One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

INSIGHTS

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation Fights Obesity

18 Comments 1571 views

I was contacted by The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) to help them raise awareness of the obesity epidemic in America and to share the efforts they are making to reduce or eliminate this national health problem.

At first, I cringed.

Then I sighed.

Not because I don't think it's a good cause and a well needed initiative but because I read a lot of body image blogs and posts by fat acceptance authors. I agree with them somewhat about our approach to fighting the "obesity epidemic." Especially equating fitness with thinness. Overall, I do wish we would stop focusing on body size as a main measure of health. Sometimes I think it hurts our efforts.

You know this but my blog is my story, my thoughts, and my experiences. I gained weight because of a rotten body image and I lost weight by getting over it (and eating less of course, but I was able to do that by getting over it–most of time anyway). I don't think I share the same experiences of everyone who is overweight. I also don't think people all fit into some kind of body prototype where if we all ate the "perfect" amount of calories we'd all be a "perfect" size 6, or 4 or 2 or 0 or whatever popular media is trying to tell us we should look like.

That being said I do believe as a nation we are getting heavier and we need to address that. According to HWCF, American obesity rates have increased 37% between 1998 and 2006. The average adult is now 23 pounds overweight.

  • 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese.
  • More than one-third of Americans (35%) are obese. Another one-third (32.7%) are overweight.
  • 72 million American adults are obese.
  • Collectively, adults in the U.S. are 4.6 billion pounds overweight.

Those are some big numbers (pun not intended) and I'm not about to claim to know the reason why this is happening, but it is happening. And according to HWCF it is causing a whole host of problems.

Over the course of a year, obesity-related disorders are responsible for nearly 40 million lost workdays and 53 million doctor visits by employees. Between 1997 and 2005, the prevalence of 11 chronic conditions associated with overweight/obesity grew 180%. And let's not forget the kids. The obesity rate for children 6-11 has more than quadrupled over the past four decades.

I’m not a sensationalist. I don't believe the world is going to end tomorrow because human beings are carrying around an extra 20lbs but I know how much better I feel about myself when I eat a little cleaner, maintain a healthy weight and stay active. And I hope to inspire others to live a little more consciously and make healthier decisions. Not necessarily to lose weight (although that is what set me down this path) but because finding balance and taking control of your health is empowering AND it's not that hard. Different? Maybe, but not hard.

HWCF's approach is based on educating people to manage “calories-in with calories-out,” to balance their eating with their physical activities. They aim to make Americans conscious of the need to combine better eating habits with regular exercise—achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through this concept of energy balance.

Hmmmm interesting.. they used my two favorite words, balance and conscious. :) That’s what it’s all about for me and here are some of my strategies…

  1. COOK! I think many people forgot how fun cooking can be especially when you involve kids. We rush home from work, look at meal prep as a chore and then hit a drive thru. By keeping some fresh ingredients on hand you can easily pull together dinner. It may take a little extra time and planning but the payoff is totally worth it. Your dinner will probably be lighter and healthier and you can make more educated decisions about what goes on the plate and in your family’s body. Not to mention you are teaching your kids how to prepare their own food which I think is an invaluable skill. This is one of the reasons why I started my food blog GreenLiteBites. I like to share ideas on what works for us. I also get inspired by reading CookingLight and Everyday Food. There are tons of resources for those looking to cook a little more at home.
  2. Of course you are going to eat out. It's inevitable. Plus let's be honest, you probably like to eat out. I know I do. I used to order anything and everything off the menu but now I make more conscious decisions when ordering whether it's fast food or fine dinning. I used to just assume that restaurants knew what a portion was. That they would serve me the perfect amount of food for a meal and that it was perfectly healthy for me to eat that much all the time. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Even things we think are "healthy," "lighter" options aren't.
  3. For me making dietary changes was the first thing I tackled. Then I moved to the "moving more". That's what "they" say right? Move more. It sounds SO simple but if you’re like me and work an office job, sit in hours of traffic and then come home exhausted with *just* enough energy to prepare that home cooked meal, barely, it's tough. After a few years of slowly changing my lifestyle I now wake up early to exercise before work but I used to simply just stay active and frankly, dance around my house like a mad woman. I also make it habit to get the family out after dinner for walks or now that my little guy is older, a little baseball in the backyard.

I really was hesitant to write this post but it has really made me realize how much I have changed my entire lifestyle. I'm not going to deny that I started this journey to lose weight but what I've learned over these 5 years has been invaluable and what I've gained is a healthy happy family.

