Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Cue the music to The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars).
Helen Heroine had just been hit with huge life changes, after five years of see-saw maintaining. She'd become fast friends with Polly Perfectionist, perhaps teetering in the direction of Opal Obsessive. Under financial pressure, she allowed Carrie Careerwoman to sign her up for a demanding promotion, and now this: alone with Salvador Son, who had never in his life needed to go to day care... until now.
Salvador's day started at 6 a.m. when Helen dropped him off before school, and Helen collected him at 6 p.m. on her way home from work. The time she had lavished on herself while working away from their old town vanished when Harried Husband took off. Harried was supposed to be selling the old house and getting the furniture packed up to move, but Helen felt abandoned. She was fully committed to her son and her career. She turned to her bff Polly for advice.
"Well," Polly said, "You need to be a perfect mom and career woman now, too." Rachel Rebellion stepped in with more advice: "Salvador hates what you eat... and you can't let him starve. Besides, you don't have time to cook. You'll just have to eat what he eats." Reuben Resentment added a jibe or two, "Just look what Harried did to you! If he'd only do exactly what you want, things would be perfect, just like Polly wants."
Over the next months, Helen's energy was seriously compromised, and her health with it. Salvador got sick a lot, too. Helen did not make the connection to the high fat, high sodium diet of fast food. She left Earnie Exercise behind more and more often. She started hanging out with Salvador at the local movie theater, or playing video games.
Harried Husband came back in time for the holidays, but he had failed to do any of the things Helen had asked him to do while away. He didn't sell the old house. He didn't move furniture out so they could live comfortably in their little apartment. Harried and Helen argued entirely too much, with Reuben whispering in both their ears.
Poor Salvador Son! He knew no one in this new town, his parents were fighting, and he was getting sick. Seems the murderer wasn't just after Helen! Harried came and went for weeks or months at a time.
Hannah Hopeless moved in next door, with her roommate Dora Depression. Freddie Foodbinge offered comfort to Helen, and she accepted. It was impossible, she thought, and she decided that Polly Perfectionist was right. It wasn't even worth trying, since she couldn't do it perfectly. Besides, if she had food in her mouth, it stopped her from saying things to Harried that she would regret... or so she thought.
The scale showed alarming gains in that year, as Helen gave up the battle of maintenance. A full fifty pound gain was showing by the time Helen decided to stop trying to control what Harried did, a year later. Helen was truly terrified.
Helen remembered what it felt like to be fit. She wanted it again. She wanted Harried happy, Salvador well, and some space to work on her own health and fitness. With determination and hope, she waved goodbye to Dora and Hannah.
With help from Carrie Careerwoman, she applied for and got a new job. The new job would allow them all to move back to the old town, but Helen would have to travel for a living. Financially it was clearly the right thing to do, since Harried did not work, and they could not afford to pay for both places. But adding this new twist would have its own challenges, as well.
... to be continued ...
Monday, November 15, 2010
When we last left Helen Heroine, she was ten pounds from her "formal" goal, the one chief detective Wendy Weightwatcher said she should meet. Only at this point, Wendy had changed the plan of action, and Helen's bff Polly Perfectionist was throwing a fit.
"What works has to be ONE specific plan. It can't change all the time!" Polly sniffed. Rachel Rebellion took a pot-shot at Polly, "You know, I was getting bored with that same old plan, anyway, but I'm not sure I like the new one, either."
Poor Helen, none of her advisers were being very helpful at this point. She decided that the goal was unachievable as she watched a few pounds slide back on over the holidays. After all, she rationalized, she was entitled to celebrate with her family, wasn't she? They were getting cranky about her rigid food plan anyway. Harried Husband kept saying, "Just this once" wouldn't hurt anything. Reuben Resentment wanted to blame Harried, but underneath, Polly Perfectionist blamed Helen for the holiday mishaps.
Still, Helen went back to Wendy and brought all this up. Wendy was OK with Helen wanting to maintain at this level, but it would make the price go up. Helen fired Wendy's agency, and decided to go it on her own. She would have Earnie Exercise to keep her company. And he did.
