Monday, August 11, 2008

My story of fat and thin

Those of you who know me in real life know that I look like a blown up marshmallow woman, a person-shaped peep (minus artificial yellow coloring), a woman who has sucked in excessive air out of the tire inflating machine. I'm not just one of those people who say, "I'm so fat," when I'm really not.

I am fat, big, the o-word which I abhor, ginormous, and most definitely uncomfortable in my own skin. I was scrapbooking yesterday; actually others were scrapbooking and I was sorting all of my pictures (yes, all of them) into my new Power Sort box which my friend B. covets.

If I only look at my giant head in the mirror I don't feel so bad. But when you see yourself in photos from work or with friends, I can see the visual and physical changes. I am the fat girl I never wanted to be.

My life with fat has been going on for a long time. I was born with the cord wrapped around my neck and I was a petite baby. (This is about the only thing my mother has ever mentioned to me about me being a baby.) The doctor said I was going to be tiny my whole life.

Boy, did I prove that man wrong!

I'm petite in size length-wise and here's a crazy complaint for you; when I am thin, petite pants are still too long on me. How is that possible? Probably because I am 4 feet 11 and 3/4 inches which I round up to 5 feet even.

According to those horrid insurance charts that puts me at about the 100 pound range or so at five feet. I cannot tell you the last time I was that weight. Maybe in fourth grade. I am not kidding.

I was a roundish chubby-cheeked kid until I grew into full-blown fatness by first grade. I recall one time in second grade playing outside and getting a rip in the rear seam of my green pants. The rip grew and you could see my underpants! OMG, I was so close to wanting to crawl into the earth and disappear.

I stayed fat and got stretch marks early in my life. If I am going to spill my story with fat and food I might as well bring it all out. That's what this blog is for, to bring the scary hidden stuff out of the shadows and make it less powerful over me by exposing it.

In high school I figured out how to get thin and stay that way. I discovered a crazy whack diet that allowed you to eat 500 calories a day. You read that right, 500, not 1500. My mom, the nurse, said it was okay and to give it a whirl. This was probably the beginning of my body going full-tilt off kilter.

In, I kid you not, three weeks near the end of summer I had lost about 30 pounds. It fell off me because I was eating nothing, swimming and bike riding. I was so hungry all the time; I could feel my heart beating out of my chest.

I remember going to buy clothes for school that year and I felt good; I could tuck shirts in and I felt powerful. I knew I felt better about myself, dare I say I almost felt pretty, and I knew that my mother was proud that I looked good and not just fat.

If you've ever been involved with a whack diet like that, you know you cannot sustain yourself on 500 calories a day. You can gain weight back quickly. Remember Oprah in her skinny jeans hauling that wagon of fat out on stage years ago? Yeah, that didn't last either.

The price of being thin was rather high for me. I turned into someone who exercised excessively and I became bulimic. I started to do aerobics and eventually I became a runner. I did sit ups in my bedroom each evening marking off each set of 50 on a little sheet of notebook paper. I worked myself up to doing 5,000 sit ups daily. That wasn't a typo; I did five thousand sit ups a day. It took me hours at night to complete.

Bulimia became my best friend. I took diet pills, laxatives, and diuretics. I ate and threw up after every meal possible and after carefully planned binges. I smiled through my cracked, painful lips to show that I was happy. Happy to be thin, happy to look normal.

Eventually, others found out that I was bulimic but in a rather astonishing move, I was basically allowed to continue. As long as I looked good, and lemme tell you, I had some fabulous gams, bulimia was okay for me to practice. My legs were my show stoppers. I had great calves and I wore tiny skirts and heels and people would comment and whistle and I ate it up (pun intended).

In college my bulimia got really ugly. My weight ruled my life and I never weighed 100 pounds. I could get to 110 or so but never below that. My hair was falling out, my lips were cracked at the corners and they hurt, I was so weak I almost passed out often. I weighed myself multiple times a day. My campus was small but traversing from one corner to another was a workout in itself. But when you're bulimic you will do anything to keep up the act.

