Sunday, June 3, 2007

The convenience of being fat

My poor mom. If she only knew my greatest shame...

Never one to eat lunch meat, for reasons that go much deeper than this story cares to delve, I was subject to either peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches during my elementary school days. My mom would lovingly pack me a lunch with a sandwich, grapes, and a treat. Then I would usually trade the good stuff to Becky Cox for her potato chips. Frankly, I just wasn't a fan of sandwiches, plain and simple. I'm sure every kid did that kind of crap, but I can remember that even at such a young age, I was eating lousy despite my mom's healthy efforts.
She rarely took us to McDonald's or any other fast food establishment. She always cooked healthy meals and we didn't keep too many fattening treats in the house. My grandma also helped derail this by giving us bagels and cream cheese during those early summer mornings that we were dropped off there while my parents worked. We would always hit the area McDonald's before heading out for days of shopping and spoiling as grandmothers do. So I got my share of shit food there too.I don't even know how I was such a skinny kid. I guess its because of all the running around outside and swimming we used to do, but every time my mom's back was turned it seemed like I was eating horribly.

Enter phase II.

After moving to Illinois, I was now old enough to babysit myself and my sister. The trouble here is, I wasn't allowed to leave the house, basically. I was stuck inside, bored out of my mind until my mom came home from work. I learned to love the Price is Right and Small Wonder and devoured more potato chips than I care to recall. I even remember having guilt about it even way back then. This was three years worth of summer vacations. Ages 11-13. Finally a teenager, and a rebelious bitch, I took silent stabs at my mother's authority and dragged my poor ten year old sister with me. I made her ride bikes with me for what had to be several miles (I'm thinking about four total, two there, two back) into town or to my boyfriend's house. I got the idea when he and a friend rode their bike all the way to see me and it had never occured to me that I could actually leave the safety of my little neighborhood. That meant doing the unthinkable and crossing over the expressway-- something my mom would have had an absolute heart attack over. I did it anyway. The reward for my sister keeping her mouth shut about these little trips is that we would spend our change on candy. Tons of freaking candy. We could get whole candy bars at this place called White Hen for 10 cents. Down the street was Ben Franklin where it was dimes and quarters for Fun Dips, and Atomic Fireballs, and God knows whatever other junk food. Fortunately, there was no convenience here. I had to work for my flab and I maintained a very skinny figure, even still, leading me to believe that at this point in my life, I still had a metabolism.

Enter Phase III.

I would say that gaining weight slowly began around high school. Another move and a home in the sticks didn't help. I couldn't ride my bike here, there was no where to go. The roads were dirt and potholed. There was no one to hang out with. There was nothing to do. I got my license and became very involved in the school newspaper instead of my old basketball and softball teams. I didn't bother with breakfast or lunch during the day but with my new found freedom and a haven of fast food fortresses of every imagineable kind just across the street from school... I went there everyday. I would get some kind of "value meal" and go back to school to work on the paper. I'd get home late, eat whatever dinner there was and enjoy cookies or chips while doing my homework. And 'den...

A job. This was the straw that broke the elastic waistband on the pants. I made my career and second home of four years the Fenton Cinema. Free pop. Free popcorn. Candy you had to pay for. But we did. Our meals, twice a day, 6 days a week came from fast food places. There did not exist a salad in those walls the entire time I lived there. I did become more rounded in my ordering style, however. I learned Chinese culture from Moy Kong's extensive lunch menu-- and Taco Bell Sunday taught me that there was more to the Bell than just plain tacos. The last meal of the day there was generally around 6:00, so when I got home at 11:30, I would eat again-- left overs or junk food. Then off to bed...

Welcome to the jungle.

The final rite to my passage was here in Florida. I had lost almost 50 pounds, though I wasn't terribly overweight at that point and came to Florida to go to school just under 100 pounds and suddenly aware of bad foods and the unhappiness that being unhealthy and overweight could bring. I don't even know what brought about the change, but I had lost the weight with the help of diet pills, excercise, and extreme portion cutting. After only a year at the Ringling School of Art and Design, I had fallen back into an old trap, with an old crutch to bear. I worked two jobs through school. I was unhappy almost all of the time. This wasn't a place you could study and get an A, it was a rough and tumble competitve jungle and I wasn't at the top of the food chain. My meal schedules were disgusting. I would usually take a break between classes and buy some sort of bag of chex mix or even an ice cream cone at the gas station to take away the hunger pains. That way, I could just walk there and I didn't have to waste time driving anywhere. Sometimes I had a long break and could have an actual lunch at home, but not often. Most of the time, whatever 300-600 calorie snack I had would last until dinner, which I would have on my 10-30 minute break at whichever job. Sometimes I would walk down to the sub shop and get a healthy sandwich. Sometimes I would hurry to McDonald's and back, but mostly, I got the cheese flavored crackers out of the vending machine and washed it down with a coke.
The only time of day that I would actually eat a "meal" was after work. I would meet my soon-to-be husband at his job around 11:00pm and we would head to Taco Bell (sometimes eating a bag of cookies IN THE DRIVE THRU and order the largest things on the menu. The healthiest late night eating we did came in the form of a home-cooked version of slop called "mash." We had no money and no time, so we would fry up some hamburger, add some noodles and salsa and call it food. Soon, even that took too much time.

Despite all this, I tried to make time to excercise. I know I did more than the average person, going a few times a week to the gym until my senior year. The weight just kept packing on, though. It was like my metabolism had laid down and died.

I am now overweight. Infact, I don't even think I look as bad as I should to be honest. I carry most of my weight in the face and in my midsection. I live in a mecca of convenience eating as I have still not mastered the ability to plan healthy meals into my lifestyle. My apartment complex is pretty much in a Wendy's parking lot and the Domino's pizza man sells $5 pizzas outside my door. I'm completely serious. I work out on occassion but can't make it stick. The best I have done for my health has been to make juices so that I can be sure to get a proper vegetable serving. The only time I have lost weight since the sharp and steady increase, beginning 6 years ago was when I cut my caloric intake to less than 800 for all of three weeks and when I had a kidney stone. My health has deteriorated. I'm always tired. When I do work out, I'm in pain and misery within minutes.

Each day, I vow to be better. It can't that hard to cook healthy meals and work 8 hours a day with an hour and a half comute... So if you took the time to read all this, I vow to you, I will make it better... but the pizza just got here, so right now, I have to go.

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