Monday, June 22, 2009

Re: Weight Cycling

I sent on the post The Weight Cycle to my mom and I thought I'd share her response:
Very well said my beautiful daughter! So riddle me this one....why each and every time I go to my primary care doc am I told to "lose some weight". Followed by a resounding "at-ta boy" each time I drop 10 or so pounds below the weight of my last visit, even though it appears to be the same 10 pounds over and over again. However, he never advises against the harm to my health this constant "yo yo"-ing might cause. At what % above your ideal weight would it be better to just remain at that weight as opposed to going up and down above and below it? Why does no one discuss that? What would happen to Oprah's image if she said "I'm staying put - live with it"? Well, I'd support her running for president, wouldn't you?

My rather uneducated response to my mom:
I think that doctors try to steer their patients towards healthier lifestyles and there has been a great deal of research that shows at the very least a corelation between being overweight and many harmful medical conditions. Also, we really like one-size-fits-all solutions in our society, so we have that great height/weight chart that only allows a small window of weight which is acceptable, regardless of body type, age, or anything else. Now there is a movement, especially in the fat-acceptance community, to stop equating weight with health, instead focusing on being active, eating healthy, and not really caring about weight. I think they do have some medical and academic support but not a great deal of it.

As for the yo-yo-ing aspect of things, a quick internet search pulled up a couple articles about the dangers of yo-yo dieting, they restrict to meaning using a quick fad diet to lose the weight and then one puts it back on quickly when you go off the diet. This isn't exactly what I was talking about, but the more general regaining of weight after a diet, though I think the studies that the articles cite seem to address what I was talking about too. It seems like the "weight cycling slows your metabolism" is widely regarded as a myth, but there are corelations between weight cycling and a supressed immune system, higher risks of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and gallbladder disease. This article says that we should go on dieting because there is a higher corelation of more health conditions among overweight people than there are among (I'm assuming, not currently overweight) weight cyclers.

*Eyeroll* I'm not sure how much I believe that it is better for my overall person - physical, mental, spiritual - for me to continue to weight cycle and feel shitty about my body. So I think I might try a combination of the fat acceptance route along with the "gotta die from something" route. Especially right now, as I'm seeing someone who actually prefers bigger women, women bigger than me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Weight Cycle

Newsweek recently did a cover story on Oprah, some of the questionable medical advice that some of her guests present, and why this doesn't seem to hurt her ratings or make her look like just another trashy daytime tv talk show host. While I found it interesting to hear what doctors say about Suzanne Somers' bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, this is what really struck me:

"Oprah, of course is notoriously bad at sticking with the advice Oz [non-quack
doc] and Greene [personal trainer] dispense, especially when it comes
to her weight. She laments her inability to keep off the pounds. In January she
embarked on yet another attempt to trim down, which means all of Oprah's views
are now-actually or vicariously-on a diet too. She will lose the weight, and
there will be much remarking upon it. But then, in a year, or two, or three,
experience teaches us that the fat will likely come back. And she will lament.
And then she will do it all over again, with a whole new set of experts armed
with the latest breakthrough theories on how to live our next best life and
all-new, must-have books and gadgets and ointments to ease the way."

(I would link to the rest of the article, but it's not online.)

Obviously, these writers are lucky enough to never have been overweight (or at least never want to lose that weight) and doesn't have anyone close to them who has gone through this. If they did, they might not brush it off so easily. Almost everyone in my family deals with weight issues. The cycle that he speaks of is one that those of us who are overweight know all too well. Most overweight people don't like being overweight, even if we learn to accept our body as it is. We know that the world would see us as more attractive and healthier if we were thinner, which may or may not be true. What the media, and this article, seem to portray as a failure of will-power or a lack of follow-through is much more complicated than that. Those things may or may not play a role, but what also plays a role are your own metabolism and genes, how active you were as a kid in ways that can translate into adulthood, living and working in environments where one can't walk but has to drive, the physicality (or lack thereof) of your job, that processed/fatty/starchy foods are readily and cheaply available, etc, etc, etc.

I'm not saying that people can't and shouldn't eat healthier foods and get more exercise. But most overweight people that I've known in my life will cycle back and forth and back and forth, just like Oprah. We start something all gung-ho, we work hard, we reach our goals for weight loss and a more fit body. But then time and the everyday wears our resolve down. Also with food, it's especially difficult, as people have to eat. It's not like doing drugs, where you can avoid people who do drugs and places where drugs are sold. We have to go to the grocery store. We have to eat meals. When driving to and from work, it's impossible to not drive past a fast food restaurant. All that makes it that much harder to limit or avoid those things that might have caused you issues in the past. And one has to have priorities in their life. Right now I could work very hard to re-lose the weight that I've gained back. But I have too much other shit going on, so I just don't have the energy or time for that.

