A lot has been said lately about the subject of the portrayal of plus-sized people in the media. I'm sure by now you've all heard about the crapstorm caused by a writer from Marie Claire magazine when she ranted about the characters on the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly" - if you hadn't heard, the gist of the article was that she was repulsed by watching two fat people make out. I won't even get into that controversy. What I would like to write about is purely my experience with being on both sides of the fence.
When I was a kid, I looked like one of the "Oliver" orphans. Let me tell you, it wasn't for lack of trying. I've always loved to eat. All through school, as a matter of fact, I was what you'd call "normal". I never concerned myself with my weight. I was blessed with the metabolism of a hummingbird. By the time I got into high school, I wasn't playing outside anymore, but I was walking home from school, so I guess I did get some exercise.
In college, I actually LOST weight, probably because of stress and/or the fact that I lived on the UWGB campus (literally adjacent to a corn field!) and worked downtown, which was about 5 miles away. I didn't drive, and I worked at a TV station late enough that the buses stopped running. That meant that I'd either have to ride my bike to work or one of my very patient roommates would have to come get me. I also finally became legal in college, which meant lots of dance clubs.
After college I immediately moved in with my first husby Dan. We both loved to eat and we spent many a dinner at Perkins, which was pretty close to our apartment and you got a lot of food for cheap. Dan was super skinny at the time and so was I. At this point I was smoking nearly a pack a day, which unfortunately contributed to my skinniness. Our lives continued this way for a couple years until...
Until I turned 25. Overnight, it seemed, I had gone up a pants size - it happened so fast that I was convinced I was preggers (nope). I had moved up to a size 9, which was the first time I'd been in that size since my senior year in high school. I certainly wasn't concerned - I still only weighed about 130 lbs.
Looking back at photos, I was more or less the same weight up until about 1999. At this point in my life I wasn't exercising a whole lot - I wasn't doing much of anything, actually, just watching a LOT of TV. One of my friends very casually said I should do Weight Watchers with her, and I did lose about 20 pounds. The program works, but you do have to stay on it.
I kept the weight off, and then some. Around late 2001 and into 2002, I began walking a lot. I was also singlehandedly stripping wallpaper and painting in our new house, which is hard work. By the summer of '02 I had lost quite a bit of weight - looking back at photos, I probably hadn't been that thin in 8 years or so. But it wasn't all good - by the next spring, Dan and I separated. The weight stayed off, because I was still walking but had also taken smoking up again after a year and a half hiatus.
Here's where it gets bad. On November 21, 2003, I quit smoking cold turkey. That's not the bad part; aside from a couple of crazy nights, I'm still smoke-free and will never smoke again. I'm glad about that. But when you quit smoking, get divorced and your dad dies, all within a 7 week period, there's going to be some stress. And when your metabolism goes bonkers because your heart isn't working overtime anymore, you're going to gain some weight. By the time of my dad's funeral in January of 2004, I had packed on about 30 pounds in that 7 week span.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not using that period in my life as an excuse. But it does explain a lot as to why it's been so hard to lose that stupid weight.
My future (now current) mom in-law invited me back to Weight Watchers in 2005. I did pretty well - I managed to lose about 19 pounds. Once again in 2008, I had a health scare and lost some more (but I had gained some back from the last time). Currently? Well, let's just say I could stand to lose some of those ell-bees.
I have found that people treat me the same regardless of how I look. I've never had an issue with parental nagging (thanks Mom!) or friends saying stupid things (thanks guys!). I can't control what's being said about me behind my back, but that's their problem, not mine. In fact, I've always wondered about people who make others' weight their own issue.
Why does someone's size matter? I could go on and on with our society's obsession with beauty, etc. but I won't. I really don't care about that. What I do care about is how rude people have become. Sure, it's not as blatant as it used to be (there isn't a kids' clothing company called "Chubettes" anymore), but there's an underlying acceptance of ridicule for people of size.
I'd like to think that I'm the same person now as when I was thinner; in fact, I hope I'm nicer. People are not their weight - whether they are over- or underweight, it's probably best to keep our thoughts to ourselves about their appearance. There are so many more interesting aspects to people, anyway. It's my hope that we can begin to see inside people and get to know them for who they truly are, regardless of whether they're 110 pounds or 310.