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Feeling strangely fine

I don’t want to forget what it was like being fat. If we could really zap people’s memories like they do in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it would be tempting to get rid of the time on the plane when I got my mom to request a seat belt extender because I was too embarrassed to ask the stewardess myself. However, my fat girl issues have made me who I am, so even though many of those memories are painful and shameful and sad, they’re mine. I’m going to keep them, just like that ass-ugly ceramic pot I made in 5th grade. (Actually, I just remembered that I threw that out when I moved. But if I had kept it that would be a great analogy.)

It’s undeniable though that all the fat girl stuff has become less and less a part of my daily reality. I don’t have to worry about fitting behind the steering wheel of my car anymore. I don’t have to shop in the plus-size section. I fit in movie theatre seats just fine. And it’s awesome. It rocks just as much as I thought it would. It’s also making it harder and harder for me to relate to a fat person’s reality, just like it’s harder for me to relate to the life of a fifth grader because I graduated from elementary school in the early 90′s. We didn’t even have the Internet back then. How could I have lived without the Internet? When I read posts on the fat positive web sites complaining about discrimination and dirty looks, I still agree with their fat positive stances, but I find it harder and harder to get personally riled up about it. I still support fat rights, but my anger appears to be waning.

But I still have my memories, and I find myself comparing my current life to my old life every day. Whenever I cross my legs, I remember not being able to do that when my thighs were the size of Crisco cans. Every day when I walk up to my fourth floor office, I am awed by the fact that I don’t have to stop on the landings to catch my breath. When I was riding the bus in Chicago, I sat across from a morbidly obese woman in a cotton summer dress who took up one and a half seats. Every time someone swiped their bus pass and stepped down the aisle I was relieved that it wasn’t me they obviously avoided sitting next to.

So I definitely remember. It’s there. Every. Single. Day.

When I was driving with my mother to Louisville for my brother’s wedding, we started talking about photos. I mentioned that I was trying to find a really good “before” picture that showed my full body, but wasn’t one of the “blah” looking ones I use in my rotating progress photos. Problem was there really aren’t that many photos of my full body from those days.

“I think we avoided taking pictures of your entire body, didn’t we?” she asked.

As she said that I suddenly felt an irresistible urge to examine the intricate pattern of bug splatter on the windshield or the corn fields flying by at 70 miles per hour. I felt uncomfortable in the front seat of that car, but it was no longer because my seatbelt didn’t fit. I don’t know exactly what I felt. It was a cocktail of shame and sadness, shaken in my sub-conscious but its complete contents unknown, just like that strange vodka and cranberry concoction the bartender served me at the reception. But feeling like that made me realize what’s been missing from my fat girl issues these days.

I don’t have to feel them anymore.

I remember that I felt ashamed that I was so fat that I couldn’t by pants at Lane Bryant. I remember that I avoided seeing friends from high school because I was scared of what they’d think of my weight gain. I remember feeling depressed that I’d let my problem get so far out of control. But remembering a feeling isn’t quite the same as feeling it. Otherwise, you could have amazing sex just one time and be able to play back the orgasms in your mind during boring meetings. If you felt depressed that you didn’t get an iPod for your birthday, you could just re-feel the joy of getting a bike for Christmas as a child and you’d feel fine. It’s too bad life doesn’t work like that.

I’m not completely immune to those old feelings though. I certainly felt uncomfortable when my mom brought up the fact that I used to hide from cameras. As I’ve been writing my book I’ve had to write up my fat girl horror stories. I’ve had to relive and analyze some miserable shit and it’s been completely draining. I could only work on those early chapters for an hour or two before I shut down Microsoft Word to do something happier, like kicking puppies. I can still empathize with my old self and feel a fraction of what she felt, but reliving shopping trips from hell in 12pt font isn’t as powerful as experiencing it live and in color, here and now.

So I can look at that fat lady on the bus and I can remember what it was like to avoid eye contact with people coming up the bus steps. I can remember praying that the bus wouldn’t fill up and someone wouldn’t be left standing in the aisle clinging to a metal bar because I was too fat to sit next to. But I don’t have to feel that anymore. I’ve gotten off that bus and I hope my pass has expired forever.

I never want to become a smug thin person. I don’t want to become judgmental of fat people or to patronize them. It’s always possible I could become a fat person again myself. It’s important to remember how hard it can be to be fat and how hard it can be to lose weight. It’s important to understand what other people are going through. If we all understood each other better maybe there wouldn’t be any collapsing skyscrapers or exploding subway trains.

