For the last ten years, I've been fat. I would never have imagined when I was 40 that I would say that about myself. While, at 40 I had been gaining weight bit by bit over the years as many of us do in middle age, it always seemed reversible, that with a couple of months of dieting, I'd take it off. But I never did, or rather I did take it off, over and over, and each time I put it back on, a few pounds joined the others.
A number of things made that so. A shift somehow in the perception of myself, a desire to pad myself in self-protection to keep my demons at bay, a loss of confidence in myself as an attractive woman, a desire to stay numb from my feelings that was stronger than a desire to be thin. Food, especially ice cream, became really important in my life, a kind of savior. As Geneeth Roth says in her new book, "Weight is what happens when you use food to flatten your life." She could have said "fatten your life."
Sugar and fat gave me relief from loneliness, boredom, anxiety, self-doubt, any of the many forms of wretchedness that can come upon us.
When my nephew Miles was 7 or 8, he said to me one day, "You're fat." He meant nothing cruel by it, he was into labelling what he saw, but those words etched themselves into my memory. Me, who'd always been thin, me who took pride in having a nice body. Me.
And over the years, I've become conscious of my size in a way that I would never have imagined. Will an airplane seatbelt fit? Will a movie theater seat be comfortable? Can I get past someone in a small space? Basically, can I fit? Can I fit in? I never thought about those issues that face the obese every day. It gave me empathy in a way that I'd never had sympathy.
I don't know what people see when they look at me. I don't know if they see the fat first or look into my eyes. I don't know if they think less of me for having eaten myself into this place. I suspect they never think of the emotional issues involved. I certainly didn't before I became fat myself.