Being Overweight – Part II: How did I get here?

David K 2007, after losing over 90 pounds – under 400 pounds

As I noted in Part I, back in the 1970s I was at a nice weight of 235 pounds.  I felt good, was athletic and I looked great for a big-boned 6’3″ bloke. Since 1979 I have almost doubled in weight…I am currently 215 pounds heavier than I was 33 years ago.  That is an average of 6 1/2 pounds gained per year (by the way, I lost more than that last week!!!)

So, how did I get this way?  Does it even matter that I look into it?   I argue that it is important that I try to understand all of the causality.

I have always been fascinated that there are some people (like my step father Joe Kravetz) who never seem to fluctuate in their weight…no matter how much they eat and no matter how much activity they have.  Joe Kravetz could eat a whole giant bowl of ice cream and a rich Mexican food meal and still not gain a pound.  I would LOOK at the food and gain FIVE!!  See some photos below to compare.  Joe has weighed about 165 all of his life.

Joe Kravetz 1959

Joe Kravetz 1968

Joe Kravetz 1990s

David K 1972

David K 1976

David K 2012

What I get from this is that we are each a 100% unique concoction of flesh and bones and other stuff. Like snowflakes and fingerprints, we all differ. We are a unique mix of inherited genetics and DNA sprinkled with our upbringing, where we lived, life experiences, inherited or contracted diseases, emotional roller coasters, jobs, environment and more.

My real father, Joe Laurienzo, passed away of lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 57.  Sadly, I never got to meet him. However, my half sisters and half brothers have told me that he struggled with yo-yo diets and weight most of his life.  I know that his parents were large as well.

Grandma and Grandpa Laurienzo

Joe Laurienzo

My real mother Orene Goldberg (now known as Jennierose Lavender) left me when I was about 5 years old.  She too has a propensity towards largeness, as I am sure all three of my daughters can attest.  She is still alive, but has been bedridden for many years with Lupus, Fibromyalgia and is very overweight.  Yet she is still kickin’!!

Jennierose late 1990s

So, I believe that in some respects, I have inherited genes that give me the propensity to get big.

I used to joke with my wife that every time she got pregnant, so did I…make sense.  We had five kids and I have gained about 50 pounds per kid.  She had the baby, I kept the weight…I really did.

Another factor in my weight gain, I believe, is hypothyroidism.  Back a few years ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and have since been on a daily regimen of levothyroxine (also known as Synthroid). Hypothyroidism – often referred to as underactive thyroid – is a condition in which the thyroid gland (butterfly-shaped gland in front of your windpipe) does not make enough of a hormone called thyroxine. According to the Synthroid site, “Mild weight gain and difficulty losing weight are common symptoms of hypothyroidism.”   The weight I gained was only mildly attributable to not having my hypothyroid under control for a number of years.  But, more importantly, the difficulty losing weight is the bigger challenge for me.

I note the weight loss issue as it is a big source of frustration for me.  Back in 2007 I went on a plan called HMR (see some of my old blog entries here .)  In May 2007 I dropped to under 400 pounds for the first time in years.  I finally got down to about 390 (at the time it was a loss of nearly 90 pounds!!!)…and then a terrible thing happened….I plateaued!  I was still on the HMR plan, still working out, but could not get any more weight off for over two weeks.  I was sorely discouraged and ended up dropping out of the HMR program.

But, hypothyroidism is only a factor and not an excuse!!

As 2007 rolled into November, I was let go from my position at Lexmark after 9 years.  It was my longest stable job ever.  This threw me into the beginnings of a tailspin that continued into 2008, where I worked for nearly a year away from home in Canada and only saw my family once every two weeks.  I eventually was cut from this contractor position and then began work in early 2009 in a dead end low paying job at a call center.  I continued the downward spiral into grave depression.  My weight over these two years returned to the 450+ level.  I didn’t care anymore.  It was rough.  My poor wife had to deal with a broken man.  I tried and tried, but it was then that I realized that depression really was a sickness!!

Job Loss Depression

Fortunately, the good Lord opened a door for me to iHigh.com, where I was hired in Sept. 2009.  I worked hard…very hard…to the point of obsession.  During my employment there I got a number of promotions and loved the work.  But, I was so engaged in the work that everything took second fiddle.  Everything!!

Well, despite all of my good work, I was let go from that position at the beginning of November 2012, as was my wife.  It was another devastation.  But, unlike the 2007-2009 period, we were in much better shape to handle it.

What I am getting at is that depression and stress are also factors in weight gain.  According to WebMD, “in 2009, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported that depressed people tend to gain weight faster than people who aren’t depressed.” Further, “When you are depressed, it is much harder to get out of bed, much less pay attention to what you are eating,” says Edward Abramson, PhD, an emeritus professor of psychology at California State University at Chico and the author of Emotional Eating: What You Need To Know Before Starting Another Diet.

THE REAL CULPRIT!!

But, in all honesty, though all of the above are factors in my weight gain and my difficulty in losing, the most likely real culprit was my inactivity.  I have had nothing but sedentary work, I would get home and do nothing as well.  I also pretty much ate what I wanted, though Julianne has tried and tried to get me to change.  But, change is only doable when you set your own mind to it.

About a year ago Julianne and I invested in a membership at the gym.  We paid for about 15 months.  I have used it four times since then.  That is DISGUSTING and wasteful!!  Julianne has been much better and it shows.

Exercise Time

I think the cartoon above says it all.  I really did use the excuse that I had no time for exercise.  Even now I find myself using that excuse.

An interesting note about all of the purported factors above…as I researched hypothyroidism, it was noted in articles that the only way to even begin losing the weight is a good diet and active exercise.

The right ways to lose weight (from Synthroid.com)

 

 

So what can help you lose the weight you might have gained due to hypothyroidism? Lead a healthy lifestyle. Being physically active and making smart food choices is important for your overall health. These healthy choices may also help you lose the weight you gained with hypothyroidism. Leading a healthy lifestyle also may lead to an improvement in other hypothyroidism symptoms, like unhealthy cholesterol levels and mood-related symptoms. Just make sure you always talk to your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise program.*And in terms of depression… 

Be Active, Make Choices, Feel Better (from WebMD.com)

Exercise is a key part of treating overweight and depression, in part because it allows patients to play an active role in caring for themselves. In fact, Gordon maintains that exercise is the best prescription for treating mild to moderate depression, as well as being helpful for severe depression.

“People feel good about doing things for themselves – that, in itself, is therapeutic,” Gordon says.

Gordon also recommends taking a break from fast food and other unhealthy eating habits; instead, he says, make time to cook a meal for yourself.

“It goes beyond just preparing something healthier to eat than fast food,” says Gordon. “People get engaged in their own care, and that’s crucial to dealing with weight.”

Exercise

So, I can try to tag genetics, tag depression, tag hypothyroid, tag busy schedules….but, nothing will help more than getting more exercise.

Its really a matter of physics…I must use more calories than I take in.  It may take me longer than others, I may not lose as fast, but all of the other good things such as lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, less of a propensity to diabetes, etc., will also help me to the Enjoy the Ride longer.

So, this is how I should look every day:

Jogging

Exercising

Next in the Being Overweight series… “Can You See the Real Me?”  — coming in the next day or two…


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