Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From the Yo-Yo Universe

In my Yo-yo universe of weight loss, I've known the vilification that comes when you do not live down to friends', colleagues' and/or family members' expectations of whom they believe you to be. For them such abuse is a gross injustice. Here they are counting on your adherence to the gravitational pull of their spheres and you go wack-a-doodle and set them on an obscure orbit of self-loathing, when it is you who are supposed to be the self-despising one? No, no, no! That just won't do! Equilibrium must be restored and either you restore it with changed behavior (weight gain, a fatter body, a chubbier face) or there is banishment to the wanton abyss of disapproval, argument and fury.

My first apprehension of this occurred when I lost 45 pounds in high school. There was flack, flack, flack from my mother. Mind you, she had badgered and berated me for being fat for as long as I have memory to recall, mostly after the age of four. Now, the opposite was happening. She lost her platform. I was attenuating before her eyes. Was this something good, or was this something bad? There was turmoil within her.

On my part, by losing weight, I thought I was surely gaining her love, acceptance and pride which I so yearned for, because she often acted with public disdain or angry disapproval at my being a fatty.  Now, something strange was happening to her. As more and more of my weight came off, she became silent and thoughtful. Then she came out with it and questioned my eating habits. The diet I was on was low calorie and low carbs and I didn't eat a lot of pasta, a staple at our home. I was still around 25 pounds overweight for my height and age, according to today's BMI calculators. But she had no control at this point and it was beginning to gnaw at her.

As the situation progressed she voiced her immense concern that I was not healthy losing all the weight. She couldn't remember when I had been this thin. (I had never been thin, hello...except maybe at birth. But she had a skewed concept of thinness. She herself was on average 40 -50 pounds overweight, but it didn't matter because I, obviously, was the one with the problem. ) She felt compelled to take me to a doctor for a check-up. (She never discussed my health issues being fat. It was only appearance issues and "dating" issues as the reason I should lose weight.) She wondered whether all this weight loss was harming me, though I was clearly heavier than my female peers. We went to a doctor who gave me a full physical and all was fine. I was healthy, which I had affirmed to my mother all along. But she didn't trust me. (She trusted me to be fat, but didn't trust me being thin. And this was before there was even such a disease as anorexia nervosa.)

The picture of health! Me. Of course I was fine!!! I had lost a lot of weight which had been  burdening my heart and taxing my inner organs and my body was thrilled as was I. But what about Mom? During the discussion of why she had brought me there, my dieting, the doctor, in keeping with his knowledge of nutrition and weight loss. brought up the subject of diet pills which would decrease my appetite, speed up my metabolism and help me along with my weight loss. To this day, the unfathomable stupidity of such an action is beyond my comprehension. Speed given to a teenager. My mom agreed. After all, my diet plan obviously wasn't working to her satisfaction. Now, under a doctor's care I would get some speed and appetite suppressants and yes, also, a water pill. Great! I would be really healthy!

Bottom line. I had been successful on my own. And it had to be stopped! Well, it was. I took the pills and didn't really like them, and ditched them after a bit (I never went back to that doctor again; I didn't trust him.) but I kept with the water pill until I finished a few bottles. Not only did I throw off my metabolism at a young age, but the water pill screwed up my electrolites and other enzyme levels. I did lose weight as I kept up my diet plan. But I found I had to eat less and less and I was hungry. My metabolism had been upended and I didn't really understand what was going on. What I needed at this point was a specialist in endocrinology, perhaps. But then (1965) what did researchers and doctors really know about such things as diet and nutrition and metabolism? Do they know more now? Yes, but not all that much to end the "obesity epidemic" in this country. I had never understood this incident before in light of my years of Yo-yoing, but I now see the impact of that doctor's visit. Chemical substances create havoc in our bodies. No wonder why I found  it difficult to regain the equilibrium I had achieved on my own diet plan. My body had changed. Mom was happy.

