Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Mechanics of Fatness

When I was a kid in high school, the fat kids got picked on. People made comments about them being pigs, or elephants, or tubs of lard. Kids can be really cruel. I wasn't even that fat in middle school... maybe ten pounds more than ideal... and I was called thunder thighs. When my mother and my best friend's mother, both overweight, walked into a bar, the men hooted, "Here comes the ham hocks and the pork chops!" The teasing never ends, even in adulthood.

But being obese is not just about our looks. Yes, everyone can see our weakness. There is no hiding that we eat way more than the average person. You can't cover it up with a moomoo, and size 26 jeans just don't make you look slim no matter what style they are. Our weight is out there for everyone to see. But what people don't see... what people don't know, unless they have been there, is how being fat affects everyday life.

When I was 278 pounds, every move was difficult. Everything I did had to be calculated. If I went to a restaurant, I had to carefully eyeball the booths to see if my girth could wedge in between the table and seat. If I guessed wrong, I would end up stuck in a booth with a table edge under my ribs, unable to even take a deep breath, with my chest on my plate. I had to be careful about what chairs I sat in. More than once, I sat in a rickety chair, either in a restaurant or elsewhere, and felt it creak and cringe under my weight. I would brace my feet and lean forward a bit to take the weight off the ready-to-crumble chair, and by the time I got back up, my calves and ankles would be stiff from supporting my bulk. And don't think getting up was any easy task. Gotta be careful, because if your hip fat has oozed out between the chair and the armrests, when you do get up, the chair gets up with you. Nothing says "needs to diet" like a fat woman trying to stand up with a chair stuck to her hiney. Except maybe a fat woman flat on her butt on the ground because a lawn chair collapsed as she was eating her sausage dog (yeah, that happened...)

Chairs aren't the only problem. Want me to sit on the floor to play a game with the kids in preschool? Forget it. I can't get back up without something sturdy to grab onto to heft myself off the floor, ever so slowly like a water buffalo climbing out of a vat of molasses. Want me to come upstairs with you in a building with no elevators? Yeah right. A year ago I went to my son's basketball game in the gym at his school. Going in was not bad, two flights DOWN stairs. You can guess how long it took me to get back UP those 2 flights. And don't get me started on bleachers. Have you ever tried carrying 280 pounds UP a set of very rickety, wiggly stairs with NO handrails? NO FUN. And don't forget the joys of getting in and out of a car when your stomach has to squeeze underneath the steering wheel and the seat belt is cutting your womb in half. And how about the thrill of being out in public and noticing that the fabric of your pants has rubbed away between your thighs, and your bare skin is showing through? Don't let anyone kid you: being fat is no picnic.

Even when you stay home and don't go out, obesity is a prison. In my own home, it was too hard to pick up toys off the floor. I would get dizzy and winded after just a few minutes of activity. Vacuuming was like running a marathon. I was tired ALL the time. My days always started out with waking up and thinking, "I hate being fat." Then a short waddle to the bathroom, hobbling along because my joints all hurt. Even sitting down and getting up from the toilet was an exercise in frustration. The pain in my knees was horrible. I had to brace myself on the sink or a wall just to be able to sit down to pee. Why would anyone choose to live like that??? For a brownie??? Ugh. And my skin was always breaking out from the junk I was eating. But what would I do? Get up and eat a piece of cake or a cinnamon roll for breakfast. And a plate of lasagna for a snack. Sigh...

It was hard to put on my pants. I had to be sitting or I would fall over trying to get one leg into my jeans. And forget about socks. It was nearly impossible to pry my foot close enough to be able to get socks on. When I had to put on socks and shoes, it left me totally breathless because bending over smashed my huge belly into my giant chest and my lungs got squooshed and I would end up panting and exhausted. I never tied my shoes. Rather, I never UNtied my shoes. There is no way I could stay bent over long enough to tie them, so I just left them loosely tied so I could slip my feet into my sneakers without sitting down. Frankly, being morbidly obese SUCKED. I don't know why I stayed there for so long.

Now that I am down 30 pounds, all of these things are so much easier. I still have my struggles, but what a difference this loss has made! I know that life with get easier and more pleasant overall as I continue losing weight. For those of you just beginning your journey, don't lose hope. It DOES get easier, and even a relatively small loss can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your life. Don't suffer anymore. Take charge of your life. You can do it!


Heather said...

I think that is a great post and shows the power of losing weight. I hate when I hear people who are "proud" to be fat and talk about how it doesnt affect them...either they are just kidding themselves or they have super powers because I think that the majority of people who are overweight or obese suffer similar problems as you did when you were heavier. just be glad and thankful that you do not have to have a lot of those problems and emotions anymore because of what you are attaining.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, Thanks for this entry. I was there. I weighed 330+ (scale topped off at 330, not sure of my top weight.) I worked hard for the past 2.5 years to get off about 150 pounds. The past 6 months I have been really struggling. This entry reminded me of how far I have come and of why I started the journey. I have been slowly making my way back to healthy eating and wise choices. Keep up the good work and don't give up.

Teale said...

As random as this is, I'm glad I'm not the only one whose pants rubbed through between the legs from chubby stumps rubbing together when I walk.

~Diet Goddess~ said...

Wow...great post! Your words are so true and really strike a chord with me. Especially "why would anyone choose to live like this?"

Indeed. Why do I? I need to place that phrase where I can see it every day.

Hanlie said...

I've experienced all of the above. And the pants rubbing is just the worst!!! I'm at a stage now where I only have 1 pair of pants that doesn't have holes, but I'm holding out for reaching a lower size before buying more. I'm so fat that my thighs are squished together when I sit and you can't see the holes! But I'm sick of it. As for picking something up from the floor... especially myself...!

Great post!

justoofat said...

Wow. This post really resonates with me. I am currently at your heaviest weight, but I've had to take off nearly 50lbs to get there, and I already feel so much better. I can relate to so many of the things you talked about here... I could feel the tears welling in my eyes at one point. It makes me glad that we're all working to change our lives.


Alexis said...

Great post as always, Lynn!

Ms Ingrid said...

This is an excellent post!

Every time I am even a little bit tempted to eat something that's not in my food plan, I immediately remember all the pains and sufferings of being obese and I walk away from that food and stick to my own foodplan.
That's how painful it was to be so heavy (318 lbs).

I keep telling myself "you don't want to go back there, never again"

Fatty said...

I saw a news clip once with Starr Jones regarding these same issues - she talked about how she couldnt put on her shoes without first pulling her leg up. It was too hard to lift her leg on its own. I didnt even realize that I was doing this too until that news clip. I lost sight of how big I had really gotten and it shocked me into realizing that I cant live like this anymore.

IAAdmin said...

What a great read..........thank you. And you're totally right; it does get easier. Over time, small changes do become habits, healthy living habits.

Keep up the good work..........:)

Honi said...

what a wonderful post.. you know I started at 211.5 pounds last year at this time.. today I am 183.4.. a lot better off than I was... no ankle pain, no knee pain, still have back pain but that is chronic, no acid reflux unless I am on meds.. so it has gotten better.. and will get better.. I do know how it feels.. and even the smallest incriment makes a difference in the long run.. GREAT POST my friend..

belly said...

powerful words.

thanks for sharing your experiences, your insight, your hopefulness.

and yet, i can't help but think that on some level, part of the reason that i got myself to the weight i am is that i deserve the pain and humiliation that stems from wearing my shame on my hips, on my belly, on my butt, on my arms.

in a more recent post you mention that the key to weight loss success is all about mindful eating - i am so with you on that page.

what an intelligent, thoughtful, brave soul you are.

so glad to have found you.