Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chapter I: Born Thin But That Didn’t Last Long

I have not been fat my entire life. I was born a long, thin baby. Although I've been told the stats many times I don't remember my length or weight at birth, but pictures show me as a long thin baby with a mass of black hair.

As a small child, my mom was afraid I wouldn't eat enough to grow (little did she know!). She encouraged me to eat. She encouraged snacks. My earliest memories are of snacking on potato chips, Fritos, Jell-o, popsicles, Kool-aid, Ritz crackers. Oh yes, I was a healthy eater, but I certainly wasn't eating healthy. It wasn't all junk food though. I ate other things too, like cottage cheese which I found made a great dip for Fritos or spread for Ritz crackers.

By the time I was four or five, I was a big girl. Looking at pictures of me back then I was certainly not obese but definitely chunky, a little heavier than your average kid. I was also a klutz, not coordinated, and afraid of getting hurt. I became the original couch potato kid spending more time watching TV and later reading books than engaging in actual physical activity. I remember knowing by the time I went to school that I was overweight and a klutz and an outsider.

When I was entering second grade, we moved to a new town. I started at a new school with strangers to me. I knew that I was fat, a klutz and would definitely be an outsider here. Mom continued to feed me to comfort me, always having a snack on hand when I arrived home from school. I tried to fit in with the other kids but never did. I was too smart, too fat and too unathletic. I was a nerd. So I ate. Food was my only friend, my comfort.

I had a huge turning point in sixth grade. Each quarter at report card time, we would march down to the school office where we would step on the scale, and the school secretary would record our height and weight on our report cards. One quarter end, I weighed in at 122 lbs, and 5' 1" tall. My mother had a fit. Apparently she had not recognized me as fat until this weighin, and she was appalled. I weighed almost as much as she did (of course, I was also only 2 inches shorter than she was). She immediately put me on a diet. No longer was I allowed to eat what I wanted but only what she dictated. She told me I could not be trusted to dip up my own portions at dinner, and she started doling out what she deemed were appropriate amounts. She altered my lunches that I took to school so that sandwiches no longer had two slices of bread, but just one. There were no more between meal snacks. In reaction to this I became the world's best food sneak. I learned how to sneak snacks up my shirt sleeve, in my pockets, tucked in the waistband of my pants. I learned how to eat a few spoonfuls from a container, and stir it up so it didn't (in my mind anyway) look like there was anything missing. Whenever I had extra money (like birthday money or something) I would go buy chips and/or candy with some of it, and tell Mom that whatever toy or book or clothes I bought with the rest were more expensive than they really were. When the next quarter end came, I stayed home "sick" the day I knew we were to be weighed at school. However, when I returned the next day the teacher sent me down to the office to be weighed anyway. Drat. I have no memory of my actual weight that day, but it wasn't significantly different from the prior weigh in. The secretary wrote it down on a piece of paper and sent me back to class. I crumpled up the paper, threw it away, and reported to the teacher that my weight was 110 lbs. She wrote it on my report card, and Mom was thrilled with her success at having gotten my weight under control. Even then, I wondered that nobody could see that my weight was not significantly different, but nobody ever questioned the numbers as reported on the report card, so I suppose people see what they want to see.

To be continued. . .

Next installment: the fun junior high and high school years


FTN said...

It's amazing how much of our (well, women in particular) body image issues and weight issues come from our parents and what they instilled in us as children. I could psychoanalyze my wife (or, more specifically, her parents) on that subject for hours.

Trueself said...

FTN - I have no doubt my parents (and most probably Autumn's as well) were quite well meaning. However, they did not achieve their intended results. If I ever do get my weight under control it will be in spite of, not because of, their influence.