Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Fat Person Waiting to Get Out

When it aired a couple of years ago, "Heavy" was my guilty pleasure. I recorded it and watched it in the afternoons while there was no one around but me and sleeping babies. "Hoarders" has much the same appeal, but for totally different reasons

Hoarders I don't understand. If I had my dogs, my photo albums and possibly my camera and laptop, my house could vanish and I wouldn't be distraught. Even the treasured heirlooms from my grandparents, while they couldn't be replaced, would receive only the appropriate amount of mourning. It's just stuff and, in general, stuff can be replaced. The attachment to everything and inability to throw away even trash is beyond me.

The people on "Heavy" were a different story. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

You see, I'm fat. No, it's not a joke if you know me. In my head, I'm a big person. All 5'6" of me, which weighed in this morning at 129.2 lbs. Even in loose size 6 jeans, my ribs visible through a knit shirt, I seldom see myself as skinny. I understand the addiction of food and guard against it like an alcoholic working his 12-step program. When I fall off the wagon with a box of Krispy Kreme chocolate-covered, creme-filled donuts, a Dairy Queen MochaMoolatte or a pizza on occasion, I "pick up a white chip" and start over.

When I watched the morbidly obese people on "Heavy" trying to figure out how their lives got so out of whack and how to get them back, that's a pain I understood. But unlike many of them, I know the source of my food issues. I just can't get rid of them.

In my early school years I was an average-sized and often sickly child. I spent the summer between the third and fourth grades sick with tonsilitis and the measles. Just before school started, I had my tonsils removed. Before that school year ended, I was bigger than everyone but two girls in my grade. I couldn't stop my growth or my early puberty, but I hated it, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. Just at the age when I'm forming my own body image, I'm big, even if only for a few years. Add to this that my dad's new name for me was "Tubby" and I often wonder how I avoided becoming anorexic. Probably just because the bathroom was too close to the kitchen and my parents' room for any sneak purging and clean your plate was still the golden rule.

Instead, I languished through middle school and most of high school, outside the social loop. I made my own clothes, cut my own hair, was a total nerd and had few friends. By the sixth grade the only boy who wanted to be my boyfriend was shorter and far heavier than me. It seemed boys were nothing but a painful fantasy. By high school, I was a grade ahead of my peers and knew virtually no one. I was enough of an outsider at school that the lack of popularity seldom bothered me, and I never really knew what the popular kids might have thought of me. If a boy had expressed any interest in me, I'd have never seen the signals after being an outsider for so long. I was a senior before I had a boyfriend and dated and even then I was playing the game without knowing the rules.

Somehow, I never really noticed when the other kids caught up or even passed me. Although thinking back I remember not being tall any more, I still remember that I felt bigger than the people around me. Looking at old pictures, however, I can see that wasn't really true. Even pictures from those most painful years, seen from the distance of age, reveal a kid who doesn't look like I thought I did. Well, except for the hair, which was truly horrible at times.

Watching "Heavy," I saw people who struggled with some of the same issues I did, but with such a different outcome. I cheered for their success at the same time that I wondered how they ever veered so far into territory that they probably at some point feared. I strengthen my resolve never to go down that path.

Walking miles each day, mixing Zumba, PiYo, a stationary bike and Bowflex with my daily activities, and monitoring my diet with an energy that would exhaust many people may mean that becoming morbidly obese isn't likely to be part of my future. At the same time, understanding the seduction of food means I know that there could be a danger should there be a big change in my life.

And it means that while you may see a small person, needlessly obsessed with her diet, or imagine a person who can eat anything, my reality is a little different.

Somehow, I'm containing a fat woman who's waiting for the first sign of weakness to get out.

(I first wrote this blog nearly three years ago when the show was airing and made a few updates before republishing under my new heading. Sorry, I needed a break today. The picture is from one of the women on the show, which aired on AETV. She lost 140 pounds.

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