Category Archives: Joan biographical information
Reflections on 40 years of changes, personal
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou
Today, October 28, 2019, is the 40th anniversary of my reaching lifetime status with Weight Watchers. Since that day, I have weighed in every single month (except for a six-month stretch in 1987-88 when I was extremely ill), and I have never been more than 2 pounds above my goal weight these past 40 years.
Not that it has been easy. In that interval, my weight has gone up and down, sometimes for known reasons, sometimes for unknown reasons. Over the course of 2018, I gained 12 pounds. My clothes were getting tight, and by the first week of January 2019, I was one pound away from losing my free lifetime status and my unbroken record. Since then, I’ve reduced the amount of food I’ve been eating, and it has taken me 9 months to lose 10 pounds. I am at a comfortable weight again. (What turned out to be my ideal weight, in my estimation, is 8 pounds under my official goal weight.)
This brings me to a difficult reality of long-term weight loss:
Once you try to lose weight, you can never go back to eating the way you did before (if you want to keep it off).
This is due to the fact that when you lose weight, your metabolism slows down, and never returns to the point it was before you started to lose weight. This is the reason that those who have made multiple attempts to lose weight (example: “yo-yo” dieting) reach a point where they literally cannot lose weight, because their metabolism is at such a low level that in order to lose weight, they would have to take in fewer calories than the number of calories they would need to live. So they’re stuck.
This is the reason that, in 1979, I lost weight at a rate of about 2 pounds a week, and in 2019, I lost weight at a rate of about 1 pound per month. (Fortunately for me, I’ve not made numerous attempts to lose weight only to gain it back again, so that I’m not at the point where in order to lose weight, I would have to eat fewer calories than is necessary for basic survival, but this is still darn slow.) Adding to this is that the metabolism naturally slows over time. As a result, over the 40 years since I reached my goal weight, I have gradually had to eat less and less food in order to maintain my ideal weight. (When I reached menopause, I gained about 15 pounds very quickly. Fortunately for me, I was about 15 pounds below my goal weight at the time.) Again, I wish to emphasize that I’m not anywhere near the point where I would eat less than the basic amount needed for survival.
My weight has not remained stable over these 40 years. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down. Even when I haven’t changed the amount I eat daily. Sometimes I can guess as to the reasons I gained or lost, other times I have no idea.
In 1979, I had the thought that once I lost the weight, I would stay at that weight (there is some evidence for a “set point,” that is, a weight that the body resists going over or under, but I have not found this to be a significant factor for me). Within a week of reaching my lifetime status, that thought was disproved very quickly.
Some doctors are finally taking the issue of obesity seriously. There’s still a widespread belief among too many physicians that all one has to do to lose weight is to have the amount of calories eaten to be less than the amount of calories expended, but it isn’t that simple, and it never was. Doctors admit that they have very little training about weight issues in medical school. Some say that it amounted to maybe 1-2 sessions. It is absolutely the truth that the average Weight Watchers (now WW) leader knows more about weight loss than the average doctor. (WW gives hours and hours of training in the latest scientific research about weight.) Once or twice when I was a Weight Watchers leader, I was approached by a member who told me that her doctor asked her to ask me about a weight loss issue. I have witnessed other members approach other leaders with queries from their doctors.
My view is this: yes, the reason that the weight loss experience is such a horrendous one is that humans evolved for millennia in an environment of food scarcity (and the human body will strongly resist any attempt at weight loss), and the evolution of the human body has yet to catch up with an environment of food abundance. Therefore, my opinion is that if doctors want everyone at a certain BMI, they need to stop lecturing people about eating less or referring people to weight loss surgery, and concentrate on finding a way to artificially compensate if there’s ever going to be progress made. [I am not holding my breath, however, that this will be done anytime soon.]
As a result of this, some are taking charge of the issue independently of the medical profession. Some individuals are just fine with their current weight, and feel they don’t need to change that. Good for them.
