The Games We Play

Games are meant to be entertaining, a time to bond and build relationships. Aside from the competitive aspect, they’re wonderful educational tools for kids of all ages. We learn how to take turns, how to play fair, how to reason and strategize, as well as how to be a good sport. We learn how our luck can change with a throw of the dice, and how critical thinking can advance our position. One of my favourite memories while raising my family was our Friday game night. We played the odd video game, but our favourites were puzzles and board games. We’d turn off the television, make snacks and gather around the kitchen table to play and laugh for hours. Some nights we’d play a game of chance like Yahtzee, other nights it was something creative like Pictionary. As my daughters got older we played something more strategic like checkers, or Italian card games like Scopa. I always marveled at how their minds applied strategy in order to outwit their opponents – you could see the wheels turning. We still love to play games now even though they’re all grown up. Last Christmas during the ice storm both girls were over and we played Settlers of Catan for two days straight in our PJs, eating and drinking unusual boozy concoctions.

But those weren’t the only games we played in our household. Being a crafty and creative being, I would make up games to entertain the girls when they were tiny, like Momma Kangaroo. They would refuse to go to bed unless I slipped my baby roos in my makeshift pouch and hop around the house – they’d giggle and I’d get a great workout!

Momma Kangaroo and Baby Roos (1988)
Momma Kangaroo and Baby Roos (1988)

When they got a bit older, I put a new twist on Tug of War. Instead of pulling a rope, I’d have them each grab the ends of my clothes and pull in opposite directions. Strange, mine seemed to be the only ones that shrunk in the dryer. What made the game fun for the girls was that I would be wearing the garment while they tugged! They’d howl trying to see who could pull Mommy furthest. But Mommy never budged. They’d tug on the sides, and then I’d have them switch to front and back, until the fabric loosened its grip on me.

By the time the girls were teenagers, I invented the game Do I Look Like That? We would only play this in public, like at a mall. The game would always start with me saying, “I don’t have eyes in back of my head so I don’t know what I look like from behind. It would help me if I could compare myself to someone else.” If I saw a plus-sized person walk past, I would ask them to gauge if I was the same, larger, or smaller as I shimmied up next to them for a few seconds and then U-turn back for the verdict. The girls stopped playing this game when they realized my mood often changed based on what they told me.

I then moved on to If You See Me Eat Something I Shouldn’t game, in which I would ask the girls to help me break my binge eating pattern. I would proclaim that I was determined to lose weight and if they saw me eat something I shouldn’t, they could help me by asking, “Mom, do you really want to eat that?” or “Mom, why are you eating that? Is something bothering you?” What I had intended to help me stop mindless or emotional eating usually ended up with me biting their heads off.

Poor girls, there was no way they could win at these games. So they stopped playing my games and created one of their own called, Punch Mom in the Arm Whenever She Says Anything Derogatory about Her Size – I don’t like this game. It’s their version of negative reinforcement, and they REALLY do punch me! If they ever hear me utter, “I’m fat”, they correct me and state, “You’re not fat; you have fat. You wouldn’t say you’re eyeballs you’d say, you have eyeballs.”

I was schooled by my youngest this past summer when we were clothes shopping. I was trying on a pair of jeans at Addition Elle and she was in the change-room with me yaying or naying my options. I must have said something that warranted a punch in the arm and got the, “you’re not fat, you have fat” spiel. As we stepped out of the change-room a young woman came out of the room directly across from mine. She had tears rolling down her cheeks. She looked at my daughter and said, “Thank you, I needed to hear that.”

I’d like to say I’ve stopped playing these games, but I haven’t. I now play the plus-sized gal’s version of Solitaire called How Much Do I Spill Over? Instead of me and a deck of cards, it’s me and a chair. I do this anywhere and everywhere. I may even have played visiting you at your place, or while sitting across from you at a restaurant, or in a meeting at work. The game is simple really – I sit and measure with my hands how much my bottom spills over the sides of the chair. Depending on the chair, it might be an inch or two, or seven. Then I get up and look at the seat of the chair and marvel at how much space I occupy. I can’t believe I disclosed this – I can see my girls marching over winding up to bop me in the arm… and that will be quite a feat for the one living in South Korea!

