It’s Okay to Enjoy Tradition

A few people asked me recently if I would celebrate Thanksgiving with a healthy meal instead of following tradition with a more fattening one.

My response: heck no!

I realize there are nutritionists and health buffs out there who will probably cringe at my post, but I think even some of them can appreciate my reasoning for choosing to stick with the traditional meal my family members have enjoyed for generations.

For more than a year, I worked very hard to lose weight, and I succeeded. I also choose to continue my path of healthy eating, and once a week, I enjoy a “free meal” as opposed to a “free day.” I do so because of my metabolism and age. Although my metabolism is in full swing again, I want to keep things that way.

I have no intention of reverting back to my bad eating and drinking habits.

With that being said, however, because of how hard I work every day, I feel it’s okay to enjoy a holiday without worrying about calories, fat, etc. It’s okay to let my belly loose. Granted, that didn’t mean I gorged myself in turkey and ham. I did well and portioned my meal. I even enjoyed a small piece of pecan pie and drank two glasses of wine; however, I topped those glasses off with lots of water.

I never went back for seconds, and I won’t be gorging myself in leftovers tomorrow either. I enjoyed Thanksgiving like everyone else, but maintained control. Not to mention, I just finished a killer hour workout combining Chalene Extreme with Les Mills Combat. I figure I worked off most of what I ate today.

I’m also not ashamed that I’ll be doing it again for Christmas. There’s no way I’m not making tamales and not eating them for Christmas. But again, I’ll make sure I’m not going up a size by the time all is said and done.

Overall, I’m a firm believer that every now and then it’s okay to enjoy life without stressing about scales and measurements. I’m also a firm believer that, if you work hard, you deserve a small break every now and then, as long as you don’t lose sight of what’s important: living healthy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

No Longer Fat: People Pay More Attention

Over the past year, I lost 75 pounds and went from a size 16/18 to a size 2. I did this the healthy and natural way by working out six days a week and eating 5 to 6 healthy meals a day. At 41, I am in the best shape of my life.

During the course of this process, however, I noticed something that I used to dismiss as people overreacting. Often times, overweight people complain they are invisible to others, or thin people discriminate against them because they’re “fat.”

Here are my before and after pictures.
Here are my before and after pictures.

Even when I was overweight, I thought those over the top claims at times. I never felt discriminated against, although sometimes comments from people would cause me to think maybe overweight people weren’t exaggerating.

Overall, I wasn’t happy about being heavy, but I didn’t suffer from self-esteem issues either. I simply chalked it up to bad genes and a slow metabolism, and decided to accept my fate. I am comfortable with who I am on the inside. When I decided to lose weight for the third time in my life, that decision was a matter of health and not looks. It just happens the change in my looks came with it, and I can’t help but notice the change in the way people look at and treat me as a result.

I wish I could say people treat me the same, but they don’t. Even my husband, without meaning anything bad, will say, “I feel like I’m cheating on my wife.” He says I’m like a whole different me, but beyond the weight loss, I’m not. I’m still me. 

Now, I might be overthinking it, but since my transformation, I have had way more male attention and feminine compliments in the last year than in the 12 years I was overweight. At first, the attention added to my feelings of success, but after a time, it saddened me because I feel like maybe there is some merit to the claims of many overweight people.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, “overweight and obese individuals are vulnerable to negative bias, prejudice and discrimination in many different settings, including the workplace, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and even with interpersonal relationships.”

In my younger, thinner years, I would have scoffed at such statements; however, I recall the times when I would watch my overweight family members and think, “I will never let myself get fat!” It even got to the point to where I voiced it aloud. I can’t help but wonder how bad I made my loved ones feel by saying such things. I remember also saying, “They’re so beautiful…if only they lost a little bit of weight.”

Of course walking in their shoes has opened my eyes. Being on that side of the spectrum, I realize how terrible my judgment, regardless if I meant no harm, had on those I loved. Unfortunately, when overweight people are discriminated against, or made to feel less because of their weight, it leads them to overeat more because of stress or self-disgust. It fails to help them focus on what I learned most this time around with weight loss, and that’s the importance of being healthy.

With all this being said, I realize other factors may be involved with the added attention I appear to be getting as a thin person.

In addition to my stance, I have changed my clothing style since losing weight. Unfortunately, clothes designers think that because people are overweight, they want to look frumpy. That has changed somewhat over the years, but it was hard going into a store and finding trendy clothes for thick women. It’s almost as if there’s some hidden code that says if you’re thin, you get cute and fashionable. If you’re not, you get what I like to call “The Nana Look.” Granted, I am a nana (grandma), but a young one at that, and I’m not ready to look like one. I found that the more weight I lost, the cuter the clothes. So yes, my style has changed.

On the other side, there are quite a few overweight people who are confident enough to fight for style, but when people are overweight and self-conscious, they tend to go for the frumpy clothes because everything else makes them “look fat.” It’s either that, or they don’t have the patience to shop because nothing fits right, so they just pick what they know will work. 

