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Staying Awake

Sunday, May 26, 2019

I got good grades in school, but I sure am a slow learner when it comes to real life, particularly eating. I don't know why at age 62 I haven't been able to get my act together and become a "normal" eater, but I'm not sure if it does any good to probe deeply for reasons, so I won't do that today. Asking at this point would be like a situation where I've been stabbed, and I'm looking down helplessly at the knife lodged in my body, and I start questioning my attacker, "Why did you do this? Have I offended you in some way?" There's no time for that. I have to get the knife out before I can ask questions. I'm impatient and in a hurry because I might have only another twenty years or so on this Earth (which will go by in an instant at the rate time goes by at my age). I do not want to lose the chance to find out what it's like not to be ruled by compulsive overeating and the self-consciousness that results from the excess weight caused by this baffling behavior.

Can you think of any words in the English language more devastating than "It's too late"? I need to prove to myself that it's not too late. Of course, my motivation to alter my eating habits has changed drastically from when I went on my first starvation diet at age 11 (more than fifty years ago!), when all I wanted was to be skinny after being called fat by my father, brother, and classmates for most of my childhood. And my motivation is different now, too, from when I was anorexic my freshman year in college, when I fell in love and thought that being thinner would make him love me even more. And different from all the other times after that, when it was all just a vicious cycle of ups and downs and periods of confidence followed by periods of insecurity and fear--all food- and weight-related. Looking back, it all seems like a giant waste of time.

But I guess I needed to procrastinate for some reason, and I forgive myself. I still have twenty years left, and I will learn how to put food and weight in their proper places, so that I can shift my mental focus toward more important things. Eating and weight should be the background--and I can make it a very pleasant background if we somehow avoid war and famine--for life's more important work.

So last Friday I started teaching a new English class consisting of successful young men. (I teach English at Japanese companies like Kawasaki and Mitsubishi, etc.). I was wrestling with self-consciousness before the class, because I had become rather out of control these past few months, clearly depressed, always wanting to sleep and then eat, or eat and then sleep. I had really let myself go. So my weight was up to 174, which is not so terribly unusual or shocking in the US, but VERY overweight in Japan (I'm 5'2"), where obesity is rare. I recently bought some attractive bigger clothes to accommodate the weight gain, something I had always resisted in the past, thinking I would soon lose the weight, unwilling to face present reality. But this time, I knew I could not stand in front of the students with my buttons about to pop. I would have had to safety-pin my blouses shut!. So that's why I got some clothes that fit and said to myself, "This is the best I can look right now as I am. And how I look is not the most important thing in the classroom, or in the world."

And when I saw the six young guys come in the classroom door, all my self-consciousness dissolved. They were excited to be there. I love teaching--it's part of my mission--and the thought of popping buttons was far from my mind. There was no hint that anyone was thinking, "Oh my God, she's way too fat." They were thinking they wanted to learn English.

On a practical note, however, though I felt comfortable and fit standing in the classroom for two hours (adrenaline is an effective painkiller), on the train ride home, my legs were killing me, in fact trembling--which is another important reason, besides the spiritual benefits of living life fully and being no longer a prisoner to addictions or compulsions, that I need to get a hold on my eating problem. Bodies don't last forever, and pain is like a warning light on a dashboard. You can drive along for a little while with an alarm light showing, thinking that it doesn't mean much and that you'll reach the gas station in time to get it fixed, but then all of a sudden your car breaks down in traffic (as happened once to me), and you find that you should have heeded warning signs. So I really need to tune up this vehicle. I won't be doing any more fancy maneuvers or driving very fast, but I'm not at all ready to be hauled off to the junk yard. As Robert Frost put it so beautifully, I have "miles to go before I sleep."
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Real life! We are having to live through it!
    149 days ago
    What a lovely blog, Carolyn.
    I'm so glad you bought nice clothes. I loved reading your description of the class. I can imagine that teaching must bring you so much joy.
    I hope you can make 'taking care of your health and eating pattern' fun, too. Compliment yourself for every healthy move you make. Pat yourself on the back for the efforts you make. Don't dwell on mistakes and unwise choices but focus on making life, and food, as nice as you can. (I need to remind myself of this, too!) emoticon
    561 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/12/2019 11:01:01 AM
  • MARTHA324
    ANNIESADVENTURE shared your blog with me and I can relate to almost every word! I was up and down with me weight for almost my whole life. In H.S at 5'9" I gained weight and got to about 145 and my Mom took me to the doctor to get on a diet. My Dad notice if I'd gained a pound or two...he could see it in my face.

