All my adult life I bordered on the brink of morbid obesity. Throughout my childhood I believed I was just that, thanks to a vicious cruelness my stepfather possessed and used with great relish. I held firmly to the notion that I was grossly fat, and as such, all of my problems stemmed from that one obvious fact. Repeatedly enlightened that I was fat, stupid, ugly, worthless, would probably grow up to be a streetwalker, that no one would ever love me due to these substantial character flaws, I never fully appreciated that HE was the flawed one.
I shook the silly perception that I was stupid or ugly. I was an A/B student all through school and I resembled my aunt who was considered ‘striking’. I had no idea what a streetwalker was, so I didn’t bother with that notion. Anyway, I knew I was destined to do have a car. I figured it was his way of insinuating that I would be poor.
I couldn’t shake the fat comments. I had plump genes. It was apparent in my mother, both grandmothers, and one of my uncles. Mama was big in the hips, not necessarily obese. She carried her ‘extra’ weight on her thighs and across her backside. Daddy used to tell her she was ‘two axe-handles across’. I thought that was kinda mean to say, but then again he was an asshole. My maternal grandmother was built like my mama, only saggier. Her weight had definite signs of moving south. My paternal (step) grandmother was an immensely large woman, but due to the lack of any real blood relation, I wasn’t concerned about getting any of her genes. Nor her son’s meanness, thank the heavens.
We had no mirrors in our home except for tiny medicine cabinet mirrors used for shaving or ensuring there were no stray nose hairs or boogers hanging low. I never observed the reflection of my growing body (no pun intended); therefore I could only trust the insight of friends and family.
“Does my butt look big in this outfit?” I would inquire.
“Why no, baby girl.” Mom would sigh. “Only to be your size again.” She would purse her lips, her stare vacant as she receded back in time to a happier place.
I never believed my relatives. They never spoke the truth much to each other anyway – always bragging about how good something that my gramma cooked tasted, only to complain bitterly out of her earshot; or how nice aunt so-and-so looked today, yet behind her back retell her flaws to each other over and over, tsk-tsking and shaking their heads. No, it wouldn’t do to trust what a family member said.
I looked to my friends; I wanted to trust someone. It never occurred to me until I was an adult that friends would lie as much as relatives.
One of my closest friends in high school, Cathy, would come over my house to hang out in my room. I’d noticed by our sophomore year that she’d developed a nice set of love handles.
“Cathy, how much do you weigh?” I inquired one afternoon – after all, this is one of the main topics of high school girls.
“One hundred four pounds.” She replied back smartly, confidently.
‘What the hell?’ I thought to myself. ‘Good god, if she weighs a hundred four and looks like that, I must be a cow! I weigh a hundred thirty eight!’
“Oh.” Was all I could reply.
“How much you weigh?” She shot back.
“A hundred eleven.” It sounded like a number one wouldn’t make up, and I wouldn't insult her by proposing I weighed less. “But I’m bigger boned than you.”
It also never dawned on me that she had to struggle to fit into my size nine pant that I could slip into easily. She would lie flat on the floor, hold her stomach in, while I used pliars (yes, pliars!) to zip the pants. She’d walk around duck-like in my jeans, camel-toed, with flab hanging over the edges, proud of her figure. It weren’t a pretty sight…
Move ahead ten years. I’m visiting my aunt and she exclaims, “Oh, I have something to show you!”
During a family gathering years ago she had taken several photos. She handed me a picture of a young lass, about fifteen years old, sitting on a blue Schwinn ten-speed. Yes, that was certainly my bike. I looked closer. Who’s the cute girl sitting on it, face so glum and dour as to invoke intense sadness?
“Holy crap, that’s me!” I exclaimed, moving the snapshot even closer for further examination. “That can’t be me, I was never that thin!”
“Sure you were. You were the cutest young lady. And smart, too.” My aunt beamed.
I was flabbergasted. Could have knocked me over with a touch. I’d never looked at a picture of myself from high school except the headshot taken for school photos. I felt my eyes stinging, and quickly composed an emotional reaction of looking at that thin girl in the picture, so fat inside my head that I had no comprehension of reality.
