ONE THING I’VE LEARNED FROM COVID-19: I WILL NEVER DIET AGAIN
In this post, I’m going to put a lot out there. Including my weight. Seems crazy to reveal that, but you know what? I. Don’t. Care. Anymore. I feel like I’m in a Phil Collins song.
Today marks 28 days since the first bit of COVID-19 symptoms I’ve had. It’s been a long ordeal. And it’s far from over. I still have lingering symptoms. I am still having some difficulties. I am still weak and tired. I can still barely getting up or down a flight of stairs without my legs feeling like they are buckling underneath me. I know it will still be a little while before I am 100% again, but I’m confident I will get back there and feel completely normal again. It will just take time.
So, through this struggle with the virus, it, of course, has given me a different perspective - of just how damn lucky, fortunate and blessed I am. I have an amazing life. I am married to the love of my life (we will celebrate 30 years of marriage next year in June). We have five sons - all healthy and happy most of the time. I live in a little house that needs repairs and is out of date, but is home.
We have a sweet doggie that is hobbling along at age 14 sometimes not sure where he is or what’s going on, but still eager to cuddle and wait patiently for the last bite of food. We have a second dog that belongs to my second son. I wasn’t real excited about getting her at first, but she has totally grown on me.
My siblings are healthy and we keep in touch, even though none of us live close to one another anymore. My dad is still here with us at age 84 and I love him dearly. We don't see each other very much anymore, but we text frequently - mostly about baseball - and every few days I get a random voice mail message from him singing me a song. One day it's "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and another day it might be "The Streets of Loredo."
Sadly, my mom left us less than two months ago at age 85. She leaves an incredible void in our lives, but after struggling and suffering with a lot of health difficulties and pain in recent years, we know she is now at peace and we have the lasting memories of her wonderful life to comfort us.
I also have a job I love. I am a writer. I work from home. In fact during the pandemic, there was I think only one time I actually had to leave the house for work. It was to take pictures at a drive-thru graduation way back in May. With the exception of a handful of events/meals that I went out for to share on the food blog, I’ve done all my work from the computer desk in the corner of my dining room.
My commute from bed to workspace is like 12 seconds. I’ve got it made. I love the flexibility of doing freelance work, although I have for years missed the office atmosphere - having co-workers to chat with, joke with, have lunch with. But, it’s all good. Sometimes I break up the day to have lunch with a friend (or at least I did before the pandemic). I have a freakin’ good life. No one needs to remind me. I thank my lucky starts every single day.
Now, on to something else. I’m a female and I think ingrained in all of us females is just this idea that we need to be skinny and look healthy and we always feel like we are overweight. I remember as a teenager thinking I was fat - when in reality I weighed less than 100 pounds. It’s terrible that we do that to ourselves. I didn’t have an ounce of fat on me, but somehow never felt good enough.
Once I started dating my husband, though, I really didn’t have those thoughts anymore. He always made it a point of expressing that I was beautiful no matter what. He never made me feel like I was fat or needed to lose weight. Any thought about that from then on came purely from me. In his family, though, his mom always seemed to struggle with weight. She seemed to always be on a diet, always joining a gym. I’d hear my father-in-law make a little comment once in a while about her weight or how much she ate.
Anyway, fast forward and I’m married. When I got married I was young. Just 18. Almost 19. I remember picking out my wedding dress. It was a size 3 and still had to be altered because it was too big. That’s how small I was. I was actually really skinny throughout junior high and high school. I weighed about 103 pounds when I graduated high school.
A few years back I pulled out my wedding dress, which is packed into a box with the bodice visible. It’s obviously tiny. One of the boys was maybe 8-years-old then and looked at it with wide eyes and just could not believe that I once fit into it. He just had this look on his face that seemed to say, "You are so full of shit. You never fit into that tiny piece of fabric!"
After I got married, I did put on a few pounds. It was a big life adjustment. At 18, I shifted from living at home - with my mom preparing meals - to living with my husband in our new home. I was now responsible for cooking and feeding us. I liked cooking and was learning. But, I was just as likely to have a frozen pizza or a fast food hamburger for dinner at that point as I was a home cooked meal. I was a newlywed working three part-time jobs and taking a full load of college classes. I was busy and eating was often done by most convenient method possible.
You know how weird little things in life stick with you and you never forget them? Someone will say something to you and those words are just burned into your mind forever and never ever forgotten.
Here’s one: I worked at the district office for the high school I attended for 12 years after graduation. I was an administrative assistant. It was a comfortable environment. I had worked as an office aide in the district office during the summer after junior year and during my senior year. I would walk the halls and see my old teachers on a daily basis. Everyone was so nice. I really, really loved that job. Anyway, it’s about 2 years after I’ve graduated high school and I’m at work. I’m walking down the hallway and an old counselor passes me by and says to me, “Carrie, you’re getting fat.”
