Monday, 19 January 2009

Talking Fat Part 1

**This will be the first in a series of entries of highlighting weight. There is just too much to say in one entry!

Recently I stumbled across the blog of a 22 year old, who is striving to loose weight. Topping the scales at about 315 pounds, she has realized that she needs to change her life. I will admit that I respect her ability to make her struggle public, and appreciate that she has been brave enough to post pictures showing her pre-diet physique. I haven’t spent a lot of time looking over weight loss blogs; mainly because I didn’t realize that so many people chronicled their lives in this online community. Several months ago I found a blog entitled “I have bones!!” also highlighting the challenges faced by one dieter. I kind of laugh at the title, because I can empathize with it – seeing my clavicles, and being able to feel the bones in my hands and feet, after all these yeas, is somewhat of a novelty. Plus I specialized in bones…so you know…

It is ironic that I should be sitting next to my workout class instructor while I’m writing this blog (a bit of guilt materializes as I have not been present in her class for the past two weeks).

I’ve briefly mentioned by weight struggles in this blog, but have never really touched the heart and soul of the battle. Over the course of the past several months I have had numerous people stop and ask me what sort of diet I have been on – the truth is, I am not on a diet. It is not about South Beach, Atkins, Mayo Clinic, Weight Watchers, or the sundry of other fad diets that exist in this world. No, if you are substantially overweight, it is not about “dieting”. It is about changing your lifestyle. When I started this challenge, I was substantially over weight…errr…ok…I was obese.

How did I get there?

I would love to say that it was a genetic predisposition to obesity. But it’s not, and I am not entirely certain that I believe in that mentality. My parents were both overweight, but they were far from stellar examples of proper eating habits. So no, I can’t say that I have a genetic predisposition to obesity. While I have Italian and Polish ancestry (*insert ethnic jokes here*), and while the general stereotype of both cultures includes a tendency towards plumpness, I don’t use that as my excuse. Furthermore, both cultures include a heavy reliance on foods laden with starches and carbohydrates. That could potentially explain the plumpness exhibited in both. No, I can’t believe that I was genetically predisposed.

I know the evolutionary excuse for obesity: throughout human history there has been a tendency towards periods of famine. Over time, the human body adapted itself to these periods by evolving a mechanism to ensure that calories were stored for later utilization. In modern times, and in the Western World, we do not go through those periods, but are still inclined to eat like there is a possibility that famine could occur. Hence we are obese. Or something like that. No. I don’t believe that I my fat was the product of evolution, or that I am some ultra-adapted human form (and for the sake of humanity, let’s pray that I am not natural selection’s answer to evolution!)

No, I got to the point of obesity through hard work and determination. I started university in a fairly good place, health and weight-wise. I was religious about working out, and was desperate to be that thin, pretty blond in class. And then exams happened. And then I started to loath working out – if I missed a day I beat myself up incessantly (working out can be a detrimental obsession). My ex boyfriend spent a week long vacation at my house – after he left I weighed myself, and was shocked to see that in the course of 6 weeks I had gained about 20 pounds. How did that happen????? That was 1999 and it would be 9.5 years before I would step onto another scale.

I was very careful about not acknowledging my weight gain. I have done a fair bit of travelling and would decline having my pictures taken at all expense. If I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t real. I wouldn’t go to the doctor – because doctors like to weigh their patients. Gradually over time more weight packed on. It is actually quite amazing how quickly it can happen. It took no time at all to go from a size 13 to a size 26 (yep, that’s where I peaked!). Oh it helped that I had a love for beer (and copious quantities of it), junk food, pop, and foods saturated in fats, butters, etc. I loved bread. Adored donuts. There was no cut off point either. During times of stress or uncertainty I ate. It also helped that I lived in a city that seemed to pride itself in unhealthy lifestyles. Sorry Thunder Bay, but we are fat, and alarmingly so.

Now – how could I let my body get so out of control?? Did I not notice what was happening? I think the benchmark of being obese is being able to look in the mirror and not see it. Even when photos were accidently taken of me, there was no actual registering of the problem. Plus there was the other factor: I was active. Considering I was fat, I never truly felt fat. I didn’t have the back aches, ill health, diabetes, etc. I participated in dog training. I hiked, backpacked, lifted weights, etc. I remember hiking up hill in the 100 degree heat in Guatemala with a pack strapped to my back, and being able to do it without backing down. People tell me I must feel so much better now – but the truth is, I never felt bad.

Ok so if I didn’t notice, what actually happened? I would love to say there was a warning sign that initiated the change. There wasn’t. Here is the truth – it was strictly society and vanity. First off, I started to find fatist groups on Facebook. What is a fatist? A person who hates fat people – fairly straight forward right? The Brits actually host a surprising number of these groups. Then there was the fact I had a crush on a guy who I knew would never like me if I was the size of a house (which is the absolute wrong reason to loose weight!). Let me just clear something up right now: if a guy (or a girl) couldn’t feel for you before you lost the weight, they aren’t worth your time once you have. Then there was Valerie Bertinelli (oh yes)…her comment about starting a New Year without having to worry about her weight was definitely an inspiration. Ok, and then there was the idea of turning 30 and not wanting to spend another decade trapped by my weight. And the idea of wanting to travel and not having to be stared at by cultures who are stunned by “giant North Americans”. All of these things were swirling in my head…

And then came the straw that broke the camels back…

The picture…
The one that got through….

My friends and I met at Kelsey’s one afternoon in late 2007. One of my friends was expecting a baby (rather soon), and we were celebrating the impending birth. A photo was snapped of the three of us together and there it was…I was bigger than my pregnant friend. Huh…who knew???

I enjoy talking on chat programs like MSN, Skype etc – but generally declined to share my picture. It was so much effort to snap a picture that hid the evidence of my fat. If you have been down this road, you will know – angling your head to disguise the double chin, lengthening the neck…and if all else fails – lean back and hold the camera above your head and let your fat droop back.

But there was the picture that didn’t hide it.

So with all of these things circling in my head, and the picture to top it off, I knew it was time to change. And that’s where I’ll leave it for today….

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