About the picture – this is part of my artistic evolution, which really goes back to taking Pamela Underwood’s body writing workshop. This was one of the pictures I chose that most affected me and resembles my own body image as a Rubenesque female. I actually painted in the critter on the left side into one of my works. These days, I lack a space to do art and the privacy to do it, and that is one of the things that is most bothering me. The materials are at hand and I want to do it, but time and available space seem such an obstacle. On the plus side, I’m going to the art expo in Pasadena in a couple of weeks and taking some classes there. Yay!

As I get nearer my birthday, Ive been starting to beat up on myself a bit for not even getting close to one of the goals I set for the year of dropping all the weight I had wanted to. I initially lost about 15 pounds, but have gained about five of those back again.

But perhaps that was the wrong goal anyway. I have eaten far better this year, worked out a lot more, and am far stronger and have more lean muscle mass than I did last year. While I’m still “Rubenesque” (and yes, I could have posed for the picture above), and always will be with these hips, I think I can be happy about the “gains” I have made in my overall health. I’ve even gone off one of my mainstay bipolar drugs, Effexor, since it was pushing up my blood pressure and intraocular (eye) pressure. While I haven’t found quite the right combination of nutritional replacements and supplements yet, I’m certainly paying way more attention to what I eat and gaining a lot of knowledge about what the nutritional needs are for people with bipolar disorder.

As I do my research, I occasionally run across gems like this one that remind me that I need to keep my eyes on the real prize, better health, and not on my scale.

Diet and Obesity

How easy is it to take off weight and keep it off? Unfortunately, we run into a wall when we lose 10 percent of our body weight, Dr Korner reported. Adipose tissue shrinks, which results in less leptin, which puts the hypothalamus on red alert. The body goes into survival mode, increasing hunger pangs and lowering metabolism. Within three to five years, she said, almost all dieters are back up to original body weight.

All this comes as cold comfort to those of us caught in the pincers of our illness and our meds. Depression sends many of us into the warm embrace of ice cream and chocolate while our meds can amount to hot fudge sundaes in pill form with none of the pleasures. Weight management obviously needs to be regarded as a lifetime task – eating the right foods and getting plenty of exercise, while setting realistic goals.

Setting realistic goals may mean that aiming for a Rubenesque ideal is okay for now. Trying to accomplish too much too soon is counterproductive and will only lead to disappointment.

Keep in mind that BMI (body mass index) – which purports to define ideal weight according to one’s height, gender, and age – fails to account for body fat. Muscle is heavier than fat, which may mean that working out after a certain point could put on weight (which is good, in this context). A 5′ 9′ light heavyweight boxer who tips the scales at 175 pounds is only overweight in BMI Land..

The BMI is also blind to body type. Ectomorphs – with light bones, slight muscles, and long limbs (such as marathon runners) are not going to turn into mesomorphic Tarzans – with large bones, broad chest, and well-defined muscles – simply by gulping down protein drinks and going to the gym. Likewise, medical science has yet to find a way for endomorphic Santas to stretch their soft round, short-limbed bodies into a mesomorphic or ecto-meso ideal.

Basically, we have to work with what we’ve got, but this should not discourage you. Athletically chunky is beautiful, as is pleasingly plump. Ignore the computer-enhanced cover girls that bombard our environment and pay attention, instead, to the paintings of the old masters.