The Scale

I saw this photo from an Australian magazine recently and think its worth sharing.  All of the women pictured weight 154 (American) pounds.  It just shows you how the number on the scale is not as important as how the weight looks on you.  And it also shows the “average” weight of most women around the world.154 pounds.


5 Lessons I Learned from “The Natural”

The Natural Robert Redford“We have two lives; the life we learn with and the life we live after that.”
― Bernard Malamud, “The Natural”

There are days when I am disheartened and overwhelmed by the thought of starting over in my forties and of needing to lose over 100 pounds.  It just seems insurmountable and I feel stuck and disappointed.  I want the change to happen, but despite my best efforts, it doesn’t seem to happen fast enough, or even seem possible.  I want to curl up in bed, feel sorry for myself and quit.  I feel weighed down by others’ disapproval and doubt and I’m tired of being disappointed by people I trust, love and want in my life who don’t, or can’t reciprocate.

However, I recently re-watched one of my all-time favorite films, “The Natural,” which stars Robert Redford, and it reminded me to keep moving forward and to hold tight to my dreams and goals.  Redford plays Roy Hobbs, a man who is starting his baseball career at an age when, his new coach, Pop Fisher, played by Wilford Brimley, tells him, “most people should be thinking about retirement.” You see, Hobbs had some trouble when he was a promising young rookie.  He encountered a mentally unstable woman on a train who, subsequently, lured him to her hotel room and then shot him and killed herself.  Apparently, this took a toll on Hobbs that resulted in a 15-year hiatus from the game.  Now, he’s back and ready to make his mark at a time when the world would rather he just fade away.

Hobbs is representative of many people.  Some folks are lucky.  They glide through their childhoods and young adulthoods without many difficulties.  They don’t face serious illness, deaths or personal tragedies and failures and they arrive at middle age ready to start easing into their golden years.  They’ve made their mark.  They’ve had their families and they’re satisfied.  I know many people like this and I marvel at the fact that they’ve had no major obstacles on their paths.  But for many others, myself included, we face tragedy, failure, illness and senseless death way too early in life and it affects our ability to succeed because we’re stuck dealing with the emotional fallout.

I lost many friends and family members to senseless tragedy when I was in my late-teens and early 20s.  My stepbrother, Gregg, died tragically in a fire on his 21st birthday.  My first boss out of college died of AIDS and I sat on the edge of his bed the night before he passed. There were too many others to list here.  In my late thirties, when things seemed to finally be gelling for me, I was diagnosed with and treated for thyroid cancer.  I was sick and tired for three full years and I gained 104 pounds. I was disappointed by friends and family who didn’t take the time to care, or to be there for me.  I fell into the worst depression of my life and was treated for that, too. It’s taken a lot to transform these personal tragedies into strength and to make any sense of them. My path has been so far from the “normal” straight line for a woman (e.g., getting married and having kids by my age) that it more resembles a Pollock painting.  But I like to remember what Thoreau said. “I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”

What “The Natural” teaches is that it’s always possible to begin again.  Joyce Meyer has said, “You may not have had a good start, but you can have a good finish.” Here are the five important lessons from this film that I’ve kept in my head and heart.

1. It’s Never Too Late
Roy Hobbs was too old to be a star, or so they told him.  But in his heart, he knew better.  He knew that God had given him a natural talent that would lead to greatness.  I think that everyone has greatness inside of them.  It’s just a matter of knowing what your gifts are and then remembering that it’s not what happens to you in life that matters.  It’s how you respond to what has happened that is the most important.  Though life had put him on the sidelines for fifteen years, when he was ready to re-establish is career, Hobbs held on to his childhood dreams and pursued his goals and, in the end, he was rewarded for his steadfastness and perseverance.

2. Your Second Act Will Be Better
Many people fail before they succeed or they face insurmountable odds or unfathomable personal tragedies.  If we allow these events to shape our thinking we will never get out of bed. If we allow ourselves to believe that our past predicts our future, we will lose all hope of ever having the life we dreamed of.  In essence, we will just give up and accept mediocrity. Many people do. However, Hobbs’ story shows us that, for many people, the life they live after the tragedy and the heartache is much better, happier and more fulfilled than what they ever thought possible.  At the beginning of the film, Hobbs is a failure and a has-been, but by the end of the film he’s a hero and a star.  In other words, don’t ever lose sight of what could be by focusing on what is.

