Theodore Decker: In the up-and-down, but mostly up, struggle to lose weight, a realization

·4 min read
Thanksgiving begins a holiday season of tempting foods.
Thanksgiving begins a holiday season of tempting foods.

Let the season of overeating begin.

Who am I kidding? For me that season began a long time ago, and has never subsided.

Through the years, I've touched a few times on my, ahem, largely unsuccessful efforts to lose weight.

Theodore Decker: Once more upon the scale

These efforts have been, at least in terms of sustainability, for naught. When it comes to the ups and downs of weight loss, my story is mostly up, up, up. I have come to consider it a minor victory to just hold steady.

But you already know all this. If there had been a significant weight-loss victory in my life, you'd be looking at a different headshot for this column.

Columbus Dispatch metro columnist Theodore Decker
Columbus Dispatch metro columnist Theodore Decker

Any time I've written about my weight, I receive a crush of emails from readers who are going through or have gone through the same. Their feedback tends to be kind and unflaggingly positive, and they share insights they've gleaned that might be of some help.

In that spirit, I recently made a personal discovery. It's not earth-shattering by any means, and in a general sense, it already had been pointed out to me more than once. But I'm hoping this discovery might prove useful to me because of the way it unfolded, and maybe to some of you as we enter this party-platter period.

More: 5 healthy eating tips for the holidays, courtesy of the CDC

Certainly, I've known for a long time that my relationship with food is fraught with psychology. "Food is fuel," I've told myself countless times, and yet, there I am at 10 p.m., eating out of frustration or anger or most often just plain boredom.

This is well-plowed ground, I know.

Noom, the newer kid on the weight-loss-plan block, has built its identity entirely around understanding that psychology. An ad for the plan currently making the rounds, I've just noticed, has the impeccable music sense to employ a cover of "Where is My Mind?," a Pixies track off the band's 1988 LP, Surfer Rosa.

When I'm overeating, my mind is anywhere but on the food in front of me.

So, yeah, I knew all of this on some level. On to the recent realization.

My wife sent me to our little-used, older laptop to retrieve an email. I don't find time to fire it up much anymore, but it still hosts most of our family photos from the last 13 years.

Since the machine took so much effort to boot up, I hesitated to shut it down right away and thought I'd jump into the pictures for a brief stroll down memory lane.

I started back in 2008, and right away noticed how much thinner I was in the pictures. That was not the new experience. Of course, we all notice our younger, "better" selves in pictures.

Full disclosure, I was not svelte back then. But between then and now? A world of difference.

Curiosity piqued, I went through the pictures in order. I take a lot of pictures, so it took a while.

I scrolled through years of holidays, summer vacations, first days of school.

I recognize that weight gain is a complex phenomenon. I know that age, a slowing metabolism, the shift to a more sedentary family life, and myriad other factors contribute.

But the pictures, to me, were striking. In 2008, and well into 2009, I was in reasonable shape.

By 2011, I was pretty much where I am now. I'd tell you exactly how much I've gained if I knew what I weighed in 2008. My best guess? Somewhere around 70 pounds.

And I didn't have to dig deep into my subconscious mind to determine the significance of the intervening years.

In the fall of 2009 — I've written about this, too — a close friend died by suicide. His memorial service fell on my wedding anniversary.

His death sent me off the rails in a number of ways, but never did I consider that it might have played some role in my weight gain.

The following fall, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. By May 2011, he was gone. His funeral fell on the day before my birthday.

By the close of that year, a different person had appeared in my place in family pictures. The emotional heaviness of those few years, it certainly appears in hindsight, had translated to dramatically higher numbers on the scale.

"I know how to lose weight," I told my wife. "I just need to find a way to bring Pete and my dad back."

Hi, I'm Ted. Like Chandler Bing on "Friends," I make jokes when I'm uncomfortable.

Honestly, I don't have the slightest idea whether this realization will translate into real change. But it does feel real.

Regardless, I thought I'd share. Maybe it will lead somewhere for a few of you.

Today, I'll try to go easy on the cheesy potatoes and apple pie. And also, a little easier on myself.

tdecker@dispatch.com

@Theodore_Decker

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Holiday weight-loss tip: Don't underestimate emotional traumas of past