I guess it just irritated me because I know how so many (most female) people in my life has struggled with their weight, not just always being overweight, but yo-yo-ing up and down. And I don't think they just gain the weight back because they can't follow advice or are failures or even because their weight loss program was a fad diet. I think they gain it back in large part just because of life and our life in this time and place. Plus, even if you think overweight people are all Wal-mart consuming, mindless, uneducated suckers, as we're 50% of the population, I think you might at least give up some respect for us.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Being a House(not)wife

In a society where "What do you do?" (which means what job do you perform to earn money) is usually within the first five questions asked when people first meet, I'm having a bit of trouble getting used to being long-term unemployed. I suppose I never realiezed how much 'what we do' can equal 'who we are' to people who don't know us well. Hell, even to people who do know us. Maybe I'm being overly sensative, imagining that people see me in a much more negative light than they really do, because I'm have self-esteem issues with not working right now.

Though to say I'm 'not working' would be a lie. I am not currently a wage-earning worker. When I asked TyRoy what I should say when people ask what I do, his quick response was to tell them that I am a housewife. As that isn't exactly true, in that I am not anybody's wife nor am looking to become someone's wife anytime soon, I do all the typical things a housewife would do - shopping, housecleaning, laundry (just not much cooking because my folks don't like to eat what I can cook) - for my parents. Now I've tried telling people this (that I'm a housewife) but it tends to go over like a lead balloon.

Until two weeks ago, I was looking for wage-earning employment, permanent or temporary, full-time or part-time, while still doing the housewife-ly things until then. Since December, I've had interviews but no job offers. Before that, I'd had some job offers and temp jobs that might have led to offers but I frakked them up. I think my own poor management of my mental health had a good deal to do with it. Since then, I have gotten to a different (hopefully better) place with my medications, though I will always still be me, underneath it all. I honestly don't know that I wouldn't have frakked up any job offer I got between December and now. But with the job market the way it is, I was competing against more people than usual, more people who have better work histories and more skills than me, so I don't begrudge them getting those positions.

Until I found a job, must to continue to play housewife to my parents, more to ease their burden and to give me something to do than anything else, and also try to visit and help out my grandma more. But my plan was always to get a job, work steadily, pay down my debt, fix my car or get a new-to-me car, and move out. I was also hoping to get my Bachelors slowly but surely once things were on track.

I guess nothing has really changed that plan except to put it off, with no real idea of when I'll pick it up. When we realized that my uncle might/would probably need help, even if only with the driving, to get back and forth to his new treatments, my mom told me to just stop looking for a job right now. It's cheaper for our family if my parents contintue to subsidize my bills while I help my uncle than it would be for us to temporarily lose my mother's income, even if I was working and paying my own bills. It makes sense and I'm happy to do it. And, after helping my grandmother when my grandpa had his first stroke, I think I'll be ok doing it, as long as I take time and space for myself, stay abreast of my own needs.

But I still feel this huge hole in my 'plan' and I feel 'less than' because I'm not earning money, don't have a job others would recognize, am a housewife without a husband or my own house.


On second thought though, I can't imagine how my previously always employed, super-hard-working, very independent uncle must feel right now. I guess I'll count my blessings.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eulogy for Grandma

Not really sure if this is how you do these things, but it's what I'm doing. Thought I'd share.


First, I would like to thank you all for coming to say a final goodbye to my grandmother. I know it would have meant a great deal to her to know so many people cared for her.

I would like to share with you how I saw the woman I knew.

As many of you probably already know, I spent a lot of my childhood in my grandparents home. Grandma started a home daycare so that I would have other children to play with. As if the house wasn’t already crowded enough, eight or so pre-kindergarten age children would fill our house in the early morning hours. Somehow, she managed to keep it all together, keeping us all in line, and our parents all happy. She ruled our house with an iron voice, though she wasn’t above a swat on the butt when needed.

But that sense of command wasn’t displayed only in our home. To me, she seemed fearless in dealing with sales people and clerks in stores and waiters in restaurants. When I balked at making a clerk at Sam’s find the pool chemicals instead of finding them ourselves, she said, “It’s called ‘job security.’ If they didn’t have to help me, they wouldn’t have a job.”

Watching my grandma taught me to never to buy into stereotypes. If you think wives from the 1950s were mousy, quiet, and didn’t have a say in their household, well, you’ve never met my grandma. And if you think petite older women are harmless, well, you’ve never met my grandma. I never felt like, as a woman, I didn’t have the right to be loud, opinionated, or bossy. In fact, that’s might be a lesson I learned a little too well…

But she also had a class and dignity all her own. We have never been what one would call rich, but I think that Grandma was extremely proud of the fact that she could give more to her kids than her family had growing up, that she and Grandpa had risen from working poor families to middle class in her lifetime. She would be the first to remind you that that didn’t make her better than, though it certainly didn’t make anyone else better than her. Her fierce pride in her life and her family taught me not to be embarrassed about where I come from or where my family comes from.

