The Desire and the Satisfaction

Weight, Health, and the Search for Satisfaction

Extra pounds sneak up on you. A few cookies here, a second helping of gravy there, and the next thing you know the waistband of your favorite pair of pants has grown inexplicably sharp. I found myself in this position a couple of years back, and turned to the system I’ve always used when my clothing betrays me – salad for lunch, more walking, no cookies, no gravy. I’ll never be thin. I wasn’t a thin kid. I wasn’t a thin teenager. I’ve never been a thin adult. But there is a standard me and an unstandard me, and I wanted to get back to the standard me.

Making Friends with My Pants

After six months and a metric ton of Greek horiatiki salad, I’d lost 30 pounds. Yay, me! My pants and I were friends again. I gotten into a respectable walking habit – nothing like my colleague Ted Kyle, of course, who might log many miles in a day, but respectable, definitely respectable. People even began to notice. “Is that a new haircut?” “Have you been on vacation?” And then, finally, “You’ve lost weight!”

The Annual Physical

I felt good, I looked good, my blood pressure was down. The cylinders were clicking. And then it was time for my annual physical. Easy, peasy, right? All I needed to do was wait for my doctor to check this year’s weight against last year’s weight and wait for the accolades. I was actually looking forward to it. I stepped onto the scale at the doctor’s office like Rocky cresting the top of art museum steps. The nurse said nothing, just grunted and wrote, but I chalked that up to the fact that she wasn’t looking at last year’s info. I was escorted to the examining room. My doctor came in, poked and prodded, asked the usual questions, got the usual answers, then asked me to dress and meet her in her office to review results. All standard procedure.

I slipped into her visitor chair in my just-a-tiny-bit-too-loose pants and leaned back, relaxed and confident. She was reviewing my file. I grinned. She grabbed her pen, wrote something on a piece of paper and pushed it toward me.

“That’s your BMI.”

I looked at the paper then at her. Nothing in her gaze suggested congratulations.

In fact, there was no acknowledgement at all that my weight had changed since my last physical.

“You should lose weight,” she said. “Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9.”

Looking for Encouragement in the Wrong Place

I considered telling her what I thought of normal BMI but held my tongue. Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Doctors are busy people. They can’t be expected to do the math on every biophysical change.  And she was right; I still wasn’t “normal.” But it was disheartening to have done so well and only be seen as someone who has more to do. I debated whether to tell her I’d lost 30 pounds (which, by the way, is still off two years later), but it seemed like a plea for attention that was beneath my dignity.

Fortunately for both of us, I have a healthy ego. Her lack of acknowledgement didn’t throw me off track. It did make me realize I was probably looking for encouragement in the wrong place. The satisfaction and confidence I felt when I stepped on that scale was the only reward I needed.

So what’s the lesson here? I think there are three.

1. Know what you want.

This applies to your health, your career, and your personal life. For some people, that’s easy. For others, it might take years of reflection or therapy. In this particular case, I was lucky. I know where my body and I are at peace. Knowing what you want focuses your mind and reduces the effort you spend on things that are unimportant to you.

2. Change for yourself.

If you decide to change something – health, career, personal life – do it for yourself. It’s great to be surrounded by people who offer encouragement and positively acknowledge the change, but your own delight should be the key driver.

3. Use your doctor strategically.

When it comes to weight, I’ve seen doctors who generally fall into one of two categories: those who ignore it and those who point it out. Of the two, ignoring it is probably better, mainly because people already know if they’re overweight. Pointing it out rarely leads to a positive change, even if a doctor does the pointing. The decision to make a major life change is very personal, and it generally involves reaching some unexpected turning point.

For me, the turning point was my waistband, not my doctor showing me my BMI. However, if you’ve already decided you want to lose weight and think help from your doctor would assist you, ask for it. A number of evidence-based treatment options are available. Your doctor may not be aware of all of them, however, so research the options on your own and come to your check-up ready to ask questions. If you don’t get the support you need, ask for a recommendation for a specialist or look for a specialist on your own.

Learning from a Number

Seeing that number on a piece of paper taught me a lesson, but not the one my doctor was hoping to teach. Doctors aren’t perfect, but if you know what you want and you’re ready for change, they can probably help. This one didn’t help me, but that’s all right. I found what I needed.

Today’s guest post comes from our friend Gwyn Cready. She is is a brand and communications expert and an award-winning novelist from Pittsburgh, PA.

For more on this subject from the Obesity Action Coalition, click here.

The Desire and the Satisfaction, pastel by Jan Toorop / flickr

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November 21, 2018

3 Responses to “Weight, Health, and the Search for Satisfaction”

  1. November 21, 2018 at 8:32 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    Dear Gwyn
    I like to recommend my Grandmother’s BMI
    “You have to be thin enough to be healthy and fat enough to be happy”

    Thanks for your very human and useful comments

    Winning one’s own approval is a daunting task (as you well know) and best said in this poem:

    The Man In The Glass
    Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.

    When you get what you want in your struggle for self
    And the world makes you king for a day
    Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
    And see what that man has to say.

    For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
    Whose judgment upon you must pass
    The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
    Is the one staring back from the glass.

    He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
    For he’s with you, clear to the end
    And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
    If the man in the glass is your friend.

    You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
    And get pats on the back as you pass
    But your final reward will be heartache and tears
    If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

  2. November 21, 2018 at 12:31 pm, Valerie Lawrence said:

    Thank you for this, Gwyn. Your experience with your physician parallels one of my own. Several years ago I moved to a new part of the country, and during my first visit to my new internist, she finger-shakingly told me that I needed to lose weight. By that time I had been a Weight Watchers member for about two months, and had lost about 15 pounds of what would eventually become 50 (yay, me, too!)

    She asked me no questions about my weight history and seemingly had no interest in knowing where I’d come from or how far I’d already come. It wasn’t so much about the boost to my ego or her judgement or indifference as it was about the distinct feeling that this was not a physician who would work collaboratively with me. My first criteria for a health care provider is, can this person and I work together on my health issues (which are not all that numerous right now). I won’t work with health care providers with whom I can’t collaborate.

    So I “fired” her that day, and paneled with a different physician, and I’ve never looked back. My health, my path. Thank you again!

  3. November 21, 2018 at 1:37 pm, Michael Goltzman said:

    Congratulations on your journey!