I am in favor of the “body positivity” movement. People need to be comfortable with how their bodies look no matter how much they weigh. Getting rid of the social stigma of being overweight would NOT encourage people to overeat; it would, however, greatly enhance their mental and emotional health. There is a rising movement which feels that it isn’t necessary for everyone to be thin. I understand where they’re coming from.
I felt it was necessary for me to get to what I felt was a reasonable weight, and I feel that choice is also valid. That’s the reason I went to WW, and was an employee for a time.
For that reason, I feel I need to say a little more about Weight Watchers (WW). I lost weight on the Weight Watchers program in 1979. I was an employee of Weight Watchers from 2000-2009. Since then, WW has not only changed its name, but has stopped calling its sessions meetings (they are now called workshops), and calls its locations “studios,” both of which are positive developments, in my opinion. They have also changed their approach to emphasize healthy lifestyles (which were always a part of the program, but are now more prominent) as opposed to centering on weight loss.
I follow individuals who are part of the body positivity movement on social media. I don’t comment on their posts, I just read them. A couple have said that WW is part of the problem, as opposed to being part of the solution, and moreover, that WW has indulged in body shaming. I have never witnessed this in my 40 years of association with WW. I can tell you that, as an employee, I was told never to read a weight number aloud, and not to give my own weight, because there would be individuals around who would never get to that weight, and comparing their weight to mine could be a problem for them. That made sense. If I, or any other WW employee, had “fat shamed” anyone, we would have been given a reprimand at the first instance, and be fired upon repetition. (When I was an employee, I read the employee message boards daily, and on rare occasions there were reports from other employees witnessing WW receptionists giving disparaging remarks to members. So I know it happened. But I never witnessed it myself, it was never company policy, and I know those who did it were in danger of being fired.) Company policy has always been, and is now, to have WW be a welcoming place for everyone and a shelter from the outside, fat-shaming, world.
[I will say that the situation was different when I joined WW in 1979. The scale was in the middle of the room, we all lined up and were weighed. The weigher told us our weight aloud (in a conversational tone, not shouted across the room). This did not bother me in the least. I know it bothers many individuals, however. The point is, however, that weighers had stopped saying one’s weight aloud by the time I joined WW as an employee in 2000.]
The word “fatphobia” has come into use. The definition I found online is “fear or dislike of obese people or obesity.” I believe that is a real thing.
For me, I have never defined a person’s worth (mine, or anyone else’s) by their weight.
I lost weight because I felt uncomfortable and wanted to do something about it, and didn’t know how to lose weight in a healthy manner. I think that WW has a place for those of us who want to lose weight in a safe, healthy way. Nothing I ever experienced at WW, either as an employee, or as a member, has shown a fear or dislike of obese individuals.
I have seen a couple of things online. First, details such as keeping a food diary, or counting calories/points, or phrases such as “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels” have bothered some. I can understand the view that such things can become obsessive, but writing down what I ate and weighing and measuring everything was important to me because I did not know what a reasonable portion size was and I had trouble keeping track. Now, I am obsessive about some things, granted. But I have not been obsessive about keeping track of food or weighing and measuring things. And, once I reached a stable weight, I stopped doing those things, because by then, I knew what a reasonable portion size was and what amount of food was appropriate. As with anything else, these actions can be taken to extremes. But I don’t believe calorie counting causes eating disorders; I think that eating disorders can cause obsessive calorie counting. As for phrases such as “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” I have no problem with avoiding that phrase if it bothers anyone.
Second, there’s been criticism of WW for introducing a plan for teenagers. In 1979, there was a plan for teenagers (and pregnant individuals, for that matter). By 2000, there was not, and I was told that pregnant individuals and teenagers could not join WW unless they had a doctor’s note. WW has recently re-introduced a plan for teenagers, which they call a healthy eating plan and maintain that it’s not a weight loss plan. Still, I can see that this is problematic. Certainly teenagers should be taught good nutrition (I was, in school). On the other hand, I definitely see the point that it’s better to wait until adulthood before making a choice as to whether or not to lose weight.