The arguments among her friends and advisers continued for quite some time, but Helen hung on by her fingernails. She clung to the rationalization, a year later, that while she'd gained ten pounds back, she was, in fact, in a smaller clothing size. She was "maintaining".
This struggle, rationalization, and slippage went on for about five years. There were times when Polly and Earnie worked together. Other times, Polly berated her, or Earnie would take a hike and not come see her for a while. New friends joined in the battle as Helen looked for another detective agency that might have the final answer to who was taking away her energy and motivation! The weight went up and down, by as much at 25 or 30 pounds, but the justification was present: she hadn't gained it ALL back. She was still determined she'd NEVER go back there!
After a period of prolonged harmony between Polly and Earnie, at the end of five years, Helen was in a dress size she hadn't seen in her adult life.
Helen was proud and confident. It would never happen to her again. But then Harried Husband decided he couldn't take care of Salvador Son any more. He dropped Salvador off in Helen's new work city and disappeared back to the old town. Helen was now a single mom with a career, and poor Salvador, now in 4th grade, was going to have to adapt, as was Helen.
... to be continued ...
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Armed with her new tools (tracking and a list of foods), Helen Heroine went home to put the plan into action. She was not at the moment looking for the suspects, she was just going to stop the plot to kill her in its tracks by protecting herself with these tools. She'd worry about blame in a while.
Her bff Polly Perfectionist stopped by that very first week. "You can do this," Polly assured her. "Not one bite over. Measure everything. You can only succeed by being perfect." Helen listened and followed Polly's advice. The next week at the meeting, the scale rewarded her: 10.5 pounds lost!
Helen was elated, and hooked on Polly's plan. She continued to follow Polly's advice for several months, and by the 4th of July (this all began in February), Helen was looking and feeling pretty great. But then Harried Husband helped with the holiday cookout. Their relatives, Prudence and Patrick Portly were coming, and he wanted to make a good impression. He was not sure which dessert would please them, so he bought four or five different kinds, just to be sure!
At the picnic itself, Prudence asked Helen about her weight loss. Helen proudly extolled the virtues of Weight Watchers. Prudence picked a hole in her pride by commenting that she had once been on that program herself, but as soon as she went off it, it all came back. "But I will say for them, it won't kill you to keep eating that way for the rest of your life." Polly Perfectionist ate it up... "You see," she told Helen, "you have to be perfect for this to work. Look at what happened to Prudence when she wasn't perfect."
In the days that followed the event, Rachel Rebellion brought Freddie Foodbinge and Reuben Resentment over for a visit. "Look at all this leftover dessert," Polly told them. "It is the enemy. It was wrong of Harried to bring it in the house." Reuben suggested, "You've told him you needed his support. Go ahead and eat it. Get fat again. That will show him!" Rachel chimed in, "Besides, you've been good for Polly for so long, you deserve a little treat now and then!" That made sense, so Helen tried a bite... and it was soooo good. Only Freddie then took over... "come on, just a little more..." until they were... all... gone.
The next morning, Earnie Exercise woke Helen and took her out for her training run. Helen was miserable and hung over from all that fat and sugar! Polly chimed in her ear: "You see... you can NEVER do that again!"
And Helen pretty much didn't. All the way 'til October. Polly ruled her life, dictating what and when she must eat and how much and when she should work out. Helen thought Polly was a good friend. How little she suspected.
By October, Helen's success at the scale amounted to 80 pounds lost. She was very happy. But storm clouds were gathering... she had ten pounds to go to her goal, but the stresses at work were increasing and the financial strain of paying for those meetings... and then in December, they CHANGED the PROGRAM, and Polly went completely nuts!
... to be continued ...
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Someone had stolen her youthful energy and her health. That was plain. Helen Heroine's mother in law even made comments on the phone, not even there to see the clear physical evidence: "Are you all right, dear? You sound winded, have you been running?"
What was worse, Helen was beginning to suspect that the thief was doing more than stealing health and energy... he was literally killing her!
Helen was an intelligent woman. She had a full life, plenty of reasons to want to live it! She did not want to lose it. She was independent and determined: she would solve this mystery. She would figure out just who that murderer was, and have him (or her) arrested!
