Fat is barely about genes

“What’s increasingly clear from these early findings is that genetic factors identified so far make only a small contribution to obesity risk-and that our genes are not our destiny: Many people who carry these so-called “obesity genes” do not become overweight, and healthy lifestyles can counteract these genetic effects.”  The source of this quote is from an interesting article on the Harvard School of Public Health page.  Read more here if you wish

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post: Weight Loss Surgery: A Family Affair

Although 4 out of 5 of my grandmother’s daughter underwent bariatric procedures, 1 did not.  My youngest aunt is far from that point.  She’s in her late 40s and has always maintained a weight under 150 pounds, sometimes under 140.  During one of her recent visits I gave her a couple of dresses hanging in my closet that still have the tags on (I just can’t pass up on an awesome deal on a gorgeous maxi dress).   One dress was particularly painful to give away, a size 8 Tory Burch navy blue  long dress with red embroidery along the collar and sleeve.   It was in my closet since before I got pregnant and there’s been no sign of me slimming down enough to squeeze into it. I realize I’m a long way from fitting back into a size 6 or even 8 and I know she would make use of them. She is the reason why I stop myself from totally blaming genetics on my waist size.

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The different between my youngest aunt and her 4 older sisters, including my mother, is lifestyle! Their lifestyles could not be different.  She never uses “I’m too busy” as an excuse for an unhealthy lifestyle, which has oftentimes been one of my favorite excuses.  She’s also leads a pretty busy life.  She got married young and has 4 kids.  She finished her bachelors and completed a graduate degree, all while she was a wife and mother.  She currently works full-time and still has little ones at home.

So what does she do so differently? Lots of things!  She’s enjoyed a long-term relationship with her local gym.   She’s enthusiastic about spin class ( as I once was during my grad school days), she’s a fan of HIIT, does pilates, and on days she can’t make it to the gym she runs.  I think she pretty much does everything except for yoga.

The most stark contrast is not between the way she exercises and the way they exercise…

Weight Loss Surgery: A Family Affair

The easy thing to do would be to blame the state of waste size on genetics.  It’s is true that 4 out of 5 of my maternal grandmother’s daughters battled obesity the majority of their lives.  4 out of 5 of my grandmother’s daughters spent the majority of their adult lives shopping the sale racks of specialty plus size shops and avoiding horizontal stripes and the color white.  By the way, I don’t believe that the color white makes you bigger.  I love wearing white.

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4 out of 5 of grandma’s daughters “gave up”.  They convinced themselves that it would be impossible to get to a healthy weight without drastic intervention and underwent bariatric surgery.  My eldest aunt underwent more than one bariatric surgery in her life time.

One aunt was so determined that bariatric surgery was her only hope to become a healthy weight that she consciously decided to gain 30 pounds in order to be considered by her insurance carrier heavy enough for a bariatric procedure.  She ate a big bag of Ruffles every single day and would stuff her face with pizza and french fries.  I witnessed these purposeful binges when she was visiting to attend my graduation party.  Today she looks like a completely different person and is likely a size 10, but ruffles and french fries remain staples in her diet.

Another aunt gained the majority of her weight back a decade after undergoing gastric bypass surgery.  She prides herself on completing almost 5 miles worth of walking a day and winning the daily fitbit challenges.  However, her diet consists of late night In-N-Out several times a week and desert pastries for breakfast.  Her large pantry has been the host of every snack item Costco has to offer.

My mother was only 10 pounds heavier than I am now when she got the gastric sleeve procedure.  She can fit into my old size 8 jeans and wears a lot of my old chic tunics tops that have been made so stylish by the likes of Tory Burch and Michael Kors.  Don’t get me wrong though, I do not envy my mother.  One bite more than what her restrictive digestive system can handle and she’s doubled over with fatigue.   Her first year after surgery involved lots of nausea and spitting up the way a baby does. Eating certain foods, such as white rice and shrimp, will her require her to lie down afterwards no matter how small the quantity was.  Who would want to live like that?

According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, over 200,000 people underwent weight loss surgery in 2016 alone.  About 3/4 of these female and the majority of these people have 3-4 other diseases associated with being obese such as hypertension and diabetes.  The most common procedure that is performed is the gastric sleeve, the same one my mother had.

