Jun 152016
 

Now I’m not quite sure how helpful my rules might be for anybody else. We’re all different, and a person who is not tempted to drink beer doesn’t need a rule concerning beer. Still.

When I started I had just read “Thinner this Year” and so the first thing I decided to do was to try and eat only 2/3 3/4 of what I’d usually eat. The easiest meal to do that for me was dinner because I usually eat sandwiches for dinner, and I knew that I usually would eat three slices of bread with cheese or salami or whatever, and so I decided to only eat two and then stop.

One of the very first things I realized was that if I wanted to lose weight I would need to eat less and that that would mean staying a little hungry every day, or even several times a day.

I know there are all kinds of diets out there telling you you will never have to be hungry at all and lose weight anyway but that’s something I never managed. I have practiced for years to become an intuitive eater which means someone who knows when they need food, or need something else, and when they’ve had enough to eat but I still was someone who would then think, “I’m full and don’t need something to eat but I’ll eat that anyway.” Which is how one gets fat. So if I ate enough to never be hungry I would not lose any weight.

The question was if being a little hungry was really so bad. Now back in the day when I ate way more sugar than I eat now I would be really, really hungry every two hours. Like “If I don’t eat right now I’m going to starve and also faint”-hungry. Funny enough once I stopped eating too much fructose I got less hungry. And these days when I have that feeling of “I really, really want something to eat now.” I know I can still go for another one or two hours without eating and will still not feel faint or have a headache. In fact I will usually exercise while I’m that hungry.

So the second rule was “no snacks”. This is not a hard and fast one, though. If I’m really, really hungry, or feel like I can’t go without something to eat I may have 6-12 almonds or a tablespoon full of peanuts. I decide that snacks are a) not to be eaten every day, and b) not there to make me completely satisfied but only to tie me over until the next meal. I’m eating three times a day anyway. You can’t really starve if you eat and hour or two later.

The next rule (or maybe an addition to the first one) was: “No Seconds”. We eat our biggest meal for lunch and I would usually eat a huge heap of whatever we’d have (my husband puts our food on the plates and when I started losing weight he was still eating huge portions), and then I’d have another plate full because it tasted so good. When I started losing weight I would put my own food on my plate (or tell my husband that no, I did not want that much pasta, please put some of it back) or leave food on my plate after eating. He has become much better at gauging how much I need to eat even though he still feels that my portions are way too small. The thing is that a 65 kilo woman needs way less food than a 80 kilo man especially when he never sits still and she basically does nothing else but sit in front of a computer all day. (On a side note our son started out being overweight as well, and when I looked up how much he needs to eat I was shocked to see that a 13yo. needs even less than me. (Also my husband did loose weight as well and now eats much smaller portions himself. Because a 67 kilo man needs less food than an 80 kilo one.))

Again I planned for exceptions, if I’m extremely hungry after my first plate of lunch I can have a bit extra. But most of the time I would tell myself it’s alright, even if I’m still a little bit hungry because if I cant stand it I can always have a snack later. Then I’d want a snack really bad at five in the afternoon and then I’d tell myself not snack because dinner would be at 6.30.

That’s a rule I use with my son and that I installed for myself as well. If you’re hungry about an hour before a meal just wait until mealtime. Nobody drops dead because they went hungry for an hour.

My nemesis when it comes to controling my eating are beer, potato chips, and sweets. I had already established a rule that I could have no beer on weekdays. I tried not drinking any when going out but never managed to follow that one so these days I’m allowed one (1) beer per day on weekends, and two (2) pieces of chocolate. The end.

As for potato chips I started out with “only one bag per week”, then upped it to „only one bag per month“, and am doing very well with that rule. Some months I decide that I like losing weight more than potato chips and declare a chips-free month. Since I can’t et my favorite potato chips in town any longer I often buy two bags and tell myself that those are reserved. Like I bought two bags at the beginning of May and declared them to be for June and for my birthday at the end of July. And surprisingly I don’t have a problem having the chips sitting in the basement. Every time I think of them I tell myself I can have them later, no problem.

Staying within my self-imposed limits regarding chocolate has been exceptionally hard in the past few weeks. It all started with my son asking for milk chocolate. We never have any sweets in the house apart from very dark chocolate these days because I tend to demolish them instantly. Also the boy needed to lose a bit of weight as well, and he was onboard with limiting sweets. (He also has a doting grandmother who gives him strawberry shakes and icecream and sweets any time he wants.)

