Monday, March 16, 2009

A Blog Memoir in 25 Things: The Other Side of 200

14. As a toddler, I'd eat my little sister's baby food. Snooze, you lose!

Sitting on the crunchy white butcher paper in my doctor's office, I was worried about butt sweat when I really should have been worried about the little frown on her face.

'Well, Ding, this is where we are.' She pointed to a chart. 'For your height and weight, you are in this area.' Her finger circled a bunch of red squares.

'And does this Red Zone mean I'm going to drop dead in the next couple of weeks?'

Her smile was just as brittle as the paper I was sitting on. 'Let me put it this way. You need to be on the other side of 200 - I don't care how long it takes, that's where you need to be. Your family's medical history contains huge red flags - hypertension, stroke, heart disease, heart attack, diabetes. If your lifestyle doesn't change, this is your history, too.'

I was silent. All I could think of were those tasteless, white, wet scoops of cottage cheese my mother made me eat when I was in the 8th grade.

My doctor continued. 'Ding, this is what my practice specializes in. You can do this.'

'Hypothetically, what if I don't get on the other side of 200?'

'You don't want that. Already, your blood pressure is causing other issues.' She sighed. 'Look. I'm not into skinny minnies. I'm not saying you need to shrink all the way down to a Bobble head. But you need to be on the other side of 200. I won't even give you a number. 199? Ok. 190? 195? 180? Fine. 175? 170? Better. But get on the other side of 200 and stay there.'

It's never good to see you're in the 'danger zone' and, if you saw me, you'd never think, Oh, she is morbidly obese. But, according to a chart in the doctor's office, I am.

Perhaps I'm deluding myself, but it wasn't the idea of losing the fat that made me a little shaky-voiced as I described the appointment to my Roomie and some friends. It was everything else.

Heart disease?
Potential blindness? (Because of my high blood pressure, a blood vessel had burst behind my left eye and a portion of my eye's left visual field became significantly blurred.)

I don't want these things. I DON'T want these things.

We can talk about 'fat acceptance' but as a now diagnosed, official, Fat Person I am saying that I don't want these things and if it means sacrificing my sociall unacceptable fat on the altar of Not Dying, sign me up. If not dying means losing a tire or two around my middle, then so be it. I have no affection for them. I am not wed to these rings around my middle. If it's going to be a choice between me and my fat rings, I choose me.

The fat rings, and the politics attached to them, can go fuck themselves.

So here I am - trying to get on the other side of 200. And I can't help but think of my mother.
The day after my mother died, I stood in my parents' kitchen. It felt so small. Like my head. My head felt like it had shrunk and everything I heard or saw came from a great distance.

I opened the refrigerator, just to do something rather than from any particular desire to eat. Next to the little cups meant to protect eggs, I saw 6 vials of insulin. Scooping them up, I went to my father's converted office in the backyard. As usual, he had a few of his church men with him. Their conversation stopped when I entered the room.

'What are these?' I lined up the vials on dad's desk.
'Your mother's medication,' he said.
'They're all full,' I said.
He was silent. The men left the room.

'She stopped taking her medication. She stopped taking her insulin.' My father just looked at me. 'Why didn't you do something?' It may have been unfair to raise my voice against my teary-faced father but I couldn't help it. Something needed to be raged against. Someone needed to be raged against.

But all my father could say was that she hated it. She hated being diabetic; she hated not eating what she wanted; she hated having a disease; she hated being told what to do; she hated getting up in the morning and pricking her finger and reading her levels and injecting herself. She would cry in the mornings and my father would have to give her the injections while she cried. My big, smart, strong-willed father was tortured thinking he was doing something to his wife that made her cry. But then, the crying - and the injections - stopped. He and I both knew what this meant. We didn't say it out loud, but we knew.

I scooped up the bottles again, went back inside my father's house and put the vials of insulin back inside the refrigerator.

My mother may have been a fast driver but she was a slow suicide.
This is me, trying to get on the other side of 200.

In the hipster Dominick's on Chicago, buying the kiddie snack packs of veggies and fruit from the Eating Right brand. If I have to control my portions, and thus my calorie intake, then these smaller versions of food will have to train me to make different choices.

Roomie takes one look at our regrigerator and says, 'We are eating like 4th graders.'

Me, in the morning, eating one whole wheat waffle with a drizzle of honey and a few scoops of low-fat yogurt with some crunchy cereal tossed in while catching a few minutes of Good Morning America.

In the cafe, for the one morning latte I allow myself during the week, to be made with skim milk and, instead of a large, I order a small.

In the later morning, feeling myself get a little munchy, I take out my lunch and eat the piece of fruit I've packed. Or maybe one half of the sandwich I've made.

After lunch, I walk with a coworker for 30 minutes down by the river.

When I come home, I begin to broil a nice piece of salmon drizzled with a little olive oil, some garlic and cracked black pepper. Roomie cooks some spinach with balsamic vinegar.

After dinner, I barely miss the cigarette I would have had with a glass of wine.

As the weather warms, I know I'll have to wave Roomie ahead and forgo the very comfortable and convenient ride home. I'll walk farther to the bus stop or take a different bus route, all to walk a little farther (about 4 blocks out of my way.)

I thought getting to the other side of 200 would have been more mentally difficult than this; I thought I would have kicked and screamed about 'dieting.' But I guess it's all in how you think about it. To me, this isn't 'dieting.' It's living. Not 'living' in the Oprah-sense: all blurry light, white clothing and huge gusts of breath about one's 'best life.'

What I'm doing is less glamorous than that. It's, literally, living - inhaling, exhaling, heart beating.

Fuck the fat. Fuck the politics. I'm changing the way I've been living because I fucking don't want to die like my mother.


Phoebe Caulfield said...


No Nonsense said...

Touching story about your Mom, I know all too well about denial of an illness, refusal to take the medication and the consequential destruction to family because of all of that.

Anyway, I'm trying something new. I am hiking local trails on Saturday mornings, it's fun and I am discovering the state parks. I even bought a book on local vegetation so I can learn about the plants around the trail. I think I may have lost some pounds, but it certainly beats the hum drum of the gym. Try it

liza said...

Too scarily familiar. Except my mom's in the middle of refusing to take care of herself (has been for 9 years) and I've been trying to do what you're doing off and on since then. Sometimes it's all too much. This is the part of my story that gets too painful, too scary to acknowledge. Since Alex, I now try to focus on eating greens and walking every day. Don't lose heart.

ding said...

thanks, ladies. your encouragement means a lot!

SiddityintheCity said...

Really beautifully written. And good for you. It's freaking work to make those changes, and to make them every day for the rest of your life.

Thanks to my layoff, a nearly two-month absence from the gym, and emotional eating, I recently crept back to the wrong side of 200. Like you, I have a family history full of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, to boot, and yet I still struggle with making the right decisions when it comes to healthy living. A few weeks ago, I dedicated a little of my severance and unemployment funds to maintaining a gym membership, and thanks to this post, I have decided to make the gym visit I talked myself out of earlier today.

Words. Power. Thank you.