Last July I went in for an annual checkup and was given a thumbs up. I was perfectly healthy for my age and condition.
A month later I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but that’s another story.
Because the local clinic has been going through providers like someone with allergies goes through Kleenex, when I went in for this exam, I saw a person I’d never seen before.
She looked me over, approved of my various test scores, listened to my lungs and heart, and was about to tell me I was fine, but she could not let me go without doing her duty as a medical person.
She felt compelled to speak to me about my weight.
“It’s about portion control,” she said, holding up both hands as if about to catch a volleyball and then drawing them closer together to catch a softball, to indicate smaller portions of food. “You need to use portion control.”
Don’t eat so much and lose some weight. Simple.
She was so nice, and I really liked her. So I didn’t laugh in her face.
I could have, and I could have said something like:
“I am seventy-one years old. I have been on more diets than I can remember. I have lost hundreds of pounds. You are looking at the result of successful diets.”
But like I said, she was nice, and I liked her, so I didn’t laugh at her or tell her what it’s like being a fat person in a thin-obsessed world.
I was put on diet pills by my family doctor when I was a teenager. That did not turn out well. When I ran out of pills sometime later, I did not realize I was addicted. I had mood swings, I fell asleep at my desk at work, I alienated a friend or two. Lost that job, had to move out of my shared apartment because I could not pay my rent, and ended up couch surfing in San Francisco.
Eat less and lose some weight: I have counted calories; used Weight Watcher points; attended other weight loss groups (every diet works for a while); gone to Overeaters Anonymous (3 meals a day, nothing in between, 1 day at a time); became a vegetarian and lost weight (but my hair died); often lived on skinless chicken breast and steamed broccoli and little else; choked down a plain rice cake while everyone else had mashed potatoes with gravy; had two cups of popcorn with nothing on it as a special snack; carefully measured and weighed my food, and measured lo-cal mayo and lo-cal margarine in teaspoons. Fun fact: when you spread lo-cal margarine on toast little water droplets come out of it.
I looked up calories and carbs in books until the pages were tattered and worn, and kept food journals to track everything I ate, how many calories and carbs it had, and what my totals were at the end of each day. Filled notebooks with these numbers.
Stopped eating all dairy on the advice of a naturopath. He said that would cure my migraines. Lost sixty pounds. Still had the migraines.
Every single time I controlled my portions – my meals – my calories – I would grow weary after months of eating obsessively – putting what food I consumed and how much food I consumed above everything else in my life – and then I would lose control.
Soon I would be eating any old way and living my life for other things: music, friends, family, books. I would gain back all the weight I’d lost, and usually a little more, because losing weight freaked my body out, apparently, and it wanted a bit more of a cushion if another famine struck.
This is a common thing for dieters – lose ten pounds, put on twenty. Lose fifty, put on sixty-five.
It would be nice not to be fat, but every diet has been a lot of hard work for temporary non-fatness (I have never been thin), and then I ended up fatter.
My husband Rick was the opposite. If he missed a meal, he lost five pounds. He complained about not being able to gain weight, and he complained about women saying, “I hate you,” when he complained about not being able to gain weight. He didn’t think that was nice.
“It’s the same problem!” he ranted.
Well, yeah, maybe, I guess, the same in that he could not control his weight, but he did not have the whole world shaming him for being thin.
Fat people do have people shaming them for being fat.
So, anyway, when this extremely nice well-intentioned woman held up her hands to describe portion control as part of her medical duty, I did not laugh.
She meant well.