Fat Again

I was three the first time I cried, because I thought I was fat. I had the chicken pox, was covered in calamine lotion, and my brother, six, joked that I looked like Miss Piggy. He was referencing the pink color, but the thing that made me cry when my thumbsucking had caused my lungs to become infected with chicken pox, was being called fat. I can’t tell you exactly why, having been a toddler, but I’d wager it was the constant dieting and negative weight talk in our household. Throughout my childhood, I remember my mother serving us strawberries covered in Sweet N’ Low, jelly on rice cakes, Diet Coke, Snackwell’s cookies, and even Slim Fast. Along with the family fad diets, came a constant stream of complaints from my parents about their weight and how it made them feel.

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As my parents’ marriage degraded, the weight discussion became increasingly hostile. My father was no David Hasselhoff and responded by lashing out at my mother, as she put on pounds as well. Pleasing him became her primary focus during those years, as she dragged me to Weight Watcher’s meetings and read Susan Powers books. In response, my dad grew increasingly critical, not just of her weight, but all of ours. No matter how desperately my mother wanted to be the slender woman he married, however, she continued to gain weight, as did he… as did my brother and I. We’d begun some unhappy years and we happened to be fat.

In all fairness, my mother had plenty of issues of her own, as well. I still remember sitting in the emergency room at nine years old, when the nurse quoted my weight at 106. My mother, a nurse herself, gasped in embarrassment and scolded me. Not only did I suffer the pain of a broken wrist, I was mortified and ashamed. I had become The Fat Kid, just as I feared. A year or two later, when my parents split up for the first time, it was also my mother who told me that it was because of her weight. When I asked my dad if this was true, he responded “your mother has no willpower” and I never really got an answer beyond that.

Over the years, my home life compounded with my school life persona as The Fat Girl. While the other girls wore fitted shirts with glittery puppies on them and had their first “boyfriends”, cute 12-year-old boys would try to convince me that their friend liked me, because they thought it was funny. For the entirety of sixth grade, I wore a jacket to school, because a boy had told me my arms were fat. I became increasingly defensive and could even be considered a bully myself, in time. There’s something about hearing someone sing “Who Let the Whales Out” as you walk down the halls of your middle school, that makes it hard to trust.

My high school years were easier, both at home and in school. My parents were officially divorced and my mother worked the evening shift. I had a hodge podge of friends, most of us walking around with targets on our backs, but at least we were doing it together. Still, I’d never let go of my identity as The Fat Girl, though in hindsight, I wasn’t even that big. I was just fuller figured than many of the girls my age, especially the ones on TV, of which I’d been consuming way too much for the last ten years. Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Buffy the Vampire Slayer… you name the show and it starred a notably tiny actress. By comparison, I felt like an Amazon, long before the Gal Gadot reference. Then my mother left, during my senior year, and I got married at 19.

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There’s no need to recount the years I was married, They were some of the darkest in my life and while I’d previously been a little chubby, the financial troubles, combined with crippling stress and depression, led to poor coping mechanisms like binge eating and drinking. It was at this point, 5’5.5″ and 275 pounds, that I realized I was the largest person in most rooms. I was not curvy or fuller figured, as many still very attractive women could be described. I was morbidly obese, with a BMI of 45.1 at 23 years old, and I hated my body. Being The Fat Girl, all grown-up, was a very different experience. Where I was mocked and bullied as a teen, as a fat adult, I was simply invisible… literally, apparently. I once stood in line at the video store and the clerk motioned to the woman behind me, as if I didn’t exist. I would go out with friends and men would talk them up as if I weren’t there. I was forgettable, at best and at worst, I was disgusted with myself and no longer even felt like a woman. I was miserable, in every aspect of my life, and I happened to be fat.

