The Yo-Yo Dieter on the Job

In the back of my mind a little voice used to wonder if getting a job would help me with my eating.  If it would be the missing piece of the equation that kept me securely on the wagon and permanently off the yo-yo dieting rollercoaster.  Because that little voice used to whisper that maybe my eating was from habit and from boredom, and maybe that eating was rooted in having no “passion” or purpose to my days or in my life, and maybe a job could alleviate boredom, interrupt bad habits, and fill my life with some meaning.  I know there’s no magic pill, but maybe working could be somewhat magical in the changes it brought to my life.  Maybe?


Here’s what I can tell you from my short stint as a working woman:

Having to wear your own store’s clothes is a great motivator.  Partly so that I can fit into the ones I already owned.  Partly so that I can feel more comfortable trying on styles.  And partly so I can be happier when I buy new clothes that I’m getting my “happy size.”  And, yes, I have great expectations that not wanting to have to shop in my own store for new clothes in bigger sizes will be an awesome deterrent to ever again regaining any significant amount of weight!

When I’m working I’m not eating.  Ta da!  How simple is that?!  I might put in a four-hour shift and not think about food even once.  And yet I know that if I’d spent those same four hours at home, my mind would have gone to food often, and my hand and mouth might have then followed.  What a novel idea – that I can go all afternoon or all evening or two hours past my normal lunchtime and not be eating or even missing eating or even thinking about eating.

Food temptation follows me everywhere.  In our “back room” there is a bin of “community” food.  I’ve done my best to ignore it.  In my first week I was already offered crackers (which are like crack to me) and, gasp, chocolate (the nectar of the gods), by nibbling coworkers.  So far I’ve done great with a simple “no thank you.”

Planning is key in this as in all things.  I think about what I’m going to eat next.  If I know my shift will run over a mealtime, I eat something hearty and healthy before I leave the house, even if I’m not hungry.  Dinner at 4:30 can be tough to get down.  A second breakfast at 10:30am is a bit easier.  I’ve put a small bag of almonds into my purse for “emergencies.”  And I’ve packed a snack of cut peppers to eat in the car on my drive home so I don’t walk in the door famished.  This week will be the first time I work a longer shift over the dinner-hour.  I’ve already planned what I’ll bring from home for a quick, healthy, just-filling-enough “meal.”

Hydrating is hard I don’t want to drink too much before I got to work because, as I’m sure you can imagine, I don’t want to make repeated trips to the bathroom.  “Excuse me while I leave the floor; I have to visit the potty again.”  I can’t drink while I’m actually working except if I make a trip to the back.  Some of my co-workers keep water bottles there.  And there’s a water cooler with cups that I’ve taken advantage of a few times, just a few sips to wet my very dry whistle.  So I’ve taken to leaving a water bottle in the car so I can rehydrate on the way home.

I still only look normal.  I am sure that on the outside, to my new colleagues, I look “normal.”  After all, I wear a size small in most of their pants.  They’ve seen me in more body-hugging clothes than I typically wear.  At work I’m not a reforming yo-yo dieter or a woman who bares her soul and eating issues in a blog.  I have a clean slate.  And I intend to keep it that way.  But on my first day when my manager asked if I wanted to stay longer to try on pants, my mind immediately went to “but I haven’t lost those few extra pounds yet.”  And how self-conscious I’d feel modeling such fitted attire in front of people I hardly know.  And… well, there was an inner “eek” but an outward “sure.”  It was good for me, I think, to “let it go” and to push that part of me away and outside the store and to just be, well, normal.

A little padding is the girls’ best friend.  I’ve told you before that to say I am not well endowed would be an understatement.  Mostly, I’ve come to peace with my itty bitty titties, and enjoy the freedom of an often braless life.  But, don’t worry, I harness the (little) girls when clothes or situations demand it.  But for work I’ve taken it one step further.  I’ve done something I’ve shied away from in the past.  Worn a padded bra.  Gasp!  As tiny as I am, I’ve never wanted to look like anything other than myself.  (Okay, I did really wish I had bigger boobs, but since I didn’t, I was going with the natural look.  I mean, really, can you imagine if one day you see me as my boobless self and the next you see tiny odd-shaped things sprouting from my previously flat chest?)  But the reality is that my body doesn’t look good in most fitted clothes and that includes workout tops.  So, a little bit of (mostly) natural looking padding it is.  And my guess is no one is the wiser.