Somehow the college's infirmary and I were deeply involved in this crazy eating relationship. I had to go there every morning first thing to be checked out to make sure I was okay to stay upright and continue walking around. It was that or they called home. There was no way I could risk that call, even though they knew at home, but I couldn't go home again. I had to stay there in Virginia which was a safe place for me at the time.

I started counseling in college. I worked on the food stuff. I battled against letting it go. It made me special, all this twisted eating and exercising. I could control nothing else but my weight and I was terrified of becoming fat. It was only when I was thin that I could be seen in my family. I liked having people look at me and notice how small I was or how compact my body had become.

Eventually, I learned that it was okay to let it go, all the bulimia and the pills and the constant working out. That change makes your body go a little nuts again. It's used to being controlled and then all of a sudden the body is back in charge and it's not so happy about the starving and losing and it wants to get bigger, to have nutrition.

My mother made a comment to me about my body after coming off about seven years of bulimia. She said I looked pregnant and people were talking about me and my body. I was mushy, for me, but not pregnant huge, about 125 pounds at that time but definitely up from 110. I was thinking I finally started to feel okay about me but that threw me for a loop. I was devastated.

I got myself involved in a relationship that turned into my bad marriage. He encouraged me to eat because it was part of his control over me. If I was big then I wouldn't leave and no one else would want me. He knew I was freaked out about my mom's comment so he went the other way. My body was changing and I was feeding it to try and feel better.

Food has never been and will never be the answer.

Marriage and gaining weight went hand-in-hand for me. I stopped moving for exercise for a long time and my body changed dramatically. I left my ex after five years of wedded non-bliss and started to exercise, restrict my eating, and dabble in bulimia again. My body weight dropped and I maintained at a much higher number than in college but I felt strong and I could run five miles at a pop. I felt better and looked more attractive. My family liked me looking better.

I fought back against the bulimia (and by the way, you can be thin or fat and be bulimic) and my body just went nuts again. I haven't treated it very well for almost 20 years now. If I thought sending flowers would help, I'd send dozens to my psyche and my nutritional system.

I gained weight and then even more and more to stuff down the feelings I have. Feelings of not being pretty, not being enough, not being able to please others.

I now have MS and I am so big I cannot stand myself. MS didn't make me fat but it sure doesn't help much either. It makes it hard for me to move and there is zero chance of me running at this time. I do light exercise that takes me out of circulation for a day or two. I still eat some junk food because I throw caution to the wind and hope that the five seconds of sensory pleasure will make me forget how crappy I feel the rest of the time.

I don't know how to live in healthy body. I've never treated my body with the respect it deserves. I've never just been proud of me and not worried about what other people thought.

Sooooo, it is time for me to go back to the Weight Watchers program. I was doing well on it last year and then I fell off the wagon because I was lazy and tired, because I was dealing with relapses and steroids, and because my "elimination systems" decided to go on strike.

It is time for me to pull out my WW materials and start reading again. I have to allow myself the gift of being kind to me, the gift of eating healthy food and allowing my body to just be and work with what I am doing.

I have to allow the scale to not dictate my mood and to allow the feeling of well-being to wash over me and relax. If I listen very carefully, I think I may be able to hear the voice of a thin and healthy person inside me whispering words of inspiration... "You can do it. You are okay just as you are. You do not have to prove anything to anyone. You are loved and it's time to love yourself back."

3 comments:

bjm said...

Julie,
Please know that you ARE loved!

Patty said...

I was just about to tell you the same thing. Remember that there are people who love you, and that it is vitally important to us that you take care of yourself.

Merelyme said...

i love your honesty and courage to discuss all of this. MS is so hard to deal with. i think for each diagnosis i had to hear...starting with my son's autism...i would gain weight immediately after. know that you are not alone and...writing about these experiences...you will help others going through the same thing.