My first memory of shame about my weight was sitting on the white-tissue paper covered table in the pediatrician's office at a well exam. Could I have been 6? The nurse and my mother were having a conversation in the hallway and my older sister took it upon herself to let me know the nurse was telling Mom I weighed too much. I remember the feeling of shame and embarrassment. I think I cried. It wouldn't be the last time tears where shed over my weight.
I was always chubby, from the start, aside from my very average, slightly small birth weight of 6 pounds. Family legend has it that I ate my pastina with two hands. My second birthday reveals me in a a bathing suit, extra flesh squeezing out the sides, wearing a crown and holding a fork. I was a kid who enjoyed, thoroughly, food and loved eating plain slice of American cheese and dishes of my Grandma's pasta. I was also a sedentary kid, who loved sitting with my toys, reading books, coloring and disliked sports and outdoor play. It was a recipe for disaster, I suppose.
My first Weight Watchers meeting was at 8 years old. I hated going. I was the only kid there. I also hated that my mom had to cut the elastic on the sleeves of my dresses because they left horrible red welts on my upper arm. I hated that I had to wear "pretty plus" jeans from Sears, because I didn't see anything "pretty" about being a plus. I hated that my thin older sister needed to drink creamy Carnation instant breakfast to gain weight and I was stuck with diet Alba shakes. My cookies were rationed out, leaving me desperate for more, where she had as much as she liked. When I went to the diner as a kid, I was encouraged to get the diet plate, which was a bun-less burger with cottage cheese. (I feel rage just thinking about cottage cheese now.)
No eating disorders, but eating out of the sight of others became something I definitely did. Sneaking a treat when no one was around to tell me not to. There would be comments or disappointment if I ate the "bad" food but I desired it so much. It's a habit I still can't shake.
When you are overweight, you learn to make comparisons. I would wonder if I was the fattest girl in the class. I was the 3rd or 4th fattest most of the time. By the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I was sad enough about the way I looked to try dieting again. My mother and I attended a program called "New You" and I lost about 25 pounds, which made a big difference. My 8th grade year I was lighter and more confident, but as high school went on, weight crept back on. I started college 30 pounds heavier. After my sophomore year in college, I worked with a nutritionist who had dolls all over her office. Everywhere. She advised me to cut all carbohydrates and the weight dropped fast. 25 pounds or so, gone, but not for long because carbohydrates are my frenemy.
I left college with the weight back on and my first years of teaching did nothing to improve the situation. I was stressed and exhausted and lonely and the weight came on. When one of my friends was getting married and I had to be measured for a bridesmaids dress, I was utterly humiliated when it was loudly announced I had to pay extra for a larger dress. I came home and cried hysterical, sad, shameful tears to my mother, deciding then and there that I would do whatever it takes to lose weight. I rejoined Weight Watchers and lost weight. When I went back to try on the dress, it was so big, they gave it to another bridesmaid who put on weight and gave me the smaller size. It was right around this time I met my husband, when I was at this lower weight, with new-found confidence.
But you know how it goes. The longer we dated, the more comfortable I was, the less I worried about my weight. By the time we got engaged, I had put on a good 20 pounds. Cue the wedding weight worry. I consulted a nutritionist again (this one didn't have dolls) and I paid a lot of money to show her my journal each week. I lost weight. The prettiest I ever felt, aside from my wedding day, was my wedding shower. I wore a white dress and black boots and my hair was blown out straight. I felt so good in my own skin.
It is 7 years later, 2 children later, and if I am honest with myself, I am 50 pounds more than I was in that picture. I've tried working with yet another nutritionist and lost weight, but then got pregnant with Megan. Since that time, my soul just absolutely revolts at the idea of dieting. Counting points makes me shudder. Writing down what I eat feels annoying. I gave Shakeology a try last June but within 2 hours of drinking it, became horribly sick to my stomach in my classroom, throwing up in the garbage can in front of 20 third graders, probably ensuring that their memory of me is the puking teacher. I was sick the entire day. Shakeology did not agree with me at all. I see friends looking absolutely transformed and swearing by it, but sadly, something in it was poison for me.
The thing is, I'm tired of worrying about my weight. I'm tired of feeling like less of a person based on the fact that I really enjoy treats and chocolate. I'm done with crazy diets and daily deprivation. Yet. I'm 36 and the weight makes me look older, makes me feel older. I can't keep up with my children when they run away from me, which is scary. I would like to feel good about myself, not just my heart and my mind, but my body, too. I'd like to make my family proud and be vibrant and healthy. The weight holds me back.
Tonight, I bought a Fitbit. I figure it's a start. I'm not eligible for blogging prizes this month since I'm part of the co-author team at Two Writing Teachers, but I wanted to get myself some reward for this effort of daily writing. I thought the Fitbit was a good choice because I will have more time each day, when March ends, to add activity and movement. It feels like a positive thing to do for health and fitness, not like punishment, not like cottage cheese next to a bun-less burger when all you want is the curly fries dipped in ketchup.
Michelle Haseltine bravely talked about her soft spot yesterday, the thing that hurts the most, your most vulnerable area. For me, it is my weight. It is feeling never good enough, like a failure, like a big, fat loser without self-control. Feeling like I will never slay this chubby dragon who would really rather have chocolate chip cookies and sit with a good book then eat a salad and exercise.
But, maybe, it is time to start a new story in my head and heart, one that doesn't end with me failing yet again. Here's to lots of steps, counted on my Fitbit, in a new direction.