Does writing make you fat?

I have written and read my way through a lot of things.

As the class pariah in grade school I wrote stories about a group of rich girls who took a poor girl under their wing and “re-designed” her; giving her clothing and fixing her hair until she suddenly and miraculously became popular.  I drew pictures to go along with the stories, and strangely enough, the girl in the “before” picture looked an awful lot like me: plain brown straight hair with bangs, slightly pudgy frame which in actuality was just puberty kicking in and the beginnings of a womanly shape. (but to my 12-year-old self was fat)  At the same time I was reading books by Judy Blume (class pariahs and kids who didn’t fit in) and Lois Lenski (poor children).

To escape the teen angst fueled by peer pressure, in high school I read quirky novels like The Pigman and The Outsiders and wrote my own bizarre stories, including one about a teenager who worked in a sandwich museum and later made a display out of his former boss. (yes, I was a fledgling Stephen King with the idea of a human sandwich)

Later, as a young mom I wrote about mothering, saving money and home schooling; all topics I have continued to write about.

Then with David’s cancer in 2006, my weekly writing sessions during his chemotherapy treatments became a lifeline of sorts for me, a way to work through all the pain, anguish, and fear of those weeks.  As he recovered, I wrote about our renewed love. Still amazed at the changes in our relationship, I continue to write about marriage, love, and yes, cancer.

Now, extreme couponing has been the focus of my writing for several months. I am immersing myself in a culture of people like me, those dubbed “coupon enthusiasts,” “cherry-pickers,” and a new term I learned just today in my research; “Shoptimizer.”  I have shared some of my shopping trips on my blog, amazing some readers, boring others.

But always writing.  I’ve been writing since I was that little girl with the Indian Chief tablet. Writing is what I do and it has made me a more contemplative, intuitive human being. (either that, or writers are just naturally like that)  Even when I am not writing, I am writing inside my head. I take a bike ride and observe the wooden sign at the end of someone’s driveway; Brown eggs.  Walnut Meats. And then I wonder about the people inside that house and what their life is like. Do they have children? Does the wife garden and can her produce?  I momentarily yearn for some part of what I imagine her life to be like; someone who sells eggs must live a slower-paced life, with more time for the kind of contemplative silence a person needs for doing something like writing.

And then I want to go home and write.

But all that writing I’ve been doing, all those hours sitting in a computer chair, has contributed to something else.

It has made me fat overweight  chubby  portly

I write that sentence with some trepidation. As if writing it could actually make it true, somehow.  When, actually, writing it down might be the answer for me.

A writer’s life can be very sedentary.  Certainly there are writers that are also runners, writers who work out at the gym, and writers who do hard physical labor during the hours they are not writing.

I am not one of those writers.

I sit in front of this computer screen, or at the table or on the couch with my notepad many hours each week.  My sister, who is ten years older and in great shape (she is my goal weight!) drives to my home four mornings a week and we walk three miles together. Thank goodness for Pat, because on those days she cannot make it I have zero interest in walking alone. Instead, I use that extra hour for writing. I lift weights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  If I remember.  I do twenty repetitions of three different exercises with each arm, no more, no less. During the summer months, I enjoy biking, especially when I can get away from the kids and bike alone.  Other times I bike with them to a park or the library and I always bring a bag with my writing in it so I can write while they play at the park or on the computer at the library.

I eat healthy.  I never eat fast food and I love fresh fruits and vegetables. Snacks are usually almonds or fruit.  But, obviously, something is wrong.  I must be eating too much.

I joined Curves the spring after my husband’s cancer treatment because I looked in the mirror the day he went back to work and burst into tears.  I wondered who that old, tired, out of shape woman was.  With Curves, I lost inches, but not weight.  When we moved into town I joined TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) and started walking, first with one sister and then for the past year with my current walking partner, my sister Pat.  I lost 17 pounds, then gained a good portion of it back that first winter.  Last spring I was gaining instead of losing and my son suggested I try the “mini-meal” plan instead of relying on Weight Watcher’s meals and exercise to lose weight.  It worked.  I made sure I ate small portions more frequently, as often as every two hours.  I baked chicken and cut it in small strips, stocked up on fruit and vegetables, and ate every two hours. I lost 13 pounds in 3 months.  I’ve gained some of that back.  Still, as of last Tuesday (weigh-in at TOPS is Tuesday night) I am 15 pounds less than I was 2 years ago.