The Chair Game
The Chair Game

Why am I admitting all of this? I guess I’m tired of playing these futile games. They’re no fun and there’s no winner – if there were Hasbro or Milton-Bradley would have patented them by now. Nope, I’m done. It’s time to put my cards on the table and come clean. I must take the risk – it’s my life and I’m worth the trouble. I realize I must stop playing these mind games with myself. Instead, I’m picking up my ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card, and releasing myself from this prison, and that my friends is no trivial pursuit.

Am I the only one who plays these games? What games do you play? Let’s pack them up together once and for all. 

Humble-Pie: While writing this post I ate eight Toffifees and half a bag of cheese corn. Sorted through two garbage bags of winter clothes to donate to the charity coat drive. Face-Timed with my daughter. Watched the news. Ate three chicken thighs, one cup of kale salad and drank a Corona – BTW, I rarely drink alcohol.

Sign, Sign Everywhere A Sign

I’m not sure if you believe in a Higher Power, but I do. Some people call Her/Him the Universe, Allah, Vishnu, or Steve. I call Him:  God,  Father, Daddy-O, or whatever term of endearment a child calls their Dad. So when the idea of 12 in 12 popped into my head, I checked in with Pops. “Are you sure you want me to do this?” “Who do you think gave you the idea?” I heard inside. Hmm, I guess if He spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus, yakking it up with me as I plodded along on the treadmill on the road to nowhere, wasn’t too far-fetched.

So what do I do when He asks me to do something? I ask for a sign. I typically ask for a feather – if I see one after prayer, I feel reassured. Years ago, while I was in the midst of a personal crisis, I asked God for a feather. Actually, I pleaded with Him as I scurried towards the grocery store on a windy day, “Please, PLEASE, send me a sign that everything is going to be okay. I need a feather, PLEEEE…” Before I could finish my sentence, I felt something plunk on my head and fall at my feet. I stopped in my tracks and looked down. It wasn’t a feather, it was an entire severed wing with a multitude of feathers. I know, gross, but amazing at the same time. Needless to say, after I disinfected my head, I felt reassured that God was going to lead me through the crisis, and He did.

Now what does this have to do with writing a blog about my battle with the bulge and my struggle to get out of this mental maze of self-sabotage? Everything. If you know me personally, you know I’m not a risk-taker so taking on a project like this is out of character. If I was going to do this, I needed reassurance I was on the right path. I asked God for all the tools I needed for this journey. He said, “You bring the brave, and I’ll bring everything else.” So, I laced up my hiking boots, strapped on my metaphoric backpack, and from the very moment I took that leap of faith, He has been bringing wonderful people into my life I otherwise would not have met. They’re coming along my path offering the necessary provisions for my journey – advice, contacts, granola bars, and the like. And He’s also been showering me with perfectly timed and aligned opportunities. Two such opportunities presented themselves this past weekend.

On Saturday, I participated in a writing workshop run by the pint-sized, yet hugely talented author and editor, Rona Maynard.

Me and Rona
Me and Rona

Honestly, the woman is the size of my right leg, but her gifts are enormous! Look at her… if she took off her glasses, she’d go from mild-mannered journalist to Wonder Woman. She was sporting elegant superhero couture, complete with a red flowy sweater and black tights that complimented her petite frame – all that was missing was a giant “R” on her chest.

The workshop was held at Verity, a private, chichi, members-only club for women in Toronto. I didn’t know places like this existed – at least for women – and I certainly didn’t know what to expect when I got there. Was there a dress code? Would I have to curtsy? Was there a secret handshake? I practiced my best Mrs. Thurston Howell III, “How doooooo you do?” as I found my way to the venue. Once I stepped through the doors and into the boardroom with the tangerine coloured walls, I knew this experience was part of His plan. There, written on a flipchart was the following quote:

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. –Barry Lopez

Yup! Yup! I’m in the right place. And thankfully, no bird had to sacrifice an appendage to confirm it. I need to tell my story, and I need to say it more than the binge food I scarf down to suppress the truth.

It was a small workshop, just five aspiring writers and Rona. Each participant submitted a memoir piece, which we discussed and dissected. We knew going in our stories needed work, and with Rona’s hands-on attention, they began to take shape. Through a series of methodical questions she executed as both inquisitive journalist and nurturing therapist, she drew out the real story.

When it was my turn, Rona quickly discerned the story I submitted, despite having “charm and swagger” was not the story I really wanted to tell. Damn, she’s good! I confessed that I was currently in love with my blog, and what I really wanted to write about was my hips. We all had a good chuckle and Rona encouraged me to pursue my cellulite confessions, but cautioned, “Don’t write a story with a padlock on your tongue”. Well Rona, if I had a padlock on my tongue, I wouldn’t be writing this blog now would I?!