    Needless to say those remarks never helped much. I'm here to tell you that it is never too late. One morning at age 61 + I heard a program on the radio about how drinking every night actually wasn't good for you. Well the night before I overdid it with both food and wine. And at 5'8" and at least 226 (last known weight) I said "enough!!!" I wanted to just get healthier. Knew if I started eating healthy most of the time, tracked my food AND paid attention to staying at or under a reasonable calorie goal (2,000 in my case), stopped drinking during the week, and made opportunities to move more, I'd feel better. Well I did. Over the next few months I could see I was losing weight and feeling better.

    Long story short (and check out my spark page) I ended up losing about 90 lbs and have been at or under my goal for over 6 (yes SIX) years! I didn't diet. Knew diets wouldn't work long term.

    And I didn't chastise myself for taking until 61 to "get it." the important thing is that I did get it. Now I am healthy and probably more fit that at any time in my life. Love exercise and love the healthy food. Sure there are times I go overboard and that's just fine. It's about balance.

    580 days ago
    Well said, my friend. What a beautiful experience with the class. The new clothes will help you feel better about yourself.
    Excellent comparison of our physical pain to the car's warning light on the dash. We ignore it too often.
    So true that "Eating and weight should be the background--and I can make it a very pleasant background if we somehow avoid war and famine--for life's more important work." What are our priorities? There is so much more to life than our weight.

    581 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/22/2019 7:44:36 PM
    Thank you for sharing a beautifully written blog!! I too am 5'2", 60 years old, and continue to hover between 175-180. I love your analogy of thinking of how many years I have left, not how many years have gone by. I've been trying to build better habits - have the 8 glasses of water down - working on fruits and vegetables now.

    Please be kind to yourself. I'm glad you were able to get some new clothes - it makes such a difference with self-esteem. emoticon
    598 days ago
    I went down pass my intended goal weight and kept it off for quite a while. Now I'm trying different recipes and though I'm keeping in the calorie mark I'm gaining weight that I can't seem to lose. So, what I am realizing is that it's not how much you eat it's what you are eating. When I finish this weeks meals I will have to look back and starting cooking what I did a few months ago. That is my lesson for the day. I hope you find yours.
    600 days ago
    I'm so glad to hear you bought cute clothes that fit, Carolyn!
    Thank you for this beautiful and insightful blog.
    I had several months in my life when all I wanted was to eat and sleep, and when I did that was a vicious circle, being drowsier and tired every day, cravings for food conquering a larger and larger part of my consciousness.. and of course, eating and sleeping more and more.
    The good news is, the circle works the other way around, and we can turn it into a "beneficial circle" of eating better and being more active, both mentally and physically... and it feels easier and easier as the weeks and months pass by. Every moment we can choose which way to go. Relief is just a 15 minute walk away, or a healthful meal away.

    601 days ago
    Carolyn! You wrote a blog while I was away in Texas, and I've been at a conference all this week! Well, I love this blog, even though I'm so late to reading it. But I'm glad I'm not "too late"! When I read that, I was shocked at the accuracy of this statement...yikes.
    604 days ago
    Your warning light on the dash is powerful. Your insight and your ability to self assess are quite remarkable. However your ability to see your worth just SUCKS... like seriously. If the Japanese are that self critical and judgemental...well it’s on them. Others perceived assessment should never define us. Honestly, we tend to largely over estimate the amount of thought or interest others give us...like in a crowd, a gym, you name it.

