A Penchant for Plus: Sizing up Acceptance

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By: Jana Greene

Can we just be real here for a minute? I need to tell somebody this secret I’ve been keeping, and I thought 1,800 of my closest friends would enable a soft place to fall.

It’s official. I’m plus sized now.

Whoop-de-doo, you might be saying. So is half the adult population in America! Although that is true, and I have friends of all shapes and sizes and find them all BEAUTIFUL and stunning creatures regardless of what a little tag inside their blue jeans says, I cannot seem for the life of me to afford myself the same kindness.

That little tag meant nothing to me when I was a kid.

I remember being so thin that my step-father would make fun at me at the dinner table by taking two toothpicks and making them ‘walk’ around the table. “Look! These are Jana’s legs!” He’d laugh.

So hilarious.

Even my beloved grandmother – who was a big lady – fed me lines about weight as far back as I can remember. “Don’t get fat,” she’d say, point blank. “Most men don’t like fat women.”

Here’s what I wanted to say: “Well, that’s okay since I’m SIX YEARS OLD right now.”

Here’s what I said, “I’m sorry.”

Because I am always, eternally SORRY for every and anything, including the food I ingest. I’m starting to think the guilt thing is far more pertinent to my weight issues than I’d previously thought.

I wanted to ask her why there was a clause for boys. One of them rode my bus in middle school. He often wore a T-shirt that said “NO FAT CHICKS” (hey, it was the early 80’s – that kind of crap was allowed.) I’m not sure if this kid ever got the memo that he HIMSELF was a VERY fat guy.  He was known for being a fat guy. And for wearing a shirt that looked like this:

fat

Well, alrighty then.

My mother was always thin. And always drop-dead gorgeous. She didn’t seem to struggle with weight at all.

As a teen, I grew gigantic boobs practically overnight. This blog may seem an inappropriate forum to share that, but stay with me here. They were not SEXY big, they were FREAKISHLY big. Everyone – even my family – made a huge deal over them, so I started to think maybe fat was OK, IF it was in the right place. It seemed like a cruel twist of fate, since I had zero input in deciding where my fat went.

Let me make sure I’ve got this straight -Toothpick legs are bad (or are they good?)

Boys won’t like me if I’m fat.

Unless it’s boob fat.

Got it.

I grew up with an abysmal self-image, and became a lady whose weight see-sawed like crazy.  In my 20’s and 30’s, I was plump, but paid it no mind since I was busy doing things like growing new human beings in my body and nourishing them with milk, compliments of those enormous boobs. I wore mom jeans and baggy shirts, and stayed busy.

And then came the divorce. It was a horrible divorce. I had no interest in food whatsoever and took twisted glee in watching myself whittle down to nothing. I smoked 2 packs of ciggs per day and got my nutrients from Diet Coke.

I would play mind-effery games with myself, like ‘how little food can I get away with eating and still be alive?’ I lost 80 pounds total, and people told me I was too skinny or asked if I was sick. In some way, it validated me. They think I’m sick? I must be SUPER skinny. GO ME!

When I met and married my second (and permanent) husband, I was JUST RIGHT. I’d quit smoking and started eating normally again. He caught me right at a 10-minute window where I was my personal best. Ok, I’m exaggerating. It may have been a 15-minute window.

I took a solemn vow to never, ever, ever get fat again. Not to my husband, who has this quirk of finding me attractive no MATTER what age / weight I am at any given moment. I took the vow to myself never to get fat again.

Except that I did.

I started gaining when I quit smoking cold turkey in 2006 to impress my boyfriend (now husband.) That’s where the first 10 extra pounds piled on. I substituted Virginia Slims for Jolly Ranchers – preferably the sour variety. I constantly had a Jolly Rancher in my mouth, but rationalized that “at least I’m not smoking cigarettes.”

Maybe the catalyst was the hysterectomy I had in 2008 – I sure as sh*t haven’t gotten smaller since then.