Another thing I’ve seen online is labeling “before” and “after” pictures as fatphobic. I’ve taken mine down because of that, even though I don’t see that display as equivalent to saying “see how pathetic I was before and see how wonderful I am now” because I don’t think in those terms. I was not pathetic when I was overweight and I am not any more or less wonderful now than I was then. But I can see how someone might interpret it that way.
I’ve learned other things in the past 40 years as well. After I left WW as an employee, I wrote a book about my weight loss experience, sure that people would want to know my weight loss story. They didn’t. The book didn’t sell many copies. After a couple of years, I realized that what I wrote might come across as pompous and rewrote the book. Still didn’t sell much. Since I rewrote it, I learned a lot more about weight loss. In particular, I’ve learned that no one weight loss program works for everyone, and that different individuals need to try different methods before finding one that works for them. Therefore, my experience may be entirely worthless to many. I don’t promote the book anymore; I can see that it may still come across as pompous. There are reasons it would be difficult to take it down (due to contracts with the suppliers) until 2021. Then I will remove it from circulation. (Fortunately, again, I rarely sell copies of it.)
After I left WW as an employee, I published a couple of food journals. Those remain in circulation because there are lots of reasons that an individual might want to track food aside from weight loss (carbs, salt, etc., which there is space for in those journals), and I feel they serve all those functions.
In this blog, I have previously published thoughts related to weight control. As I’ve stated above, I’ve learned a lot more about weight issues since then. I may delete those posts because of that. Or I may leave them to show the evolution and changing of my thought process over the years. I haven’t made a decision on that yet.
I am continuing to learn about these and other health issues, and about the impact these issues have, and continue to do my best to be sensitive to them.
Meanwhile, I do continue to share articles (such as those referenced below) on my Twitter account @joanhealthynote and my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JMVHealthyNote/ if anyone is interested.
“…the body adjusts to weight loss. It quickly decreases the number of calories it needs to maintain its new, lighter size, says Corby Martin, PhD, director of the Ingestive Behavior Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. That means weight loss slows down over time.”
Mysteries of Weight Loss http://wb.md/1mCgspm from @WebMD
After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight http://nyti.ms/1O9EG21
“Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends.”
“What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower….”
“Their experience shows that the body will fight back for years.”
“Slower metabolisms were not the only reason the contestants regained weight, though. They constantly battled hunger, cravings and binges.”
“Dr. Proietto said. ‘The body puts multiple mechanisms in place to get you back to your weight. The only way to maintain weight loss is to be hungry all the time.'”
One Weight-Loss Approach Fits All? No, Not Even Close http://nyti.ms/2hfeix1
Week 12 at The Iron Yard…end of class, but not the end of learning
I have now completed week 12 at The Iron Yard and have the certificate to prove it! Week 12 was another week of intensive learning. I completed an online portfolio, and in the process learned more about CSS styling as well as responsive design (and media queries). I made more pages based on the Open Weather API: one page which gives current weather conditions when the user inputs a city name or zip code, and one page which gives a 7-day forecast when the user inputs a city name or zip code.
My demo project is now live on the web. This proved to be a more complex process than I had anticipated, and I learned that there is a significant difference between a web page that simply displays data and a web page that accesses storage on a server.
I have always thought that coding was fun, and this class was a lot of fun…and a lot of work (and I’d do it all again if it could!). I’d highly recommend The Iron Yard to anyone who wants to learn coding, and highly recommend Jim as a Front End instructor. I’ll miss seeing my classmates daily, though there will be opportunities to see them again, especially since our Demo Day is later this month.
My plans are to start a job search, and to work on even more projects. I particularly wish to find out more about jQuery and about CSS animation. I expect that my GitHub repository record will remain active.
I also hope to speak to future Iron Yard classes and meetups to share all the fun I’ve had!
