I was a chubby kid. I don’t think I realized I was chubby until riding my bike past neighbor Sam Overman’s house. I was rounding the corner when Sam shouted, “Hello, Fatty.”
I already felt like an odd duck due to my rampant freckles, vivid red hair and titanium white skin. Adding “fatty” to my list of perceived flaws was uncomfortable. Red, white and fat-all-over.
Thus began my journey of starvation.
My sister Marilyn and I started our first diet together the summer between my ninth and tenth grades. We drew a small grid of squares on paper and taped it on her closet wall. Each day we were allowed to advance thumbtacks a certain number of squares determined by how many calories we ate daily. 500 calories, three squares. 600 calories, only two squares. If we went as high as 900 calories we couldn’t advance at all. Marilyn is four years older than I and has amazing self-discipline. She was the ideal first diet coach.
Normally sedentary as kids–Marilyn a voracious reader, me a sit on my butt and color kid—we began taking long walks. Yup, we lost weight. I went to tenth grade looking radically different from the girl Sam Overman had taunted.
Twiggy was in Vogue back then. She became my role model for perfection in body type. Remember her? Bone thin, toothpick arms and legs, big eyes, short skirts. She painted long black eyelashes on her lower lids. I did too.
Other diets I recall–
College with room-mate Kris Kraft. We shared clothes and religiously recorded calories.
Starving with another college buddy, Joanne Pickle. Pickle’s are a slimming food and Joanne was also slim. But we starved together in spite of her name and our already tiny frames.
At twenty-eight I got pregnant. I gained sixty-five pounds during my nine pregnant months. A friend told me I looked like my pores would soon ooze yellow fat. He asked, “Are you going to deliver out of your gargantuan thighs?” He was teasing, but the message was clear. I was a behemoth.
Nearing pre-eclampsia my family doctor, Perry Mitchell ordered me to bed rest. (Yes, I used a family doctor to catch my breech baby. But that’s a story for another day.) I was to spend the last thirty days of my pregnancy in bed, lying on my left side.
I was allowed one trip a day up and down the stairs. Each morning I waddled down, loaded a tray with food–mostly cream cheese and crackers—then struggled back up again. I laid down on my left side and spent my day reading and pigging.
Shortly after Matt’s birth, while at a restaurant, I was in a lady’s room stall and over-heard two of the women in our group cattily discussing how large I’d gotten. “She’ll certainly never be slim again!” one crowed. The other gleefully agreed.
I got mad. And I got thin. Following Matt’s birth I ate carefully and nursed. Eating carefully was a new wrinkle. When I got pregnant the Doctor told me to eat an egg a day. I chose a Cadbury Creme egg. Eating carefully meant switching from Cadbury Creme to chicken eggs.
My goodness! Did the pounds fall off! By the time Matt was six months old I weighed less than I had at his conception. Plus I nursed. Nursing is an excellent weight loss tool. (Note to self: Perhaps I should become a wet-nurse. That would keep me slim for life.)
Clinical depression is also a useful weight loss tool, but I don’t recommend it.
I’ve been dieting again and it’s working. I’m on a low carbohydrate, scads-of-protein-not much fun, diet. It includes appetite suppressants and weekly shots in the butt. I’m supposed to drink a gallon of water daily. I spend lots of time in the bathroom and little time perusing the refrigerator.
My mother spent a lifetime dieting. Mother loathed her middle-aged plumpness. Whenever a group photo was taken she insisted on standing behind others. In most old photos only her head appears peeking between the shoulders of those in the front row.
She died in her sleep at eighty-two. After her death, while cleaning out her things, Marilyn and I un-earthed a small calorie counter book in her purse. Eighty-two and she was still striving for some body other than the one she lived in.
Here’s what I wonder…Why do most women feel as though if they don’t look like Twiggy, or whoever is their ideal body role model, we aren’t good enough? I’m not saying it’s smart to allow ourselves to get morbidly obese. But how sad so many of us expect to still be sporting the bodies we had at age sixteen.
When I die in my sleep (Yes, that’s my intention. Just not tonight, thank you very much God) my kids will come to clean out my stuff. I sincerely hope they do NOT find a carbohydrate counter in my purse. But I’m hoping they find a Hershey Kiss in my mouth.