The HWCF sponsored this post and they are also sponsoring a $250 sweepstakes with Parent's Magazine. Click here to enter!



Leave a comment

I’d love to hear your story or thoughts on mine.

However, to prevent the massive amounts of spam I was receiving I have turned off comments on any post older than 5 days old. If you'd like to leave me a note regarding this post or anything really try me on twitter (@RoniNoone,) my Facebook page, or even IG (@RoniNoone) I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. I never thought I'd have to do this but it's gotten way out of hand and comment management has become simply too time consuming to manage.

Discussion

There are 18 comments so far.

    I think you were perfect to write this post because you understand the balance. We get so focused on weight loss or looking better in a pair of jeans, it’s not just about that. You have helped so many people realize that, myself included.

    P

    May 11, 2010

    Thank you for this post. I too read fat acceptance stuff online and have grown to agree with a lot of it, but I’m also in that place where an eating disorder has me larger than I think I would naturally be – which isn’t even really a disagreement because I’m sure I would never have developed this ED without my culturally-induced body issues.

    Since reading FA and body image literature, I’ve started to see what hatred we put our bodies through. My dad has “discovered” Europe in his later years and has learned that we’re much fatter than they are, as a whole. So does he look at the reasons for this? The better city planning that makes it easier to bike and walk, the laws that don’t encourage the production of cheap calories the way American ones do? No, he views it as a personal failure and beats himself up accordingly.

    While I think it’s fine that you accepted the offer to write this post, I do think that Americans know about the obesity problem, and I don’t think the “awareness” campaign is especially effective. While on the one hand I’m sure there are hundreds of individual stories of people realizing that they can change their lifestyles to make them healthier and, yes, thinner, I know that this awareness is also used as a new kind of ammo against fat people (“but don’t you know it’s unhealthy?”).

    All in all, I see a system that is set up to make us fat (long work hours, long commutes, cheap junk food/expensive real food), feel bad about it (media portrayal of beauty and health), and think it’s all a matter of personal responsibility and laziness if you don’t fit into that box.

    roni

    May 11, 2010

    P – Thanks for your comment but I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly you are saying.

    I agree that our culture and infrastructure doesn’t support overall healthiness but where do we start if not awareness?

    In my opinion, we need to raise awareness so we can start to make changes to the system, educate ourselves and build confidence so that people do take personal responsibility.

    Roni — You did this A LOT OF JUSTICE. Thank you for writing it. I wish they would come up with a group that wants to raise awareness on self acceptance as individuals AND want to learn how to balance work, home, health, and money.
    You are SO correct about learning to cook and having things on hand to “throw” something together. My journey started with my first garden last year and the desire to learn to cook….not follow recipes but learn to cook. What seasons to use, what to substitutes to use that won’t change the consistency of the recipe, etc. While the scale has not moved much, I am happy that I am living a healthier lifestyle and the scale will eventually change but that was not the primary purpose of my journey

    P

    May 11, 2010

    Oops, I was unclear. I think awareness is great and necessary, but I feel like we’re going overboard with it. I don’t even watch that much TV and yet I feel bombarded with “awareness”. It just seems like the new thing to talk about, without offering real solutions.

    Something like The Biggest Loser is great and I love it. But it seems like the message is “See? You can do this, even at home, because you just get up at 4 am and work out, then work out again after dinner!” If that was my only exposure to a healthy lifestyle, I’d give up before I even started.

    That’s part of what I’ve liked about you and your message (which I’ve mostly heard through your Ask Roni videos) – you not only offer solutions, but you do it in a way that is realistic, yet still effective. Taking time out of your week to cook just one meal at home probably isn’t going to be the solution to anyone’s health or weight problems. But it’s a step that can easily lead to feeling like more and more steps are doable, and eventually lead to big changes. I don’t see that kind of thinking promoted, even among “lifestyle changers” rather than “dieters”. Thank you for that.

    roni

    May 11, 2010

    P – I TOTALLY see that… it’s one of the reasons I stopped watching Biggest Loser.. it’s so unrealistic. Of course we could all lose weight if we went to “the ranch” but making lasting changes in real life is a completely different story.

    I guess I view “awareness” a little differently. I see it as showing and offering solutions in the “real world.” really… it’s why I do what I do.

    Thanks for clarifying.. I think your comment will raise even more awareness! ;) I kid.. but seriously.. a lot of people don’t read the FA blogs so you may have brought up some things for them to think about.

