How I got almost obese

There are a lot of things that I am really glad I don’t ever have to explain to my 15-year-old-self. Among them? My current figure. (A combination of the Venus on a Half Shell and a Mr. Potato Head.)

This morning I “weighed in” to get an official number for my now very necessary weight loss. I weighed 197.4 pounds. To give you some idea, the last time I hit 197.0 pounds I was about eight months pregnant. So the last time I was this size it was because I was carrying around another human life. Like a whole ‘nother person.

When I got pregnant, I was by no means at my fighting weight. I had started to creep up the scale after “retiring” from running because I hated it. I had meant to lose some weight, but because I was about to get knocked up, I didn’t really care THAT much. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I was nearing 170.0 pounds. (Oof.) Previous to that, I had enjoyed a few years of being about 150 pounds. Too thin by some folks standards, but man did I look great. Hungry, but great.

As many of you know, weight is a tough subject for me. Despite every reason to be a normal and well adjusted gal with no body image issues at all, I instead opted to go down the path of being a hugely fucked up gal with lots of issues. I started throwing up my food when I was in first grade. I was at a pool party and I was eight years old. I ate too much cake and I felt bad about myself and for some reason my eating-disorder-preconditioned-brain connected some super fucked up dots and I made myself throw up. That was the start of a 17-year battle with bulimia. (Though I’d argue that was just the first outward manifestation of a life-long battle with food and eating.) Having my cake and throwing it up too was easy. It made sense. There are times even today that it still makes sense.

For starters, I do not eat bon bons. I don’t scoop ice cream into my pie hole while bemoaning my existence. In the traditional sense, I don’t use food as comfort. I know cake doesn’t love me. I realize that BLTs don’t care about me as a person. For me, eating has always been about seeking stimulation. When I’m bored or restless I look forward to eating. Maybe it will be fun! Maybe that feta salata will be entertaining!

Another important thing to know is how healthy I eat. Kale, sprouted nuts, salads, cottage cheese, kombucha, no red meat, lots of herbs, olive oil…. We spend hundreds of dollars a week at Whole Foods on really good quality food. I’m living proof that you can get pretty fucking fat on large quantities (accidentally large quantities) of healthy food.

And I drink. Again, I’m not guzzling growlers and slinging White Russians. But I do drink beer and wine. Usually 3-4 days a week I have a glass or two of wine and then on the weekends maybe more. Depends. But I’m not taking out a bottle a night.

But because I don’t have these crazy swings of totally out of control behavior, losing weight is nothing short of just plain annoying. Because I’m not saddling up to the bar and ordering cheese fries and bacon cheese burgers, the thought of having to lose 40 or 50 pounds seems cruel. I don’t deserve to be punished when I didn’t do anything wrong. But that none of that changes the cold, hard facts. I am 4.5 pounds from OBESITY. Those tiny weights you grab at a step aerobics class are all that stand between me and obesity. And I’m not the kind of girl who was supposed to be obese. Seriously.

But it goes like this.

You stop running after four or five half marathons because you hate running. Running sucks. And then you start having a few more beers or don’t reduce your carb intake even though you’re not running 30 miles a week. Then you get pregnant and you finally find something YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT. I excelled at being pregnant in a way few can. I was SO good at it. And you’re pregnant so no one is like “why is that chick eating two entrees?” They’re like, “you are so cute and pregnant!” (Wee!)

And then your baby comes and he doesn’t latch so you’re pumping all the time. You’re pumping in a unisex, single bathroom in the hallway of an industrial building at 9AM and 1PM. You’re rushing home to pump again before your boobs explode and your nipples take someone’s eye out. You can’t jog because you wear a 40EE and any sudden movement causes pain and leaking. And no one likes a leaky jogger. Fortunately, breast feeding takes a lot of the baby weight off. (Not all, but a lot.) And you’re feeling pretty okay.

