I was reading an interview with Lisa Delaney, the author of Former Fat Girl, today as I hunted down blogging ideas. The title of her book caught my eye because I too am a former fat girl and being such felt an immediate kinship. It may not be easy being green according to the song sung by a rather famous amphibian Muppet but his portly pink companion could have warbled an entire opera on the downside of being “pleasingingly plump”.
In the news this last week there have been many articles about a recent study that found, unsurprisingly, that diets do not work. There are no long term benefits for the vast majority of people who attempt to lose weight using the array of dieting methods that proliferate like e. coli on Canadian beef. Only a very small percentage of dieters will lose weight and keep it off for more than a year. The majority will gain it all back and then some. I didn’t need MSNBC to tell me this though. I know from firsthand experience. I was put on my first diet by a….I would like to say “well-meaning” pediatrician, but I think in retrospect he was a sexist pig. I was twelve and almost as tall as I am now and maybe about only about 10 lbs heavier. Which is to say, I wasn’t fat as much as in need of more exercise. I was pretty much at the weight my body has always gravitated towards regardless of my level of fitness. But in 1975 the baby boomers had yet no need of Lycra in their Levi’s and the clothing industry had not begun its vanity “re-sizing”, and I was shit outta luck. I didn’t lose much weight. 10 lbs maybe. Putting me curiously at about the weight I am now and which my mother, ironically, thinks is much too thin. At the time I wouldn’t have found the irony amusing even if I had known what irony was. I was the “fat girl” at school. The “unattractive sister/daughter” at home. I wore big clunky plastic framed glasses, and my mother commanded me to keep my hair as short as a boy’s because long hair “makes you look heavy”. I was forever being told that I had such a pretty face if only I would lose some weight. The backhanded compliment of choice for fat girls.
So I lost 10 lbs. My father was pleased. My mother “rewarded” me with a trip to the mall for new clothes (a dubious reward as I hated to shop for clothes) and my younger, thin as a stick sister got her nose bent out of shape when boys began to notice me. Older boys. I gained the weight back. And thus the pattern for the vicious circle of the next 15 years or so began to spin.
You see, you are always a fat girl inside. It doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed. The memories of taunting and name-calling. The dances you never got asked to. The horrible shopping experiences that would have reduced you to tears, if you were the kind who cried in front of people, and left your mother grim and tight-lipped. None of that ever goes away.
I started to lose weight when I went to college because I walked everywhere I went mainly and I was free of the meat and potato diet that my father’s preferences imposed on our family. At some point I started running and began to toy with weight lifting on and off. In my mid-twenties, I picked up martial arts and began to run in earnest despite the asthma that I was developing. By my thirties I exercised nearly every day of the week for a hour or two a day and recently, certain health conditions have compelled me to explore organic, meat-less and nearly dairy-free eating. I do all of this because I want to. Not to be thin. But. There is still a part of me that needs to check my weight often. That panics a little when clothes feel a bit snug. And that mentally shudders at the thought of gaining weight. Because you are always a fat girl inside. Always.