3. Surround Yourself with the Right People
Hobbs has some difficulties when he first joins the NY Rangers. Though his raw talent is apparent to all, he stalls when he begins an affair with Kim Basinger’s character, Memo Paris.  Memo is Pop Fisher’s niece and Pop warns Hobbs that he thinks his niece is bad luck, but Hobbs’ ignores him. Memo is not a stable woman and she’s attached to the Rangers’ owners, who have bet against their team in order to win money.  They don’t want Hobbs to succeed and they try to bribe  him and undermine his success and Memo is part of their strategy.  It’s not until Hobb’s old love comes into the story, Iris Gaines, played by Glenn Close, that things start to turnaround for him.  Why?  Iris is a good woman who knows who Hobbs truly is.  She believes in him. She has faith in him.  She supports him.  Her faith and support help him succeed  But Hobbs has to reject the wrong people and embrace the right ones – Iris and his two team coaches – in order to realize his true potential.  This is so true in life.  You have to surround yourself with people that bolster you up.  You have to create your own circle of supporters and rid your circle of toxic people.

iris gaines glenn close the natural

Iris Gaines, played by Glenn Close, in “The Natural”

4. It’s Often Darkest Before the Dawn
When we first encounter Hobbs, he’s alone.  He’s a man that had lost his way and is at a point in his life where many would give up and just accept defeat and loneliness.  Though initially he has some success with the Rangers, he gets stuck in a bad luck streak and his old shotgun wound sends him to the hospital.  It would’ve been so easy for Hobbs’ case to accept the easy way out – the bribe.  However, Hobbs perseveres, rejects his saboteurs and ultimately learns that he has a son with Iris and, by the end of the film, Hobbs goes from zero to successful man with loving family.  This shows that efforts can pay off and life can suddenly change for the very best and love can suddenly appear out of nowhere.  So, it’s important to hold true to that belief even when we feel lonely, defeated and disenfranchised.

5. It’s Not What You Say
My favorite character in the film is assistant coach Red Blow, played by Richard Farnsworth.  Blow doesn’t say much at all, but his eyes and his gestures, from day one, show Hobbs that he’s willing to give him a chance and that he believes in him.  Blow exhibits the kind of grace that I admire in people and demonstrates in his quietude that it’s not what you say it’s what you do that counts.  In the same way, Hobbs is a man of few words, it’s his actions throughout the film that reveal his true character and make him so admirable.  When Hobbs first joins the NY Rangers, Pop pretty much ignores him and makes it clear he’s pissed the scout sent him someone so old. But Hobbs shows up to every practice and sits on the sidelines until his talent and his character become apparent to Pop who, eventually, tells him that he’s “the best I’ve ever seen.”

“The Natural” is a great film to watch when you’re going through difficulties in your life, or when it seems like nothing will ever change for you. It’s a film about possibilities and perseverance that leaves you, ultimately, with the message that anything is possible in the game of life.

Getting the Support You Need

count-onI am thinking today about “friends.”  Friends can bolster you up, or they can drain you. It takes a certain amount of wisdom and maturity to finally see what a true friend is.  I spent many years with so-called “friends” always disappointing me until I finally realized that I’d developed a pattern of being everyone’s therapist.  I was always the friend that people told their problems to.  I developed that behavior in high school and, because of it, ran with a popular group of girls.  They were not bad friends, but they were not good friends either.  I carried that pattern into my late thirties.  It wasn’t until after my bout with thyroid cancer when I was 38 that I began to change.

I began to change because life showed me that many of those people that had always counted on me, that I’d been a good friend to, were not around or available during my time of need.  This was disappointing to me in so many ways, but the pain of that disappointment prompted me to change my behavior patterns. Soon, I became the friend that was unavailable because, prior to this, people had leaned heavily on me, but disappeared when I needed them.  As a result, I was often emotionally drained and resentful.  So, I realized it was time to erect better boundaries.

Before I changed, I recall that one friend was calling often to vent about an affair she was having with her high school boyfriend.  I’d listened attentively for months, but then, suddenly, one day realized how selfish her behavior was.  She didn’t really ever ask me how I was doing, other than in the obligatory way, but then she’d quickly find a way to turn the conversation back to her.  She needed a sounding board and I was always there to listen.  So, finally, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to listen to her nonsense anymore.  You know what?  I haven’t heard from that friend in over two years.  Why?  She wasn’t getting her needs met anymore.  So, I’m sure she found another sounding board.

Growing and changing hurts, but it’s necessary because obesity is part of patterns of behavior that find us filling the empty hole in our hearts when we don’t surround ourselves with people who know how to love, who know how to open their hearts and who know how to give.  One thing I’ve learned from some of my “friends” is how to be more selfish.  I grew up hearing the word “selfish” as a bad thing.  Be anything, but don’t be selfish.  Now, finally, in my forties, I realize that selfish is a good word, as long as it’s not taken to the point where you no longer care about anything or anyone.  Selfish can mean that you know how to take care of yourself and how to get your needs met and then you can release the desire to overeat to fill up all those empty holes in your heart.

