books · exercise · fat · food · Oprah · realizations · self-esteem

Wisdom of Fat

“Believe in yourself, and others will, too.”
That’s what my Facebook fortune cookie told me today. Somehow, I find it easier to believe in the wisdom of an imaginary Chinese treat than in the truth I hear in my own head each day.
I am a woman in 21st Century America. This means I have “body issues,” and “self-esteem issues,” and “food issues.”
I was not aware I had food issues until recently. As with many things, Oprah told me about it. I was aware I had problem with my weight; yes, I am a fat girl. (That’s right, I used the f-word! Get used to it.) I’ve gone up & down the scale since puberty, and have never liked the higher end. A lot of fat girls will tell you “Oh, I never eat more than a salad!” and you know they’re lying. With me, it’s true. Well, partly. I don’t eat much salad, but I don’t eat much of anything. I am the fat girl who doesn’t eat a ton.
Until age 9, I was the smallest, skinniest girl in class. Also the loudest, bossiest and surrounded by friends. My life changed between second and third grade, when I got glasses (not a bad thing–I was delighted to be able to read without a headache!) and gained 30 pounds! When school began in September, I looked like a different girl, and the same kids who had been my friends treated my like an outcast. I was stunned. Since I hadn’t changed what I ate, my relationship to food didn’t change then. The doctor only said “she’ll grow out of it,” which I never did.
I finished my years in that school miserable, and was thrilled when my family moved to a new state. It was a chance for a fresh start. I made new friends in that school, friends I still have today, 30 years later! And by high school, I realized I wasn’t as fat as I thought I was. I was still one of the bigger girls, but it didn’t matter, and I had fun! College was up & down, in many ways. I gained and lost jobs, friends, and weight, and grew up.
But I still did not realize I had issues with food. With how I looked, yes. How could I avoid that? I love glossy magazines. I am always ticked that my hair doesn’t look like the models, even when I follow the step-by-step directions! My lipstick never lasts, and my nail polish chips. Invariably, I miss a spot when I shave my legs. Yet I look in the mirror, and don’t see a goblin. I see a beautiful woman. A fat woman, too.
Watching Oprah a few weeks ago, I was struck by the stories of an audience full of women who say they’ll never need to diet again. All of them had read the guest’s book, Women Food and God, and have stopped being compulsive over-eaters. I watched, with tears in my eyes, and rushed to get a copy. But as I read, I realized –I am not this woman. I don’t eat to hide from pain, or out of denial. (I do tend to go overboard on the potato chips when I’m bored, but it’s not quite the same thing!) In spite of what Oprah and Geneen Roth say, I don’t have “food issues!” Whoo-hoo!
Turns out my issue is that I’m lazy, which my sister has known for years. If I’d get up off the couch and do some exercise, I’d be fine. Easier said than done, right? Am I willing to do an hour on the treadmill if it means I’ll be able to buy that dress I spotted yesterday? Maybe. But if it means I will feel alive again, get a grip on my life, and stop focusing on food all the time, then yes! As much as I hate to sweat, I despise feeling like a stranger in my own body more. Next stop–treadmill.