I never would have thought we’d see a plus-size model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Much has been made of body size and body image lately.
Wish it were going on when I was a kid. For me, being fat brought shame and misery. I was the only one in my family with a weight problem.
My pretty sister was a popular cheerleader with great friends and devoted boyfriends. My mother was newly single, pretty, smart and dating happily. I was fat with braces, acne and frizzy hair. Suffice it to say, I did not date. Not for many, many years.
School meant teasing and loneliness. To comfort myself, I just ate more and continued to gain weight, outgrowing clothes on a regular basis.
Mom was a single mother who supported the family as a piano teacher. Often, she begged me to stop eating so much – she couldn’t afford to keep re-stocking the refrigerator or all the new clothes I’d need with each new size.
Being fat felt like the worst, most horrible thing to be. I hated myself and my body.
In my 20s, I starved myself down to skinny and that brought more misery. The severe deprivation brought weakness, anger and desperation. At 30, I found alcohol, which I’d never drunk before because I had food to fill my emptiness. I decided to drink instead of eat. Soon, I was doing both – binge drinking and binge eating. Bulimia set in.
After several horrible years of getting drunk, binging and purging all night, I was introduced to crack cocaine, which seemed the answers to all my problems. I wasn’t interested in anything else – so I felt crack cured my alcoholism. I lost all interest in eating, so weight wasn’t interesting, nor was binging, purging nor starving. I was thrilled.
But, of course, crack, as it does, took me down very very badly, almost irreparably.
I was one of the lucky ones and 12 miraculous Steps resolved all for me and now at nearly 52, I walk free of all my addictions.
But, imagine what my life would have looked like if my weight and my looks hadn’t meant so damn much. Bring on the plus size models.
I admit I wonder what other people eat and how they relate to food. At Dunkin Donuts this morning, the woman ahead of me ordered hot chocolate and a bagel with butter. Were they both for her, does she exercise, what will she eat for lunch, does she eat lunch?
All these years removed from compulsive eating, anorexia and bulimia, I’m still curious how “normal” people eat and wonder who is a normal eater and who isn’t and how that is defined, anyway.
In my last post, I talked about supermodel Tess Holliday, a plus-sized woman with seemingly fantastic self-confidence. I love her attitude and her message – love yourself at very size.
Holliday has gotten backlash for her weight and her message – some feel she’s a bad role model for women, particularly young women. They say she’s saying it’s fine to be fat, and that’s bad.
Most naysayers point to health-related issues that may occur with excess weight. I suppose that could be part of it, but woman’s intuition tells me that many people just don’t like fatness.
When I was 60 pounds heavier than I am now, I was in fine health. I wasn’t physically comfortable, but all my vitals were good and there was nothing wrong with me. But I can’t tell you how many people insisted I needed to lose weight. Near strangers raised eyebrows when I ordered dessert, asking if I “really need that”?
When I weighed my current weight, but suffered from severe bulimia, puking frequently through the day and over-dosing on laxatives, the compliments flew because I was thin. No one made any comments about how or what I ate. In fact, many sought my advice on how to lose and maintain a slim weight. But I was so sick and did permanent damage to my health.
So, you can’t really gauge someone’s health by her weight.
I am curious about someone like Ms. Holliday’s approach to eating. I don’t judge her – it’s her body (!), but just wonder if it is possible to have a healthy diet and healthy relationship with food and still weigh 280 pounds at 5’5? It seems it would take a lot of food and a lot of eating to maintain that weight.
My curiosity stems from my own lifetime of food and body issues. I always wonder…