Since I had been doing so well with my eating rules I thought I could handle having a bit of chocolate in the house easy. Yeah. turned out no, I can’t. I bought milk chocolate and within 48 hours it was all gone. Even before my son even knew we had it. I tried again, and again, and I became better but not good enough. Also my son was eating chocolate like crazy. And even when I wasn’t eating the milk chocolate I was eating way more dark chocolate than I intended to.

So now we have gone back to having only dark chocolate in the house. My son had to admit that he is as helpless facing sugar as I am. And since I got used to eating all.the.chocolate again I took it and put it away in a cupboard in a part of the house we don’t use often. Interestingly it does make a difference if the chocolate is sitting right there in the same room or not. Also I decided to not eat chocolate during the week anymore, only on weekends.

It always feels a bit strange telling anybody about these arbitrary rules I’m making for myself. Reading about my rules won’t really help you lose weight either. I guess everybody needs different rules because everybody struggles with different things. For me banning something completely doesn’t really work because then I tend to binge-eat it. Telling myself that I can have it, of course, no problem, only not just this moment works much better.

I trick myself a lot. I used to think that I needed to be strong and disciplined, and that if I couldn’t sit there looking at a piece of cake and resist it was all worthless. These days I’m all about making things easier for myself. That way I can use my mental energy and willpower for more important things than thinking about whether I want to eat this thing or not.

And funny enough that has made me better at resisting the piece of cake as well. Not that I think cake is bad, only with my fructose-intolerance eating too much sugar results in big sugar-cravings, and then into feeling sick for days. Not a good thing.

 

May 302016
 

The short answer is of course that I ate less.

But that doesn't really help, does it? Because the interesting part would be why I managed to eat less than I need for 1 1/2 years straight, losing 35 kilos in the process when I never managed to do that before.

Most people assume that I must have changed my diet in a big way, or that I must have suddenly found a massive cache of self-discipline that I could never access before. But that's not it.

From the inside it feels as if something clicked, as if that particular moment, the one I decided to lose weight after all was different than all the others before but I can't say how or why, really.

I'm also feeling like a fraud at the moment because I am currently trying to lose the same kilo for the third time in a row, this past month is the first one I haven't lost any weight ever since September 2014, and suddenly everything has become really hard. I still want to lose the next two kilos, though. And I know if I just eat less than I need I will get there eventually.

So. The moment I decided to lose weight this time. I think I already told you.

I had been working out a lot for about half a year, and when we went to do our usual hike from Herrsching to the Andechs monastery I thought that this time would be much easier than the time before. The year before I had barely managed to get up the hill, and when we reached the point where there are stairs because it's so steep I thought I would die before reaching the top.

Now I had run and done strength training five to six times a week for months at that point, and I'm happy to say that the hike actually did go better than the time before. Not well but better.

Until we reached the stairs.

Climbing the stairs was like torture yet again, and I didn't feel much better than the year before. Despite being in much better shape. Our son who had been huffing and puffing behind me for most of the way overtook me, and both he and my husband glided up the stairs as if it was nothing.

Me I felt like keeling over, and like giving up yet again. I was really angry that climbing up those stairs was so hard, and at some point between the bottom of the stairs and the top I decided that that was it, I would lose weight to make this easier.

At that point I was totally into the mindset that dieting is useless and makes us sick, that even if I managed to lose the weight chances were that I would gain it all back eventually, and that it would all be for nothing, and still I decided to try.

A 5% chance of success is not the same as a guarantee to fail. And I would have been content to just do more hill training if my weight would have stayed the same at any point but the truth was that I was almost 100 kilos and there was no end to weight gain in sight. The past few years I had gained between five and eight kilos per year. Every year.

Just before I had read “Thinner this Year” because I had liked the “Younger next Year” books so much but I still thought that it wasn't possible to permanently lose weight.

I did start the Monday after, though. I decided that this was it, the last time ever I would try to lose weight. If this time I didn't succeed I'd just stay fat for the rest of my life.

In order to help me with that I made myself some rules which is what I always do when I try to change my habits.

And since this is already pretty long I will tell you about those rules in the next blog post.

