I was an obese child. I was an obese adolescent. By the age of 40, I was morbidly obese. This led to a life of dieting, binging, self-loathing and eventually a surgeons knife. At 46 I lost enough weight that I could again be called, just overweight. To me that was a victory. I also discovered it was not the solution to my problems. Being fat, overweight, obese and morbidly obese were symptoms of my problems, not the problem itself. After losing 140 pounds I came face to face with the fact that I still had the same problems I always had. Further, I had no idea what they were. This story is about me researching, reaching, and learning about myself in an effort to identify and solve whatever the problems were that took a great number of years of my life.
I was not an abused child. Neither was I neglected. My childhood was not one you might consider normal but I had everything a child needs to grow up healthy and happy. I was the fifth child of seven and number 6 came 15 short months later. My mother was a very good person who was home every day when we got home from school. She never learned to drive, and during my childhood never held a job outside of the home. My father had a terrible temper and like any child I didnt ever want him to explode. But he never abused me and he rarely, if ever, directed his temper toward me. He adored my mother and he was the center of her world. If anything I would have to say I rarely had one-on-one attention with either of my parents. When there are so many kids in the house you are lucky to have time to do a head count before locking up for the night. I do not contribute my weight problem as a child to being unhappy or neglected. My Great Aunt Dorothy told me once, that my parents once forgot me at her house when I was an infant. It seems, they loaded up the car and no one remembered me. I was discovered by my aunt, asleep in the crib. She was sure they would come back for me, and sure enough when they arrived at home and were one child short, they retraced their path and remembered where I had been left. I really was too young to remember this incident so I dont think that is why I became obese, but I thought in all fairness I should mention it. I also should note that out of the seven children in the house, I was the only one who became obese. Since we all had the same parents, the same food and the same childhood, I have concluded that a troubled childhood was not my particular problem.
Neither of my parents were obese, though both were heavy as adults. My mother died at 42 years old of a brain aneurysm and when she died she wore a size 14. Since she was a normal size person as a teenager, a size 14 was way too heavy for her to be happy in, and she was always on some kind of diet. My father was heavy when I was a teenager, but had been a skinny child and young man. He died in his 60s from a stroke, and weighed about 130 pounds at the time of his death. None of my grandparents were obese and I cant think of anyone I could have caught obesity from so I conclude genetics are not my particular problem either.
My first memory of being obese was in 1967. I was 10 years old. My memory is not real clear, but it seems to me an insurance agent was at the house. We were all being weighed and information on us was being noted. When it was my turn to be weighed, I remember I weighed 110 pounds. I was excited. I was the biggest one! I didnt come out ahead of my siblings often. My brothers are all very musically inclined, as was my father. They all played guitars and we all sang in our family church group. Then there was me. At 10 years old I had not quite mastered playing the radio, so playing a guitar was not in my immediate plans. I also had a baby sister by now (child number seven). She was so tiny, she actually wore her life size dolls clothes one Christmas, including the shoes. She was tiny and frail and had beautiful red-blonde hair and everyone, including me, adored her. Anyway, here we were lined up in the kitchen and I was very proud because I weighed more than any of the others! Then my dad exclaimed, Are you kidding me? Hey, that isnt jubilation I hear, is it? I look up and I see him looking at me in disgust. My mother is looking too. She is kind of laughing, but not laughing with me. There is a silence in the air, and the kids have that funny, stricken look on their faces, like we got when one of us broke wind in church. This is a funny moment, but too gross to laugh about right now. My parents are not cruel people and I know they loved me. This must have been the first moment that they realized they had baby Huey living in their mist.
When a baby is born, the first thing people say is, How much did he weigh? The bigger he was the happier they tend to be. When someone comes to visit and their child has grown, adults make such a big deal out of it. My look how youve grown! Youre going to be as tall as your father soon! People want the big car, the big house and the big dog in the big back yard. On Thanksgiving, they want a 20-pound turkey on the table! But they dont want a fat kid. It is confusing to a child to suddenly find that her parents are not proud of her size. This was the first time I felt ashamed and different. Looking back at childhood photos I see that I was always the fat one, and the sloppy one. There was never a lot of money for clothes and mine never seemed to fit me properly or be a flattering style for my round little body. It was official. There was something ugly about me. I would carry that shame for years. I may always have a reserve of it inside me. Sometimes I wear it like a badge! Sometimes I use it as a crutch. Sometimes it just makes me sad, but its always there, ready to come to me on demand.