For the most part, my grandma lived an average life, though a happy and full one. She was a typical daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and person for her time and place in history. Few people, in the grand scheme of things, ever knew her name. But, as I find out more and more each day, she made a huge difference in the lives of those she touched. I think that was because, as someone more famous than either of us once wrote, “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” I think Grandma displayed that kind of freedom. Grandma would listen and give her blunt brand of advice, without ever making you feel judged. She would give you the help she thought best at the time, even if it wasn’t what you thought you needed, and she was usually right that it was what was best. She paid much more attention than most people ever gave her credit for and she was always available to listen and talk for hours.

Two days ago, I called the mother of one of the children Grandma babysat for to tell the family of my grandma’s passing. The woman was so silent that I thought my cell phone had disconnected us. Then, crying, she said that she didn’t know how she would have made it through without my grandma. While I had already known that the woman had put her daughter in the daycare shortly after she divorced and returned to the job force, I didn’t know the deep and abiding respect, appreciation, and admiration this woman had developed for my grandmother, who she saw as a tough-talking, cigarette-smoking, fairy godmother, who both mended the sewing-challenged woman’s clothes before she went to work, and helped her control and learn to deal with her defiant daughter. Now, I’m sure that my grandmother didn’t see this as some heroic feat. She was just doing the right thing, lending a hand, passing on her own wisdom. But it made such a huge difference in this woman’s life. And to me it just drives home that we can all, as the saying goes, be the difference we would like to see in the world. We don’t have to be perfect, in fact it helps not to be. We don’t have to be famous or successful, as the ways we make a difference are small, personal, and simple. But we can and do make profound differences in the lives of the people we meet. Knowing this, I just plan on striving to ensure that the difference I make is a positive one. So that is how I plan on honoring my grandmother’s memory: By using the things I learned watching her, that a tough, opinionated, bossy woman who stays proud of where she comes from and pays attention along the way can make a great difference in the lives of others, to be a constructive force in the world.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Update From SLMC

So this is the update from the Slightly Larger Midwestern City. My folks came out to my grandmother's house Thursday night. Since it was my birthday and I didn't much want to be with my parents at that point, I spent the night with TyRoy, who did a nice job of providing me with a place of refuge for the night. Friday, my uncle, my uncle's boyfriend, and I carpooled it out here, the driving being split between my uncle's boyfriend and I, who'd both gotten about three hours of sleep the night before, as my uncle is in constant pain, which is much worse when he doesn't take his pain medication on a very strict schedule. We were just in time to spend three hours making the funeral arrangements alongside my parents. Then, it was back to grandma's house to make calls to inform people that the visitation will be Saturday evening and the funeral Sunday afternoon. (We decided there was no point in putting it off and the weekend would mean no one would have to take off work to come.) These calls included calling my other uncle to inform him that his mother had died, which I volunteered for, though no one really wanted to do it after how he behaved when Grandpa died. (Though when I talked to him, he took it all ok, even acknowledging that he had "shown his ass" previously. We'll see how this all shakes out when it comes to Grandma's "estate", such as it is.) We still need to get pictures together and my uncle needs to buy a suit, as none of his really fit anymore, but the immediate things seem to be settling into place.

I worry about my mom, as she seems to be just so very tired, and... defeated, even, which is something I just don't ever remember having seen on her. I tend to think that it is because she has the full weight of all this on her shoulders and, in some ways, her shoulders alone. She is now the leader of our family, the matriarch, a role I'm not sure anyone is ever ready for. She is also the executor of my grandmother's estate, which is mostly just this house that my grandparents built when they first married and the responsibility for taking care of my middle uncle's funeral when he inevitably drinks himself to death or overdoses. Deciding what to do with this house is.... well, I'll just say that I'm glad I'm not the one making the decision, the one with the final say. Though I honestly believe that my mom will be able to handle this fine, once we come out on the other side of the funeral, when things settle down, when there are less people around scrutinizing things.

As for me, I'm planning on speaking at my grandmother's funeral, using my words to try to do some justice to her life. Not that my grandma was a great literary critic, or even an unbiased reader, but she loved reading what she could sneak a peak at over my shoulders or on the computer screen when I would accidentally leave a piece of writing laying around so I could go to the restroom or get a drink. (We are WAY too much alike in our snoopiness.) In the end, she lived the average amount of time, made a house and a home with the man she loved fiercely until the day she died in that very same home, where they had raised three of their own children, one grandchild, and had been loving caretakers for many more children. She was not a saint or even the easiest person to get along with in the best of times, but she touched a great many people in positive ways, as is evident by the people that my family called today to update them on the situation. I think many of us could only hope that we go out that way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rest In Peace Grandma

I don't have time to write more, but funeral planning doesn't wait.

My grandmother died sometime last night. She passed quietly in her sleep in her own bed in the home that she and my grandfathe built over 50 years ago.

I'll thank you all in advance for all your well-wishing. I'll probably write more about my grandmother and about how my family is handling this as things progress. Right now I have to go and make sure I take care of things here before I leave to help take care of things there.