Sunday, April 02, 2006

I Hate Plateaus

I’m at a plateau. I can’t see the end of it. And, have I mentioned, I hate plateaus?

A year ago, I was at an all time weight high—almost 160 pounds ( I’m 5’5” ). So, I set a goal to get down to 139. It took me 6 months, lots of yo-yoing. I finally reached the goal in November. And now the trick is to maintain the loss, stay the course.

In the past few weeks, I have had to reduce my running because of a very inflamed psoas muscle ( the long and powerful core muscle that begins from your ribcage under your lungs and attaches down into the hip )

And, you remember, I had a BIG birthday. I can’t get the weight, which is going up slowly, to stabilize. The nutritionist tells me it’s a plateau, and it will pass.

I was a fat kid. I don’t know exactly when it happened, because I was a lean little tomboy ( a click on the picture above will enlarge it so you can see that little race driver! ). I think I started gaining weight sometime around 8th grade—a mix of puberty, genes and environment. I was fat through high school, then college. ,I hated being fat, knew that I was overweight and fluctuated between a size 14 and 18. I had beautiful clothes since my parents owned clothing stores, but still, I always felt, well, large.

I come from a family of folks who were overweight. My mother was a beauty at 35 and 40, tall with dark, bobbed hair, deepset eyes, Betty Boop lips and legs that would have been the envy of any Rockette. But by the time she was 50, she was definitely pear-shaped, her short torso and long legs making her look a little top heavy.

My dad, not so much overweight but with a bit of a paunch as he reached middle age. As for my siblings, my sister was tall, attractive and lean in high school and college and all through her early years as a mother of three. I think it was the 40s with those great hormonal changes that occur for women and really took their toll.

My brother is a big. tall, good-looking man and because of his height, he is able to hold a few more pounds without it really showing. But he also was a fat kid and has fluctuated between fit and overweight into his adulthood. I remember him pulling a size 50 sport jacket out of the closet after he’d lost a lot of weight, so proud of the accomplishment and that he no longer needed the big coat.

It wasn’t until I after my first child’s birth when I was 22 that I dropped 30 pounds and my weight normalized. It was a difficult pregnancy and I only gained 8-10 pounds or so ( not abnormal in the 60s ). After his birth, I realized that the unwanted weight from my adolescence was gone. I was a size 10.

So, it wasn’t a diet that worked for me, it was stress. Stress. There’s been an inverse relationship between major stressors and my weight. In each decade there has been some major stressor-- I mean the big ones like divorce, death of a parent, major illness--that has secondarily acted as weight control.

What’s my point? I had this “aha” moment recently when I realized ( or re-realized ) that I can’t eat whatever I want and maintain my weight. I know. You’re thinking, “Dah, of course not”. But here’s the rub. I eat healthy pretty much, not a big chip fan, don’t even keep sweets in the house, exercise. So, I reason, why can't I eat whatever I WANT and as much as I WANT?

There’s a child development icon, Piaget, who researched kids under five in the 40s and 50s. One of her major theories is called magical thinking,( still accepted ) or “wish, imagination, and deed”. Piaget argues that toddlers desire something pleasurable. They wish for the event or object, then imagine it—and then believe that it is real.

My theory is that most of us are three year olds to some degree—dreamers, if you will-- with the fantasy that we can have whatever we want—food, success, love, money—just by wishing and imagining it. Well, it doesn’t usually come that easily. There are these damn plateaus. With plateaus you just have to soldier through, trusting past successes and trying to keep the instant gratification impulses to a minimum. No tantrums, just a little patience.

It may not be food, it could be any desire that’s harder to reach, but I think plateaus are designed to keep us humble. Goals reached are the happy days.

Plateaus? Well, they probably build character! That again? Ugh!

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