I was able to get down to around 138 using the water pill and really restricting my calories at this point, not understanding what was happening with my metabolism. I remember a few telling reactions to my weight loss from female classmates. (Guys, the straight ones...{gays didn't exist on LI in those days} noticed me and were nice.) One young lady who also had weight issues (she was about 15-20 pounds overweight) told me I was "getting so skinny!" It was not a compliment. I remember feeling very uncomfortable and not knowing quite what to respond, but she let me know in no uncertain terms that my weight loss was a rude affront to her: she was not pleased that I had succeeded and looked good, where she was failing in her own eyes. A second reaction I received occurred when a popular girl in the class made it a point to vociferously compliment my friend who had lost about 10 pounds while I sat and endured her ignoring me, my accomplished weight loss,  my very presence. (Later, when she lost her voice and couldn't act a roll in the school play, she was forced to deal with me when she gave me the good news that the director wanted me to take over the part. I guess that made up for her complimenting my friend's 10 pound weight loss while abjectly ignoring my 45 pound shrunken frame.

What people do and don't notice! Blind to a attenuating pig? I don't think so. Too funny.  My gym teacher was also funny. For two years she had seen me shrinking into the floor, groveling before her and cowing at the very public gym class weigh in. She had seen my struggling kicks to move 0 inches up the rope we all had to climb as I sweated and grunted, too fat to pull up or support my body with my flabby arm muscles; I would have burned alive in a building if the only way out was to climb a rope! Now, here I was a leaner version of myself, exuberant, thrilled to leap on the scale to be weighed. She sniffed, I remember, as she looked with disdain at the scale number and IGNORED me like I wasn't there. Congratulate me? Compliment me? Ha, ha, ha!!! She preferred to see me as the fatty, incapable of doing much of anything in gym. But then, her acne had been so bad as a teen, the pitted skin on her face was a testament to the mockery she must have received. It didn't make her empathetic to my plight, though and you think it might have. On the other hand, the other gym teacher was wonderful and encouraging. Curious dynamics! It takes all kinds to "learn ya."

In any case, my wheel to woe yo-yo was set for the next 45 years. I wasn't able to sustain the 138 pounds "skinny, skinny, skinny" and my classmate was reassured. My mom never discussed my inevitable 15-25 pound weight gain and loss and gain and loss through college up to my junior year when I became gianormous again, gaining all of the lost weight back plus fifteen pounds (around 190 pounds). She was fine with it and didn't say one word! I guess she was afraid I would become really thin again and she would have to find another doctor to give me pills. Interestingly enough, when I was the fattest I had been at any point in my life; she had gone on a diet and lost weight and weighed around 138; she was still overweight at 5'1" on current BMI calculators. But I guess her hypocrisy got under her own skin so she shut up about me and did something about her own overweight condition. At that point she was thinner than I and very pleased. I was at an unhealthy weight and I had yo-yoed to get there; my physical condition was clearly on the downhill swing.

Oh the dualism of not caring when an obese friend/family member is destroying their health by overeating right in your presence and then believing that they are "on their way out" when you KNOW that their 30-50 + pound weight loss is intentional and motivated and successful and slowly achieved! I'd find such galactic hypocrisy staggeringly funny if it weren't so pathetically subhuman and invariably damaging.

Addendum to friends, family, colleagues of fat people losing weight:  

Please! If an obeser you know has INTENTIONALLY lost weight and looks great and is becoming thin, like you, GET OVER YOURSELF! If you can't, go get counseling. Ask yourself WHY their weight loss IS GETTING UNDER YOUR SKIN! Do a soul check. If you ARE JEALOUS, DESPERATE TO LOSE WEIGHT, WISH YOU WERE THINNER, WISH YOU LOOKED BETTER, then do something! Make up your own plan. Pray to Ganesh or Buddah if it helps, but be introspective. And correct your envy, jealousy, self-loathing or self-hatred. Obese people have one hell of a time in this culture and on this planet. It would help them if you try to be kind, empathetic and above all, SELF-LOVING! (meaning if you love yourself first, you will be generous, kindly, empathic and giving to others...it doesn't mean self-absorbed, narcissistic or arrogant). Try to be loving. If you can't, then why not have a bag of potato chips, cake, ice cream and fries in one sitting and continue overeating to UNDERSTAND what obesers go through. Smarmy self-righteousness and sanctimony about your own thin superiority went out with the Puritans. Wake up. It's a new world!


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