Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I often hear men at social gatherings telling stories about wild partying days when they were in their teens or twenties. At a small neighborhood gathering the other night, I heard a man tell a story about reaching into the back seat for a beer and ending up on the railroad tracks with a train coming. He wasn’t embarrassed. Actually, he seemed quite proud of the story. The six or seven people listening all leaned in to hear how he got out of this scrape. They laughed, then sighed and looked at him with admiration for turning himself into such an upstanding citizen after those wild and crazy times. I couldn’t help but wonder how my Cheez-it story would have gone over.
I’ve heard people admit to driving drunk, using drugs, stealing from department stores, charging up a spouse’s credit card, infidelity and tax evasion. It all gets a laugh at a party. I’ve never heard anyone admit to bingeing on stale chips in the middle of the night or waking up with melted chocolate on their chest from eating ice cream until they fell asleep. (I’ve done both of these) I know women who would tell a roomful of people the number of sex partners they’ve had rather than disclose their weight. Admitting you had six vodka and tonics and then woke up beside a stranger will elicit nods of commiseration, winks and “I’ve been there’s”. Admit you ate an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers and then went to bed with Ben and Jerry is like farting at a funeral.
A few weeks ago, before the start of a Red Sox game, I was in line at the 7-11 trying to buy a bottle of water to smuggle into Fenway. (fyi-this is acceptable party chitchat) The young guy in front of me tells the clerk he wants two burritos and points to the glass case beside the register where various salted meats all dressed up in oily buns are rolling over and over trying to tempt on-lookers. There is a miscommunication of sorts and the clerk behind the counter keeps asking for clarification, causing a delay in the line which is growing exponentially.
“Which one do you want?” “Do you want the extra hot?” “Do you want the one with sauce?”
He turns to me and says, “Hey, I’m just a chubby guy looking for a snack.”
I laugh. Everyone laughs. I turn around and see a very overweight woman, her eyes overted, not laughing. I know that look. That’s the “please don’t see me and notice that I’m fat” look. I can’t help but wonder if she were holding up the line buying Cheez-its if we would think it was funny. I don’t mean to imply that the weight shame game is a woman’s only sport. I know many men insecure about their weight and tied to the scale. But I think we’re a little harder on women. I wonder if later on that night, during cocktails with her friends or dinner with her boyfriend and another couple, if she’d say, “I held up the entire line buying Cheez-its only to crash my car into a fire hydrant trying to open the F*%$#@ ing things.” I doubt it.
Monday, August 1, 2011
The physical hunger is just the beginning. All these random memories of pain brought on by way weight keep surfacing and I have nothing to push them down with since I can’t eat bread. Nothing like a baguette to force a bad tasting memory down your throat. Nothing like a binge and then a nice full belly to bring on a little amnesia, because as far back as my memory goes, I am fat. And even if my body wasn’t fat, I was inside. I’ve always been fat inside.
And, yes, I say fat like it’s a bad thing. And it was for me. I was the fat filling between a skinny sibling sandwich made by a narcissistic mother. There had always been something inherently missing, a sense that there was something terribly wrong with me and since I was fat, I figured that was the problem. But we lived near a library and it was open after school and during the summer so I sat in a corner of my house, with books and snacks on my lap, while the other kids played outside. There wasn’t anyone around to tell me to go outside and get some fresh air so I breathed in pages of books instead. The stories took away the loneliness and I became someone other than a fat girl. What I loved about books and stories back then, and even now, is there always that moment that changes everything. Every story has its climax where the character gets what she wants or deserves. In the story I wrote for myself, the lonely little girl loses weight, her father comes back, her mother stops taking pills and going to sleep for weeks at a time, the kids stop picking on her, the debilitated triple decker they live in is magically turned into a castle and, of course, they live happily ever after. But it all had to start with losing weight. I still do that, I realized this morning. My happiness hinges on the scale and it’s been that way for as far back as I can remember. I realized this morning that that little girl blamed her weight for all that was wrong, and there was plenty wrong. I realized this morning that the woman I’ve become is still harboring that little girl’s feelings. I realized this morning that I don’t want to do that anymore.
Friday, July 29, 2011
When I look at him, into those big, green eyes, I see myself me how he sees me. I like it. I hope someday to see what he sees through my own eyes.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The personal trainer at my gym tells me to hold a little machine that looks like an x-box controller. He is calculating my BMI which tells you how fat you are in percentages. I don’t know how this machine calculates my fatness through my fingers. They don’t even have any crumbs on them. He asks me if I want to get serious. I ask him what getting serious will entail. He tells me to give up carbohydrates for a short period of time and then add them in moderation.
