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The dentist

Since I only go to the dentist every six months, the staff there is in a unique position to notice my weight loss. I suppose they get to see lots of big changes in people, sort of like time lapse photography without any actual time lapsing. Maybe it’s more like a strobe light that flickers every 6 months.

I went in last week for my check-up and they noticed a filling that was rough and needed to be replaced before it became the trendy new place where all the cool plaque parties and systematically destroys what’s left of my enamel. I checked my records and I’m down about 30 pounds from where I was in January, but nobody said anything when I was there for the check-up, maybe because my hygienist was subbing for someone else and had never met me before.

Yesterday was a totally different experience. As I was sitting in the chair waiting for the Lidocaine to neutralize my synapses, the hygienist mentioned something about how I was looking good. I don’t remember her exact phrasing, but it was very tactful and didn’t directly address my weight but left the door open for me to bring it up if I wanted to. Smooth. They must teach that technique in “Small Talk 101” in dental school where they also cover how to make conversation with people who have a dozen cotton swabs stuck in their gums.

I told her how much I’d lost and ended up chatting about my diet and exercise for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Her aunt does South Beach too, so we talked about sugars and carbs and whole grains and I suddenly found myself thinking, “Oh dear, I’m now one of those women who talks about her diet.” But hey, she started it! I don’t really like talking about diets, the reasons for which are probably complex enough to garner their own entry.

Anyway, we eventually shut up about my diet and they drilled out my happening plaque party and sent me on my way. When I went to check out, another hygienist actually came through the door into the foyer area and again complimented me on how good I looked and asked me what I was doing. When I told her it was South Beach and exercise she replied, “That’s it?” with just the slightest bit of surprise which made me think she’d been expecting be to say “gastric bypass surgery” instead.

This made me wonder, do people who haven’t asked me about my weight loss assume I’ve had weight loss surgery? I don’t really care if they do since I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having WLS. But do people automatically leap to that conclusion? I suppose if you lose 160 pounds these days it’s more likely than not it was due to renovations to your gastrointestinal system. It makes me curious as to how many people in the last decade who’ve lost 100+ pounds have done it through diet and exercise and how many have done it through WLS.

Both conversations were very positive and they congratulated me on how good I looked without any of the rude subtexts that can sometimes happen when people give you compliments that turn into backhanded insults. Then, they didn’t even charge me for my filling! It was one they’d done about two years ago when I’d ended up with 12 cavities due to a combination of not flossing, drinking lots of regular soda, and not going to a dentist for a year. I can never stress enough the importance of flossing. For the love of God, people, FLOSS!! If you don’t, it will cost you, somewhere in the area of $1500. Do you know how much floss you could have purchased for that amount? Probably enough to wrap around the earth and floss the Grand Canyon free of mountain goats.

But my dentist is very nice and evidently has some sort of warranty on his work, so I got the redo for free. Which is one of the reasons that even though I moved 40 minutes away, I’m not changing my dentist. I’ve kept the same dentist, doctor and hairstylist because once you find a good member of any of those professions, why would you ever switch?

Reflecting on the experience, I think I handled the compliments very well, saying thanks and sharing a little bit of information about what I’d done. I’m still learning how to take compliments, but I’m definitely getting better at it. Compliments about weight loss can be particularly tricky, but I think I’m figuring things out. In some ways, I think keeping this blog has helped because I’m not ashamed to share figures like how much I’ve lost or what I’ve done since I’ve already talked about it so much here.

One of the things that makes me uncomfortable about it is that I feel like people expect me to have some sort of secret. It’s as though they think I’m some wise swami sitting in full lotus position on top of Mount Diet which they’ve scaled the top of to come ask for my words of wisdom. But all I can say is, “Sorry, there is no secret. It’s just a complex combination of knowledge, self-analysis, behavior modification techniques and a bit of luck. Don’t get caught in the avalanche on your way back down.”

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19 Comments

dg • August 18, 2006 at 1:38 pm

i looove the swami line :)

i’m in awe of how beautifully you handled the compliments, it can be so bloody awkward!

racing out now to buy some floss… hehe!

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Country Chicken • August 18, 2006 at 1:42 pm

Congratulations again on your tremendous weight loss. I get happy whenever I see you have a new posting.

I’ve lost a ton of weight through nutrition and exercise, and I encounter people who ask me what my secret is. People seem to think that there must be some type of medical intervention or “secret” that I am not telling them. When I tell people that I go to the gym almost everyday and eat high volume/low calorie foods like vegetables, a few people have actually said, “No, what’s really your secret?”

When I started exercising last year, 2-3 times per week for 20-30 minutes, I lost about 10-15 pounds. In 2006, I cranked up the intensity and started working out 5-7 times per week for 2-3 hours per day, and finally got the weight to drop at a faster rate. The amount of exercise that I have done should have translated to a more significant weight loss, but my body isn’t that of a normal person. In order to maintain my weight, I have to eat significantly less and move much more than someone who has never had a weight problem.

