I just wrote a post about how I couldn’t care less about primping and dressing up. But that doesn’t mean I feel totally comfortable with myself as I am.
The truth is, I’ve been so busy surviving as a single mom that I’ve let a lot of things I do care about slide. I don’t follow the news anymore. I rarely make time for solid cultural experiences that lift me out of myself. I don’t make enough time for friendships and other social relationships. I don’t give back to the community. And I’m not taking care of my health the way I need to at my age.
A case in point is the weight I gained when Larry left.
I went from being a trim 150 pounds to topping off the scales at 181. A bout with gastritis about a year ago caused me to drop back down to 165. This morning I weigh 176. I am tall, so this is not so bad in theory; my BMI, for instance, is 25.3, just a smidge out of normal range.
Looking at my legs tells a different story. You see, before I started working the three jobs I have now, I was very active. I went to the gym four or five days a week, burning 500 calories on the elliptical machine and lifting weights each session. On top of that I walked my dog at least two miles — every single day.
Two years ago, I was overweight but fit. Now, I am soft and fattish. Worse still, at my last checkup, my LDL levels were elevated for the first time in my life. It’s time to do something about this.
The Divorce Trifecta: Stress, Menopause, Antidepressants
Life with Larry completely shattered my psyche. I was on the verge of becoming agoraphobic, reluctant to leave the house or even speak with people on the phone. I scarcely knew how to speak with people in real life. I not only felt invisible; I wanted to stay that way.
For a brief time, I crossed the line from neurosis into mental illness.
So you can only imagine the anxiety I experienced when my ex cycled from “I can hardly wait to grow old with you” to “I am leaving, and you mean nothing to me” within a period of several weeks.
It was horrible.
Constantly worried about how I would support myself, fearful because Larry said he would take my daughter away from me if he found out that “I refused to work,” I lived the next year under chronic stress, a condition that triggers the release of cortisol by the adrenal glands, precipitating weight gain.
I was also in perimenopause. The decline of estrogen was doing its own part to change my metabolism and body shape; my naturally slim waist was thickening, paving the way for the accumulation of dreaded belly fat.
To cope, I started taking duloxetine (Cymbalta), a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI) that works to calm anxiety over time. Duloxetine is not supposed to cause weight gain, but when I took the drug I experienced a jump in my weight and found it harder to lose, even when I counted calories.
And that is how I find myself 25 pounds above my healthy weight.
Why the Weight Is Hard to Lose
I’ve always been someone who turned to food to soothe agitation and recover from painful human conflict. I graze compulsively, consuming far too many calories. My high metabolism and regular exercise habits balanced out these tendencies, so in spite of some frantic dieting efforts in my early years — when I thought I should weigh 125 pounds to look like a super model — I never really did much to change the way I ate.
So many other things about my life have changed for the positive since Larry left:
- I went from earning zero dollars a year to building a successful freelance career.
- I have a much better relationship with my daughter.
- I have learned to push through anxiety and perfectionism to get things done.
- I made a longterm plan and am sticking to it.
Eating mindlessly remains.
I kept a food journal for a while at the end of the marriage. I realized I was eating the most when Larry tried to gaslight me. Not knowing what my rights were in the marriage, yet being painfully aware that he was somehow manipulating me, caused me to scarf down everything in sight.
Now I eat to deal with (what is to me) the painful task of setting limits with Charlotte or a client at work.
When people try to manipulate me, I eat. Because I have codependent tendencies, I am susceptible to manipulation. In fact, I think that people are trying to manipulate me sometimes when they simply have a difference of opinion.
What I Can Do This Month to Change Things
I love “to do” lists. One of the first things I did when it became clear that Larry was leaving was compile a long list of things I needed to accomplish before he left the house.
Periodically, I fire up a new list. List making has solidified my career goals and is the only way I could have mustered the clarity of mind needed to cash out my retirement funds and buy an investment home for my retirement.
Each month, I’m going to chip away at some self care issue I want to address and come back every Saturday to talk about how well I’m doing.
This month’s goals are
- To be more aware of mindless eating and document five instances this week.
- To get five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- To walk the dog our regular 2-mile route every single day without fail.
- To stop eating at 8 pm.
- To go to the gym once a week.
I would like to lose five pounds this month; that is the ultimate goal. But let’s see what I weigh next Saturday first.