I left the workshop with a signed copy of Rona’s book, My Mother’s Daughter, business cards from my new friends, and most importantly, a greater conviction that I’m on the right path.

Then on Sunday, my church facilitated the first of a three part workshop using Donald Miller’s Storyline curriculum. I fell in love with Donald Miller a dozen years ago when I read his book, Blue Like Jazz and have been a fan ever since. He also struggled with weight and won his battle – yay Don! He’s raw, honest, and funny as heck! Watch this clip and I dare you to tell me he’s not awesome:

Once again, just like the day before, I was given a featherless sign. The following quote was projected on the screen:

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with the song still in them.” –Henry David Thoreau

This is especially relevant to me as I have just come back from my sixth funeral in two months. Funerals make you reflect not only on your mortality, but on your purpose while you’re here.

When I complete the Storyline modules, Don claims I’ll have a life plan that will give me clarity and direction for living a great story. DIRECTION, that’s another tool I’ll need to get out of this maze and into my healthy ever after!

It is true what they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. It’s not a coincidence that Rona and Don are both memoirists who are teaching others how to tell their story in an authentic way. I believe they have been divinely appointed to serve as lampposts to illuminate my path, as they know firsthand what it feels like to be vulnerable by sharing their story. And perhaps, one day my story will cozy up next to theirs – until then, this will have to do.

Snuggling with my friends
Snuggling with my friends



Humble-Pie: I didn’t binge this past weekend, except when I ate M&Ms for breakfast before I left for the first workshop. I guess if you’re feeding your soul, your body is satisfied too.

Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions


12 in 12

Blogging was the last thing I thought I would ever do until I had a revelation at the gym a few weeks ago. There I was, huffing and puffing at 2.8 on the treadmill, berating myself for gaining back nearly all of the 70 lbs I lost two years ago. I was jogging at 5.5 then, and now I’m struggling at a snail’s pace. How did I let myself get here again?

Then: September 2012 (179 lbs)  Now: August 2014 (245 lbs)
Then: September 2012 (179 lbs)
Now: August 2014 (245 lbs)

I replayed my entire dieting career in my mind and realized, I’d been gaining and losing for more years than Baskin Robbins has flavours! I’ve tried nearly every program, bought every video, and joined dozens of gyms. You’d think I’d look like a svelte Victoria Secret model, but sadly I look more like a spongie old Queen Victoria. How does someone lose and gain over 500 lbs in their life time? It takes skill and talent that’s for sure!

Why can’t I figure this out? Why is it that sometimes I have the motivation to stick to a program for several months straight, and other times, only a single Monday? And worse still, have a year worth of Mondays come and go without regard to my health and fitness?

Clearly I haven’t found a plan that resonates with my lifestyle and one I’m willing to commit to. There are so many plans out there: paleo, vegan, juicing, points, no carbs, shakes, prepared meals, food combining, clean eating, and the list goes on and on. Each plan has a claim, and each claim discredits the other. Claims! Claims! Claims! Who’s right? And then it came to me – 12 in 12.

12 Diets in 12 Months

I’m going to go diet shopping over the next year and test drive each of these claims. I will commit an entire month to a single plan, which I will reveal to you a week before I start.

Claims! Claims! Claims!
Claims! Claims! Claims!

On the first of every month I will:

  • Weigh myself
  • Take my measurements
  • Take photos – front, back and side-views

On a daily basis, I will:

  • Track my food intake
  • Track my steps and any exercise
  • Record how I’m feeling on the plan
  • Look forward to your comments, tips, and suggestions – especially if you are on, or have ever been on, the plan I’m testing

At the end of the month I will summarize the pros and cons of the plan.


  • Interactions, Allergies, Sensitivities – I will only deviate from the plan if a food affects my health. For example, I cannot digest raw bananas. If the plan calls for them, I will find a substitute and will note it in my daily food diary.
  • Illness – I will continue if I have a cold, but will take a break if I get the flu, if I’m am hospitalized, or if an existing condition is triggered.
  • Holidays and Special Events – I will do my utmost to pass on desserts, unless (1) the plan allows it, (2) it’s my birthday, (3) it’s my immediate family member’s birthday, (4) eating no more than 3 of my mother’s homemade zeppole (anchovy stuffed timbit) which she only makes at Easter, Christmas, and New Year.
  • Life’s curve balls – Jury duty. Natural disasters. If I’m held hostage by George Clooney or Jamie from Outlander, in which case – DO NOT COME LOOKING FOR ME!