I know my worth is not measured by a number on a scale. Like most women, I have been thinner and not been happy with myself. I have laid down on a bed to zip up a pair of size 5 shorts and still thought I was fat.  I have been borderline anorexic in high school and eaten only one bowl of cornflakes each day, and mentally beaten myself up because I believed I had eaten too much.  I have lost 35 pounds in three months through an illness and hated anyone who said I looked great because I felt so awful.

I haven’t had any real food issues for years.  I eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and I exercise regularly.

But I’m still overweight.  The day my husband of 27 years stepped on a scale at a doctor’s appointment and weighed less than I did was a pretty big wake-up call.  Sure, he’d lost his weight through cancer treatment, and yes, he still loved me and thought I was beautiful, but for 27 years he had weighed 30-40 pounds more than me, and then suddenly~poof~I weighed more than he did.  That wake-up call came four years ago, and he still weighs less than me, and I could probably get used to that.  But I don’t want to.

My daughter just started a June challenge on her blog

She is challenging herself to live off of $1200 in the month of June.  I have been following her journey and wondered if I should begin a challenge of my own.  But I didn’t want to do the same thing she was doing.

Then this morning it hit me.  I want to lose weight.  TOPS has not been enough incentive for me.  But writing?  Writing has always helped me get through things like the angst of adolescence, cancer, and well, you know…life.  Why not use my writing to get me to where I want to be, weight-wise?  Two years ago I told my daughter Rachel that I wanted to lose weight so I could write my own “before and after” story.  Why not write it while it happens? Why not write it and make it happen?

Friday is a good day to start because like all good writers, I like using alliteration, and “Fat Friday,” or “Fit Friday” sounds good.  So I am sitting here (yes, sitting here, day after day) vowing to make my writing work for me.

I started writing this posting this morning, but hesitated.  Did I really want to open myself up to the scrutiny of others? I’ve been thinking about it all day and concluded that maybe this is exactly what I need; Writing it down. Making it real.  Then writing my way through it.

I’m late to start this as a June challenge but I’ll do it anyway.  I don’t own a scale so I start with Tuesday’s weight. A weight I am not about to share with you, my dear readers, at least not yet.  I am convinced the only woman who can say her weight out loud (or write it) is a woman at her ideal weight, or at least one who has lost quite a bit of weight to get there. I will, however, report each Friday on the changes on the number on the scale, whether they are up or down. My goal will be attainable: 5 4 3 pounds this month. Three pounds in 3.5 weeks.  And they way I will do it is to get back into my mini-meal mindset, eating small portions of healthy food every two hours during the day.

This is not a diet. Instead, this journey will be one of discovery, a journey on the road to better health and weight loss. What, besides heredity (an aunt so big she had to be buried in a specially made coffin~ need I say more?) is at the root of my weight problem? What can I do to burn more calories? What foods satiate with the least amount of fat and calories? And as I always do in my endeavors, I will also be reading articles and books about weight loss and healthy eating.

Today it was Thin is the New Happy, a memoir by Valerie Frankel.

This book is meant for any woman who has spent most of her life on, or thinking about being on a diet. Frankel’s story to exorcise her bad body-image demons was over-the-top for this countrified Iowa girl with strong moral values. Sorry, Ms. Frankel, but descriptions of your sexual conquests in college did little to endear you to me. And for your information, where I come from (in Iowa) size 14 is not grossly obese, it is average.

A good book to read if you want to blame all your weight problems on Mom.

2 thoughts on “Does writing make you fat?

  1. Joan Kramer says:

    I enjoyed this blog Mary, and I can relate to feeling fat. When I was younger, I lost weight by drastically cutting calories. I did aerobics, rode my bike, loved to dance, did exercises, and was very active.
    These last few years have been hard for me; first dealing with worsening arthritis, then knee surgery, then a foot fracture- all this adding another 10 pounds to my already overweight frame. And because I couldn’t do many of the activities I had in the past, I haven’t been able to burn off many calories. I tried going for long walks, but I was overdoing it and suffered for it!
    Recently, I started walking again (but have started out with short walks and am building up), and I ride my bike occasionally. I also am making a conscious effort to move more. I walk in our neighborhood, go to more stores than I used to, hang my clothes on the line, mow the yard, work in my flower beds (gardening is good exercise), and visit my neighbors. The less time I spend in the house alone, the less I eat.
    I would like to respond to your challenge, Mary, with one of my own. I don’t have a specific weight in mind; my goal is to become healthier and eat more nutritious foods, and to be physically fit. I know I will lose weight if I do these things. I admire your efforts, and I happen to think you look great! I also know I won’t be able to do what I did when I was younger, but I will do what I can.

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