30 January 2009

How long is the journey?

I suppose that's the big question everyone asks themselves at some stage - the adult version of a child's "are we nearly there yet Mum?" And this peregrination, like so many other journeys we find ourselves embarking upon, is a voyage with a specific destination in mind, for all its detours. For me, the 'end point' is that I want to be 'normal'.

So, what do I consider to be 'normal'? After all, everyone has their own definition, so what is mine? It's quite simple, although this simple answer is only a part of my story.

It means that I want to be able to plug my gender, height and weight into an online BMI calculator and for it to report that I am at a 'healthy' or 'normal' weight. In fact, for it to tell me that I am NOT any longer 'overweight' or, worse still as I was when I started these travels, well into 'obese' and sitting right on the borders of the next (frightening) band.

I'd also like to 'feel' normal in my skin. I'm not there yet and, although things are better, I still have my 'Mrs Wobbly' days when I feel like a great blobby slug.

Right now I can be happy that I've come a long way towards my final destination. I've come down from that place just on the verge of the 'very obese' band, through 'obese' and am now into the 'overweight' category. In fact, I'm about halfway down this last band and heading down the home straight towards 'normal'.

That is such a wonderful feeling and I now know that when I hit the magic figure of 145 lbs, whatever dress size that happens equate to, I'll have reached my supposed destination. I also now know that I need to lose only another 15 lbs or so (a wee bit over a stone) and I'll have made it. And losing just one stone seems quite an achievable target to this new slimmer-line me... now.

So what is the other part of the story? And why is it actually more important to me?

That's also quite simple. The answer is 'health'.

I was reading Lynn's most recent post today and her point, as often, hits the nail right on the head for me too. Health is actually the most important part of the journey because good health, rather than just losing weight to become a particular size, will allow me to live the way I want to live.

My excess weight has done me no favours over the years. Like Lynn (although not to the same degree) I have knees, and some other bits 'n bobs, which don't like me much. When I was at my fattest I couldn't bend down to tie my shoelaces without holding onto something for support. The belly made me too top-heavy and not even moderately flexible. A sit up? Don't make me laugh - how the hell could I do one around a spare tyre big enough to fit a tractor, let alone perform several.

And, at my heaviest, my asthma became much, much more of an issue. So much so that lovely hubby actually bought me a Medi-Tag watch to wear... just in case I keeled over. I was also put onto additional medication - not a great moment for me!

The knees are probably going to serve as a constant reminder for the rest of my life of what I did to myself by being so heavy. The problems are pretty manageable now, but sometimes not much fun at all (blessed be the inventor of CoCodamol!). They are almost certainly not going to get much better than they are right now.

I've managed to postpone surgery, for now at least, for one of the other health issues thanks to physio exercises I do every day. Whilst carrying the excess weight I'm not sure I'd have been able to sustain this exercise regime, non-strenuous though it is.

More wonderful still is that the asthma is under control (well, mostly) and I'm not using any medication regularly at all now. OK, my peak flow could be improved, but it is at least not getting worse and I am working on it.

Losing weight makes life less of a battle in all sorts of ways. I can choose where I go to look at clothes, not just be forced to peruse the expensive 'fat lass' shops. I can contemplate looking pretty and even a bit 'girly' without a shudder, and the prospect of wearing a swimming cozzie (even with my belly) doesn't make me hide and cry any more.

But the best thing of all is to know I am healthier and that I have given my body a chance. I'm a lot less at risk of joining the growing 'non-minority' club of Type 2 diabetics, I've probably held off the prospect of a heart attack or stroke for a few more years and developing severe arthritis is not quite such an imminent fear as it once was.

The question I started with was 'how long is the journey?'.

Well, in some ways there isn't too far to go. But you could also say this is a journey without end, for I will always be mindful of the weight I carried for so long and what it has done to my body. I will always have to be careful to ensure the pounds do not start the insidious creep back on, to put me right back where I began, or worse.

I've begun to believe, at last, that I can complete my journey. Both the shorter-term BMI target and the longer-term matter of keeping myself healthy. I dare say I'll have my black dog days and go backwards from time to time. But I also know that, with the right attitude, I can get back on track and undo those lapses. So maybe, in some ways, I could say I've already arrived.


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