My Big Fat Fabulous Life

I stumbled upon a show on TLC called “My Big Fat Fabulous Life.” I was immediately drawn to it because from the very beginning she makes it completely clear that undiagnosed PCOS caused her to balloon in weight in early adulthood. She also lives/lived in Greensboro (my hometown) and now lives in Charlotte. Sounds like I’d really relate to this woman. I did. She bemoaned how her hair was thinning and she has to shave her chin. How doctors can’t see the past the obesity to try to actually help her.

I stopped watching after one episode. It wasn’t that the show was bad, it was more that I applaud her for sharing her story with the world but we are at much different places in our lives. She’s still dating and (at least in the first episode) living with her parents. American TV producers try to make shows much more interesting by adding all sorts of drama, and I don’t have time for that. LOL! But for anyone looking for a closer look at the challenges of trying to lose weight with PCOS, I’d recommend giving this show a look.

Knowing that there are so many women out there who struggle with this, I started thinking more about my motivations to get down to my mid-20s weight. Is it driven by our society’s emphasis on being a specific size? People come in different sizes, and I’ve come to terms with the idea that I wouldn’t expect anyone to fit a standard I’ve decided is best for them so why would I prioritize fitting a standard preset by others. Then I stumbled across scientific research into this idea of set point weight.

Set point weight is the concept that our bodies have a size that it wants to maintain. There are all kinds of published papers on this, such as “Role of set-point theory in regulation of body weight,” that discusses how the hypothalamus regulates all sorts of variables to maintain body weight over a long period of time. Then there is also this article, “Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight?” It discusses how there is a genetic predisposition to higher weights, but the Western lifestyle of “abundance” also creates external factors to obesity.

Set Point Theory explains why you can push to lose weight, but if you remove those behaviors the weight not only returns, but usually goes a bit beyond where you were originally.

Set Point Theory explains why you can push to lose weight, but if you remove those behaviors the weight not only returns, but usually goes a bit beyond where you were originally.

Here is where it gets interesting. A year or so ago my dad got me an Ancestry DNA kit so he could explore the family tree more closely using DNA markers rather than genealogical documents (I know, it sounds a little Maury to me, too). Well you can take that raw DNA data and import it to a service that will take DNA markers and connect it to genetic research.

My results were interesting, and it helps me to lean in more to the idea of loving myself for who I am. Here are a few of the results:

  • Lighter green or hazel eyes (true)
  • Blue eye carrier (true – both kids)
  • Able to digest milk (true)
  • Light-skinned (true)
  • Poor metabolism of drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • More stimulated by coffee
  • Likely to have higher HDL
  • Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Enhanced hippocampal volume
  • Higher muscle strength
  • More likely to develop alcohol dependence

Then we get into the genetic markers that start to shed light on why it is so hard for me to slim down:

  • Likely to be higher BMI
  • Likely to have bigger breasts
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Increased risk for Type 2 diabetes

It is written in my DNA. So if I focus more on making sure I make good lifestyle choices that keep me healthy, it is critical that I accept the idea that I can be fat and fit. This phrase came from that “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” pilot episode.

It is critical that I accept the idea that I can be fat and fit

Where do I go from here? The entire month of January has been a month of introspection for me. About finding my value and my purpose. Now I know I can lay down this mission of getting skinny and instead be a good role model for my daughter (who will likely have a similar issue when she reaches adulthood). I’m going to dig into the nuances of plus-size fashion. I’m going to counteract that Western abundance mentality with a lifestyle more focused on health: cutting back on the foods that cause inflammation and being active daily. The results won’t be on the scale, and I think coming to terms with that may be the healthiest thing I’ve done in 20 years.

Time for an Experiment

I’m going to try a little experiment. See, eating “low carb” is easy if all you do is fill your belly with fat. But is that really a good habit to form? Nah. One of my biggest challenges is motivating myself to eat more fruits and vegetables. I am just naturally drawn to cheese or chicken.

I’m still reading Atomic Habits and hang on this idea of being very clear with the habits you’re trying to establish. The book discusses attaching it to a cue you experience every day. So here is what I’m going to try:

When I feel the desire to eat, I must first eat a fruit or vegetable.

Seems simple enough, right? I’m hoping so. I even made a cute little graphic for my fridge to remind me.

I am pretty good about staying away from the cookies and the candy and the crackers now. This is the next 1% improvement that I’m hoping (hypothesizing?) will boost my trajectory for long-term success.

I put my new plan into action this morning. As I was about to heat up the last of my Pioneer Woman grits leftover from dinner a few days ago, I scavenged the fridge for a fruit or vegetable. I found some ragtag asaparagus hanging out in the back, honestly right on the edge of no return. So I quickly steamed a handful of them with a touch of butter, salt and pepper. They actually complemented my grits, so overall a fulfilling meal.

