Twenty One Cheetos, Celeste Corcoran, and “Different Beginnings”
Did you know that one serving of the crunchy Cheetos consists of “about 21 pieces.” It’s true. I Googled it Monday during lunch while eating Cheetos. I counted out 21 pieces. I assembled them onto a napkin and took a picture so that I could show you.
Limiting oneself to such a pittance of cheese curls would result it what I can only assume is the gustatory equivalent of “blue balls.” What a pitiful snack. I think I would rather have no Cheetos at all than limit myself to 21 pieces. I guess that is where I am. Cheetos are the next thing I’m giving up.
Warning: This post is about weight, diet, exercise, fitness, aging, etc. I have very little patience for listening to other people talk about weight-related issues, it bores me to tears, but I have boundless interest in talking about my own. I guess that makes me self-centered. I may blog about my self-centeredness later, but right now I want to blog about being fat.
I love Cheetos. True story: one day, last July, I was given a bag of Cheetos as a gift by not one but two different people in the same day! First, a graduate student under my supervision thanked me for our semester together by giving me a goodie bag that included a large bag of crunchy Cheetos. Later that evening, my mother dropped by with yet another bag.
“Here sweetie,” she said. “I saw these at the store and thought of you. They’re new. Salsa flavored. But you’ve probably already tried them…”
Imagine my ambivalence at receiving junk food as a present. On one hand, I felt like kind of a lard ass. On the other hand, it sure did feel good to be understood and accepted for who I was.
My weight has always, and I mean from 7th grade to this year, fluctuated between 145 and 155 pounds. I typically lose 10 pounds every Spring and then gain it back by Thanksgiving. My activity level fluctuates similarly. I am on and off the fitness wagon several times throughout the year (primarily with jogging as I hate sports and can’t do much more with my body than put one foot in front of the other over and over again).
This past year, when my weight again climbed to 155 pounds, I decided to take a different approach. I decided that, rather than embarking on the all-encompassing diet/exercise regimen that would help me temporarily shed the extra 10 pounds (and aggravate my family and friends to no end), I would implement small changes. My hypothesis was that the small changes, though they would result in slower weight loss, would be easier to maintain as life-long habits.
The first change I made was to eliminate Diet Coke from my diet. Diet Coke, to me, was what heroin was to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Basketball Diaries. I was never able to enjoy it in moderation – would set out to have one a day and end up drinking five.
Studies show that artificial sweetener spikes the appetite. Our brains associate sweet tasting substances with calorie density, you see, and when the diet soda fails to deliver on it’s promise of calories, our bodies seek out the carbohydrates that will deliver the calories that were expected.
I replaced Diet Coke with unsweetened iced tea. I stuck to it. It has been months now. Nearly a year. Good for me, right?
The second change I made was to switch from putting sugar and milk (and sometimes cream) into my coffee to drinking coffee black. It took some getting used to, but I did it. It has been almost a year. I don’t even think about putting sugar in my coffee now.
The third change I made this year was putting an end to my once per week ritual (usually on Friday) of having a sausage biscuit for breakfast. The convenience store where I’d buy the biscuit, Ginger’s Grocery, my namesake, was purchased by a Muslim business man who had religious objections to serving pork. No sausage biscuits. They had a beef bacon biscuit, and I tried it once, but it was like a dog treat on a bun. Like a Beggin’ strip. Rather than find a new vendor, I decided to cut the biscuits out completely. It never even crosses my mind in the morning now.
If you’re actually still reading, if you’re curious to know how well my experiment is going, I wish to tell you that I did not lose any weight this year. I actually gained weight! After avoiding the scale for 6 weeks over Christmas holiday (largely because the gifts were stashed in my closet on and around the scale), I was shocked on New Years Day to find that I weighed in at 165 pounds. The last time I weighted that much, I was making lists of baby names.
My husband and I joined a Bible study at church called Run for God the first week of January. As part of the Bible study, we are training for a 10K. I have met or exceeded the expectations of the running schedule, 2 to 4 miles 5 days per week, and my weight has not dropped an ounce. My weight would have started to drop with the increased cardio when I was younger, but I’m not younger.
In an effort to determine how upset I should be, I checked a weight chart online and found that, at 5’5″ and 165 pounds, I am 10 pounds away from being obese. Here is the chart:
For readers that don’t know me in real life, here is a selfie I took last Monday. This was the day I Googled “How many Cheetos in a serving.” This was the day I plugged my weight into that stupid chart, a picture of me 10 pounds away from obesity:
Don’t tell me in the comments section that I look just fine or that I am cute or that you wish you were my size, because “overweight” and “obese” are not words intended to describe a person’s attractiveness. They are medical terms used to describe a person’s increased likelihood of becoming ill. Eating Cheetos and similar refined foods in excess does increase the chances of a person developing an illness such as Diabetes. It is just a fact.
As far as I am concerned, the obesity epidemic in this country is fueled, in part, by the false idea that health, attractiveness, sex appeal and self-worth are all the same thing. They aren’t. This idea is dangerous. In my opinion, assuming these four things are one and the same empowers attractive overweight women to make poor choices about diet and exercise, to think I’m pretty, so I don’t have to be so careful. Conversely, I think it causes women who feel unattractive (despite efforts to be fit) to give up on their efforts. Obviously health, attractiveness, sexuality and self-worth are interrelated, but they are not the same thing.
Anyway, after looking at that weight chart, my legs sore from yesterday’s run, I decided to cut the Cheetos out of my diet. I haven’t decided what food I will use as a replacement. Someone suggested baby carrots, stating, “It is probably just the crunch you’re after, and hey – they’re orange.” (By this logic, I could replace my son with a demented old man because he, too, has a face and occasionally makes a mess in the bathroom.)
Cheetos will not be the last thing I give up. I know that. I think what I find so frustrating about aging (or at least how I was feeling on Monday when I started this draft) is that there is this constant need for me to give up something, but I get less and less for my efforts. Less physically, anyway. It is like every time I get good at the game, the rules change. And listen, I don’t want to look like a model or anything. I don’t care about wearing a bikini. I’m 37. Who cares about my swimwear? No one. I don’t want to look amazing, but I want to look like me. I sense that the discrepancy between how I see myself and how I am seen by others is growing.
What cheered me up, what replaced my self-pity with hope and inspiration today, was a quote from another mom. No, not this:
Celeste Corcoran, pictured above with her daughter and physical therapist, is a runner. She lost her legs in April while running the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon, I’m sure you recall, was bombed. I read that Celeste has started running again.
“This is not the end,” Corcoran said. “This is just a different beginning.”
No offense to Maria Kang, but somebody please make a photograph of Celeste Corcoran that says, “What’s your excuse?” What a calling out that would be.
She is brave, and she is right. Everyday, every year, no matter how old we get, no matter how our bodies change, there we are. A different beginning. There is nothing to be gained by looking back at what we had, at how much easier things once were, but everything to be gained from taking stock in what we still have and running with it.