(Updated from a piece I wrote in May of 2008)
I’ve had a weight problem all my life. That I’m chesty & hippy and short waisted & not tall doesn’t help matters. Lousy eyes & knocky knees & wheezy cough & flat feet ensured that sports weren’t much fun for me when I was a kid, and I wanted to be reading or drawing or writing, anyway.
I grew up on simple meals: pork chops & apple sauce, French cut string beans (yucky!!), spaghetti, roasted chicken. We had cookies & licorice in the house, but we didn’t live on chips & fried foods. But, the plate had to be clean, and meals were often emotionally loaded, and the amounts of what I ate got bigger and bigger, and this coupled with the low levels of exercise ensured that I was always kinda round.
When I got older, I joined a gym, and lifted weights, and ran, and rowed, and sweated like a broken refrigerator, and MAYBE got down ten pounds. I couldn’t understand it. I was working out five days a week, busting my ass, and NOTHING was happening.
I grew despondent, frustrated. Clothes never fit well. The summertime Thigh Chafe Plague. The self-loathing. Wondering why inside, I was agile, elegant, my mind a lean rip of sinew and lightening, but outside, I was a dumpy earth mother, good for making goulash and plowing the fields.
My dad died of a diabetes-tinged heart attack when he was 51. He’d had the disease since he’d been 17, but never took very good care of himself. When we hugged, his belly was that hard, round press against me that pointed to layers of constricting fat around his internal organs. I mourned the absence of him, I still do, every day, but the shape of his body etched harder in my brain than the expression on his face or the shape of his hands.
And I’m seeing that shape more and more among Fandom. Kink, sci-fi fantasy worlds & renfaires are so inclusive of everybody that no one ever wants to tell anyone, “No, this thing you’re doing is not alright.”
I think it’s because we live so much in our heads. Fandom is packed with REALLY smart people, many of whom, like me, didn’t have the best time of it when it came to sports or thinking about our physicality. I could spend hours in a book, mindlessly popping sour cream & onion potato chip after sour cream & onion potato chip into my maw, light years away from third grade bullies and the Presidential Fitness Test.
But now, people are dying.
Lots of them. Wonderful, bright people. Organized, driven people. Amazing people that leave a hole in my heart by their absence.
And because telling someone you love, “You’re fat, and I want to help you” is somehow so much scarier than “You’re an alcoholic, and I want to help you”, we go about our day, and ignore the signs in ourselves, in our friends, in our lovers. The wheezing. The bad joints. The lack of energy. The mottled skin. I see more & more folks taking pills for medical conditions, when just stepping away from the computer would be enough.
The end of 2007, I got on a scale, and was stunned by the number. 178 pounds. I’m 5’4”. Almost. This was me:
If I didn’t get a handle on it fast, 180, 200, 250 were waiting with moist, pudgy faces and labored breathing, just over the next hill.
I looked at my diet like I had a thousand times before. I couldn’t see what was wrong with it – salads, chicken, turkey burgers, fruit, some ice cream here & there. I watered down juices. I didn’t drink sugary sodas. I rode my bike & even worked out on occasion.
I decided to go outside of myself, and tried Nutrisystem. The food’s palatable, and it’s easy to prepare, but it was the AMOUNT of food that confirmed my suspicion:
WHAT I’d been eating was just fine. THE AMOUNT I’d been eating was about 3 times more food than I needed.
A bowl of cereal will fit, dry, in a cupped hand, NOT a big, double tiered bowl with a whole banana chopped into it that you eat in front of your favorite TV show, and then when your show’s over, but the thing on afterwards isn’t THAT bad, and you have milk left, so you pour in some more cereal, but oops, that’s too much, better add a bit more milk…
A piece of meat is NOT pound of burger, dripping with two pieces of cheese & mayo & ketchup on a big whole wheat bun. It’s a piece the size of your hand if you cut your fingers off.
It doesn’t matter if you eat a big bowl of steamed broccoli if it’s layered in butter & three kinds of cheeses.
I learned that if I want a big varied dinner, that’s fine, but I need to adjust the amount I eat for lunch & breakfast. And, if I’ve overdone it the day before, I need to watch my ass (and my intake) the next day.
I’ve learned that I overeat to procrastinate, or because I’m lonely, or because I “have to finish what’s in front of me”.
I’ve learned to put my food on smaller plates. American marketing insists that we have HUGE plates of food, which OVERFLOW the borders of those plates, and we are MISSING OUT if we see the slightest bit of negative space buried within the vast cornucopia we’re about to force down our gullets.
I’m a visual girl. I fell for the trap. Hell, just look at a toothpaste commercial. See the way the toothpaste is layered on, all along the toothbrush, and then squeezed out just a bit more, so it backtracks on itself? That’s so you get visually conditioned to go through toothpaste faster, and yup – buy MORE toothpaste.
They’ve been doing this to us with food as well, and we’re killing ourselves as a result.
I want to be around a long time. Hell, I want to be around FOREVER, until I’m ready to move to the next level. I want you around, too.
If you’re a guy, and your belly is hard and round, and projects like a bowling ball, it’s not a cute party keg. It’s an indicator that you’ve got fat packed around your heart, and it’s having a harder & harder time beating. And you’re killing yourself.
If you’re a girl, and the girth of your belly exceeds your chest or hips, or you’ve got huge rolls above & below your bra strap, you might call yourself a Rubinesque goddess. You’re also killing yourself.
Before I get jumped on, this post is not about buying into a thin-freak culture. I have no desire to be a size zero. But there’s a difference between loving our bodies the way they are, and slowly killing ourselves because we don’t take a hard look at our actions & emotions & the reasons we’re overweight.
I’m down about 25 pounds from that picture up there. I’m stunned. I actually had to go out & buy new pants cuz my stuff was starting to look like a punchline on me. And, this is my husband, Jay, who just returned from deployment a few months ago. He runs ten miles a day.
Try living with THAT, and see what it does for your self-esteem:)
But I think I’m figuring out how to do this. I hope this time it sticks. And I hope that by baring my struggle here, I can help someone out there with their own.