    Now teacher legs are real, whatever ya weigh. The start of every new year and after long breaks...holy. The struggle is real. You are enough. You’re beautiful through and through. See your worth, live it. One choice at a time, I know you can do this. Link your arm through mine...no time like now sweet chica.
    Plenty of love, hugs and Pom waving for you!!!
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    605 days ago

    You are so vivid in your description of the struggle of weight gain. I honestly have my own theory on using food to comfort and console ourselves. I think highly, highly sensitive people that are overly caring and compassionate toward others use food to insolate themselves sometimes.

    All of my skinny wealthy girlfriends don't care a whit about anyone else than themselves. They would NEVER give up their exercise time, or their spa time to think about other's sadness or other's situations.

    From what I've seen most of the truly compassionate people have a really HARD time putting themselves first and we all know that being healthy takes a HECK of a lot of time to do it right.

    You must put aside exercise time, you have to shop and cook healthy meals, you really HAVE to put yourself as number one in a world FULL of other's pulling on your shirt sleeves for your attention.

    It's hard...but think of yourself as your OWN best friend and you'd never let your best friend stray into enemy territory. Enemy territory is not prioritizing what YOU need for the best YOU possible right?

    Y-YOU....are MOST important!
    O-OTHERS will want to detract...and detain....don't let it happen!
    U-UNTIL we learn these tenents to health..and determine we are just as worthy as ANYONE on the face of this earth...we will never achieve our fondest dreams of health and happiness.

    Cheering you on beautiful...you can do this...do it for Carolyn...my wonderful and beautiful WORTHY friend! emoticon
    606 days ago
  • HEYRED221
    I'm glad you bought some new clothes, you deserve that no matter what. I feel the same way you do about time going by to fast, but that it's NOT too late, we can do this. Sending you good vibes - you got this!

    Love and hugs,

    606 days ago
    You are such a talented writer! I am so sorry to read about the messages you got when you were younger. Mine were more subtle, but it was ingrained in us we had to be thin (and have good grades, etc)and weight gains were certainly brought to my attention.

    I'm sure you already know that just because everyone in Japan seems to be thinner doesn't mean they are healthier. A friend of mine (mom of one of my kids' friends) was born in Japan then raised here and she said it is ingrained in the Japanese culture (and many other cultures) that you must be thin. She was shamed mercilessly by immediate and extended family and even her Japanese pediatrician for having baby fat as a kid. She is positive her parents knew she developed bulimia and yet they simply praised her for being thin. She struggled for many years with bulimia and some anorexic behaviors causing damage to her body while anyone who saw her just assumed she was healthy and asked her how she stayed so trim. Her brother confessed to her in adulthood that he also dabbled in bulimia and her sister had to get treatment for anorexia which brought the family enormous shame.

    I think for me I was born to have issues with impulse control and food which is why I have to find ways to feed the impulsive beast in me in a healthy way. I will never be a "normal" eater, but I consider myself a healthier eater than I was. I make huge pots of veggie soup and love that I can only binge so much before I am utterly full and yet there is no guilt. It's why I like air popped popcorn too or roasting a bag of vegetables with garlic salt and pepper. I am not good with moderation.

    Wishing you much success in this healthy journey!

    607 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/27/2019 12:07:11 PM
    You are such a bright spark here on Spark People Carolyn... just LOVE you! You are so right, time is short and we need to do everything in our power to stay healthy and enjoy this one life we have. I have a close friend of over 45 years that just found out that she has terminal cancer. She went in for a checkup earlier this month because she thought she had a bleeding ulcer. Unfortunately it was much much worse than that. She ended up with a feeding tube, blood transfusions and radiation treatments to stop the bleeding. She is now at home on hospice care as there is no treatment available as the cancer is spreading like wildfire. It is just heartbreaking.

    Keep up the good work... love hearing about your students.... just outstanding!

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    608 days ago
    Remember we are all starting from where we are, not where we want to be. And, dress for success - something I have trouble with (“I don’t need looser clothes, I’ll just stop messing around & get serious. Maybe tomorrow ...”)