    P

    May 11, 2010

    Roni – Your definition of awareness totally makes sense, and you’re right, I was using the word differently. I think you do a great service to awareness.

    Lisa

    May 11, 2010

    Those are good ideas. Eating out is a challenge for a lot of people. I stopped eating out for a long time because I didn’t trust myself to make good choices. I finally learned what to order. How to make good choices.

    Christine

    May 12, 2010

    A few weeks ago, I read Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon (the author of the Salon article Roni linked to is writing from that perspective and cites the book at the end). I highly recommend the book–takes the focus off fat and thin, and puts it on health.

    Judy Shasek

    May 12, 2010

    Your blog is excellent and serves a high purpose for all of us struggling with body image and all the trappings. I started HCD Healthy Community Development because of a laser focus belief that it isn’t about weight – the goal is wellness. Wellness begins with regular physical activity participation (THE END). Not “run 3 miles to burn 300 calories” The way for all of us to give our bodies what they need in order to support us as we live a wellness focused (not thin-ness focused) life is to add regular physical activity thatmatches our age, condition and fitness level – and is something we can enjoy. Being active with friends – a bonus!

    Jen (aka KUrunner)

    May 12, 2010

    I agree that something needs to be done, but I very much disagree with their methods.

    Obesity is not as simple as calories in versus calories out. I think most Americans are already “conscious” that we need to eat better and exercise. Weight loss and health is so much more than that.

    Why are we overweight in the first place? We know more about nutrition and exercise now than we did 100 years ago, even 50 years ago. But the numbers keep going up. Telling me that I need to eat X number of calories doesn’t change the fact that I want that candy bar.

    We, as a society, is stressed to the limit. Moms are expected to be super; we are supposed to get up, make a healthy breakfast for the family, get the kids dressed, pack the husband’s lunch, drop the kids off at school and make it to work by 8:00 for a staff meeting. Then, we are supposed to workout during lunch while magically working on a presentation, pick the kids up and cart them off to soccer, dance and band. We go home and make a wonderful pasta primavera from scratch while entertaining three kids without resorting to TV or video games. Don’t forget the laundry that we have to do or the bathrooms we need to scrub. Then, we are expected to make time for the husband.

    Yeah, right. No wonder that McDonald’s looks so tempting on the way home.

    If HWCF wants change, maybe they should go after the source. Change the goverment that makes boxes of processed crap cheaper than fruits and vegetables. Go after the fast food restaurants that are on every corner where an extra value meal is cheaper than a pound of meat. I’m not saying that there isn’t personal responsibility involved, but it’s kind of unfair to the crack addict when society willingly puts a dealer on every street. (And yes, I believe that being obese is just as dangerous as being hooked on drugs.)

    But telling us what we’ve already been told thousands of times before isn’t going to change anything.

    roni

    May 12, 2010

    Jen – all I have is an AMEN!

    WOW… I’m all fired up now.. I’m not sure what to do with myself. lol

    KCLAnderson (Karen)

    May 12, 2010

    Excellent post and it just points to the fact that there isn’t one cause and one solution. While I agree that for many of us, poor self/body image is at the core of our eating disorders, that is only part of the “obesity epidemic” issue. The “food industry” is another huge component. Awareness is the key to addressing both components.

    And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, those impossible-to-achieve images that are portrayed in the media. Oh the irony that this country is so unhealthy and that is shows up as “too skinny” and “too fat.”

    In my humble opinion, the food industry is just as bad, if not worse, than the tobacco industry. We must demand better! Addiction is hard to overcome no matter what the substance, but we HAVE to eat.

    I am pretty sure we’ve reached a tipping point in awareness on some of these issues but we must continue to get the word out.

    So I’d offer this awareness tip: Notice what is being marketed and in what ways it’s being marketed. The food industry alone spends ~$40 billion per year on marketing alone. Marketing messages are deceptive and are constantly changing to appeal to the latest “health claims.”

    This is both about personal responsibility AND demanding corporate responsibility.

    KCLAnderson (Karen)

    May 12, 2010

    This is a 90-minute video that is worth watching. It is so important! Understanding what this guy is saying will help save future generations and will help reverse a lot of the damage that we’ve already done. Please understand what our food industry is doing and why!

