Diets don’t work for me, I think to myself as I walk through the living room wearing only my underpants and cat socks. It is my final thought in the tailspin of shoulds and should nots and affirmations and declarations that I dropped into after I saw my reflection in the bedroom window. I saw fat around my middle – a lot of it. I pulled and pushed it up out of the way, trying to make it disappear. Then I went to check the bathroom mirror to be sure that what I saw was not an optical illusion.
I am one of those overweight women who live in denial. I know that making certain choices will inevitably result in weight gain for me, but when it happens I do everything to avoid confronting the reality. I wear baggy clothing so the fat won’t be so obvious. I avoid looking in the mirror and don’t take photos of myself. It’s there though, that fat. It’s always there, even when I lose it.
After I declare that diets don’t work, I laugh because I am reminded of my former gay, Indian, alcoholic roommate who said treatment – for alcoholism – didn’t work for him. He was a marvelous cook who had a propensity for redecorating my apartment without asking my permission. I would often come home to find a curry dish on the stove and the living room furniture rearranged, which caused equal parts joy and frustration.
He came to live with me when he was kicked out of the halfway house. It did not occur to me at the time that this was a red flag which meant both that he was having trouble staying sober and that he had burned down all of the available bridges in his life. I was the only person who would take him in. I said he could stay, but he would be out if he drank – no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He agreed and began to bring in his unique furniture pieces and boxes of fancy yarns which he knit into “collections” of scarves.
My roommate and I would spend Sunday mornings binge-watching shows on the Food Network and deciding which dish he would make for us that day. One day we were talking while watching Tyler Florence whip up a fancy chicken noodle soup, and I asked my roommate if he had ever been to treatment.
“Several times,” he said in his charming British accent. “It doesn’t work for me.”
I had been sober long enough to know he was full of shit. People who said the program, or treatment, didn’t work were those who were unwilling to listen to anyone else because they thought their way was better. In that moment I knew it would only be a matter of time before he went back to the bottle. And it was. One night I came home to find him passed out on his bed, still wearing his coat and shoes, feet hanging over the side of the bed. Within weeks, I sent him to the hospital to dry out.
It occurs to me, while standing half-dressed in my living room contemplating diets and my former roommate, that the difference between getting sober and losing weight is to whom you listen. To get and stay sober, in my experience, you have to listen to someone else, or several someones, who have been where you are and can help you find the road to happy destiny. The simple program has worked for millions of people, and everyone I know who has tried their own way has failed.
But to safely and healthily lose weight, I need to listen to myself. Or more accurately, to my body. I’ve tried so many programs and potions and powders. I don’t want to do them anymore. I refuse. I know what to eat and what not to eat. I know how to move my body, and I enjoy doing it. I just need to listen and love myself and eat foods that nourish and sustain me and remember that I have everything I need to live my best life, every day, one day at a time.