Posted by: jt | June 1, 2010

yet, you’re my favorite work of art

There’s been an upswing in the level of discussion about weight and body issues in my world lately. Amber’s dealing with a frustrating and bizarre weight gain, while my mom has been slowly losing weight over the last year. She’s lost more than 30 pounds and is looking and feeling great. My sister and I are both the heaviest we’ve ever been and our mini family reunion two weeks ago was full of uncomfortable moments when my mom tried not to show her excitement about her hard-earned weight loss and my sister (frequently unsuccessfully) tried to bite back envious comments about it.

I’m incredibly proud of my mom and her impressive self-transformation over the last few months warrants a post of its own. Let me not be distracted from FAT.

It’s such an ugly word, isn’t it?

It seems like kids are almost always either scrawny or chubby, and I was always a round kid. It’s funny, I always thought of myself as fat, even though now, I look at my young cousins who are built the same way I was, and I just think they look like kids. Regardless, I was always the fat girl.

On some levels, in retrospect, it boggles my mind. I remember running a decently timed mile for the goddamned Presidential Physical Fitness Bullshit. I played basketball, rather well even. I rode my bike 8 miles a day one summer, constantly careening back and forth from my friend’s house where there was a pool. How fat could I have possibly been?

I remember kids’ comments though, all through elementary school and middle school. In elementary school they embarrassed me. In middle school I (literally) wanted to die. By high school, the commentary was mostly hushed or just an unspoken judgment and, when it wasn’t, I was capable of defending myself with bitter and angry diatribes.

I can’t help but think that if I’d had the skill to dress better – instead of my unflattering uniform of jeans, polo shirt, flannel shirt – I might have gotten a slightly different response and, by extension, felt differently too. I still remember the day I found the courage to wear the How Swede it is! shirt that clung to every curve of my upper half. I walked into chemistry class and the guy who sat in front of me – who was super-hot and OMG a year older – openly gave me an appraising once-over, smiled appreciatively and nodded, saying, “How Swede it is.”

Call off the feminist watchdogs – that objectification of my hated body made my year.

And, note to self, if ever I have kids, help them dress in clothes that fit.

When I left for college, I was somewhere between a size 16 and 18, which is probably fairly described as “fat” on my 5’5” frame. After two semesters of running up and down 4 flights of stairs multiple times a day (oh, dorms without elevators!) and subsisting almost entirely off of pretzels and peanut butter, I was down 35 pounds. The pants I bought before a spring break trip to New Orleans were an odd size 13 and they were adorable.

I went home after that first year of college and my mom gleefully took me shopping to dress my new body. For the first time, I remember trying on clothes being fun. Things actually looked good. I looked good. One of my guy friends from high school, who hadn’t once actually hit on me through four years of hormone-fueled adolescence suddenly couldn’t keep his hands off me.

I can’t help but wonder how different the next few years of my life might have been if my body had stayed that way.

The problem was, I had subsisted off of pretzels and peanut butter because they were the only things I could eat without feeling sick. I was in constant pain and was missing classes left and right because I couldn’t move. My doctor prescribed Depo Lupron for endometriosis and magically, for the first time in 6 years, I had a day without pain. And then another. And oh my god, screw the side effects, I had my life back.

My doctor told me, flat out, “You will gain weight on this medication.” She was right. In one year, I gained 55 pounds. It was horrifying. No matter what I did – same levels of activity, eating healthy food – the weight just packed itself onto my body. Lupron, as it’s commonly referred to, puts women’s bodies into pseudo-menopausal states, meaning, your body chemistry is that of a menopausal woman, but it will revert to its natural state once you go off the drug.

By the time I was 24, I had gone through menopause twice.

My mom and I started menopause together.

I hope we one day live in a world where no woman can truthfully make those statements. Lupron, for all its magically pain-eliminating properties, gave me heartburn so bad, I once spent an entire night throwing up and writhing in pain. I stared at the clock, desperately waiting for 5:00 a.m. to hit so that I could call my mom and cry to her. The hot flashes were relatively manageable – I stood in choir rehearsal in the barest of tank tops while everyone else wore wool sweaters. The mood swings, which left my friends in stunned silence while I sobbed over miscounting one measure of piano music, were easily mitigated with Zoloft. The clincher though was that the Lupron made me feel like I was dying. It’s difficult to describe, but when I talk to my grandma and she mentions that she doesn’t think she’ll be around for too much longer, I believe her. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re withering up inside and slowly dying away, like a flower in a vase.

I went to my doctor and asked for treatment options that weren’t hormones. She told me there weren’t any and I walked out of her office, never to return.

Six years later, those 55 pounds are still with me. In the last year or so, I’ve gained
about another 20, which is uncharacteristic for me but, in retrospect, not particularly surprising. My weight has been almost completely constant since that horrifying year when my body suddenly went out of my control…and then I moved to Seattle, where every other corner has a great little bakery with buttery croissants, the lattes are made with whole milk, and there’s a local cheese company that is unspeakably bad for me.

I haven’t been eating well. I have earned this weight. But I don’t like it.

I’m hoping that my mom can serve as inspiration for me, and that by making some fairly simple changes, my body will respond. While I’m reasonably active (I walk, on average, 3 miles a day and I do, deliberately, break a sweat for the last half), I’m not feeling particularly healthy. I owe it to myself, and my poor, abused body, to change that.

I think I will.



  1. I remember the “How Swede It Is” shirt… it was HOT!! Do you still have it?

    I went to my doctor and asked for treatment options that weren’t hormones. She told me there weren’t any and I walked out of her office, never to return.

    Wise decision. Seems to me that, w/ rare exception, a flat-out “no” is a big red flag in these situations.

    We are actually working on a program for Lupron at work right now… apparently it is also indicated for early puberty. (??) Will be interested to read what the program says (because I’m the dork who can’t just build something, I have to READ it too… hey, I can’t help it, if you put words in front of me, I will read them).

    As for being healthy… hoooo boy don’t get me started! I think there’s SO much wrong with the way our society frames the concept of “health.” First of all – what IS health? We have to come to a common definition before we can even understanding what we’re talking about. It bothers me that health is so often directly tied w/ weight in our society. But the fact is, you CAN’T tell how “healthy” someone is just by looking at them. And what if there are multiples WAYS to be healthy? Lots of examining and unpacking needs to happen, but for the most part I see none of that and a lot of shame-mongering and trying to make a buck off of people’s insecurities.

    Other than that… an honest and brave post. Feels silly to write that (seems so canned) but there you go. :)

  2. I do still have the “How Swede it is” shirt. :-) At this point, I don’t like how it looks on me, but…I intend to change that.

    Lupron is fucking evil. Initially I really was ecstatic, but everyone I’ve talked to (IRL and online) develops a tolerance to it and it’s not like you CAN take more, so then you’re just fucked and in pain again while you feel like you’re dying. You also can’t be on it for more than 6 consecutive months…which is really fucking scary.

    There seems to be a lot of fucking in that paragraph. Yes. Fuck Lupron.

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