Evaluate your friendships and determine if you have the friends you need to take you the place where you want to be.  When you’ve pinpointed the friends that are truly selfish – those that you only hear from when they need something – gently pull away.  You can still be their friend because now you’ve got their number.  The difference is that, after this realization, you will also ration out how much of your time and energy you devote to them, and that means that they can no longer drain the important emotional resources you need for self-love.

One other important thing I’ve learned is that you have to be responsible for getting your needs met and this means being more assertive.  Generally, it’s not easy for me to be assertive for many reasons.  But assertiveness is a good thing.  I’ve observed that assertive people do better overall in life and, when you become more assertive, it’s another behavior that lessens the desire to overeat because you feel less like a victim.

So, for today: selfishness and assertiveness will combat some of the underlying emotional reasons for overeating.

The Gym. Ugh.

Went back to the gym at 5am this morning for the first time in about a year.  I go at 5am because that’s before the muscleheads and skinny aerobic bitches arrive.  So, for a few hours, I can workout in some semblance of peace before the gym transforms into an early morning pick up joint.

DiamondFirst let me say this.  Oy.  I’m really out-of-shape and it’s overwhelming to think about how far I have to go to get back to a normal weight.  Second.  Ouch.  I didn’t think it was possible for the soles of one’s feet to hurt while riding the incumbent bike.  I mean, really.  Why does that happen?  It’s not like I’m putting any weight on them?  But they hurt so much that I could only do 15 minutes.  Maybe I’m just using a different set of muscles than what I use when I’m walking?  If anyone has an answer to this mystery, please enlighten me.

Other than that, nothing eventful.  I did 1 hour of cardio, but at a slow pace.  I did a few reps of strength training on different machines for my legs.  I did 50 sit ups.  I’m being cautious and starting slow because, a few years back, I returned to the gym all “gung-ho,” worked out too hard and gave myself a stress fracture in my foot and then had to stay off my feet for three months and gained back all the weight I’d lost.  So, this time around, I’ll be focusing the most on swimming.

Swimming is a bit of a bitch for a couple of reasons.  1.) I’m over 40.  So, my hair is dry and I can’t imagine that daily dousing in chlorine is gonna help that.  Also, I’d like to grow my hair long again.  So, I’ll have to live with that and find products that can help.  Anybody have any reco’s?  2.) The pool gets crowded later, but if I swim first, right at 5am, then afterwards I have to do the cardio/strength machines with the red imprint marks from my swim goggles prominently showing up on my face, which is awkward, but also funny, I guess.

Anyway, I’m rambling.  The point of this post is this.  I went back to the gym today. Yeah me!

I’m Doing This

Yesterday, I didn’t feel like juicing.  I just didn’t feel like it. And you know what?  I did it anyway.  I did it because I know that putting all those nutrients in my body in such a concentrated way will make me feel better, look better and perform better.  I know that kale, beets, parsley, celery, carrots and apples all have the power to transform me from the inside out.

I am eating clean 85% of the day and, often, it’s not easy.  It’s a nuisance to juice.  When I did it yesterday, the juicer was off balance and I ended up with a big green juice mess all over my kitchen counter and floor.  I could’ve quit right then.  But I didn’t.  I cleaned up the mess and kept juicing.  There are big green messes everyday in my life that I need to clean up and move on from….

It’s a pain-in-the-ass to buy, prep and wash all the veggies I need for the week.  It takes over an hour in the kitchen to do this.  But I do it because I know once it’s done it will keep me on track.  It’s a pain-in-the-ass to eat salads everyday, to weight and measure my meals, to log all my food into the LoseIt! app, to weigh myself each morning and to exercise.  But this is not a diet, this is a life change and change requires a commitment that I’m ready to make.  I’ve seen the alternative.  I’ve seen people in my family remain overweight, stuck and unhappy for their entire lives and I don’t want that to be my fate, or my legacy.

It’s not easy being obese and over 40.  So many people tell me that major weight loss can’t happen at my age without bariatric surgery.  Even the doctor I worked with initially looked at me skeptically and said, “Even if you lose just 50 lbs….”  I thought, “I don’t want to lose just 50 pounds….”  A therapist I saw, listened to me as I detailed my two year plan and then said, “What about that bariatric surgery?”  I looked at her blankly and thought, “I’ve just lost 30 pounds following the plan I detailed, and if I stay with it, this weight will come off in two years.  Why are you not hearing that?”

