Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tipping the scales...again ~ by Leah St. James

When we first decided on January’s theme of forward and back, I swore to myself there was one topic I would NOT write about. I swore. I said to myself, “You’re a woman of a certain age. There have been plenty of forward-and-back moments in your life to choose from. Just not THAT topic.”

Yet here I am, writing my blog for this month, compelled to address the one subject I wanted to avoid: weight loss and weight gain.

Sigh. I find it’s inescapable, so here I go.

Hello, my name is Leah, and I’m a foodaholic.

I truly am. I can place my surrender to foodaholism to my early childhood when my mom—whose husband (my father) dumped her with two little girls—would offer food as comfort for my many tearful episodes.

Me: “Mommy, I miss Daddy.”

Mom:  “I know, honey. Have a cookie.”

I don’t blame my mom. She had more than enough to deal with outside of my whining about an absent father. In truth, she gave more than enough love for both parents, and I often think my older sister and I did better without him.

But the point is, I (subconsciously) replaced my father’s attention with food, and I paid tribute to that relationship with all my energy for many years. When I was sad, I ate. Happy – I ate. Scared – I ate. Frustrated and overworked – I ate, often and mindlessly with a manic sort of attention to stuffing as much into my mouth as I could … You get the picture. 

I started out plump as a preteen, grew to be large in my adolescence, then much larger in high school. By the time I went to college, I was obese, at least 50 pounds overweight. 

There were periods when I slimmed down—like after giving birth to my first son, amazingly. I was working full-time with a 45-minute commute each way. I think I was too busy to eat.  Then I got pneumonia and dropped about 20 pounds. (I would not recommend that as a method of weight loss, by the way.)

When son number two came along, my stress level—and reactionary eating—spiked, and the weight packed on. Did I take a good, hard look at myself, try to rein in my habits? No. I blamed the dryer for shrinking my clothes. I told myself the scale lied so stopped using it.

By the time my children were grown and our nest emptied, I was a hefty size 18W, and my weight had ballooned into the morbidly obese category. My knees hurt so much I had to pull myself up stairs, and I was taking expensive blood pressure medications to stem the possibility of stroke and heart disease.

Oddly, it wasn’t the physical problems that woke me up, it was a job application.  I saw a posting for a position with the local police department and went for it, only to realize, with sheer horror, that I was required to state my height and WEIGHT on the application.

The thought of admitting that number in public paralyzed me. I’d become so adept at lying about my weight over the years, to myself and others, I almost did again. Then I pictured myself in an interview. The hiring manager would look from me to the application, me to the application. I’d be fired before I was hired.

So I finally took that good, hard look. I joined Weight Watchers and learned to choose healthy alternatives. I weighed in faithfully and, in faith, prayed for help with my food obsession.

Eighteen months later, I had dropped 85 pounds. I took up Kate Moss’s mantra: “Nothing taste as good as skinny feels.” Not that I was skinny by any standard, but skinniER. More important, my health improved. I could climb stairs without huffing and puffing, without pain. My medications reduced to much more manageable amounts. I felt physically like the person I’d felt mentally my whole life.

I’ll bet you can guess what happened, though. After a couple years, I grew complacent…cocky even. Five pounds slipped on, then another five. I went back on Weight Watchers. It didn’t help. No matter what I did, I kept losing and gaining the same three pounds. I told myself it was muscle weight because my clothes were fitting fine. 

When another five slipped on, I ramped up my exercise routine from three days a week to five. I lost five pounds and took a small breath of relief. 

That was right before Thanksgiving this past year. Over the holidays I cooked and baked and enjoyed our favorite family recipes. I haven’t stepped on the evil scale since, but my clothes aren’t feeling quite as loose as they were.

So here I am, taking a good, hard look again, hoping I can stop the backward motion. Hoping I can once again find that place where nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. Because believe me, these ten-or-so pounds feel just as insurmountable to me right now as the 85 did a few years back.

Wish me luck, would you? I need it! :-)

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good
and evil, and the redeeming power of love.
Visit her at


Jannine Gallant said...

Wishing you all the best in your weight loss efforts. I've certainly noticed it's harder to keep the pounds off the older I get. Ugh!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Jannine!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Oh, Leah! A hale and hearty, been there done that! Many times. You did it once, you can do it again! That what I keep telling myself too! Good luck!

Leah St. James said...

It's hard, isn't it, Margo? Thanks for your pep talk!

Alicia Dean said...

I totally understand the struggles of weight loss. I've tried something new, it's called Plexus, and while I normally don't believe most weight loss products work, this one is very easy and has helped me resist unhealthy foods. The weight is coming off, although I'll admit, sometimes I let myself run out and then you have to exercise good ole fashioned will power. :) I can't trace my eating to any emotion or event, I just don't make good choices. Best of luck to you, Leah. I know you can do it!

Leah St. James said...

Heading over to Google to search for Plexus right away! Thank you, Ally, for the tip, and the encouraging words!