The people who snubbed me at work or the gym because of my weight appear to be the most threatened by my weight loss. It is nice to no longer receive dirty looks from slender people; it is a bit strange, too, because I’ve been so used to the way people looked at me when I was morbidly obese. At times, I’m not used to the changes in my body. I love wearing regular-sized clothes, but it has taken me a while to get used to the new me and how people treat me much better now. Deep inside, I’m the same person as I was all my life, and it’s disconcerting how looks can play such a big part in how people treat me.

So you might encounter people who will make discouraging remarks like “you’ll regain the weight and more” or “it’s harder to maintain than to lose weight”. Ignore them and continue on your fantastic journey.

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M. • August 18, 2006 at 2:01 pm

Hah, I went ot the dentist two months ago, having not been in a year and I had 6 cavities. All of them in between teeth, touching pairs of two. Hmmm… So, where I had flossed maybe a grand total of 10 times in my entire life, now I’ve been flossing every day for two months. The thing is, I don’t even eat sweets, aside from a square of dark chocolate a few times a week, and some jam once in a while. No soda, no candy, I eat juice sweetened cereal, I have ice cream maybe 5 times a year, I don’t chew gum etc. etc. So yeah: FLOSS, people!

Eh-veh-ry sin-gle day!

I don’t know how you dealt with 12 cavities though, that must’ve taken a whole lot of appointments.

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Marla • August 18, 2006 at 2:09 pm

Oh, that flossing advice is for real. One thing my periodontist recommended is that brushing and flossing should take a fair amount of time – if they don’t, you’re not doing enough. He said sit down in front of the TV and do it, so you don’t get bored and rush through. It was good advice, I don’t like standing in front of the bathroom mirror watching the foam drip down my chin, I need entertainment!

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Alex • August 18, 2006 at 2:46 pm

I’ve read this blog for quite some time, but have finally decided to actually comment.

Congratulations on the amazing weight loss. You are a true inspiration!!

I completely agree with the whole weight loss compliments thing… I used to handle them not so well, because some people were so tactless when giving them, that they would often say something inappropriate or offensive.

I still am a bit… irksome about the whole compliments thing, and you’re right again about the whole, “So, what’s the secret?” mentality. When I tell people that I run, swim, lift heavy weights and work out about five times a week, they’re like, (slightly disappointed): “… Oh… but what else do you do??”

I have no idea what they want me to say… I prayed to the thin fairy to come wave her magic wand over me and reverse the fat fairy’s spell??

Hmmm.

Fantastic blog, keep it up!!

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Rachel • August 18, 2006 at 3:14 pm

I always love the disappointed look people get on their face when you tell them, “Diet and exercise.” You can just see their hopes sink once they realize there is no magic pill and they’re going to actually have to work for it. It’s the same look I’m sure I had on my face when I finally realized and accepted it, too. :)

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Kimisha • August 18, 2006 at 3:26 pm

First of all let me tell you that I view your site daily and sometimes two to three times daily trying to make sure you haven’t posted anything since the last post.You are doing a good job.I like to read your posts because I can relate to alot of things you say.I also came from a family of overweight people in which did not pressure me to lose weight or eat healthy.I also think that I found self esteem in being a great student.I have never left a comment here before but today I was compelled to do so because I have lost 113 pounds and people that I have not seen in a while give me the same response when I tell them that I eat healthy and exercise.Congratualations and keep up the superb job.

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NicoleW • August 18, 2006 at 3:55 pm

I thought my hygienists were the only ones who waited until they had about 12 different sharp pointy metal thingies stuck in my mouth to ask me my opinion on things like how to bring about world peace.

I know I’ve bitched about this before, but I get the “What’s your secret?” question a lot too, followed by either a long face when I give them my answer or a list of reasons why they can’t do what I’m doing. Oh well.

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K • August 18, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Augh! I have such a dentist phobia that I have to keep up my checkups and do everything I’m supposed to, in fear of something worse happening. (And I only have two fillings, so it’s not like I’ve been traumatized.)

I’ve only had one non-family person comment, unprompted, on my weight loss, and I didn’t handle it at all well: in fact, I kind of denied that I’d lost anything much. I’ve noticed that the general public are more wowed by relatively modest losses than I am – maybe reading continually about people who’ve lost 100lb or more makes you more blasé?

Mind you, I don’t think I’d ever have the nerve to ask someone, unprompted, if she’d lost weight. It’s such a tricky subject, psychologically.

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Sunshine • August 18, 2006 at 5:15 pm

I have reading your blog for a long time and finally decided to post and say – You are a inspiration to people like myself who have so much weight to lose – to know that it can be done and that it doesn’t really insane and inhumane ways to do. I had also been wondering if in fact you were still doing SB.. and I see that you are. I wish continued success.