So I will always remember what it felt like to ride that bus, but I don’t have to feel the hard plastic seats beneath me anymore. I got off at my stop, but I’ll remember the trip and I’ve still got my ticket stub. Maybe that’s the best I can do.

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39 Comments

BrightAngel • August 27, 2007 at 8:57 am

Great analysis.

You’ve also described the feelings I frequently have,

as a person of normal size after a 160 lb weight-loss.

After maintenance of my goal weight for the past 19 months, sometimes it’s hard to believe that I chose behavior that made me regain 100 lbs plus three separate times in my life.

I continually keep in mind that 98% of all people who lose weight regain it within 3 to 5 years, and am determined that I will be one of the 2% who maintains my normal weight forever.

I hope that you are also one of the 2%.

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vivi • August 27, 2007 at 9:16 am

I myself was fat. In the european way of being fat, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t even overweight (you don’t really see obese people in europe). I was just 10 or 12 pounds bigger than the average girl and noone was fatter than me in my class, in college, at work. I managed to get rid of those 10 pounds after years of losing 5, gaining 10, losing 5, stop. lose 5, gain 10, lose 5, stop. I remember it wasn’t that difficult: I didn’t eat cookies for a while and stuck to my grandmother’s cookbook. I admire what you say, and I feel ashamed of what I think to myself whenever I see a fat girl. I just think: “stop eating that! just stop eating! it worked for me!”.

Now that I moved to Germany (where people are certainly fatter than in Spain, my homeland) and I’ve gained a little weight I am afraid I will become, again, one of those girls and people will just think “stop eating” when they see me.

I hope your post will help me to be a better person.

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library mistress • August 27, 2007 at 9:21 am

thanks, PastaQueen. Your post made me think a lot about comparable embarrassing situations I was/am in, and it feels once again like I’m “fed up” (what a metaphor…) with being overweight and having 100 kilos.

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Dyan • August 27, 2007 at 9:41 am

And if you do forget? Read your blog which has inspired so many of us.

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jen • August 27, 2007 at 9:44 am

Really great post today. It’s so crowded, living with all the old selves we’ve been and the ones we are today and the ones we hope to become. You seem to have a good outlook on it all.

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E. Noel • August 27, 2007 at 10:12 am

I remember being fat because I did regain the 100 pounds I lost plus more. I’m living the fat girl reality once again. And it can be a doozy at times. Just last night, somebody I love decided to butt into my life and my heart and talk to me about weight loss surgery. Without being invited. It always amazes me that anyone thinks they can approach you with advice just because you are fat. Like being fat is such an awful thing that of course you would welcome them giving you advice about weight loss, like its a topic that isn’t on your mind every second of every hour of every day. Yeah, its a doozy. I’m happy your fat girl life is only a memory now.

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The Lassie • August 27, 2007 at 10:50 am

I am happy for you, too! I hope you’ll be able to keep the weight off – you look great, btw ;)

As much as I want to reach the stage you’ve arrived at in this whole weight loss thing, I am also quite scared of it. To an extent, I imagine it to be a daily struggle – trying to keep your slim figure as a former obese person. I guess I should worry about that when I get there, though ;)

Btw,living in Germany myself, I do actually see quite a lot of people who are overweight alongside me. Throughout school/university there was always someone who at least had my size.

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Mia • August 27, 2007 at 10:54 am

“It rocks just as much as I thought it would.”

I can only imagine what it must have felt like to endure obesity in a world that places so much importance on aesthetics. When I read your blog I think about the discomfort you felt and the gratitude you feel for no longer having to live in that world. As awful as it was, it’s ok to not think about how grateful you are for no longer having to endure that shame and abuse, but to just enjoy your new body. Yes, it’s part of who you are, but as you said, you are no longer that person. Maybe there’s fear you might gain it back if you don’t suffer the memories of how awful it was? I don’t think that pain can keep you healthy. You are thin because you “are always looking out for future me”. And it sounds like the bitch IS very grateful! You are amazing.

:)

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K • August 27, 2007 at 11:10 am

Yes!

I feel much the same way about the body-misery I went through as a teenager. I really did hate my body. I really did think the way I looked was totally unacceptable. I remember feeling hopeless and despairing, but it all seems rather distant.

Thing is? I’m slightly bigger now than I was then. The size I was then is my goal. Three things have changed, I suppose: I’m not fourteen any more; I’m happier for other reasons; everyone around me is also not fourteen.

I think it’s important to remember that feelings were real, even if the reasons behind them weren’t as compelling as they might have been… Even if I’d been much, much bigger, things wouldn’t have been hopeless, would they?

