Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I am part of the statistics

Neighbors/Vecinos


By VERONICA HOYOS LEONARD

Last year, we went to visit my aunt Celia in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and after we sat at the table to have dinner, as she was passing the beans to serve ourselves, she ask me and my kids, "Why are you so fat?" I blushed. I did not know how to answer. I weighed almost 200 pounds and the size 16 was starting to fit small.

All my family is size 8-10 despite that we don't like to exercise and we all eat my aunt's great Mexican/Spanish cooking, like rajas poblanas, limonada made with lots of cane sugar and pastel de nata (nata is the thick creamy layer that forms when raw milk is heated to boiling).

When I was in college, I weighed 121 pounds and I stayed around that weight until I came to the United States and became fat. A few years ago, I went back to Mexico and lived for three years, and in one year I went back to size 8 with no diets and exercise. I ate lots of fruits, vegetables and meat tacos with Coca-Cola. My conclusion is that my excess weight is caused by the style of living in the United States.

One of the most difficult situations for me to control my weight is the long winters in Idaho spent indoors. One of my favorite activities is to watch a movie eating snacks. When I go to the movies, I have to get the oversized "small" popcorn and Diet Coke. The food sizes at the movie theaters are absurd. My mind is busy watching the movie and midway through the movie I realize that everything I bought is gone—I ate it all.

Another difficult situation is the challenge to do exercise in the winter. I am an outdoors person, but when temperatures goes below 30 degrees my body cannot tolerate the cold. While I love hiking outdoors, I hate gyms. I have been trying to find out why I hate them so much. I think it is because it is difficult to see these slim, fit people around me that act like dummies as they never smile or say a word to me. I tried not to take it personally, but it does not make the gym experience better. I also have a low tolerance for high noises. The blasting music at the pump class is intolerable. I do like yoga, but it is not an efficient way to lose pounds.

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The third challenging situation is isolation. I grew up in a social environment where I interacted with friendly people all day long. It was common to have two-hour conversations over coffee. Being unemployed, I hardly see anyone all day, and being overweight, romance is out of the door. Most men like slim women; the thought that someone should like you for who you are, not for the way you look, is not a reality. The more rejection I get, the more I seek comfort from food and occasionally alcohol. I love hot baths with small pieces of chocolate and a glass of a good Port wine.

According to an article on The Daily Beast, "Duke University researchers predict that by the year 2030, the rate of severely obese Americans, people who weigh 100 pounds over the recommended weight for their body size and type, will have doubled to 11 percent of the population. Over the same time period, researchers estimate, the number of Americans who are obese will jump to 42 percent of the population."

The big problem is that the whole society contributes to our weight and there are no real solutions. The most affordable food is low quality, high in calories and very flavorful.The United States is the king of artificial flavors. I dream about the Haagen-Dazs dulce de leche ice cream, Fritos, See's candy, Starbucks vanilla mini scones, pies and Coors beer that I cannot eat anymore.

What we are not good at are natural flavors. Today, I had a choice of flavorless apricots or marshmallows. I ate three of the sweet marshmallows. The American chicken, eggs, meat and the produce hardly have any taste. Early harvesting and the days in refrigeration cause this lack in flavor, not to mention what these animals are fed.

In an effort to change my body, I eat high-fiber cereal; skim organic milk, low-fat kefir, multi-grain wraps with sautéed vegetables, flax and olive oil, and nuts. I also walk every day, but my body is stagnant.

I love my body because, despite my weight, I never get sick. Diarrhea, colds and the flu are unknown experiences. I do have low thyroid, and the more I want to blame my weight problem on the disease, the more my doctor assures me that is not the case. He says it's only a matter of eating less and exercising more.

Last Christmas, I was hiking 10 hours a day, and I got to lose the impressive amount of ... 0 pounds. I have spent hundreds of dollars on Jenny Craig, pills and milkshakes with the only result of losing my gallbladder and getting fatter after I gained the weight back.

So, at this point, I accepted my weight and the fact that I am an obese American. All I can do is continue doing exercise, doing yoga and eating less. Yes, I would prefer to be size 8 again, but I live in the Unites States where everything is big, including its people. I am a proud fat American.




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