I also realize that when we lose weight, we walk taller, prouder. I didn’t suffer from self-esteem overall, but being healthy definitely has done something to my gait. I feel strong and full of energy, where before I did not. I often would get sick, or the added weight burdened my bad left leg. For those of you who don’t know, I was in a serious motorcycle accident at 15 (see that story here). Anyways, by getting fit, I no longer have the painful spasms I used to in my leg, and I can now wear shoes with heels again. Heels have a way of making women stand tall as well.

When people are overweight, self-esteem does become an issue, so people look down rather than up. They slouch and try to hide what they view as shameful. There are a few thick people who could care less and stand tall and proud; but sadly, most overweight people don’t. They subconsciously feel people are looking at them and judging, which is sometimes the case. Not to mention, feeling poor because of health issues adds to that.

Weight also makes people look older. I have a friend who, when I was overweight, would tell me I didn’t look my age. He said I looked older. My husband is 8.5 years older than I am, and he would say I look older than my husband. I don’t think this friend meant disrespect, but that’s never something people, especially women, want to hear. Since losing weight, I have people telling me I look like I’m in my 30s rather than in my 40s. I’m not going to lie; that feels good. But telling people they look old can be viewed as a form of discrimination.

Now that I have experienced both sides of the obesity debate, I understand why heavy people feel they are discriminated against. But I also understand the importance of being healthy. Regardless, there is a right and wrong way to tackle the issue of obesity; focusing on the physical is definitely the wrong way.

When people see me today, they tell me it’s like they’re seeing a whole different me. I look so different. I agree with that, but only because I’m healthier and stronger. We all want self improvement whether we’re fat or thin, black, brown, white, etc. To go about encouraging one another to achieve self-improvement, we must do so in a positive rather than negative way. 

I’m not saying we have to tiptoe around the topic because of hurting people’s feelings. I’m simply saying there’s a right and wrong way to address the importance of losing weight. Prime example, when people who are struggling with weight ask me about my weight loss, I focus on the health benefits and how it has changed the way I feel, not just the way I look. I hope that by showing, people will say, “Hey, she lost weight and feels great! I want to feel the same!”

The good news is people can with the right motivation.

 

The Online Hangman Mentality

Editorial Originally Posted on San Angelo LIVE! Top of the Email, June 15

There’s a phenomenon that occurs in today’s world of social media and online sites that allow for comments, or what San Angelo LIVE! refers to as “rants.” I termed it a while back “The Online Hangman Mentality.”

To provide context, think back to the days when people who committed crimes went to the hangman instead of spending time in prison. No different than today, the majority of the people who committed crimes belonged to the lower socio economic status. They were uneducated, but many of those people went to the noose for petty crimes, including stealing bread to feed their families.

The people who belonged to that social class hated “the man” as much as the next person, and if they had no other choice, they too would steal bread if it meant putting food on the table. However, if one of their peers got caught doing it, that person was the worst kind of scum, and they would be at the front of the crowd cheering the hangman on.

“Hang ‘em! Hang ‘em!” they would chant.

Well, we don’t have the hangman any longer, but people today have a new outlet to yell “Hang ‘em!” They have Facebook, Twitter, and news sites, including San Angelo LIVE! In a sense, technology has become the hangman.

Every day I go online out of curiosity and to continue proving my Online Hangman Mentality theory. I’m never disappointed.

“He deserved to die!”

“Kill him! Oh wait….death is too good for him!”

“She’s a whore!”

Now, these are some of the nicer comments I read. People get pretty creative with their venom-filled comments.

No matter the topic or the site, there’s always someone putting another person down online. The topic could be about what someone wore for dinner, and you can bet a person will come forward and say, “That’s what stupid liberals or raving conservatives wear. They’re a bunch of morons!”

What I find even more interesting about this Hangman Mentality is that there’s a sense of anonymity to it. Back in the day, people blended in with a crowd so they could yell and scream their heads off. They were simply one with the angry mob.

Today, the internet provides that anonymity. People can create whatever username they want to spew their hate. Even if they use their name, they are sitting behind a computer or have a mobile device in hand while going about their everyday lives. It matters not that they don’t know the person they’re ridiculing. There’s a sense of power that comes with that ridiculing, and words are power.

Young Mothers: They Know Not What They Face

Today, I went to the grocery story after work to get some things my family needed. As I made my way around the store, I observed two young mothers: one with an infant on her hip, and the other with her small children in grocery cart. When I looked at their faces, I cringed internally. I did so because they had to be no older than 20. One looked about 18, and the one with the two children looked about 20.

My heart hurt for them at that moment because they are so young, and their hardships are just beginning.

At the age of 16, I thought I knew it all. Everything was black and white. There was nothing in between. When I had my daughter, life’s reality bitch slapped me so hard I wanted to go home crying to mommy; but I couldn’t. I made the choice to have a child, and my mother told me I would be responsible for that child–not her.

I don’t blame her for that. Had she not shown me tough love, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am now. I survived being a teen parent, but I’ve had to overcome so many things in my life. Things I would never wish on anyone, especially these young girls I saw today. They have no idea what’s coming their way.