After my divorce, I resolved to lose weight, when a friend mentioned how strange it felt that we were too old for Hollister and I realized I’d never bought anything there, because nothing fit. I’d missed the Hollister stage of life. It wasn’t even a stage I wanted and the idea that I missed it, solely because of my size was upsetting. What else was I going to miss? I rarely had the energy or self-confidence for many of the activities I wanted to do by myself, like go hiking or bike riding or swimming. I was too self-conscious to wear cute clothes or date. Would I ever even meet the kind of man I hoped to marry this time around, the antithesis of my ex? I pictured a hardworking man, who could chase our kids around the yard and walk around the zoo and ride roller coasters with them. That didn’t require a body builder, but it did require someone relatively physically fit and, even before I’d fully entered it, I understood that in the dating world, like attracts like. Active and reasonably in shape people don’t typically date those who are morbidly obese and unable to climb stairs without breathing problems, regardless of gender.

Over the next year or two, I began working out, dieting, and putting more effort into my appearance. While I hoped the results would eventually play in my favor with men, I wasn’t really dating, nor was I interested in doing so. I was working two jobs, getting my degree, and taking time for myself. My motivation was purely intrinsic. I wanted to look in the mirror and toward the future and like what I saw. I didn’t want to be limited by my weight and I didn’t want to feel bad all the time. Within two years of my divorce, I weighed 158 pounds, which put my BMI at 25.9, barely in the overweight category, and my whole life had changed. I’d gained self-confidence and become better with social cues. I dated casually and stopped assuming it was beyond the realm of reason for a man to be interested. Additionally, I’d made friends, gained control of my finances, broken into my professional field, and finished my degree. My life was infinitely better and I happened to be fit.

After I lost the weight, my extended family became somewhat obsessed with the topic, since so many of them have struggled with their own fitness throughout their lives, most of them fluctuating wildly over the years. It has been ten years since I achieved a healthier size and, to this day, I cannot attend a family event without multiple comments on my weight… how I lost it, how I’ve kept it off, how good I look now. A subject I already struggle not to obsess over is casual conversation amongst my family. In the past, I’ve actually told my husband that my family has two favorite topics: Belle’s weight and Belle’s crazy mother, a fact that was clearly proven when my uncle once cornered him to exclusively discuss both… which brings me back to my mom.

My mother passed away over Mother’s Day weekend, after an overall sad and lonely life. After the divorce, things just never really came together for her again, unlike with my father. She was always a mentally weak person, caring far too much about what others thought and trying too hard as a result. Through a combination of her own self-esteem issues, much of which I know were tied up in insecurities about her weight, and a smorgasbord of mental problems she refused to acknowledge, she became steadily worse as the years passed. By the time I was on my own, she’d lost any sense of decorum or social awareness, most of her friends, and even her job, leaving me to wonder if there wasn’t some frontal lobe damage during the removal of her brain tumor, when I was 10. Beyond her strange and enabling husband, she became something of a recluse, eventually cutting ties with her own mother and losing them with me, as well. She was pitiful and only became more pitiful and she happened to be fat.

While there have been some clear connections to the unhappiness I’ve seen and weight issues, as an objective adult, I’m aware that being fat is not a blanket causation for misery. My parents had an unhealthy relationship with weight, but they also just had an unhealthy relationship with each other. My dad would have been unhappy with my mother, regardless of her size. I’d have been cruelly bullied for something else, had I been slender, because kids and teens are jerks. The real problem was my lack of a supportive home life and that is completely unrelated to body weight. I understand that I wasn’t miserable because I was morbidly obese, when I was married to a sociopath. I was morbidly obese because I was miserable, when I was married to a sociopath. I also realize that while my mother’s weight might have played a role in her relatively young death, it wasn’t the reason she had such a hard life. Again, it was likely the result of her many mental and social struggles, after years of comforting herself in unhealthy ways.

I know these things to be true and I know many bigger men and women, who are self-assured and happy and have healthy relationships. I’m related to many. When I see a bigger woman in a bikini, I envy her confidence. When I see some cute, fuller figured woman on a cowboy’s arm at a rodeo, I think it’s awesome… but then there’s me. I am the woman who has only ever been unhappy while fat and despite my objective knowledge, I cannot bring myself to dissociate the two. No matter how long I’ve been a healthy weight, I cannot seem to overcome my internal fear of reclaiming the title of The Fat Girl… and now I’ve given birth to twins and feel like I have a permanent baby belly.