 

Feb 202016
 

Today my post about not having asthma any more appeared on the Fettlogik überwinden-Blog which makes me rather happy. And then I realized two things: 1. I think I will need to write about that weight loss journey a bit but not today because I am extremely busy today even for me, and 2. I never posted the obligatory before and after pictures. Well, really they are before and during pictures because I plan to lose five more kilos (11lbs.). And no, that won’t make me too thin, that will bring me down to the weight I have always felt best at, and down to a healthy, normal-weight BMI in the low range of normal.

 

Behold before September 2013 at about 98 kilos:

P1030986

And this was taken last week at 68.5 kilos :

image

 

And yes, I know that fat Susanne on these pictures looks much happier than thin Susanne but you’ll just have to believe me that this is just because the first picture was taken on a really fun day hiking with my family, and the second one is a rather hurried picture taken to document a finished new sweater.

I have been trying to not talk too much about the whole weight loss thing because I was a bit afraid of comments, and I felt a bit vain, and I thought I was doing something unhealthy, and was afraid of how the whole thing would turn out because everybody knows that diets are bound to fail anyway, and all that but I think it’s time to talk about it anyways.

But I promise I won’t make anyone lose weight against their will.

 

Feb 042016
 

As I told you before the concept of mini-habits has really helped me in the past months. They always seem rather ridiculous and small but they’re easier to stick to. And then I have this neat little app where I track my progress with them, and it’s really nice to see the long chain of uninterrupted habit execution.

So the things I try to teach myself consistently at the moment (apart from the things I’ve been working to do every day for months or weeks now like exercise and going to bed on time) are:

  1. Clear to neutral.
  2. Do the dishes after every meal if possible.
  3. Every day after breakfast I take all the recycling (that is collected in a bin in the hallway) down to the basement, sort it and fetch any beverages we’ll want with lunch or dinner and put those in the fridge.

“Clear to neutral” is something I picked up from the Asian Efficiency Blog via Unclutterer. Every time you do something you only considered it finished when everything is back where it belongs. Like doing the dishes becomes part of the meal routine, like every time I fold laundry I then put it back where it belongs, every time I use the scissors I put them back in the drawer.

I’ve been doing something like this for years now but I started slacking off. And at the moment I pay more attention to it, and also try to not leave the empty hamper in the hallway when I have put the clean laundry away but take the 30 seconds to actually go downstairs into the basement and put it next to the washing machine. This has the added bonus of making me move more.

“Clear to neutral” in my life usually means small steps. Putting the knitting back in the bag even if I think I’ll knit some more in the next hour or two. Putting the spinning wheel back in its bag and into my studio even though I know I will be spinning again the next day. Having everything where it belongs, and having the feeling of a tidy space totally makes up for the few minutes a day I put everything back.

You can see in our son’s room how things change when you do not clear to neutral. There are dozens of used tissues, candy wrappers, and miscellaneous papers on the floor and on his desk. There are piles and piles of books and all kind of things, and when he wants to cut his fingernails he has to borrow my nailclippers because he can’t find his. He did find the pouch for his nail things but not one single tool was in it.

“Do the dishes after every meal.” For quite some time now I’ve been trying very hard to do the dishes some time after breakfast so that my husband has a clean kitchen for cooking lunch, and I’ve making it a firm rule never to go to bed without doing the dishes first but I was pretty convinced that it didn’t make much of a difference if I did dishes after lunch, and also I thought I didn’t have the time.

Then some weeks ago I tried to squeeze sewing time out of every day in addition to what I was doing every day anyway, and in order to find 30 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted time in the evening for making a dress I decided to do the lunch dishes right before teaching instead of sitting down surfing the web at that time.

Turns out those dishes only take about ten minutes, and also doing that has the added bonus of getting me to bed on time at night.

Why’s that?

Well, if there was a lot of washing up to do in the evening I’d often sit in the kitchen reading or playing computer games instead of tackling the dirty dishes. Because the task seemed so overwhelming. Because of the strict rule to do the dishes before going to bed I’d sometimes sit there procrastinating for an hour or two before tackling the huge pile of dirty pots.

But if I do the lunch dishes right after lunch the dinner dishes seem much less intimidating. And I am making it a habit to not start reading or playing games after dinner. Instead I get up right away, wash three dishes and a bit of cutlery, and then I’m done for the day. Much better.