“Wow.” Was all I could muster in response, “My step-dad sure pulled a number on me, telling me all the time how fat I was.”
“Yeah, I never really understood his sense of humor.”
My eyes darted up to hers. ‘Sense of humor?’ I thought incredulously. ‘That was no sense of humor. That was the sadistic attack of the biggest jerk in the world.’ But, I kept my mouth shut. No point in a venomous attack on her brother.
By the time I hit my mid-twenties, I had lived up to my step-father’s expectation. At 5’6” I weighed two-hundred twenty six pounds. My job as a medical transcriber kept me sedentary as did sitting in front of a tv set every night. I didn’t date, I didn't shop unless I had to, I didn’t go out with friends. I didn’t even go to the doctor.
Fat girls should just stay home.
I believed there was no place for me in the world outside of going to work and coming home. I hid my anguish by amusing myself with sitcoms and game shows. I liked eating, but oh how I loved snacking. Bite-sized candy bar bags filled my shelves next to full-sized bags of potato chips; bar-b-que and plain my poison of choice.
I invented concoctions that sounded tasty in my head. One of my favorite successes was popcorn balls with marsh mellow centers. Or a pan of peanut butter topped with melted chocolate then hardened in the freezer. I satiated my misery with snacks.
When I would finally brave a trip to the store or mall, I envisioned every encounter as hostile. I simply knew what the red-headed cute-as-a-bug receptionist or coiffed-to-perfection sales lady were thinking when they looked at me, quite convinced that every perceived slight was a direct response to my size. I imagined people’s comments as I walked by – but never had anyone ever – ever - make any derogatory remark to my face. Yet I was convinced they had done so merely with their gestures, believing I was a great mind reader insightful at reading facial expressions. I assumed every glance, every instance of eye contact was a direct hostility aimed toward me. Therefore, I replied in kind.
I was nasty. I was rude. I was sarcastic. Simply stated, I was a bitch. Angry, defensive, insecure, hostile, and harsh. No one wanted to be around me. Because I was fat? No! Because I was antagonistic and argumentative. I blamed the world for my woes. I was one pissed off and angry woman, please stay out of my way! It was my step-fathers fault, it was the schools fault, it was my mothers fault. The litany could go on and on. I was a victim – didn’t you know? Couldn’t you tell? Can’t you read my mind like I can read yours? Just get the fuck out of my face.
I hefted my attitude around like my weight. Big and brash. Even when a man approached and seemed sincere in his interest in ‘getting to know me’ I’d verbally emasculate the poor guy. I don’t know if any were truly nice guys who could see beyond the blubber, or were just trying to win the five-dollar bet from their buddies that they could screw the fat chick. I never gave ‘em the chance.
My attitude finally caught up with me when I overheard an exchange between my niece and her mother.
“But mom, I don’t want to stay with Aunt Patty!”
Of course she didn’t. I was the ‘fat’ aunt, surely an embarrassment to the child.
“Why don’t you want to stay with your auntie? Don’t you have fun with her? I thought you liked to watch movies together and play scrabble?”
My niece’s voice lowered. “I do. I like being with her most of the time.” Little Audrie voiced, “But Aunt Patty is mean to other people, you know, like grandpa is.”
‘What?! WHAT?! Like GRANDPA is? My lousy angry ass of a step-father? LIKE HIM? The HELL I am!!’ Were my immediate thoughts, tears forming quickly from the seething anger I felt at this… this unjust humiliation!
From the mouths of babes…
I hurriedly composed myself, promising to stay on my best behavior for my niece’s sake. We had a marvelous time that day – we played games, watched our favorite movie - The Princess Bride - then went out for an ice-cream cone. I paid special attention to my conversation with the clerk, smiled more than I had in ages, even gave her a nice tip.
I mulled on Audrie’s comment over the next several months. I was greatly disturbed by this new awareness into my actions and attitude. I did not like who I had become, nope, not one bit. ‘Like grandpa.’ Hrmph. Those words stung through the layers of lard and pierced my coal-turned heart.