There were plenty of suspects as Helen started her investigation. There was Carrie Careerwoman, who spent hours in a sedentary job... far beyond what was required. There was Polly Perfectionist, who was an expert at tossing in the towel and not trying rather than not "doing it right" when it came to diet and exercise. There was Harried Husband, who seemed to have endless demands for Helen's attention after work, despite leaving a pile of things undone while he stayed home and cared for their son. Which brings up Reuben Resentment, a squatter who shadowed Helen as she went between work and home. And Rachel Rebel, a close neighbor who would charge in and bring treats from the local eatery: Temptations by Tessa. Her suspicion of Seth Sedentary was strong, but she didn't have enough energy to kick the bum out of her life! And let us not forget Freddie Foodbinge, a chum from her youth, who showed up periodically, because he hung out with Rachel most of the time!
But there were also rays of hope, those reasons for living. There was her son, now five years old. Helen's deepest fear was that in the condition she was in, if he were to fall on the playground she would not be able to get to him in time to help. She would be unable to run in her deepest need. She would solve this for her son... she would regain her fitness and her health.
Helen believed in professionals. She was a professional herself, after all. She trusted her own intelligence, but she wasn't sure her knowledge of this area was good enough. So she decided to hire a private agency to help her find the thief and potential killer.
She was completely despondent at the first meeting with Wendy Weightwatcher, the chief detective. Her hair was unwashed, for heaven's sake she'd come away in her husband's coat... the scale, the first tool of the investigation, read a whopping 225.5 pounds. Her face fell. Still, Wendy gave her a plan: a tracker, a way of counting, and a new shot at the scale the next week. This would be the start of the investigation.
... to be continued ...
Friday, November 12, 2010
Helen Heroine was trapped in a fat body. There was no other way to describe it. She felt ugly, and her life was a shambles. She just knew if she could only get to her ideal weight, life would be perfect.
She read ads about diet plans, she tried a few, then she decided to go on an adventure with something she'd heard might work: she would almost fast every other day, and allow herself to eat whatever she wanted on the alternate days.
On those fasting days she ate a little, for good form... a salad for lunch, a can of tomatoes or spinach for supper, but there was very little balance to it. It was no wonder she was ravenous on the "feast days", and then she ate whatever took her fancy. Everything did.
At the end of three months, Helen was pleased with her weight loss... she was a slim 129, perfect for starting college. But she was still ravenous. And her life, unlike what she thought it would be, was far from perfect.
She started going to dark places in the evening, particularly. After supper, she would have a burger and fries in the basement of the dorm where they had a grill for those who had missed supper. She would raid the vending machines at work on her breaks, candy bars and full sugared sodas were favorites. It wasn't long before the comfort of this extra food was not an "every other day" but a daily thing.
And the new clothes stopped fitting. Helen felt like a complete failure. And after all that bragging she did! She was imprisoned by a monster appetite... and her body wasn't about to hide it.
Her friends told her it was "nothing", but the monster kept growing... and growing... and growing. She tried to keep it at bay, from time to time trying exercise programs or more of those "diets", but she never did get it right. Unlike in the movies, she didn't have someone coming to rescue her... she eventually had to rescue herself!
She signed up for a program called Weight Watchers at Work, and as she was preparing to leave for the first meeting, her monster's co-conspirator, her husband - locked her coat in her room, not wanting her to go. She rebelliously took HIS coat and drove off to the ray of hope over the hill.
This turned out to be the first step of the rescue. Helen learned some ways to deal with the monster. She learned about tracking. She learned about balancing nutrition, not just restricting calories. She now had weapons for the fight. It wasn't over, and there are many more skirmishes, many more helpers along the way, many more tools learned. This tale has a team of powerful allies for the fight, including books, group support, co-workers who encouraged exercise, and a 12-step program called Overeaters Anonymous, and a web site called Spark People.
It takes a team to defeat the monster within. It takes a team to tame and nurture the heroine. The tale is not over... because the monster still lives... but Helen has learned to not just do its bidding. She's learned to talk to the monster, ask it questions, find out what its pain truly is... and most of the time, to find other ways to calm and sooth the monster.
Because, in the end, what Helen discovered, is that the monster is a part of herself, and to heal herself, she had to learn to love the monster.
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