Sophomore year in high school, I ate a Suzy Q and a Diet Coke for lunch nearly every day. Then my mother and I started going to Weight Watchers, where I learned to pack a lunch and drink sugarless drinks, like boring iced tea, which everyone knows is an Old People Beverage. (I’m surprised WW let me in, because I was hardly what one would consider large, though I thought I was.)
In college, I managed to maintain a healthy weight until my second gigantic depression hit. Instead of getting help, I swam in Andrew Mellon’s basement pool* in the early morning hours and then helped myself to white bagels under a shellac of peanut butter and cream cheese. I ate these in my room, where no one could see me, fat and ashamed. This is also where I ate my fried chicken lunches complete with litres of Coke. By the time I graduated I weighed nearly 200 pounds.
The year following graduation, I vowed to lose the fat. So I consumed no fat. None. I did, however, eat every form of sugar I could get my chubby little fingers on. But I shed that weight like a beast. People oohed and aahed when they saw me, and it was good. Because I was SLENDER.
Through my childbearing years (and it is with some distress that, though I want no more babies, I come to the end of my childbearing years) I took so many trips up and down the scales I could make myself dizzy recounting them.
The Weight Down Workshop helped me drop the last of the weight I was hauling around after Kid One, and drop to my pre-pregnancy weight 6 weeks after Kid Two arrived. WDW taught me that I was a good Christian if I only ate when I felt hunger pangs, and even better if I stopped eating as soon as I felt sated. I drank unsweetened tea, again, and did not have dinner with my family if I was not yet hungry. My portions were like some kind of boutique restaurant’s: meager and unsatisfying to my taste buds. But it was good, because I was SLENDER.
Kid Three brought stress and depression and about 65 extra pounds. After his birth, the only place I went more often than I went to church was the gym. And lo, it was good, because I was SLENDER.
As I approached my forties, I decided I didn’t really care what the scale said. I was healthy. I was a RUNNER, after all. I kicked booty. Someone told me, “If I run, I eat,” which was the sum of my nutrition plan. And eat I did. In the span between the two marathons I ran in 2012, I knew my weight was ballooning. I squeezed into my running gear and shrugged. “I’m a long distance athlete,” I told myself. I hid my muffin top, or tried to, with bigger shirts.
The truth is: I was ashamed. I was mad at myself for not getting a check on it sooner. I was mad for ballooning again. For eating trash when I was trying to achieve specific goals. The angrier I got, the more I ate, in secret, in my room. Just like college.
When I visited the sports doc recently about the pain in my knee, and we did all those super fun and expensive tests, it was revealed that I had a touch of the “age appropriate arthritis.” Not even some bad-to-the-bone athelete injury. Just run of the mill age. He gave me some suggestions, and some anti-inflammatories. Then I asked him what I really wanted to know:
“Will it help if I lost some weight?”
Without a pause. Without a duck of the head for propriety. Without so much as a blink. He did not do a little doctoral dance around the fat bush. He laid it out. If I want to run without pain then dropping some LBs would go a long way toward that end.
This story is not unique. It is not special, or different or superior or worse than every other weight story in the world, and there are legion. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting about my process, much as I did at the beginning of my running quest. The posts will not be about recipes or tricks and tips. I will not be giving unsubstantiated nutrition advice, neither will I engage in fat shaming or program comparison. The posts are designed to help us scrape away the outward stuff, and get to what we really mean to talk about when we talk about weight.
It will be a safe place, and I welcome you to come with me.
*My college campus was built around the homes of former Pittsburgh tycoons and philanthropists. Andrew Mellon’s home was the locus of our dining hall, admin offices and the basement pool.