Why I’d rather be fat, part 1.

When I was married, at age 20, I weighed around 190 lbs. At the time, I had been living on my own right up until I came to Canada for my wedding, and I felt pretty good about myself. I didn’t care so much anymore what I looked like (I mean, I still combed my hair and enjoyed wearing makeup and nice clothes, but I didn’t feel ashamed of my body or the need to look like a movie star every time I stepped out the door.) My self-image came from rather cloudy beginnings…as a young child, I loved myself unconditionally and didn’t care that no one else seemed to think I was pretty. I knew I was, and that was all that seemed to matter. As I approached adolescence, however, people began to get more outspoken with their opinions of how I looked, and I went through jr. high with remarkably low self-esteem.

When I turned 16, something weird happened. I got pretty. And suddenly all those people who once told me I was ugly and fat and a dork, were now telling me I was desirable. I couldn’t buy it. Those people had betrayed me before, and I frankly didn’t give a fuck to hear any more of their opinions. All the same, I felt the need to live up to some kind of expectation. I was concerned with my looks and would not leave the house unless I felt I looked good enough. There were many times I skipped school simply because I had a big zit or had picked my face raw (one of my many ways of dealing with anxiety) the night before. I weighed around 160lbs. during this time.

When I got out of high school, and away from all that kind of pressure, I became more independent and stopped being so worried. So by the time I left home to get married, I thought I had outgrown these problems. I was wrong.

About six months into our marriage, I noticed I had gained weight. I was now about 200lbs. Hitting the 200 mark was a blow, as much as I hated to admit it. I wanted to pretend I didn’t care, but I no longer could. My jeans were uncomfortably tight…I had trouble tying my shoes…I felt depressed and lethargic (no thanks to the oppressive Ontarian winter) and I felt the need to DO something.

For a few months, I studied nutrition on my own (at this time I was immigrating, and therefore forced into housewifedom with no job and no school) and tried to figure out the best way to get healthy. After researching for a while, near the beginning of summer I finally decided to put what I’d learned into practice. I vowed to myself that I would do this ‘the right way.’ This meant no fad dieting, no starving myself, and no compulsive exercising. I would simply keep a log of what I ate, make sure I ate the daily requirements from the four food groups, and exercise moderately, keeping my calories around 1800 a day. I made sure to keep telling myself that this was not a diet…it was a lifestyle change, and after I reached my goal weight, I would stick to a maintenance program for the rest of my life.

By no means is this extreme practice…most commercial diets hover around 1000 calories a day. I signed up with an online dieting website for moral support, and most of the women there were doing their own thing, like me, but were eating about 1200 calories a day. I would later learn that 1500 calories is considered semi-starvation, and that, not much below 1000 calories, you’re getting into anorexia nervosa territory.

It started off well. I felt an incredible surge of pride and almost euphoria. For once in my life, I was doing The Right Thing. I was doing something that everyone I knew could be proud of. I was encouraged by my husband, my mother and brother, my in-laws, and their friends. I even worked out a system where I could still eat as much chocolate as I wanted…whenever I wanted a candy bar, I simply had to walk to the store to get it (which, according to my calculations, burned about the same amount of calories as was in the chocolate, and so they canceled each other out. Theoretically, I could have eaten five chocolate bars a day and walked to the store five times a day, and not derailed my program at all.)

The weight came off around 1-2 pounds a week. I didn’t weigh myself more than once a week, and I tried not to get too wrapped up in the weight game. I set my goal weight for around 120 lbs., which, for my height (5’4″) is quite reasonable, according to the BMI. I only hesitated for a moment on the thought that I hadn’t weighed 120 lbs. since I was 11 years old.

On a bit of a side note, I went away to be a volunteer counselor at a camp for kids whose lives have been affected by cancer for two weeks during the summer. I returned home tan, happy, but with a small cold virus. The virus bloomed into pneumonia, which stayed with me for ten weeks. It drove me crazy because I could not exercise much while I was sick, but I stuck to my plan as much as I could.

Soon I found myself celebrating my ten pound weight loss. Not long after that, it was 20. I was so happy. I was putting away $10 for each pound I lost, with a view to buying myself a whole new wardrobe with the money once I reached my goal weight. I noticed something funny, however. Though I could now look at myself in the mirror with a feeling of approval, I was feeling slowly and slowly worse about myself. My body felt huge and wrong to me when I was not looking at myself; the feeling would persist until I proved it wrong by checking the mirror or stepping on the scale.

When the Sears Winter Catalog came out, I ordered a new pair of winter boots. They were black leather, mid-calf height, with a zipper up the side and high heels. Very cool. When they came, I was a bit disappointed that they wouldn’t zip all the way up my plump calves. I carefully wrapped them in the tissue paper they came in and put them in the closet, knowing that soon they would fit.

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