And then after about a year you have to stop pumping. Because pumping is a prison. And breast feeding is making you nuts. And you’re crying a lot. And something is totally up with your hormones. So you stop and you gain a few lbs, but it’s not the end of the world because you’re going to start exercising again because your boobs are no longer weapons of mass destruction. But then you get a new job. And it’s terrible. And you have to buy a Prius and you’re driving to work in the morning, crying, and then driving home in traffic, cursing the clock and trying to make it in time to let the nanny off. And you’re tired as fuck when you get home and your baby hasn’t seen you all day and you have about an hour before he has to go to bed. So you eat some cheese and olives and crackers and wait for your husband to get home. And you stress about money and feel guilty about your baby and your terrible job. And so you open a bottle of wine and you try to just breathe and relax. And then he gets home and you look at your baby and he has some wine and then you talk about dinner and then OH FUCK YOU TOTALLY FORGOT THAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO JOGGING. Maybe you’ll wake up at 4:45 the next morning and exercise before going to your terrible job? Maybe? (Answer: no.)

So then you leave your job. And that’s a huge relief but it’s not a relief to be without a job, a primary breadwinner, and panicked as shit that you need to do something. So you start hustling. Because the nanny has to get paid and the rent doesn’t pay itself and you’re arguing with your husband and eating cheese and crackers because it’s easy and dinner is a distant memory when you’ve got a little guy who needs to take a bath and go to bed. Maybe you’ll cook some chicken later. Or order Chinese. Or both.

AND OH FUCK YOU FORGOT THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT. So you don’t.

And then you move. Because you and your husband finally decide that something’s gotta give. So you move. And it’s great. But now you commute three hours a day and the baby has daycare and once again working out is going to have to be before 6AM or after 8PM and while that’s not impossible, it’s just not motivating. And you’re happy in your new house and you’re starting to feel like maybe being fat isn’t that big of a deal. And you take on a persona. And you get a little less beautiful to yourself. And your underwear get HUGE.

And then you get on the scale one day and between what felt like yesterday and now you’ve put on more than twenty pounds. And you feel a lot of sadness and guilt. And no matter how many times you say to yourself, “I am more than this number.” It doesn’t make it less humiliating. It doesn’t change that you can’t buy new clothes and you don’t want to see old friends because you know what they’re thinking. They want to know how you got almost obese. And you want to be able to explain it, but you know that at the end of the day the real reason is that you chose this over losing weight. I’m almost obese because I chose to be. And I didn’t even realize that’s what I was choosing. I was just trying to get through another day or season or situation. And ten extra pounds seemed manageable. And then twenty was only ten away from ten. But now…

Now I’m 25 lbs from where I started, 40 lbs from where I “should” be, and 55 lbs from where I once was. And it sucks so bad.

So today I got on the scale and I got the number and I wrote it on my fridge. (Which isn’t symbolic, just centrally located.) And while I know it isn’t about a number, I also know that’s what motivational people say to fat people. It’s about a number. It shouldn’t be about an unrealistic number, but these numbers are a necessary guiding principle. Girl got fat and she’s got to get un-fat. Before I get obese.

Because that, friends, is how I got almost obese.

crossing the bridge

| This post may contain content unsuitable for children and the impressionable. | 

Saying that parenthood is a club is obnoxious and makes all your childless friends want to kill you. Unfortunately, much like being a cancer survivor or divorcee, being a parent is something you really don’t “get” until you’re in the throes. You can intellectualize the experience. You can understand the statements being made by parents– “I think I’d rather be dead”– but you can’t truly internalize these statements until you’ve been there. How do I know this? Because I spent 29 years pretending I totally understood when my friends told me they wanted to jump off bridges. Turns out, I did not understand. Not until my little toesies were gripping the edge of said bridge did I reflect back on those friends and think, “oh my god. you were not kidding.” 

But this is the circle of life. It’s a series of epiphanies about how someone else felt and guilt that you did not react appropriately. Your relationship with your own parents improves mightily when you realize what an assbag you are for complaining about not having the perfect childhood. You’re lucky you came out alive. So long as no one tried to diddle you, you’re fine. Now move on. 