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Donna • August 27, 2007 at 12:29 pm

I think I have heard that Orson Welles said “Gluttony is not a secret vice”. Its hard wearing our vice on our sleeves everyday. Alcoholics, gamblers, druggies, even smokers can hide it when they want to – we can’t. For me, there is so much shame attached to being unable to control my weight. I lost 100+ pounds 6 years ago and then regained it – talk about humiliating! I just went to an amusement park this summer with my sons and my sister. I couldn’t ride 90% of the rides because they had warnings posted that larger people wouldn’t fit in the restraints. I might have fit into some of them, but I didn’t want to wait in line only to find out in front of everyone at the entrance to the ride that I wouldn’t fit.

I think I am a nice, good, normal person; I think I would be happier and healthier if I was smaller and more fit, but I don’t think it would make me a ‘better’ person as in ‘more virtuous’. I guess I have to work on accepting myself as a good and decent, worthy person while trying to change the parts of me got me so overweight.

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dietgirl • August 27, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Howdy PQ, lovely looovely post today. I can so relate to the writing bit – raking over the coals of the past can almost feel like you’re living through it all over again. I don’t think it’s smugness or forgetting about it, it’s just that you evolve. And memories get fuzzy. The physical changes are so obvious but sometimes it just sneaks up on you how much things have changed mentally too.

xxox

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Sinistral Cerebrations • August 27, 2007 at 1:44 pm

“It’s important to understand what other people are going through. If we all understood each other better maybe there wouldn’t be any collapsing skyscrapers or exploding subway trains.”

I just love that, the whole concept of being able to know what it is like on both sides of the fence. I have matured and grown the most when I have learned or experienced something that enables me to see from both sides of the aisle, regardless of the topic. It becomes more difficult to feel judgmental or bitter towards someone when you realize that each and every person has a story behind the way they are, good or bad.

I always enjoy your insights, your writing is fantastic.

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Jenny • August 27, 2007 at 2:41 pm

This one made me cry.

You are a gifted writer and a good soul.

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Christy • August 27, 2007 at 3:45 pm

I was so glad to read this today… I tend to get so weighed down by numbers on a scale, or certain measurements, and it’s so good to stop myself and really think about what I can do. What this thin-crazed society sees when it looks at me, and more importantly, how I feel.

Thank you :)

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Julia • August 27, 2007 at 4:09 pm

This is probably your best writing ever. Thank you.

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Marshmallow • August 27, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Lovely post today, your highness. :-) It made me remember so much of what I can do know that I couldn’t do before, and the pain I felt when I lived that way – I feel really uncomfortable when I write posts about my past. Beautiful post.

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Jenn • August 27, 2007 at 6:07 pm

I don’t think I can ever do what you do, girl, to go through all those memories and write them down. Strangely, that to me is even more painful than sharing them with the world because to confront them on paper is perhaps the loneliest feeling in the world compared to sharing them with everyone else.

Cant wait for your book to be out!

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Zmama • August 27, 2007 at 7:56 pm

I agree – this was a great piece of writing. Thank you for sharing it.

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FoxyLady2Be • August 27, 2007 at 9:01 pm

excellent, excellent post.

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Christine in AZ • August 27, 2007 at 10:02 pm

One of the best yet! I hope this is added to the “Top 40″… Thanks for the perspective. :-)

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Cindy • August 27, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Hi PQ,

I didn’t think it was possible, but this post made me so, so sad, even as I recognized how “right” it was. I had CPR training at work today, something I used to dread beyond belief because we had to work on each other and I was so huge that no one could reach around me to do the choking maneuver. That is no longer the case, but I still had those feelings of shame and dread, layered with intense sadness for my former self and anyone else who has to go through that kind of pain. Somehow you always manage to connect your ideas to my life—or I read my life into what you say…either way, you had an effect on me today and i thank you for it. Yes, I feel sad…but I FEEL, and that means I can mull it over and work with it and try to consider it carefully and usefully. I’ll never be as “normal” as you, but it may be possible to make continued progress. Thanks for the opportunity to think. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Melissa • August 27, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Just a little note to you and all the other people who are near goal. Don’t ever ever feel badly for those of us just beginning, You are our hope!

I just found this blog about a week ago, finally caught up. You are an inspiration. Proof that it IS possible, even if you have to lose a whole person.

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mary • August 27, 2007 at 11:20 pm

There was an article today about how obesity has increased or stayed at the same percentage of the population in all fifty states. More and more people are becoming obese all the time — and yet there is still a vast amount of rage and disgust directed toward people who are overweight.

