Please do not misunderstand me. I am not bragging. I realize that weight and emotional food issues are a real problem for a lot of people their whole lives. I know many people who have NEVER been able to eat what they want EVER, have always struggled with weight, and have real emotional problems that require psychotherapy when it comes to food. I am not in any way into making people feel bad for their own weight or food issues. It just so happens that I am not one of these people, so please, no hating. Or hate if you want. I am not trying to trivialize anyone’s struggle, or make my own made up problem more important, even though I have to withstand comments like “Omigod, just kill me if I get up to a hundred and sixty pounds, that’s like the fattest I ever was when I was pregnant. I had to buy size TEN pants,” when it’s a pretty big deal for me to weigh less than 160, and I don’t own clothing smaller than a 10. Some intense internal struggling has happened from having to keep my mouth shut when people say this crap.
The fact is that I am six feet tall and have been this tall since my teens. There is just more space for food to be distributed simply because of my body’s large volume. From my point of view, whatever your weight or food issues, you are probably littler than me, and I will see you as a cute little pixie kitten while I feel like a garbage truck. That’s just the way it is.
Until recently, I could really pack it away. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter – what with the whole hams and turkeys and gravy and potatoes and pies and cakes… sigh. I thought about entering one of those extreme eating competitions and really make a respectable showing by eating 200 wings in a half hour or something. I would watch these people gorge themselves on hotdogs and scoff - amateurs. I really had an iron and bottomless stomach. And I guess my metabolism just kind of kept up with it. Until recently.
I was on vacation with family, where I ate and drank with no regard to health or balance in any way, shape, or form. Bagels for breakfast, pizza for lunch, pasta for dinner, and snacks of all kinds thrown in every other hour for good measure. All of my eating was done before sitting and talking, while sitting and talking, and after sitting and talking. Exercise was not part of the plan. And in between, there was booze. It was freaking amazing.
My mother and I obsess about clutter avoidance and general tidiness, so we spent a morning cleaning while everyone else was out. After a mildly intense cleaning session we decided that we would reward ourselves with two or three Bloody Marys out on the lanai. I was mixing, and the air was clear at ten o’clock in the morning. We chatted and laughed about pleasant things, as only a mother and her grown daughter can while mildly tipsy in the morning. The rest of the family came back around lunch time, and we talked about what we would be doing the rest of the day. Someone was dispatched to fetch another batch of drinks, and lo and behold, I was drunk.
Unfortunately, I've been drunk before. It had been a long time before this particular time, though, and I was unprepared. I was reeling and unable to focus. I retired to my room to lie down. Several minutes or hours later, I had a shower and dressed, blew my hair dry and applied makeup. I also vomited. Blessedly, my family left me alone in my misery save my husband, who, also blessedly, was amused and didn’t mind at all that his wife of ten years and the wife of his children, the drill sergeant of his life, was a mess of Bloody Mary drunkenness, smeared makeup, and rumpled clothes that she may or may not have tried to iron immediately before showering. After a period of time, I rallied enough to remain vertical for minutes at a time and was able to keep down a few sips of water, so I fixed my hair and reapplied makeup, and we joined the rest of the family, who had by now migrated to a dinner party.
When we arrived, I had to endure the joking and teasing that should accompany an entrance after an early afternoon of drunken vomiting and passing out. I drank only water that evening; my taste for even a drop of alcohol was completely wrecked by the morning’s bacchanalia gone bad. To my surprise, the appetite I expected to have for too much greasy food and sweets after such an escapade was missing. I had a normal-sized appetite for normal foods, like salad and a little meat. I chalked it up to a tender stomach and promised myself I’d return to gluttony the next day.
Except it didn’t happen. Not that day, or the day after that, or even the day after that. We returned from vacation and I food-shopped for my family like a healthy person – vegetables and fruits, chicken and fish, whole wheat bread. Our family ate these strange and exotic foods for months, and I even ventured into buying organic. I tried to buy locally as much as I could, or at least fresh stuff that was grown in the USA. I stayed away from the center aisles in the grocery stores and kept to the perimeters, which was totally weird. We drank organic milk and water. Red wine and beer made their way into our diets, but never again at the rate we experienced on that one vacation. If I did overeat or drink too much, I immediately felt ill. Eventually I learned new limits.
Because I am a woman, I did not lose a pound doing this. I began walking around the neighborhood and following fitness shows on TV. Then I joined the fancy gym down the street. Exercise was still my enemy – man I hate it – but I felt the urge to improve. I was sick of living in my skin. So I exercised three times a week, and I felt great. I was in the best shape I have ever been in my entire life. I went to the doctor and got a physical, at which I announced to anyone with aural capacity that I was in the best shape ever, and that my baseline physical was going to be hard to beat. Everyone hated me more than you do right now.
I dropped a few pounds, my clothes fit better, and I had tons more energy. I didn’t miss gorging. Luckily, my husband magically came to the same conclusions about his body and health habits, only he started running, a cruel form of exercise that I am convinced only appeals to people with masochistic tendencies, and lost 25 pounds in two months. Even though I hated him for that, at least he was with me.
As life goes on, I find myself struggling to keep healthful foods in the house, because my kids just aren’t interested in whole-wheat crackers and fresh strawberries for snacks every day, and there is whining, and frankly, I’m just an average-bad mother, so I buy more junk food and stuff they could help themselves to without my help, like granola bars and packaged cracker sandwiches, the orange kind with a slice of dry peanut butter sandwiched in between, and chips and bags of Twizzlers. I also don't go to the gym in the summertime because having my kids home from school is a good excuse, because making excuses not to exercise everyday exhausts me. Every summer, I expect my tolerance for food and drink to increase.
I admit, it does, but never to the same level that I enjoyed my entire life up before that one vacation. Anything that was so delicious that I could eat so much of that my stomach felt like it could rupture at any moment is nibbled on and set aside. Times that I lapse and eat and drink too much leave me with horrible side effects that are too embarrassing to be documented here. And I feel awful on my breaks from exercising. I’ll never admit that I love it, but I do kind of look forward to school starting again so I could stop feeling like such a slug. And when it does, I go back to the gym and slowly return to any healthy habits I let go.
So there you have it. On one hand, I am healthier and have a handle on my appalling eating habits; on the other, I wish for those carefree years when four hotdogs and half a bag of chips and onion dip was what I enjoyed at least once a week for dinner. But I just can’t do it anymore. To quote my 101-year-old great-grandmother, who told me the last time I saw her before she died, “It’s hell getting old.” Amen, sister. Amen.