Sidenote: I can’t find anything that definitively says whether grits can be considered whole grain. They are similar to wheat germ, in that grits are the tiny baby plant in a corn kernel. But I guess nutritionists don’t really focus on regional favorites? Until I read otherwise, I’m considering grits to be a whole grain, so there.

Identity and Repeated Beingness

I dug into my new book, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Only two chapters in and it is inspiring. The first chapter actually discussed trajectory and 1% improvement, much like my last entry. The second set the foundation for why we form habits and the beginnings of how we can look to change them.

It is this idea that we try to generate change by either focusing on the outcome (or goal) or focusing on identity. Clear describes two people at a gathering who are offered a cigarette. One says, “I’m trying to quit,” while the other responds, “I’m not a smoker.”

This book is exactly what I need right now because so much of this anxiety and frustration is borne from this idea that I am editing my identity. Am I a fat person stuck with PCOS? Am I a professional web developer who has scaled back to raise a young family? Am I a frazzled mom constantly on the lookout for assistance?

No.

That isn’t me and when I think on it I can see just how far I’ve come. See a year or two ago, I would have likely agreed with those identity statements. But not today.

In his book, Clear describes how the word identity is formed from two Latin words: essentitas (being) and identidem (repeatedly). So the original definition of identity would be “repeated beingness.” He then expands on that by saying the behaviors we engage in every day form our identity.

So what is my identity? Who do I want to be and how can that direct my million tiny steps each day?


I am creative.

I get tremendous satisfaction from creating, whether that be writing, drawing, graphic designing, gardening or physically building. I make time to allow myself these creative pursuits.

I am domestic.

Before I got married and had kids, I really enjoyed domestic life: cooking, baking, home decor, entertaining. I devote time to researching recipes and cooking from scratch. It brings me joy. Now that it is a necessary element in my life, it has the ability to become a chore, but that’s where I make a conscious decision to find joy in it.

I am a fixer.

When I see something malfunctioning, I am drawn to troubleshooting and solving the puzzle. It is how I got pulled into very intense PTA volunteering, and it is how I find joy in restoring websites that have been attacked by hackers.


 When I look at how I form my identity, PCOS is not part of it. Neither is having brown hair or a flat butt. I will say that when I look at these “identities” things start to become clearer. These identities are molding my daily life. But I’m going to add one more identity to the mix:

I am healthy.

Notice I didn’t put “I will be skinny” or “I will lose 50 pounds.” I am choosing to be healthy, and that means a million tiny decisions each day that will help me be healthy. Instead of Cheerios for breakfast, maybe I’ll choose a quick egg. Maybe that means adding a side of steamed broccoli to my dinner. Maybe that means knocking out 2-3 items in my “to-do” list rather than sitting and watching Netflix while the kids are in school. 

This is where that 1% comes in. Every day I am pushing myself to be 1% better, and these identity markers are setting the trajectory.

Along the way I’m going to enjoy life and all that it brings. I know there are specific foods I should avoid because of my PCOS, but I am not going to deny myself those foods for the rest of my life. Knowing they are still an option but I choose to abstain (or only have a small portion) is a much more sustainable approach than going into the holiday season and telling myself I’m not allowed to taste cookies. Someone who identifies as “I am on a diet” says “I can’t have cookies,” but someone who identifies as “I am healthy” says “Savoring a cookie doesn’t change who I am.”

I am healthy.

Trajectory and a Million Tiny Steps

Here it is. 2020. We are a week into the new year and most people are struggling through new year resolutions. I’m not. Namely because I don’t truly have a resolution. I have an anti-resolution. I’m no longer going to lean hard into making big strides because those big strides open up the risk of failure. Not just failure of the main objective, but the self shame and frustration that accompanies failure. Instead I’ve adopted the 1% mentality.

I recently received James Clear’s Atomic Habits and am going to dig into it starting this weekend. I’ve been following James Clear on Twitter ever since our pastor mentioned his work in a series last year. This tweet stood out to me because it applies mathematical principles to making small steps. This idea that I try to be 1% better than I was the day before seems like a much more digestible daily goal than what I was doing to myself before.

How have I applied it so far?

Every day I find one small way to be better than the day before. I made a list in my ‘Reminders’ app on my phone of all sorts of small tasks that have been outstanding for a while. When I come across another task I quickly jot it down in that list. Then every day I attack at least one of them. Yesterday I finished painting the garage ceiling. Today I’ll take down the neighborhood’s Christmas decorations and store them. I also did 1 minute of planks in the living room before the family came downstairs (OK modified planks because my core isn’t ready to support my chonk yet).

