Wednesday, September 24, 2008

15 Reasons I Gain(ed) Weight (And Two Reasons I Didn’t)

Get Fit Slowly posted a great piece last week called "A Dinner Conversation," wherein blogger Macdaddy described exactly how and why he put on the pounds. Essentially, he recalled a pattern of poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle choices established at an early age. Today, it’s taking all his resources and know-how to correct those learned behaviors, but he’s doing it. (Viva la him!)

Macdaddy’s story inspired me to think of my own reasons for gaining weight. Because, make no mistake – eating is a physical action, but the motivations behind overeating are largely emotional. (Or at least, that’s what Oprah says.) Those mental hangups made this a difficult post to write, because it forced me to confront some of my shortcomings, like carelessness, laziness, and a big one: using food for comfort.

As I created my list, I noticed something, though. With one monster exception (eating out), my reasons for gaining weight during and directly after college were vastly different than my reasons today. Whether that’s maturity or a result of lifestyle changes is up in the air, but at least I feel like I’m learning. So, without further ado…

I GAINED weight (past-tense) …

…because I didn’t know about portion control. My idea of a normal meal was 50% starch, 30% meat, and 20% more starch. Fruits and vegetables figured into the equation only when I ran out of rice.

…because I wasn’t educated about food. Nutrition labels meant nothing to me back in the day, and I lacked the motivation to research. The internet makes it much easier now, though I didn’t catch on until a few years ago.

…because I didn’t think about what I was eating. I wasn’t THAT much of a moron: I knew fried foods were bad, and an excess of cheese would clog my heart valves with its delicious, brie-infested buildup. Uh, here’s the thing: I didn’t care. More fries? Bring ‘em on! Another piece of pie? Why, thank you! The WHOLE box of mac and cheese? Why didn’t you say so in the first place?

…because I trusted in my metabolism over my brain. When you’re 17, you can eat an entire herd of cattle (horns included) without blinking. The fury and pace of your day-to-day movements will make up for it. When you’re 23, those same slabs of beef adhere directly to your ass, making it tough to sit down in normal-sized chairs.

…because my parents didn’t teach me how to cook. It wasn’t one of Ma’s priorities, and Pa didn’t really know himself until later in my childhood. I don’t fault them at all, because instead, I could solve an equation, write a paper, and clean a dang bathroom like nobody’s business.

…because I never showed any interest in learning to cook. Growing up, food preparation took a backseat to schoolwork, sports, extracurricular activities, friends, sleeping, drooling, listening to Britpop, staring dreamily into the distance, and a billion other things. I figured as long I could boil water, I’d be fine.

…because I assumed it was my genetic destiny. With notable exceptions, much of my extended family is not thin or athletically inclined. They’re mostly a pretty wonderful bunch, though, and I accepted this as my fate.

…because I was in love. I feel doofy enough writing that, but it’s true. Because, seriously – I can match my biggest weight gains almost exactly to the beginning of my happiest relationships. I don’t recall us just sitting around, feeding each other egg rolls with contented looks in our eyes, but maybe we did. Barf.

…because I’m an occasional emotional eater. On the flip side, there are these things called “breakups.” And when they happen, it becomes very, very easy to drown your sorrows in tubs of Ben and Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream. Those pints absorb pain, and redeposit it as cellulite in your thighs (but you don’t notice until later).

…because I ate out too much. The big one. The HUGE one. It still dogs me. (See below.)

I GAIN weight (present tense) …

…because I eat out too much. I really, really like food, and New York has a lot of it. And it’s (almost) all really, really good. Restaurants and takeout make it soul-shatteringly simple to abandon all principles of portion control and good sense. It is my weakness.

…because I have easy access to bad food. My cubicle is located directly across from the office pantry. I live across the street from a KFC, a Papa John’s, and the most unsanitary (but sweet) bodega in Brooklyn. Food surrounds me all the time, and it’s difficult to deny it’s power.

…because I don’t care about portion control. When I’m feeling good, I’ll go for months at a time without considering the size of my dinner. Inevitably, this leads to problems down the road, when I haven’t paid any attention to serving size for a year. (See: 2006, beginning of.)

…because I think it will be easy to drop later. I’ve dropped significant amounts of weight twice now, and it gets into my head that it’s easy to do. (It’s not.) The problem is, I infrequently get around to the actual process, and often abandon it prematurely.

…because I’m getting older. Stupid passage of time. Tryin’ to make me all wrinkly and saggy and stuff.

…because I’m relatively sedate. Er … yeah. I walk 30 minutes a day, and am well aware that it’s not enough. Yet, attending the gym is not my choice of an exciting pastime, running blows, and organizes sports leagues are … I have no excuse there. I need to get on this.

I DON'T/DIDN’T gain weight …

…because I can’t stop myself. Self-control hasn’t been a problem so far, with a one-day-per-month exception. I think any overeating can be attributed to a lack of attention, rather than an aching need for food.

…because my family has a rich culture of cooking. I’m Irish. We boil beef. ‘Nuff said.

And that’s it. Readers, how about you? Why do you put on weight?


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(Photos courtesy of University of Maryland Medical Center and MySpace member Seventh Heart.)


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