In search of weightlessness

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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.

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7 responses

  1. Hi Maria,
    First off, I really like the name of your blog. Inspired!
    Secondly, I too carry around too many grams, ounces, pounds, or stone (as the Brits do).
    One of the support web sites I go to, and one that I use to track my food intake, and to log my (not often enough) walking is http://www.sparkpeople.com/
    And the best part is, they are FREE! – Well, there are a few commercials, but it is not too bad. – Give them a try. Money back guaranteed 😉

    All the Best with your Quest!
    HD in Roseburg

  2. Hello Maria,
    First off, I really like the name of your blog. Great choice of words.
    Secondly, I am overweight also, and am having a hard time with it. I want to recommend the following website: http://www.sparkpeople.com – I use them occasionally to track my food intake, and to log my walking exercise (when I do them that is). The best part about the site, it is FREE! Check them out!

    Have a happy, healthy, and slimmer New Year!

    HD in Roseburg

  3. Marie,
    I remember you from seventh and eigth grade. I had no idea you had issues about your weight. It seems odd that you could feel shame about being too thin, when so many of us had already learned to worry about too much weight.

    I don’t have any words of wisdom, but I have noticed that my body treats food and exercise much differently than it did before, say age 50. Exercise for me is walking as much as I can, which keeps my spirits up and my body working. Food is many things: comfort for a single woman, nutrition for my body, a way I honor myself and the world by raising and perserving as much as I can. But my body treats food differently, digesting sluggishly, turning much more into fat that it used to, rejecting some food outright in allergies and intollerances.

    I know your concern is tied up in health issues also, but don’t focus too much on weight. In seventh grade, Mr. Matthews set you the task of helping me with my math homework. I insisted that it was just to hard for someone like me. You said, “you are as smart as anyone in this room.” I’ve always remembered that, since that room included Sandy Lilligren, Gretchen Williams, Carl Wilson, and you. And it was a phrase that lifted me up from “dumb” to good grades and eventually college. You were never the skinney girl to the students in that room. You were the smart one.

    Evalyn Zimmerman

  4. Wow, what a wonderful blast from the past! I remember you so well, Evalyn, especially your sparkling blue eyes and beautiful curly hair.

    I am just stunned by your message. I had absolutely no idea I had any positive effect on anyone in school. Thank you so much for telling me that… as I said, I am just stunned.

    It sounds like you really have your act together these days! Good on you! I especially like the growing and preserving part. I think that may have been part of our roots 🙂

    I remember Mr. Matthews so well, I think he was such a great teacher. I especially remember the incredible vocabulary he had. I learned a lot of words from him. Do you know what happened to him? I lost track after we moved away…

    Thanks so much for writing. I wonder if you have any idea how much your words touch me?

  5. I love Evalyn’s comments, a reminder of what we all know, that you are one magnificent person, one who can achieve anything she wants.

  6. Pingback: Again seeking weightlessness. This time I really mean it. « ran dum thots