Web Documentation: Week Five at the Iron Yard
Here’s the process in brief:
Enter number: <input type=”text” name=”number”>
<input type=”button” onClick=”GuessNumber()” value=”Submit”>
..which shows on the web page as:
var mybutton = document.querySelector(“input”).value
..and one can proceed from there. Why this concept was nowhere explained in clear and concise language in the sites I visited is a mystery to me. I’m finding a lot of the coding documentation on the web is not well-written or clearly explained. It appears that a number of contributors may be proficient at writing code, but less proficient in writing explanatory prose. This can become a problem when researching information.
var guess = prompt(“Input number between 1 and 100”);
where guess captures the data entered into a pop-up box on the web page which is labeled “Input number between 1 and 100.” However, most users prefer to avoid a pop-up box, and there are other disadvantages as well. It will get the job done, but may not be the most efficient way to gather information on a web page.
BULLYING MUST STOP
When I heard about the death of Phoebe Prince, the student at South Hadley High School, who was bullied to death, I experienced the same anger, frustration, and grief as I have at the reported death of all the others who have been bullied to death. At the same time, I identify strongly with these tragedies, since, I, too, was bullied from the day I started kindergarten at C.S. Elementary to the day I graduated from high school. I felt the same despair as they did, and seriously considered suicide myself on more than one occasion. (Why didn’t I commit suicide? In retrospect, it was probably due to 2 factors: first, committing suicide requires effort, and that was energy I didn’t want to expend; second, I clung to hope that one day things would get better.)
When I was in high school, I reviewed my record with a counselor. She said that my elementary school teachers recorded that I cried a lot. I did. I came into school naively believing that the other students held on to the same values as I did (that is, to follow the Golden Rule to the best of one’s ability). When they taunted me, I cried to show that they had hurt my feelings, because I innocently believed that once they saw they were hurting my feelings, they would stop.
I was completely bewildered as to why anyone would bully me. After all, I had done nothing to them. I didn’t taunt them. I didn’t try to make their lives miserable. In fact, when they did bully me, I did not retaliate.
A pattern emerged: when a new person came into school, that person would be friendly to me, and maybe we’d be friendly for a while. Then the rest of the group made it clear that I was not to be associated with, and that person would drift away. One particular sign that this was happening was that my peers addressed me by my last name, and always with a sneer. In our local school culture, you called your friends by their first name, you called those you had contempt for by their last name. New students more than once expressed surprise to me that my first name was “Joan” and not “Verba.”
My parents knew what was going on. When I complained about what was happening, my parents said, “just ignore them.” This didn’t work. Nothing did. In junior high, other students taunted me for carrying my books in a briefcase. I got rid of the briefcase, believing that they would stop bothering me. They didn’t. The girls in junior high taunted me because I didn’t wear nylons (I wore socks). I started wearing nylons. They found something else to find fault with. I was always “ugly” and (until I lost some weight in high school) “fat.”
Once, my father offered to move to another state, to escape the bullying. I strongly vetoed the idea and we remained where we were. My reasoning was that as long as I stayed in that school system, I could console myself with the idea that nothing was wrong with me; I was just in a school full of losers. If, however, I went to another school and was bullied again, that would be proof positive that something WAS wrong with me and I knew the idea that I was at fault would have destroyed me.
I did have a handful of friends. These were largely students from outside my school district, daughters of friends of my parents. Our family went to a church outside the school district. My peers in Sunday School didn’t bully me, but they weren’t friendly with me, either. I had the perpetual feeling that they just wished I would go away.
I did gain one friend in junior high, who remained friendly with me until high school, when we split because we had no classes in common. She told me that the other students thought I was stuck up. I was stunned. I remember blurting out, “I always thought it was because I was ugly!” She said she didn’t think I was stuck up, and I certainly didn’t think I was stuck up, and thereafter I desperately tried to figure out what it was I did that gave people that impression and what I might do differently. (No one would tell me, and whenever I asked others to explain what it was about me that annoyed them, I’d get answers such as, “You know.” No, I didn’t. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that I had Asperger’s, and I definitely did not know that non-Asperger’s people get upset if you don’t look them in the eye, and they also get upset if you don’t say “hello” or “how are you” to them—things that were not at all obvious to my Asperger’s brain.)