At this rate we’re all going to end up despising ourselves and everyone else. (Not we who follow this blog, speaking generally…)

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Michelle • August 28, 2007 at 12:13 am

This one really hit a spot. Today I was at a Weight Watchers meeting, and the leader was making fun of the fat people at the chinese buffet. I just wanted to hit him – I felt so bad for those folks – one of which I would be if chinese food didn’t make me ill. I have friends that don’t believe me that everyone watches what a fat person puts in his or her mouth. I always know that I’m the fattest one in the room. And even as I get rid of the weight, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling.

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MB • August 28, 2007 at 12:54 am

Another amazing post. I’m still trying to figure out why the past me didn’t value how good it felt to be thin and why I didn’t take care of my then future me and got fat AGAIN. I’m determined to do it right this time. You are my hero and inspiration. Thank you!

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Chris • August 28, 2007 at 10:59 am

Hi PQ,

This was a great post, thoroughly enjoyed it. Like many of your readers I have lost and gained many, many pounds. AT one point, lost 100 which was my ultimate goal, and couldn’t ever imagine going back to my former fat self. Thought I was finally “cured”. Uh-huh….Gained 50 back. I guess I tried to convince myself that “at least I’m still down 50″ but 50 pounds makes a big difference. For me it was the difference between a size 5 and a size 16. Very hard on the psyche. I understand what you mean about mostly forgetting what it felt like to be obese. I felt that way too. It’s amazing how quickly those feelings can come back, though. On the bright side, I’m on my way down again…13 down, 37 to go! By the way, I’ll be in line to buy your book when it comes out…

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America • August 28, 2007 at 11:19 am

I wish my sister could remember being fat. Or maybe I wish she WOULD remember it. She had weight loss surgery nearly 3 years ago and spends most of her time with her nose in the air, talking trash about fat people. When anyone mentions MY weight, I can see her smug grin in the corner of my eye. She used to be the fat girl and I was the thin one…now the tables are turned, much to her utter joy over the whole thing. I think it is important to remember the journey that you made to get where you are, and I applaud your efforts to do that.

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a.m. • August 28, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Wonderful entry! I know that when I’m thin, I’ll never want to forget what it was like to be fat… mainly because I don’t want to go back to that. But, at the same time, I know I’ll want to forget the pain of being fat. I guess I’ll have to find a happy medium somehow.

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Hanlie • August 29, 2007 at 2:44 am

You are such an inspiration and this is an excellent post! It’s given me a lot to think about… I am just setting out on a journey to lose 180lb and am going through a gigantic emotional storm at the moment… This is about so much more than weight… There’s a lot of healing to be done!

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adrienne • August 29, 2007 at 10:07 am

PQ-

I keep writing lame-ass philosophical/emotional responses to this brilliant and deeply insightful post but none are good enough to submit.

I hear you. I have such memories in my life (though they’re not necessarily weight-related), and I now consider many of them assets.

Every sentence before this starts with I. It makes me feel like a narcissist.

Lovely post.

adrienne

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Diane • August 29, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Someone just pointed me your way and this is the very first time I’ve seen your website. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever commented on a website. Your story has hit home and I can relate to every bit of this story. I myself have lost a half a person and have kept it off for 3 years now but I still remember…every day…what it was like. Thank you for making me laugh during a day that had been going badly. You remind me it’s not so bad after all…

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Susan • August 30, 2007 at 12:11 am

A fantastic post! You’ve described my own feelings so well – as a Former Fat Person (FFP), I don’t want to forget what it was like to be so fat just in case I get ever get complacent and start to regain.

The fact that 98% of all people who lose weight regain it within 3 to 5 years is always in the back of my mind. After the 5 year point, are you considered to be in remission?

In answer to The Lassie’s comment – for me, at least, maintaining my weight as a FFP *is* a daily struggle. I was just posting about that today over at Angry Fat Girlz. For me, it’s practically equivalent to having a second job.

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PastaQueen • August 30, 2007 at 7:21 am

I notice several of you keep saying 98% of people regain weight. Does anyone have a link to a study that shows that? Because it’s my understanding that no one really knows what percentage of people regain weight (though it is a low number). I thought the 2% thing is just one of those myths that get passed around like that we should drink 8 glasses of water a day or that we only use 10% of our brains.

