Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Blast to the Past

     I updated my "about me section" and it took me to a place I did not expect.  When did this struggle begin?  From the stories that I have heard, I have always been a bit of a chunk.  I was born weighing 9 1/2 lbs.  I can only imagine my mother gazing at the little plastic crib in the hospital wondering how in the world she survived the birth of the "Grape Ape" as she has sometimes referred to me.  She has told the story so many times, and I enjoy hearing it each time.  She waited too long to go to the hospital, my dad insisting they go and her rebutting that it would be HOURS before it was really time.  He finally convinced her and I was born within the hour.
     Growing up, I was the heaviest of all my friends.  The only one who even came close to my size was my sister.  My friends consisted of neighbors, somehow all of us were nearly the same age and most of us wound up in the same grade.  Most of them were thin enough that you could see the bottom of the rib cage jut out slightly.  I remember looking at them and wondering why they were deformed.  It wasn't until many years later that I realized it was me who would be considered deformed.
     My first crush was a neighbor.  He was my age, but much smaller.  I remember being head over heels with him until around first grade.  Legend has it that at four  years old I would have him pinned against the fence giving him a piece of my mind (and I wonder where my daughter gets it from).  I also ran inside and demanded my mom make me a wedding dress because I was going to marry him.  Thus, the first of many heartbreaks would come to be.  At some point he told me he no longer loved me, that he loved my sister because he liked chubby girls.  Apparently I intended to fix the problem by eating everything in sight so that I could be chubbier than her.  Although I could go sit on a therapist couch and claim that this was the beginning of the end, I don't believe it.
     Unfortunately, it was the beginning of a youth filled with ridicule from all around.  What's the easiest insult to throw at a heavy person?  "You're fat!" or "Fatso" or "Pig".  I recently took a walk down memory lane and looked at my yearbooks.  In my fifth grade autograph book, one entry reads along the lines of "good luck finding a boyfriend...EVER!"  Since I am a fifth grade teacher, this pains me more for the girls in my class than for myself, although at the time, I remember it hurting so bad.  This is the first REAL painful memory that I have.  I was only 11 and already being attacked for not having a boyfriend.  Unfortunately, the pain was just beginning.  This was the first jab in a series of jabs, upper cuts and blows to my self esteem.
     Middle school is a cruel place, I'm sure it is cruel to everyone, but it is especially cruel if you are fat, do not wear brand names and come from a traditional Mexican background and everyone else around you, or at least it feels like everyone around you, is allowed to run free.  Being from a traditional Mexican family (my children and my nieces and nephews are the first generation born in the United States), I would be having a 15nera, but only if I lived by the rules.  I was not to wear make up.  No, not even play make up at home.  Nail polish, lipstick, boyfriends, heeled shoes, shaving and most painfully, dancing, were off limits.  Being a typical adolescent, not all were followed, though I THOUGHT I had done a good job sneaking behind my parents' back.  I'm not too sure now. 
     I had an advantage being the youngest child.  My parents had relaxed a little by the time I was going through this awkward stage.  My mom allowed me to wear natural color lipstick and nail polish starting my 13th birthday, although for as long as I lived at home, I could wear neither in red.  At age 12 I was in a serious car accident.  My very hairy legs required tape daily.  I was allowed to use Nair to get rid of the hair so it wouldn't be constantly yanked out (it was almost worth the accident not to have to look like Sasquatch any more, I was also one of the tallest in my age group).  In seventh grade, at age 13, I met and "dated" a 15 year old seventh grader (I know, I know).  I didn't even like him at first, I think I just said yes to being his girlfriend because who else was going to take me?  I took tickets at the door of school dances so that I could feel like I fit in.   
     None of this made me less fat.  Two memories have haunted me.  The first came in Spanish class.  one of my classmates asked, "How do you say fat in Spanish?"  The response was another student yelling out my name.  I hated them for it, I hated them for a very long time.  I was humiliated.  The second came at the end of 8th grade/the beginning of 9th.  I intended on playing volleyball and therefore needed a physical.  The doctor weighed me and I could not believe what I saw.  The number was so high.  I had never really weighed myself before.  I didn't tell anyone how I felt.  My mom went to work after my appointment.  I was heartbroken I was the Spanish word for fat.  I did not eat all day, but rather headed to the gym that my dad had built in our back yard.   It was equipped with a basketball outside for my sisters, a dance floor/aerobics floor inside for my mom and sister, weights and a punching bag for my dad, a nordictrack, a TV for exercise videos a stereo.  Notice that none of it was for me.  I was mostly an idle person. The only piece of exercise equipment I ever used was the swimming pool in our back yard.  In a swimming pool I am lighter than any skinny person on land, I can soar through the water like a bird on the wind.  I can dive to the bottom of the pool and be pushed up by the water because I am not dense enough.  I didn't think this way now, but that is where my memory takes me.  My aunt, who is like a second mother to us, came home to hear weeping and ran, trying to figure out the source.  I was the source, I was sobbing, while I willed those pounds away on the nordictrack.  She was so confused. 
