Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It Is

I had to laugh at this post I ran across this morning: 14 Easy Ways to Lose Weight All Day. I admit, I’m a sucker for these kinds of things. Easy weight loss! Sign me up!

I’m one of those people you probably hated when growing up. For most of my adult life, I’ve been at an ideal weight with little effort on my part. I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted and lived off cheeseburgers, Pepsi, and peanut butter crackers. I didn’t live for food–it was just something I ate when I got hungry. I didn’t even know what cellulite was until I hit my mid-forties. My hair grew so thick and fast, my stylist would jokingly tell me to stop putting Miracle-Gro on it. Lest you think I was one of the popular girls or thought I was the next Cindy Crawford, not true. I hated me too. I’d grown up hearing how homely and unattractive I was, thanks to Coke Bottle Lens glasses and a set of teeth only a gargoyle could love.

The point is, however, when middle-age and changing hormones finally caught up with me, I could no longer eat what I wanted and I hated everything deemed healthy. I’d never had a weight problem before, and so I didn’t know how to cope with the sudden spread. Hence my fascination with fitness magazines and diet information–most of which gets tossed out when said tips include things like eating Greek Yogurt and red peppers as a mid-day snack. BARF.

So, despite knowing better, I checked out the post. I found it full of helpful tips designed for women who live alone and don’t work for a living. Things like: 7 am: Do 2 minutes of jumping jacks, calisthenics, followed by 7:15 am cook a hearty breakfast, and 7:45 am hit the gym for some weight lifting…. I had to laugh because in this magical household, dishes don’t need to be washed and the gym isn’t a 20 minute drive away and there are no critters to feed or kids to put on the bus.

So I thought I’d create my own version of this advice post, with a more realistic outcome.

6:30 am: Hit snooze on the alarm. Because sleep is a damned precious commodity that you get very little of these days. You ignore the cat patting your eyeballs to see if you’re awake and hunker down under the blankets for ‘a few more minutes.’

7 am: Look at the clock and jump out of bed cursing. Leap around the room as you find clean clothing and dress in 2 minutes flat while the dogs bark and spin in circles in anticipation of breakfast. Feel good about your adrenaline rush. Remind yourself you’ve pre-made your lunch and that you have time to accomplish all the things you desire to do today.

7:02-7:30 am: Feed all the living creatures in the house except yourself. Walk dogs. Scoop litter boxes. If you leave up the baby gate to the litter box area, you can combine this activity with hip flexor stretches, but be careful not to fall over the gate and injure yourself. Pause to clean up vomit in the living room from the species of your choice.

tired-dont-care-despair-steve-carell-the-office-gif7:45 am: Consider cooking yourself a hearty breakfast but recall you haven’t been to the store yet this week and unless you can make an omelet out of cat food, you’ll have to settle for cereal. Convince yourself cereal is what you really want. Get bowl out of cabinet only to have work text you that they’ve added an extra appointment and now you have to be there a half hour earlier than expected. Swipe some peanut butter on a slice of bread and head out the door. Grab your previously prepared salad and your healthy snacks to take with you, feeling virtuous that you planned ahead.

glazed-doughnuts-recipe10 am: Completely and totally ignore the break room stuffed with baked goods: doughnuts glistening with glazed sugar. Fresh snickerdoodles. Bagels with cream cheese. M&M’s. You can eat your apple when you get a chance. Pat yourself on the back for being so virtuous. Of course, you aren’t going to get a break because you’re double booked this morning, but at least that will keep you out of the break room.

12:20 pm: Stomach growling, you wonder if it is close to lunch time yet. Realize you’re well into your lunch period but won’t be able to leave the building for the much-needed mental break. Eat your salad at your desk, (the first chance you’ve had to sit down all day) shooting surly looks at the constant interruptions to take this call or field this question. Vow you will take your full break tomorrow and actually leave the building.

the-little-shop-of-horrors-giant3 pm: Full-on hangry now. You’re Audrey from the Little Shop of Horrors. Work-stress has used up all your available blood sugar. You take a couple of bites of your apple but get interrupted. When you finally come back, the apple is brown. You say ‘screw it’ and get a doughnut. You stuff the whole thing into your face in a single bite because THAT’S ALL THE TIME YOU HAVE TO EAT IT.

6 pm: You’re just getting home. You now must feed all the living creatures in the house except yourself. You gauge the temperature outside to determine if it is too hot to walk the dogs. You know you must walk them before you eat or it ain’t happening. You love your dogs. If it weren’t for them you’d never get any exercise at all. But there are times when you wish they were cats and scorned the idea of exercise, period.

7 pm: Now suffering from decision fatigue (yes, that’s a real thing), you say SCREW IT and fix too much food for dinner. You try to stay healthy but that’s not what you want. You want meat and potatoes, damn it, with a whopping big dessert and a glass of wine. Hell, you’ll pour the wine right into the dessert. While eating dinner, you catch up on the day’s emails. You know you have a writing deadline but there simply isn’t any brain power left over from the day’s work.

