2 years ago I almost lost my life to necratizing pancreatitis. In case you’re wondering, yes, every July 29th I am going to “celebrate” the day I didn’t die, so you can look forward to that. This year I am telling the truth about something that has constantly on my mind since the beginning of elementary school. My weight. It makes me crazy nervous to write about this because it is so intensely personal and I am so ashamed that I am shaking as I write this. It’s time for me to come clean. If I can’t be honest about this, then I will never have it under control and I have to get it under control.
I am fat. When I say fat, I mean people start praying when they get on an elevator with me because I am weigh the maximum amount that is allowed in that elevator. I could weep for my body. No matter the abuse I put it through it always wakes up in the morning and carries me through what I want and need to do. 2 years ago it bewildered the doctors as I recovered with no lasting effects from necratizing pancreatitis. When they diagnosed me they said that my case was worse because of the extra weight that I carried (in all fairness, I had just delivered my first baby 5 weeks before…I don’t know who has lost all of their baby weight in 5 weeks…and if you do, please don’t tell me about it).
I am afraid that this is a battle that I will fight until the day I die. That makes me exhausted and I believe the only chance that I have where this is not the case is if I come clean and air out all my dirty laundry. Of course, this is my perception, my truth and a path that I need to travel on my own. So it may not be what you know or believe.
I believe my weight comes from 2 issues. First my metabolism is about as slow as a snail. Second, my history of what has become broken inside of me that I feed with food. I believe that my metabolism is slow because of my history but also because I take after my father, who is big, and not my mother, who is small.
I was very aware of my weight in elementary school. I rode the bus with Catholic School kids who made me very aware that I wasn’t “skinny” and therefore I was considered fat. They were cruel. When I say cruel, they would say things to me, make me sit on the floor in the aisle, put backpacks in empty seats and wouldn’t let me sit there, they would make verbal comments and even hide my backpack from me. School (thankfully) was a safe haven for me until 8th grade when I transferred away from all my friends.
I was not a fat kid. Every moment of the day that I could, I was outside playing. I also ate a lot so I was big, but not fat. The 60 minutes I spent with those kids 5 days a week for 6 years made deep cuts into my self confidence and how I felt about myself. I was never happy with how I looked (my stupid goal was for someone to look at me and say I was skinny, I will never be skinny), but my appearance was never on the top of my priority list. When I transferred to 8th grade with no friends, some of the boys were horrifically mean to me, but all in all, I think I squeaked by with only small wounds. After I made friends, I didn’t really talk to anyone else and couldn’t care less what other people thought of me.
In 8th grade I started playing basketball. I played hard, almost all year round, for at least 2 hours everyday. I became very strong, still not skinny, but very strong. I hurt my knee and thought I would sit my sophomore season out to let it heal itself (I never returned). I went from exercising intensely to not at all. At that point I didn’t connect that if I stopped doing physical activity but didn’t change what or how much I ate, I would gain weight. This was the first time that I became heavy.
Without even realizing it, I stopped eating. It wasn’t something that I did consciously but suddenly everyone was commenting on how good I looked and was asking what I was doing. The turning point for me was on the Fourth of July. No matter what size I am, my boobs stay the same size…HUGE. I was walking down to the fireworks and some drunk guys passed me and asked me to come with them. I said no and walked past them. They starting making comments about how I thought I was too good for them and all I was was a blond with big boobs.
I made a decision then that I didn’t want to be judged that way. I feel that who I am as a person is so much more important than what I look like. I never wanted to feel that I got anything or anyone assumed anything because of how I looked. I felt that if I had a shield of being unattractive then what I got would be mine DESPITE what I looked like. I spent a couple years eating to gain this shield of weight. Then I realized I was so miserable, what was the point?
I felt the only way for me to get to my goal weight (125 pounds, size 6) was to drastically reduce the amount of calories I took in each day. I restricted my diet to a couple hundred calories a day. The weight melted off me and I heard again how great I looked. I starved myself down to 144 pounds at which point I could fit into a size 6 jeans. I lived and died from what the scale told me. As soon as I fit into a size 6, I knew that wasn’t good enough and I wanted to be a size 4. At this weight (the only reason that I was able to get to this weight, let me remind you, was from starvation) my friend told me that I looked “okay” but I could stand to lose 5 more pounds.
I got the stomach flu and dropped down to 140 pounds. The lightest I have ever been in my adult life (and the lightest I will ever be). When I gained the 4 pounds back just by smelling food I became very upset, but my body just couldn’t get any smaller. I talked to Josh about being upset about these 4 pounds. His response was that I could lose them. I asked him if it would bother him if I gained weight and he said yes. We can add that to the dumbest things we’ve said to one another.