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E. Noel • August 30, 2007 at 12:36 pm

So, I did a little looking regarding those numbers and I think the best explanation I found came from this article that was written in 1999 in the New York Times. They referred to the figure as “95% of people” regain all the weight lost and they investigate that myth. It can be traced back to a study in the 1950s that followed 100 people and most regained the weight lost. That particular study has become a part of the weight loss myth even though further studies have shown more promise and hope than the 1950s study.

One of the most promising studies that the article notes comes from the National Weight Control Registry. The doctors who created the registry in 1993 ask people to join who have lost more than 30 lbs. and maintained that weight loss for at least a year. (PQ, you should join!) Here is a quote from the 1999 NY Times article:

“To their surprise, Dr. Wing and Dr. Hill found that on average the respondents had maintained a 67-pound weight loss for five years. Between 12 and 14 percent had maintained a loss of more than 100 pounds.”

That definitely seems to be more exciting than the 98% (or 95%) figure that seems to be pounded into our brains.

Thanks for the research E. Noel! I’m already in the NWCR, by the way. I had to fill out a big survey about what I eat and portion sizes. It took a long time.

That study from the 1950′s doesn’t sound very convincing to me. They only followed 100 people, a very small sample. Plus life has changed a lot from the 1950′s especially in the types of food available and people’s activity levels. They didn’t even have microwaves back then! How could you eat your Hot Pockets without a microwave? – PQ

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sandy • September 5, 2007 at 12:09 pm

i’m noticing just the opposite. maybe it’s because i’ve gained wieight over the past few years and you’ve lost it! i’ve never been “fat,” but i have to tell you – i read a few posts last week about women dreading the thought of eating out for fear of not fitting in the chairs – and i felt IRATE. maybe this is just the first time i’ve really thought about issues like this – and the first time i’ve had access to the thoughts and feelings of the women they affect. maybe you’re just desensitized now, you know? after all of that fretting for all of those years, it seems completely normal to think of that period of time like it was another life.

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Manic Mom • September 13, 2007 at 1:37 am

A M A Z I N G!!!

I could spend hours reading through your archives. Beautifully written, and I will be for sure buying your book!

You deserve all the happiness in the world. You’ve obviously worked very hard to get there!

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Emily • October 4, 2007 at 1:35 pm

I can honestly say I was never obese but I was fat… and just at the right time- during high school and starting college. I chose WW as my guide to change how I ate (it’s not a diet because it doesn’t end) and can happily say I’ve been at a more healthy weight for about a year and a half now. However, I CONSTANTLY stress about re-gaining- maybe I’m a perfectionists, maybe I remember what it felt like to not be able to borrow my friends clothes, maybe a lot of things caused it but secretly I think it’s just me still remembering how painful it was and being afraid to go through that emotion journey again. Don’t forget what it was like because that will keep you motivated to not regain(I’ll always be a fat kid at heart though thankyouverymuch!) Thanks for keeping it real…

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joehawkins • October 8, 2007 at 3:58 pm

WoW! what an wonderful post. i am new to your page and so far very taken with both your approach and your ability to relay those thoughts so clearly. inspiring comes to mind. me? i was a skinny, active kid growing up… ate whatever i wanted, didn’t even think about it. slimmed down nicely after my firstborn (exercised w/joannie greggains every AM, healthy eating habits). i didn’t gain weight until my late 20′s, and boy, did i gain: 175lbs (i’m 5’4) six months AFTER the birth of my second. i lost 501bs in my mid-30′s (mainly through regular exercise) and vowed NEVER to let that happen again. well… guess what! by my late 30′s i was at 205lbs (single mom working full-time and finishing college degree means a whole lotta sitting around). i can remember crying at marshall’s at the sight racks of clothes for everyone else, and the horrible styles only available in my size. i finished my degree and lost 651bs (AGAIN) by the time i was 40. BTW– i confirmed a feeling that i had with my previous weight loss experiences: people treat you nicer when you are thinner… there is no doubt in my mind (but then again, it could be confidence factor on my side ;-P). anyway, my mid-40′s finds me back up to 190lbs. YiKes, how i the world is this possible. happily, i have exercised myself down to 1501bs and hope to reach my goal of 135 by the holidays (bikram’s yoga 5-6days a week and i like to walk). so the point about maintenance really touches a chord. my class reunion is next year… the good news is that i have already lost most my weight, the bad news… can i maintain it over the next 11 months? fingers crossed… i am going to look for your book.

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zia • August 1, 2008 at 4:21 am

i just watch your interviw this morning about the new book i checked your blog

i love your blog you are inspiration Thank you for sharing your experence

riyadh saudi arabia

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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