Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Quiet Desperation (and Falling Parts)

I am a people watcher. I always have been. I am the type who goes to the mall, or the beach or just a bench in the park and sits and watches people go about their life. (I wear dark sunglasses, of course, so that people do not KNOW they are being watched... and I don't stare!) I have always found it fascinating to see how people behave and how they look. Especially how they interact with their children, and how they interact with their food. Isn't it fascinating just to see what people are buying in the checkout line at the grocery store? You look on the belt or in their cart and you can conjure up all kinds of "maybes" about that person based on what they're buying.... all organic? All healthy stuff? All junk? And then you can look at the person and wonder about them. Fascinating stuff. I have entirely different thoughts when I see a thin lady buying salad fixings and chicken breasts than when I see an obese lady buying ice cream and a jar of hot fudge. I do not think LESS of the ones buying junk, but sometimes I relate to them, or feel bad for them. I wonder how many times when I was on a binge run did people look at my cart full of cookies, candy, ice cream and chips and wonder why I was doing that to myself.

But we have to remember, you can't really tell a lot about someone by what you see them eating on one occasion. Shopping is a little different, I think. But how many of us have eaten been sneered at or stared at or even had people laugh or roll their eyes at us because we are a "fat person" eating at McDonald's or Pizza Hut? It really isn't fair. When they see us they assume we are fat because we eat crap all the time and we don't care and don't try. But what if that 300 pound lady you see eating her burger at McDonald's has been saving her Weight Watcher points ALL WEEK for that little splurge? How would YOU know? And how do you know she has not just lost 80 pounds? When you see someone... thin or fat... you DO NOT KNOW where they have been or whether they are on their way up or down the scale. That 115 pound chick might have weighed 290 a couple years ago, so don't be so quick to say "gee it must be nice to have HER genes." And if you are a teenage brat boy who sees me in the store today buying orange Creamsicles, don't be so quick to holler "Hey Fatty! Dontcha think you've had ENOUGH ice cream??" and laugh and oink at me with your friends. Because, teenage brat boy, I happen to be thinner than I have been in over ten years. I have lost over 50 pounds. And the Creamsicles are for a treat at our barbecue tonight. But you wouldn't know that.

Yesterday, I went to the buffet for dinner. I happened to notice a lady about my age who came in alone. She was sitting one table away from us and I had a full, unobstructed view of her backside as well as everything she put on her plate. I noticed her mainly because of her fallen body. You know how when you gain just so much weight that body parts start "falling?" I got this term from a very large man I used to know. His lower beer belly area, which used to be large and round, had gotten SO big that it sort of spilled over and down, covering his groin. So in his crotch he had a very large, unsightly "ball" of fallen belly fat. I asked him one time about it, and he said, "I dunno! It wasn't like that before. I gained some weight and one day it just FELL." Anyway, this lady my age, I would guess her to be in the 400 pound range. But her thighs had fallen. Apparently they had gotten so large, they just spilled over and down her legs. Her fallen thighs reached halfway down to her ankles, and she was having a terrible time walking. I felt SO BAD for this woman. She was struggling to move. She was huffing and puffing to the buffet. I wanted to give her a hug, because although I have never been 400 pounds, I know something of how she felt.

As I sat waiting for my son to get his food, I watched this woman go up to the buffet. I was sad because people seemed to be looking and eye-rolling at her. SHE HAS TO EAT, PEOPLE. SHE IS HUMAN. LEAVE HER ALONE. I was, by this point rooting for her a bit, and hoping she would come back with some healthy stuff on her plate. I thought, "maybe she is on her way DOWN the scale. How wonderful for her if she loses that weight. How free she would feel." But instead, I saw that she started with a salad... but loaded with grated cheese and several ladles of creamy, full fat dressing and a very large roll with butter. I was sad. Not judging her. But sad because as the meal went on, it was painfully obvious that either she did not know how to eat healthy, or she did not care. I noticed several empty glasses on her table... all with just a trace of chocolate milk left in the bottom. I saw her go up for a main dish and come back with a heaping plate of breaded, fried clams and a good half cup of tartar sauce. I saw her bring back a piece of sweet cornbread the size of my knee (which is pretty darn large), with a quarter cup or so of butter slathered on top.