This practice also has the added bonus that my husband often helps me and dries everything which means it goes even faster. Sometimes I can even get out son to wield a dishtowel.

The habit of taking all the recycling stuff to the basement once a day, and using that trip to the basement to fetch anything I want nice and cold to drink for lunch is rather self-explanatory. The hallway is the first thing visitors see when they enter our house. Having a very overflowing recycling bin spewing its contents over half the floor and all the shoes is not a nice thing to see.

And as with other things it only takes a minute or two to do it every day, and is way less dreadful than sorting recycling for ten minutes in a row on Friday.

I am always amazed at what difference it makes to change small things but by now I really shouldn’t be. I’ve seen it over and over.

I’m really excited where all this changing things around will lead me. Right now life seems full of possibilities.

 

Oct 202015
 

The other day someone said to me, „I admire you for your self-discipline.”

I looked at that sentence, and my first impulse was to laugh my head of. I am in no way self-disciplined, I thought, this is really funny.

Then I remembered that the same thing happened a few times in the past few months, first when people noticed that I had lost weight, and then when I started talking about how much I love exercising, and that I want to do more of it. So that was odd. (By the way the exercise and the weight loss are in no way related to each other. No, really.)

And then I realized that those people only knew me as the woman who loses weight and exercises six times a week. Not as the woman who has to learn every new habit four times and then can never be sure that it will stick.

The thing is that I have been trying to become a person who has a grip on her life, who is tidy, and has healthy habits ever since I turned eight. That was when I realized that not everybody is constantly losing keys, and mittens, and umbrellas, and so I set out to learn how to become a person who doesn’t lose things.

At that point I thought if I willed it strong enough I would succeed. Well, after decades of trying that approach I can say that it doesn’t work at all. Willpower is a finite resource and wishing and willing doesn’t help you over the days where you just don’t care if you reach your longtime goals.

Still, I never gave up. (First time I decided to become more athletic was when I was ten. I ran every night for about a week, hated every second, and stopped because of the first day of snow. I never tried again but decided that running just wasn’t for me. Well, until about ten years ago.)

I started reading time-management books in my teens, and have read tons of self-help for decades as well. Some things helped, others didn’t.

Still, deep in my heart I’ve always wished that some day I would wake up and be this different person, this improved version of myself. The one who would fold her clothes every night, brushed her teeth twice a day, had a nice a tidy room, didn’t lose things, and generally did things right.

And then I turned older and found that that will never happen. On the contrary it seems that I am someone for whom learning how to floss might take up to ten years. Which is ridiculous for such a small habit but there you are.

Of course I could give up and say, „Well, I guess I’m just not that person. It takes all kinds.“ But I still think that a reasonably healthy adult should be able to change things about herself that drive her crazy.

I have learned a lot about myself along the way. Which things are hard. And which aren’t. And that I do better with rules than with deciding everything on the spot. (I’m not the only one.) For example ever since I found out that I am fructose-intolerant and that my body doesn’t really like to digest sugar at all I made a rule that when I go to a potluck thing I will only eat whatever I prepared myself. That rule is interestingly easy to follow because every time I break it I feel lousy afterwards. So all it takes to follow the rule is to remind myself of how I felt the last time I didn’t follow it.

Now about exercise. I trick myself into it. In the beginning my only goal was to move in some way for ten minutes a day. Walking to the grocery store counted, doing yoga counted, everything counted.

Then I set a goal of starting to run again. Then I changed everything completely up because I was so motivated from reading „Younger Next Year“ that I strived to exercise 6 times a week for at least 45 minutes.

The thing is that most weeks I don’t. I always think I do but when I actually write it down it’s more like four or five times a week. But that’s not failure. That’s still a lot of exercise and much better than sitting on my butt all the time.

So I’m usually doing strength training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I made my son join me in that because he doesn’t move enough as well, and having strong muscles is very cool. Now I really have to do it because I need to be a good example.

Which leaves the running that I try to do three other days a week. (Or ideally every day but I’m not there yet.) Now running is enjoyable because I get to listen to podcasts while I do it. Or to music. Running or walking are the only times I listen to podcasts and I like listening to podcasts. So the thought of, „There is this new podcast episode, this will be fun.“ is often what gets me into my running shoes.

But the foremost reason why I exercise so much is this:

When I exercise I don’t hurt.