Even going through all the things I have, I’m one of the lucky ones. I happened to graduate from high school with honors. I did have to quit college and give up a five-year scholarship at Arizona State University, but I went back to Angelo State University at the age of 28. I managed to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

I had lots of support though. I have an amazing husband who worked hard to carry the financial burden while I made my educational dreams come true. However, my husband isn’t the biological father of my daughter. The man who is wasn’t who I thought. That was another hard lesson I had to learn at a young age.

When we’re young and fall in love for the first time, we’re overcome by such strong emotions that we ignore the small signs that tell us to be wary. All the signs were there, I just ignored them until it was too late. My first love and father of my child wasn’t a bad person. He just never grew up. When he finally did, it was too late. My daughter was already grown by that time, and she calls another man father. Her kids call this same man grandfather.

I met Esau, my husband now, when I was 20 going on 21. I was still young. I was still young when we had our son, Jacob. I am now about to turn 41, and our son is getting ready to graduate from high school next week. He’s now 18, and he’s my youngest. Both my kids are adults, and I have three grandchildren: Ayden, 6, and twins, Alana and Leila, 4.

Why does this matter? Many people my age have small children or teenagers, not grandchildren. Granted, I am young and can enjoy my grandchildren, but I never got to experience anything outside of being a mother and sacrificing for my kids. I have been a mother for more than half my life. I’m not saying that’s bad because it’s not. I have no regrets other than putting my daughter through me growing up. However, I have yet to experience a world outside my world.

I plan on doing so now that my son is grown. Maybe, I’ll appreciate the outside world more now that I’m mature. But sometimes, I imagine what it would have been like traveling abroad as a young woman with no inhibitions–with nothing holding her back. I will never know what that’s like, nor will these young mothers. Nor will my own daughter.

Instead, these young women will face financial woes as they try to get a foothold on life. They will more than likely be left to raise their child alone because the men they thought they loved were too young to settle down and play house. If they’re lucky, which not many are, they will find a man like I did who will take in their child as their own and be the most supportive person in their lives. That’s not to say all women need a man, but many do want a family that includes a supportive partner. Also, they will hopefully have a career, or get degrees, and show their kids that life’s worth fighting for no matter the hardships that come their way.

If they’re lucky, the kids of these young women won’t decide to walk in their shoes. But no matter what they do, and how hard they try, more than 60 percent of children born of teenage mothers repeat the cycle. When that happens, all they can do is be there for their children and grandchildren and watch in sorrow as they inherit their hardships.

No one wants that for their children, but sometimes the cycle is inevitable.

Finding a Future After Tragedy

Tomorrow, my sister Tanya will walk the stage and get her bachelor’s degree in Business. She is about to turn 44, and has been through some major, forgive my language, shit in her life. Now, I’ve had to overcome some bad things, but I will say that no one holds a candle to my sister.

There’s no doubt we had a screwed up childhood. Sadly, drugs ruined our family long ago. My sister suffered her first major tragedy in middle school. She dealt with that tragedy in the way most kids do when things like that happen. However, when she had her daughter, my niece Gabby, at the age of 19, she changed. Gabby made my sister work harder. She made her better.

That’s when tragedy number #2 struck.

When Gabby was one, she got sick and a high fever caused her to have a seizure. She was never the same after that. My sister learned she was developmentally delayed and suffered from many health issues. To add insult to injury, and to make a long story short, Gabby died on the 4th of July, right before her 2nd birthday, as a result of medical negligence. We sued the hospital, but that didn’t fix the hole in our hearts, and my sister lost herself.

For many years, Tanya lost herself to drugs. She got addicted to meth, and my sister was no longer my sister. During that time, she had married, but not long after, her husband was murdered. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught in the crossfire.

Prior to this happening, Tanya had sought help for her addiction. She had gone to rehab, and she ended up finding herself pregnant with my nephew, Christopher.

Tanya tried and failed a few times, but eventually she got there. After staying clean for awhile, she enrolled in college courses at a community college in Phoenix. I was so proud of her. Tanya wasn’t big on school as I was, but she wanted to do something more.

Never did she imagine she was university material. However, when she and my mother decided to move to San Angelo four years ago, I told her she should just go all the way. She had come this far, so why not go further. She took my advice and enrolled.

Through years of dealing with my nephew, who she has guardianship of, and who has a lot of medical and behavioral issues, and raising her other two kids on her own, my sister has managed to make it through school. It took her a while, but she made it.

Today, she texted me, my daughter, and my mother and said she can’t believe this is happening. She can’t believe she’s actually graduating.

However, I can believe it. My sister doesn’t always stop to give herself credit, but I will. Tanya has faced so many tragedies in her life, and although she lost herself for a while, she found her way back. She could have given up like many people we know, but she kept on. When she wanted to quit, she knew to call me or my mom because she knew we would talk her out of it. She knew what she needed to do.

Now, she just has to continue believing in herself so she can return to our hometown of Phoenix and get that job she’s been wanting for so long. She’s made her way back to the living, and it’s been a long road, but she’s there.