First of all, I want to thank my Dad for agreeing to do this interview with me. I think it's important for my readers to know that it takes a lot of support and understanding to be able to untangle the web of emotional eating and obesity. I also think it's important to show my readers (and my Dad as well) that I'm not blaming him for anything. Unhealthy habits get passed from generation to generation and frank conversations such as this help to stop that pattern.Part 1
A1: As a kid, I never learned about exercise, and nobody knew about nutrition in the 1950s. We were taught to eat everything on our plate. We were told to think about the starving children in China; left overs were a moral obligation to finish. I was 40 pounds as a 1-year-old. My parents would feed me to stop from crying that first. I then slimmed out. I ran through neighborhood often, climbed all trees available, and from 4 to 5 was the Peter Pan, ruler and leader of the neighborhood kids. I was tall, trim, outgoing, confident, self-assured and active until the summer my mother died, two months short of my eighth birthday. From age 8 to 12, I just ballooned up in weight, lost confidence and really became a different person to that happy kid I had been before my mother’s death. We had conflicting influences, various housekeepers and even sometimes we were left on our own. I don’t remember food being solace during that time. However, there was no overall approach to a healthy regimen of food and exercise and there was, for me, a great deal of sorrow and trauma.
Q1.1: Do you think the “clean plate” mentality your parents had was a result of them living through the Great Depression, or was it some other reason?
A1.1: Not the Depression, it was more a left over from the Victorian Era. I also think that for my parents’ generation slimness was akin to sickliness for some. My mother was as slim as a rail due to her heart defect, and plump cherubs for children indicated in some way that they were healthy.
Q3: I've seen pictures of you as a young man, and you were quite dapper and thin. When did you notice that you were gaining weight? Do you know why you were gaining weight?
A3: Luckily, I hit a growth spurt that allowed me to be 6’2” and 175 at 18-years-old at graduation. I looked good then. Then I gained weight in the novitiate. We had sports, and exercise, but also a lot of other influences. At college I was between 215 and 235, and stayed in that range, mostly till third year of law school between age 28 and 29. Law school was sedentary, driving a cab was sedentary. Eating deli on the run was not helpful either. Thus, I got heavier. From 17 to 29, the lightest I ever was was 185 when I was in Boston. The heaviest was 280-290 when I got married. Since then the lowest I was was 238 in the late 80s. I was 250 when I tore my left ACL in 2008. That injury contributed to going up tp my current weight. But eating out, eating deli, not exercising and unhealthy eating also are huge factors.
Q4: You once said to me that you tried running once, but wasn't enamored because you didn't experience a "runner's high" -- what were you expecting?
A4: Let me rephrase the question. I had to run at times in gym, I also tried to be on track team at some point. Running always was painful in the legs, chest and abdomen and I never experienced a runner’s high, as in the endorphins. I was not instructed on the right way to train, nor did I have anyone to tell what to expect, how to work through it, or anything like that. An example, the track coach put me in a relay once, had to sprint 220 yards, did miserably. All he did was look at me disdainfully. Years later, remembering I said in my mind the rejoinder I should have said then: “don’t look at me like that, teach me.”
A5: The emotional ups and downs of my formative years left me feeling all over the place, without any understanding of myself, my weight, my health. I never had a sense of pride about my body, and not even any perception regarding same. I once did a low fat regime and stuck with it for a good while. I have tried other things with varying degrees of failure, even Weight Watchers.