I started this blog for two reasons: 1) I got tired of emailing my friends interesting links along with fascinating commentary, which they then summarily ignored; and 2) I found great inspiration and solace from the fat acceptance community on the internet and I wanted to play, too. Egotistical though I know it is, I have too much to say about too many different things to limit this blog solely to body image issues, but a big part of what I want to write about relates to my personal experiences in the realm of fatdom. So, after the jump, I bring you the first installment of the story of me and my fat bod – Manifatso, Chatper One: Diets I Have Known.
1981: The Seven Day Diet. I was in fourth grade and my mother and I went on the Seven Day Diet together. She was 5-4″ and wore a size six petite. I was a little under five feet and could wear her clothes and her shoes. My mom needed this diet like she needed a hole in the head, and of course I didn’t lose any weight, but it did kind of bond us together via food-deprivation and I remember feeling kind of grown up about it. Crash dieting, Tab, Salem Light 100s, and my mother’s Gloria Vanderbilt jeans became the talismans of womanhood.
1982: Hospital-approved Dietitian-authored Meal Plan. My mother took me to a dietitian employed by the hospital where she worked. The dietitian gave me a meal plan and instructed me to write down everything I ate, which I remember thinking at the time was pretty bizarre. She also suggested that I not wear pleated skirts, like the red pleated skirt that I happened to be wearing at the time, because they made me look fat. I can’t remember how long I followed her meal plan, but I do remember begging my mother not to make me go back to the dietitian again. To her credit, she never did.
1982: Diets Don’t Work. Not to be outdone, my father, the bullshit pop psychologist, bought me a bullshit pop-psychology diet book called Diets Don’t Work. I lost faith in Bob Schwartz somewhere in the first chapter when he extolled the virtues of being hungry, encouraging readers to just enjoy the feeling of a growling stomach, attempting to convince us fatties that being hungry was a good, virtuous way to feel. (And yes, that statement served as an anchor during my periods of hard-core food restriction. Nice going, Bob.) Being a clever nine-year old, I did get my revenge. On reaching the question in the introductory self-exploration section that asked “When did you start gaining weight,” I wrote “When my parents got divorced and I started eating a lot because I was lonely” and handed the book to my father, refusing to bother with it any more after that. (Perhaps that is more “passive aggressive” than “clever” but, as I was nine, I will give my young self the benefit of the doubt.)
1984: Seven Day Diet, redux. I decided to go back on the Seven Day Diet and got sent home from school on day two (all vegetables) for nearly passing out during second period social studies.
1989: Low Fat Diet. Throughout the previous five years, I made a number of half-assed dieting attempts but none that lasted more than a couple days at a time.* Enter my High School Boyfriend who ended up being some sort of weight-loss Svengali, and who, after doing a number on my self esteem through a variety of nefarious methods that I shan’t get into here, he crafted, implemented, and oversaw a diet for me. The general precepts were that I had to exercise in the morning before I ate, I was supposed to eat a big breakfast and a medium lunch and a small dinner, I could only eat food with fewer fat grams than protein grams, and I should avoid cheese and mayonnaise like the proverbial plague. And I lost about 65 pounds, so that when I started college I was a size 6 and weighed 120 pounds. I also had a tendency to pass out from not eating, and I valiantly, although thankfully unsuccessfully, attempted to make purging a regular part of my weight-loss maintenance program.
1991: Slim Fast. To cope with the Freshman 15, and inspired by Oprah and the firm belief that hunger was a virtue, I had a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and carrots for dinner until I was back down to my passing-out weight. Over the next five years, I gained most of the weight back, largely because I couldn’t physically or emotionally cope with starving myself.
1995: Drugs, Street. Chalk that one up to ready availability. Needless to say, there wasn’t much potential for long-term success in this diet.
1997: Some sort of ponzi-scheme diet pills, the name of which currently escapes me. And I can’t find it via web searching, due to the avalanche of results for “diet pill ponzi scheme.” I had moved back in with my parents to escape, among other things, the environment in which the aforementioned street drugs were so prevalent. Our across-the-street neighbors, who had always been fat, suddenly started appearing in their yard looking uncharacteristically svelte. And, because they had also always been obnoxious a-holes, they took the opportunity presented by the return of my family’s prodigal fat daughter to come over and shill some diet pills. We bought them and I took them and I seem to recall losing some weight, but nothing spectacular or long-lasting.
1998: Drugs, OTC. I can’t remember the name of this drug either, but it was a pretty standard caffeine and ephedrine combination (back when it was legal) that was sold with a little booklet that outlined an accompanying diet that might have provided for 600 calories a day. I tried it on the recommendation of a friend whom I suspect just liked the speed. I think I made it a week, but I didn’t lose any weight.
2000: Atkins Diet. I probably stayed on some type of carb-restricted eating plan close to a year. I didn’t lose any weight, I cheated constantly, and I was constipated all the time, leading to an ominous familiarity with laxatives.
2002: Weight Watchers. I lost about 80 pounds this time. Self-destructive habits acquired include, but are not limited to: laxative abuse; obsessive weighing; believing in the inherent moral goodness of certain types of food; a dreadful cycle of deprivation, restriction, and secret binging; and plenty of self-loathing. I never quite made my goal weight of 140 pounds, and I became seriously disheartened by the whole process when, according to Weight Watchers’ own on-line calculator, I would have to exercise for approximately three hours every day to earn my coveted four activity points. In 2004 we moved to Chicago so I could go to law school. During the two week packing and moving melee, I stopped following The Plan and gained enough weight that my clothes became too tight. I actually took a pregnancy test because I couldn’t fathom any other reason that I would have put on so much weight so quickly. Being unable to remain sufficiently food-obsessed to stay on Weight Watchers while in law school, I quickly gained weight.
2005: Meridia. This worked for a little while, but eventually my brain went into manual override and the magical appetite suppressant effect (which was very similar to the effect of the afore mentioned street drugs) just stopped. Also, it’s expensive.
2006: Welbutrin. This is a little more complicated, since I asked to be put on this drug specifically due to its success as a weight loss aid, but I asked to be put on anti-depressants in the first place because I was so wracked with weight-gain-related depression and self-loathing that I was having trouble leaving the house in the morning. Since I hoped that it would help me lose weight, rather than hoping that it would help me get over a major depressive episode, I’ll count it as a diet although I still take it.
2006: Weight Watchers, redux. I started back on WW a week after I started taking Welbutrin. My goal was to fit into a suit that I had bought after my initial Meridia success. I lost weight, fit back into the suit, and felt pretty good about myself. When exam time rolled around again, I was once more unable to stay on The Plan while focusing on my studies. I knew I’d have to go off-plan during finals, but I figured that by losing weight first, I’d give myself more room to gain and could dispatch the resulting exam weight with yet another successful round of Weight Watchers. Actually, my plan was go finish law school and, while studying for the bar exam, go back on Weight Watchers and finally achieve the 140 pound goal I had set for myself four years ago.
Obviously this is not how things turned out, or else I’d be serving Crystal Light and Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches to the Weight Watchers’ representatives sent to plan my Online Achiever success story photoshoot, rather than writing a personal account of the many ways that diets have failed to fix what ails me throughout my life.
* One such short-lived attempt included following the “diet” outlined in The Valley Girl Handbook, despite said book and its included diet being PARODIES, because although I was regularly deemed “well above average” by the results of those yearly bubble tests, by that time, I had completely accepted the idea that thin people stayed thin because they just never ate and that I was not thin because I weakly and erroneously ate food, thus the idea of a diet that extolled eating nothing but iceberg lettuce and a handful of jellybeans made perfect sense to me.