Maybe I think I’m bigger than I am.  Or maybe not.  Maybe I just like my clothes comfy and have gotten used to wearing things loose and unfitted.  Whatever the reason, every time I try on pants with my boss around she tells me, “those are too big on you.”  The other day I went in just to try stuff on (to learn more about how styles fit on my own time) and was actually feeling very comfy in one of our new capris from our casual (non-exercise) line and, sure enough, my manager told me, “you need a smaller size.”  And one of her regular customers got into the act, telling me they did indeed give me “mom butt.”  Well, I am a mom; I have a butt.  And I prefer that over visible panty lines!  Honestly, I don’t think I have a distorted self-image.  But I do think I have gotten lazy about what I wear and have always put comfort over style.  That might have to change now that customers might be paying attention to how clothes look on me.

I wonder if everyone is like me.  Does every woman think she has problem areas?  Every time I get dressed for work I’m aware of mine.  My (every-increasing-with-middle-age-despite-ab exercise-and-healthy-eating) muffin top showing under my fitted exercise top and above my fitted low-rise waistband.  My visible panty lines that cut across my butt and the nearby saddle bags that show beneath my long-but-not-long-enough-to-cover-that jackets.  The cankles so clearly defined between the snug top of my exercise socks and the bottom of my capri pants that hit at the widest, least flattering part of my lower leg.  I tell myself, “stop it.”  I tell myself, “everyone thinks she has a problem area.”  Or two.  Or three.  But then I wonder if maybe some people don’t!  And I am only just beginning to appreciate my role selling clothes to women who may have body issues of their own!

So, there you have it – the inner workings of the mind of an over-thinking reforming yo-yo dieter, transitioning to a new definition of self thanks to the new focus of a new job and a new normal.




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55 responses to “The Yo-Yo Dieter on the Job

  1. Wow. Well. Cankle. That is what I cannot get out of my mind yet I know it was probably the least important thing.

    I think your body awareness can be a great thing at a clothing store – especially if you can do two things: When you try on clothing you see how it fits YOUR body and then look at the item and decide what sort of body is well suited for. (like does it have a larger or a constricting waist? Tight leg openings (larger legged girls would not be down with that) – Is the top fitted even on you or is it more blousy? AND you can look at a woman without judgement and see what might be their thing they do not like – you can listen to them and understand what they mean and want and then translate that into your knowledge of the clothing. You are understanding and kind. You want your customer to look their best. That sells. But so does having the clothing fit correctly. Why listen to you if you look like you are not dressing yourself well. Listen to your boss. Go home and put on the jams!

    AND there I went violating my MYOB rule. GRAWR!

    High five on having a distraction from eating and not munching on crackers and chocogoodies AND for bringing the nuts. I love how you have planned it all out.

    I would stand around starving wishing I had eaten at 4:30.

    • Today I was at work in the back area, helping to sort through a new shipment, and in walks one of my co-workers with a bag of some kind of sweet/salty Chex mix that she puts into the community pot. Sheesh!

      Yep, I got me some cankles:(

      One tough thing about helping other women is that we all like to wear things differently, so trying to read them to know what THEY like.

      • That’s true about diff. styles. But you also know what looks good on certain types of bodies and that is super helpful. You can match their sense with what you know about the clothes and the fit.

        Sorta like how when Ellen (FatGirlWearingThin) went in for her new jeans at nordies. She knew what she wore, what she liked and he knew what the fits were and what would fit her well and then convinced her to go down a size (like you boss did) and she walked out happy and with an amazing looking butt!

        Gosh it is wonderful when you find clothes that make you look good

        I have been wondering how you have been doing with your foot AND how it is going with Hubs eating a new way. But I suppose I could just write you an email! GOD FORBID!


        Happy Easter.

  2. I think the fact you’ve had (possibly still got ‘some’) body image issues would be of huge benefit to your customers. Having a non-judgemental soul there to support you and give you advice (as your manager and regular customer did for you) is lovely!

    It sounds like you’re working in just the right place to keep a bit of a fitness focus but not obsessively so. What a great environment!