I started being nicer to people. It was difficult, one of the most challenging transformations I’ve attempted to make. It was a continually conscious effort. Biting my tongue instead of voicing my biting derision towards the public in general.
“You’ve changed.” One of my co-workers demurely stated one afternoon. “You seem happier. Is there someone ‘special’ in your life?” She dared inquire.
“No." I paused. Well, yes. There is someone special. Me. I’m really trying to change how I view me.” I honestly interjected, saying it more to myself than my work mate.
Over the next several months I worked diligently on changing this one behavior. I did not under any circumstances want to carry forward my step-father's faults. His abhorrent attitude had seeped into mine, without my permission, without my awareness. I’d alienated myself long enough carrying around his loathing and hatred. I wasn’t about to let him ‘win’. It was my choice: to become the person he moulded with his anger, or to work at becoming happy and secure. He could either claim "I told you so" or "I raised her up just fine, look how she turned out!" It required me to let go of any assertion he felt he had.
Other changes manifested over time as well. I started walking during my lunch break and bought a stationery exercise bike. I parked that monolith in front of the television set, and rode to Italy and back. I quit buying potato chips and candy, replaced with fresh fruit and my new found potato-chip-replacement, edamame. I still had trust issues, but I was making progress towards having a couple real friends, Stacy and Louise.
By the time I acquired enough drive to start the weigh loss process, I wanted it off yesterday. For two years I was on-again off-again, frustrated that I couldn’t lose the weight as quickly as I’d lost the attitude. After trying the grapefruit diet, cabbage diet (whoa!), low-carb, high-carb, no-carb, high-protein, no-protein, and the endless amount of fad diets to adorn the front of every magazine at the check-out counter, I finally gave up. Instead, I checked out several books from the library that I could find on nutrition and body mechanics. I learned that the promises of two, five or even ten pounds of weight loss per week were pure nonsense. I’d loose ten pounds, gain fifteen. I was right back where I started from plus some.
After absorbing all I believe my muddled brain could handle, I decided to quit dieting. I opted instead to change my lifestyle by eating as healthy as possible and actively exercising every day except Sunday. I’d grown weary of the weight-loss organizations that were more interested in selling me their brand of meals, snacks and gadgets. I gave myself an entire year, writing my vow in a sacred journal. I pricked my finger and placed a blood spot next to my written promise. There were times, especially early on, when I was prepared to toss out the entire notion and go back to my set-in ways. It was during these low times I’d open my journal and touch that spot.
It was so much easier than I anticipated, and so much harder. The easy part was eating healthy and being active. The hard part was putting on my shoes and hauling my ever decreasing ass out the door. The harder part was not snacking between eating healthy. I missed my popcorn balls! (Open journal.) I missed my potato chips. (Open journal.) I missed my salt & sweet, my crunchy & gooey, my hot & cold (one of my favorite treats was dipping scalding hot French-fries in a vanilla milk shake). (Open journal open journal open journal.)
And the sabotage from my family was appalling! What in the world were they thinking? How COULD they? Knowing full well how I struggled, they’d invite me over yet prepare many of my favorite ‘bad’ foods. It backfired. It pissed me off. These were the only times in my entire life I actually enjoyed munching on a celery stick and raw carrot. I’d show them.
Eventually, I did. It took almost two years. I’ve not reached my initial goal weight of one hundred forty pounds, but I’m not far from it. I’ve gone from a size twenty-four to a size eight or ten. I have mirrors all over my house – big ones that go from the floor almost to the ceiling. When I got below two hundred pounds I started jogging. Slow, careful, and with lots of breaks to catch my breath. Walking was boring and bothered my sciatica, whereas the slow-as-a-snail jog seemed to work better for me.
It wasn’t a pretty sight and I ignored the looks, no longer convinced these people were laughing at the fat lady woggling down the street. Instead, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and spared them my acid tongue. Once, a car full of teenage boys drove by slowly. I could hear them laughing and hooting, surely at me. One of the boys in the back seat on my side stretched out of the window as they passed by and shouted to me. “Keep it up, you don’t have much farther to go!”
