It was around 2009 that I started going to the Calgary Weight Management Centre in Calgary. After hearing about these “mythical” clinics in town where health care professionals got together to help people with obesity related issues, I wanted to get a referral. I went to a GP for that referral and booked my first appointment.
The assistant at the front desk was very sweet and took my weight and measurements for her records. Next, I went through a BMR test, where I was hooked up to a breathing apparatus for about 30 minutes and it measured my basal metabolic rate to determine if maybe my resting metabolism was a bit slow. I was both relieved and irritated to learn that my BMR was quite normal. So I can’t blame a slow metabolism for my weight gain. Dammit! But I guess that’s also a good thing that I’m not unhealthy. Um, I’m not unhealthy? What?
Soon after, I met with Dr. Walji, a medical doctor at the clinic who was extremely supportive and understanding. I had never met a doctor like that who understood that people can’t just lose weight through yo-yo periods of diet and exercise. She told me no one actually knew what the hell they were talking about in the diet and fitness industry. Not enough studies have been done to conclusively come up with that magic pill or golden formula that will take weight off and keep it off. Basically, I was here to learn how to change my habits to be healthy and sustain a long-term healthy lifestyle. All this based on…wait for it…SCIENCE! Not old wives tales and not the garbage in the newsstands.
This philosophy was totally different from what I had become accustomed to through other programs (ie: lose 20 lbs in 3 months through deprivation, eating pre-packaged diet foods, and sheer force of will). Turns out the CWMC also un-trained me from believing that willpower actually had any merit in the equation. People’s bodies don’t respond to willpower. No matter how closely you stick to a diet plan, at some point all the food restrictions will come back to lead you down a night of binge eating junk food.
The health experts wanted me to call them by their first names even though they had a bunch of impressive letters after all their names. It was very casual and comforting.
From the dietician, Rory Hornstein, I learned how to eat my heaviest and caloric dense meals in the morning and gradually taper off by the evening. I stick to so many of her teachings now! It was hard to unlearn years of poor eating habits and this food journal had to be the worst of it. Thank goodness for myfitnesspal!
My athletic therapist, Grant Molyneux, shocked me at my initial appointment by declaring that exercise cannot be used to lose weight. I looked at him like he was nuts. This man had degrees and published books, and was a prolific marathoner, Iron Man competitor, triathlete, etc.. He was also a fitness coach for professional and amateur athletes. Basically, he was super accomplished in the fitness world and looked like it too. I had to give him credit for his patience whenever he gets that dumbfounded look from a patient who thinks he is blowing smoke up their butts! His appointments were awesome. He would have you walking on a treadmill while coming up with a fitness plan that worked with the lifestyle I was trying to lead.
The most life-changing professional I met was the psychologist, Jennifer French. She literally changed my life. Countless kleenexes filled up her garbage can after each session due to me crying on her couch as I delved into the abyss of my emotional eating habits and got to the root cause of my weight issues. All the issues I had of feeling inadequate, helpless and out of control from Body Confidence: Part 1 bubbled to the surface after years of submission to be finally dealt with and purged. She let me express myself with no judgement and taught me it was ok to be imperfect. Her strategies on dealing with stress and family were mindblowingly effective. You don’t normally think of therapists as cheerleaders, but this lady was always on my side. Damn the whole being emotionless bit. She cussed to lighten the mood and made me feel comfortable during our sessions when my anger, sadness, and frustration with my lack of progress ate me up alive. It had been six months of following the CWMC’s plan and I wasn’t losing any weight! Yet she looked at me like I was winning and she was my biggest fan. She taught me to quiet my inner critic as well because that sonofabitch never shuts the fuck up!
Every time I’d see the experts (at least once a month), they looked at me like I was amazing. I didn’t get it. Wasn’t I a failure because the scale didn’t move? None of them even batted an eyelash at it. These gurus saw me following the plan almost precisely and the only thing they could say to me was “Have faith. You have nothing to lose.” Essentially, if I gave up now, wouldn’t I be undoing all the months of healthy habits? Even if nothing changed, at least I could fall back on being healthier.
Ugh! It was sheer agony! I also went through months of a sitting in a support group with women who were all at various stages of their journeys. They were all normal people with jobs and kids and stresses. None of them in my opinion deserved the judgement they got from outsiders who simply didn’t get that no matter how hard you work at trying to lose weight, it sometimes takes YEARS to see the results if you stick with the plan. Therein lies the conundrum: the ability to stick to the plan. 95% of people can’t. They aren’t failures and they aren’t lazy. Our bodies just don’t work like that and eventually people just stop torturing themselves through diets only to repeat the cycle when something bigger and better is talked about at a BBQ or around the water cooler at work.
The scale finally started moving significantly after about 7 months. I eventually lost 20 lbs in 1.5 years. That was not exactly the lose 20lbs in 3 months nonsense the fitness magazines are normally touting on the front cover. Of course my success wasn’t enough. I was still 30 lbs heavier than my 16 year old weight! Couldn’t I just lose another 20lbs? Why was it such a struggle? I caved and joined Weight Watchers in 2010 after I was done with the CWMC as my wedding date was approaching and I really wanted to lose more weight. I did end up losing 13 lbs but it was also one of those unsustainable plans that I just couldn’t stick to. Fucking diet food that tastes like cardboard. I stuck to low-fat and fat-free crap for years only giving it up for the first time in decades just a couple months ago.
Unfortunately, I would come to put the weight back on after I got married in mid-2011. Again, I didn’t have the magic formula that worked for me. The CWMC trained me to read nutrition labels, to not beat myself up when results were slow, to exercise to live longer, to educate myself on obesity research, and to basically chill the fuck out when it came to my obsession with weight loss. They didn’t want me to spend my entire life being a headcase over it.
So you’re probably asking: In all this time, where was the body confidence? It was built from the ground up through the untraining of my shitty habits and awful thoughts that lead me down a spiral of self-loathing and self-doubt. The CWMC saved me from myself. Those people deserve a lot of credit. They can see our successes when we can’t. We are literally blind to our hard work and they cheer you on at every victory, no matter how small it is!
If you do anything for yourself on this journey, seek out the true health guides. Dieticians, athletic therapists, and psychologists who specialize in weight related problems. I needed the un-training desperately. I am so grateful I went through this experience and that I still practice a lot of the things I learned there.
Stay tuned for the next post on how I learned to love my curves and fall in love with the girl in the mirror unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I’m still in love with that bombshell, as imperfect and bodacious as she is and I’m tired of the bullshit of trying to lose weight for vanity. My husband loves that sexy bitch too. Hahaha!