    I am in awe that you left your birth country, obviously learned Japanese fluently Enos o teach the native Japanese English, married a local & have raised children. I like traveling, but always want to be home again. The older I get, the less I want to leave home.
    608 days ago
    Be kind to yourself
    Treat yourself like you would your child, if your child were in your situation
    One day at a time
    608 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    I read from your blog that you’re coming out of some dark months and you’re set on an upward path. I’m so happy to read it. I found being overweight in Japan to be probably more difficult than it would have been at home too (taller but up to 190 lbs). The class sounds perfect and loving your work will lift you up, I’m sure. I bet you looked great in the new clothes and I’m quite sure the students loved you.
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    608 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/26/2019 7:53:07 PM
  • _BABE_
    I have said the same things you have and that is probably why we are friends. I understand you. That being said I think tomorrow is always day 1 of the rest of your life and a chance to do better. Undue pressure to make things right in the time you have left is just that... pressure.....no good comes of that nonsense. Be good to yourself and take care of my friend.

    ps glad you treated yourself to new clothes...I am getting off the rollercoaster of I will look when.....nope the time is now emoticon
    608 days ago
    You have asked a question -- the "Why" question -- that I am sure many of us ask, and sometimes we just won't know. Have to work on it and just forge ahead.

    Glad you had such a good experience w/your class!
    608 days ago
  • SEAGLASS1215
    I am also 5'2" and I'm not kidding when I say I wish I was only 174 lbs...that used to be high for me many years ago but thanks to poor choices, medications, and letting myself go, I am now in the 240 range which is awful. After this past weekend and my son's wedding where we seemed to eat for 3 days straight, I am bloated and look like I'm ready to pop at the seams. But: IT IS NOT TOO LATE!! We can do this! The hard part is being patient while waiting to see the results of our efforts. I tend to give up trying when I don't see immediate results at the scale or in how my clothes fit.

    608 days ago
    I have "let myself go" during all this caretaking activity I've been dealing with. It seems as my DH loses copious amounts of weight (20 lbs in 17 days) I am hastily picking it up. I suppose it's all the little things that are finding their way into my mouth because I have been so stressed out of late. I even bought myself a package of cookies - and I don't even like cookies! I just needed to know that there was something sweet in case that mood struck - but I'm happy to say that in a week's time only 2 cookies have found their way home! As I said, I don't even like cookies! I do, however, like the idea of cookies.

    DH is clearly not getting any better and I am clearly losing my mind - so I am with you. It's time for a tune up on this old vessel of it won't serve me much longer. I've put away the salty snacks (those I do find hard to resist) and pulled out one of my healthy casseroles so I have something nutritious for my dinner (since DH is eating Chex cereal, creamed milk, and Ensure) and I will face this coming week armed with a plan.

    I've decided that Daisy and I need to get out for our walks by 6:30 a.m. to make sure we get them in. She needs this as much as I do and lately our walks have been rushed because DH is afraid to be home alone. But then I'll have to start weaning him off of his dependence on me also!

    Life moves along and it's so important that we take care of ourselves! Who else will?
    608 days ago
    Are you in Japan, or do you teach those who come to the U.S. to work in their sites here? Sounds like interesting work.
    608 days ago
    You have no idea how your words, "Can you think of any words in the English language more devastating than "It's too late"?" impacted me. As EISSA7 said " a healthy body is what ALL of us on Spark are seeking!" and I would add a Healthy Mind to that sentence for to lead a satisfied life a healthy mind is definitely a prerequisite and a healthy mind will lead us to losing weight and having a healthy body. AND around and around it goes!!!!! Bottom line, we can do this.

    608 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/11/2019 1:21:01 AM
    emoticon emoticon emoticon I love, love, LOVE and can identify with so many of your comments, Carolyn! Beyond that, I truly enjoy each little vignette you share from your daily living. Before I retired I taught twelve years of Beginning College Composition, and the enthusiasm of the adult students always energized me too. On the time-for-a-change topic, your acknowledging publicly that you're determined is a huge success! I need that commitment, and wish you staying power straight to your goal! Always! Lynn
    608 days ago
    608 days ago
    I love that Robert Frost poem too . . . and I hear your urgency about addressing the weight.

