Thursday, April 28, 2011

Big Girls Do Cry

I just read a post by Lisa at Life as we know it that could have easily been my story. Or one of many people that I know.  You may have heard it before...

I've been overweight my whole life (despite being born at just over 6 pounds and 'undernourished' - go figure), but still relatively healthy and active. I played softball during my high school years and have always loved bushwalking and all that kind of 'outdoorsy' stuff.

I went to high school in the mid-late 80s, when there weren't nearly as many overweight teens as they are now. I wasn't hugely obese, probably a size 16 (there are far more size 16 girls wandering around these days). I looked OK, I thought:
But others clearly didn't think so, particularly the boys that I desperately wanted to be noticed by. Actually, they did notice me. They called me 'Rollsy' and 'Fatso' and 'Jelly Belly' and shouted 'look out for the earthquake!' when I ran anywhere or did long jump and stuff like that.

I laughed it off, and was still 'friends' with almost everyone, but I didn't get to have the boyfriend, or become any more than a mate to the boys that I went to school with. Especially the ones I really liked. They thought I was a great friend, but that was it. They had a reputation to protect after all.

After school, I was still plus-size (but not obese yet). I always had to have the 'extra large', but could still wear normal clothes for the most part. I still had the same old problems. Lots of guy friends, but no one meaningful. I'm not sure why it was such a big deal to me. But it was. I just wanted someone to love me.

When I was around 19 I hooked up with a guy that didn't acknowledge me as his girlfriend until about 2 months in. That should have set the alarm bells off, but I was just so happy to have someone pay attention to me. I thought I was in love with him. He was nice some of the time, but he was pretty self-centred. When he dumped me (while we were living together), he told me that I'd be his soul mate if I wasn't so fat...

BANG. There I went. For the next three or so months I practically lived at the gym, eating little else but coffee and oranges. And yes, I lost a heap of weight. He thought I looked great. But by then I'd figured out that he was a prick.

Then I met Anthony and the rest was history. I knew he liked small women, but something else attracted him to me, and he always says he loves me no matter what.

You'd think that would be enough for me. That secure in the love of a good man I'd be able to execute my demons and find a healthy balance. But no. I think the issues that I have run too deep. Are ingrained.

I put on a lot of weight when I was pregnant with Sam (probably 30 kilos). Then I had a c-section and some pretty yucky post-natal depression, so it didn't come off in a hurry. In fact, it took me about 7 years to lose 20-25 kilos. Of course, then I got pregnant again. This time, I got to my heaviest-ever weight:
8 Months Pregnant with Oliver
After I recovered from my second c-section (I got an infection that slowed me down a bit), I got motivated, and over a couple of years I lost about 40 kilos. I was still overweight, but felt good, and healthy.
At my graduation in 2005
I managed to keep that up for a while, and was quite often heard to say 'I'm never going back there'.

Then, Anthony got sick (depression - a story for another day) and I had a tough year at work (colleagues that didn't always get along), and the weight started to slowly creep back on. Then Sam died, and it's been all down hill since then. I think I'm almost back up to my heaviest. Yes, I'm exercising regularly, but it's not helping.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, one thing that I got from Lisa's post is that it's important for us to talk about it. Not only because then people can give us help and encouragement but also because we need to make people aware of our situation. One thing that Lisa wrote that really struck a chord with me, is how we (us fat people) are often perceived as 'disgusting', 'lazy' or 'slack'; 'we've brought this on ourselves, and if we really wanted to lose weight, we would'.
In some ways that's right. But it goes a lot deeper than that. Most of us do want to lose weight. Desperately. And most of us have tried (and succeeded). Many times. We've probably spent more on books, gyms, equipment, pills, potions and shakes than anyone. I know I personally have a deep understanding of good nutrition and what we need to do to become 'normal'. We do lose the weight. And then something happens and we put it all (and then some) back on again. It's different for all of us. For some it's compulsive behaviour (I think that might be my problem), for others it's related to mood or even physiological.