    I don’t pass things like this on very often but for me, this ranks right up there with passing on information about the dangers of smoking, heroine, crystal meth and other highly addictive and dangerous substances.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

    Shauna

    May 12, 2010

    Jen (aka KUrunner) is my new hero. She hit the nail on the head!!!!! I 100% agree that the government needs to step in at some point as well. It is simply too expensive for a lot of families to eat healthy! And that is just not fair and a change absolutely needs to be made.

    Danielle

    May 12, 2010

    Excellent post Roni! I know that you take “awareness” from the correct view (or maybe more productive view would be the right word), and that is that you are trying to make people aware of options people have and hopefully open them up to some healthier solutions they didn’t know were there.

    What makes me cringe about the government raising “awareness” about the obesity epidemic is that I feel more like they are trying to make people aware that they are obese. Trust me, I’m already aware of that…and if by some chance I had able to blind myself to that fact on my own, I would find no shortage of people who are willing to make me painfully aware of it. Which will then only make me feel worse and, well…we how know how that cycle goes.

    Tracie

    May 12, 2010

    I think Jen hit on some really good points. Being aware that obesity is a growing problem is good, but to a certain point only. If nothing is done to educate people or give them the tools or make it more accessible to live a healthier lifestyle than it can lead to more problems. Right now everywhere you look all you hear is how obesity is a growing concern that is going to cost America tons and tons of money with added healthcare costs. I feel that can lead to people looking at anyone who is overweight and see a big $ on them. I know I don’t want to be scrutinized for every bite I’m eating so I’m sure no one else wants to be judged for that cookie they eat at work.

    I feel that a big part of my job as a parent is to teach my children that we can eat healthy. Sure sometimes it can be expensive. We definitely can’t afford to buy organic. We started a garden last year which was great. I also found out that in our town they have a local farmers’ market every weekend. So last year I started taking the kids for a walk there and buy a few items. I’m really looking forward to it this year. Instead of buying processed sweets, I’ve started making my own which is really a lot more affordable than buying them. And then they become a special treat for the kids and not something they expect. Fast food is a rare treat since we don’t eat out often so when we do we just enjoy it for the experience and don’t worry about what we are eating. I started making sure that we always have fresh fruit and veggies for the kids to snack on. I think the best way to teach them is by example. If they see my husband or I choosing more healthy options then that is what they will be used to. I’m also slowly showing them that we can make some things ourselves and they can actually taste better.

    Growing up I walked everywhere. I think that is part of why I was able to keep my weight somewhat under control while I was in school. The diet of Mt. Dew & Snickers certainly wasn’t it. Lately I’ve started taking the kids on evening walks. They both really look forward to it. It gets them out and they get some exercise in too. We are also starting to limit the video game & tv time.

    Julie from France now USA

    May 12, 2010

    Hi
    I’ve been following Roni’s for month, almost a year. And now i moved for work in USA. I’ve been living here for almost 3 weeks. I love so so much your country, the way people are proud of their flag and American in general. I could talk a lot about how much i LOVE USA but let me talk about YOUR food. (there is always an exception…forgive me)
    1/ I’ve been amazing the portion size of an adult in restaurant (come on we can’t eat all our plate without having a bad hurt to the belly after -‘im the queen of that-)
    But for a children? It’s twice the size it should be. It’s HUGE what they can serve us. And hard to say to a kid that like what he is eating : “don’t eat all your plate it’s TOO much”.
    2/I found good schools for my children and guess what? They won’t be eating their lunch at school. Not because of the prices that are almost THE same than in France (about $3.50) but because of what they CAN eat.
    For instance : monday pizza, tuesday french fries + chicken fried, wednesday mashed potatoes and bean etc…
    Hello? Where is the veggie? We are supposed to eat 3 portions of veggie and 2 portions of fruits a day (fruit is included in the menu so i can’t be bad about it). And even by eating that if you don’t move your “but” a little bit you can be big.
    Roni, your number about 70% of overweight people or obese in USA made me thrills (not in the good way).

    It’s fine to educate adult people to teach them what was wrong about what they eat and how to change their way of life (about food) . But couldn’t you start first by well healthing your children ?
    In France in ALL school even public school and in little village or in poor places they do eat at least 100gr of veggie and 1 fruit + 1 cheese (we’re not common’ with milk for lunch but so you have your portion of calcium for your lunch) for few bucks. So even people who can’t buy organic or healthy food can be sure that at least their children will have a good diner for lunch. And obese or overweight people are growing up in France too but at least not because of the meal in school.
    Couldn’t your authorities do the same to ALL the schools here?
    (So i won’t be obliged to make a lunch box LOL).

    Love,
    Julie