it always
includes more fat or some form of sweetener or something that is
antithetical to the program and success we agree. We agreed to do
this together for a month but honestly two weeks in I don’t find her a
reliable buddy. I want her to live and lose weight but I don’t know that
she’s capable of following rules. I want to keep her as a friend, but not
as a diet buddy. How can I tell her that?

On Her Side

 
Dear On Her Side:

This is a classic problem among people who claim to have similar goals
but do not. There’s also a simple solution. What you need to do is
invite her for tea, not at your house and not at her house. When you
get together ask her what her goals are for dieting. Then listen after
she answers be sure to listen and confirm that she’s being consistent
in her words if not in her actions. Then say very clearly, My goals of
the same but I want to not do the food trade because your
interpretation of the rules is looser than my timeline for weight loss.
Add in that you’re happy to continue an emotional support relationship
and also to listen to her tsoris about how hard it is to lose but make it
very clear that you want to follow rules.

 

 

In truth, a person with serious health issues and more than 100
pounds to lose needs to be under a doctor’s supervision, not choosing
her own program. Sure, unless people are under lock and key, it is
difficult to keep anyone from cheating. But generally speaking, a
doctor saying You are going to die unless you do X, Y, Z, it is far more
motivating than a friend.

Motivated

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Last year four friends and I went on a diet together with varied results.
Predictably, the people who stuck closet to the plan lost the most, and the ones
who “simply couldn’t” give up certain foods did not do as well. In the interim, one
of the ones who most needed to lose (as in medically obese and more) has had
a variety of health issues. Her doctor told her to immediately lose 50 pounds and
then work on the next 50, with still more to lose after that. I agreed to support her
and go back on the plan, because my last 20 to lose are about as hard as her
first 50+.

 

Each day we check in about food, but for the past week she has
sounded increasingly off program, and particularly defensive about saying why
she “can’t,” “won’t” or otherwise is having problems and is modifying the program
to suit her. I started by saying, “What did your doctor say?” and then moved to
“You have to do what works for you.” But I suspect she is on the slide to no
progress. I want to be supportive but not derail myself in the interim. Part of the
deal was trading homemade food that conforms with the requirements of the diet.
What can I say or do, both to help her and to protect myself?

Motivated

 
Dear Motivated:

It’s always frustrating when people who most need to change refuse to
do so, especially when the people around them have rallied to support
them. In this case, you should let her doctor be the hammer, not you,
if you value the friendship. Start the conversation that you will need to
have with: I know you’ve been struggling with this diet. I’m not tied to
what you eat, or what program you choose to be on. We don’t have to
do the same thing. Maybe you should talk to your doctor about what
s/he thinks is a good way for you to lose the weight, because your doc
is more in touch with the specific medical issues. For me it’s hard to
hear that you are choosing to modify the plan, because I am doing my
best to stay on it. So let’s not talk about what we are eating or not
eating. Let’s focus on our successes and how we can support that.
Re the food sharing, say you should each text the other when you
make something that is available for sharing. As simple message like,
I made XYZ soup. Do you want some? Then the recipient can choose if
it suits her program. I suspect time will have more of an impact on her
health than any words you might say. Focus on your own.

Backsliding

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was on a very rigorous diet for about a month. I lost weight and I was happy
about it. I especially liked all the compliments I got during the High Holidays,
when I saw many people who had gone the opposite direction. Then I took
several weeks off. Between break fast and succah hopping I took in many
thousand more calories than I should have. I want to go back on program, at
least between now and Thanksgiving, with the hope that I can maintain whatever
I lose through to the New Year. I think I learned my lesson but I have also gotten
lazy. Can you get me motivated to do what I know I will feel better doing, but
seem to have lost the will to do for myself?

Backsliding

 
Dear Backsliding:

A wise person once said abut weight, You’re either gaining or losing. Sadly that’s
truer than we might wish, though if you establish a range for a goal, say 143-145,
you will know when to bear down when you cross the bright red line and see a 6,
7, 8, etc. Weighing in every morning should become as automatic as brushing
your teeth. If you are afraid of stepping on the scale, that’s an indicator that it’s
time to go back on your program, whatever it is.

