Fat Bottomed Girls

One of the things you may be interested to know about me is that I used to be fat. Some would say I still am. But, starting a year ago today, I have lost 80 lbs. So, if I’m still a fat person, at least I’m a considerably smaller one than I once was.

Despite my being 5’2″, I’ve never been tiny. As a teenager, I was described using words like “strong” and “solid.” In high school, I was reasonably athletic, but I gained some weight in college. I don’t know how much, which probably means it didn’t overly concern me at the time.

The bulk of my bulk came in my 20s. During grad school, I gained about 15 lbs. That 15 and the 15 to follow were the happy pounds. I was a social eater, going out a lot, learning how to cook and generally having a pretty good time.

Every 4-6 months or so, I’d redouble my diet and exercise efforts and lose weight. I’d feel great, but then some setback or another would happen and I’d gain it back. And thensome.

It was the thensome that ultimately got me into trouble.

Although I somehow didn’t realize it at the time, the last 50 lbs were external proof of internal sadness. My late 20s were a time when it felt like the efforts I was putting into life weren’t yielding commensurate results. Or, if they were, it seemed like the rewards were going to other people with barely a thank you. I’d loan friends money, help them get jobs, give them a place to stay for weeks, months, even years. I truly believed I owed people these kindnesses, that having a lot means having a lot to share. I also believed, maybe naively, that my efforts and loyalty would be appreciated. That one day, if I needed something, they’d be there, happy to reciprocate.

I was wrong.

Yet, as people failed me, food delivered. It was reliable, predictable and made me feel good, albeit temporarily. Food was my constant companion, happily keeping me company as I waited for my real life to begin. And so, while everyone around me grew up, I grew out.

By the time I hit 30, my self-esteem was mostly non-existent. I hated buying clothes or going out. My anxiety got especially bad as social media grew – my deep aversion to being photographed made it near impossible for me to socialize comfortably. In time, my health started to be an issue. But, since the problem was a manifestation of my life being overwhelming, tackling it seemed even more so.

I didn’t mean to start losing weight. The first 30 lbs came off in less than a month through what I now realize was basically anorexia – I was simply too depressed to eat. The next 20 came from walking. I wasn’t sleeping, so every morning at dawn I’d drive to a path near my house and walk for an hour or two. I’d drag myself to work and then walk another couple of hours at night. My “diet” consisted of a tall Frappuccino, consumed over hours, and the occasional salad. It was a sad, weird time.

That first 50 lbs came off in about two months. The last 30 were slower, but healthier. I kept walking, but added Bikram yoga and circuit training. My diet has improved, although it still needs some work. I’d like to lose another 30 lbs, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. My impulse to run to food when disappointment strikes has mostly disappeared, so that feels like a huge victory for now.

People ask me all the time how I was able to lose so much weight so quickly. They want to hear numbers – pounds, calories, carbs. For me, though, the answer is feelings, not food. They may be less quantifiable than fat grams and exercise minutes, but as my feelings of confusion, frustration, sadness and stress grew, so did I. For years, I would have sworn that I had a good life, that I was lucky and loved and blessed. I truly had no idea that my waistline was telling a completely different story than the one I thought I was living.

Outward Bound:

• I didn’t know the work of Fernando Botero until I visited the artist’s home country of Colombia in February. His signature surrealist style, “Boterism,” features “emphatic forms,” like that of this deliciously zaftig woman lounging unabashedly in Cartagena:

20140417-154928.jpg

A little bit funny, a little bit cynical, Botero’s sculptures and paintings capture the spirit of a country grappling with the double-edged sword of economic development. Lady liberty for the super-size age.

• When she found out about my crazy walking addiction, one of my friends reminded me that it sounded a lot like that of the woman in Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed. I must have read that around the same time I read Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone because I seem to mix the two in my mind. I haven’t read either in years, but I remember both featuring honest accounts of the internal lives of overweight women. The former is a lot lighter than the latter, but I’d recommend Lamb’s.

• “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” (And other true lies co-dependents tell themselves…)

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