    Oh… and I’m loving the push-up bra idea! (Sadly I need just the opposite!)

    • I used to workout with a friend who was extremely big chested. We’d always get a nice chuckle over wishing we could take a bit off her and give it to me. I called her my “bosom buddy.”

  3. Miz

    I love this post and immediately wondering “OOH HOW COOL WOULD IT BE IF WE COULD GET A NEW COWORKER TO GUEST BLOG ABOUT YOU AND WHAT THEY SEE AND PERCEIVE” as we never know how others see us—just what we surmise the see.

  4. I don’t have problem areas. I have got room for improvement. ^^

    Honestly. Those panty lines? EVERYBODY has got them. You would have to have buttocks of steel not to show panty lines. If you don’t see them, the other person is either wearing a thong or going commando.
    Muffin tops? Same here. Unless you have a steel belly, there will always be some loose tissue that bulges and moves, and when looked at from the top (where your head is), it looks rather unflattering. I know people who wear a size zero who are unhappy with their “muffin top”. Yeah, girls, stop whining.

    Many things we consider to be “problem areas” are completely normal, and the only reason we do not see them in fashion magazines etc. is that a) the models are twisted into reallllllly uncomfortable positions, and b) everything even remotely wiggly is photoshopped away.

    I am sure you look great, and now get rid of that “Mom butt”. ^^

  5. Super great breakdown of the difficulties and the benefits of being on the job on your healthy living!

    I’m very small in the chest area too so I pad. It does make me look better in clothes.

    I think every woman is pretty critical about themselves both physical and internal.

  6. You sound like you are like me, and have a hard time picturing yourself as you are now that you are no longer a yo-yo dieter, but rather a healthy woman at a normal size. I still tend to pick up the wrong sizes of clothing.

    Sounds like you are doing great Karen.

  7. Forgive me for laughing, but you don’t have a muffin top. Or at least not the last time I saw you. You haven’t seen muffin top unless you are an apple like me. And you are so a pear. Maybe you could have a cookie top. And I think every woman in the modern world has body issues of some type. The TV just blares at us constantly that we don’t measure up. Oh the things I would change . . .

  8. Norah Ephron wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called “I feel bad about my neck.” In that book she laments her muffin top, among other things, that she acquired as she approached 50ish.

    Nice work on planning for snacks before and then after work. It is the sure way to control your impulses.

    I definitely have size envy with you. A SMALL is a dream for me. But dreams come true, right??

    Have a great week!

    • Yes!! And keep in mind that I am on the short side and small boned. I was on my diet forum the other day and a gal who has her height posted as several inches taller than me was wearing the same size pants I do!

  9. As the girls start heading south and looking deflated, I sometimes think a flat chest would look better. That’s life.

    It sounds like you have a smart plan in place to deal with food and water while working. Less access to food and on your feet being active, working is sure to result in some positives (including a paycheck of course). Have fun Karen.

  10. I think we all have our problem areas, and then we all have areas that we focus on, when perhaps others don’t even notice them. I agree with Deborah that you’ll be able to empathize better with customers who come in with THEIR issues, probably more so than the salesperson who has never had a weight problem.

    And I was the same way when I worked my seasonal job – I rarely thought about eating while I was at work. Nice diet saver, lol!

    • Today I worked all afternoon and didn’t miss snacking at all! Had my peppers and water in the car and came home to make myself zucchini pizza. Yum.

  11. Planning ahead and bringing meals with you is the best way to deal with eating/work issues. It has worked for everyone I know who does it. The workplace is often filled with “good intentioned” saboteurs 🙂

  12. I have been home with my son since he was born two years ago and am now preparing to go back to work full time this summer. I think packing my lunch will be both a plus and a minus, because I will not have the free reign access to the fridge but I am concerned I will have more rush-packed meals that amount to PB&J leaving me hungry and likely to fill up on more empty calories. It will take some adjustment to get in the practice of cutting up veggies and packing a week’s worth on Sunday but worthwhile if this weight loss goal is going to stick!

    • My other consideration the one shift I packed a meal was that I didn’t want to heat up anything that would smell in the store! I made a cold bean “salad” and it worked perfectly.