I gained a BEST friend when I was a junior in high school. She was new, and a senior, and popular, and therefore immune to the pressures of my fellow students in the junior class. Once I graduated from high school, and went to college, my freshman year was astonishing. People liked me, they really liked me! They liked me a whole lot! I had never, of course, been asked out on a date in junior high or high school, but wonder of wonders, I wasn’t far along in my freshman year when not one, but two, men asked me out! That confirmed to me that I was just fine, and the others in my high school graduating class were indeed a bunch of losers.
When I got a summer job after 1 year in college, I ran into one of those rare classmates who treated me decently. She sat me down and offered an apology for not doing anything while others of our classmates bullied me. I said there was nothing to forgive, because I fully understood that the bystanders feared (and probably rightly so) that they, too, would become targets for bullies if they interfered.
Those who did torment me were still a bunch of losers when I went to my 10 year high school reunion, full of love and forgiveness in my heart, believing that my peers had grown up in those 10 years and would welcome me with open arms. They didn’t. The handful of people who treated me decently in high school still treated me decently. However, when I went up to one of my former tormentors with a smile and extended hand, he took one look at my nametag, and, with a facial expression full of disgust, pivoted on his heel and walked away. After a few more minutes sitting alone, hearing exclamations of glee and welcome as OTHERS walked in, I left for a more productive afternoon with my current friends, which assured me that the tormentors among my former high school classmates were indeed a bunch of jerks. (I went to my 20 year high school reunion with similar results. By the time my 30 year high school reunion came, I sent my regrets to the committee.)
I tell this long story to get to this point: I am glad that the Massachusetts district attorney arrested the bullies who tormented Phoebe Prince. I hope that this will set a precedent: every bully needs to be held accountable for her or his actions, and if bullies commit misdemeanors or felonies, they need to come to the attention of law enforcement.
Bullying isn’t “just kids.” Making excuses for bullies and bullying must stop. Blaming the victim must stop. The “culture of cruelty” in grade school must stop. Bullying is criminal abuse, pure and simple, and needs to be addressed as such.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 4/5/2010 8:11 PM
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!
I now have a personal Twitter account, @JoanMarieVerba, for posting comments and links that I find of interest.
That’s in addition to my Weight Loss Coach account @JoanWeightCoach
The publisher’s Twitter account is @ftlpublications
Feel free to follow!
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 1/21/2010 9:07 PM
MY ANNUAL BIRTHDAY STORY
I’m 56 years old. I have no problem giving out my age, and that ties in to what I call “my annual birthday story.”
When I was in my mid-20s, I went to a gathering of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society. The subject of telling one’s age came up. I said I was 26 (or whatever age I was at the time) and didn’t mind telling anyone that. K.F. said that I might not mind giving my age when I was in my 20s, but I would when I was in my 30s.
On my 30th birthday, I had this overwhelming urge to call K.F. and say, “I’m 30 years old!” However, I didn’t.
I did, however, tell the story to others. In the mid-1980s, when I told that story to M., she said that while I might not hesitate to tell people my age in my 30s, I would most certainly not be telling people my age when I was in my 40s. My reply was, “I have your phone number. Do you want me to call you on my 40th birthday?” She said no, that wouldn’t be necessary.
Some days after my 50th birthday, I ran into K.F. again. I thought he would be amused at my story, so I told it to him, and, as I expected, he was entertained. His response was, “Call me when you’re 90!”
I think I shall.
P.S. Today (the day of posting) isn’t my birthday. I generally tell this story if the subject of age comes up, however.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 12/19/2009 6:45 PM
GARAGE SALE ADVENTURES
Garage Sale Story
I completed my first garage sale last week. Of course, I observed my mother conduct garage sales when I was growing up and after I moved back home, so I was familiar with the essentials, but this is the first one I’ve run myself.
I held a four-day garage sale: Thursday through Sunday.
I knew that signs were essential, so I put out signs Wednesday night. Thursday morning, one of the signs was gone. I put out another one. In the afternoon, people coming to the garage sale reported it had fallen. I put it up again. Sunday, I found 3 more signs were gone, and replaced them in the morning. They were all still there when I brought them home late Sunday afternoon. In total, we lost 4 signs over the weekend. Why would people take garage sale signs?