 
Techniques that work for me and others I know: Write down what you are
allowed to eat, meal by meal organized by category (protein, grain, vegetable,
fruit). Keep a list of what’s legal in what quantity with you in your purse. If you are
shopping, eating in a restaurant, or just need a reminder to say No I’m not going
to buy or eat that!, pull it out. Don’t tempt yourself with Just one bite, or Just this
one time, or I can keep it in the freezer for company. Organize your schedule
around getting to the gym or going for a walk. Enlist a buddy to go on program
with you until Thanksgiving. And set a reasonable goal, say five pounds lost by
then. If it feels hopeless, you won’t obey. If you see progress, even in ounces,
you will find more motivation.

Urgent

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

This question is at the intersection of my health and my
marriage. My husband and I have been together for 25
years and the pounds have crept onto both of us. Okay we
ate our way fat, but for a very long time we didn’t encounter
any major health issues, just vanity and wardrobe. Then he
was diagnosed diabetic and was told to lose weight. He did,
but he found even more pounds and is back where he
started plus 10. I now have a mandate from my doctor to
immediately drop 20 pounds. I’ve put myself on a very
specific food and exercise regimen, but my husband seems
determined to undercut it. He brings home ice cream and
cookies saying “We deserve treats.” and he keeps inviting
me to late evening concerts and events that seem to
undermine my commitment to early workouts. I’d like him to
be alive longer too, but right now I’m most concerned about
me. What should I do?

Urgent

 
Dear Urgent:

Every relationship develops its own communications style.
Sadly, passive aggressiveness has crept into yours, teamed
up with long-term denial. It’s a scary and potentially deadly
combo to leave in charge.
You’re overdue for a serious conversation with your hubby.
You need to agree that you won’t be each other’s food
police, but also that you will commit to standards for the
household that you will both honor. Those standards can
whatever you want, but he needs to honor your
commitment, even if he won’t agree to toe the same line for
himself. Why not give him a special place for his stash: a
corner the freezer where you never look (say, behind the ice
cube tray) for hi, and a corner cupboard very high up for his
cookies. Simply say, The only other thing I’m asking is that
you not offer it to me or eat it in front of me. I’ll let you
know when I think I’ve earned a treat. Then it’s up to you
set the alarm every morning to get to the gym. If you’re up
for an evening event, agree on a come home time or tell him
that if it means taking separate cars you’ll do it. This may
take the next three months or even six, but I promise he’ll
get more on board when he sees how happy you are with
success.

On Track

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just inadvertently lost a lot of weight. Don’t get me wrong. At least
half my adult weight has been a struggle with mild obesity. Mild if you
consider thirty pounds a small problem. Before that it had much more,
as I put on a whopping ninety pounds in my first marriage. I know it’s
an old cliché to say that shows I was unhappy, but in this case it was
true!! Slowly I managed to lose and keep off ten pounds. The last
twenty-thirty was a fifteen-year battle. I’d get close and then fall
behind.

 
I recently survived a medical struggle. Maybe it was the meds
or maybe it was just the right time, but now I am ten pounds from
goal. I feel lighter in a way I haven’t for a very long time. People are
noticing. They keep telling me “how much smaller” I am, and that they
“hope I won’t put it back on this time.” Frankly, I’m a little insulted. I
always dress nicely, in clean clothes appropriate for the occasion. I am
intelligent, kind, and helpful to others. Why should what size I am
matter to anyone except me? How can I accept the compliment and
educate people at the same time? Should I just be grateful that I am
healthier and thinner and leave it at that? How can I get through the
holidays without backsliding?

On Track

 
Dear On Track:

Sadly we live in a society where everyone feels like they have the right
to have, and to share, an opinion about virtually everything in
everyone’s life. Also a society that idolizes thin and young, despite the
fact that most people are getting fatter and older. So if you go by the
cultural norms, you’re doomed to feel like a loser, and I don’t mean in
the good way that you are proud of becoming. So first of all
congratulations on surviving your medical battle, and secondly on
having kept off the bulk of your bulk for a long time.

