Weighty Matters

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Dieting has been very much a part of my psyche since I first started going to Weight Watchers meetings at 3 years old. I found the brochures exquisite, color-coded, graduating through a program whose logical progression appeased my young brain’s need for order. They were the first thing I read. While my mother made copious notes on a legal pad, diligently recording the speaker’s directives, I fanned the program booklets, coquettish, pretending I was signaling my lady in waiting to help me with my royal duties by getting me the heck out of this dreary meeting. Without fail, Mom and I would adjourn to McDonald’s, where my patience would be rewarded with a hamburger Happy Meal and hers a side salad sans dressing.

Come to think of it, in those days, it was unusual to see Mom eat much of anything. I remember chilling in the stairwell listening to her and Dad fighting about it. What did he know? He was a man. There wasn’t the same pressure. He shot back that he worried about her dizzy spells. She had 4 young children to take care of.

He’d give her the eye sometimes at dinner, nodding at her, eat, eat. And my siblings and I would ape him, turning it into a bit of a family cheer. After a while, we didn’t have to urge her anymore. She’d filled out a bit, but it looked good on her, more color in her cheeks.

She enrolled in an aerobics course I attended with her, bringing my tiny record player and its accompanying plastic records with me. It was fun to dance along with her class.

I had the “pretty mom” growing up. She was slender and statuesque. She looked flawless without makeup.

At 13, devastated by pubertal weight gain, I found out her secret. “Don’t let so much food stay in your system.” She patiently instructed me to purge, gave me pointers on easy methods to provoke the gag reflex, good nutritional rules of thumb for when to let the food stay and when to throw it up.

This sounded like terrible advice even to my admittedly foolish teenage ears. I ran it by my guidance counselor, who called her in for a conference. In the office, mom denied ever having said those things to me, that I must have understood her, that I was dramatic and had a wild imagination. She grounded me for talking about what she’d told me. “Can’t you keep your mouth shut? Family business stays in the family.” How many times I heard those words over the years.

My early attempts at bulimia were pitiful at best. I had an iron stomach and just wasn’t good at gagging. I gave up and resolved to be a chubby kid. “If you want to be a fatso, that’s your business,” she’d jab. Years later, I found out that both my sisters had heeded her dietary advice more dutifully than I, with variable results.

Later, I grew tired of the stigma and dabbled with a myriad of diet pills and starvation, eventually transitioning to illegal stimulants, keeping my weight normal to 20 pounds overweight for the five years or so until I was 19. My use of uppers eventually got the better of me, and at 19, I did a stint in rehab and quit drugs altogether. In spectacular fashion, over the next 8 years, I proceeded to binge eat and adopt a sedentary lifestyle that packed on almost 200 pounds. This was multifactorial – I’d done some work in therapy to help with aspects of body dysmorphia I had and the renewed self-confidence made me less aware of the weight gain. Many of my dear friends had left the area, and I was terribly lonely. My marriage was nearly sexless and completely devoid of romance. During these 8 years of 200 pounds of net weight gain, I yo-yo dieted several times, especially employing the Atkins diet, losing as much as 80 pounds at a time, and then promptly regaining it.

A couple of years ago, when I opened my marriage with my now ex-husband, I finally managed to be successful with my weight loss. I’d started for pragmatic reasons – entering the dating market, I needed to increase my market value. My husband desired a unicorn to be with us (and I desired to be the “good wife” and give him whatever he wanted) and asserted I’d have better luck meeting up with girls on OkCupid (I was the bait for his unicorn hunting, a fact that depresses me now) if I could get down to a desirable weight – and unbeknown to him, struggling with insecurities regarding his relationship with his girlfriend (that included me for a few months and then only the two of them for the next 9 months or so as she and I were incompatible) and how much time I was spending alone, I felt it prudent to be prepared at a more normal weight if he were to leave me, something I saw as a real possibility. I still believe even now that if she’d liked him more and had been able to financially support him to the level I could, he would have.

So I set out on an extremely strict self-designed program of about 1000 calories of extremely low-carb, high-fat food a day coupled with lots of exercise.

I am today, about 2-1/2 years later, down a total of 141 pounds (though 8 pounds above my lowest weight).

After a few months of dietary chaos following a few notable traumatic events, including undergoing marital separation, moving cross country, and moving living situations precipitously under most regrettable circumstances, I am back on track. Skyspook and I are currently doing a regimen similar to Slim Fast – except we’re making the shakes at home with natural ingredients (way yummier and just as effective) and eat whatever the heck we want for dinner (though we try to keep it within 1000 calories). We’ve been working out like fiends – lots of cardio, weight-lifting, and swimming. It’s wonderful.

But sometimes I still feel the old demons. Like yesterday. I forwent my meal shakes, walked 5 miles, and had grilled salmon and rice for dinner. I still felt guilty, awful. I want to be a good diet/exercise partner for Skyspook and do my best. I always see how I can do with less.

And I know it’s shallow, but I want to look my best. Not even for me, but for Skyspook. I want him to be proud to be with me, to be his arm candy. He’s done so much for me, more than anyone has, really, and sometimes I feel so powerless to pay him back between being stretched so thin financially, emotionally, etc.

But I keep on keeping on.

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