As many of you know, I’m writing a book (what blogger isn’t, right? LOL). The proposal is done and in my agent’s hands. Now all we need is a publisher.
I can write until I’m blue in the face, but a book isn’t much of a book without readers. So I thought I’d share my book overview with you and ask, Does this sound like a book you’d read or recommend to someone ? As always, I appreciate your feedback.
I’ve been up and down the scale more than a stripper on a pole. There isn’t a weight between 128 and 296 that I haven’t seen once, twice or five times.
Weight evokes memories, same as the smell of apple pie or the ocean or an old boyfriend’s aftershave. Pick a weight, any weight, and I can tell you who I was dating or married to, how old my kids were, where I worked (or didn’t work), who my friends were, what kind of car I drove, where I went grocery shopping, how I wore my hair, where I went on vacation, who died, who hurt me, and what church I attended.
At 249 pounds, I checked into a mental health facility for a week in 1987; attended my oldest daughter’s high school graduation in 2001; and launched a weight-loss blog in 2005.
At 200 pounds, I tucked a blouse into a skirt after losing 49 pounds in 1987, but hid in a too-large, draping black dress when I married my fourth husband in 1998.
At 170 pounds, I started college in 1989; graduated from college in 1996; and walked my youngest daughter down the aisle in 2006.
At 150 pounds in 1977, a doctor called me fat; in 2007, a doctor called me thin.
The scale began chronicling my personal history the moment I was publically called “fat” by a group of boys in junior high. Until then, I thought I was the only one who noticed my awkward pre-adolescent body. Other people noticed too, because not long after being outed as fat, I was inducted into the “Pretty Face Club” by my grandmother, a few aunts, and the guy who said he’d date me if I dropped a few pounds.
My scale number lingered in the back of my mind like a gnat. Weight was intricately woven into my life, embedded in the everyday layers of doing and being. Weight was usually a subtle discomfort wrapped in reminders as simple as seeing my reflection in a storefront window or the facial reactions of friends and strangers when they saw me. Weight became a scapegoat and dieting a deflection from what was really wrong.
Weight gain was a mostly subconscious and passive activity that happened in the background during good times and bad. But there was always a scale number that triggered an increased sensitivity to the public’s (and subsequently my own) opinion of my body, and I altered my behavior as a result. When that trigger was pulled, whether I was slightly overweight or morbidly obese, I lived life afraid of being hurt and was more inclined to forgive people their transgressions in order to avoid confrontations about my weight.
When I weighed 230 pounds the first time, my kids and I left our home for a few days because my second husband had put his fist through a bedroom wall and a living room window, and threatened to stab my brother with a butcher knife. As I drove away, he screamed out the front door, “You fucking bitch!” and I remember thinking, Thank God he didn’t call me fat.
When being sensitive and forgiving wasn’t enough, when I sensed my approval rating slipping because of my weight, I consulted the scale like a Magic 8 Ball.
“Will I and other people like me better if I lose weight?” I’d ask. The answer was always “Yes.”
Unlike weight gain, which happened without much thought, I was an active, almost vicious participant in weight loss.
I always dieted alone. Whether it was the Tic Tac and Tab diet or Weight Watchers, I didn’t seek peer support, nor did I have a clear weight goal. In diet mode, my weight was like a centipede crawling up my leg. I couldn’t get it off fast enough. I raced through a diet and claimed “goal” when enough people said I looked OK. With everyone happy, I relaxed my original determination and returned to my old way of eating more and moving less. My dance up the scale started anew, and as I danced, I completely ignored the emotional issues that instigated the weight gain and loss in the first place.
It never occurred to me that in order to stay at a goal weight, I had to eat like a person at goal, exercise like a person at goal, and most of all think like a person at goal. I chose not to acknowledge that “dieting” got me nowhere, being thin didn’t solve my self-esteem issues, and that life – whether I was big or small – kept going whether I ate a donut or a carrot. Until I did the inside work, it didn’t matter what I looked like on the outside, but the outside was always easier to manipulate.
It was during my recent (and final) dance down the scale that I finally “got it.” I could no longer deny the emotional and physical weight of 300 pounds as I confronted the potential for an onslaught of weight-related diseases, namely diabetes and arteriosclerosis. I’d also isolated myself from friends and family, hiding in a job that kept me out of the spotlight and living in a house outside of town.
Having kept a diary on and off for 30 years, I turned to journaling as a way to untangle the knots that got me to 300 pounds and its fallout. After losing 50 pounds, I launched a blog and wrote about my weight loss. More importantly, I posted progress photos and made my scale number public. It was like telling those boys from junior high to shut up, or letting my grandmother, my aunts, the boy who wouldn’t date me, and everyone else who launched an opinion about my weight know that I quit the Pretty Face Club. From then on I would not allow my weight to measure my worth. The scale was no longer my biographer.
When I was on Oprah in November 2007 after losing 167 pounds, Oprah asked me a question that was not on the script, but my answer flowed like I’d rehearsed it a thousand times.
“Can you even now look in the mirror and recognize yourself?” she asked.
“I feel like the person I am on the inside is the person I am on the outside. I feel like I match now,” I replied.
I didn’t mean that because I was standing on Oprah’s stage wearing designer “7” jeans and a Betsy Johnson belt that I had all the answers or reached enlightenment. I meant I finally figured out how to be a person who screws up, cries for no reason, gets angry at silly things, and has moments of doubt and moments of shame while at the same time be a person who pays attention to her body’s needs and who treats it with respect. I could finally acknowledge that I was kind-hearted and friendly, a good mother, sister and daughter, and my own best friend even with a body that, underneath the designer clothes, was far from perfect. I do everything I can to care for both my outside self and inside self, with both parts getting equal attention.
This final trip down the scale was a long, emotional road, but worth every second for all that I’ve learned and forgiven. In writing this book, I got to know the woman I was at every weight. I examined her intentions and compromises, her weaknesses and strengths, and in doing so, came to appreciate who she was. I no longer pity her or feel sorry for her or judge her harshly because the path she walked and the decisions she made helped me become the woman I love today.
Pick a weight, any weight, and I can tell you who I loved and how I lived. My former self, at any number, survived the best way she knew how. She endured loss, left an abusive relationship, went to college and worked full time, and raised two strong daughters. Most of all, that 300-pound woman initiated the final dance down the scale. She’s the one who finally “got it.” She lives inside me, stronger and wiser than I gave her credit for. She has my full respect.