Or the lack of exercise that followed major surgery to rebuild a broken ankle in 2012.

Or the way I use food to numb / enhance / punish / reward myself. (But that’s a blog post for another day.)

Perhaps I just freaking love to eat food.

I do, you know.

You would think seeing myself naked getting out of the shower would have tipped me off. It SHOULD have tipped me off.

You might think squeezing my muffin top into and under a pair of elastic-waisted pants  or squashing into shirts may have given me pause.

As long as it was size 14 or smaller, I could handle it.

I have a sick fixation with 14. It is the last stop in the ladies department

“Please squeeze into the 14. Please squeeze into the 14. Please squeeze into the 14,” I would plead with my fat.

To which it would reply: “Hey, look what I CAN DO!” before spilling copiously over the top of the waistband.

I am not in great health. Several of my medications carry the cruel side effect of weight gain. Migraines make it difficult to commit to a work out routine. Excuses? Probably. But also damn good reasons why I’m not the hottie my husband thought he’d married.

I’m not proud at all to share what I’m about to share, but in keeping it 100, I feel I must. There have been times in my 40’s that I have stooped to the “binge and purge” low. It’s gross, I know. It’s also more of a control thing than a food thing. It’s the ugly secret of having your cake and eating it too – just not keeping it down for very long. I haven’t purged in a long time – bingeing? Well, several weeks ago, there was that sale on Haagen Dazs and I needed to self-soothe an anxiety that I don’t even remember any more.

I have to employ the same 12-Step strategy that keeps me sober to help me deal  with my food issues. I’m so tired of food issues.

I’m tired of pleading with fat.

I’m tired of feeling guilty for every morsel I eat.

I’m tired of giving a little tag so much power.

I’m tired of assuring my own beautiful, smart, hilarious, strong daughters that they are PERFECT in the bodies they are in (because it’s TRUE!), all the while hating my very own body.

I will probably never have toothpick legs again.

I care less and less about whether or not ‘boys’ like me – I lassoed the only one I care about and he doesn’t seem to mind my extra fluff.

I will try to eat healthier, but put away the cat ‘o nine tails when I don’t.

So, hello, plus sizes.

I have one more regret. I’m sorry I villainized  you.

I think you’re the WWJD of clothing – soft and forgiving. I especially dig how forgiving you are. I figured since you’re probably going to stick around a while, we should make peace.

And suck it, little white tags. You’re not the boss of me.

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My Fat Pants Fit! (and other excitable statements)

SALAD

 

And it came to pass that she did not think of Munchos *every hour of every day, and her spirit learned to recognize that chocolate was – in fact – not necessarily the only means of spirit-soothing. And in that day, she did no more dread Romaine instead of Big Mac, but did so feel slightly feel slightly less like Jabba the Hut when dressing in the morning, as her pants did not cutteth her in half.

* But only every other hour

 

Today is Day 8 of “clean eating,” and the truth is that I do feel better. I am supposed to do 30 days, which – in theory – helps reboot my mindset about food.

Although my body feels better, the psychological effects come in lurches. For example, last night –  in a fit of seemingly random stress –  I  announced to my husband that I could eat a whole bag of chips all by myself at that very moment; that I wouldn’t even share with him.

“And,” I said, for dramatic effect. “I would lick the greasy, salty remnants out of the empty bag, after I ate it all myself!”

I really could have done that, but instead I just bitched about not being able to, and the urge passed. My husband, knowing my penchant for both bitching and the dramatic, just listened and lets it pass. He is so much saner than I.

For the hundredth time in the past week, the parallels between this 30-day program and my sobriety came to light. In a stressful moment, I wish I could obliterate. In reaction,  I do one of two things:

A) The healthy choice: Dig out my recovery tools – affirmations, prayer, mindfulness, admittance of powerlessness, and ask God for help. Examine why I desire to obliterate.