 

The happy accident of recent weight loss is an achievement you can be
proud of. It’s one you should be able to hear praised by others. So
learn to accept a compliment and be proud of your success. You can
mention to others that you feel relived and happy about your medical
success, and that the weight loss, while a boon, isn’t what’s making
you so happy. In fact, what you’ve learned is that thinner is good, but
healthier is better. Say you plan to stay on track with both weight loss
and healing, and that you are happy to talk to others about why being
thin is fine, but not an answer to being happy. Tell them they should
go out of their way to compliment people who have worked hard to
heal as much as those who have dropped a dress size.

On Track

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What can one say to someone who is unconscionably rude about
weight issues? I am fat. I admit it up front. I am on a medical program
and on Weight Watchers. I have taken and kept off almost 100
pounds. But the reasons that make it hard for me to lose more weight
faster are no one’s business but my own. I work out in an aqua-
aerobics class and there is a woman there, a former fattie who lost
with a radical medical procedure, who is very critical of everyone not a
skinny-malink. She told a man in the class who is planning a 1000-
mile tandem bike trip with his zaftzig wife to “get another partner or
she’ll strand you by the side of the road!” She hasn’t made rude
remarks to me directly, but I can feel her glaring eyes on me all the
time.

On Track

 
Dear On Track:

People who are rude, judgmental, and confrontational rarely respond
well to having the mirror turned around on then. While you may be
sure she is saying bad things about you behind your back, unless she
does so to your face you probably shouldn’t engage her in a battle of
who’s ruder about whom. Your judgments about her rudeness might
be construed as equally offensive, certainly by her and perhaps by
others. If you know for sure that she has said something about you,
you can talk to her. But be very sure that you do so with other people
around whom you believe will be reliable and articulate witnesses.
If she does say something to you directly, you can say something akin
to this: I’d heard that you have no boundaries to your rudeness,
especially about people who look like you used to. To be clear, my
relationship with my body is none of your concern. I do not give you
the right to judge me, nor will I internalize any of your opinions.
Please keep them to yourself. Others may not have the guts to tell
you, but we all think you are rude and unpleasant. Then turn and walk
away. It may not stop her, but it might quiet her down.

Twenty Pounds Over the Line

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m trying to get ready for knee surgery later this year. It’s very hard
sticking to a food and exercise program when you are dating and have
friends who celebrate life. There are too many occasions for eating
out, catching a drink, going to BBQs and graduation parties. I know
you have heard this a thousand times before, but what’s a polite way
to be social and engage with people without compromising my
principles and priorities. To be clear, this is not about vanity. It is
about medical necessity.

Twenty Pounds Over the Line

 
Dear Twenty Pounds:

Unless your friends are unusual, the person who raises a fork or glass
to her mouth and decides what goes in is you. And only you. So all the
advice in the world is no substitute for self-control, commitment, and
focus. Each meal, even each mouthful, is a choice. You may see a
warm fresh challah, inhale its aroma, imagine its pillowy goodness,
and yearn for its sweetness. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
Or if you do, to have more than one appreciative bite. Or slice, or two,
or..….It is a slippery slope. Only you decide what is enjoyed by your
eyes and nose but not by your mouth.

 
Make a list of your food principles. There’s the obvious about low
sugar, low fat, maybe even low gluten. But there’s also the idea of
portion control within whatever food program you choose. If you are
going to a party, ask the hostess what’s going to be served. Don’t be
shy about saying That sounds lovely but my doctor has me eating
veggies. I hope you don’t mind if I bring a platter of fresh veggies and
low-cal dip to add to the offerings. When you dine out, order a salad
and an appetizer, not a full meal. Control your alcohol consumption.
Talk your diet plan over with your doc and get a sign off and set goals
together.

 

 

Don’t neglect the exercise part of the equation. Find a low-impact class
that you can tolerate, or learn to love water aerobics. Again, your
docwill have ideas. But once you have a plan, stick to it like glue until
after the surgery. You will be very happy later when you are light and
svelte and can embrace life more fully in your newly bionic body.

Help!!!!!

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just moved all my winter clothes to the back of the closet and my
spring ones to the front. I cried after I tried on some of my favorites
from last year. I don’t want to buy a larger size but going naked is not
an option.

Help!!!!!

