Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chapter 8: A Single Girl in Single Digits

One of the first things on my list of changes I wanted to make in going from nerdy to thirty was to lose weight. My list was comprised of many things that I told myself I was doing for me, but in reality many of them were to try to win back the husband I felt I was losing. My weight was the one thing that my image-conscious husband would get on my case about the most. His narcissism manifested itself in such a way that as he put on weight over time, he became self-conscious. Because he was insecure about his own appearance, he made himself feel better by belittling me. Or rather, not pointing out how little I was not.

Over time, his actions became increasingly hurtful. He would pinch the roll of fat around my midsection, make comments about my inactivity, and fight me on the foods I ate. One time, I grabbed a slice of individually-wrapped American cheese from the fridge, and he flipped out. He insisted that me eating cheese on its own as a snack was the cause of my gaining weight. It disgusted him, and from that point on he would comment any time I repeated the action. Sometimes I did it just to prove the point that I didn’t care if he thought I was fat.

But in reality, I did care. I have always cared. I came into the world a healthy seven pounds fourteen ounces and started packing on the weight from there. I was always a chubby kid. Perhaps it was the Midwestern meat-and-potatoes diet or the fact that I never really played any sports as a kid that caused me to keep my baby fat well beyond my baby years. In grade school, when we had to do those presidential physical fitness tests, I generally scored in the bottom percentiles of every activity (with the exception of the “sit-and-reach,” on which I would score off the charts. I guess despite the layer of blubber that endeavored to get in the way, I was really flexible.)

~ Chubby youngster ~

I was first made aware of my weight in first grade when my mom commented that my protruding belly made me “look like I was six months pregnant.” She does not recall telling me this, but it sticks out very clearly in my mind. I remember going to school the next day and looking at all the girls’ stomachs and realized that yes, mine did in fact stick out more than theirs. As the years passed, my penchant for comparing myself to other people did not wane. In every group of friends I have had over the years, I always felt like the “fat friend,” and I hated it.

I never understood why my size 4 friends were on diets or how they could complain about gaining two pounds. I never had to unbutton my pants after a meal because once you have that much fat stuffed into your jeans, another couple pounds of food don’t really make much impact. My friends would think twice about lending me their cardigan if I was chilly because I would probably stretch it out. One night I was hanging out with Sara and a gay guy we had recently met. The two of them decided to swap jeans because the guy happened to have on women’s jeans, and the guy made a pointed comment to me about how I was too large to play along.

~ The fat friend ~

My girlfriends in the city are all very petite and while they are curvy, they are all thin. Going to the beach with them was always embarrassing. I felt like the proverbial beached whale next to a row of dainty mermaids. When I would go out with my friends, I always felt like they were the ones who would be doted on by men. I can’t say if it was because I was heavier, or simply because I was insecure about being heavier, that deterred the admiring throngs, but I often felt like I was on the sidelines.

It didn’t help that so many of my friends are knock-outs. Next to them I feel very, well, average. I have the kind of face that has people asking me all the time if they’ve met me before or telling me that I look just like their cousin. I am not so down on myself to think I am repulsive but I don’t think I am exactly “cute” or “pretty” either, and certainly not “beautiful” or “gorgeous.” I realize that Vanity Fair is not knocking down my door to do a cover for them (especially since I am so very un-photogenic: in every picture of me I have a double chin and red eye).

Despite the fact that my face looks like everybody’s cousin’s, I know what assets I have, and these are the things that have brought me attention from the opposite sex. The high arches of my feet, my shapely calves and my blue eyes have all garnered unprompted comments from male passers-by. But I have one asset that has brought me more attention than any other.

~ I think this skirt was a "Units" piece! ~

I was blessed around the age of eleven to start developing what I have to say are a fine pair of bosoms. When I was young, it was embarrassing. One year for Christmas, my aunt Crystal had made me a set of clothes that mimicked the “Units” brand of clothing (which no one but me seems to remember). It was basically a collection of separates that you could mix and match. One of the pieces was a tube top, and it was too small for me. My aunt joked that I could give it to my mom to wear. It made me feel a little awkward that my chest was quickly eclipsing my mother’s!

