But I also worked out like a maniac and counted every single calorie I put in my mouth.
Now I know this diligence will not persist forever — that I can be a bit compulsive when I start something like this.
I have an indulgent nature and I have indulged myself right up to about 100 pounds — at my heaviest — more than I want to be.
My joke is that I have been on “the Atkins Diet” for years and that’s how I got my plump physique. Of course, the Atkins in my diet is moi.
You see, I use deprecating humor about my weight a good bit. And I get grief about it from my friends. I have always been this way. But when you poke fun at yourself, especially about being overweight, people feel a need to reassure you or lovingly chastise you for it.
As a younger woman, the self-directed pings might have come from a place of insecurity and I might have subconsciously wanted to be reassured.
But now that I am older, it’s really based in honesty. I happen to think “fat” is a perfectly good word … especially since I own a mirror.
I think our culture of euphemisms could just be how we have as a nation become more and more obese. We’ve sugarcoated being fat (both figuratively and literally). I know we sometimes choose our words to be polite and I am a fan of both politeness and civility.
But I am amazed at all the words out there that we use for being overweight. There’s tubby, chunky, portly, rotund, blimpy, heavy-set, plump, ample, stout, stocky and robust.
One for the ages is “big boned.” That might very well be true, but it’s a different matter if those bones are covered in fat, my friends. My bones actually seem to be stunted, because at 5’ 1” I am far shorter than the rest of my family.
Other words we use instead of fat are chubby or fluffy. My cat Rosie is fluffy; I am not.
And I, being of an artistic bent, have often referred to myself “Rubenesque” over the years. Now I have seen many of Peter Paul Rubens paintings and I am pretty darn sure he would not have invited me to sit for one of his paintings.
Though I must confess as a younger woman when I stood in front of several of Rubens' paintings in Paris, I did have an epiphany that a full-bodied woman could indeed be beautiful. I actually cried at that realization. In my mind’s self mirror I had never let myself fathom that …
But as someone who has had my weight fluctuate for much of my post-pubescent life, I will tell you that words can hurt, even those meant as compliments.
I know it may surprise some people, but one of the most hurtful things I have heard in my life (many times) is “You have such a pretty face.”
I have heard that from loved ones, friends and from strangers.
What people who have not struggled with weight may not realize — especially when it comes to the self-esteem of a young girl — is that those of us battling extra weight don’t hear the compliment. We just don’t. We hear what's left unsaid. It goes through our filter in a wholly different way. What we hear is “You have such a pretty face, but the rest of you is not ….”
“Curvy” and “plus-sized” are more modern adjectives. And plus-sized I don’t mind. But you can be plus-sized and not be fat … and you can be curvy and not fat. In fact, as I lose weight, I am so hoping the curves remain.
I am not naïve though. I do know the word “fat” is bit blunt. And I guess the fact that I would not say it about someone else shows that it’s still a very loaded word, even for me.
I am not trying to reclaim the word “fat” in an activist way as some have. And I believe we should all be kind to one another and mindful that how we intend words is not how people may take them. And I do know that people can be cruel and that a lot of overweight people have been on the receiving end of verbal cruelty. That is not acceptable.
I suppose I should also be mindful that while I am OK with calling myself fat, if it makes others uncomfortable, I should perhaps curb my self-directed jokes and jabs. (But Vegas has the odds of that at 500-1.)
But it’s not self-loathing, I promise. I am just a sarcastic gal and most of us tend to be tougher on ourselves than we are on others. And I worry that thinking of myself as simply “plump” or “fluffy” is dangerous because it could keep me overweight and endanger my health and enjoyment of life.
So I use “fat” as a reminder that I am committed to reducing the fat on my body.
There’s also another reason I happen to use the word fat these days. As an editor, I know it’s easy to make a simple letter change and you have the word “fit.”
And that’s what I am really aiming for: To be able to call myself “fit” instead of “fat.”
This weekly Tales from the Treadmill blog is sponsored by Georgia Power Co.