Anyone who’s followed my blog for even the last few months knows what it took for me to get pregnant. Jake and I found out that IVF was our only option for having children a month before the pandemic hit. We were both fortunate to keep our jobs, throughout, with Jake even receiving two promotions… but it still cost us $30,000 and a lot of stress and heartache to hear those two little heartbeats. Now, here I am, two months postpartum, desperately trying not to obsess over my weight and I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about it. I’m so grateful for my girls and the chance to have a family at all… but I’m still self-conscious about my post-baby body.

To be honest, I thought this would have been a more prominent issue, throughout my pregnancy and was pleasantly surprised by my ability to remind myself that I wasn’t only pregnant, but carrying twins. I had a pretty good pregnancy after the first trimester. Though I had trouble sleeping, since my legs would go numb no matter how I arranged myself, I generally felt pretty good. I watched what I ate and exercised. I had a small wardrobe of cute and feminine maternity clothes. I did pull Jake into the bathroom at my baby shower, where I burst into tears because I was “disgustingly fat,” but I’d just seen my aunt using hand gestures to help fully depict her loud description of how I was carrying my weight.

It wasn’t until those last couple of weeks that I started to grow more uncomfortable with my appearance, as strangers began commenting more about how I looked like I was “about to pop”, my maternity jeans no longer fit, and I lived in an XXXL Summer Reading t-shirt. It was only then that I began to tearfully ask Jake whether he was going to leave me because I was fat. I started to picture the holidays and all the comments my family would make about how I’d lost the weight… or worse, the silence when I was around, because they were waiting to talk about how I didn’t. Feeling substantially larger the day I hit week 35, I procrastinated on posting my weekly belly photo on Instagram, because I didn’t feel well… and I never did get the chance. I thought the exhaustion was to be expected, though I was surprised by how run down I felt…

:: drumroll please::

… until I was diagnosed with “substantial pneumonia” and heart complications far exceeding preeclampsia. I’m sure I’ll share my horrifying birth story in time, complete with trigger warnings, but since that’s not the point of this post, I’ll simply say that it was the most terrifying experience of my life and I’m still recovering physically. The night I got home, I wasn’t supposed to stand for long stretches of time, having just been taken off the heart monitor. After a week as a patient, though, I stubbornly insisted on feeling human again. I washed my hair, shaved my legs, trimmed my bangs… and bravely stepped on the scale, expecting to have lost anywhere from 15-20 pounds, only to realize that I was only two pounds above my pre-baby weight. I was so incredibly ill that, while I hated those initial hospital photos, because I was carrying so much water weight, by the time I was discharged with my one week old twins (who’d been discharged days earlier), I’d lost 47 pounds since I went to the E.R. for breathing problems. I was shocked… and kind of relieved. I almost died and was rushed to the ICU without my babies, immediately after an emergency C-section. I’d take any silver lining I could get. Just as I suspected, even after hearing most of the story, my family saw my silver lining to a very dark cloud as nothing but a boon and was congratulatory of my weight loss.

It’s no mystery why I have issues with my weight, but now I find myself with two perfect little girls, who will look to me as an example for how they treat and talk about their bodies. While I’m not convinced I can ever overcome my own hang ups, the least I can do is commit to hiding them. When I was a kid and we’d go swimming at the lake or my grandmother’s pool, the adults never got in the water. When pictures were taken, they shielded their faces or asked to be cut out, especially the women. By middle school, I did the same, refusing to get in the water at summer camp and begging my mother to let me call in sick the day of our 7th grade field trip to the pool. I wore baggy clothes to hide my body, avoided having my picture taken, and wore my hair in front of my face when I couldn’t I don’t want my girls to be ashamed of their own bodies, no matter what shape they take, like I was and still sometimes am.