By the time I got to college, my chest and I had made peace. My discovery of underwire for support and slight padding to prevent the “smuggling raisins two at a time” look helped me feel more at ease with the girls. I was never uncomfortable with guys commenting on my chest (well, except for this one creepy guy on the street in Paris). Instead I kinda felt, “Well, if they are looking at my chest, maybe they can’t see down past it to my big belly.” Over time my breasts have developed magical powers: the ability to turn ass men in to boob men. I don’t know how or why, but I have heard that claim a number of times and find it quite amusing.

The attention I received from guys went a long way to improving the way I felt about my body. If I couldn’t completely love my body, at least I knew other people appreciated it. I felt resigned to the skin I was in. I mean, no amount of dieting would make my pelvis bone narrower for example. I grew content with the fact that my body was pretty well proportioned: waist smaller than hips, shapely legs, the white girl ass. I relished the fact that I could eat whatever I wanted and just enjoy food, rather than stressing about how many calories were in something. When I found a man who wanted to marry me just as I was, I thought I must have hit the jackpot.

~ Senior Year ~

I reached my heaviest point around our wedding. I had amassed over 160 pounds on my five and a half foot frame, meaning my body mass index (BMI) had edged from simply bordering to firmly in the middle of the “overweight” category on that scale. I had weighed that much once before, during my senior year of college. Between doing out drinking with friends, eating our sorority chef Mike’s delicious cooking, or gorging on multi-ethnic takeout in the newspaper office after staff meetings, my diet choices were not the best. Add to that the stress of a double major, part-time job managing the 24-hour coffeehouse, and holding offices in several extracurricular activities and well, I just ballooned. Luckily the summer after I graduated I spent the summer working in Venice, Italy.

~ In Dublin ~

The lifestyle there is such that you have to walk everywhere and most of what you eat is fresh and healthy. I dropped quite a bit of weight this summer, probably around fifteen pounds, and it stayed off until around the time I met James.

~ Muffin top ~

I didn’t really notice that I had started putting on weight at first. But the next thing I knew I wasn’t fitting into my pants anymore. Admittedly, muffin top is not the sexiest look, and James was quick to remind me of that. He had gained weight too, and again I think about our lifestyle at that time and figure it, like in college, is mostly to blame.

~ Check out the rolls! ~

After James would get off his weekend bartending shift, he and I would go out in Long Island with his friends. After a couple hours of cocktails, we would retire to the local diner or White Castle. At the diner I would regularly get what we affectionately called “Sticks-n-Sticks,” which was a giant platter of fried mozzarella sticks and zucchini sticks. We also joined a Tuesday night billiards league together, which meant another late night and more drinking. All the late nights and empty calories added up. When we weren’t going out, James enjoyed cooking for me. However, his style of cooking was often a heavily sauced stir-fry which undoubtedly was calorie-heavy.

~ Big belly ~

So by the time James blew up at me for eating a piece of cheese, I knew I weighed more than I should. I think it was just the way he approached the situation that really irked me. Rather than be supportive, he was critical. It may sound a little selfish, but if he thought I needed to lose weight so badly, why didn’t he cook healthier foods? He did try to encourage me to exercise, but usually with disastrous results.

Our one rollerblading excursion ended two blocks from home when I completely bit it on a hill. During our one jog he left me in the dust and out of motivation. The one time we played basketball, we had fun until he decided he wanted to shoot around by himself. We played tennis a few times, but as we learned with billiards, competitive sports really weren’t good for us.

So, on my birthday last year I set out to lose the excess weight I had put on. I tipped the scales that day at around 163 pounds. I didn’t have a goal in mind, but what I used to weigh, and what I would have listed on my driver’s license, was 145 pounds, so that seemed to be a good starting off point.