 
Dear Help:

My mother would always tell me, I’ll pay for Weight Watchers. I wish
she was around now so I could say Thanks.
Find a few things that still fit to tide you over for a month or two. Even
a few pounds lost will inspire you and help you get into some of your
clothes. There are a zillion diets around that promise quick massive
weight loss but only one real way to take it off and keep it off. That
way has two simple rules: Eat less. Move more. Start by following
those and you’ll be your slimmer self again soon enough.

Short list

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just re-carpeted. I&'ve done everything I need to do to my house at
least for the next couple of years. Unless an appliance breaks, I should
have no expenses related to my house. Ditto my yard. I’ve cleaned
and purged every room. I brought two dozen bags to goodwill and
women&'s shelters. I’ve stripped and donated, cleaned, and dumped.
While there are things I&'d like to buy there is nothing I really need
except, gulp, to lose 20 lbs. I&'ve dodged this as long as I can. When I
finally got the courage to get on my scale (pre coffee, dry hair, naked
as the day I was born), I was relieved to see a 6 in the middle instead
of a 7. My goal is a 4 but in my fantasies I get down to a 3 (what I
weighed on my 20s). Can you tell me what I already know in a way
that I’ll listen?

Short list

 
Dear Short List:

The hard thing about weight loss is that you cannot just write a check
and pay someone else to do the hard work for you. But you can apply
the discipline to this project that you did to your house. Do similar
homework to what you did before you chose new carpet. I recommend
a structured program that’s already tested and endorsed. Review all
your options, including content and cost. There’s plans where you need
to eat the system’s food, and others where you count calories or other
specifics of intake. My vote would be a system that makes choices
easy. Weight Watchers is always good but there&'s also everything from
carb-free to fat- free and all points in-between. The only wrong choice
is one you won’t stick to. Experts say that weight lost more slowly
stays off. But weight that’s never lost keeps you where you are. While
what you weighed in your 20’s may sound extreme, losing twenty
pounds does not.

 
Get yourself a buddy who also has a similar goal and timeline. You
don’t have to be on the same system, but you do have to agree to
support one another with daily texts saying you stuck to your
program. It’d be great to exercise together. Make a twice-weekly date
to meet and exercise together. Walk every day 20-30 minutes when
you are not together. Keep a food log. Weigh yourself regularly. And
choose a “got to goal” outfit that’s a half-size too small from your
closet and hang it where you can see it. Start there and see if you can
lose four pounds this month. Repeat after you do.

Bigger Than Chubby

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I have no idea how many
times I have said, I’m never eating sugar again. I’m going to exercise
30 minutes each day. I am off carbs. No more burgers and fries. Etc
etc etc with everything my mother told me for years: Eat less and
move more! I’ve paid more to Weight Watchers than my synagogue.
And here I am, fat again. Fatter than most of the clothes in my closet.
Fatter than I should be with spring looming. Hellllpppppp….

Bigger Than Chubby

 
Dear Bigger Than Chubby:

Any time this side of the grave is not too late to get healthier and
lighter. Your question suggests you know what to do, but lack the
motivation to actually do it consistently. Assuming you don’t want to
invest in a new wardrobe one size larger, try this motivating tool, an
exercise is best done when no one else is home. Pull everything in
your wardrobe out of the closet. Turn all the lights in your room on
bright. They won’t be as bad as a department store dress-on room,
but you’ll get the same ugh! effect. Divide your closet into three parts:
fits now; would fit if I lost 10-15 pounds; and maybe it&'s time to
donate this. One by one, try on every piece of clothing you own, from
jeans to party wear. (Note: Allow yourself a glass of wine along the
way. It’ll help you laugh and complete the exercise.)

 
Once you see how far you’ve drifted from where you were and where
you want to be, set up a program for yourself to start ASAP, as in
today. Find 30 minutes each day to walk. Wake up earlier; walk at
lunchtime or before or after dinner. Consistency matters but most
important is doing something every day. Studies show that folks who
move from sedentary to active get a bigger impact for their time than
already athletes who add 30 minutes to their existing routines. Set
some food absolutes, like no fries ever, and sugar only once a week.
Eat more veggies and less fat. Fruit not chocolate. If Weight Watchers
is your program, read the rules like you’ve never seen them before,
including all the tips and community posts. Or go to meetings. Get on
the scale at least once a week. Avoiding and fearing your scale is one
of the surest tip-offs that your clothing exercise will slowly but
inexorably shift towards the Eeek doesn’t fit! side of the closet. Many
of us will be doing the same things as days get longer and clothing
tighter. See you on the walking paths.

