You immediately got a picture in your head, didn’t you, even if it’s not a very clear one because you may not know me personally?
I feel a little like the people in 12-step program meetings who introduce themselves with their name and their addiction, such as, “Hello, my name is Jim, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Years ago I went for a while to such a group, Overeaters Anonymous. And I would announce before each comment I made, “My name is Lucie, and I’m a food addict.” And everyone would say, “Hello, Lucie.”
I didn’t completely identify with the term “food addict” (how can you be addicted to something necessary for your survival?), but I didn’t know how else to classify myself for the purpose of those meetings.
But aside from whether or not it was correct, I didn’t like it – not just because it felt dumb (“You already know my name and why I’m here, people!”), but because I didn’t like identifying myself by a single aspect of my personality.
Maybe that works for alcoholics or gamblers. I don’t know, having never struggled with those issues.
I didn’t stay with OA that long, partly for the above reason.
* * * * *
“You were never a fat child,” my mother has said on at least a couple of occasions. Pictures indicate this is true. I was average-sized. But even in middle school, I had a stomach, if you get my drift.
“Pot belly,” a boy in my science class said, pointing to me, a couple of times.
My mother has also said that, even from childhood, I was always asking what was on the menu for the next meal. I liked food. Heck, my whole family did. I loved starches in particular. And sweets.
And I took after one of my maternal great-grandmothers, or so my mom tells me. Great-grandmother Mattie died of complications of diabetes when she was about my current age. She was heavy, real heavy. She loved to eat. And her son was heavy, later in life, and loved to eat. And was “borderline” diabetic.
You could say I came by it naturally. Sometimes I’ve said that. It’s easy to at least partially blame genetics.
Genetics. That’s what’s behind my pot belly. Look at great-grandmother Mattie, and Granddad…
Of course, this is something of a two-edged sword. If genetics are against you and you’ve had that stomach since childhood, are all those Ab Rollers and other stupid devices you’ve wasted your money on really going to give you a belly like Denise Austin?
Believe me, you want to think so. Oh, how you want to think so! That’s why the companies who make them are in business.
Short of liposuction, I’ve pretty much given up on ever having a flat stomach. And I’m pretty sure liposuction is quite expensive.
I’m still fat.
* * * * *
I’m remembering the first time my GP used the word “obesity” when describing me in his files. Actually, I can’t recall exactly where I saw the word, but I was shocked. “Obese?” That’s for people who weigh 400 pounds! Or 300 pounds. Not…
Me. I wasn’t even 200, but someone had just called me obese.
Years later, I wrote a poem called “Fat.” And felt an inner peace afterwards. I shared it with my writer’s group, and they liked it. No one judged me. I shared it with a friend who shared it with a friend, who was moved by it. That made me feel good.
But I’m rambling. The title of this post, after all, is “Why I’m Still Fat.”
I like Chantel Hobbs‘ answer to this question. Chantel is one of my weight-loss heroes. She lost 200 pounds in two years and freely admits that she had no secret reasons for gaining all that weight – not sexual abuse, or bad genetics, or depression, or whatever you can name. She just liked food.
You go, Chantel. It must have taken some courage to admit that. After all, if you have reasons like the above, people tend to regard you with more understanding.
I like food. I love starches. I love carbs. I love sugar. I’ve eaten from boredom and from depression. I’ve eaten when I’m happy, to reward myself, to soothe myself, to wake up when I needed energy to get through the day.
I just haven’t always eaten wisely.
I haven’t taken the threat of diabetes very seriously, either. That was reserved for a future date, after all. I still had time to turn my eating habits around before then – you know, like in middle age. Yeah, I would worry about it then.
A little past 40, that word came back with the annual lab work, only I still didn’t quite understand, and still didn’t quite take it seriously. Was I in denial? Perhaps. I’m not really sure why it’s never been that real to me. In fact, upon diagnosis I mostly felt a sense of relief, not the dire church bells I’d expected, the end forever to all my old (pleasurable) eating habits. The enemy was real, and thus I could fight him. Yet for the longest time I wasn’t sure if I was pre-diabetic or actually diabetic. The American Diabetes Association said one thing, the American College of Endocrinologists another. The ADA’s scale gave me a tad more leeway, but I paid more attention to the ACE’s, figuring they must know better.
I was good for a while. Took Metformin for a while, even though it’s not protocol for someone with my stats. I took comfort in and was somewhat proud of the fact that my A1C level never went up any further in almost nine years. “Very well controlled,” said one person. “Very good,” said another (a physician). My current GP didn’t seem too concerned with that number.