I remember once someone said to me, “Past performance predicts future outcomes.”  Well, you know what?  That’s not true.  If that were true then every team that’s had a long losing streak would never win again, yet losing teams turnaround and have comebacks all the time.

I don’t need people around me who tell me it can’t be done.  I need people around me who see the possibilities within me and know that I can do this.  I need those kinds of people because they don’t reinforce that little voice inside of me, which I fight everyday, that says, “You can’t do this, Jenifer.  You haven’t done it yet.  You’ll never do it. You just don’t have it in you.”  You know what? That voice is a cruel bitch and I don’t want to hear her anymore, either from within myself or from others.  So, no more people that tell me what I can’t or won’t do.

People without legs run marathons.  People that can’t see build successful lives.  People that can’t hear often listen better than those of us that can.  People that suffer major tragedies in their lives pick themselves up and go on, often times after the unthinkable has occurred.  Nelson Mandela sat in prison for twenty years with only his thoughts to keep him going.  When he emerged, he became president of the country that imprisoned him.  He changed the world with only two things: his ability to see an outcome that others couldn’t and his own indefatigable belief in himself.

I can lose weight.

Our world values women for their appearance.  Men are judged by how they perform.  Women are judged by how they look.  Plain and simple.  Yet that same world wants me to be fat because I’m beautiful, talented, smart and capable and that’s threatening.  If I stay fat, I’m no threat.  I’m undervalued, underestimated and overlooked.  That’s just fine with the world.  Nobody wants the competition I’d be at my best.  So, I people-please.  OK, I’ll just hide here under this rock and let all of you shine while I whither because I don’t want you to be mad at me for being the beautiful woman God made me to be.  If I were to compete with you then you might not like me anymore.

The world also wants me to believe that as an obese 40-something, single and childless woman, I have no value and that my life is over. I don’t think so.  I will prove them wrong.  My life is just beginning.  I am, simply, a late bloomer, an overcomer and a survivor and this is where my path has taken me.  It hasn’t been easy.  It’s been a struggle and a climb, and I’ve fallen often, and badly, but (slamming fist on the table), I am still here!

I have found so many people that have lost 100, 150 and over 200 pounds without bariatric surgery and I’m listing them in the sidebar of this blog as I discover them. If they can do this, why can’t I?  Of course, I can!

Naysayers. Men that only see value in a woman if she’s “hot.” Haters. Critics. Judgers. Skinny bitches. None of this is easy, but staying fat and unhappy isn’t easy either.

Vaffanculo! I’m doing this.

It’s Monday. Time to Succeed.

I-can.-I-will.I gave myself a “hall pass” this weekend from my food plan and that was a mistake.  I didn’t enjoy the “cheat” foods – pasta and chocolate bars – at all.  I felt compelled to eat them, but not driven by pleasure.  The truth is that the more I embrace this healthier way of eating, the less I enjoy the foods I used to indulge on.  Now, a plate of really good gluten-free pasta, or a gluten-free pastry actually taste better than the “real” thing.  And, salads are the most flavorful foods of all.  I love my kale salads and the salads I make with avocados.  The truth is that the more I take care of myself, the more I want to.

So, it’s Monday.  No more cheat weekends.  Maybe a cheat meal every now and then, but I’m really looking forward to that bowl of morning steel cut oats that’s heating in the Crockpot as I write this.  And, I can’t wait for that avocado and quinoa salad I’m planning for lunch.  I want this change.  I need this change.  I am this change.

What Gluten-Free Does For Me

Jenifer Mangione VogtI wanted to post this selfie I took last week because it demonstrates the benefits of gluten-free living for me.  When I eliminate gluten from my diet, my skin clears up almost over night and my complexion is more clear and the dark circles under my eyes diminish.  There’s no filter on this pic, but I am wearing a little bit of Oil of Olay tinted moisturizer foundation.  I like it because this year, I’m going to be 45 years old and have survived cancer, so not bad, right?

I’ve found that now when I eat gluten I’m assured of a breakout the next day.  I’d read about this kind of difference on the Gluten-Free Girl’s blog, but wasn’t sure if it applied to me.  I can say now that while I don’t think I have Celiac’s disease or a discernible allergy to gluten, I definitely have some type of sensitivity to it.

Now, I’m Italian, so there’s no way I’m going to completely give up my favorite foods, like gnocchi, pizza or focaccia, but I’m willing to limit them to once or twice a month because I just feel better when I do.