I have had chronic back pain, knee pain, and hip pain every since I was 15. I used to sit just so, and bend just so because I always hurt.

These days I’m 48 and as long as I exercise I don’t hurt at all. Not the least little bit.

As soon as I stop exercising – like right now because I have a bad cold – the pain comes back. As I’m typing this my knees hurt, and my back a little, and my right hip.

See, no self-discipline needed.

I just try, and fail, and try, and fail, and get better at things, and then worse, and then better again. But the one thing I never do is give up. I want to be a person who exercises six times a week, and so I will do everything I can to make that happen.

I trick myself, sometimes I bribe myself, I give myself gold stars – whatever works. But I never ever beat myself up. I treat my change of habits more like an experiment, and think about what worked, and what didn’t, and what I can tweak to make it better.

And then it turns out that exercising makes me really, really happy.

Who would have thought?

Mar 252015
 

I am still thinking about habits, and how I want my daily life to be and such. Because the things I do every day (or almost every day) matter much more than the things I only do once in a while. So I want my daily life to reflect the things that are important to me.

Of course I’m working on all.the.things at once. As usual. At the beginning of January I decided that going to bed on time and getting enough sleep would be the main habit to focus on. It went rather well for some time, and then it didn’t and right now it’s hit or miss. It does become more complicated through the fact that I often don’t sleep well even if I managed to get to bed on time. So there are related habits surrounding this one. „No screens one hour before bed“ is one, dealing with things that make me anxious on time so that I am less tense, getting back into the habit of meditating ten minutes a day, not drinking too much tea right before bed.

The more I think about it the longer the list gets. Which, of course, doesn’t help.

The other main thing has been exercise (and I know I wrote about this before). Exercising six times a week takes quite a bit of time. Pare that with trying to get nine hours of straight sleep every night, and there is not all that much free time left. When I do it I feel so much better that it’s definitely worth it but still – part of me resents the fact that I get less time to play.

One habit that I want to break is to spend every free moment glued to the computer or tablet screen. I really enjoy ravelry, and iPad games, and reading blogs but when I do it for more than an hour or so per day I start feeling bad. Because when I do these things I can’t do the other things that are important like practicing the piano or working on my novel.

Though I have to say I have been quite good with the “working on my novel“-part. The last few weeks I have managed to work on it for something between thirty and sixty minutes every morning after breakfast. More often it was thirty minutes but then progress is good. Even if it’s slow.

I know there are people reading this who think I should just relax, and not stress myself out so much. But a) I am not stressing myself, I just try to live the life I want to live, and b) I really don’t think I’ll be content with a life where I just did my job, did my chores, and otherwise lean back and watch TV or something.

This is not about being productive all day long, it is just about looking back on the last year or so thinking, „Do I feel good about how I spent my time and energy? Is this the life I want to live?”

And then to change my habits accordingly.

Feb 062015
 

So I've been thinking about what problem I have with this setting goals thing. I really do want to change things for the better only I might have to find a better way.

Just living my life like I did the past few years won't do because there are things I want to change to become happier and healthier. Just willing myself doesn't work, that one I know for sure.

I also don't like to be told what to do, not even by myself. So in a way I have to trick myself into change.

And then I also realized that what I want is not so much about reaching some arbitrary goal but it's about changing what I do on a daily basis. You can even see it in the way I formulated my goals. “Make music for at least ten minutes a day for at least fives tiems a week.” is not really a goal. It is a habit in disguise.

What I want in my life longterm are things like a daily habit of playing music, a writing habit, an exercise habit, and a daily tidying and cleaning habit.

To me it's not really about the big goal in the future. I vividly remember sitting in a Munich jazz club years ago thinking, “In five years I want to stand up there on stage with my own band.” And then my life changed and I changed, and suddenly playing that kind of gig didn't really appeal to me anymore.

But what hasn't changed since then is that making some kind of music, and singing in particular are really important for my wellbeing. So that's what I'm currently working on. Creating new habits that make me happy, or at least feel better in the long run.

True to form I am of course working on everything at once but my main focus since the beginning of January has been on going to sleep on time. And yes, I know I've been whining about this for decades, and I tried and failed, and tried and failed but weirdly enough at the moment I actually seem to get better at it.

It's not that I have slept my nine hours straight every night this month but I have slept at least eight and often a little more most nights.