8-10 pm: You watch two episodes of CSI:NY on Netflix, a show you didn’t like when it originally aired but now you’re too fried to give a shit and you don’t want to watch anything you care about.

10:20 pm: You take the dogs out one more time.

tiana-bed-flop10:30 pm: You get ready for bed because SLEEP IS A DAMNED PRECIOUS COMMODITY YOU GET VERY LITTLE OF. You pull out all the stops: shut off the electronics a hour before you want to close your eyes, take benadryl, take melatonin, take pain meds. You lie in bed hoping you don’t wake your partner because there is NO position that is even remotely comfortable. An hour later, you’re still awake but you’re hopeful you might fall asleep soon.

12:01 am: The phone rings. You have to get up and deal with the potential work-related emergency. This time, you don’t have to go in, but your chances of falling back asleep now are nil. You take a book out into the living room to read on the couch for a while. You try not to fret over the upcoming elections, climate change, and your own future. Or, if you don’t have a job that puts these kinds of after-hours demands on your life, insert your favorite teenaged family emergency/sick kid crisis here.

Okay, so I’m making some excuses here. But seriously, women’s health magazines–this is my life and I don’t even have children. It discounts those of us working full time jobs (and that seldom means 9-5 these days in the US) while taking care of elderly parents, young children, or both. It ignores the fact that most of us are so over-extended, so stressed, and so tired, there’s only fumes left in the tank. Your articles, while chipper and enthusiastic, aren’t even remotely realistic. I’d like to see a post that addressed some of these things. That’s all I’m asking. πŸ™‚

In other (happier) news, I’m the featured Author of the Month over at the Paranormal Romance Guild–check out my interview and the reviews there!


12 thoughts on “Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It Is

  1. I hear you. I have a terribly organized little life, no job and no kids, and I still can’t seem to find time to exercise beyond the morning dog walk. I eat right at home, but as soon as I go out, which is often, I lose all control.
    I gained 25 lbs. last winter when rounds of doctors couldn’t tell me why I was in pain all the time. Now I can walk again, but only 10 lbs has gone away. I’m now 15 lbs. heavier than I was before it all started and I just needed to lose 15 lbs. o.00
    The upside, is it’s given me insight into chronic illness and why some people can’t lose weight. I’ll never (okay, rarely) judge anyone again.

    • Pain is a huge factor in why some people can’t move enough to lose weight. Also discounted is the fact many medications, including life-saving anti-depressants, can cause weight gain that simply will not budge for love or money.

      Chronic illness is incredibly debilitating in other ways as well–not the least of it is when you look at a life full of restrictions and you think, damn it, I *deserve* this slice of pie! πŸ˜‰
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It IsMy Profile

  2. I had the same experience you did growing up: ate whatever I wanted to and stayed slender as a reed. Then menopause happened, and all bets were off. I gained fifteen pounds in six months and had no idea where that fat came from or how to deal with it.

    Guess what? Doesn’t matter what you do. Your metabolism dies, along with the last of your youth, and unless workouts become your 8-5 job, losing weight is next to impossible, even if you starve yourself.

    I eat all the right things. I take daily walks. I bounce around to exercise DVDs when I get the chance (and have the motivation), and I’ve managed to lose all of five pounds this last year. Whoop-de-do.

    P.S. If you are taking Benadryl to aid sleep, something I did every night for years, be careful. It does have long-term side effects I never realized. Wine also tends to prevent healthy sleep (yup, know this from personal experience.) You fall asleep, but then you wake up three or four hours later and that’s it. If you want liquor–and who doesn’t sometimes?–drink it before seven.
    Theo Fenraven recently posted..Monday Flash Fic: ComeuppanceMy Profile

    • I read recently that aging had the same effect on your body as not exercising–even if you *are* exercising. Like you, the extra weight seemed to show up almost overnight, but I was doing okay until I tore my rotator cuff. I lost fitness while trying to heal that I’ve never regained and I’m honestly terrified of hurting myself again. Not a good scenario for regaining lost ground.

      Hah, I *know* I don’t eat right–which is probably the biggest problem. I’m a picky eater by nature and the older I get the fewer things I tolerate. I’m probably going to have to give up wine for the heartburn alone. I am aware of the potentially bad side effects of longterm benadryl use, but I think sleep deprivation is probably the greater of the two evils right now. If I wreck my car because I can’t stay awake behind the wheel, I’m not going to be around to have dementia later in life. :/

      It’s frustrating to be sure. I’m concentrating on improving flexibility because I think that’s where my pain problems are rooted and increasing muscle mass because it’s so important for so many things.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It IsMy Profile

  3. I should preface this by saying (or confessing, lol) that I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, knowing i was fat as young as 7 and being on weight watchers by 9. It’s been ongoing.

    The ‘experts’ can’t say it like it is because: a) they don’t really know and b) the weight loss industry needs us wanting the next thing the next fix the next discovery to power the incredible money making machine that it is.

    I’ve seen many doctors and one obesity specialist told me they don’t understand how weight really works. If they did, they would tell us what to do and it would work. 100% of the time.