At that point, I just stopped watching. Instead, I eyeballed my own plate. Hmmm. I had a few fried clams on there myself. Maybe not the best idea. I had started with a big salad with low fat dressing. I had unsweetened tea to drink. I had some baked fish, salmon, steamed carrots, green beans. But you know what? I had some fried clams too. Maybe 6 little pieces. And a few pieces of fried okra. I did better than I ever did in the past though. But when I went for my "one small" dessert, it went bad. I got this piece of Tres Leches cake. It looked good, but when I took a bite it was DRY. Not worth it. I set it aside (hey, that's a victory) and went back for something else (not so good). I grabbed about 1/3 cup of soft serve ice cream and a small chocolate chip cookie. I ate it. The cookie was SO GOOD. SO good. Did I mention chocolate chip cookies are a binge trigger food? At this point the big lady with the fallen thighs was just a blur as I whizzed past to get another cookie... and then another. I made four trips to the dessert bar, each time for ONE cookie. Finally I stopped. I was so stuffed I felt sick.

I wonder if people sitting between me and the dessert bar were rolling their eyes and thinking, geez, look at the fatty going back for cookies! I wonder if, among the spectators, there was another person trying to eat healthy, who saw me and felt the same pity and sadness for me as I felt for that other woman. Maybe we aren't so different after all. We are just in different stages in our eating disorder. I do hope that woman finds the strength and hope to change her life. But I know, and have lived, in her quiet desperation.

Today I saw another woman with fallen parts. Her stomach, or maybe her lap, had fallen about halfway down her thighs, like a large, thick apron. She was trying to walk across a parking lot. And I wondered about her too. So many people, so much pain. I have hope for all of us.

Today I am eating healthy and exercising. I feel good. I am happy. It is my sincere desire that anyone... everyone who WANTS to escape from their prison of obesity will find the will and the way to make it happen. Myself included.


Ryry the Adventurous said...

How funny - I had dinner at a buffet last night myself! And I was noticing the same things you were... especially how the thinner people were eyerolling at the overweight people. I definitely saw a few scenarios like the woman you mentioned... but one thing did make me happy to see; an overweight couple, maybe both in the 200-250 range, who made their dinner of salad with italian dressing, baked salmon, roasted chicken, green beans, and for dessert they each had a piece of cornbread. They seemed happy and I overheard them talking about their "points" for the day. I was proud of them, and it made me feel good.

But yeah... those cookies are killer >< I had 3 myself.

Dinah Soar said...

I love the chocolate chip cookies at Ryans...checked the calorie count and they are really high in calories. So I have to limit myself to one which is difficult at times.

I know what you mean about feeling miserable after eating 4 cookies...I did the same a couple weeks ago..baked home made peanut butter chocolate cookies...ate 4 before the night was over and felt awful, and I kid you not, I felt hung over the next day.

I tacked a sign on my fridge saying "remember how awful you felt when you ate those 4 cookies!"...I was so miserable I never want to repeat that episode...but it is so easy to's like I have food amnesia...haha

Sunny said...

I could just read your posts all day - - they are so open, interesting and honest....I wish you posted once an hour! LOL

Anonymous said...

Ah, Buffets.

The opportunity to eat in a restaurant and have a varied fairly healthy meal and not have to prepare it.

The temptation. It's a temptation of bits and bites. I'm being so healthy. I'm having a salad, grilled chicken, baked salmon. Oh maybe just one section of chicken wings. Here are green beans and mushrooms, and just a taste of coconut shrimp. Raw cucumber slices. Mmmm, just a little scoop of waldorf salad, I know it's loaded with mayo and sugar, but just a little bit. If I'm not really really careful 1/3 of my plate is small tastes of things I didn't intend to eat.

Then there's the second plate syndrome. I'm at a buffet. I just had one plateful of food and I'm comfortable, but I'm paying for multiple trips to the buffet. I need to go back for a second plate. I'll just put a few things on it. Oh here's a tasty morsel. So I put 4-5 things on the second plate. It's not piled high, you can see plate around the food. But I really didn't need anything on this plate.

Then I want just a little fruit for "dessert". But just one macaroon won't hurt me. Oh and this one other SMALL dessert item is okay. And you know I love those little custard tarts.

