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Stop Driving the Fatmobile!

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Monday, May 02, 2016


1931 was a good year. I mean, I can't vouch for it anymore than some carbon-dating "expert" can vouch for the Big Bang, as I wasn't exactly an eyewitness to the thirties either, but similar to their argument for such things, there is some residual evidence. That evidence is my Grandpa Miesse, who turns 85 today. He is, by far, the greatest man I've ever known, not only because he's the best preacher/evangelist I've ever heard, but also because he is one of those people everyone loves. He is stern when he needs to be (he had a wooden paddle with holes drilled in it for effect, and we all knew he would use it if need be!), but he is also a charitable person who would (and literally has) given anyone the shirt off his back.


He and my grandma have done well for themselves in life, even though they came from very humble beginnings. He was once a little boy shoeless, and he struggled as a young Baptist preacher and a father of six, but he felt called to the ministry and trusted God to provide. He was the pastor of the church I grew up in and went to preschool in, and in the years that followed, he and my grandma undertook a new career of natural health alternatives, when they were completely blown away by what Black Cohosh did for my grandma on the recommendation of a friend to help her through the infamous "change." For over forty years, they ran their own herb and supplement shop, but they also traveled the country and the world, sharing all they'd learned about natural health, and Grandpa became a renowned and sought-after speaker in the field. He was never afraid to share his faith, and to this day, if you compliment him on their sizable property or his nice house or the life they are able to live comfortably, he will tell you that none of it is his because God took care of him when he literally had seven cents in his pocket. He is my hero in a thousand ways, and I cannot thank the good Lord enough that I've been able to have my grandpa and grandma in my life for the past 45 years, especially since I lost my mama and daddy (their daughter and her husband) last year to alzheimer's/parkinson's and a heart attack respectively.


I have the extreme privilege of sitting next to my grandparents in church every Sunday, and I can't think of anywhere I'd rather sit, except maybe under Grandpa's pulpit; as much as I love our little preacher, my grandpa is the best evangelist I've ever known, one of those down-home kind of fellas who doesn't bother with outlines and PowerPoints and alliteration and really just tells it like it is. Maybe it was all those classy cowboys on the Westerns he so loved. Grandpa and Grandma have had their own struggles with health problems, even though they get around surprisingly well for their age. They still drive themselves to church, and while Grandma needs a walker, she was out helping him plant flowers just this weekend. Grandpa tends to ignore his doctors' requests and insists on helping his boys bale hay or helping his grandkids operate the saws in his woodshop to make furniture or whatever other projects they're working on. He's one of those fellas who simply won't take his last breath in a rocking chair. The way we all figure it, he'll make his grand departure somewhere near a pile of sawdust or a barn, and he wouldn't want it any other way.


I realize none of you know my grandpa, and most of you have or had grandparents of your own, so me going on and on about mine on a weight control website doesn't make much sense, but there's a reason for it. Yesterday as we were walking out of church, I overheard Grandpa telling one of the dear church ladies that he feels very blessed to have had 85 years here, since not everyone does. He struggled to catch his breath yesterday, which he sometimes does, since he had heart surgery not too long ago, and it still left him with only about 20% use of his heart. He gets fainting spells on rare occasions, and in the past couple of weeks, he had to have some skin problems biopsied and treated, which has left him in a lot of pain. Nevertheless, he seldom complains, and he keeps pushing to fill his days with as much as he can, often helping others in big and small ways, just as he has been doing his whole life. In his careers as a preacher (he HATES being called "reverend" or "minister" or "pastor," as he said those are too stuffy when he's just an "ol' country preacher"), and as a construction worker and as a landlord and as a natural health worker, he has spent his life trying to make the lives of others better, and I believe God has blessed him and my grandma for living their lives that way. I believe it is why they are still here, because they have been a blessing and are still being blessings. They are keenly aware of the weight struggles people have, because they have spent their lives counseling people on how to be healthier in natural ways, and my grandpa, at one point, literally wrote "the book" on weight loss, when he researched a glandular-system based program to help people reduce their waistlines. It was also a frequent topic on a radio show he hosted for better health and in the newsletters and brochures and weekly penny-saver articles I started editing/copywriting for him when I was in my teens. I learned much from them about health, weight, and nutrition, but I really didn't apply it.