I am not a “health at every size” girl. It’s simply a fact that being overweight, maintaining a sedentary lifestyle, and eating poorly are unhealthy, especially if someone carries their weight around their mid-section. Acknowledging that, I don’t want my girls to think that being a little heavier equates with the killing curse, either. Sometimes life has fat seasons and that’s okay. People put on weight when it gets cold out, when loved ones die, when work gets stressful, when money’s tight and healthy food is out of their price range, after a breakup or a divorce. Some women are just built curvier and some men are naturally heftier. There are so many worse things to be than fat, from suffering from uncontrollable physical ailments like being mentally ill, chronically sick, or disabled, to character flaws, like being angry and bitter, irresponsible and apathetic, or a bad friend or loved one. I remember watching Gilmore Girls and being awestruck by the idea that Sookie could be fuller figured and still marry a good looking and kind man, have a thriving social life and a successful career. That was contrary to every idea my parents had given me, and I was an adult before I realized that men can find heavier women genuinely attractive. I don’t want my daughters to think that fat automatically equals unattractive or unhappy any more than I want them to think that living an unhealthy lifestyle is unavoidable. I don’t want them to cry because they’re fat at thirty or thirteen, let alone three.

So, even if I’m, admittedly, pretty messed up about weight, I’m more motivated than ever to fake it ’til I make it. I gained ten pounds after I left the hospital, what with no longer being on death’s door. I fear that this will be the time I look back on, the start of becoming Fat Again. Will I wish I could rewind and make healthier choices? Will I ever lose that last 10 pounds and perhaps the 10 I gained during Covid-19 infertility treatments, my Pandemic Pudge? Will I look at photos from a time when I feel fat and wish I were this size again? I can’t help but obsess over it and then I remember that my girls will be looking on, giving me even more reason to make truly healthy decisions, physically and mentally. I have to at least pretend to be confident and self-assured if I want to raise confident and self-assured children.

I was 21 when I realized that people go to the gym even when they aren’t trying to lose weight, that many of them enjoy physical activity, that exercise isn’t limited to the sports I hated as a kid. I have to make sure my girls know these things, by encouraging them to be active themselves, by being active with them and their father, by not forcing them to take part in physical activities they despise. I have to teach them that healthy foods taste good and Foods With Gravy are a wonderful treat. I have to make sure they know that bigger isn’t beautiful and real women don’t have curves, but that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and Godly creations. I have to show them that memories are worth having, even when I don’t feel at my most confident during that family photo or really don’t care to be seen in a bathing suit, in part because no one is thinking about anyone as much as they fear and also because people without perfect bodies can enjoy life, too. I have to demonstrate appreciation for my body and the amazing things it can do, by never letting my girls hear me deride it or show disgust for features they share, like my round face, big feet, turned up nose, or broad shoulders.

So many aspects of parenting are a charade, as we all play the part of healthy, well-adjusted individuals, to set good examples for our kids. This one might be one of the most important lessons of all to me, making sure my girls love themselves. It’s a good thing I’ve got a few years to improve, though. As messed up as I know it is, here in my new post-twins body, I can’t shake the worry of becoming Fat Again.

HOW AM I STILL PLANNING THIS WEDDING?!?!

Y’all, I got engaged in November… of what must have been 1980, because I have been doing wedding crap for approximately 37 years. HOW HAS THIS WEDDING NOT HAPPENED YET?

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Jake and I have had at least 167 spats over him being Princess Kate in both that everything has to be perfect and that it’s someone else’s problem. I’m telling you, that man almost got blood all over our wedding invitations when he told me he hadn’t collected all of his addresses as I began to address his half. This is why I hate weddings. Jake and I rarely argue, but suddenly we can’t get through a single day without some inane squabble over the difference between ivory and white. It’s not just me, either. His mother was pissed that he hadn’t chosen his cousin to be a groomsmen. His sister was pissed that he didn’t have a special job for his nieces. I was pissed that he was digging in his heels over stupid little things like this, when he doesn’t even care.

Me: “You’ve got to learn to choose your battles.”
Jake: “I know. I’m sorry.”
Me: “You do know the answer can’t be ‘all of them,’ right?”