Detoxing

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve been dealing with a cluster of health issues for the last several
years, in addition to needing to lose the 20-30 pounds that have crept
on over the decades. My doctor has given me a very limited health
regimen to follow. Not just the usual advice to eat primarily fruits and
vegetables, whole grains and unprocessed foods. But to eliminate, as
much as possible all of the following: wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine,
legumes, and nightshades. It’s a tall order but I am doing well, about
80% on program. The hardest was giving up real coffee and cream in
the morning, an ongoing struggle. My health and weight are starting to
improve. But I realize that I am getting crankier and crankier, angry at
having to do this, and generally an emotional mess. I’ve always been
an emotional eater. But now that I cannot turn to sugar, salt, or carbs,
I feel worse. Advice?

Detoxing

 
Dear Detoxing:

Our sign-off’s a big clue: your system is shedding all the crap you’ve
poured into it. Think about all the times you ate when you were
emotional, as in eating when happy, eating when sad, eating when
angry, frustrated, restless, bored. Imagine eating at the joyous
beginnings of relationships and at the painful ends of them. Imagine
all the unresolved feelings you shoved down your gullet ahead of the
food you used to keep them suppressed. I’m not suggesting you didn’t
actually experience the emotions. Rather that when they got you to an
emotional brink that you probably shut down by eating cookies, chips,
ice cream, or whatever your vice of choice was at the time. That’s
what emotional eating means, at least in my understanding. Now
you’re gong to have to go back to that emotional edge and find a
different way of coping.

 
Congratulations on your progress. That’s the good news part of your
predicament Here’s the bad news. The emotions that you suppressed
still have to come out; you wont be able to keep them down forever if
you want to get healthy. In addition to being in detox, and withdrawal
from certain foods, you are also in withdrawal from emotional eating
to insulate you from life’s bruising. Here’s more good news: as you
learn better coping skills, you wont have to repeat the cycle. So create
a safe place to let up all the old sadness, rejection, anger, etc etc etc.
Do it alone by crying in the shower or on the sofa, or in a counselor’s
office, or a support group. As you empty out all the old emotions you
are making room for a healthier new you.

Also Have High Blood Sugar

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I was married for twelve years to someone with whom I was
increasingly less in love. He became diabetic. Not the kind who takes
good care of himself, but the kind who would eat two bagels with
cream cheese plus a couple of Danish for breakfast. The idea of
caretaking someone who wasn’t taking care of himself made me crazy.
I have a sweet tooth too, but not like that. One day ten years ago I
heard myself imagining what to do with his life insurance money. I
knew I had to get a divorce. Today I saw him in the market. His
basket held two pounds of butter, cookies, bread, and lots of
processed foods. He told me casually about his heart and kidney
problems. I told him good luck and fled. I went home and got on the
scale, and am freaked out about my own health. I’m 30 pounds
overweight. I don’t want to become him.
Also Have High Blood Sugar

 
Dear High Blood Sugar:
Looking in the mirror of your past is a great wake up call. So listen to
what you’re being told. Immediately take an inventory of your life.
Look at your daily schedule, when you move your body, and what you
put in your mouth. Be careful to examine every aspect of your life,
from the mindless way you eat cookies at the office to what you buy in
the market. Pay attention to simple things like choosing the stairs
instead of an elevator. Don’t be in a rush. Take a week or two to really
observe and log your behavior. You don’t need to rush to change, but
pay very close attention.

 
Get your doctor to give you a checkup and support. Then decide what
changes you are willing to stick to. Don’t try to fix it all at once. But
decide on two things, one food and one exercise that you will do daily
for a month. If you screw up, do better the next day. Keep a log. If
you can commit to a plan like weight watchers, do it. But set your
baseline and watch yourself transform.