No, really, it's true.
I've always been a big eater. When I was a kid, my Mom used the old Mom line "you must have a hollow leg!" a number of times and when I was a kid, this presented no problem. I spent my childhood on the back of a bicycle. As soon as I was able, I rode everywhere on my bike. I once rode from Beaver Dam to Waupun one afternoon, on a whim. Hiking, biking, swimming, climbing... anything outdoorsy.
But... as I grew older, I spent more and more time with my computer, more time exploring academic interests, less and less time with activities. After High School I began a slow, steady... inflation. Very slowly at first. I had a factory job to start with, it kept me moving and on my feet. Later, as I started to assume more office duties and finally got myself into a design job, my ass started to spread. The kiss of death came with I took a call center position. Eight hours a day of sitting on my ass. I'm not sure, but I think I've put on over 100 pounds in the last two years.
Now, I'm never going to be "thin". I've never considered myself good looking. My face is a riot of conflicting genetics that did not reach an harmonious balance, but this doesn't mean I don't like the way I look. My face is very expressive, I've got nice eyes and I can do that Mr. Spock thing with my eyebrows. It's an unfortunate trend that good-looking people tend to get a little lazy about their personality and attitude. It's not flattering. So many people are seemingly willing to put up with soooo much from them because they are easy on the eyes that they are quite often a little vapid, boorish or out and out abrasive. Me, I've got no choice but to charm people with my personality. I've worked very hard at being well spoken and clever, so I think that more than makes up for my awkward appearance. I like to think that, like a good Gourmet, I'll always be a little thick around the middle, a little jolly tummy. I think it makes me less threatening, people relax a little more, which speeds me on my way to getting to know people.
However, I have now proceeded beyond "A little thick", beyond "A Lot Thick" and straight into "Too Thick". I know this for many reasons.
I know this because it's becoming harder to find cool clothes. No more funny t-shirts for me, those bad boys stopped at 3x (if I was lucky).
I know this because I have developed wicked high blood pressure. Yes I'm controlling it with medication but I never, ever wanted to become one of those people that needs pills on a daily basis. What am I going to do if the Zombies invade? They aren't about to let me run to the Pharmacy!
I know this because I'm starting to feel... handicapped. I can't walk the distances that I used to. My mobility is really starting to suffer. I've never considered that there was any physical activity that I couldn't do and now I'm being confronted by the fact that some things have quietly slipped out of my reach while I was at the buffet.
I know this because, over the last couple years, I've started to get... The Fat Talk.
It comes at odd moments, but usually when I haven't seen people for extended periods. I suspect they are shocked and dismayed by how much I've ballooned up and feel the need to say something. I got it from our in-laws. I've got it from a few old friends... and I'm always torn about how to feel and/or respond to them.
I know it's based on concern and it's flattering, gratifying, heart-warming and sweet. But what inevitably goes along with The Fat Talk is The Diet Advice... which I don't feel as charitable about.
What I should eat, what I shouldn't eat. How to eat low fat, how to eat low carb. You should try Atkins, you should try South Beach, you should cut out soda, you should cut out meat, you should cut out bread, eat more veggies, yogurt, drink more water... blah blah blah. The basic assumption here seems to be that I don't know how to loose weight, otherwise I would have already done so.
How in the world can I explain to people that I own over 100 cook books, many of them diet books? How can I explain that I watch cooking shows compulsively, that I read food magazines, read Foodie websites and that I KNOW all the facts about food? How to tell them that I know all the tricks to eating healthy? Do they understand that I can make an awesome low fat cream sauce with a quarter of the fat, and all of it unsaturated, that is so good it'll make you want to slap your Mama?
How can I explain that for me, food has always been entertainment? That an afternoon sitting on the couch, watching TV, is boring but a bowl of buttery popcorn makes it a treat?
How can I explain that my Mom sucks at comforting people? She's not particularly expressive and tends to get nervous, stumble over her words and say the wrong thing... so she switched from talking to cooking when comfort was needed. That my Mom's fried egg sandwich with cheese is my Death Row dish... that nothing else means love and comfort to me like it does? That food, comfort and home are synonymous with safety and security in the deep core of my brain?
How can I explain the number of times that I've started a new diet, a new exercise regime, a new plan, a new day... only to fail, again and again till you get sick of yourself, you loose confidence, you realize how little self control you actually have and you start to dislike yourself for it?
I know I'm not healthy. I know that what I have been doing to my body is tantamount to a slow and lazy form of suicide. Like an alcoholic, I'm killing myself by inches, but this is something so wired into my brain, so fundamental to my nature that it's like teaching a scorpion not to sting.
Part of the battle over the last year has been realizing and defining what my relationship with food is. Realizing that in order to get this under control I need to change the fundamental approach and start as far down twords the foundation as it is possible to go. It's not easy. Doing this without blaming yourself, without adding to the self-loathing that is threatening to creep in is hard. I can't explain, dear reader, the battle that is being waged in my head, you wouldn't understand.
I feel like I should wrap this little post up with a ray of hope. Some indication that this sad tale might have a happy ending or that this situation is on the mend... but that feels wrong. You cannot speak of the end of a battle when it has just begun, it's presumptuous. It would demand powers of foresight neither I, nor anyone else has. Only this comfort can I give, that the battle is joined and no surrender with be sought.
A Fresh Voice for San Francisco
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