  13. Karen, I spend more time looking at my jiggly bits than I did before I started going to yoga. I swear I didn’t know yoga clothes were supposed to be worn like skin, but apparently they are and man, do they look good on my fellow yogis. Makes me want to tow the line, especially when there’s a full length mirror in the studio. Women like you and I have to make an effort to retrain our minds to focus on the good parts – only the good parts, cause everyone has less than perfect parts SOMEWHERE!

    • Did you know that women (maybe men too, not sure) who do yoga tend to weight less because, according to the “experts,” they are more body aware?!

  14. I wonder what it might be like if instead of saying we all have problem areas, we said that we’re all shaped differently… It’s not a problem. Who says? The media defines what a body is supposed to look like? Puh-leaze!!! Everyone is different. Different shapes are fine, and if it’s not causing a medical issue, then it’s not a problem area. I just wonder what it would be like in the world if we stopped letting the media determine what we’re supposed to look like.

    • Ah, but that’s the thing, we do view them as problem areas, sometimes without media intervention. And I know I will never look like a model or those held up as ideal in terms of their bodies. But for me what is frustrating about the belly, in particular, is how it has changed over time, regardless of my weight and workouts. Darn aging!

  15. My last job that lasted almost two years was very stressful and even though I liked the job, I was not at my goal weight the entire time I worked there. Goal was always just out of reach. I did not eat anything extra at work and I cut way back on water. It was when I got home that I did the damage and, looking back, I think it was just a way to finally relax after the hectic day.

    Barely a month after being laid off from work, I was back to goal weight and a year and a half later, I have not gone over again — not one single day. Yep, we’re all different. 🙂

  16. Jan

    I wonder if men ever write like this about their bodies? And if not (I suspect not), why? I don’t think we are hormonally or genetically programmed to find fault with what is our normal selves or feel as bad as we (I) do when our bodies look abnormal to us. Society has done quite the number on women.

    I have no doubt that your body image will help women who are trying on clothes. You will be understanding of “mom butts”, cankles, muffin tops (real or imagined) as women buy clothes to enhance their work-outs and casual life styles.

    Go get ’em and embrace your body while you are at it. (I know it’s hard. I do.)

    • I think you are right. Men vs. women on this one. And I suspect men also don’t judge and look at other men’s bodies as women tend to do. As we compare ourselves.

  17. Karen, what a great post!!! I love how you walk us thru your feelings, feelings that I think many of us have too & you are not alone!!!! 🙂 We all or a lot of us see something in the mirror that most others don’t see – we are so hard on ourselves. I bet you look amazing!

    The boobies part cracked me up since I am tiny too & like to not wear a bra when I don’t have to BUT a lot A LOT of women wear padded bras! I have one too from back when & now it is too big – how sad – I am getting smaller & they droop too! Bras can help us! 😉

    • I think we are too hard on ourselves. I guess it is somehow ingrained early as girls, maybe though media, but maybe it comes from somewhere else. The downside of the bras is they are hotter! And I mean in a temperature kind of way:)

  18. Roz@weightingfor50

    Hi Karen. I think your employer is damn lucky to have you on board!!!!

  19. When I am Queen and rule the world (and that should be any day now), people will no longer be able to think of their bodies in terms of how they look. Instead, we’ll look at our bodies in terms of how they feel and what they can do. We’ll also be grateful for them in all their shapes and forms!

    (The Queen, of course, will be setting the example, which is why there’s been a slight delay in the takeover. She is working diligently, though, so stand by.)

    • What a great reminder to think about what our bodies can do! Yes, my breast are tiny and yes, they sag. But they sag because I nursed two babies with them:) Small or not they worked just fine.

  20. There truly is something to your thoughts about food and eating taking a back seat while you are working. When we are doing something we enjoy, there’s just an automatic distraction that removes our focus from food. I’ve found that to be so true when I am hiking. It always amazes me that I am burning calories by the hundreds, yet I never think about food and often don’t feel hunger even when it’s time to eat. There’s just something about being at home that triggers the thoughts cause they happen to me even when I’m very busy at home. Perhaps it just the mental knowledge that we are in close proximity to the kitchen.

    • Or that for you, hiking is a passion. And it is the passion rather than the distraction of just doing something that works so well for you. Hiking is your zen.