It's not that we're lazy. It's not that we don't care or haven't tried. It's just that it hasn't worked. For many of us, it becomes a self-esteem issue, exacerbated by people's perceptions of fat people. And unrealistic expectations about how easy it 'should be' to lose weight. Woog posted the other day about the latest celebrity fad - 'How I got my body back'. Well of course it's easy when you've got a nanny, and a personal chef, and unlimited resources to pay for trainer, or gourmet organic foods. Shows like 'The Biggest Loser' don't help either. It's pretty easy to lose weight in those ultra-controlled environments. But who's got time to exercise 5 hours a day? How sustainable is it in the real world?

I know I have to lose weight. I want to. But sometimes that's not quite enough of a push.  I don't want to yoyo again (because that's just as bad for your body as being overweight). I want to get to a healthy, but sustainable weight. I'll never be stick thin, but that doesn't bother me.

The problem is how. As I said, I've tried everything. I know that I have to make sustainable changes to my lifestyle, but that's not easy either. Sometimes I think I'd like to try a lap-band (a couple of people I know have had great success with it), but it's well and truly out of my reach financially.

And it's getting started. And training my brain. I look at chocolate and say to myself 'don't eat that', but then go and eat it any way. I've got to change that thinking. And I don't know if I know how to do that. Maybe I'll try hypnosis, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Or something. I dunno. But I suspect you're going to hear a bit more about it. It's the only part of my 'life change' that I haven't got a handle on. And that's killing me. Perhaps I have a fear of getting everything right?

Anyway, thanks for listening. In a society driven by the way things look, it's hard to be a fat person. Sometimes I think we cop our fair share of discrimination, and it's good to share our side of the story.


  1. Mel's Dad/Sam and Oliver's GrandadApril 28, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    That high school photo is one of my all-time favorites, it's so natural. Nothing has been more consistent than your smile and your attitude(s) to people and life. Godd self image is important, and I haven't got that at the moment either, but one thing I know is if you really want something, you will do it. So, my dear girl don't despair, 'cause you are lovely, and you sparkle!!

  2. ditto, snap, jinx and bingo.

    i could have written that word for word about myself...almost eerily so, even the boyfriend.

  3. The thing is Mel, when I look at you, I see your amazing smile, lovely brown eyes, gorgeous natural curly hair. Add to that your infectious laugh and down-to-earth niceness. I think everyone who cares about you sees these things too. And also, we know that you exercise and strive to eat well. We don't think you are slack or lazy.

    I know you want to lose weight, and when you spoke about it in the first part of the blog, hypnosis and CBT came to my mind as something you could try. The mind is a powerful thing and it may well be the key to all this. I think they could be worthwhile avenues to explore.

    You are an amazing person Mel, the challenges you have had to face in your lifetime thus far are of spirit breaking proportion. Yet you have battled through them. And I for one, admire your strength and determination. You go girl. And as for the guys who didn't wanna date you in high school, their loss hey, in the words of Destiny's Child 'I don't think you ready for this, cause my body too bootylicious for ya baby'.

    Love Laura xoxoxo

  4. First, you're beautiful. And the picture of you in your 2005 picture is gorgeous because, you legitimately, look happy!

    It's not about your eating, at least that's not what I'm reading in this post, it's about everything else; coping, maybe?

    I'm a culprit of boredom eating, which made me gain weight a few years ago. Once I rectified the boredom/depression/lack of productivity, I managed to keep weight off, and get to a body fat percentage that I could be happy with.

    It's not about that piece of chocolate, (of course, I'm just a random person on the web, with no bona fides in this area) it's about what makes you incapable of taking a step away from the bad food, and that might be something emotional.

    Good luck, and you, at the very least, KNOW you can do it.

    I do want to ask: Did you lose weight before because you were happy? Or were you happy, therefore, you lost weight?

  5. Thanks everyone (Laura, you brought a tear to my eye - you are such a lovely person! Glad to have you in my family)!

    K. Syrah, thanks for your comments. They are some good food for thought (pardon the pun). As to your question, I don't know. I guess I was happy, and in a better place to concentrate on it, but I don't really see happiness (or any emotion) as a factor. I know that goes against all the wisdom of obesity; that emotional factors play a big part, but I overeat when I'm happy AND when I'm sad! I guess when it comes down to it, that's emotional eating at its worst. The tricky bit is finding a way to get around that...

    Ah well, onwards and upwards (or perhaps downwards would be more appropriate)!


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