     I tried to explain between sobs what had happened at the doctor's office.  Even thinking of it now brings me to tears.  It was a very dark moment in my life.  My weight was a source of me not knowing that my life was worth living.  I don't remember how, but my aunt convinced me to get off the machine and go inside.  She must have consoled me even though I felt inconsolable.  The rest of the summer is a blur.
     I tried out for and made the volleyball team.  I joined the track team at the end of the year.  I began to move.  My weight did not change. The summer after my freshman year though, something did change.  A boy noticed me.  A man really, though I use the term loosely.  He was 19 and I was 15.  I was not interested in him, but he asked my cousin about me.  He asked about ME,fat and all!  I was flattered, but not interested.  One day, without warning, he kissed me.  I didn't like it.  I didn't like him.  I was in a strange place.  My sister was battling cancer and I ran away from it.  I avoided her out of fear.  My family was having a prayer circle and I had mounted my getaway vehicle and pedaled my way to our summer sanctuary, the park.  He insisted on accompanying me for the ride home that night.  Not sure if he sensed my hesitation, but he did not kiss me again. 
     Somehow, I fell for him.  I didn't even know when it happened.  I spent the next two years feeling good about myself thanks to him.  That summer, that next school year, something happened.  I went from being the fat girl nobody noticed to being the curvy girl boys, that's right, boys with an s, noticed.  My confidence blew up into a mushroom cloud.  I was okay with being my size.  I looked GOOD!  Not everyone agreed, but I made peace with it.  The relationship ended two years after it started (it was never official, and many didn't even know about it).
     Just a few months later, a new relationship blossomed.  Not a boyfriend not a friend.  I don't know what we were, but we were on and off for 4 years.  Both of us too young to know what we really wanted.  By this time I had moved out of my parents house and started college.  College only increased my confidence.  There are so many different people and so many open minds in a University setting.  I didn't think that I would ever find "the one" though.  I didn't look like the  sorority sisters.  My hair was too dark, I was too tall and my body too round. 
     I was right, I did not find "the one" at the University, I found him at a restaurant.  I was 21, young, but I knew I wanted marriage and a family.  He was older and was ready to settle down too.  It only makes sense that food led me to my man!  From the first day we spoke he has loved me unconditionally, no matter my mood or my size.  In my time with him, I had grown, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  when he met me I was in a size 16, 13/14 if I was lucky.  At my heaviest, I have worn a 22.  Within our first year of marriage I gained 17lbs. during the first pregnancy lost all the weight right afterwards, only to gain it back and more, winding up heavier than when I was nine months pregnant.  Not having lost the weight, the same thing happened in the second pregnancy, only this time, I gained 15lbs.  In our 9 years of marriage I gained 44 pounds.  I started about a year ago to really evaluate the reasons and try to correct them. 
     It turns out that the beginning of the end is in my mouth.  More specifically it's on my tongue.  I LOVE flavor.  I begin to eat because I am hungry and eat myself into a painful drunken stupor because of the flavor.  I love tomato and garlic and salt and BREAD, oh the bread.  I have come to the conclusion that the reason I do not lose weight even when maniacally working out is because I eat what I like and I eat plenty of it.  When I constrict myself to one serving of the chosen meal, the weight melts off.  Give me food with no flavor or that I do not care for and I may become a skeleton.  And so, no, I will not deprive myself of delicious food (except for breads and rolls for Lent), but I will attempt to restrict myself to one serving.  I will continue to work out because I am meeting some pretty serious goals that were once unimaginable for me, even if I don't feel it has aided my weight goal.  Ironically, my goal weight, that which was recommended by a personal trainer, is the weight that first caused me so much pain. 
     And so I thrive not for perfection anymore, rather for health.

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