    But: isn't it fun to teach? I miss teaching!!
    608 days ago
    First of all...I was so happy to get the email that you had written a blog!
    Secondly...plan on at least another 30 years, maybe 40, at our age.
    Thirdly...new clothes was a great idea, for your self-confidence and overall mood.
    Fourthly...if Oprah can’t figure it out consistently, with all her wealth and outside help, why do we think we should be able to???
    Live each day fully, which does not mean pig-out, imho.
    It means to stay present and live in gratitude for what you do have.
    And, I wanted to ask you how the Japanese stay so slim.
    Glad you have come through the black period.
    608 days ago
    I understand, I think.

    At this point in my life, I feel self-conscious about my weight too. It seems I start out with good intentions and then abandon them. I admit it. There are days when I eat too much and also days when I drink vodka. Booze is not an addiction, and I know that I could easily give it up completely, but yet I don't. I didn't drink alcohol for years. Never thought about it. So here I am, also age 62. Not sure where the years went.

    I'm glad that you bought some new clothes. Gosh, I remember the days when I felt good about the way I looked in my clothes. Not anymore. These days I rarely go out and / or socialise with people, so my clothes are pretty much work and workout clothes for around the house. I expect that we will be cutting grass and planting flowers if the weather holds today, so I'll be in old jeans from the thrift shop, old T-shirt and jean shirt over top.

    Take care of yourself. More emoticon
    608 days ago
    We continue to learn and perhaps someday we will be 'normal' eaters. emoticon
    608 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/26/2019 11:45:05 AM
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon emoticon emoticon

    Hanes sheer support panty hose saved me much grief when I used to stand and walk a lot on hard floors at work.
    608 days ago
    Lovely blog.
    608 days ago
    Yay, a Carolyn blog! And a beautifully written one. I love the car analogy at the end. I think of my body like an old car too, at that stage where little things are starting to go wrong, pieces are rusting, more repairs are needed, but the engine is still running good.

    I didn't realize you were the same size as me. I'm 5'2 and my highest weight was in the 170's. It's definitely overweight and I know it's technically obese, but it's not that huge. 10 pounds gets you out of obese, and honestly I'm pretty comfortable in the 150's even though I'm going for more.
    608 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/26/2019 8:57:35 AM
    emoticon on your new work clothes! emoticon

    Clothes that fit really do help with your confidence level. And that's got to improve your teaching!

    You might try taking some Tylenol throughout the day, so that you're in less pain later on. Just take it on a schedule, every four hours. It's supposed to be safer than ibuprofen. But some people prefer ibuprofen. I know I do, but I recommend Tylenol, since it's doesn't cause any bleeding problems.

    emoticon for the emoticon blog! emoticon emoticon
    608 days ago
    Hang in there! Please don't give up! You can do this!
    608 days ago
  • no profile photo CD22518161

    Hi Carolyn!
    I didn't realize or remember that we are both only 5'2! My top weight was 178, so I know exactly where you're coming from- especially the self consciousness.
    I'm thrilled that you bought new clothes, I did the same before I started losing weight and I think it made an impact on my ego that was necessary. I looked so much better, with clothing that I decided I deserved, to fit the body I had at that moment.
    You're absolutely right, it's never too late. It's not easy... but it's never too late.

    608 days ago
    thanks for sharing
    608 days ago
  • EISSA7
    In this wonderful journey of life...Chock-full of twists and turns...we accumulate and carry with us experiences which shape our perception of self. That perception may be based on others’ words, peer approval, or false info that we give ourselves. Regardless, it is important to proactively deal with the present...just as you did!! Clothes don’t fit...honor yourself by getting new for the time being! Time to stop running the old punitive tapes and try a new approach...one that supports your goal of a healthy vehicle to carry you well into the next decades. After all...a healthy body is what ALL of us on Spark are seeking!
    Thank you Carolyn for your important words... emoticon
    608 days ago
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