When my dad was still alive, he loved to tell the story of the time I went for my kindergarten interview.
My parents wanted to enroll me in kindergarten at age 4, so I had to prove I had the skills to be enrolled at an early age. In the school’s office, staff had apparently set out some cookies, which I allegedly kept eyeing. When the administrator came out to tell us she was ready for me to come back and take the test, I said, “But…can’t we have a snack first?” So they let me have some cookies. I passed their little competency exam and, that fall, I went to kindergarten as the youngest and smallest kid in class.
I didn’t spend many years as the smallest kid in class. I had to begin wearing a bra in fifth grade, and my hips steadily expanded as puberty progressed. I had acne in sixth grade. I started to gain extra weight when I got to the age at which I could make my own food – usually easy stuff like pasta and macaroni and cheese.
Because I was an early bloomer (the breasts and the acne), wore a hideous pair of oversized glasses and was always the new kid (Navy brat), I usually only had a few good friends during my adolescent years. I don’t think I knew that kids were supposed to “hang out” on the weekends until I was 14 or 15. I generally contented myself with some carb-heavy, starchy comfort food and watched a lot of MTV, but I was never really fat. In fact, I look quite small in most of my high school pictures. There were some heavy times, but also some slender times. The yo-yoing started early for me.
When I went to college, I did little to combat the Freshman 15 (and then some). I exhausted the funds on my food card at least once that I can remember. My dorm neighbors would offer me their food cards so I could eat, while I made the excuse that I spent all my own food card money on coffee for all-nighters. While I did spend a substantial sum on coffee, I also would treat myself sometimes to two grilled cheese sandwiches at one sitting, or to lots of snacks between meals.
But I still carried my weight pretty well. The hips and breasts always assured I maintained some kind of hourglass figure. A lot of girls at my first college in Western NY looked like I did, and I never really felt fat, even when my boyfriend’s awful female friends would tell him I should lose weight. Apparently, they used to imitate me by doing a waddle-walk. I am here to say that I have never waddled. But I also never bucked up the cash to use the university’s tiny, ill-equipped gym, and I didn’t really draw back on the food intake.
When I transferred to Texas Tech my junior year, I was stunned when confronted with thousands of thin, blonde, tan classmates. Of course in a school that size, you get a lot of people of all kinds of sizes. But I’d never seen such a beauty pageant in my whole life. I whipped myself into shape through healthy eating and extensive use of the university’s awesome rec center. The cost for use of the rec center was automatically added to our tuition at Tech, so I didn’t feel the sting of laying out cash for it. By the close of my first year at Tech, I was about 20 lbs. lighter than when I’d enrolled – and blonde. Life was good. I found that I could eat a lot of healthy food and exercise and keep the weight off. I kept that up for the next couple of years, but unfortunately, I packed on poundage during my last year there. I’d been through a bad breakup with a boyfriend, I worked two jobs and took 18 hours each semester, and fast food or quick and easy meals were my mainstays. I think I made it to the rec center only a few times that year.
My weight continued to yo-yo after college as I juggled too many work hours and attempts for some kind of social life. When my father died unexpectedly in 2008, I withdrew from the world. I went to work and came home. That was it. I would cook for hours at home and eat most of what I prepared while I ignored phone calls from friends and immersed myself in episode after episode of Law & Order. I drank a lot of beer. By the time I decided to do something about my weight early in the year I got married (2009), I had ballooned to 173 lbs. I couldn’t believe it. Other people got fat; I always just got a little plump while my hips and breasts did their job by keeping my waist somewhat thin. But my waist wasn’t thin anymore.
So I lost 22 lbs. for my wedding.
Then I gained 10 back after my wedding, then I lost about 30 after Jason and I moved to Dallas-Ft. Worth.
Currently, I’ve put 10 back on. I know my occasional binges on pasta, popcorn and other bad-list items are to blame.
My story echoes those of millions who struggle with their weight. I know I’m not special in that regard. But somehow, I have confidence in my ability to prevail over this compulsion.
The daughter of a Navy sailor is nothing if not resilient.