I. Was. Floored. I admit had put on a little weight. I was probably about 120-125 pounds or so at that point on my 5 foot, 3 3/4 inch frame. I didn’t feel fat. Until she said that. I’ve never forgotten it. And hearing that statement from her made me vow that I would NEVER ever say anything like that to anyone ever. Why in the world would someone say that to someone? Think it in your head, but DON’T say it out loud. Her one simple sentence set off YEARS of insecurity. From then on, I was fat. I felt fat. I felt like I needed to get un-fat. And ever since then I’ve wished I weighed less. I’ve made half-hearted attempts to get rid of that extra weight since then. I've wasted way too much time worrying about my weight and feeling like I'm fat based on one casual comment that someone said to me while passing me in a hallway.
Not too many months after that happened I was pregnant with my first child. I think I weighed 132 at the start of that preganancy. I gained 40 pounds during my first pregnancy. I ate what I wanted - I figured it was my chance to eat for two. I took full advantage. My doctor monitored my weight throughout the pregnancy. At that time about 30-40 pounds was typical weight gain and the amount that the doctor recommended I gain. I figured if I didn’t pass 40, I would be ok and hopefully could lose it after baby was born. My top weight just before giving birth was 172.
I lost a little weight after baby, but obviously not all. Next pregnancy, I gained about 35 pounds. Third time around, I had tested borderline for gestational diabetes. I was advised not to gain more than 25. I gained exactly 25.
With my third pregnancy I actually left the hospital with all those 25 pounds gone. I got on the scale before heading home and shrieked with joy when the scale showed my pre-pregnancy weight - probably around 138 or so. I honestly never felt more attractive and sexy than I did in those days right after my third one was born. The weight was all gone within days. My stomach looked flatter than I thought it ever had. My boobs were humungous as a result of breastfeeding. I felt good. I thought I looked good. I wish I could harness those feelings and that size from that particular time. That was my ideal weight and size. I was 29. I weighed probably 145 pounds (and probably 20 of it was in my boobs).
I had two more babies after that, gaining between 20-25 pounds with each as I again was borderline for gestational diabetes and advised not to surpass a 25 pound weight gain.
Ok, finally, I’m done having babies. I’m around 140-145 on the scale. It’s 2005. Over the next 10 years a pound goes on here and there.
When my youngest was a toddler, I went through a little phase where I was determined I was going to lose weight. I had never seriously dieted or had a workout routine in my life. I had joined gyms, but never really exercised regularly. I’d go here and there, but never establish any kind of regular routine. I joined a fitness center that had a day care center, so there was really no excuse for me not to get it done. Price was reasonable and I could bring my youngest to play there while I worked out while his brothers were at school.
I loved that phase in my life. And I hated that phase in my life. It lasted a little over 6 months. I was working out a lot. I was going to lose weight. That was the goal. I got a little obsessed even with keeping it up and working at losing weight. I was probably about 150 pounds at that time.
I started spending about 3 or 4 days a week at the fitness center. I did the treadmill, elipitcal, weight machines. I would swim laps. Sometimes I would take a group class - although I have always been incredibly self-conscious about those because I feel like I’m incredibly uncoordinated and look like a baffoon. In reality, who cares? But I still hesitate to do group classes. On the days I wasn’t at the fitness center, I took walks around the neighborhood. If there was a day I wasn’t doing either, I would spend five minutes running up and down the flight of stairs at home. I made sure there was a bit of exercise in every day. I didn’t technically "diet", but paid more attention to what I was eating and aimed to eat less food - and more salad and less junk.
Guess what? It was a ton of work. How much did I lose? NOTHING.
In fact, I gained a couple pounds. I was encouraged to keep going, being told I was gaining muscle while I was losing fat and that I shouldn’t worry about the number on the scale. Still, it was frustrating. I was really, really making a serious effort. It wasn’t paying off. I couldn’t lose one single pound. The only time in my life I had lost any weight was following childbirth. It was beyond frustrating.
That experience soured me. I have since had gym memberships and really do still enjoy workouts. But, now I do it to feel healthier. I don’t do it with the intention of trying to lose weight because I learned from experience that it won’t work.
Ok, so let’s move on. As I get close to age 40 I put on another pound here and there. I’m probably 165ish now. I tell myself things like, “Well, my top weight ever is 172 - at the height of my first pregnancy. As long as I never get past that, I’m ok.” or “As long as my stomach doesn’t poke out farther than my boobs, I’ll be fine.”
