My mother took too many vitamins before I was born.
At least that's the easiest way to blame her for my being overweight by the time I was one month old. She hit 40 squarely on the nose right after I was born, a real oddity in the 1940s and early 1950s. Throughout the rest of her life, she always referred to herself as an "older mom". I never saw her without gray hair.
While my mom was busy asking her doctor why white-blonde hair was busily pushing out all the dark hair with which I was born, she forgot to notice I was gaining weight. He took advantage of her naivete and told her the black hair growing straight out of my ears was truly bizarre, then laughed at her.
I should interject that everybody, and I do mean everybody, in my family was overweight. My father weighed exactly 212 pounds until his final illness. Unfortunately, he was only 5'8" tall. And my mom, about 5'4", maintained a steady 180 pounds and a size 18 ½ dress size until she hit 80 and began to shrink.
No doubt about it, I was the biggest kid in the first grade, both in terms of height and weight. I have a wonderful class picture in which I towered over a guy who ended up being 6'8" and a professional basketball player. However, I stopped growing at around 5'4" in the fifth grade.
Yes, the kids teased me. But if I was the last chosen for teams in gym, I was always the first chosen for "sides" in the spelling bee. The school nurse, recently assigned to our elementary school, had us line up to get weighed and measured in September. When I stepped on the scales in second grade, she bellowed, "She weighs 117 pounds!" I got my revenge when she choked on some lettuce two weeks later and took an early retirement.
By high school, I had some great tricks to get out of gym class. Those awful blue gym suits with bloomers left red marks on my legs. I also could not tumble, no matter how hard I tried. Instead, I rolled sideways each time. The gym teacher, exasperated that she couldn't force my body forward with a push or two, sent me to the library instead to write about gymnastics and to get me out of her hair. She also gave me an "A" each term for trying.
While "fat" isn't a four-letter word, "food" is. I got a jolt of reality when I arrived at college and found out most people don't eat potatoes at every meal or consume two pork chops instead of one. Unlike most freshmen, who gain 15 pounds their first semester, I lost 20. Of course, I made up for it that summer.
College graduation meant weddings for most of my friends and me. I had the whole summer to get ready for it. And get ready I did . . . I ate and ate and ate. By the time the dressmaker made the final alterations in my dress, I barely fit into it. And my shoes were not too tight. However, I was still the smallest person in my family.
My first exposure to an organized weight loss program occurred in my mid-20s while I was living in Wisconsin, the land of cheese and more cheese. I remember five fish meals and a serving of liver each week. The leader meant business. She told us "liver" did not mean "liverwurst". She policed the scale, snarling at each of us, "Were you legal this week?" When I gained half a pound one week, probably due to hormonal changes, she asked me if I wanted to take off my bra to see if it would make a difference. I never went back.
I played at losing weight from my 30s on. I know every trick in the book about food, short of anorexia or bulimia. My favorite was stashing boxes of peanut brittle in the 25-pound sack of dog food under the kitchen sink. Was I ashamed to let anybody see me eat it? No-o-o. . .I just didn't want them to steal my stash!
By the time I hit 40, I still resided in my size-16 clothes. Clearly, if I ever wanted to reach a "respectable size" (whatever that is), it would take drastic action. The first group I contacted invited me in for an evaluation. The individual who met me introduced herself as "Ashleigh". I suspected she was the individual who had donated all the size-4 clothes to the Salvation Army two doors down. After weighing me, Ashleigh giggled and confessed she had once weighed a "whopping 140 pounds".
When I told her that was probably my goal weight, she cleared her throat and whipped out brochures showing the Platinum, Gold, Silver, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Opal, and Pearl weight loss programs for sale. By now, they probably also have Titanium. As she closed the last brochure, she kicked open the refrigerator behind her and whipped out a dozen frozen dinners for sale. They looked worse than the peanut brittle after residence in the dog food bag.
Earlier this year, I went back to Weight Watchers. I had to get acquainted with the points system. Try as I might, I could not convince the leader that fried chicken lost all its points once it hit the refrigerator. And when she couldn't get her easel to hold still while she wrote on it, she screamed, "I need food!" An honest woman.
I actually lost seven pounds the first week and three after the second. By my third visit, there was no hope of such spectacular numbers. However, I was now a veteran Weight Watcher, and I did what all veteran Weight Watchers do. Although it was 14 degrees outside, I dressed in a short summer skirt, tee shirt, and no pantyhose. The watch and earrings got stashed in my purse in the car. And contacts replaced the six-ounce glasses I normally wear. Success!
Now approaching the age when I can thankfully collect Social Security payments, I've probably belonged to Weight Watchers at least 20 times. Had I succeeded the first time, I'd have two vacation homes by now.
Oh, and by the way, THIS TIME, I've lost nearly 30 pounds.