Friday, January 3, 2014

Being the Fat Girl

 I've been all over the scale, really, but something has been on my mind for a while that I feel like I need to express. So, here goes.

I hit 125 lbs at age 13. I was probably about 5'4", so it definitely wasn't my thinnest but it was hardly overweight. This picture is of me at age 16. I'd hit 5'8" and was pretty sure that was how tall I'd be for good. The scale didn't move from 125, unless it went up to 129--which is pretty much where I hovered, between those two weights. I walked and swam whenever possible and I had a pretty good arm (and muscle definition) from throwing newspapers (paper route) for four years. That was basically my fitness plan. But, hey, I was 16 and knew I was benefiting from a great metabolism. One that I also knew would change, so why not enjoy it why I could?
This picture was taken of me shortly after my wedding. I'd hit 5'9" but had no idea. Still 125. That didn't change until November of that year when I got pregnant. My first trimester was a killer. I could hardly eat anything and by December I had gotten sick with the flu and and ear infection. I lost 10 lbs between my first and second OB appointments. 119 was my weight in December 1996. In January we moved to Oklahoma and I can remember Bryan taking me to the shores of Waurika Lake only to have the wind off the water blow me back. I couldn't stand in one place and had to use him as my wind buffer.

But here's the thing: I never felt thin. My stomach was never flat and my thighs were always bigger than I liked. From the moment I started caring about that stuff those were my problem areas. That's what I didn't like about myself. And nothing anybody else said could change it.
This picture was taken in my second trimester. The whole picture is really cute. It's me, Sissy, and Bryan all lined up showing off our bellies. I had to pull the shirt in so you could even see the baby bump. I was maybe 135 lbs in this picture. Not that I didn't regain the weight I'd lost and then some on my almost-nothing-but-ice-cream diet, but at this time I really wasn't very big. As you can see. Cute, but not very big. ;) This is our glorious Disneyland Vacation. I put this in here because it's a decent picture of me having fun, and it's also a picture taken after I've had all my kids. At the time this was taken I'd had some stress related health issues and lost some weight, so I was probably around 160 lbs. Not bad for 5'9". In fact, it's within the range of healthy for my height.

This picture is closer to 169 lbs. We were in Manhattan and it's one of my favorite pictures of me. As you can see there's more definition to my curves but I still look pretty healthy, right?

This pic on the right (blue shirt) is the first indication that things were starting to go downhill. See, I've never blamed having my kids for my weight gain. Sure, after having kids I was bigger than I wanted to be, but I was still (barely) in the healthy weight ranges for my height. But this is when life took a turn.

This was when we lost our house. I was a mess. In the same month I signed a contract with a publisher for my first book and got a letter in the mail saying we were in foreclosure. There wasn't anything we could do, but we tried. Finally we just had to bow out, pack up our stuff, and move our 5 kids to a 3 bedroom upstairs duplex.

The duplex of Hell. No, my sis Jen is not the duplex of Hell. This is another shot and I remember seeing it and instead of going "Oh, how sweet" I went "my arms are horrible!" The happiest day of her life and I'm all feeling fat and slobbish about my arms. Yes, I know I still looked okay. And everyone is going to look at this picture differently, but this was the start of my fat girl journey.

In that duplex I struggled with horrible feelings of guilt for letting my kids down and having to move them out of their home and making them suffer in that horrible tiny space. So I ate. I ate to mask the hurt. I've always been an emotional eater. This wasn't a discovery I had to make. Only this time I just let go. I stopped worrying about the results. I stopped caring how I'd work those calories off later. I stopped caring about a lot of things.
Except, I also hit my mid 30's. And as we all know, this is about the time that a person's metabolism slows down. So while I was eating, my body was storing. And storing. And storing some more.
 This is me at my heaviest. 235.6 lbs. I can tell you that a lot of things change when you gain weight but I think you know this.

But this is what I experienced. I actually used to get fairly regular complements on my outfit, my shirt, my hair, whatever, by friends and random kind people at church. That well dried up pretty fast the bigger I got. The only person who complemented me was my husband, and even that had changed.

I was so tired. I had no energy to do anything. It was ridiculous. And I was so down about it all. I looked awful and I knew it. I felt awful about it. I knew I had to do something about it. So I tried. Weight Watchers, but the meetings were over an hour away and I didn't feel like I could keep up with the plan. I tried self control, but I'd lose a little and then regain it and then a bit more.

Six months ago I finally just said that was it. I'd had enough. I contacted a friend who had been sharing her and friends' weight loss success stories with me via email (with my permission of course). I knew it was a huge financial commitment but I figured that was part of my penance for losing so much control of myself for so long. I needed to feel the price, feel the sacrifice. I needed for it to hurt a little.

I needed it to have significance.

So far I've lost 67 lbs. I feel so good. My insomnia, something that has plagued me since that first picture of me at 16, has almost completely vanished. Instead of it being a regular nightly issue I actually have to be incredibly stressed out to have trouble sleeping. Like last night, but I digress. And once people started noticing the pounds come off, the complements have started rolling in. Again. And while I don't doubt their sincerity they still make me uncomfortable.
Was I really not pretty at 235 lbs? Or are we just so constrained by societal prejudices that a person can't look "nice" if they're overweight? I can tell you I felt ugly. I felt hideous. I felt unworthy.
And probably that heavy person you pass in the street feels some or all of what I felt. But does that mean they don't look nice? It's hard enough to have a decent view of your own self worth without people around you ignoring you because you're fat and they don't have anything nice to say. Or why-ever they ignore you. Because they do. They ignored me.