This often means I can't watch DVDs at night,or do something for me but I found that being rested throughout the day, and having a bit more energy is totally worth it.

So I'm changing my life one habit at a time, and I really hope this will continue working.

 

May 222014
 

It all started back in February. During the winter I hadn’t exercised much, mostly there was one measly 30 minute run a week. That was because I had knee problems, and my doctor had told me to ride a bike instead of running (though he did say I was allowed to run on account of me being not too heavy – which I found rather funny because I am rather fat). So I didn’t quite know what to do exercise-wise, and my knee hurt, and I was looking at my body going downhill over the next few decades.

I felt rather helpless. Yoga hurt, biking hurt, sitting hurt, so I just didn’t exercise. All the time I had the feeling that I should move a little more than I did but it just didn’t happen. And then two people on my favorite ravelry forum decided to help each other exercise more, and they started a new thread about it, and I committed myself to moving at least ten minutes almost every day. That was February. I walked, and did a little yoga, and ran a bit, and all of a sudden I was moving again but not very much. It was a start, though.

One of those two people who started that exercise thread recommended a strength training book, and I thought starting strength training again would be an excellent idea. So I ordered the book, and soon enough I was working with dumbbells and such twice a week. And I liked it very much. The program had you add weight each time you were comfortable with the exercises. Soon enough I was looking through the garage for my husband’s 5 kilo dumbbells. But the best thing about the strength training was that I stopped hurting. My back, my knees, my hips, all of that felt better. Did you know that strength training is really, really helpful for joint pain? I didn’t. It was like a miracle. Sweat and grunt for 30 minutes and be free of pain. I also learned that strength training helps against osteoporosis. Did you know that your bones start to get a little brittle (and your muscles a little weak) after forty? That falling and breaking a hip is the one thing that has old women in the hospital the most? That you can see improvement in bone density, and muscle mass from regular strength training even when you start when you’re 80 or older? That strength training improves your balance and flexibility? I didn’t but now I do.

Next thing I start reading “Younger next year” which I found through Neil Gaiman’s journal. (There is a version for women called “Younger next year for women” that I’d recommend, by the way. Buying both books is rather pointless because a lot of the information is the same.) That book tells you that if you exercise six times a week for 45 minutes you will be able to have the body of a fit fifty year-old until you’re 80 or so. There’s more to it than that but that’s the main message. Exercise for 45 minues, six times a week, and be able to do just about anything you want until you’re pretty old. And be able to do all those things without pain.

My husband and I are already seeing the beginning of that downward slope towards death. The joints that hurt, the cricks in our backs, the feeling of “I can’t do that anymore, I’m getting old.” But the great thing is that we now know we can do something against it.

Now 45 minutes is quite a bit of time, and I have to confess I’m not quite there yet. At the moment I do about 45 minutes of cardio three times a week, and only 30 minutes of strength training three times a week. Since I didn’t want to keep buying heavier, and heavier weights I have started a strength training program where you use the weight of your own body as resistance. It’s “Body by you” and I find it fun. Well, not exactly when I’m doing it because it’s really hard but certainly afterwards when I can feel my muscles growing. Me doing all this exercise has also changed something in my husband and son. All of a sudden my husband is running again, two or three times a week, and my son who is as much of a couch potato as I am is doing the strength training with me. Three times a week we meet in the kitchen and do all kinds of silly exercises using chairs, and the counters, and door handles. Right now it is pretty easy to keep going because my body is feeling so much better. And I’m seeing progress. Who knows, one of these days I might even be able to do a set of real pushups. But the best thing is that my knees aren’t hurting anymore, they don’t hurt at all, and I had already resigned myself to live with this nagging pain for the rest of my life. Oh, and all this exercise is making me tremendously happy. Who would have thought that couch potato me would come to this?

Apr 182012
 

To lose weight. I was horrified.

For a few weeks now he has been talking about the fact that he has become “fat”. Now this is the boy who used to be on the skinny side. He had the usual stages of childhood, growing taller, then broader, then taller, and lately quite a bit broader. Add to it his fondness of sweets, and tendency to spend all his time in front of screens or books, well, yes, he has grown a little protruding tummy, but nothing major in my eyes.

After talking for a while we found that it was my mother-in-law who kept telling him he had been growing fat, and needed losing weight. Now, even if he were obese, which he isn’t I wouldn’t want him to start dieting.

