I don’t type those words as some declaration of self-empowerment like “I’m fat, dammit, and get used to it because I love me, faults and all!”
I type those words with quite a lot of sadness.
Those two words are two of the hardest words to come to terms with when dealing with oneself, at least for me, and it is an issue I like to dance around, hoping that a verbal slight of hand will distract from that fact that I am, indeed, an overweight gal.
When I was younger, I didn’t have these struggles with my weight. In fact, I was quite athletic and pretty fit. (My 20-year-old self doesn’t know this, however, and I would really like to travel back in time and kick her insecure ass.) I look at photos from that time and I don’t notice the appearance, but I notice the smile.
Very few photos of me from this time in my life exist, the most notable being the ones from Emily Gras, documented forever on the internet. In the photos that do exist, I see an inflated version of me, like suddenly I woke up one morning and was living my life walking around in a Sumo suit. The smiles? They aren’t the same, if they are there at all.
What happened to that girl? That one that was so full of life? The one that went to gigs, rocked out to bands, and hammed it up for the camera? The girl that would run every morning, would go out with her friends in the evenings for a couple of cocktails, and knew that she could take on the damn world? What happened to the girl that was secure with the person she was and had no fear?
What happened? The weight gain happened, creating a bubble of unhappiness that I lived in: unhappy with myself, unhappy about the way I physically felt, unhappy about everything I was missing out on, unhappy about the way I looked, unhappy that life seemed to be going on without me, and unhappy with the person I had become.
My weight gain came after a series of events – the life altering kind that often lead to things like depression – happened rapid fire, one right after another, in a very short time, leaving me to concentrate on taking care of everyone else and forgetting about myself or in a lot of physical pain where doing anything besides getting up, getting dressed, and homeschooling my daughter was pretty much out of the question.
Medication for health problems helped accelerate the weight gain, causing a small flame to become a raging inferno. Before I knew it, 180 pounds turned into 212 pounds, 212 pounds turned into 230 pounds, and 230 pounds turned into 265 pounds.
After I reached 265 pounds, I stopped weighing myself at all.
How in the hell did this happen?
I could try to excuse it by saying that fault belonged to the medication I was on, the health issues I was facing, or blame life in general. And, while those are things that may have contributed to certain aspects, using them as some sort of form of justification is no different than an alcoholic using a bad day at work to justify drinking a case of beer at home. The answer is really much simpler than that. I let it. It was the way I chose to deal with life.
A few weeks ago, I had one of those moment when you realize you can sink or swim. Me, I had been sinking for a while. I was tired of drowning. It was time to learn the breaststroke.
We left New Orleans for the Northshore four years ago as an extra measure of protection in a custody battle where there were whispers that the violent streets, bad schools, and instability of New Orleans would be used as grounds to file for a change in child custody and placement of my daughter. Whether or not it would have happened, I don’t know. The dust from an emotional and painful custody battle had just settled and I wasn’t willing to take any chances.
I hated leaving New Orleans and saying good-bye to the things here that brought me happiness: walking to Blue Cypress Books and chatting with Miss Elizabeth, spending the day riding the streetcar, getting snoballs at Miss Norma’s, having Mister Mike ask me how my mister and daughter were when I went in for a soda or bag of ice, and seeing my neighbors have a second line for their young baby boy’s baptism. Since the day I left New Orleans, I resented it, and that resentment followed me out to the isolated rural wasteland we were now supposed to call home.
While our time there was a healing time for us, individually and as a family, it was also a death sentence, squeezing out the last bit of fighting chance left in me after life had already run me over several times and drove away.
In January, the skies parted, the stars danced, and the gods began to sing. Opportunity presented itself at the right moment, at the right time, in the right place. We were going home, finally going back to New Orleans.
Our return to New Orleans resuscitated me. Instead of escaping into a book, I walked about our new neighborhood. I didn’t always stay at home on Friday night with Netflix, but hit up Rock N Bowl to see some live music. My mister and I even had a couple of date nights. I began laughing more and smiling often. My friends have said that even talking to me was different, like there was some weird shift in my life. And while I felt like I was being brought back to life, I also felt that there was still something missing, something preventing me from enjoying this city for all of the amazing off-the-beaten-path misadventure it has to offer.
And I realized that thing that was missing was me.
Some people can look at themselves and no matter where they are at in their lives, they are happy with themselves. They are able to accept themselves just as they are and they are able to enjoy everyone and everything around them without worry or care.
I’m not one of those people. Quite frankly, I wish I could be, but to be truly happy, I need to be at my best. Right now, I am not at my best. Not physically and because I’m not physically at my best, I’m not emotionally at my best either.
I’m not speaking vanity, I’m speaking about balance and health.
Instead of allowing myself to feel bad about it, I decided that this time, I was going to take back the control that I needed and that outside static wasn’t going to throw me off course, but would become background noise to further motivate me. I did some research and found a personal trainer. Tonight is my fitness assessment where my weight and measurements will be taken, a functional movement test will be done, and I will set my goals. I’m nervous – I picture me, the fat girl, walking into the gym and people turning their back and smirking. I’m excited – knowing that I am finally calling foul with my family and saying it is time for me to be selfish and focus a little bit more time on myself. I’m full of hope – knowing that this first step is the hardest step to take.