I’m about to take a very big step onto a limb that probably won’t hold me. Yes indeed. I’m going to finally face a big truth in my life. That would be my weight. Maybe the hardest thing of all for me to talk about. I have a lot of shame attached to this one…
What’s really weird is that when I was a child, I was so ashamed of being too skinny. Or “poor” as Granny used to call it. “Marie,” she would say, “you don’t eat enough to keep a bird alive. You’re too poor.”
By far the strongest memory I have from grade school is the humiliation and down-to-the-marrow shame I felt on weigh-in day at school. I doubt very many people where and when I grew up had scales at home. I certainly never saw one in any house in the vicinity of Star Route, Milo, Oregon back then. In fact, most health screening children got when I was growing up happened at school.
Twice a year, at the beginning and the end of each school year, the scales (the kind you stand on and move the weight along the bar until it balances in the middle of the space on the right) was brought into the classroom and one by one, we went up, took off our shoes, and stepped on the platform. The teacher would adjust the bar and call out the number, write it down in a chart, and call out the next student’s name.
The afternoon of the day of the second weigh-in during first grade, as I passed my teacher and the second grade teacher in the hall, my teacher said to the other: “Marie is the only student in first grade that didn’t gain a bit of weight the whole school year. She weighed 46 pounds at the beginning of the year, and 46 pounds today.” She shook her head, and said to me, “You’re going to have to put on some weight or you’ll blow away.”
I can still feel my face burning with shame. Hearing that and feeling that changed who I am, I believe.
In second grade, when the scales were wheeled into the room, I could hardly breathe. Every time a name was called and got one student closer to my desk in my row, my panic went up another notch. By the time my name was called, I felt about to faint.
The strangest part of this memory is that, even at age 7, I was remarkably aware that I needed to not let my anxiety show, that I was alone in this experience, and I could not admit it or share it with anyone. I needed to keep my shame to myself.
Where on earth do children learn this by this tender age?? Well, maybe that’s another blog post.
I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was when she called out the number 49. Yes!! I had put on weight!!! I didn’t need to feel shame anymore that day!! I was ecstatic! For a while.
I continued to be skin and bones through high school. I started gaining weight after leaving home for college, but then only finally reached what would be considered appropriate for my height. I started filling out more in my late 20s, then packed on quite a few pounds when I was pregnant. I was 30 when Blaine was born, and finally got back in shape over the next few years, when I ran nearly seven miles nearly every day. I loved running so much, it was my meditation and salvation during some really stressful times. I never fully recovered my running form after a stress fracture in my right foot put me into one of those wooden bootie things for a couple of months.
In fact, I’ve never really achieved regular demanding exercise for a sustained period of more than a few months for the past 20 years. I also have an addictive fondness for chocolate (among other calorie laden food items). And it shows. I now weigh significantly more than I did when I was pregnant. More than I’ve ever weighed in my life. Twice my weight in high school.
You notice I am not naming a number? I tried. No can do. The shame, I am still drowning in it. I can only say it is way too high.
And I need to fix it. I remember visiting my Aunt Cora not long before she died, after her leg had been amputated because of diabetes. (Everybody called it “sugar diabetes” where I grew up. Haven’t heard that phrase in so many years.) I could be her.
I don’t want to be. I want 2010 to be the year I face this and fix it. I don’t really have a plan at this point, but I’m going to make one. My coworkers are in this with me; each of us in our department faces our health issues and we have resolved to tackle this together.
I will track my plan and progress here in coming months. Please help me. I need your support. Have you faced this and fixed it for good? What worked? What advice do you have?
I have a feeling I need to go after the shame as well as the pounds. I guess you could say I’m seeking weightlessness in more ways than one.