The only thing a diet is pretty certain to make you is fat in the long run. Especially with people like my son and me. We are contrary. If anyone tells us what we’re allowed to eat or not, even if it is ourselves we’re bound to become all stubborn, and eat even more of the things we shouldn’t.

Now, you have to know that my mother-in-law is a person who still thought I was as slim as the day we met even after I had gained 20 kilos in the meantime. (That’s 44 pounds for those of you who don’t use metric.) She didn’t even realized that I had grown quite a bit bigger.

Now this woman is telling my son that he is fat. Why’s that?

With a bit of detective work we finally got it. There were two factors to it:

First, my son these days often has these massive eating binges at mealtimes. You know how sometimes even little children eat more than you? He sometimes does that. It doesn’t bother me because he doesn’t do it all the time, and for every time he eats like a starving teenager there’s another time when he doesn’t eat much at all. To me that’s a sign that he is in touch with his body’s need. Now my mother-in-law is of a generation that believes in portion control. She fixes dinner (with ridiculously small portions for a growing boy), and if he says he’s still hungry she thinks he can’t really be because there’s no dinner left.

Second, my son has this belly. His jeans have grown a bit too tight, and so his belly is sticking out. There are several things to this. Yes, he has become a bit stockier than before, and second he doesn’t really have the abs to have a firm belly. Which isn’t unsurprising in a boy his age.

I hope that the thing I’m telling him makes a difference. The thing is, I have seen this many times before with students. Once they are approaching their tenth birthday, some a little earlier, some a little later, all of a sudden children come up to me saying, “I need to lose weight, I’m fat.” And then they tell me that they are already weighing [insert some number between 35 and 40 kilos here], and that their friends are weighing less than that.

And then I tell them the things I always tell: Children grow in spurts. After every time they’re getting taller there is usually a time when they get stockier, and maybe even a bit chubby. Especially at this time when their bodies are almost getting ready for puberty. Just look at children between 9 and 12 and you can see it. A lot of them are becoming rounder, and heavier, and almost denser at that age. And then, a few years later they transform in front of your eyes, going from a child to a teenager.

If they start dieting at an age that young it won’t make them better looking, healthier, or even slimmer. Chances are they probably end up fatter, unhealthier, and screwed up.

I really hate it that this world is tending to a beauty standard that is unobtainable for most of us. I hate it that being a certain body size, and shape has been become the one indicator for being attractive, happy, and healthy. And I really, really hate it that my beautiful son, this charming, intelligent, witty, and funny 9 1/2 year-old thinks he’s ugly and fat.

Yes, I wish I were slimmer too. I have become pretty fat myself in the past few years. I would like to fit into size 10 pants, really. But I can also tell you that there are many, many things in the world worse than being fat. And that being fat does not equal being stupid, or a loser, or unlovable, or even unattractive. Yes, advertising and magazines are telling us so. But every single one of them wants us to feel bad so they can better sell us things, and ideas. They don’t want us to be happy the way we are because happy people don’t buy as much.

So I myself have been concentrating on becoming as strong, and fit, and healthy, and happy as I possibly can. And to find clothes that fit the body I have instead of pining for the size 10 jeans.

For my son we have talked, and keep talking. And I will have a stern talk with my mother-in-law later. And we are trying to help him lose the “have to have sweets after every meal”-habit that my mother-in-law installed, and help him to go outside and run around a little more. Because those are good things regardless of how big or small someone is.

I’m really, really pissed, I don’t know if you can tell. And I’m also sending you to the “Dances with Fat“-blog again, and to the concept of health at every size because obviously it needs repeating.

Mar 182011
 

These days I spent most time with my son nagging him to hurry up already. From the minute I wake him in the morning to the time when I put his lights out in the evening our encounters are a string of, “Faster, you’re late, hurry up already.” This is not pleasant. I have come to resent the way he closes the zipper of his jacket or his shoes. It’s taking so much time.

He really is very slow in dressing and undressing himself, and in getting ready for anything. He – like me – has a problem with transitions. He – like me – also has a problem perceiving time. He doesn’t really feel how much time has passed, or how long things are taking. This is a real problem when he needs to get ready for school in the mornings, when he has to get home after school, and when he has to get ready for all his extra-curricular activities. His teacher even wrote about it on his report card. How much she doesn’t like reminding him every single day to get ready, get dressed and get home. Even the women who volunteer to help the children crossing streets are getting annoyed with him because he’s always the last one, and they stay there waiting and waiting instead of going home.

