I think I had a healthy relationship with food when I was a kid. I was a good eater, but not terribly fond of sweets. I hated chocolate as a child and my Easter candy usually lasted me until Halloween and vice versa. My mother used to say I had a fast metabolism and could eat whatever I wanted and stay thin. I guess at the time she was right, I was growing so fast I never got very chubby. I also had a lot of play-mates in the neighborhood, mostly boys, who I would run around with everyday outside. We rode bikes, played tag, climbed trees and jungle gyms. So even though I hated exercise, I got plenty in the form of outdoor play.
I think things began to change as I got to middle school. My friends and I were beginning to hit puberty. The boys no longer had an interest in playing with me, and I stopped wanting to run around the playground like a little kid. I was never very popular with the girls in school. I had a bad haircut, new braces and bad acne. Plus I was a total geek. The only girls who would hang out with me were the other misfits in the school. This lasted throughout my high school years. Even though my skin cleared and the braces came off and I grew out my hair, I was always considered “unacceptable” to date. Other kids called me names, said I was ugly, disgusting… whatever. I wasn’t invited to parties and the guys wouldn’t even think of dating me. The tragic thing is, looking back, I can see that I was smoking hot back then, I just didn’t know it.
By my second semester I realized that I didn’t want to be a part of that scene. I found other people who I considered to be part of my “tribe”. These folks were smart and friendly and a ton of fun to be with. I had conversations about deeply meaningful things. We wrote and read poetry together. We had our own parties where the music was good and the beer was cheap. We looked out for each other and because of that we felt comfortable taking risks that we would have been too afraid to take on our own. I fell in love for the first time, albeit secretly, with my best friend, Pete.
I was having such a great time, parties, food, alcohol… I started to gain a few pounds. Not so much that anyone would notice. I had such a huge crush on Pete that it nearly broke my heart. Like I said he was my best friend and I spent nearly every day with him. He of course loved me back, but in a different way. He had girlfriends, with whom I became friends with too. For the most part, they respected my place in his life and I tolerated the heartache and jealousy I felt knowing that they were receiving a part of him that would never be mine. During our senior year, he began dating the woman who would later become his wife, and that’s when I realized that eventually, one day, I would end up losing him.
To help mask the pain that my self-perceived inadequacies were causing me, I partied even more, I drank more than I should have. I guess my rational was my heart couldn’t possibly be breaking if I was having so much fun. After college I made the decision to move in with an old roommate of mine in Vermont rather than moving back in with my family. This was a good decision, but we were poor and ate a lot of bad food during this time. I stayed in touch with Pete, but since he was living in New Jersey, I was able to get out from under the crush that I had on him for so many years. I began dating, finally lost my virginity and had a pretty great life for awhile.
If I had to pinpoint when the weight really began to pile on, I would have to say it was around this time. I was eating out a lot. I was drinking a lot. It was COLD outside for 10 months of the year so we spent a lot of time sitting inside drinking beer and eating pizza and watching movies. I still pretty much maintained a decent figure; I think I was about a size 12 at this point in my life. I fell in love for the second time in my life with Bryan. This was a very unhealthy relationship for me. We started out as a romantic couple. He dumped me after we had sex the first time. Then he insisted that we become friends. But there was still a LOT of chemistry between the two of us. We spent every waking moment together for 3 years. We were friends and we were lovers but he would never commit to a relationship. We both dated other people, and we both hated seeing the other with someone else. He didn’t want me but he couldn’t let me go either. I wanted him to be “the one” for me so badly. He never felt he deserved to have that place in my future. I think he could have loved me, but I don’t think he knew how to love me. We went on like this breaking each other’s hearts for years. Even moving half-way across the country to Colorado didn’t end it. Finally while visiting him in Texas I told him that I loved him and wanted to be with him. His response was “why?”
I was living in Denver and hurt beyond description. I swore off men and I think I subconsciously began to take steps to make myself as undesirable as possible. I used food as a balm to sooth my wounds. I didn’t care that I was gaining weight. I surrounded myself with gay men who told me I was beautiful and flirted with me and took me dancing. I had all the benefits of male companionship without any risk of falling in love. I grew to 195 pounds and a size 16 during this time, and I didn’t care. I tried half heartedly after awhile to lose some weight. I would lose 5 or 10 pounds and then put it back on. Then I turned 29 and realized I was a year from turning 30 and my life was not at all what I really wanted it to be. I realized that while I loved my friends dearly, I was using them as a shield from the real world and as an excuse not to put myself at risk. I made the very difficult decision to leave the safety of my little bubble and move back to New Jersey.
Back in Jersey I fell in love for the third and last time with Hubby. I remember the night I met him I had taken a huge risk and gone to a party I was invited to by one of the guys at work. I had only been back in Jersey for 5 months and didn’t really know anyone. I was questioning whether or not I had done the right thing. I prayed for a moment and asked God to show me who he wanted me to be, to show me who he wanted me to be with. I asked God that night to show me my husband for life. Then I walked into the bar and it was like a light was shining down on Hubby from above. We connected instantly and I knew as I drove home that night that he was my forever love. For the first time in my life someone I had given my heart to loved me back. My husband adores me and inconceivably thinks I am the most beautiful woman in the world just as I am. And I cannot fathom what my life would be like without him. As much as I adore him for his quiet acceptance of me for who I am, I think knowing that his love was completely unconditional allowed me to continue to eat as I had grown accustomed to during my “get fat” years.
While depressed and attempting to eat myself into spinsterhood, I developed a craving for food. I began to enjoy to company of the dinner table. I loved to eat at fine restaurants for dinner with friends. I looked forward to brunch on Sunday mornings with the gang. I began to equate eating rich food with having a rich life. I confused the abundance on the table with abundance in my life. Naturally that association with food equaling happiness stayed with me and now that I had true happiness for the first time in my life, the food came with it.
I did see what was happening after awhile. After moving in with Hubby I tried to diet again. He supported me without ever making me feel fat. I lost about 15 pounds in time for our wedding and looked better than I had in years. I became pregnant a few months later and our joy was immeasurable. Then I lost the baby 4 weeks later. My depression was crushing. Like I had so many times before, I turned to food to ease my sadness. I gained back all that I had lost and then some. When I got pregnant again a few months later, we found that I had a hormonal imbalance. I had to take progesterone for the first 12 weeks. I also felt very sick and found that the only thing that made the nausea go away was eating carbs. The combined result was that I gained close to 20 pounds the first trimester. By the end of my pregnancy I weighed in at a whopping 265 pounds. After delivering my son, I halfheartedly tried to lose the weight. I had a c-section which made exercise difficult at first and provided me with a great excuse to avoid it even when I could have done it.
My son had some difficulties as an infant with low tone and these strange neurological episodes that took awhile to figure out. Luckily everything turned out okay, the episodes were a type of infant migraine and the low tone is improving with physical therapy. At the time though it was extremely stressful not knowing what was going on with him and at the same time having to return to work. I was so exhausted by work and taking care of my son that I neglected to take care of myself. Then when he turned one last year I saw myself in the videos of his party and I wanted to cry. Part of me wanted to erase the video of my son’s first birthday party because I was so gross looking in it. And I thought to myself, how ridiculous is that? That I would rather erase all the memories of my time with my son than to just suck it up and make the changes that I needed to make?
Whew……….! Sorry for the long post, I think that writing it all out like this really did help. I didn’t realize I had all that bottled up inside me!