~ 29th Birthday Party ~

On April 8, 2008 I jumped up on the wagon. My experiment with sobriety lasted about a month. James’ friends didn’t understand why I’d suddenly turned into a teetotaler, yet still went out to the bars with them. To be honest, I didn’t trust my husband out on his own. If I had stayed in those Friday and Saturday nights knowing he was out drinking with his friends, I would have probably been on the one hand nervous for his safety and on the other hand really lonely. Don’t get me wrong, we both had our respective girls- and guys-nights out. But I am talking till six am every weekend night. I never would have seen him if I didn’t tag along.

Sober me did just fine in the bar scene, and was a welcome designated driver. And, at the end of the month when I fell back into drinking (it started with “just one”!), I had dropped about ten pounds. I felt so thrilled about it and thought I was looking better too. But James did not notice. We had an argument one night, who knows what about. He was criticizing me about some behavior of mine I brought up my plan and how I wanted to improve my, nay our, lives. James couldn’t register that I had put thought into self-improvement. And he didn’t seem to care. His lack of interest in my efforts was disheartening and I shortly thereafter abandoned my project (until now!).

However, I did meet my original goal of being svelte on my thirtieth birthday. When James told me he was leaving me, I insisted that we go to marital counseling. James had already moved out of our house and into his aunt’s basement apartment. After our counseling session one evening, I returned home and was flipping through the mail. I looked over our cell phone bill (we had a family plan) and was shocked to see hundreds of minutes worth of calls to a New Jersey number. As I quickly came to the realization that the “Jacinta” at the other end of the line was likely a woman he had met and was in fact leaving me for her.

Our next counseling session was not until a week later, and for those seven days my heart did not stop racing. I had never known what was meant by the phrase “my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest,” but that’s surely what I was feeling then. And how could I eat when just opening my eyes was too painful. That week, in the process of losing my husband and nearly losing my mind, I also lost another ten pounds.

Over the course of the next several months the weight continued to melt away. Maybe it was my bachelorette suppers of ramen noodles or maybe it was Jared’s subway diet to which I subscribed on many a lunch break. Somehow, without dieting, exercise, or even really trying, another ten pounds melted away. The same pants that had once rendered my midsection into a parody of a baked good were now literally falling off my hips. I tried to belt them, but the holes on my belts didn’t reach far enough to do any good. The bras that I had bought when I put on the weight could not be filled by my smaller chest, and hung off me, sagging and puckered as if they were the breasts of a hundred year old woman.

~ My too-big pants ~

I marveled at my new body, being able to see my ribcage when I bend just so, My stomach flatter than it’s ever been. Even when I pooch it out, I wouldn’t say I look six months pregnant. My collarbone, which I have always thought was an elegant part of my body, has come back to the surface. It makes me happy now to look at myself, and just as happy to look at the scale. The number on the scale on the morning of my thirtieth birthday was thirty-five pounds less than that on my twenty-ninth. I think the last time I weighed less that 130 pounds was in junior high.

~ 30th Birthday - feeling svelte ~

I get a kick out of shopping for clothes now because I have no idea what size I will be. Before I was usually a size 12, with the occasional 10 or 14 thrown in. Now I am a size 6, with the occasional 4 or 8 thrown in. I have never in my entire post-children’s-clothing-life owned an item of clothing that had a size with a single digit. I remember being in sixth or seventh grade and getting hand-me-downs from a neighbor girl who was probably in high school. I rummaged through that bag of clothes and found a fantastic pair of acid washed jeans. I was so upset when I realized I would not be able to zip up her size 8 jeans.

But now, a lifetime later from that awkward teenage self, I probably would be able to rock those tapered monstrosities (and I've heard they are actually in style this season – yikes!). And I hope to not only lose weight but become healthier and more fit by training for a half-marathon in September. That is one of my big goals for the spring. Right now I still don’t feel skinny per se, and I don’t feel all that different, but I feel good. If only James could see me now.

1 comment:

emmablue said...

Okay I like you. Im excited for Jamesless entries! One day...Ill be patient

Much love!