From my mom I inherited a little tummy pouch. Even in my skinny years, that seemed where the excess went. I hate having that little bit poking out around my waist and if I could change one thing about my body it would probably be to flatten my tummy a bit. And from my dad's side, I got a little extra padding on the back side. The wide hips and puffy booty have been passed down on the paternal side, too.
So, I was gradually getting up there in pounds, creeping up little by little over the years. I did feel overweight. But I didn’t feel like I looked bad, really. I could still manipulate outfits to hide it a little.
In 2011, my sister, Becky, and I started a food blog. And we started attending lots of foodie events - new restaurant opening, new menu launches, festivals, etc. And I’d have an opportunity to eat lots of good food. When this first began, I didn’t know how to behave. All this beautiful, free food would be put in front of me. And I would eat it. It didn’t take too long to realize that I couldn’t eat it all. It wasn’t good for me. And it wasn’t necessary. I could take a bite and that’s all I needed. If I really loved it, I could take a couple bites. Or I could take a bite and take the rest home.
I quickly found a balance so I wasn’t overdoing it, but all the extra food and all the events - I guess a few more pounds went on gradually over the years of food blogging. I finally hit the 172 that I said I never wanted to get over. 172 was my top pregnancy weight. I had never weighed more than 172 before - and when I did I was 41 1/2 weeks pregnant with a 7 pound, 3 ounce child in me. That was the mark that I said if I ever hit that I HAD to do something.
Then I even passed it. I half-heartedly adjusted diet and tried to eat less. I didn’t start going to the gym again, but I started walking like crazy. Lots of days I would go out for a 3-mile walk. Walking was something I enjoyed. It made me feel healthier. It sure didn’t do anything to help me lose any weight, though.
At one point over the last couple years, I hit 179.8 pounds. That has been the very top. It did feel like too much. I was feeling fat. I kept walking to feel healthier and figured it couldn’t hurt even if it didn’t result in losing weight. But then, I figured if walking didn’t help, I had to make changes with the food.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve had four different doctors and weight has been addressed with them. The first of those doctors was a middle-aged, no-nonsense African-American woman. I remember her saying in a sassy voice, “Girl, you’ve got to lose some weight.” I knew it was true. But she offered no direction or suggestion. She told me to do it. I tried. That’s when I went off on my six-month worth out spurt. I didn’t lose anything.
The next doctor just makes me angry when I think about her. Terrible bedside manner. Never smiled. I don’t know that we ever even addressed weight during my visits. She was just not nice. She was always cranky and to the point. One time I walked past her at the fitness center when I was there exercising and I smiled and simply said, “hi.” At the next visit she chastised me for talking to her. “When I go there I don’t want to talk to my patients,” she said. “Please don’t talk to me if you see me there.” I was floored. What a bitch.
I had one more appointment with her after that. The scheduling staff had mixed something up and I told me to come in early one day before her first appointment. Somehow her staff didn’t communicate that I was coming in. When she walked in the room, she didn’t greet me or anything. She said, “You can’t just show up here without an appointment.” I told her that the nurse advised me to come in. She seemed to realize she was wrong, but offered no apology. I just couldn’t go back and see her again. She stressed me out too much and still thinking about her to this day I get mad. I avoided going to the doctor for things that I needed to because of her behavior. Anyone can have a bad day. But every day I saw her was a bad day.
Anyway, I decided to switch doctors and got a super sweet young lady who I loved, but who unfortunately moved on from the practice not too long after. I explained to her my frustration - that I had tried to lose weight before, but had never in my life lost a pound except for after childbirth. She was sweet and encouraging. She told me to get a book called “The Obesity Code” about intermittent fasting. I was surprised she was recommending it. I bought the book. I read a little bit of it, but didn't finish it. I got the idea of intermittent fasting, though. I tried it and would get going pretty good, but had a hard time keeping it going 7 days a week. I’d do it maybe 5 days a week. It didn’t work. I've never been much of a breakfast eater, but some days if I tried to wait until 2 or 3 p.m. for my first bite of food, I'd find I was getting shaky and couldn't concentrate. It was making it hard to work because I was focusing so hard on when I was and wasn't eating. It's not something that could work for me permanently.
I also asked that doctor if there could be a medical reason I couldn’t get weight off. I had heard of people with thyroid issues not being able to lose weight. She ordered some tests. All the thyroid stuff seemed normal. It didn’t seem like there was anything like that causing me being unable to lose anything.
After she left the practice I had to find another doctor. On a visit with the new doctor, I expressed frustration again about weight loss. She suggested counting calories and keeping it below 1700 calories a day. I started doing that. But not every day.