It’s not just time and arguments, though. It’s money. I cut out videography and flowers and centerpieces. I bought wooden bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids on Etsy, to save a few hundred dollars. My invitations came from Mixbook, with a coupon code, and the R.S.V.P’s were printed on cardstock at work. I bought my wedding dress on Etsy and hoped for the best, because every other one I saw looked the exact damned same and cost three times as much. Still, every time I turn around, I have to spend another hundred dollars or so on sparklers, to-go boxes for the cake, a serving set, and a steamer for my dress. The large accounts got settled just it time for all the little odds and ends to start piling up. Sure, the honeymoon’s paid for now, but we’re going on an Alaskan cruise, which means I need a bathing suit and more jeans. You see, only the one pair fits these days, because I haven’t eaten since November.

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Until recently, Jake had been pretty unhappy with his weight, as well. Living out of his truck, between the Granger Ranch, his place in Wellston, and my place in Shetland wasn’t conducive to a healthy diet and exercise regimen. When he’d complain, beer in hand, I’d try to gently suggest that the alcohol might be a contributor, but was assured that this couldn’t be the case. So, after we moved, he vowed to start working out, as did I, since I’d bought an elliptical, just before we moved. While I spend most of my free time on the elliptical, however, Jake has yet to take up P90X as planned, because what better time to play World of Warcraft than when I’m busy working out?  Additionally, even though I never get to eat peanut butter anymore, somehow, whole jars still disappear. Yet…

Jake: “I’ve lost about 13 pounds, since we moved. The scale says I weigh 212.”
Me: “Cool! ME TOO.”

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I jest, of course. I weigh 167. I’ve also lost 13 pounds… since November, not since we moved a month ago. With three weeks until the wedding, though, I’m seven pounds from my goal weight. Whereas Jake could drop that with a walk around the neighborhood, I’m about to just amputate mid-calf and call it good.

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It’s not just the wedding hype that’s motivating me. I turn thirty this year and while I will have accomplished every other thing I want to accomplish by September, I am adamant that I’ll reach my goal weight. An expensive dress accompanied with photos that will be displayed forever is just encouragement… unlike the Easter candy I stocked up on, to eat after the wedding, because I refuse to miss the best candy holiday for a party. That’s what all this is, after all: an elaborate party, that I’ll only remember as a haze of stress, dollar signs, and ridiculous arguments, because Dante forgot to mention the circle of hell that is even minimalist wedding planning.

Years ago, I often joked that I didn’t want a husband. I just wanted a Kitchenaid mixer and I figured that was the only to go about getting one. Today, I’d be willing to buy my own Kitchenaid mixer if it meant Jake could just be my husband. Only 19 days to go, y’all, which is approximately seven more years in wedding planning time. I suppose I’ll do it for Jake to have his big day. After all, he’s already paid for mine, in full: the day when our Alaskan cruise ship sets sail and I can finally enjoy being with my husband.

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Real Women Have Vaginas

… and/or two X chromosomes. I’m protecting myself from any potential off-topic transgender/had my vagina removed due to cervical cancer comments.

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That’s mine. I’ll spare you the picture of my vagina. You’re welcome.

I grew up in the 90’s with a dieting mom. This means I played in more than one Weight Watchers’ daycare, took Snackwell cookies for lunch, and don’t like regular Coke as an adult, because I never had it as a kid. It’s actually pretty unfortunate to order my bacon cheeseburger and bacon cheese fries with a Diet Coke, because I’m pretty certain the server is giggling internally and thinking “You want bacon in that?”… then I feel intensely self-absorbed because no one gives a shit what I order. Despite the Jenny Craig food in the freezer and all of those trips to the natural foods store, however, I grew up a little chubby after age eight. When I broke my wrist that year, the doctor weighed me at 106 pounds and my mother (who was and still is overweight) publicly scolded me and acted mortified. Thanks mom. The broken wrist didn’t hurt enough. Also, who’s been feeding said eight-year-old?!?!? Throughout my childhood, I always thought myself fat, though at 25, I realize I wasn’t more than chubby until my senior year and college. Being the chubby girl, though, I was comforted when I saw this movie:

real women have curves

I don’t remember much about it, but the basic premise of this Lifetime-esque title is that, despite being ridiculed by her mother for her weight, the main character can still be and feel beautiful. It’s a great message and America Ferrera, the lead actress, has become a household name and defense for being beautiful and curvy, along with Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Gennifer Goodwin of Once Upon a Time (though she was fuller figured in her days on Big Love). It’s wonderful that we’re accepting that a woman doesn’t have to starve herself to be beautiful. That having been said, why does this notion have to be accompanied with the phrase “real women have curves” or “zero is not a size” and pictures like this?

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We’ve gone from dubbing the gorgeous Keira Knightly as the standard by which we should compare ourselves to claiming she’s not a woman, because she’s physically fit. Zero is just as much of a size as 16, because there’s nothing actually measuring 16″ either. If you want to call her a size 20, you’d better get comfy going by size 33.* In addition, we’ve become outraged that most plus-sized models are a size 10. Why is that so upsetting? I’m a size 8/10 and okay, I can’t actually wear anything in the plus-sized section, but when I buy something that does fit me, the model wearing it is probably smaller than a size 00, and they don’t sell that in my section either. It’s the same. It’s also just marketing. The designers don’t want back fat in the picture, because they know you don’t want to wear something that gives you back fat. Bitch all you want about airbrushing and using  that size 10 model to advertise your size 22 blouse, but no one’s buying it if it gives the model rolls. They just aren’t.

Today, when a skinny woman turns her nose up at an overweight woman, it’s considered tasteless and superior, but society releases a movie titled Real Women Have Curves and insists that “zero is not a size” and it’s empowering? My. Stretch-marked. Ass. Defending obesity is not empowering and I’m pretty sure Marilyn Monroe would be disgusted that she’s now the spokesperson for extra mayonnaise. Christina Hendricks, Gennifer Goodwin, and America Ferrera all have one thing in common: a healthy weight, which, I might add, America Ferrera did not have in Real Women Have Curves. They’re all gorgeous and so was Marilyn Monroe, but they aren’t obese. I point this out, because more often than not, it’s unhealthy (not curvy) women making these statements. Regardless, said “curves” do not make a real woman any more than they unmake her. At size two or 26, if she has a vagina and/or two X chromosomes, then she is a real fucking woman. You don’t get to take her femininity and gender away from her because you’re insecure, whether you’re sneering at the ladies in Lane Bryant or the gals on the beach in bikinis. These are equal crimes and if you’re unhealthy on either end of the spectrum, you need to plan a fitness and diet program that works for you, rather than focusing on the weight of everyone else.

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Jennifer Love Hewitt went on record to say “size two is not fat.” She’s right. It’s not. She’s also not a size two here and should own up to it instead of acting ashamed of her likely healthy size 8 figure.

Sadly, weight is only one of the ways in which we gals like to tear each other apart. There’s also our professional lives. Since women started entering the workforce in greater numbers, we’ve been debating which is the best course of action, being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, because of course you’re throwing your life away if you choose not to have children.

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Recently, I was discussing with a coworker whether or not I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom one day. The answer is no. I’ve spent seven years in school to help people in my community better their lives through self-education and I know that if I leave my technology-heavy profession for ten years to raise children, I won’t be able to go back. I also know that I don’t have the patience to stay home with children all day, and therefore wouldn’t be content. Everyone would be happier if I worked. I feel that people miss out on time with their families, because of poor prioritization more than by having a career. For example, the average American household has a television on for 6 hours and 47 minutes daily.* In short, turn off the fucking T.V. and raise your babies, whether you’ve been home all day or not and they’ll be fine. I gave my coworker a work appropriate version of that, to which she essentially responded “to each their own”… then threw in “I just didn’t want someone else raising my children” in a but that’s just me tone. She genuinely didn’t mean anything by it, so I didn’t respond, but that is the equivalent of my saying “well, I’d rather contribute to my family in addition to caring for my kids, but that’s just me.” God bless social networking, because I get to read about this ridiculous cat fight all day long, for in the Midwest most 25-year-olds have a few toddlers.