I laughed. I don’t know if he was being a little shit – it didn’t sound like it - but that young man’s voice rings in my ears every time I get discouraged. Often I hurts or ache from the exercise, but I'm determined to keep going. I certainly don't want to cause any realy physical damage, as I've been out of shape for a long long time, so my rule of thumb is this: does it hurt more than being fat?
When I got to somewhere around one hundred eighty pounds my friend Stacy insisted we go shopping and buy some new clothes. Granted, I was still wearing my same old outfits – barely. I wasn’t willing to believe I’d lost enough weight to warrant a new wardrobe. Moreso, I was convinced that it would take only one slip, one night of eating the wrong foods, one unhealthy event that would cause me to fill out all those plus-sized clothes * BAM * in one night and I'd be right back at the beginning. However, to humor Stacy I picked out a few new outfits, stunned that I could select right off the rack. When I returned home I immediately donated all of my fat clothes to Goodwill. I was determined never to fit in them again.
Recently I was promoted at work; not because I’d lost weight, I now understood, but because of the profound change in my attitude. Tom Slater asked me out on a date. I politely declined – I’m not quite there, but I did leave the door open for a ‘raincheck’. I’ll have to think long and hard about dating, about men. I still have a lot of anger towards my step-father and I don’t want it bleeding over into my relationships. I’ve had enough of that. Simply enough.
Many of you have asked if this story is real or fiction. It is a fictionalized story of my on-going battle with weight loss. The step-father is indeed a factual description of mine.
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|Reviewed by Ching-Chen Tu
|Hi, my name is Ching-Chen, I am an international student in University of Oregon. This story is my writing class's reading material. I just wanna say I love it. I love the way you wrote and the story. Take care|
|Reviewed by Susan Bailey
|Not sure if this is fact or fiction Diana, but enjoyed reading it immensely. It's true that some people can be so very cruel, as the stepfather is in this case, but we must always try to treat other people as we would like to be treated ourselves. Some of this brought tears to my eyes, some of it I could identify with (especially those potoato chips)but it's a wonderful read with a happy ending. Just great.
|Reviewed by Elizabeth Parsons
|WOW, WOW, WoW. Jean sent me here and I'm so glad she did. I LOVE this. You have written it beautifully and it reads as absolutely real...whether it is or not. It's certainly real for many. Excellent! Liza|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|I agree with the two reviewers below, that it takes attitude to lose weight; but it doesn't help when society keeps embracing the sickly, wafer-thin models or celebrities as the ideal body image. (I didn't look that bad when I was at my sickest, when I went down to 100 pounds!) They need to learn to sccept people of ALL sizes, and make provisions of making better fitting (or looking) clothes for heavy people, provide jobs for them that they are able to do without too much effort, or treat them like the human beings they are, not just keep shoving all this weight loss shit upon them or telling them to go away because thin (or normal-sized people) may find it disgusting. Shame! No wonder they are depressed; no wonder a lot of heavy set people want to stay home! You have written a powerful, eye opening account that is believable! Very well done! *applauding*
(((HUGS))) and love, Karen Lynn in Texas. :(
|Reviewed by Jean Pike
|Diana, I agree with Karla -- this story is absolutely wonderful! Though I see from your bio you are happily married, I know there must be some truth to this, or the weight and meanness are symbols for something else you have overcome -- it is just too real and too evocative to not have happened in some form. A very inspiring work. Makes me want to try to be a better person, if only a little at a time. I am really enjoying your stories. You have such a delightfully frank writing style. I am going to add you to my tracking list so as not to miss out on a word.
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
I was going to really rip you for the story, just by the title I was offended.
I read every word, and sit here, shaking my head: you captured my life...bad attitude and all. Maybe that's the secret behind weight loss, changing attitude.
I pray it is: will let you know if it helps. Everything else sure hasn't.
FTR (For the Record): 5'3, 200.
Reads like true life: if this is fictional, you convinced me it was real.
(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.