“I’m sorry,” I stammer. “I couldn’t hear you over my heart palpitations.”
“Just try it,” he says.
“For how long?” I ask.
“Twenty eight days,” he says.
“Oh, ok, I can do that,” I say.
“Those days have to be in a row,” he says.
“Oh.” Well that’s a very different story. Twenty eight days with no bread? And it isn’t just bread, he says. No white products of any kind. Sounds like discrimination to me. But, ok, I could do that, I’m figuring I can still have my raisin bran, granola, wheat bread with peanut butter, whole grain tortilla chips, maybe even Frito’s.
“No grains either, no wheat, not even whole wheat,” he adds. Now, I’ve given up things before. There were periods of my life when I gave up smoking, drinking, coffee. I’ll stop there. But bread? My sister is with me and has also been handed the same recommendation, but she is smiling.
“Let’s do it,” she says, and before I can think it through, we’re shaking hands. Then she starts saying things like, “I’m pumped, this is going to be awesome,” and some other shit like that. When I get anxious, I lose my hearing so I’m looking at her and although I can’t hear what she’s saying, she’s still smiling.
We do ½ hour on the treadmill but I can’t concentrate. My hearing returns and my sister is rattling off all the yummy things she plans to eat for the rest of the day.
“I’m gonna make some boiled eggs, fresh veggies on the grill…” She’s tapping her fingers on the treadmill in time to the music, bopping her head back and forth, having a good old time. I reach over and turn up the speed on her treadmill to see if she’ll fall off. Damn. She looks at me, again, smiling. “Thanks, you’re right, I should go faster.” Ten minutes later, she turns to me and says, “That was awesome, what should we do no?”
“I’m going home,” I say. I picture myself in black clothes and a veil because as far as I can tell, life as I knew it is over.
“What’s wrong,” she asks. “It’s only 28 days, right?” she asks.
Did I mention that she’s a therapist? People go to her with problems, like, for example, someone might go to her and say “I can’t eat bread for 28 days and I feel like my life is over.” She, in turn, might explain to them that this not a normal reaction. She may say something like, “Gee, who-ever-you-are, it seems like thoughts of food might occupy a large part of your life” or something to that effect. So I skip the conversation, put on my game face and say, “Yea, totally pumped, let’s lose some fat!!!”
As we are heading out of the gym, the trainer waves and says, “You know that includes sugar, too.”
It’s a beautiful sunny day. I can go to the lake and kayak. Take the dog for a walk. Read a book on the beach. I go home and sleep for two hours.
And all I can think about for the rest of the day is bread. And potatoes. And crackers. And the chocolate I eat every night. And more bread. I just never realized how much I depended on the stuff. I don’t check with my sister, but I believe this is what therapists would call obsession. I would never have imagined I was obsessed with carbs but faced with having to give them up, well, that changes everything. Well rested from my nap, Emma and I go food shopping. We stick to the outer limits of the grocery store. I pause at one aisle and tell Emma that there is not one item that is not a processed carbohydrate in that entire. She’s decided to try this venture as well. She, too, is smiling. My sister calls and tells me her son is on board, too. And, yes, he is TOTALLY PUMPED. I spend the rest of the day looking for food to eat that doesn’t involve bread or anything else on the banned list. I go to bed at 9p.m. telling myself I made it through the day and tomorrow I can wake up and eat a loaf of bread if I want. This is a trick that 12-step programs for addiction use. The 24-hour rule. You tell yourself you can drink, drug, whatever, tomorrow, just not today. But in the morning, you’re back where you started. It’s always today. Clever, right?
And of course there’s the other side of this food thing. The side I really don’t want to explore. Am I still using food to feed the hunger that exists somewhere in my body other than my stomach. Could it be? Is she still around? That fat little girl who found solace in Apple Jacks? I thought I got rid of her. But, here she is again. Or still. That chubby little girl that just wanted to be loved. That girl who thought that if she just lost weight someone would see her worth. I have to admit that even just one day into this no bread lifestyle, she does seem to be peering around corners at me. We’ll see. A wise friend of mine who got sober after years of alcoholism and drug addiction told me that the substances we use are anesthesia for the pain. So, I ask myself, am I ready to face whatever it is that I mask with food? Just the thought of that makes me want a muffin. A chocolate chip muffin. A chocolate chip muffin heated with butter…. I’ll have one tomorrow J.