We have tried a lot of things, counting, setting a timer, not doing anything and sending him to school without breakfast, but what I mostly do is this constant nagging. It’s totally automatic by now, and I guess neither my son nor me listens to it. It’s just an unpleasant background noise. Sometimes I wonder why I keep doing it since my son has turned deaf to it anyway but then I found I keep nagging because at least that’s a way to release some of my frustration. So I nag, nag, nag, and then I get angry, and tap my foot.

The other day, when he was telling us that the volunteer women had threatened to report him to the school we thought about how he could become better at this. His problem is that he is easily distracted, and so when he puts on his shoes and clothes after school, and chats with the other children he won’t do both at the same time. He either chats or gets ready.

All of a sudden I realized that he doesn’t have a way to measure how much time has passed. He doesn’t know if he is going fast or slow, he is just doing one thing after the other when it occurs to him. He lives pretty much in his head so the fact that he is still standing there in slippers while most of the other children have already gone home doesn’t register with him. And it doesn’t help that the friend who walks with him is about equally slow.

So we talked it all through and for the first time ever I asked him about the other children. He said there were quite a few who were as slow as him. And we asked, “And do they live as far away as you? And do they have volunteers waiting for them as well?” Turns out that those boys live just across the street from the school. So I asked him about the children that are getting ready much faster than him. And there is one boy, his best friend who gets ready very fast. So I told my son to watch him, and try to match him. And he did, and at least he is only late coming home from school, not extremely late.

The problem is that apart from us and the volunteers waiting for him, and getting worried because there might have happened something to him, he also has two days when he comes home, has 15 minutes to eat lunch, and has to leave for school again. Now, this was his choice. We told him not to sign up for those things but he really wanted to, and so we sit there, wait for him with lunch ready on the spot, and then tell him to hurry up because he’s late.

Evenings have been getting better, and then I remembered that that was when I told him the exact time when he had to be in pajamas, and then when the lights had to be out. Of course he couldn’t know. My husband and I knew that we wanted him to turn out the lights at 8.30 but nobody had bothered to tell him. The minute we told him he could look at the clock and see how many time he had left. Of course it helps that he can read time now. You can’t really do that with most younger children but with a second-grader you can.

So yesterday evening I sat him down and told him that he has to wake up at 6.45, get out of bed at 7.00, be dressed and ready for breakfast at 7.10, brush his teeth and get ready for school at 7.25, and leave a little later than 7.30.

Well, today it worked like a charm. He did struggle a bit, and then I know it’s quite a tight schedule, but he made it. I sat the clock next to him while he was putting on his clothes, and for once he realized that he does not have time to read or play in the morning. He could sit down for breakfast and instead of me telling him, “You’re late, you’re late, you should be brushing your teeth now.” he was the one glancing at the clock saying, “I only have four more minutes before I have to brush my teeth.”

I know that our schedule in the mornings is a bit too tight but I also know that neither my son nor I are ready to get up earlier than we do because that would mean to going to bed earlier as well. And having more time does not always lead to having less stress. I know that when I have the feeling to have plenty of time for something I often end up doing everything so slow that I have to hurry up in the end anyway.

Of course, now that it worked (once) I’m a bit angry at myself for not realizing this earlier. And I’m a bit afraid that this might be one of those things that work once, and then nevermore. But then I know that when I, as a grown woman, finally realized that catching the 7.05 bus meant leaving the house at 6.55, and that meant brushing my teeth and putting on makeup at 6.45, and that meant having breakfast at 6.15, and that meant getting up at 5.45, and that meant setting my alarm for 5.30 – that felt like a revelation to me. “You mean in order to catch the bus at 7.05 I have to set the alarm more than 1 1/2 hours earlier? Oh, that’s why my timing never worked. No wonder I had to rush and scramble every single morning. Duh.”

Duh indeed. I really hope that I will cease to resent the way my son – slowly and diligently – pulls up the zipper of his jacket. Or fastens and unfastens the velcro on his shoes not once, not twice but at least four times each time he puts them on. And I really hope that I can become more than a nagging device for him.