B) The less-than-healthy choice:  Gripe about why I cannot handle food, alcohol (it keeps going….fill-in-the-blank) with said substance like a regular, “normal” person, until the craving passes. And then examine why I desire to obliterate.

I am working on making choice “A” my default, but working is the operative word here.

Progress, not perfection.

I am also working on acknowledging the results of my eating regimen. Fussing about having to do something does not cancel out the effects of following through and not doing it. Successes still count, even if my attitude isn’t so peachy.

Instead of focusing on my Munchos/chocolate dietary deficit, I am going to give thanks that my (fat) pants fit!  I will give myself props for fighting the good fight,  and embracing the Romaine (figuratively, not literally. That would just be really weird.)

And ask God to soothe my spirit when I am stressed, on Day 8, Day 30, and for a lifetime; to help my mind stay “re-booted.”

And in that day ….

She shall enjoy the occasional chocolate as a treat and not a staple, and she shall rejoice in God’s bountiful creation of the components of the Hershey bar, and useth moderation in imbibing in the works of thine hand.

Alleluia … and pass the salad tongs.

 

Fear and Loathing in Lunch Phases

 

Credit: Jana Greene

 

It’s time.
It’s time to make some changes. Again. As with making any other change, I have to get to the point of absolute loathing before I am willing to seriously commit.
I am on cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes medicines, overweight and out of shape. I absolutely loathe the way I feel and look.

Beware the dreaded “always” and “never;” but I am keen to use it here: I always feel bad. I never feel healthy or attractive. I don’t eat “a lot,” but what I do eat is done in excess. In binges. After a binge, I feel guilty and fat. So I skip meals. Then I’m starving, so I binge again. Mad cravings for foods of very little nutritional value – fast food.
Lather, rinse, repeat. On and on. (Why is this cycle so familiar?)

I almost never exercise, because when I do, I am so winded –  and depressed that it makes me so tired. With one surgically rebuilt ankle held together with plates, pins and screws, it’s true that I can only do limited walking, and no high-impact workout. But you know, I really could do yoga. I have an exercise bike in the bedroom right smack in front of the damn TV! The cats think it is furniture for them, since they’ve never seen a human sit on it, much less sit on it and move.

And here, now….I am owning an actual goal – admitting (for the first time, even to myself) that I have gained 30 POUNDS in the seven years since walking down the aisle to marry My Beloved.  Thirty pounds in seven years seems like a lot. Just typing “30 pounds” makes me feel like failure incarnate. My husband loves me unconditionally, and I know that. But I know I’ve failed myself. I would love to lose 30 pounds. Okay, 25 (you have to factor in that I am, after all, in my mid-forties now…)

There are perfectly good reasons that I’ve gained so much weight. Let me go ahead and get the excuses out of the way …

In short order, I quit a 2-pack per day smoking habit,  cold-turkey. (Again, I had come to the ground zero of absolute self-loathing about it to make any changes.) And then I had a hysterectomy (TMI? Well, this may not be the blog for you….) Those two major health choices are responsible for 20 of those pounds. Other health-related issues, requiring many stints on treatment with steroids through the years, are responsible for the last ten. The broken ankle didn’t help things at all.

It was like this in getting sober thirteen years ago, too. Excuses I had aplenty, and they allowed me to stay active in my addiction disease. Excuses are now keeping me from being healthy and fit.

But (oh the inequity!) I am still responsible for taking the weight off. Where they came from – surgery, age, or a few late-night Haagen Dazs ice cream binges – is a moot point. Excuses – even the ones with valid origins – keep me from taking any action, right until the moment Self-Loathing lunges out of the shadows, beating Excuses up and stealing its milk money. Then it is GAME ON.

And like drinking, perpetuating my pattern with food is not only willpower, but a willingness to surrender. I’ve proven myself pretty powerless over food (see tomorrow’s blog post: Food: a short history of dysfunction.) I must learn a better way to live and trust God to make it possible in my mind, body and spirit. And I am a little afraid of failure.

So God….a little help here?

GAME ON. It’s time.