However, I don’t think it would be completely fair to blame my current status mostly on genetics.  Continued in the next post

Peppermint Beignets: A Disney Story

Honestly I’m not sure what I weight but I put on a couple more pounds since the last time I wrote.  I’m sure of this because since then I’ve continued to have daily overindulgences and even some binging here and there.  I’ve done no intentional working out or time at the gym, or jog around the block.  I went to Disneyland and I ate two clam chowder bread bowl soups.  I also had those with beignets.  Since I couldn’t decide between the classic flavor and the seasonal peppermint I got an order of each.  They weren’t even good.  They tasted like rubber next to New Orleans’ Cafe Du Monde but I still ate like 2 of each.  I pretty much ate the whole day while at Disney.  I talked a lot about food and what to eat next.  I’m pretty sure I exhausted my friend whose probably never been more than size 4 her whole life.

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I went to a light festival and ate all kinds of desert and sweet drinks.  I had a huge mason jar filled with hot chocolate.  It was$9.50 of subparness but I still pretty much finished it.  I also tried Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.  Now those calories, I have to say, were actually worth it.  That was the best meal I had in California, and perhaps the only indulgence worth all those calories.

Sometimes while in California my size 33 Gap Jeans wouldn’t button.  So I looped a pony tail holder through the hole and wrapped each end around the button.  I thought my shirt was long enough to cover my effort and holding it all together, but at least 2 people commented that my fly was unzipped.

The pain of overweight

I have pain everywhere in my body, not usually simultaneously.  My body knows I have to go to work and I have to drive.  So different parts of my body take turns giving relief to each other so that I’m able to function, even if it’s a minimum some days.

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For a while it was my knees. My knees would hurt and become stiff, sometimes this would cause me to waddle when I walk as a result of not being able to bend.  I experienced this when I was a 190 pound 25 year old working in retail where I wore heels.  I experienced this again when I was a 140 pound 25 year old who slow jogged an average of 3 miles most evenings.  I didn’t realize that running could have some bad side effects.  Inflammation is what one doctor called it.  Just take this medicine!  Another doctor told me to try to some supplements, which I do faithfully.  I love taking vitamins and supplements, it’s an easy way to undo some of the damage I was doing to my body.  At least that’s what I told myself as I gulped down the chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, cinammon, tumeric, omega-3 fish oil, acidophilus, and of course the multivitamin.  The inflammation is back and in full force, except now I’m 33 and weigh 220something pounds.

Today my knees are alright, but the pain has shifted to the triangular area created by my neck and shoulders.  For the past 2 days I’ve experienced pain and stiffness that had me up in the middle of the night searching for the remedy in the form of a youtube video.  “What’s wrong?” mu husband rolled over and asked.  “I’m just trying to stretch out my sternocleidomastoid”.  Or maybe it was a levator.  I wasn’t sure, but I was doing all the stretches waiting on some relief.  “I think I feel better”.

Two days later the pain has spread from one side to both.  So instead of having a hard time turning my neck to one side, I’m now having a hard time turning to both sides, which made driving really interesting.  Also, I lost the remote battle with my 1 year old.  She wrestled it out of my hand where it then fell to the floor, so I had to just let her have it.  It would be too painful to snatch it back.

Sometimes the pain is in my lower back when I’m lying in bed.  My butt has gotten so big that the curve between my butt and lower back is unsupported when I’m lying down.  No doctor ever explained that to me like they explained the pain in my knees, but it makes sense.

Taco Bell and Cable: A Love Affair

Sometimes I crave crunchy things and the only thing I can come up with is Taco Bell.

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I usually go there for the crunch taco but I end up leaving with  crunchy and soft things, and even things in between.  The hunger is gone after two tacos, but I’m still unwrapping the burrito.  Halfway through the soft and crunchy of the frito burrito I’m in full, stuffed, heavy, and close to suffocation..yet I don’t stop.  I push myself through like the way I imagine a runner pushing through the last left of the race.  I don’t stop until the bag is empty.