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You’re both wasting an awful lot of  time in an e-slap fight for two people who claim to be so busy. A woman who stays home with her children takes on the job of full time teacher, maid, cook, financial adviser, personal shopper, and psychiatrist and she does it all day long. The woman with a career performs her professional duties and then those listed above when she gets home. Neither is less of a mother or woman than the other, just as the childless woman is no less a woman. Being an adult, raising a family, having a career, and being in a marriage are all hard when you do them right, regardless of which of these life choices you make or combine. What works for one may not work for another and that is wonderful, because I don’t want to live in fucking Stepford. We need to be supporting, not shredding, each other. Women complain constantly about men keeping them from success, but you know what? We don’t need men to tear us down as long as we’re so good at it. We want to be taken seriously in the workforce and society but those of us who can’t wear that extra 20 pounds to work proudly and still love our skinny stay-at-home mom friends for their life choices, don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

marilyn monroe on society

perfect mother

There’s some supportive advice I can get behind.

Sources
http://www.marksandspencer.com/General-Womens-Size-Guides-Product-Information-Help/b/47647031

http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html

Formerly Fat

In August of 2010, I weighed 260 pounds. I had miscarried and Gail’s little girl had died in the last year. I was starting graduate school and working two jobs even then. I had a husband who wouldn’t get a job and constantly stole from me, refusing to get the hell out of my house even though I’d asked him to leave a hundred times. I couldn’t afford to buy healthy food, when I could afford to buy food at all, I didn’t have time to work out, and it wasn’t really a huge concern of mine considering the debilitating depression I experienced as my life crumbled around me and I kept it from everyone. While I’d been overweight most of my life, I was officially morbidly obese.

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Today, I weigh 172 pounds, up from 160, the lowest I got before I wrecked my back in February. I’d like to get down to 150, but I’m still pretty danged content. I don’t know if I mean for this to be motivating for people trying to lose weight this New Year (my weight loss was not a New Year’s resolution) or if this is just me being grateful that my whole world is different, but here are my favorite things about being “average”.

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The Clothes
I own fucking jeggings. I’m wearing them right now. They’re a size medium, but when I wear my normal jeans, they’re an 8. At 160, I comfortably wore a 6. A 6! That’s fat Anne Hathaway according to The Devil Wears Prada! You know what looks good on me now? An electric blue zebra print tankini. I own that! I also own several adorable sundresses and sweater dresses and I wear them all the time. Dresses rock! They’re like nightgowns, but sexy.

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I should probably take down the Christmas tree, though.

The Cheap Clothes
These jeggings cost me $20. Lane Bryant jeans cost $60. My size 6 skirt from Goodwill cost $3 and looks brand new. The last plus-sized skirt I had was $50. It’s impossibly easy to find super cheap clothes that look adorable on me, because I’m tiny by comparison to my 260 pounds self. I can even find cute Wal-Mart outfits. When I was bigger, Wal-Mart clothes looked terrible on me. They aren’t shaped, they’re just large. Now I can buy $9 jean shorts and they look great. Since my thighs don’t rub together like those of a cricket in spring, they last forever, too. Since my boobs aren’t enormous, I can wear $20 36C bras. My 40DD bra cost me $40. It was on sale.

The Food and Drinks
Thanksgiving Day of 2010, I tearfully told Gail how bad things had gotten in my marriage and that he was finally leaving the next day. Then I drank 8 Long Island Ice Teas, her drink, and our friend’s drink and ate a full meal. The bar tab was $75. Today, after 3 Long Island Ice Teas, I’m too drunk to want another, even if I’m crying.  I can’t even imagine racking up a $75 bar tab at my current size. Meals that would have once been satisfying are now to-go box material. I spend $50 a week on my groceries and it’s plenty. In fact, I’m quite the food hoarder, because I once couldn’t afford it, and have about 6 pounds of meat in my freezer right now.