Most people came Thursday. Even after putting up additional signs on Friday, not many people came. Saturday was slow as well. Sunday practically no one came.
A lot of people drove to the end of the driveway, and, without getting out of their cars, peered toward the garage, and then drove away. What’s that about?
Before the garage sale, I tried to sell my items to stores which buy and sell used items. They wouldn’t take my books…told me they were worthless. They wouldn’t take my VHS tapes…told me they were worthless. They wouldn’t take my records…told me they were worthless. They wouldn’t take my jigsaw puzzles…told me they were worthless. This was a primary reason for having a garage sale in the first place. All the VHS tapes sold. Nearly all of the books sold. A huge quantity of the jigsaw puzzles sold. All of the 45 rpm records sold (to 2 people) and about half the record albums (33-1/3 rpm) sold. So much for them being worthless. So much for the idea that no one would want any of them.
What people didn’t seem to want (i.e. I only sold a few of these items): they didn’t buy the handbags or tote bags. They didn’t buy the clothing. They didn’t buy the art prints (mostly nature prints). They didn’t buy the stuffed animals. They didn’t buy the doll clothes. I didn’t sell a single gift bag, though I had 3 bins.
Although I did sell a lot of items (Thursday, at least), I still have a lot of items remaining. I’ll probably have another garage sale later in the summer. Here’s what I think I’ll do:
1. Make sure I have plenty of extra signs, and check them every day.
2. Have a 2-day sale: Thursday and Friday.
3. Put some items out on a table on the driveway.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/8/2009 10:13 AM
As a formerly overweight person, I find that I have moments of what I call “food nostalgia.” I had one of those moments today when I went grocery shopping. As I entered the store, there was a table, and on the table were about a dozen round cakes, cut in half, and promoted as “half cakes.” They looked delicious! This brought back all the memories of happy times when I would see such an item in the grocery store, buy it, and spend the afternoon happily eating it and enjoying every lucious bite.
On the other hand, in the time of my life when I was doing that, I was obese.
Therefore, I don’t do that anymore. I walked past the cakes without taking one and bought the groceries I had planned to buy, nothing else. But I still have these nostalgic feelings from time to time, remembering when I would happily eat all I wanted. Fortunately, memories can be enjoyed without adding pounds.
Bottom line: been there, done that, moved on.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 1/27/2009 7:33 PM
11 RANDOM ITEMS ABOUT ME
1. I have had asthma, eczema, and allergies all my life. In particular, I have had food allergies (primarily nuts, peanuts, and coconut), since infancy.
2. I hate going to the gas station. Therefore, I only drive when necessary. I will be happy when someone makes an affordable electric car that I can just plug in…at home!
3. I love St. Paul, Minnesota. I lived in Ramsey county for a while in the 1980s, and would love to buy a home there someday.
4. I have been a DC Comics fan since the 1960s. I started on Superman and Batman, and they still interest me, but my favorite DC Superheroes are the Legion of Super-Heroes (and my favorite there was Ferro Lad).
6. I never wear makeup. Can’t stand the stuff.
7. I was an overweight child and teenager. However, I lost weight in 1979 and have kept it off since then.
8. I took organ lessons when I was in high school but haven’t played since my freshman year in college. I may go back to that someday.
9. I watch TV nearly all day. The first thing I do in the morning is turn it on and the last thing I do at night is turn it off. I watched TV while doing math homework in high school and that never prevented me from getting all A’s. I have a lot of favorite TV shows, including Thunderbirds and Star Trek.
10. I have very little interest in fashion, or clothes, or the latest trends. I wear what I think looks good, but I pay little attention to “designer labels.”
11. I hate being cold. I feel cold at any temperature below 70 F. I love 90 F days and I hate air conditioning! Why do I live in Minnesota when I hate the cold? Because I feel that the advantages of living in Minnesota outweigh the weather disadvantages.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 1/24/2009 3:21 PM