What am I looking for during this Taco Bell marathon?  Am I looking for the bite that brings me back to my happy little world 8 year old self ? The moments where I’m sitting with my bag of TaCo Bell tacos and Mexican Pizza that my mom would pick up for me  a couple times a week, sitting in front of the television.  There was lots of hours of sitting in front of television with a bag of Taco Bell at that age. I felt like the luckiest little girl in the world when we finally got cable.  In fact, I didn’t mind if I was left home alone.  Just crunching on my tacos and watching Under The Umbrella Tree.

Joan Didion and Fried Catfish

It’s 1130 PM and I’m sitting by myself in the living room of my apartment (I have a house, and rent an apartment for work purposes).  I’m watching the new Joan Didion documentary on Netflix and am partly distracted by how skinny she is.  I know it’s insulting to think of this extremely accomplished, and intelligent woman in terms of her body size, but it’s what consumes me these days.

“I, myself have always found that if I examine something it’s less scary.” Joan Didion. That statement sticks with me but I can’t give it deeper meaning at the moment.  Maybe later I’ll think about this more.

I’m drinking a cup of coffee, half-n-half with no sugar, as I normally do in the evenings and after dinner.  I’m also drinking water and I’m on my second bottle post-dinner.  I’m hoping this water will do some damage control after dinner.

I intended on only getting 2 pieces of the fried catfish from Catfish Charlie.  By the time I made out out of work and in line at the drive-thru I was starving.  One tackle box later and I’m sitting on the couch barely able to breathe.  That was a horrible idea, but it always is.  I wonder if Joan Didion has ever experienced this feeling.

Originally written in my private journal 11.2.17

Me + 100 Pounds

At 5”1 and 223 pounds, I consider myself a diet almost-expert. Yes, you read that correctly.  I say almost-expert and not expert because I’ve been on almost every popular diet, but not every diet.  Some of these diets I’ve even repeated 3,4, 5 times!

Sometime in college I discovered the South Beach Diet  I noticed that my best friend’s skinny older sister had gotten even skinnier.  “You should read this book” she told me.  I bought it that same day I’m sure, for I usually by a new diet book the same day I find out about it.  Two days later I was grocery shopping for every single ingredient in phase 1 and most of the ingredients in phase 2.  I would go on to lose about 25 pounds and fit into a size 6, my version of skinny.

In grad school I saw a poster about the HCG diet.  It seemed a little extreme but I thought surely a diet that involves injecting yourself with a hormone daily must work like magic, why else would anyone do that?  Well, I was thrilled to find out that the HCG plan starts with something called a fat loading phase.  You basically eat anything and everything you want for a day.  That was definitely my favorite part.  In fact I loved that phase of the plan so much I repeated it about 5 times, I would find an excuse to “start over.”  Needless to say, the HCG plan wasn’t magic.  It did however help me get over my fear of needles.

The summer before my wedding I walked into a Medifast office.  I knew nothing about Medifast other than there was an office right next to my place of work at the time, so it seemed convenient.  The lobby was filled with before and after posters that gave me great hope.  I mean, wouldn’t it be great if I could jump and make my heels touch my butt too?   That was all I needed to hand over my credit card.  After months of pre-packaged mashed potatoes (taste almost like the real thing) and chili (not even close to the real thing) I was down 25 pounds and back to being “skinny”, a size 6!

I also dabbled with Weight Watchers, Advocare, Shakeology, the Abs diet, calorie tracking apps, and diet pills where which once helped jumpstart a 50 pound weight loss.  One of the most memorable diets however, remains the Master Cleanse AKA The Lemonade Diet AKA What-Beyonce-Did.  When I started that diet I was around 190 pounds, young, and desperate.  For those of you that aren’t aware, it involves chugging down salt water in the morning and drinking cayenne pepper-infused lemonade throughout the day.  During this time I got really good at keeping my head in the sink while my butt on the toilet at the same time. Lemonade will never be the same again.

What I realize now is that is that nothing is really wrong with those diets individually.  If you can you be consistent and stick to any one you will “get there”.  Instead what was wrong was inside of me.  I have now developed diet brain.  If I wasn’t on a diet then I was ordering a pizza.  That’s right, one whole pizza for me only.  I was eating a Whole Foods desert every night, and if it was Friday, I was probably having two deserts.  I gave in to every little and big desire, and even if I didn’t desire it I would eat it anyway thinking it might make me feel better.

So a lifetime of diet brain has brought me to this day.  I’m 5”1 and I weight 223 pounds.