All of which helped me not to be overly concerned – for a while.
* * * * *
Let me tell you what doesn’t work. Diets? You’ve already heard that. Then again, maybe they do for you. One did for me, a little over a decade ago. I lost about 25 pounds. A coworker actually said I was becoming ”svelte.” Now I damn sure wasn’t svelte, but my butt was smaller and I could button my jeans the normal way (i.e., not lying on my back and sucking in my breath).
But here’s what didn’t work.
Offering me a dollar for each pound I lose.
- Telling me that I’m bigger than I’ve ever been.
- Telling me that no man wants a woman who outweighs him or that I looked like I was six months pregnant. (Even a cursory glance at society reveals that the former isn’t true, and as for the latter, I did not.)
- Telling me that my stomach is “almost the first thing people notice about you” because it’s so big.
- Telling me that a mutual acquaintance told you they almost didn’t recognize me, [because] “you’d gained so much weight.” (For the record, this almost certainly had to be untrue as well.)
- Telling me relatives are “shocked” at my appearance.
- Telling me I need to ask my doctor about an appetite suppressant.
- Perhaps best of all, telling me that I “don’t want to go on a job interview looking like a whale.”
Anyone who’s ever been overweight will have their own vocabulary.
Let me tell you what else doesn’t work. Hating yourself.
Some of you have done that, haven’t you? Around two decades ago I questioned in my journal whether “even more virulent self-hatred” was the key to permanent weight loss.
Listen. I’m not overweight just because I love sugar and starchy carbs, or because I have no willpower, or because I’m the victim of heredity.
The only thing I’ve been a ”victim” of is my own mind.
The mind that says, No matter how hard you work, you’ll always have that belly, or You’re over 50, you’ll soon be in menopause, and menopausal women gain weight. That says, Even if you get slimmer, no man’s going to want you, because [insert raison du jour]. You’re not too fat to get a new job; people bigger than you get employed. Why give up the one real pleasure in your life?
Why, why, why try again? Who really cares?
* * * * *
I do. Still. In spite of the fact that I live in the fattest country on earth, which puts me in good company. In spite of the fact that a coworker told me not that long ago, “You’re not fat.” In spite of the fact that it’s freakin’ hard work to lose weight and keep it off, especially once you pass 40 – everybody who ever told you that was RIGHT.
But this body is heavy. It’s stiff and sometimes feels so awkward. It’s just plain unattractive. It’s a pain to carry around.
One reason I love the water so much is that when I’m in it, I don’t feel my heaviness. I feel instead a weightlessness similar to that I felt on my one skydive nearly a decade ago.
In the water and in the air, I leave my body behind.
I don’t like not recognizing myself in the mirror sometimes, thinking, That’s not me.
It is me.
Well, in a sense… Fact is, the girl who lives in the deepest recesses of my being isn’t fat or stiff. And I want to see her face in the mirror.
I remember what’s ahead. Temptation when I’m so freaking bored with watching what I eat. Frustration with a scale that doesn’t move as fast as I want. Fear that maybe my body won’t do what I’m asking it to, that it’s too late, I’m too old, that I can’t get down to that number on the scale I want because my body isn’t meant to be that weight. Anger when somebody says I probably can’t, or even shouldn’t. Annoyance when people praise me for getting smaller because a part of me I don’t show in public sometimes hisses, Gee, wasn’t I of any value already? Don’t you know I’m a PERSON, not just a ********* number?
Another reason why I’m still fat.
* * * * *
Statistically, I’ve heard, blog posts this size are less likely to be read. I suppose it has to do with our alleged short attention spans. If you’re still reading (and I hope you are), there’s one more thing I want to say. I had to let go of some things. Forgive some things. Kick that old girl goodbye with the old year as the new one passed her at the front door. There’s a job search ahead (sooner than I’d necessarily anticipated). A reward trip ahead (hopefully!). I have no idea what life will throw at me this year, but I’m planning to face it from a healthier perspective, mentally as well as physically.
Some of you may have been, even subconsciously, waiting for the Big Reveal: how much does she weigh, anyway? Is she going to post a “Before” picture?
Nope. I’m not going to give a number or a picture. I wrote this post because I needed to as part of my own process of getting better, for accountability, and especially for anyone who may read this and nod, thinking, I know, girl. I know.
How about you?