  21. Haha – you’re always so witty and awesome. 🙂 Love reading your posts. Everyone thinks they have problem areas…and I consistently blame my mother and grandfather for passing on to me THE belly, while my sister got zilch. That’s what I have to work the hardest on keeping at bay, but all I can do is work out, eat well, and just be mindful as much as possible. My arms are the other area I’m constantly conscious about, but big as they might be, I like it when they’re toned! 🙂

    • Awe, thanks:) I’d love to have toned arms. The kind that other people look at and think “she works out.” Well, I do work out, but unless I’m actually lifting weights, you’d never know it by looking at my arms.

  22. How great is it that you have all this great new material for blogging!!?
    Fun for me too.
    I love it.
    That smaller size thing really does factor in. Even at my size. If I go shopping with one of my sisters and they make me get smaller sizes, sure enough I look better.
    Hard to get used to.
    More photos!!!!

    • Welllll, I don’t want to blog too much about work… I’m thinking that not everyone will want to hear about it. We’ll see how that evolves.

  23. As one who worked for 28 years at the same job (I had other part-time jobs prior), I have found that working is a mixed-bag for me. While it does keep me out of the refrigerator at home, due to lack of down time, there are minefields at work that are almost worse. I worked in a school, so the lounge always had wonderful treats just waiting to be snacked on. We also had potluck lunches (this is Minnesota), and the food was great! I found that most of us gained weight over the years.

    Nevertheless, I have thought about coming out of retirement and getting a part-time job, but I think I’ll stick to volunteering right now. I think added stress and tight schedules might backfire on my weight loss plan.

    I am so happy for your weight loss and your smaller size. It’s what we all strive for. Congrats and have a very good week!

    • I actually thought about volunteering too, instead. I spent a lot of time perusing online sites that show listings for my area. But nothing ever jumped out at me. Until this job, that is:)

  24. You know, I’ve been in stores where I have felt so uncomfortable and judged that I could never go back. Having someone there that could have “leveled” with me would have made all the difference in the world!

    • There is another store in my town that sells women’s exercise clothes that I’ve gone into a couple of times and every time I have felt uncomfortable. But less because I was being judged and more that I wasn’t their target clientele. Too frumpy housewife maybe?

  25. How’s I miss this yesterday? Very interesting – sounds like this job is continuing to be good FIT in many regards. And in answer to the question about whether most women have body regions/areas with which they’re uncomfortable, my strong guess is YES. Way too many of us – even ones whose problem areas are invisible! Then the area is inside the skull!

    Glad this is working out so nicely, thus far.

  26. I’m so glad the job is going well. As for problem areas, I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t think she has them. Mine is around my middle, no matter how much i weigh or what exercises I do. As for you thinking you’ve got some cankles, i’m going to have to reply that you’re on crack. I’ve seen the photos and you are a small person who fits in small clothing sizes at your primo store, which is numerical proof. 🙂

  27. KC

    When I start getting hypercritical of my body, I tape a piece of paper over the mirror so all I see is my body. By not seeing my head and face, it’s easier to be objective.

  28. LOL on the itty bitty titties comment.

    You don’t have cankles!

    Sounds like you might be a TAD bit hard on yourself, from what I see you do look great. And I can tell you we are hardest on ourselves, I sometimes feel like my stomach is huge, but then when I get a glance in the mirror I realize it’s not protruding like I think it is! 🙂

    • I’m sure you’re right in that I am more judgmental about my own flaws than someone else would be. Just tonight I tried on more clothes and, ugh, the belly roll. I needed my new pants that suck that in for me!

  29. When I was working FT out of the house I had so little time to eat. It definitely helped keep me thin. Somehow now as a WAHM I’ve managed to stay lean-n-mean. I think my vegetarian diet has something to do with it. But even though I’m only 108 lbs I still have that darn muffin top/belly roll! It just won’t go away, no matter what. Oh well.

  30. J

    My current job is one where there are food mines everywhere. People are bringing in stuff constantly and there are a few scavengers who I think find all the leftovers in the building for catered meetings and bring them back. I’ve opted for a zero-tolerance policy as the only survival trick. I’ve not quite 0, but way very limited in 6 months so far.

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