    And so many of us are overworked and underpaid and don’t have the time or money to devote the hour a day it would take to exercise, not including the time to and from the gym or where we we you need to go.
    Also the food prep time and the cost of healthy eating.

    Many studies show that it’s not an obesity epidemic. It’s a poverty epidemic and it’s symptom (or one of) is obesity.

    I had over half my stomach removed for weight loss surgery and I still have to log what I eat and track it to keep my weight where I want it to be. I’m never going to be able to not keep an eye on it. That’s not how I’m built.

    But to say that to someone who is struggling can be disheartening. And to say it to someone who doesn’t struggle is to risk them asking me if I’ve thought about drinking more water or cutting out carbs or soda pop (I watch my carbs and I cut out regular soda was I was 17 and I have maybe a ginger ale every three months so I don’t junk that’s it)

    But if you put all that in a magazine, it’s not going to sell.

    Wow. That all seems really depressing!!

    • Man, there is so much truth to this. I keep saying part of the reason we have a weight problem in this country is because Chez Doodles are cheap–and it’s true. So many of these diet recommendations start with ‘eat unprocessed and organic food’ and while I believe in that, my wallet doesn’t always agree.

      Then factor in how tired and overwhelmed most of us are already–now add cooking and meal planning to that when everything has to be from scratch. I’m a terrible cook anyway, and when I start wasting food… argh. But at least those things are fixable.

      You’re also right that the diet industry has a vested interest in seeing repeat customers. It’s a big business that must be thrilled because it’s a *repeat* business too. Actually this last post more or less made me realize if anything is going to work for me, I’m going to have to figure it out on my own.

      I’m not trying to make excuses, but I suspect having adrenal glands the size of cantaloupes (due to chronic stress) and fading hormones can’t be helping matters any. πŸ˜‰
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It IsMy Profile

  4. OMG…I just read that article….what a JOKE! If I ate that much food I’d gain even more weight! Who has the time to do exercise in the morning. Most people are out the door heading to work by 7 to 8am! Breaks? How many of us get breaks and a lunch? Especially a lunch that allows us to go to a nice restaurant and eat a meal like that! Seriously…that was just crazy! I think people just make up a bunch of baloney about losing weight to get people to read it, but it’s a waste of time sadly.

    • I know, right? By the time I got to the breaks, I was rolling my eyes so hard they threatened to pop out. Breaks? What’s that? Who can AFFORD to buy lunch at a nice restaurant every day? Or has a job that allows them enough time to go?

      It’s like when you’re told how good yoga is for you, and the only time classes are offered is when most people work. When I asked why there weren’t any classes offered at other timest, the yoga instructor suggested I demand the time off as I needed to put self-care first. Yeah, well, um having a paycheck IS part of self-care for me.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Weight Loss Experts: Tell It Like It IsMy Profile

  5. Oh Sarah, I hear you! Your schedule looks pretty familiar in some places!
    With me, it’s not the weight problem as such, it’s the stress πŸ™ Since it feels like I don’t get any breaks, it feels like I hardly ever eat, so I skip the weight gaining and look rather skinny these days. I’ve always been slender but turning skinny was not the intention. Cooking late at night after work? No, thank you. Canned soup or pre-prepared salad at hand? Take that. Run out? Improvise. Left-over sandwich?
    Coordinating my 3-and-a-half days at work with my 3-and-a-half days at my parents (different city) and having to take care of my appartment, work and my parents care, I’m done in. Taking care of myself? Not so much. Doing the whole doctor’s appointment thing for one parent with dementia and one with chronic pain, but not having the time to see the doctor for yourself? Sounds familiar?

    In my case, the only reason left to get up for are my horses (they live with my parents), but they are elderly as well and those times one of them falls ill… why bother getting up? I’m really impressed with all the people who get through life with all these problems and don’t feel burned-out!
    And yes, the whole diet industry is one BIG lie πŸ™‚ Probably one of the few places left where you can really make money if you are creative and come up with a new thing every few months!

    Thanks to your posts I feel a little less alone and overwhelmed with my problems! It’s the whole “you’re not alone” thing πŸ™‚ and your posts always hit the right spot!

    All the best,

    • Oh man, I hear you on the stress of working and taking care of elderly parents. I was my father’s caretaker for five years toward the end of his life, all while working a FT job. I know what you mean about stress causing weight loss too–I’ve been through that as well, but it has to be a certain kind of stress to cause that in me. I’m more likely these days to gain. Eating on the fly, eating when I get home at night, that sort of thing.

      I’m conscious too that many times the only reason I get up is because I have animals to take care of. I realized recently that none of my pets are under nine–most are in their teens. Which means I’m going to have a lot of sad partings in the not-to-distant future. I tell myself that the pain of loss goes along with the joy they bring into my life, but some days that’s easier to accept than others. My first horse is in his thirties. I’m going to be shattered when he goes.

      I’m glad you get something out of these posts. To be honest, there are many times when I feel I’m sharing a bit too much, but if it helps you (and anyone else) get through a rough day, then it’s worth it. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Galloping Toward the Finish LineMy Profile

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