This is the beginning of a series of entries about me and my struggles with weight. I am tackling this not only as a way of telling my own personal story, but as a way to digest and externalize the issues I have dealt with for most of my life. I find that it's cathartic to put into solid words feelings that I have been internalizing for a very long time and on such a public forum (for all, like, six you that read this). With out further adieu:
When I was 14, I was in the 7th grade. My mother took me to a doctor's appointment, for a routine physical and check up. I can't remember what month it was, or really any particular details from that visit. But what I do remember, most acutely was when Dr. Files was making his finishing remarks. Everything looked good, I was healthy, except for one thing. My weight. He was very matter-of-fact when he made the suggestion that my mother and I sign up for weight watchers. I was absolutely horrified. THAT kind of thing was for overweight adults. Not ME. I was a teenager. I was mortified, since I never really thought of myself as fat. I mean, yeah, I was pudgy but not Weight Watchers pudgy! When we got into the car, my mom tried to smooth things over by mentioning he was always telling her to lose weight as well. And she then gave me the little talk of you are beautiful at any weight, and it was only a number on the scale.
In actuality, I was not so much bothered by what the doctor had recommended, but it was the stark realization of the truth hitting me very squarely in the chest. He was right. I was overweight. I don't remember exactly how heavy I was, but I knew I was definitely bigger than I should have been. When I compared myself to my friends of the same height, I was definitely fatter than them. It never really was a issue for me, because I never got teased. Any unhappiness I had with my body was self generated. I truthfully don't remember ever really being a normal weight. Growing up, I was always just a bit bigger than everyone else. Mostly I was attributing it to the fact that puberty hit me hard and fast. In my school picture from 5th grade I had boobs. At 12, I had discernible boobs under my sunflower print strappy maxi, complete with jean jacket bolero (shut up, it was 1995). This is not to say there were not comments - hurtful ones at that - made to me about my body. I remember once the boys across the street saying, "You would be fat if your boobs weren't so big". There was also a little gem related to me by my 7th grade boyfriend's best friend, "He only liked you for your boobs at first, but now he thinks you're really cool". Uh, thanks, I think?
Puberty was a good excuse for my weight gain, but it stopped being convenient when I wasn't growing any taller or slimming out from that baby fat. Buying clothes as a teenager was always a disappointment, and again filled with embarrassment. I could never seem to fit into Junior sizes (this being well before Junior's Plus was even a vague concept), and had to mosey over to the Missus section, which not surprisingly lacked age appropriate clothing. My friends wanted to shop at Delia's in high school, and I had already been sized out of their line by the time I was in 7th grade. I would end up swathing myself in anime tee shirts (Gundam Wing Deathscythe tee, R.I.P) two sizes too big and jeans from Old Navy, and men's khaki pants. This cutting edge style statement was to be my mainstay through high school and a bit into college.
When I started college I was more self aware of my status as a Plus Sized gal, but always (thankfully) on the smaller side of things. I could still flit in and out of the higher range of "straight" sizes and be comfortable. My life style then was fairly active, working on my feet in retail jobs and walking around a large urban university (Temple U, represent) as a commuter student. My diet however was in shambles, which is not to say I ever had a good diet to begin with. Remember when I mentioned about three paragraphs ago that my mom also had weight issues? It really isn't coincidental that through genetics and how I was raised that I ended up with weight issues too. My relationship with food was never as bad as my mom's, but I still liked to eat and I loved to eat things that were sweet and comforting. From an early age I remember always drinking soda, having snacks around the house and candy. I was never denied anything food-wise. My grandmother was constantly trying to restrict my mother's food and put her on a diet as she was growing up. My mother decided she was not going to raise her daughter the same way.
I know my mother meant well, and I am certainly not going to blame her completely for my food issues as an adult, but there is some culpability to be found. I also want to make it very clear my mother was always cooking meals for us. She loved to cook, and I loved her food. She did make good healthy things too, and also some deliciously caloric bombs of fat (I am looking at you creamy Chicken Cordon Bleu). But she was also a single mother, working hard and sometimes a dinner from Wendy's was much easier than making a full dinner at night. From this environment however, I learned to clear your plate and that it was okay to eat whatever you wanted. Fruits and veggies were never eaten as a snack and portion control was pretty much a foreign concept. With this as my background I went into young adulthood with little to no knowledge of what a balanced, healthy diet looks like.
In college I typically ate to live, trying to find the cheapest tastiest things possible. In the morning I would snag two pretzels (Philly, yo!) and a cup of tea (sugar and cream, of course) from the little stand outside the library (Paley Library, R.I.P). In the afternoons I would pick up a sandwich from the Bagel Hut, or maybe some mini egg rolls from the Thai place. Before I hopped on the train home, I would hit up the news stand for one of those enormous chocolate muffins to munch on train. I would go to work, and then come home with a bag of Burger King. Going to school in a food town like Philadelphia, I was kept in ample supply of vaguely disguised junk food as meals. While it was not okay, with my activity level, I was keeping myself just on the threshold of obesity. Regardless of my activity, my food intake was still keeping me big, much bigger than I really should have been. When I finally graduated college, I was launched into the "adult world" and with it the freedoms and limitations of being an adult on my own entailed. Little did I know, this would also come with quite a different lifestyle change as well.
I won't say I grew up fat, but I definitely grew up bigger, chunkier. While it was not hard, it was not easy especially in those hard years of middle school and high school. I liked to dance to the beat of my own drum, but it was completely frustrating that my body didn't want to be slim - that I could not eat like my friends did and be thin. This frustration would stay with me for quite some time - all through college and into my post college years. After graduating is where my struggles became almost epic in proportion and scale (see what I did there?). I never became more aware of my body then I did in my mid to late 20's.
So ends the first part of my story, to be continued at a later date.