Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Beginnings of Fatness

I am curious as to when most people started being "fat." Maybe not gaining weight... but when did they start the behaviors that led to obesity? Was it something their mothers did to them, as we see in cases of 100-pound toddlers, demanding Happy meals, Cheetos, and Cokes and tantruming until their mothers bring it to them? Did it originate from being constantly told as a child that you couldn't have certain foods or you might get fat? Is the genesis of obesity in the teenager off to college with no thoughts of nutrition but only convenience, cost, and taste? Was it something chosen as an adult as a defense mechanism from abuse or emotional pain?

For me, like many people, it seem to have been a combination of things. As a toddler I was quite thin, despite the fact that my mother gave me chocolate ice cream for breakfast. I was a rather skinny child, even though we had a lot of junk food in the house. I remember going out to a salad bar with my Mom quite often... and loading up my plate several times with iceberg lettuce, loads of cheese and bacon bits, and cup after cup of blue cheese dressing. That with a Coke was a meal so devoid of nutrition and packed with fat and sugar that it makes me cringe to think of it now. But no one told me otherwise. Watching my Mom eat bags of potato chips and my Dad eat lots of cheese and crackers did nothing for my knowledge of nutrition. But I remained thin... UNTIL...

I turned 12. I guess it was hormones, but suddenly I was what others might describe as "chunky." I was not OBESE, but I was overweight and had a little extra padding around my arms, legs, and hips. Suddenly in middle school I was the brunt of jokes. I was the fat kid. (I look at pictures, and I was really NOT FAT! I might have been 10 pounds overweight!) But this is where I got my identity as a fat person. I became sad and withdrawn. I ate for comfort. I had NO IDEA what I could do to change my body or my health. No one ever told me that a carrot was healthier than a Twinkie. I didn't exercise or play any sports. All I knew was that the kids taunted me with, "You should go on a diet!" but I didn't know what that meant... UNTIL...

I was a teenager. I knew people stopped eating and exercised to lose weight. I stopped eating breakfast completely. When I was about 16 I started cutting back on snacks and meals. For a brief time I started going jogging in the mornings. It also helped that I grew several inches taller, without gaining weight. So I was a normal weight, though curvy, through high school and into college. Even in college, my food intake was low. It was defined by my funds ($5/week) so I pretty much ate Cream of Wheat with water for breakfast and Ramen for lunch every day. No snacks, and no car... I walked everywhere. When I got married at age 20, I was still the same size... 5'7" and 140 pounds. Nine months later, my first child was born, and afterwards I went right back to 140 pounds with no effort. I was a healthy weight... UNTIL...

I got pregnant again, and at four months along, I lost my baby. I ate for comfort from the pain. I hit 165, and my father-in-law made fun of me for being so fat. Over the next five years, my weight went up and down between 165 and 201, and the cycle of dieting and overeating began. We lived out in the country and I could only get to the grocery store once a week. Fast food was out of the question. The closest I could get to "bad" foods was baking cookies or cakes myself. My weight would spike up once in awhile, but I was able to always get back down to 165... UNTIL...

We moved to another town, and our new house was just blocks from a 7-11, a Taco Bell, a McDonalds, an Arby's, a Subway, a Pizza Hut, a Baskin-Robbins, and several grocery stores. Lots of different pizza places would deliver to my new home. If I wanted a bag of chips, I could have them within 5 minutes. We had a better income and could afford more junk. My weight still fluctuated between 165 and 200, but I joined a gym and learned more about nutrition, and kept fighting the battle. It was getting harder but I didn't go over 200 again...UNTIL...

I got divorced. Suddenly, I was alone... and very poor. I had literally NO income for the first few months. We started eating from the food bank. If you have never been to a food bank, you're in for a surprise: all the free day-old bread and baked goods you can imagine. A fat person's paradise (or nightmare?). Sure, they always gave us bags of healthy stuff, like rice, beans, flour, cans of soup, and sometimes fresh produce. But the bulk of the food we got was junk. Once they gave us boxes of Haagen Daz bars. Often we got 1-2 large bakery cakes. Sometimes, pizza places would donate pizzas so we got those. We always came home with dozens and dozens of donuts, cookies, cinnamon rolls, danishes, and all manner of sweet pastries. Hey, beggars can't be choosers, and at that time my choice was: donuts for breakfast, or nothing for breakfast. So we ate donuts. I was stressed out, too, and ate like a madwoman for comfort. This is the year that my weight skyrocketed from 165 to 245 pounds. In ONE year.

That's my story. Sure, I got even fatter later, up to 278+, but it was for all the same reasons: proximity to junk and fast food, eating for comfort, loneliness. A wrecked pair of knees did not help. Every time I got into a nice walking routine, I would mess up my knee even more, end up in severe pain and unable to walk, and eat for comfort.

I don't blame anyone else for my weight. I am an adult, and I made the choices I made. Now, the choice I am making is to shape my body into a healthy vessel for my soul. Everyone has that choice. I had that option back then, but didn't see it. You have that option now. Don't waste anymore time on excuses... find your way, stick with it. It will be so worth it.

8 comments:

Heather said...

for me, it was going off to college and suddenly, everything social you do revolves around food and alcohol. we had pizza and beer so many nights! however, I also dont think its a coincidence that I ended up overeating and my sister ended up having an eating disorder. I think that my mom put a lot of pressure on us to be perfect and fit into a stereotype that she desired of us. I think that led to some of our issues with food too.

I think its great you can take responsibility and because of that, you have been able to change your life.

Anonymous said...

I just happened upon your blog and man can I relate to your story. I think being basically shy an constantly overcoming it along with my mother restricting me from things all contributed. I also lost a couple pregnancies and turned to my old friend food for comfort. I marked your page and look forward to learning about our continued success!

teenage girl said...

hey - i have been a lurker for a while and i just wanted to say congrats on your accomplishments!! you seem like you are trying so hard to lose the weight in a HEALTHY way, which I think is great! I'll be honest when i see an overweight person I usually think "oh they just eat all day" i never realized that food can feed your emotions and how much of a struggle there is to get through a day. Overall I just wanted to say congrats on the weight loss!! thats amazing and it really does look like you have lost a lot of weight (i saw the pictures) good job!

Jamie said...

You are inspiring me! Keep up the good work.

Chubby Chick said...

You know what I love about the past? It's THE PAST... and it does NOT have the power to dictate our PRESENT... or our FUTURE.

Good things are in store for us, my friend! :)

MB said...

Diets made me fat.

I don't think I would have had an eating problem if I could have just been happy with the normal healthy body I had in my teens and early 20s but I always thought my hips and thighs were too big or whatever part of me wasn't good enough. It is crazy that my goal weight is probably 20lbs heavier than what I weighed back then.

If I could only get my binging under control I could make some progress. I know it is all in my head.

Your writing inspires me and I can't wait to see you reach your goals.

FatGirl said...

For me it's just always been a part of my life. I ate pretty healthy as a young child (it wasn't until I got older and my mom started getting depressed that she stopped having good control of her and then my eating habits) but I was still chubby.

Also, I just wanted to say OMFG what is up with food bank food? For reals- I mean, we used to get the weirdest stuff, and never anything healthy. I mean, some things were less unhealthy than others but there's always lots of carby stuff and then usually lots of junk from chocolate to sugary cereal to cheese nips. UGH.

Zaleya said...

My parents were very healthy eaters and we rarely had anything junky at home and often I felt deprived. Then in middle school I had pocket money, too much time to myself, and was bullied mercilessly. I used to binge eat on the way home from school, giving me a unhappy realationship with food. Combined with the fact that obesity runs VERY strong in my family, the result was inevitable.