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melissa • August 18, 2006 at 6:56 pm

It sounds like you handled the “that’s it” remark beautifully. And you ar eright- most people who lose more than 100 pounds do have WLS. I had a friend gain 15 pounds just so she could have it (don’t get me started on that!) But look at you go.. You are so close!!! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it now– you are an inspiration. :)

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JJ • August 18, 2006 at 8:04 pm

I wish you lived next door to me so that you could share your enthusiasm, knowledge, insight, and experience with me.

I don’t know anything about the South Beach Diet. But what perked my ears (er, eyes) was the word carb in relationship with the SBD.

I am (or rather was as of Wednesday) a Type 2 diabetic. Carbs are my enemy. Iwas diagnosed in October 2005. I’ve got it under control now. In fact, as of this past Wed., the doc took me off meds for diabetes (for at least 3 months anyway…to see if I am seriously in control or if it’s just the meds).

Anyway, without taking a lot of your time, could you tell me, is the SBD low carb? Do you like the stuff you eat on it or do you just do it because it works?

I’ve seen a lot of SBD stuff on the shelves in the store, but I’ve never really thought it was a serious diet … just another fad. I don’t know why I thought that, I just did.

Again, don’t take a lot of time to answer this if you don’t want to. I’ll try to read back through your posts.

Thanks…and congrats, I do admire your struggle and successes.

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Kalmia • August 18, 2006 at 10:03 pm

Whenever I read about your fantastic progress, I also wonder what your secret is. But I don’t mean the secret mechanism by which you are losing weight. Everybody knows that eating healthily, exercising regularly, and practising portion control work. What I wonder is what is the secret to your amazing persistence and discipline? Hardly anybody can do what you are doing, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. I’d love to hear what your secret is. How the heck do you do it? Can you bottle and sell it?

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christie • August 18, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Not that I’ve gotten any lately, but I remember the grand old days of getting weight loss compliments :) And you’re right, it is hard to get used to. And I totally agree that people seem disappointed. The first couple of times when I was on weight watchers, people seemed like that was an acceptable answer. Earlier this year when I was losing weight, though, I would say “oh, I’m just exercising and watching what I eat.” It was totally met by a “that’s all?” kind of look or response. They want to hear a name of a diet or something so they can go out and find the magic bean…. but there isn’t one!

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Mark • August 18, 2006 at 11:08 pm

In Japan hepatitis is pretty common, for a developed country. You need to get a blood test before things like stomach camera checks, so they can schedule the carriers for the p.m. and then do a more thorough cleaning of the equipment than the standard 20-minute wash before the next morning.

This has given me a phobia of dentists and any medical procedure that isn’t absolutely necessary. I had my teeth cleaned the other week, and all I could do was watch where the guy’s hands were traveling — “He touched the light switch … do they sterilize that between patients?!”

Of course, I made my appointment a couple of weeks in advance, so I could get the first morning slot. But I think I may be morphing into Howard Hughes. The 6-inch fingernails may be next.

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Debbi • August 19, 2006 at 4:12 am

My mother-in-law said to me yesterday, “I know it’s not polite to ask someone how much weight they’ve lost … but how much weight have you lost?”

She’s all about being proper and polite.

I’m more than halfway to my goal, and people really are starting to notice. I’m like ‘Country Chicken’ – I have to eat very low calories and exercise a lot to make even the slightest progress. You can just imagine the looks I get when I (rarely) share the gory details of how I’ve done it. Mostly I respond like most of the rest of you: No magic bullet, just eat less and move more.

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Amy • August 19, 2006 at 9:51 am

I am usually a lurker here but wanted to post a comment today. I think a lot of people WISH it was a secret that way maybe it would be easier to lose weight HA! Congratulations on your loss…you’re are doing great!

Amy

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PastaQueen • August 19, 2006 at 4:51 pm

JJ – South Beach isn’t really low carb, just about choosing ‘good’ carbs. You pick carbs that also contain fiber or fats so the digestion process takes longer and you don’t get a sudden spike and drop in your blood sugar. It’s supposed to make you feel fuller longer and helps eliminate the cycle of cravings that happens when you eat a lot of carbs. There is a “Phase 1” induction period of 2 weeks that *is* low carb, but after that you start adding carbs back in. It’s been about two years since I read the book, so I should probably read it again to see what I’ve forgotten. South Beach is very flexible, so I get to eat foods that I like. I doubt I could stay on a diet of stuff I hated.

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Red • August 20, 2006 at 12:37 pm

I touched on this phenomenon in a blog entry a couple of weeks ago. It suprises me how shocked people are when I just say “I eat less and execise more” instead of begining to proselytize about one diet plan or another. This is probably mean spirited, but being able to tell them what I’m doing in such a succinct manner makes me feel highly self-satisfied — especially when (as NicoleW said above) people start listing the excuses as to why they can’t do the same things, particularly with exercise. The excuses sometimes make me chuckle, because I have a limiting physical disability (not to mention a time-demanding job), but I can still manage to drag my tubby bum to the gym 5-6 days a week and get in a good workout; certainly completely able-bodied people should be able to do the same. They just have to want it enough to make time/energy for it.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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