Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder so is fat. For example, last week I was waxing poetic about being near 200 lbs. And, there were times in my life when I was happy to be 200 lbs, or happy to be where I am now. When I got married for the first time, I was thrilled to weigh what I do now; in fact, I had to lose 30 lbs to get there. I think as we change and grow so do our expectations of ourselves and what was once acceptable sometimes is no longer.
For example, after my divorce, I went on the divorce-diet. There is no eating plan more effective for losing weight than being in constant emotional turmoil; eating mostly salads, diet sodas and skinny lattes, I got down to a size 8 and was delighted when my ex-husband commented that I was losing too much weight. I didn’t have control over his affair, and I didn’t have control over his abandonment, but I did have control over how much space I took up, what food I put into my mouth. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to take up space; I wanted to disappear and I worked on that by not eating.
And, in some ways, I had a taste of the thin life, and I liked it. I liked being smaller than most of the people around me. For so many years, in my immediate family, I was the largest: bigger than my mom, my dad and my siblings. I was attracted to big men that towered over me and made me feel small. My ex-husband’s hands were so much larger than my own that he could curl his fingers over mine without closing his palm fully. I often refused to date anyone who was too close to my own size, the fear always being if I gained a little weight, he’d be smaller than me and therefore no longer interested.
Since my divorce and subsequent thinning down, my expectations have changed. That was the first time in my life I even allowed myself to consider that I was thin and as time wore on, I also realized that I could not maintain such an unhealthy lifestyle, so I made permanent changes and was able to stay within my newly defined ‘healthy range’ for many years, with momentary relapses here and there. That was ten years ago.
In that time, I have been called “skinny bitch” and “fat bitch” sometimes within the same day. And, that doesn’t mean that I lose 20 lbs within the space of hours; it means that the people who are delivering the comment see me differently from others. So, while some folks are like “Girl, wtf, 200 ain’t so bad,” there are others who think that being near 200 lbs is equivalent to death. Well, I’ve been there, hell I’ve been 235 easy. When I was in college, I had a range of sizes in my closet from 18 to 10 because I never knew when I was going to fall off the wagon. Gaining 20 lbs is easy, and I can do it without a thought; I know this about myself and I have to be prepared. As a result, I have to stay as far away from 200 as possible because once I get there, it’s like open season, and the weight just piles on like falling snow.
I have this self-awareness because I’ve been struggling with my weight my whole life. Literally.
My first weight related memory was when I was five.My grandma took me school shopping, and I remember trying on this hot pink short set that I had to have. It had popsicles and ice cream cones all over it with little ruffles across the neck. I tried it on and the material from the shorts, dug into my thighs and the armholes pinched my underarms. I remember clearly, pulling at the material and wondering why it couldn’t just fit. I didn’t know what size it was or if there was a larger size, all I knew was that the one I tried on didn’t fit. That stayed with me: the tightness of the material and how it pinched my skin and made it hurt. I still prefer to buy my clothes a little too big, a little too loose to show off my figure, trying to avoid that tightness.
The first time I went on a diet…5th grade. I used to go days without eating anything more than hot dogs without the bun and scrambled eggs with ketchup and baked potatoes with BBQ sauce, weighing myself everyday ashamed that I wore the same size jeans as my mom, too fat to shop in the kid’s section. I look at photos from this time in my life; and I look like the older, taller, fatter sister to my friends who were all dwarfed by my size. I don’t know what happened, but it seemed like I became a large boned, 5’6 by 12 and stopped growing taller. Some of those kids dwarf me now that we are adults.
Or, what about the summer before I went to 7th grade, my cousin Lisa and I did the heart patient diet, where you basically cut out all carbs and eat this terrible tomato based cabbage soup. On day 6, I caught Lisa in her mom’s kitchen, red handed- a piece of white bread dangling from her fingertips. She quickly turned her back to me and held the bread to her chest like it was a lifeline. And, I remember a few days later going to a festival and one of the boys from my grade, looked me up and down and said, “Looking good.” And, I didn’t know why, but I liked his attention and abhorred it at the same time. That feeling of like and abhorrence would continue until my late 20s when I realized that I didn’t like male attention because it made me feel like an object and that dislike of being objectified often fueled my eating and relapsing once I did get anywhere near a ‘comfortable’ weight. Even still I prefer to ignore appreciative male gazes which according to my daughter happen more than I realize.
Fat is relative.
Just ask Whitney Way Thore. Whitney is the star of the Fat Girl Dancing series on YouTube. I first saw Whitney on the Today show last week. I was amazed, awed and inspired by her dancing video. I wondered how this woman could be so happy with herself and I could not. I found her video to be so, well…sexy. That girl can move and her confidence and talent, in my opinion, trump any extra weight she’s carrying. I frequently vie for that kind of confidence; you know the kind that encourages you to just own it. I’ve had it before, in times of thinness and chubbiness, but I don’t or rather can’t seem to embody this consistently. What I had lost while I was gaining was the ability to say so what…so what if I now wear a size 12 or 14. So what if I am 15 lbs from rock bottom…
I’ve found that when I can say, “so what,” that that is when I can lose weight almost unconsciously.
Last summer, for instance, I just made some minor, experimental changes that had nothing to do with losing weight. I had just left Howard and was feeling good about myself and was ready to embrace the changes that would result from no longer teaching full time. So, I quit diet soda, I ate more veg and for the first time in a 30 year struggle, I lost weight without obsessing over it. After losing 8 lbs or so, my body plateaued, and I was happy and healthy.
Now, I am trying to say “so what” more…so what that I am wearing jeggings most days as my body shrinks little by little each week, so what if my closet has a range of sizes from 10-14 as opposed to just 10s. Today I choose to love my body and the amazing things it can do and has done.
Fat is relative. It’s up to me to decide how.
I am still juicing, 2-4 a day, and I am still eating lots of whole foods, and I am diet soda free with minimal processed foods going in. And, this week I lost another 2.6 lbs. So, like I thought the initial 6 was water weight, but 8.6 lbs in two weeks while still eating; that’s pretty damn good!