The Way I Move
Alright. No one who hasn’t been overweight is going to get this one at all. When you’re big, you can’t do that thing where you pull your legs up into the chair and put your chin on them. It’s not an option, because your belly gets in the way. You can’t cross your legs, because you have too much thigh. Running up the stairs or bolting to the mailbox because it’s cold and you were too lazy to put on shoes, causes dry heaving because you can’t breathe. It is physically uncomfortable to be heavy. One of the best parts of being smaller is that I can actually curl up. I bought a papasan chair for myself for my birthday and I spend most hours at home curled up in that chair like a fucking embryo. It. Is. Awesome. They should put that in the Jenny Craig commercial.

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My skinny nest.

I Can Look At Myself Naked
I used to stand in front of the mirror and think the most degrading things. They were usually funny, but still incredibly negative.

“I look like a shaved gorilla.”

Sometimes, they were just depressing.

“I don’t even feel like a woman anymore. If I leave him, no one will want me again.”

I’ve taken 3 baths this week. If you’ve ever been unhappy with your body, you know that taking a bath isn’t relaxing at all. It’s staring at your wet body, thinking “ew” and calculating how much weight you have to lose to no longer be obese. It’s picturing what you look like sitting in said bathtub and analyzing the water level compared to your weight. I actually do things naked now. I mean, I’m not joining a nudist colony, but it’s not humiliating to be alone in a room without clothes on any longer. If I want to do the dishes naked, so I don’t get water on my clothes, I’m okay with doing that. I don’t remember why but I once vacuumed my whole apartment naked. Seriously, not a nudist.

The Self-Confidence
Guess what. I am almost never the fattest person in the room anymore. It’s so rare that I am, that I don’t even check now. It used to be automatic. The hits to my self-esteem still occur, of course. Did he not call me because I’m fat? But now I actually question that. It’s not just a given. When I substitute, the students call me Velma, because I have short hair and sometimes wear my black-rimmed glasses. Occasionally, it’s meant as an insult. You know what, though? They never call me the fat sub. Ever. And that’s terrific.

The Sleep Shirts
At 260, I wore a size 2xl t-shirt. So, working at the movie theater, I had to take the adult large Ice Age promotional shirt and stretch it out and wear an undershirt beneath it. It was humiliating. Today, that is my favorite sleep shirt and one of many.

I Know Who Loves Me
When you’re fat, you think people treat you differently because of it. You’re in line at the grocery store, they open a new register, and there’s a choice between you and a thinner person. They motion for the thinner person. People who’ve never been there would say you’re being paranoid. You’re not. They did subconsciously choose the more attractive person. People are friendlier to me than they ever were when I was 90 pounds larger. That sucks, but that’s the way it is. That’s why the people who loved me at 260 get so much credit for it.

When I met my guys, I was married, miserable, 250 or so pounds, had hair halfway down my back I only wore in a ponytail or pigtails, never wore makeup, and didn’t own anything that wasn’t a t-shirt and jeans. It was at this weight that I became “not a girl, Belle”, invited out to dinner and New Year’s Eve with “just the guys.” They never cared that I was bigger and didn’t dress like a girl. They liked my sense of humor and loyalty. At 160 pounds, they didn’t treat me any different. I got the same jokes and inclusion. Additionally, Gail’s seen me fluctuate from my high school 190 to my college 260 to my lowest 160 and my present 172 and has never treated me any different in ten years. When someone checks me out, I know they wouldn’t have been interested 2 years ago and that’s okay. But it’s always comforting to know that there are people who feel the same no matter your appearance.

So… maybe I was just broken and damaged and never ate or slept when I lost that first 30 pounds and insanely determined when I lost the next 60, but it’s been so awesome to be normal sized for the first time in my life. Just thinking about it encourages me to stay this way, because even in hindsight, being overweight sucked. Happy Resolutioning!