Fortune cookies come with the check. Hardly any calories in a fortune cookie.

So now I've messed up my opportunity for a healthy meal by eating more than I intended and about half of what I ate "just a little bit of" was off plan. I have to say though, this is much better than I used to be at a buffet. And I keep working at it and getting better.


Anonymous said...

Although (thankfully) I've never weighed over 400lbs, I feel as though I have been that woman. I know what it is like to sit in restaurants and feel ashamed because I couldn't fit in the booth or because I just knew other people were looking at the food I'd ordered and were thinking things like, "well... no wonder."

Now, like you, I'm on a healthier path, and although I don't always make perfect food choices, I'm doing much better and as a result feel much, much better.

However, when I see people like the one you described, it absolutely breaks my heart. My cheeks flush red and those same old feelings burn in the pit of my stomach I hurt for them and for all of us.

That said, I appreciate the *wish* at the end of your post. It's my wish too.

Heather said...

I also like to people watch too and find myself thiking the same way you do. we cant always judge people by their immediate actions because very rarely do we know what is going on with them. it is too bad though when you see someone who is exactly what you were hoping they were not.

Vickie said...

I am a cart watcher at the grocery store. In the beginning it was my own cart that I was watching. It was like a game. A game where at the end of a shopping trip - before I hit the checkout line - I would look to see what was FOOD in my cart and what was junk. Then I would put the junk back and try to only buy FOOD. As I got better - I would put the food in the big bottom part of the cart and the non food up in the seat. The line at my house has changed dramatically now. What I consider junk now - would have been in the almost healthy category long ago. And the level of my healthy food continues to go up and up. My kids food has greatly improved along this process. There is almost NO non-food in our house now. But I still cart watch - at the store.

Anonymous said...

this post makes me sad, too.

DietCandi said...

glad to have found your blog; i'll return often - i need all the motivation and encouragment i can get. keep going...

MaryFran said...

Very well written. I also find myself looking at others and how they are conducting themeselves in respect to food. Sometimes I'll admit.....I look at the way some people eat and I'm jealous, almost sad for my 'old' ways! Thank heavens, not for long though. Reality and all the wonderful benefits of losing all this weight reminds me that it is worth it!

Sarah said...

The only buffets I ever go to are the swanky one Mother's Day and Easter. In the past I have had a hard time keeping myself in check b/c I kept thinking, geeze, this is 70 bucks, I should eat at least that much.

But it's not about the food, its about the occasion and the company. This year on Easter there was a balloon animal guy. He must have been 450+ pounds. He was hard to watch as he lumbered through the dining room offering up balloon bunnies and flowers, but I was transfixed by what he put on his plate when he his balloon time was over.

Sometimes I wish that I could just ignore what everyone else is eating, but I can't. I also share your wish.

Sarah said...

Oh and the fallen parts.

This is something I look for these days on skinny people as I am very familiar with my own. I'm a ppl watcher too and can spot a big loser a mile away. You never know where someone came from.

Thanks for your post today, it was a reminder I needed.

Honi said...

I gotta stop reading you at work.. this made me cry .. because I do the exact same thing.. for me though when I see the person with fallen body parts.. I ususally stop eating.. because I know I was on my way there.. thank god something in me let me not go in that direction.. We all fight our demons .. be they cookies or icecream. so you had 4 cookies.. hey u did not have a dozen.. you did not finish the other dessert.. so that is a victory.. but I know what you mean.. I watch people all the time..

thenewsarahsundae said...

That is an interesting post. It made me remember when I had lost nearly 100 pounds on weight watchers (in 2003) and my leader was asking me if I had lost any weight this week. You know I got those looks, the ones that said "what is that girl doing here" and "oh she probably has lost 10 pounds", you know those looks? So when I announced how much weight I had lost, I heard gasps and "oh mys". So yeah, don't judge someone. I am so there.

Scale Junkie said...

I watch people too and I hear their comments, my bits have fallen and they are trying to get back up again.

You don't know where people have been, you don't know where they are coming from and in general I try to be kinder to people because a few days after my Mom died, I was in a shop and someone said something to me and I just fell apart and lost it on them. We do need to be kinder to each other.

Thank you for this post, I needed it today.

Anonymous said...

What a beautifully written, honest post. Thank you.