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

I AM NOT conducting this experiment for quick weight loss, that’s not safe or wise. I’m aiming for 1 to 2 lbs per week, although I suspect I will have a higher weight loss in the first month – likely water weight. The purpose of this experiment is to test the claims and determine which of these plans work best for MY body and lifestyle, and ultimately one I can sustain for the long term. And as such, I WILL NOT test a program where I eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day, require injections, or drink more than one meal a day (i.e. protein shake).


So, when will I start this epic trial? January is so cliché, so I’m committing to this year long experiment on December 1st, 2014… how’s that for committed?! Okay, okay, some of you think I should be committed – why torture myself, right? I figure my resolve will be strongest at the beginning of this journey, so why not start during the year’s most tempting month!

Doing my homework
Doing my homework

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Over the next month I will be doing research on the plans I will test, and learn how to work a blog (how the heck do you add a comment section?) – I can hear my kids laughing as I write this. They are my I.T. department and I know they are already dreading my calls for technical support! I will also be sharing more about who I am and my life long battle with food and weight. And obviously, squeezing in as many last suppers as I can!

Before and Before

I love immersing myself in a good story – mystery, adventure, romance, drama, comedy, biography – it doesn’t matter what, I devour them all. However, my hands down favourite is the story of metamorphosis and transformation. Who didn’t love it when a made-over Eliza Doolittle walked down that staircase, or freak out when Jekyll morphed into Hyde?

I’m especially fascinated by the real-life transformation stories found in fitness magazines and reality shows. I gravitate to the Before & After section without reading a single word of text, completely mesmerized by the metamorphosis and vow to one day be in the pages myself.

My elusive quest for my own after began at the tender age of 14, shortly after I hit puberty and stopped growing vertically and sprouted Italian birthing hips.

1978 (age 14)  Be nice people - body suits and fuzzy hair were big in the 70s!
1978 (age 14)
Be nice people – body suits and fuzzy hair were big in the 70s

My first ever before photo was taken on February 6, 1978 – I remember it well. I asked my sister to take it… she chuckled then, and every time I asked her to document my resolve through the following decades. She never laughed at me (okay, maybe when I insisted on wearing gloves in my inaugural photo), she was laughing at the absurdity of it all. Who willingly stands in their underthings, posing to record their shame?

1998 (age 34) Don't I look thrilled?
1998 (age 34)
Don’t I look thrilled?

Needless to say, these before photos never made it into the family album, but spent a brief time on the fridge next to my kids’ art work, and inspirational quotes during the pre-Pinterest era. When my resolve dissipated and I became indifferent the quotes, I went hard-core and tried to scare the motivation back into myself by posting the following image from National Geographic alongside my before pic du jour. It did nothing but gross my kids out and give them nightmares.


Recently, I dug into our electronic files and boxes of photos to find some of my many befores (we’re a snap-happy family), but found an entire chunk of our archives missing. I tore the house apart. I still haven’t found them and I’m gutted. I searched high and low and eventually checked my usual go-to places when I’m upset. “Are they in the jar of Nutella?” Nope, not there. “Are they in the bag of chips?” Hmm, not there either. “Are they in the tub of ice cream?” No?! “Why can’t I find them, I’ve looked everywhere!!!!”

This is how it goes for me, I turn to food for a multitude of reasons and very rarely for nourishment and sustenance. I consider myself to be fairly bright and intuitive, but I haven’t been able to figure this eating to live, instead of living to eat business. Like most who have struggled with their weight, I’ve yo-yoed and sometimes have even got close to a healthy weight. Along with my before and before and before and before photos, I have the odd oh, you’re almost there photos, but I’ve never bagged me an after.

We are all living, breathing, walking stories, and this is mine. My friends call me Mare, and I invite you to journey with me as I search for my after.

Humble Pie – While writing this post, I nuked a bowl of tomato soup and poured half a bag of croutons in it for “substance” – I would have used potato chips, but I polished the bag off last night as my post second-dinner snack. Hung up on a duct-cleaning telemarketer. Noshed on a wedge of my favourite breakfast food – Italian pantone with dried fruits and raisins. Popped over to my neighbour’s house to drop off some documents. Texted back and forth with a co-worker. And taste-tested at least half-a-dozen Halloween sized chocolates.