It was that moment in the car (I can even remember exactly where we were) that I said, fuck it, if you’re not going to love me if I gain weight then this relationship is doomed to fail and I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and how much I wanted. I gained weight and gained weight and then gained some more weight.
When I was at the heaviest I ever had been I became pregnant with Finn. I then proceeded to gain A LOT of weight with Finn. After I had Finn I was working to lose the weight and was also nursing. It was a slow process, but I felt it was acceptable. Then came the pancreatitis which meant that I did not each a bite of food for well over a month. Then I was given a feeding tube so that I could get substance. I took 600 calories a day through my nose. Sometimes I got sick from it, so I would take in less each day. It was well over 4 months until I could eat normally.
After I could eat again, I wanted to eat and did eat everything. After being sick I was down to my pre-baby weight (which was not all that slim) and I gained and gained.
So this is where I am right now. I am stubborn because I don’t want to be judged on my outward appearance. If someone says something to me, then I will go and do the opposite out of spite (healthy and mature, I know). I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m anxious, I eat when I’m mad, I celebrate with food. Food is social for me. This has been a life-long battle and it was my battle to fight, given to me at birth as all the females in my family enlisted in this war.
I’m not going to go into depth for that, because it’s not my story to tell. I will say that when I was growing up we were taught to clean our plates. We didn’t have money to waste and if we let the food go to waste, that’s wasted money. Even if that meant eating multiple servings, we weren’t going to be wasteful. I have worked on this with Finn. It’s hard for me not to insist that he cleans his plate. I want to teach him that if he’s full he can be done.
I never went without food or felt that there wasn’t enough. However, it was precious and shouldn’t be wasted. When we were lucky enough to go out for food we would share plates to help keep the cost down. As soon as I had my own money to spend, I went out all the time getting everything I wanted and had it all to myself. I wanted to know that I worth my own plate of food at a restaurant.
This is why I want to make a change now. I know better now, I know it’s not about a number or a size (although I am obsessed with whatever number I am or I lie to myself, believing that what I eat doesn’t have an impact on my weight). I want to be healthy. I want to be a good role-model for Finn (I don’t want him to have to battle with this all his life, if he doesn’t have to) and for my students. I don’t want to feel that my weight is holding me back from being the person I want to be. I want to be able to play with my son and be the kind of mom I want to be. I want to be around for A LONG time for my husband and my son. I want to get pregnant (if and when the time is right) without be scared about my weight. I want to be healthy. I want to be one size for more than 1 month.
I know that I have a challenge in front of me. I know that because there were 3 times in my life when my body thought I was starving it, it’s going to be three times as hard to lose the weight. I know that I am holding onto this shield because I am terrified to become pregnant again because I don’t want to be worried about being sick again. I am ashamed that this part of my life I can’t seem to get under control and it’s out there for everyone to see. I feel that I have no will power. I feel that I am exposing myself to a scary level with this. I don’t feel fat (I feel like the real Kate is stuck in here, waiting to get out) but I literally can’t stand to look at pictures or video of myself, it makes me want to vomit. I know that if I do it this time, it has to be IT, that people can think what they want and draw whatever conclusions they want about me but I need to be healthy for me.
The things that are different this time are that Josh has expressed his concern about my health, which he hasn’t done before. I know it’s bad if Josh said something. I don’t have the right to put myself in danger of being taken away from him and Finn. I am reading this book that is helping me learn about what the food thing is for me. For me it’s not about a diet, it’s about something that I can maintain for the rest of my life. It helped me realize that I am ridiculous when I eat to deal with my feelings. Am I really so scared of my feelings that I can’t handle them without food? Of course not. How stupid. Also, if I’m eating for any other reason then because I’m hungry then it’s not about food.
I don’t know how much I will tackle this publicly and write about it, but I needed to be honest with myself and for that to happen it had to be OUT THERE. My battle is against my emotional scars, my habits, my addiction, and my physical reality. I believe that in some ways I believe an addiction to food is one of the most difficult addictions to kick because with other addictions (drugs, alcohol) you can completely remove the addiction from your life. Food has to be part of my life, but in a healthy way. I have an addictive personality. This is why I didn’t choose to smoke or try weed and I am very careful about my drinking. It’s just who I am.
My body has been there for me, done more than I could ever ask, surprised doctors. It has given me everything I ever wanted with little complaint. I am not my body, what is inside is so much more precious. It is a vessel to take me where I want to go. Now it’s my turn to take care of my body. To give it what it needs to continue serving me until I lay it to rest and ride on the wind.