Monday, August 24, 2009

Winning the Battle

There comes a time in every overweight person's life when enough is enough.

When you realize you're not getting any younger, and you don't want to be fat and inactive and useless throughout your thirties, nor do you want to be riddled with weight-related health problems by the time you hit the big 4-0.

When you acknowledge that all your previous weight-loss "attempts" weren't really attempts at all, since going on that worthless soup diet or eating nothing for days to fit into that dress for your friend's wedding, was just a quick fix and not really a commitment.

When you stop making excuses about exercising and realize that your hour-long Big Brother watch-a-thon could be just as easily spent walking in place in your living room as it is sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.

When you figure out that body-slimming undergarments don't actually make you smaller, they just redistribute fat to places it wasn't before.

When watching televised accounts of incredible weight loss becomes less about drowning your "why can't that be me" sorrows in a Big Mac and throwing the remote at the finale of The Biggest Loser, and more about motivation and inspiration.

When you can no longer call it "baby weight", especially since your baby is able to tell you that, "Mommy, you have too much chubbs on your butt."

When you resign yourself to not having a "cheat day", since people with as little discipline as you do have become the size they are because of willy-nilly cheat days that spiral into cheat months.

When you stop blaming your thyroid problem for the way you look and realize your weight is of your own doing (I have a serious thyroid problem - in fact, I'm guilty of using the excuse myself - and I can tell you with certainty that a thyroid problem, even one as out-of-whack as mine, does not cause a 50lb weight gain. You can't eat deep-fried wings and laze around your house and still blame your weight on your thyroid.).

When you reach the conclusion that losing weight is a simple formula of burning more calories than you take in, and that even the fancy and expensive "miracle pill/supplement/concoction" isn't going to solve your problems for the long term.

When you finally admit that french fries aren't vegetables just because they're made from potatoes.

When enough is just enough, plain and simple. I've reached that point.

Being fat sucks. I've spent that past 12 years complaining about how much it sucks, yet I've failed to sincerely try to do anything about it. I've even written about it with the best of intentions of losing weight, but my words never concretely translated into actions.

I quit pop in mid-January, my biggest hurdle, and haven't touched a drop since. And, though I did see minimal results, I didn't change my eating habits. I went on a diet at the end of April, but through the chaos of kids' birthdays, the end of school, vacations, and many excuses, I fell off the wagon a month later.

Then I got on the scale. Yikes. That was "the point", and I haven't looked back since. All I had to change was my attitude.

I no longer feel a bitterness toward skinny people, food, or exercise. I don't harbour feelings of deprivation and resentment because I can't get a Blizzard, instead I feel strong and proud how I'm able to resist the temptation. I don't curse my husband's late night snack, I look at it with relief that it's not entering my stomach and disrupting my steady course.

I put a sign on my fridge that says, "you're only cheating yourself", along with two pictures: one of myself and one of Jessica Simpson.

Aside from the occasional glass of milk or juice, the only thing I drink is water. I have completely (and unbelievably) cut ice cream out of my life. Other junk food and sweets are cut to an absolute minimum, though not eliminated entirely. I make sure to eat breakfast every morning. I have a filling supper without stuffing myself up to the eyeballs. And I never eat anything after supper is over - not a carrot stick, not a cracker, nothing. Those are my changes, and it's working.

I've lost 35lbs because of those very do-able and realistic changes. The point I'm trying to make is, if I can do it, anyone reading this can do it, too. I was the best of the best excuse makers; the thyroid patient; the busy mom; the "did you hear about that new pill" queen; the chronic complainer. Not anymore, no more excuses.

And I've never felt better.

And the Winner is....

On Thursday evening, I attended the Festival of the Strait Princess Pageant at the mall. Great job, girls!

I miss the days when pageants were the centerpiece of a summer festival. Picture the Scooby-Doo dream-sequence effects, and bear with me.

The annual River Bourgeois community festival used to be a really big deal, and every year it began with the princess pageant.

Those in attendance for the packed-house Saturday night affair were probably oblivious to the meticulous preparation required for the show to go on. The contestants had, by this time, found sponsors (businesses and organizations to donate money for the girl's sash and other pageant-y things). They had already posed for the all-important Reporter photo shoot, where their picture would appear in a full-page spread opposite the festival schedule, noting their name, sponsor, and parents' names (so all the older women could say, "you know Lisa, at Joe-Jim's"). They had even attended a "tea", where they practiced their best smiles and manners at a get-together with the judges. It was all very serious business, especially to the girls who, like me, were too young to participate.

When the lights dimmed, a Master of Ceremonies announced the procession and the hall filled with more chiffon and frills than I care to remember, as was the style of "teenager fancy dress" back then. The girls, usually more than a dozen of them, filed up the center aisle, introduced themselves briefly ("Hi, I'm Lisa Smith and my sponsor is J&C Take-Out!"), and took their place on stage.

Once the judges had been introduced, it was time to get down to business. Each girl would give a more thorough introduction, telling everyone their age, grade, perhaps what they liked to do, what career they intended to pursue, things like that.

After the introductions came speeches. The topic was up in the air, completely up to each contestant, and it was always interesting to hear what the girls chose to talk about (even though the delivery mattered more than the content).

When the speech portion was complete, the girls would head downstairs to prepare for the talent competition. There were usually singers, dancers and piano players, but every year had a wild card - whether it be demonstrating a cadet Drill Team routine, or teaching the crowd how to cross-stitch. After everyone had shown their talent, the girls went to sweat it out downstairs while the judges made their decisions and the audience mingled and chowed down on coffee, tea and sweets. (For the record, River Bourgeois hall sweets are still in my top five favorite foods of all time.)

Eventually, the MC would inform the masses to be seated, the results were in. The crowd buzzed in anticipation every time and you could cut the tension with a knife; well not really, but I want to make it clear how intense a scene it was. The contestants nervously took the stage, the previous year's Queen took her mark in the wings after her swan-walk, and the envelope was handed over.

Miss Friendship, decided by the girls earlier in the evening by secret ballot, was announced first, followed by the expected squeals and hugs, and awarding of the trophies, flowers, and other pageant swag. The first winner was followed by 2nd Runner-Up, 1st Runner-Up, and finally Queen. It was all very climactic and wonderful, and I'll never forget it.

The very first pageant I attended was in 1984, where I met my future-best friend, Amy Doary, for the very first time. We were both very impressed with the pomp and circumstance of the whole thing, and our 5-year-old heads were just about spinning. We swore we'd be in it one day, and we would have - if only pageants hadn't become pretty much obsolete sometime after 1995.

Someone must have decided that being a teenager in a pageant was uncool, and that's a shame. Not only are they great confidence builders for girls at a crucial age, but they're a showcase of talent, a platform to experience public speaking and an excuse to dress up like a princess for a day other than prom.

Most of all, it's an excellent opportunity to bring a community together. Everyone is busier these days, and our local festivals are visibly suffering, with attendance, participation and volunteer numbers lower than they've been in years.

I'd love to see a big pageant in every festival, and a rightful Queen take her seat at the front of a parade float. It's something I'll always miss watching, and I hope someday they become "cool" again. (If there are any girls between 14-18 interested in participating next year, get in touch with me and I'll certainly be willing to help put it together.)