The hubs and I aren’t reading any parenting books. Primarily we don’t care, but we also don’t need any standards set that we know we won’t meet. Sitting in a mommy’s group last week I listened to one mom cry (CRY!) because she read a book about making her baby sleep 12 hours by 12 weeks. It worked perfectly for her sister-in-law, but 12 weeks had come and gone and her baby was only sleeping 6-8 hours a night. She actually used the word “failure.” Meanwhile, elsewhere in the United States, a woman is being arrested because her child was found eating herself in a cage. Let’s employ a little perspective here. Your cashmere swaddled bundle of 8-hours-of-sleep joy has the memory of a goldfish. Cage girl is going to be fucked up. It’s highly unlikely she’ll forget that time she ate her arm. 

Aging has (in my experience) little to do with wisdom and everything to do with perspective. Maybe perspective and wisdom are actually the same thing… (ZING!) 

I look back at pre-baby Caroline and I miss her, but I also think she’s a dumb ass. I don’t blame her, I’d be a dumb ass if I were her too. (Ha. See what I did there?!) But pre-baby Caroline didn’t understand her own reality relative to what it was to become. There is a legitimate grieving period that takes place when you take on a small child. The old you is gone. And while your life will normalize, it’s not going to ever go back. You have to say goodbye. And that goodbye is a big ball of hard. It involves facing your mortality and understanding the cyclical nature of all things, but most of all it just sucks so hard to realize that you will likely never feel okay signing up for the Santa Speedo Run again. Shit ain’t right. 

But, there’s a silver lining. Seriously. Your brain actually changes. 

I spent nearly seventeen years throwing up my food. I joke that I liked to have my cake and throw it up too, but obviously eating disorders are no joking matter. (If you or someone you know is suffering, I encourage you to reach out. Life if too short to be living in constant fear of food.) It started when I was in first grade and continued well into my twenties. I will not lie to you, to this day I think the sick Caroline looked fucking phenomenal, but I also know how much turmoil lurked within and I know that I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to be 130 pounds ever again. I used to dream of being pregnant, not because I wanted kids, but because I wanted a break. I wanted air cover to eat. I wanted to be able to put something in my mouth and not have to explain to myself what I was going to do to make up for it. Or figure out how to throw up in a public place. 

Now let’s fast forward. 

Yesterday I was at the gym. I look terrible. I was there in a feeble attempt to kick start the rejuvenation of my body, but I could not help but be distracted by the form staring back at me in the mirror. To be clear, this is nothing new. I’ve been looking at this alien form for a few months now. When I look in the mirror, I see a body of smooth lines and clear, youthful skin has been replaced by… lumps. Deep purple stretch marks make an interstate map out of my huge, efficient breasts. If my nipples could talk they would tell me to fuck off. Their once pink color is gone. They are dark and National Geographic like. Hours on a breast pump has pulled and stretched them to awkward protrusions. They are cracked and sore and angry. 

The stretch marks don’t stop there. My thighs– the Carsey wonders that once never touched– are now smooshed together like two obese people on a JetBlue flight. My stomach is jiggly and shaky and deformed. My arms have little wings. When I wear pants (or pant, singular, as only one pair fits) the excess Caroline bubbles over and makes my shirts catch. (Which is only made more attractive by my breasts tugging at the top.)  All in all, I’m a train wreck. And the silver lining? I really just don’t care that much. Not in a “I’ve given up” kind of way, but in a way that acknowledges that I made the choice to go whole ass with the Ben & Jerry’s during my pregnancy and now I’ve got other shit to do. The gym simply isn’t my biggest priority. Not by a long shot. 

And when I see skinny 23-year-olds prancing around half naked, I actually smile and think “you go girl! You walk around half naked in 43 degree weather.” Because I know that one day they will cross the bridge. They’ll find themselves staring at a foreign body in a mirror and thinking about how fucking hot and amazing they used to look and feeling bad about giving me stink eye when I rolled past them on the side walk with my bulky form and screaming baby. Every thing comes back around. 

It’s still not easy to be a plus-sized version of myself, especially not when I have to go home for the holidays, but for now I sort of see my body as a recovering vessel. The small boy used it to create a perfect little environment for baking to optimal cuteness and then left me with some broke ass shit. And it’s probably not the last time he’s going to pull something like that. 

Asshole.