February 26, 2011


The other day my mom shared something with me - a picture she took of a note my brother had written down while listening to all the frantic phone calls about my dad's health problems.

i need to hug this kid
It's completely heartbreaking. I can't imagine being his age and having to deal with all the things he's seen and heard - I'm having a hard time dealing, and I'm more than twice his age.

Since coming home from the hospital in the middle of last week, my family has had to do a lot of adjusting. Many of these adjustments should have been made after my father's first heart attack, but now that he's had a second, the rules are even stricter and harder to adapt to. It's hard enough to make a voluntary decision to lose weight - but this decision was made for him. He has no real choice here: it's eat better and lose weight, or die.

His calorie intake is limited and the list of acceptable foods and portion sizes is full of new things he's never tried and old favorites in unfathomably small servings. It's hard for him to begin with, but being at home makes it surprisingly harder. It shouldn't be that way, but it is, and I understand this first-hand - it took me months to get mentally prepared to spend a couple of weeks there. My mom called me the other day and when I asked what they were having for dinner, she said veal stew - when I asked how that fit in with Dad's meal plan, her response was, "Well, we all have to eat, too." I had a nearly identical conversation with her last night when she told me about measuring out 3-oz. of pasta to cook for my father, served with a half cup of spaghetti sauce and two small meatballs - and everyone else got pizza.

I remember when I first got started with losing weight, and how hard it was to commit to eating better and eating less. Eating habits are among the hardest to break, because they're rarely just about the food itself - there are feelings and emotions, too. Personally, I had always associated food with comfort instead of hunger, so even though I knew better, it was still unbelievably easy to eat junk food in excess - and to give up on diets because I missed those comfortable feelings. This time I stuck with it, formed new habits, and now fast-food cheeseburgers are completely undesirable to me - I prefer the good, clean feeling I have when I nourish my body properly.

That said, if I were continually surrounded by these temptations - especially in the first stages of changing my eating habits - I am not entirely sure I would have been so successful. A lot of people ask me how I could lose so much weight so fast, and to be honest, I think living alone has a lot to do with it. There's no one to come home to who objects to chicken breast for what sometimes feels like the fifteenth night in a row and insists we go out, my treat, come on sweetie, please? Just no more chicken! There are no dinner dates where I have to scour menus nervously and still consciously decide to put half my dinner in a takeout box before the plate is even in front of me. I go to work, I go to the gym, I occasionally run errands. I'm in charge of every decision, and there's very little temptation in such a simple life.

These aren't complaints - for the most part, I like being alone, and at this stage in my life, it's almost a necessity in order to stay focused on my journey. But I think about my father and what he must be thinking, how he must feel sitting at the dinner table with a small fraction of what he's used to eating while everyone else's plates are piled with pizza and not a vegetable in sight. And I can understand his desire to take off to Florida and wanting to be in control of this part of his life, even if I can't understand why he would act on the desire given his physical condition.

We all need a support system. For me, it's this blog - I write my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences; people read them and offer questions, comments, advice, and support. This works for me, but it would not work for my father. His support system is my mother and my siblings, another choice that has basically been decided for him. But instead of proper advice or support, he gets to sit next to a pepperoni pizza and pick at three ounces of whole wheat pasta with turkey meatballs. With a little willpower, it can be done - it will be hard, but he can get through this, and he'll be better for it. I just wish the rest of the family would recognize the support he needs and make a solid effort to offer it. They'd all benefit from the same dietary changes, so what better time to make them than now when they would all be starting the journey together?


jayme @ Losing Half My Weight said...

i hope you're family is able to see that and join your dad (and you) on the journey to being more healthy.

you know, it's interesting - i was thinking about the whole 'being alone' bit and its affect on my weight loss progress. jim decided to join me and he has lost about the same as me, but it does feel like an uphill climb some days ("can't we just have a little chocolate?", "i refuse to eat whole wheat pasta", etc.) he's been great and very supportive on my behalf, but i'm still driving this and if gave up, i don't think he'd continue on without me. but i know that when we're not having to cook dinner and eat together every night of the week (because he got a new job), i think my loss will pick up a bit more as i'll be able to eat things that he wouldn't been so keen on. we shall see.

Big Clyde said...

I am so sorry to read that note, wondering what your brother must have been thinking while he tried to write this down. I am also a middle-aged guy that has had a lifetime of bad choices. But I have been turning it around.

The hardest part is getting started. Your dad can make these changes that will save his life. One day at a time, with his eye on the positive things in life and he can do this. You are doing an awesome job by being such a great example for the rest of your family. Keep it up.

I'd Rather Have a Cupcake said...

Your Dad must be feeling pretty unsupported right now. It is too bad the rest of the family isn't thinking how you are, and were willing to eat what he eats ect.....I know a lot of people like that and honestly its a old school mentatility and you trying to change it probably won't work. I guess all you can do is maybe establish some type of long distance support system for him! Good luck, We have been going through this with my Grandfather for the past year and it just breaks my heart. Hope he can stick with it.

Amy said...

Your poor dad - that just breaks my heart.

I think you need to talk to your family about joining him in his journey - at least eat the same thing as him, even if it's a bigger portion. He needs it right now more than ever. I'm surprised given your Dad's huge health scare that they don't want to change their lifestyle too - they have after all been eating the same way.

I don't know how often you talk to your Dad - but I think you might be the support he needs at this time - you should regularly check in with him, he might want to vent, hear advice or even just talk.

As for your brother - I feel for him too, but he's young enough that he might be positively impacted by this and decide to start eating healthy early - and eat like your Dad has to.

Une femme en santé said...

I'm so sorry for what happened to your dad.
It should be difficult for you from distance ...

Tu as tout à fait raison sur le fait que c'est plus facile quand on est seule. J'ai perdu leplus de mon poids quand je vivais seule, amintenat mon boyfriend vit avec moi, c'est plus difficile ... Mais it is life and I have to do with it :-)

Bravo pour ta belle perte de poids, c'est une belle histoire.

TMLfans.ca said...

It sounds like a rocky road ahead of your father, but with the right support from everyone - I bet he can do it! Cheers, Rick

Meghan said...

I really hope that your family realizes that they need to help support your dad by making better choices for the whole family! I agree that if my husband wasn't doing this with me..I would fail. No doubt about it.

I also am feeling stressed at the moment because for some reason after my weigh in I decided to binge Friday and Saturday!! I don't know WHY I did this because I was so happy for hitting 20.6 lbs lost!

I really want to hate myself for it. Have you done this? Do you just tell yourself to get back on it the next day? I'm so mad at myself and am up +6 pounds from all of it. Sigh. I need some encouragement :(

Life as a Caterpillar said...

Oh Mary, this is so hard to read, i cannot even imagine how it must be for you. From what you have said about your parents relationship, it's complicated at the best of times, so in some ways i relate to your mother for not being able to 'give everything up' for him. I guess i understand where she is coming from. But for you and your younger siblings, gosh, i just want to scream. How tough this must be, i can't even imagine.
I have lived alone for many years until now, but i am my worst tempatation- everyone around me is smaller than me and wants to see me eat better.
I cannot even bear to think of myself in your fathers position.

Like a few other peeps have said, it is possible for him to turn it around on his own- there are other male bloggers here who have done just that. Of course, that's easier said than done, especially if he doesn't want to. My recent ill health has spurred me into action, but i know it's not the same for everyone.

I wish i were in Chicago to give you a big hug

xx lesley