This past spring my husband went on a keto diet. I prepared all his meals with very strict guidelines and he lost about 30 pounds in a month or so. I was weighing every ounce of his food and carefully measuring - a specific serving amount of proteins with healthy carbs. It was a ton of work. The food looked good. I ate a lot of the same stuff he did. But I am someone who could not completely give up carbs. Really. I would be a miserable person to be around if I could never eat a slice of bread or a potato ever again. Keto is not for me. I even consulted my doctor about it. She advised against it and said to just watch calorie count.
So, that takes me to this year. As hubby was doing keto diet, I tried to go along, but I would still eat some carbs. I like them. I don’t want to give them up. That’s all there is to it. I’ve spent a lot of time during this pandemic year, though, trying to intermittent fast or counting calories or eating low-carb stuff. Last month I weighted in at 179. I don’t like that number. I feel overweight. I feel that bit of muffin top spilling over my pants. I wish I was maybe 150 or 160. I think that would be a good weight for me. My clothes would fit better. I’d look better. I’d feel better.
I’m on day 28 of COVD-19 right now. About 4 days in I had no appetite. I was nauseous non-stop for over a week. It felt like morning sickness 24/7. The thought of food was disgusting. I couldn’t look at it. I vomited a couple times when I did eat. I was literally eating just 2 or 3 bites of food a day. I got on the scale a couple times during that period and I was losing weight. For the first time ever in my life - other than having babies - I had lost weight. This is what it took for it to happen! I had to get very, very sick. That’s not how I want to lose weight. By the time I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia, I weighed in at 168.
Since I’ve been home I have gotten my appetite back, which is good. Nourishing my body with food is needed for me to be healthy. I still can’t smell. I can barely taste. But I do have an appetite. Sometimes too much of an appetite. Some days I feel like I eat all day long. In reality, I am eating a lot of small meals. I do eat small portions. So, it feels like I’m eating 5 meals a day, but they are very small ones. I have gained back few of those pounds. Last time I weighted myself last week I was at 173. So, that’s where I am at now. I never thought I would put that information out there and tell someone my weight. But, after going through all this COVID-19 stuff, I think I mentioned that I just don’t care anymore. :)
It’s not that I don’t care about my weight or size. I have just decided I am going to stop worrying about it. I will never be a size 3 again. I don’t care. I will just have to be a size 14 and deal with it. if at some point I miraculously eek down to a size 12 or maybe even 10, I wouldn't complain. I'd celebrate with a new wardrobe. But losing weight and inches and going down sizes is not a priority in my life anymore. I refuse to spend precious time fretting over it.
And I’d rather enjoy the food I eat than worry about it. I've decided that I will never diet again. I will not deprive myself to try and lose weight. The only way I have been able to lose weight in my life was to get COVID-19 and I sure as heck never want to have this again.
So, I’ve declared that i will NEVER. DIET. AGAIN.
I will be happy with myself. I will be content with my size. I will not be overly concerned with the number on the scale.
Especially since I am a food blogger, food is an important part of my life. I don’t want to have a relationship with food where I feel like it’s bad and I have to avoid it. I want to enjoy it. I won’t over do it. But I will enjoy it. I won't let guilt steal the joy of a lovingly prepared piece of food anymore.
I won’t avoid carbs, but I’ll be reasonable. I really always have been. My eating habits aren’t bad. I admit that I really should incorporate more fresh vegetables into it. But all in all, I don’t eat a bad diet. I eat balanced. I eat small portions.
I will go forward vowing to never “diet” again. I will eat. I will eat in a reasonable way. I will enjoy food as it should be enjoyed. I will have a piece of birthday cake if I want one. I will have a cocktail with a friend. I will not pass on having a wonderful meal at a food event. If I feel like having breakfast I will - and I will eat bacon and love every bite. I will indulge once in a while. I will eat to nourish my body and to even reward myself once in a while and that’s just the way it is going to be from now on. Food isn’t my enemy.
I look forward to being able to walk again. I have missed it. I won’t do it with the aim of losing weight, but just to help me relax, boost my mood, get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors. In late August I developed a foot infection that lasted about 3 months and sidelined my walking. Then came COVID. Right now I can barely walk across a room. I look forward to outdoor walks again soon. And I won’t be a wimp and stay inside all winter. I’ve learned during the pandemic that brisk walks on a chilly day can be the best ones.
One thing I've been doing to pass time during the pandemic is watch videos on Tik Tok. I found I had been following all these pages of people making keto meals. I did that when I was making keto meals for hubby. But, I am not particularly interested in it, so I stopped following all those people. I did start following some dietitians who promote "intuitive eating." I've kept them in my feed. Their posts are encouraging and informative.
So, if you’ve read this far, thanks. I know it's a few minutes of your life you'll never get back. Here’s where I am at now. About 174 pounds. Size 14. I’m 48. That’s who I am. That’s what I weigh. That’s what size I am. And for the first time, I feel just fine with it.