I was always a skinny kid. Really, really skinny. Play xylophone on my ribs skinny. When I was in high school I weighed a whopping 105 pounds, and I couldn’t gain weight to save my life. Forget about the weight Morgan Spurlock gained on his 30-day diet of McDonald’s food; I worked for two years at McDonald’s, ate their food all the time – in multiple servings – and couldn’t gain an ounce.
For the entire eight years of my undergrad career at Syracuse University I had a 28-inch waist. That’s pretty skinny. Sometimes I had to shop for clothes in the “Young Teen” department. Everyone kept telling me that one of these days my metabolism would catch up with me when I turned 30, and I’d finally gain weight.
As a 30-year-old grad student I still had that 28-inch waist, and when I got married at age 32, I was so skinny that Tuxedo Junction didn’t have a tux shirt small enough for me. They had to pin up the back.
Maybe getting married is what started it. After a few years, a friend commented on how I’d actually put on some weight – just enough to make me weigh almost what I was supposed to for my height. She attributed this to what she called “Contented Cow Syndrome.”
Then I had kids, and was finishing up the food they left behind on the table – providing that it was food I liked. I do have standards after all. That’s when I noticed a little pudge, and the fact that I couldn’t see my ribs anymore. That’s also when my then four-year-old daughter started patting my stomach and asking me if there was a baby in there.
I freaked out. This wasn’t a good thing. But on the other hand, I tried to keep a sense of perspective about it. I was 41, and not only was a little pudge was probably to be expected of all of us, but being able to see my ribs all those years probably was not a good thing. My body image was based on having been a toothpick forever, and that was unrealistic.
There was another piece to this that made it necessary for me to be really careful in how I reacted and what I said. I teach adolescent girls, and you know the kind of body issues they have. If I said that I thought I needed to lose a little weight, it would just feed into their own anorexic and bulimic tendencies. Instead, I would just suck it up and deal with the “middle age spread” as graciously as I’ve done with going bald and gray.
But then it happened. One week after my 53rd birthday, someone asked Cheryl if I was getting fat. NOOOO! She said the dreaded F-word.
That was it! Until that moment, it had all been in my head. It had all been an issue of my having to adjust an unrealistic idea of what I thought my body should look like. But now someone had dared to speak the F- word. This meant that it wasn’t just in my head, and now I had to do something about it. Actually, now I could do something about it. Hearing it from someone else finally gave me permission to be concerned about it, without worrying about those adolescent girls. Let’s be clear about this. I’m not at the point where I have to buy an extra ticket when I go on planes (as if I’d get on a plane), but I wouldn’t mind losing a good 15 pounds.
It sure hurts not having seconds of chicken parmesan at dinner and not grazing through the day, eating whatever I want whenever I feel like it.
And right now I want some coffee ice cream!