this is a hard one for me. hard to think about these things, admit them, put them out into the world. why it's hard - i don't know. it hasn't been a mystery to anyone except, perhaps, me. but it's kind of like alcoholics anonymous ... you have to admit you're an alcoholic before you can start to do the work.
i've spent the past 2o years being fat. obese, actually, many of those years.
it happened all at once, overnight, but it also took 20 years. and now i'm in the process of finally undoing it. the undoing is going well, but if i don't want it to happen again, i need to speak my truth to the room.
i'm michele, and i'm fat.
i wasn't always, which is the bitch of the thing.
i was a skinny kid. couldn't find pants skinny enough. there was a brief chubby period the summer that i stayed with my dad longer than four days. i was given crap to eat by an ex-step-witch who was trying to gain my trust and favor and silence. i was left home alone with mtv and little debbie's while she ... ?? don't know. sometimes i was left with her little sister, who would go upstairs to smoke pot and have sex with her boyfriend while i was downstairs.
but that's a digression. this isn't about that. except to say my journey into fatness has a lot of little alleyways and side streets that got me there. that's one of them.
another is all the ways i was told how unattractive i was, by the people who were supposed to love me most and build me up. "turkey eyes." "pig nose." "your chin is weak." "your ankles are thick." "your hair is thin." "your bones are big." "you have dimples in your elbows." "your sternum isn't flat, so you will always look big."
my. fucking. sternum. what do i do with that??
and, mind you, these things were all told to me from childhood through high school. the biggest i was in high school was a size seven. i was an athlete. i was a swimmer. but ... i was big. i was unattractive. it was too bad, really. especially in light of how lovely all the other women in my life were. which was a point i never failed to miss.
somehow, despite all that, i never fell victim to an eating disorder.
but ... maybe i did. because i spent 20 years being fat. after 25 years of being skinny.
with all the ... ahem ... wonderful things in my life through the adolescence years, i also had depression. undiagnosed, but knowing what i know now ... yeah. and it wasn't good. i have large blocks of memory that are just gone. when people would ask me what was wrong, i would say, "nothing," because there was nothing. my mind was a blank, black, void. and then portions of my life became blank, black voids. there are still whole years about which i remember next to nothing. i do remember wanting to just disappear. a lot.
despite all of my obvious physical and mental health flaws and lack of worthiness, i not only attracted a guy, but i attracted THE guy in college. the hot guy. the hot guy who also became the successful guy. and he wanted me not because i was beautiful, but because - in his words - i was smarter than he was, and i didn't need him. and it didn't matter if i wasn't a beauty prize; i had worth. and i grabbed on to that life raft, without ever detaching myself from all my anchors.
we had a perfect little boy, and within six weeks i was back in my pre-baby jeans. all was well. and then:
six weeks in, i experienced the double whammy of peri-menopause brought on my my shifting hormones, and post-partum depression brought on by ... well ... being post-partum. the hormones i went on for the peri-menopause put 20 extra pounds on me within weeks. i barely noticed it happening because of the PPD. eight months into motherhood, the PPD spiraling, my husband took me to the doctor and told me not to come out until i got help. i was put on an anti-depressant, and another 20 pounds came on within weeks. i lost myself completely into another blank void.
five years and another baby later, i couldn't recognize myself anymore. when i looked in the mirror, i saw me, but me in zipped into a fat suit. and the fat suit didn't phase me; it was protective. i no longer had to feel terrible about myself because my "good enough" wasn't good enough. the further i let myself go, the less close i was to "if only ..." you can't wish for what you don't have if you are so far away from it that it does no good to wish for it in the first place.
i would never be the beautiful daughter. i would never be the beautiful wife. i would never have a better chin, better hair, small ankles or wrists or bones. my goddamn sternum would always be a burden, my elbows would likely dimple even if i weighed 80 pounds. so why put myself through trying to get there, if there was never a place i could reach?
and then one day, four months ago, my husband and i were in the kitchen, arguing about why i wasn't making my life and health a priority. and i had a rebuttal for everything ... why it didn't matter, why nothing would work, why why why. and he broke down. he sobbed. he told me that he was terrified of me hating myself right into an early grave and leaving this family.
with that, he hit on the one thing that woke me in the middle of the night in a panic attack.
i love my husband. i love my children. i love the three of them more than anything on this planet. and despite evidence to the contrary, i love my life. more than i ever thought i would. the thought of not being with them terrified me. the thought of them moving through life without me broke my heart. the thought of some other woman taking my place enraged me.
and so i made the call. a friend had been chronicling her weight loss journey through covid, on a weight loss program, and had been so successful that she decided to become a coach for others. and she was a lot like me - similar age, dealing with off-kilter hormones, a mother, a long struggle with weight and nothing working. but whatever it was she was doing WAS working. so i swallowed my pride and told her to sign me up.
in my mind, being on a program that tells you what to eat, when you can eat it, was not what i wanted. i was smart; i'd done the research; i knew what to eat, how to exercise. but ... none of those things ever helped me. and for every one thing that said "do this," there was another that said, "never do this, only do that." the contradictions stressed me out. i couldn't do it anymore. i wanted someone else to take the reins.
and so i gave over control. and one month in, i'd lost nearly 18 pounds. the next, nearly 10. i'm now in my fourth month, and this week i will hit 40 pounds gone.
it's blowing my mind that this has worked. and can i just say: i feel proud of myself, and more comfortable in my skin than i have in fucking YEARS.
i still have a ways to go, but i'm ticking off my goals. the first was to lose 20 pounds, so i could see that the program worked. after that, i made goals for getting back in the 100s, hitting 50 pounds gone, reaching the weight i was when i practically killed myself to fit into a bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding 15 years ago, reaching the weight i was when i got married.
it may be a long shot, but every goal i tick off is a win that i will take and appreciate and celebrate.
there is still a long road ahead of me, and quite honestly the physical changes might be the easier part of the journey than the emotional ones. the hunt is on for a therapist i can trust; there are obviously some things i need to work on, or that fat suit of armor will show up again the minute i let down my guard. but now that i know i'm allowed to take care of myself for no reason other than i value my life and well-being, my will will be strengthened to prioritize looking out for myself .
i can't be anyone else. there's no reason to compare or feel bad when i fall short, because it's pointless to wish for things you can't have. but i can do the best with what i've been given. and if it still isn't good enough for others, and they feel the need to push me down to - feel better about themselves, maybe? - well ... fuck 'em. i'm too old to be bothered by that anymore.