Mixed Feelings – Part I

Whenever I read or hear about how body or size acceptance has made so much progress, how society as a whole has finally started to recognize, okay, has sort of started to recognize? maybe is seemingly recognizing? that fat shaming* is not acceptable, I’m always torn.

You’re probably thinking, what in the hell is there to be torn about? How can you of all people think it is absolutely not a good thing? Are you a butthead? (The butthead part may just be me.)

Well, I’ll tell you, I’m torn because not only was I born the year Twiggy’s modeling career began, but I’ve lived through a few decades where people, doctors, and even scientists were extraordinarily ill-informed on diet and nutrition. Truly a double whammy.

And now that things seem to be coming ’round, well, frankly, it’s too late for me. Which SUCKS. I mean, it’s great for all the younger people who hopefully won’t have to go through what I did, but I’ve already lived the prime years of my life – I don’t get a do-over. And the things that have been done to my metabolism and to my gut, and to my self-confidence, well, some of it is irreversible. Selfish, yep, but I can’t help it, the feelings are there.

But that is why this blog has become so important to me. It is the way that I plan on getting through the rest of my life. It gives me motivation to learn about what I can do to improve the quality of my life and hopefully I will help others along the way.


Okay, jumping right in. For as long as I can remember I have either had a weight ‘problem’ and/or dieted. About 15 years ago my Mom was diagnosed with a neurological disease (it ended up being Lewy Body Dementia – I am sure I will talk about this at length in the future). My life changed rather dramatically very quickly. One thing I started to do was begin scanning all the family photo albums (a total of about 5000-6000 photos to date.) My Mom was declining fairly quickly and was also heavily medicated, she couldn’t even take care of herself. I was worried that the photos would end up being misplaced or worse, accidentally thrown out.

As I began to go through them, I saw photos of myself from grade school and high school and I thought, “well crap, I wasn’t all that fat” (at least not by today’s standards) or “damn, I would give anything to be that ‘fat’ now.”

It made me remember all the diets I had been on over the years, all with my parents encouragement and financing – Weight Loss Clinic, Weight Control Clinic, Nutrisystem, dozens of trendy diets I can’t remember the names of, things like the Grapefruit diet or the Cabbage Soup diet.

One of the very first attempts was to send me to fat camp. It lasted for seven weeks during the summer before I started high school. That year I weighed around 170 pounds and was 5 feet 9 inches tall.

Me the year before I went to fat camp, I weighed about the same the next summer.

People (including doctors) used a rule of thumb back then (they still do but it’s been modified a bit) to determine how much a person should weight. For women, and this only works if you are 5 feet or taller, you start by saying a 5 foot tall women should weight 100 pounds and then for every inch over that add 3 pounds. Fairly easy. According to this, I should have weighed 127 pounds.

Problem is, it didn’t take into account things like whether a person was an athlete or possibly a person who just had more muscle mass. Most people know that muscle weighs more than fat, (sidebar, this is why the BMI – Body Mass Index is such bullshit but I will discuss that another day) or other factors that could account for why a woman (or a man) might weight more or less and still be the right and healthy weight for their body.

Anyway, back to my story. For the seven weeks I was at the camp we had pretty much the same routine every day and I still remember it even though it was over 40 years ago. We would get up early and exercise, usually that involved calisthenics and a 3 mile run. This was followed by breakfast. The camp was at a university so we stayed in dorms. There was a sports facility about 2 miles away. After breakfast we would walk over to that facility and each of us would be allowed to choose one of several activities – ballet, gymnastics, track, or swimming. We would take the bus back to the dorms (I’m guessing because of time constraints) for lunch. After lunch it was back to the sports facility to do two more activities. Then walk back to the dorm where you would have an hour free time before dinner. After dinner there was a group activity, usually a team sport followed by calisthenics, another 3 mile run and a snack before bed.

Me (center) and my parents right after I returned from fat camp.

Here’s the thing. I did lose 30 pounds in those 7 weeks. Boy were my parents happy. I weighed 135 went I got home. I was still 8 pounds over the ideal weight but so much closer.

I also lost some of my hair. And I didn’t have a BM for the entire time I was there. There is no way I could have continued the amount of exercise that we had done at the camp on a daily basis, I had to go to school for one thing.

Not only that, I had been eating fairly well to keep myself fueled for all the exercise I was doing and I had gotten used to it. Surprise, surprise, I put the weight back on and then some. The same with all the other diets. On each one I would lose about 40 pounds, almost exactly, then I’d hit a plateau. I’d quit and I’d put the weight back on plus 10. Every time. And my weight tick-tick-ticked up.

You know, people still use that rule of thumb thing but guess what, it’s been modified. They don’t use 3 pounds per inch anymore (well, I had someone tell me that is “model weight.”) No, I’ve heard a few variations but the most common is that you should try to be ideally between 4-6 pounds per inch for an average frame. You can go to 8 pounds per inch for someone who is athletic or larger framed. That means for someone who is 5’9″ the weight could be anywhere between 127 (for a model) – 154 (average frame) – 172 (larger frame). What did I say I weighed before I was sent to fat camp?

I have often wondered to myself, if I had just been left alone, would I look like I look today? Of course that’s only part of the story. There’s also the genetic thing, the antibiotic thing, the additives thing, well, there’s a lot of other things – and I’m planning on talking about them all. But I’ll stop for today.

To be continued…

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