For most of my life growing up, I was the fat grandkid on that side of the family. I was a skinny kid, and Grandpa called me "skeeter legs" for a long time, but in my early teens, I ballooned up, and I just kept on ballooning into adulthood. By my 33rd birthday, when my daughter informed me, "You're as old as Jesus, Mommy!" I weighed in at over 290 lbs. My mom was never very big, and her heart broke for me when I was an overweight teenager; I distinctly remember her offering to go on diets with me, taking bike rides with me to help me get some exercise, and even offering to buy me a whole new wardrobe of clothes if I could work with her to try to lose a little. She did not need to lose weight herself, but she was willing to work alongside me, so I wouldn't have to go it alone. My grandparents often tried to help me lose weight, giving me advice and the herbs and such that they thought would help, but none of it worked until 2003, when I decided for myself that it was time to do something about it. Much like I've done with Spark, I began counting calories, based on my RMR (resting metabolic rate), and it worked so well that I cut myself in half in just a little over a year. My grandparents were so proud of me that they bought me a beautiful dress for a job interview that I had to go on, and they put a giant before and after picture of me up in their store, because the program that their business used actually helped when I put my mind to it and started obeying that calorie-counting software their company was guinea pigging on me.


I gained the weight back over the years for a variety of reasons, but the underlying reason was always the same, as I feel it is for most people: I simply did not care enough to put my own health in a front-row seat. I was depressed about my mom being diagnosed with and deteriorating from those horrible diseases, torn in two that at only 53, she was permanently admitted to a nursing facility. I was feeling lonely about being a single parent who hadn't been on so much as a Coffee date in 9 years (though I still have plenty dates with Coffee himself, my lifelong love affair who is always there for me even when the human male population isn't). My job was very stressful and was getting to me. I wasn't doing so great paying my bills. Life, in general, just felt heavy, and I began to grow heavy again beneath it. I distinctly remember eating a whole tube of Oreos when I heard about my mom being taken to the home, and things only went downhill from there. One minute, I was being photographed in spandex for an issue of WOMEN'S WORLD and showing up on product packaging for my amazing weight-loss story, even invited as a backup guest on Wayne Brady's talk show and called by the producers of Maury at one point. I didn't end up on national TV, but I did begin to feel as if I belonged on a wide screen. Little by little, the pounds came back, because as much as my family and a few PR teams were rooting for me, I stopped rooting for myself.


This go-round, it was quite the same way. My grandparents have always loved me, but I know they want their grandkids to be happy and healthy. My daughter has never mocked me or said much about my weight, but I knew she was hurting when the kids at the bus stop made fun of her big mother, and I knew I was being a bad influence on her, because she was an overweight teenager herself, and it did a lot of damage to her self-esteem and her ability to put herself out there and try things. My brother, sister, aunts, uncles, dad, cousins, and other relatives always treated me pretty kindly, and no one said much when I hovered around the Thanksgiving table, stuffing my face. The people at work and church saw me go from being a literal poster girl for shocking weight loss to being a fat person again, even fatter than I was before, all within less than a year. I knew all of these people were rooting for me, but until I made the decision myself to do something about it, it wasn't going to work. That day was January of 2014, and I kept working at it and hit that goal on 174 lbs. of loss on April 11. That 831 days is a lot longer than it takes some people, but I did it because I finally demanded that I do something about my own health.


My grandparents are my heroes in so many ways that there are not words to describe it, but sometimes, to make real changes, we need to find the hero in ourselves. I'm not going to be running around in tights and a cape anytime soon, and I don't think phone booths even exist anymore. I didn't lose my weight faster than a speeding bullet, and it took far more than a single bound for me to leap tall weigh-ins. But now, when I have the precious opportunity to hug my grandparents, they can wrap their arms all the way around their oldest grandbaby (yes, I'm the most ancient on both sides of my fam), and I know that makes them smile. Now, I know that I am doing what I can to keep from dying as early as my parents did, especially since my dear daddy's weight was a contributing factor in his lack of wellness and in his death at 67 just last November. Now, my daughter has a mom she can look up to as a role model instead of a roll model, and she is making positive changes in herself because she decided that she was ready too.


My grandpa has been around for 85 years, and during the nearly 5 decades I've been in his life, he has taught me the most important lesson of all: If I don't do for myself, I won't be around as long to do for others. You may not feel much like Superman or Wonder Woman, but it takes a whole lot of superpower to stick to your calorie allowances or to get back to them when you run into a little culinary kryptonite. You likely have your own personal Justice League rooting you on, but you are really the one who must decide that it's time to stop driving around in the fatmobile. I can't guarantee you'll ever look as good in a black latex suit as Catwoman does (darn you, Halle and Eartha!) or that any of us will be here for 85 years, but I CAN guarantee that you'll enjoy more of however many years you have if you heroically take care of yourself so you can take better care of the people you love.
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