Hello. My name is Dr Smiter and I am overweight. That’s right, folks. For the first time in my life, in spite of a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and generally living as though I am Amish, I’ve somehow managed to balloon up into one of those people whose doctors take them aside, cough uncomfortably and say “we need to talk about your weight.”
Back in the day, I used to be a skinny chick. I was so scrawny as a child that my mum dragged me repeatedly to the doctor (I think she used to just tuck me into a Chiclets box) wondering whether I was actually a viable life form. I wore size 6X (suitable for six-year-old children) until I was nearly 13. (I was the only kid in Grade 9 whose underwear had duckies with umbrellas on it.) My childhood pictures generally look as though I was hastily assembled from a collection of pipe cleaners and glue.
In my teenage years I managed to catch up with my classmates and even put on a small layer of that “puppy fat” that heralds the onset of puberty in the female life form. Alas, during phys ed class one day in Grade 10, one of the teachers did a fat-caliper test on the underside of my arm (that spot that morphs cruelly into “bat wings” or Bubbie Arms in us older females) and announced, “Wow! You actually have a little bit of fat under there.”
I immediately did what any sensitive and over-compliant teenager would have done in my situation: I developed anorexia nervosa, followed closely by bulimia (the weight loss plan of choice for those who want to eat their cake but not have it, too). And hey presto, I was a skinny chick again. Really, really skinny.
After a stint at the local Children’s Hospital, I was packed off to a group home where my weight stabilized. This was partly due to the fact that I roomed with another girl who had a far worse case of anorexia than I did, and it grossed me out, frankly. Even at 17 I had an inkling that spending the rest of my life hoarding bread crusts in my dresser drawers, or rushing off to “freshen up” after every meal was not something I could sustain. Also, the other girls were way more messed up than I was. Anorexia depends to a certain extent on receiving attention from others, and my little middle-class pretty-girl quirks just fell by the wayside in the face of kids who cut themselves, kids faking concussions, kids getting knocked up, and that weird girl who read one too many VC Andrews novels and spent the rest of her afternoons rocking on the edge of her bed chanting “Go away! Go away! Go away!” under her breath.
So by the time I was shat out the other end of the Social Services system and safely into university (Dr Smiter just loves to defy stereotypes), I was pretty much back to what passes for “normal.” The next 20 years passed in a blur of school, work, relationships and just getting on with it. Never really a couch potato, I also spent a good deal of my time engaged in some sort of physical activity or other – swimming, ballet (really!), martial arts, running, cycling. This all makes me sound like one of those stringy Gen-X people who are always training for a triathlon or playing Ultimate Frisbee, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I am a klutz (as regular readers & acquaintances will know) and I am neither competitive nor social enough to participate in any kind of organized sport. I just like moving around. It makes my brain hurt less.
I also happen to like healthy foods; my mother raised my brother and me more or less organic (bless her soul… she couldn’t cook worth shit but she gave it her all) and to this day I much prefer fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains to anything I can buy at a corner store. With the exception of Doritos, of course, but hey, no one’s perfect.
So imagine my surprise when my doctor pulled me aside last autumn, shoved me onto the scales and told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to lose weight.
Actually, if I’m to be honest here, it wasn’t *quite* a surprise. A heel spur had forced me to give up running in June, and although I was still biking 3 or 4 times a week, I was also becoming aware that my trousers were feeling a bit tighter than usual. Not being the breeding sort, for a variety of reasons, I knew an unexpected visit from the stork was not the reason. But when I sheepishly offered to lose the five pounds I thought would set me right, the doctor hemmed and hawed and told me the figure was more like 20, at the very least.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor and retreated, deeply wounded and ashamed, to the privacy of my car, a fast-forward version of the Five Stages of Grief began in earnest.
Denial: You have got to be joking with me, buster. I’ve never been overweight! I’m just big-boned! (insert Eric Cartman voice here) And besides, the guy weighed me with my boots, jeans, jacket and belt on and that has to account for at least 10 lbs. (In fact, it counted for eight – I checked when I got home. This in itself warrants another column on how and when weight is measured, but that’s for later.) Splutter, splutter, splutter.
Anger: What a putz! The guy is a charisma-challenged stick insect (seriously, he looks like a tubercular Count Dracula with a mullet). How dare he judge me! I exercise four times a week! I eat my freakin’ veggies! Who the hell does he think he is?! Splutter, splutter, splutter.
Bargaining: Being the stubborn sort, this stage came out more as “defiance” in me, as in “I’ll show you, you knock-kneed praying mantis, you. I had anorexia once and I can get it again. You want me to lose twenty pounds? Fine! I’ll double that and you’ll be sorry!” If there had been a door to slam, I’d have slammed it. Nyah, nyah! More sputtering.
Depression: I am fat. I am ugly. I am middle-aged. I will have to run six hours a day and eat nothing but snow peas for the rest of my life, otherwise I will blow up like BarbaPapa and become one of those people who makes other passengers cringe when I lumber onto a charter flight. Shit, shit, shit. May as well throw myself off a bridge. (Heh, that’d make a hell of a dent in the concrete, eh?)
Acceptance: Well, the boots-jacket-and-jeans-on-the-scale issue aside, a closet full of pants that don’t fit any more tells me either my dryer is too hot or the Menopause Fairy is creeping up on me with a gift basket full of adipose tissue as the door prize. I’m too cheap to keep buying new trousers as I burst out of the old ones, so may as well get all Scots-Capricorn-task-manager on my own expanding ass and get busy.
And so it begins. My life as a skinny young chick is officially over. I can no longer eat anything and everything I want and make pompous declarations about how the North American obsession with calorie-counting is for losers. “Portion control” is my new mantra, Lycra and Dri-fit are more a part of my life than ever before, and daily, vigorous exercise is the new reality. Bye-bye, belly rolls.
If you need me, I’ll be at spin class, pretending I’m riding a big heavy bike over my doctor’s forehead. With my boots on.