Weight, sadness and what I wore

That's me, front, second from the left.

When I was in high school, I was a size 12, which today would be a size 8.

I was proud of my tiny waist, it was a 23 as I recall, but my big hips bothered me. I wasn't delusional; I knew there was nothing I could do about them. There was no fat on them, just the hip bone. But I was aware of them.

For years, I was jealous of girls I'd consider scrawny today. They got to wear see through jumpsuits made of bubble wrap, and maxi coats that hugged their lithe bodies. Me, I settled for clothes that were tailored, like the outfit in this photo, shirts that didn't cling, skirts that weren't too snug. I would have been the perfect private school girl.

I realize now that my body shame started back in high school. It was hard to accept that I didn't have a perfect body, the kind the boys all drooled over. I was just an anonymous kid, the egghead, who hung out with the freaks and geeks in the audio-visual room.

I read my first diet book, by Adele Davis, back in Grade 10 after seeing her on the Merv Griffin Show. I didn't need to diet, but I knew I needed to know about dieting. So I became obsessed with diets.

On the outside, I was a normal teenager who ate pizza and drank pop. But on the inside, I always wondered how soon it would be until I was forced to consume a hamburger pattie, no bun, a peach slice and a mound of cottage cheese. (This was considered diet food in the 70s.)

My first diet was the Scarsdale Diet, an insane regime which was basically starvation in nature. The diet was popular with folks who wanted to drop a deuce in two weeks. I loved Scarsdale and spent years on and off it, consuming 700 calories, feeling the internal burn as my body suffered through ketosis. But I never got sick, not once. It was awesome.

The real trouble started when I had kids. After I had the boys, Irish Twins 13 months apart, I lived on Haagen Daz ice cream, big platters of beef and potatoes, cakes and cookies. I was a happy mom who loved her food, and ate it in large quantities.

When I was 31, I bought my first size 16. While I was doing other things, my tiny waist was swallowed whole by the beluga that consumed the rest of me.

I managed to lose that weight with Scarsdale just before I conceived my daughter Marissa. Amazingly, I was smaller the day after her birth than before I got pregnant. I was back to my high school weight, with big boobs that squirted milk. They were both handsome and handy.

Life couldn't have been better.

Then the bottom fell out. My husband left me with three kids under seven. My mother died suddenly, and I was completely alone. The career I had carefully nurtured crumbled under me, as I tried to stave off depression and thoughts of suicide. I spent years struggling with substance abuse.

Everything I cherished and believed in was taken away from me. There didn't seem to be much point worrying about my dress size, anymore. I felt completely unloved and unloveable.

After ten years, I managed to crawl out of my cave, and found love again.

But by this time, my boys were heavily into drugs, and my daughter was a ghost. Scott and I managed to bring them back from the brink, get them back into school, and right the Good Ship Simpson. But by then, I was in court, in the battle of my life against an ex-husband, who refused to help fund their education.

The final battle crippled me. The only thing I could count on was the warmth of my kitchen and the soft bellies of my beloved dogs. I made massive meals to feed the kids, and the crowd. I ate like there was no tomorrow because I knew I couldn't count on there being a tomorrow.

The bad stuff continued to pile on. I went through the menopause from hell. I lost my bladder control, and developed debilitating PTSD which was the fallout from the battle with my ex. I woke nightly, drenched in sweat, with night terrors.

And I gained 50 pounds.

When you grow up skinny, you don't realize that weight loss and gain is a cruel game. The weight loss doesn't last, the pounds creep up your back side, a few at a time until suddenly, without warning, you have become Jabba the Hut.

It's a terrible practical joke played on women, weight gain. It smacks you where you live -- right in the gut. I could lose it, but I couldn't keep it off.

Then suddenly, in middle age, the weight just moved in, like a permanent squatter, and no amount of exercise and dieting could budge the scale.

The last 20  years have been the worst of my life. I have suffered from low self-esteem, panic attacks, depression, economic uncertainty, the dull heart ache from the loss of my mother and my marriage, and the ultimate abandonment -- the fleeing of the children from the nest.

My sadness has settled, like memory foam, just above and below my navel.

My weight has consumed me, wrapped me in a cocoon, from which there is no escape. It has made me cling to the homefront and kept me out of the stores. Aside from the occasional pair of shoes and tops to replace the ripped, worn out ones, I haven't bought new clothes in close to five years.

But something good happened this year. I found out that I was accepted in a breast reduction program with a surgeon at the Ottawa Hospital. I was over-the-moon. It gave me hope.

Just one caveat.

My surgeon told me that she wouldn't perform a breast reduction until I lost about forty pounds. I should be worried. After all, I haven't been able to lose a single pound in five years despite a punishing exercise regime.

But I'm not worried, not at all.

I saw it as a sign. It was time to tear off the fat suit, and join the human race again.

I realize that my weight issues didn't start in my 40s or 50s. They started back in high school when my hips were too wide and my eyes were too close together. The girl in the photograph never got any older. Instead, she became a first class judgy bitch.

And she has let me know, every day since, that I am a failure, a loser and a fraud.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm in one of those horror movies, where the mom has to go into the ether to try to save her daughter from the demons that are consuming her. Insidious, that's a great description for the evil that has robbed me of my youth and vigor.

It's time to beat back the demons, and save the girl in the photo, and become the hero in my own story.


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