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Back in the early ‘60’s a child was born to a young mother. Hitting the world at 19” long and a whopping 8 lbs. 8 oz., that child went through all the usual child stuff of that time: tonsillitis and measles and chicken pox; glasses at five; braces at ten; teasing and bullying from the other children. A constant problem with knees that popped and swelled and hurt and generally didn’t cooperate was eventually determined to be a previously unrecognized birth defect in the meniscus. Surgery at twelve “corrected” that problem, removing the offending part entirely because the medical community at that time thought it would grow back in the right form. Of course, now we know that isn’t true, and while there was a brief respite for a few years after the surgery, that child later spent decades with bone-on-bone until the pain became too bad, and the joints too fused, to go on any further. Thankfully, there was a surgeon who believed in quality of life over commonly accepted medical practice, and those ratty old arthritic knees were polished up with titanium and polyethylene. After four-and-a-half decades, the knee pain was finally gone. But the worst of the damage would never be healed.

It’s not a physical damage. It’s far deeper than that. Think about it for a moment: spending your entire childhood unable to run and jump and play with your friends because your knees don’t want to work right, in constant pain both physically and emotionally. The course of an entire lifetime is charted in those first few formative years. Activity levels, social interactions, eating preferences and thousands of other little details that will affect you for the rest of your life are developed, learned, accepted, adopted in early childhood. Add in a genetic predisposition for depression, and you have a winning formula for a losing battle.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m referencing myself in the above paragraphs. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my childhood and the decisions that led me to where I am. I’m not blaming anyone besides myself, mind you, because as a responsible adult what I am now and what I do now is entirely my problem. But I can’t help but wonder how things would be different if I had been able to be more active as a child, if certain patterns hadn’t been developed to compensate for the different kinds of pain I was experiencing then. Would the depression still have been such an issue in my life? How about the migraines and the nightmares? And the worst part yet, would I have spent my entire life in a constant battle with my weight?

I’m the descendent of German and Scandinavian immigrants. Everyone of them was a big person for their time, and the only thing that kept them within reasonable condition was a lot of hard work; in the fields, in construction, in the lumber yards, etc. Our family puts on muscle easily when we do physical work, and fat easily when we don’t, and neither one goes away without a lengthy hard fight. I’m built to go all day long at a steady pace in a cold environment. Because of those damn knees, I never developed the habits necessary to keep that genetic package balanced. And so I’ve spent my entire life in a battle with food.

It’s always been what to eat, can I eat, should I eat, when to eat, how to eat, every blasted day as long as I can remember. Counting calories, carbs, fats, sugars, steps, laps, miles. Reading all the latest weight related literature, following all the newest doctors’ recommendations. Weight Watchers, Atkins, NutraSystem, portion control, small short-term losses that only lead to beating my head against a wall of failure time after time after time. Aside from the occasional vice, we don’t have junk food in our house. Haven’t for years. That was one of the first changes we made, just simply not buying it in the first place. If it’s not in the house, we can’t eat it. We avoid processed foods and complex carbs and soda and eat lean meats, fresh vegetables and whole grains. The last few times we had “fast food,” we both felt crappy for days afterward.

And yet, despite all that, my husband and I are both the heaviest we’ve been in our lives. Because of our ages and our sizes, our doctor automatically assumes we’re about to collapse from a heart attack or stroke at any moment. Plus he is constantly testing us for diabetes, high cholesterol, bad triglycerides and whatever else as he takes pints of blood every time we visit. All those tests come back within normal ranges, every time. We both have blood pressure on the high end of normal, but that seems reasonable given how much blood has to be moved over how much area. Or maybe it’s really the stress of spending a lifetime worried about every atom we eat, seeing the eyes of the crowd judging us as we walk by, hearing the snide remarks behind our backs. Fat shaming seems to be the last bastion of bullies everywhere, because the popular perception is that obese people are just lazy fucks busy stuffing their faces with potato chips and ice cream all day long. Bite me, bullies.

People are obese for a lot of different reasons, usually all intertwined to make a big Mobius Knot of complexity that turns any effort for changing that status into an epic war of self. It’s genetics and mental health and habits learned decades ago that are nearly impossible to reprogram. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no quick and easy program, no obvious answer to any one individual’s weight problem. But until the medical community can accept that and stop trying to feed us all those pills and diets and flawed parameters of what’s “normal,” (see “Why BMI is inaccurate and misleading”), and the fashion industry stops pushing a completely unhealthy ideal of beauty, and society gets over its need to pick on those who are different, people like me and my husband will continue to suffer for sins we haven’t committed.

And you wonder why I don’t leave the house anymore. Here’s my bottle of Fuckitall, now where’s my dark chocolate…

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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