Once Upon a Fat Girl

Friday, May 26, 2006

Now my brain hurts

Diets don't work for me. They don't work, because they trigger in me a nasty, undeniable, monster of an urge to binge. Dieting doesn't work for me.

Which sort of sucks since I weigh over 300 pound and would really--just really--like to be normal. Not skinny, or perfect. Just fucking normal. It isn't that much to ask. I don't want to be the fat one any more.

So I've been doing a lot of thinking. Trying to get behind the reasons why I binge, why I'm the fat one to begin with.

First--I think it's interesting how other people use the fat one to set their own self-esteem. Growing up my sister Jill and I were always, always, always compared to our mother and her sister.

I was just like our Mom. Everyone said so. And Jill was just like Auntie.

The only problem being that when we were kids our mom was depressed, fat, very ill (she had a nerve disorder that paralized her for months), the only divorcee in our family. Our aunt? She was tall and willowy and beautiful and a talented artist who lived in a big beautiful house in San Diego.

Now, looking back through the eyes of a grown-up I see things differently. Our mother was all those negatives. But she was also a lovely woman who had a strong faith in God. She was sunshine, just lighting up any room she walked into. She died of breast cancer when I was 24 (ten years ago) and hundreds of people showed up at her funeral. Including her elementary school crossing guard. She made that much of an impact.

On the other hand our aunt was, and still is, a miserable woman. Never happy, and it came out in stomach disorders that helped keep her thin. She weilds her faith like a whip, using it to knock down anyone who thinks differently, and keep them in their place. Since I was a little girl she's lived in San Diego while her husband lives and works in San Francisco, coming home for one weekend a month. We're talking twenty-five years.

In retrospect, I'd rather be like my mother. A thousand times. But...that comparison shaped the way I think of myself today. And it did the same for my sister.

Because I can only be the 'fat one' if she's the 'skinny one.'

Only she's not skinny anymore. She's very tall...6'1"...and weighs about 230 pounds. A solid size 16/18. Much thinner than me. See. She gets to have in the back of her mind...at least I'm not as fat as Shaunta. It isn't mean, or probably even concious. It's just the way it is.

So I'm curious. What will happen when I'm thinner than my sister? Her best friend weighed over 400 pounds two years ago, and had Gastric Bypass surgery. Charlene went down to about 30 pounds less than Jill. It rocked her. Then Charlene got pregnant, and gained some back and is now about 30 pounds heavier than Jill. And all is right in my sister's world again.

How much worse will it be when its me? The only fat one out of nine kids? Is there a chance that I could even be thinner than tiny Alison, my step-sister who was a model and now wears a size 12?

See the irony? The skinny-ones aren't so skinny anymore. And the fat one is ready to shed her fat suit. Finally.

So anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens. Let me tell you one thing. It isn't easy having two model-esque sisters. I wasn't a fat child or teenager. But I weighed 160 pounds at 5'9" in high school...when Jill (only two years younger than me) was over six feet tall and weighed 125. And was gorgeous. And had perfect long beautiful hair. And a constant boyfriend that she's married to now.

Jill was perfect. And I was 'athletic.'

Okay, enough of that. I have one other thing on my mind.


I've really been paying attention to how I feel during the day about food. And I've noticed that I'm okay at breakfast and dinner. It's between the hours of about 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. that I get that panicky starved feeling. That feeling like if I don't eat now, I'm going to die. That feeling of not-quite full that drives me insane.

Why lunch? I really did some soul searching on this one.

I'm the oldest of nine. There was never a time, growing up, when I felt like I had 'enough.' I had to save some for my little brothers and sisters. No seconds. No extra. Add to that the "you'll end up fat like your mother" crap that started at about age eight.

I was also one of the most miserable grammer-school students ever. Imagine Carrie, only five years younger. I was that girl. The one that every other kid in class used as an emotional stepping-stool for their own confidence. I cried everyday for six years.

And I ate lunch alone. It was never enough. I can remember feeling this empty hole in my stomach every lunchtime, knowing that when I was done eating I was expected to go play. And God, I hated the playground. I wanted to fill that hole, stuff it until it went away.

In junior high things got better. I remember being shocked as hell at that. Suddenly, I had friends. A boyfriend even. And I started running. It started with a PE teacher who challenged me to stop being the very last one done with the daily lap.

Then my step-mother decided that it was time to stop paying for dance lessons. I loved those dance lessons, but I wasn't very good. I started swimming instead. Which I loved as well...but not enough to fill the hurt that came from being not-good-enough (which meant not-skinny-enough) to dance.

I wasn't fat. Not in grammer school. Not in junior high. But I felt huge. And by junior high my family life was falling apart. That empty, gapping hole was still there. I couldn't get enough to eat. Luckily I was very athletic, and worked out enough to keep the fat at bay...but I can remember being desperate for food. To the point of being weak and sick by the time I got home.

And then I'd dive headfirst into the kitchen. A favorite afterschool snack was two hotdogs with mustard and cottage cheese.

By high school my homelife had completely deteriorated. I was working full-time to help support my brothers and sisters. I was the walking dead. My only joy was eating. And I ate and ate and ate. I still wasn't fat. But I was eating like the world might run out of food on me between lunch and dinner.

Two years later I wasn't an athlete anymore. I got pregnant with Adrienne at 20, and at that time was humiliated when my doctor took one look at the the '227' on my chart and said "My your a big girl aren't you?"

So. Back to lunch. I still...all these years later...get this horrible panicked feeling at lunch time. When my food is gone, no matter how much I ate, I get this weird and very intense need for more. I've found that it will pass. But not easily. I get obsessed with food until I'm within an hour being able to 'legally' eat dinner (five o'clock...I don't have to eat that early. It's just that once I'm close to it being okay to eat dinner, the panic leaves.)

Looking back over my menus for the past month, I can see that I by far eat the most at lunch time. I also eat whatever snacks I eat during those hours. I almost never snack at night, and I've even been known to skip dinner (once I know I can eat it.)

Whew. Okay. I think that's enough thinking for one day! I'm off to Mexican food lunch with my dad and some of my brother's for a birthday celebration.

Send some leave-the-chips-alone vibes my way, okay?


Blogger Cookie said...

Oh Shaunta, this was a very moving post, thank you for sharing this with us. It is so astounding the role food, self-esteem, family/friend relationships, and so much else intertwines in our lives. It just reaffirms that we're not just here to lose weight but to make life changes.
As for your relationship with your sister, have you ever read The Weight Loss Diaries by Courtney Rubin? She writes about her relationship with her sister as she is losing weight and how it changes when she isn't necessarily "the fat one" anymore.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Louisa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Louisa said...

Firstly - sending those vibes you asked for!

Secondly - I too was moved by your post and truly impressed not only with your insight into yourself, but your willingness to search for the root of your issues in order to deal with them. I think that ability will be critical to your success.

I have a skinny sister too, and a heavier friend and I have to say I know what youre talking about. My friend in particular is very subtly trying to sabotage my efforts I'm positive of it .. I'm thinner than her now and it's grating on her. Changing yourself often does change your relationship with others, but I have decided that after 32 years of it being for everyone else - its finally time for me!


3:21 PM  

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