It applies to my nutrition as well. At each meal I ask myself how I can make this just a little bit better for me, knowing what I know about PCOS. Last night we had a pineapple fried rice and chicken recipe (courtesy of Pioneer Woman, whose recipes are always amazing). I added a side of steamed broccoli, even though the rice itself was full of peas and pimentos.

This new “baby steps” mindset is helping me find the joy in each day because I don’t feel like I’m either punishing myself for falling off the wagon or punishing myself by staying on the wagon. I’m just living and being very mindful of trying to make good choices.

This new “baby steps” mindset is helping me find the joy in each day because I don’t feel like I’m either punishing myself for falling off the wagon or punishing myself by staying on the wagon.

That’s not to say that I haven’t struggled lately. Bubs just got back to preschool yesterday. For my deeply introverted soul, that means I’ve had nonstop close contact with a sweet child that doesn’t stop talking. I’m not even kidding either. He talks until the moment he falls asleep. So on Monday I fell back on an old coping mechanism: McDonald’s gravy biscuits. As soon as I ate it I knew I wasn’t in the same place as I was before. When I used to rely on these disgusting wheat bricks I would lick the container to get the last of that fake gravy. This time it just tasted like fast food breakfast. Meh. But the worst is what happened later that day. I am not sure entirely how related the biscuit was to the afternoon, but I got so grumpy and developed a tension headache. 

Lesson learned. 1% better every day.

Get Back Up Again

One of the real beauties of parenting small children these days is you’re exposed to a lot of movies and TV geared toward them. Ever seen Trolls? It is fantastic. We were listening to a specific song from that movie in the car on the way home from the zoo yesterday and it hit me in the feels.

See, I’ve completely slipped down the sand dune. Remember the sand dune? This idea that I can work really hard and see some results, but if I let up I’ll slip back down the hill. Right back to where I started.

That’s where I am right now. All that progress. All the exercise habits I tried to establish.  All the low-carb lifestyles I tried to take root. I’m back to Square One.

So when this song came on Pandora Radio for Kids yesterday, it hit just the right spot. For the first time in YEARS I’m going to do the thing where starting January 1 I right this ship.

I really hope I can do it ’cause they’re all depending on me. I know that I must leave the only home I’ve ever known and brave the dangers of the forest, saving them before they’re eaten. I mean, how hard can that be?

See in the Trolls movie Princess Poppy takes it upon herself to save her entire village from impending doom. Everything is working against her, even those in her village who don’t think she can do it. It reminds me of how I read all these things about how almost impossible it is to get weight off with PCOS. Then I read about how weight loss needs to be a true lifestyle change for it to stick. I’m staring down a big sand dune and I have to choose between tackling it or coming to terms with it.

Looking up at a sunny sky, so shiny and blue and there’s a butterflyWell, isn’t that a super fantastic sign it’s gonna be a fantastic day. Such marvelousness it’s gonna bring, got a pocket full of songs that I’m gonna sing, and I’m ready to take on anything. Hooray! Some super fun surprise around each cornerJust riding on a rainbow, I’m gonna be okay.

But I’m not some Gen Z troll marching off into a felt-covered forest with an unabated positive outlook on accomplishing my mission. I’ve spend my entire adult life yo-yo dieting. I know the task ahead is daunting and that I’m likely going to want to give up in about 6 weeks. Then I’m going to get a wake-up call a few weeks later and jump back on the wagon to restart.

Hey! I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. And if you knock knock me over,  I will get back up again. Oh! If something goes a little wrong, well you can go ahead and bring it on, ’cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.

Can you see why this song hit me in the feels now? It feels like an anthem. I have all the tools I need: the knowledge, the experience of what works. Now I just have to do it — and stick to it.

I’m marching along I got confidence. I’m cooler than a pack of peppermints and I haven’t been this excited since I can’t remember when! I’m off on this remarkable adventure just riding on a rainbow.

Sounds rosy, huh? The best part of the song  is in the next lines, though:

What if it’s all a big mistake? What if it’s more than I can take? No I can’t think that way ’cause I know that I’m really, really, really gonna be okay.

There it is. That’s my mindset heading into 2020. I still have a solid 20 months to meet my goal by my 40th birthday. I’m not going to weigh myself every week because it is causing undue stress. I think perhaps I’ll do weigh-ins less frequently, like maybe monthly or seasonally. I’m going to focus more on the act of climbing the sand dune rather than the metrics quantifying how far I’ve gone.

Hey! I’m not giving up todayThere’s nothing getting in my way. And if you knock knock me over I will get back up again. Oh!  If something goes a little wrong, well you can go ahead and bring it on. ‘Cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.