There I was, roaming the unbearably crowded mall accompanied by my sidekick – Carolina – when we entered the “Empty Quarter”, my candid nickname for the fashion couture area which has been out of my reach for years: I lacked both the funds (or, better yet, the desire of having Gui divorcing me on a rage) and the body to venture in that area.
Little did I know things had changed.
At some point, we walked past the window for BCBG Max Azria, where a beautiful Marc Jacob’s fuchsia – Greek-goddess-style – dress laid magnificent; as unsuspecting as I was of what was about to pass.
The first surprise was Carolina’s reaction to my newly found interest in that store, and her automatic remark: “my mom’s body has been taken by a fashion-addict alien”. Mind you, this is an ipsis litteris quote. She said it exactly like this, and in English too. By the way, I totally blame the usage of the term “fashion-addict” on the Bratz.
But what came next was even more astonishing: I mastered all my strength and courage and entered the store, asking the first lady (and, damn, they deserve to be called so!) for the L size of the aforementioned beauty. The sales woman came back with the dress and an apology: they only had it in sizes M, S and SS. I then got the M sized one, skeptical. To my absolute dismay, it fit perfectly. And it looked amazing. However, it was only a bit longer than a blouse, and someone my age shouldn’t be seen walking around with something that will show one’s panties at the first heartfelt sigh.
But, who cares?! Being able to fit into a size M Marc Jacob’s is almost as good – if not better, given the cost savings – than actually buying one.
I should know it. I was one of them. Granted, I was never cruel. But I was judgemental and unforgiving, even if inside my own head. As someone that was mostly very thin and had not a sign of cellulitis until the age of 29, I was used to look down at other girls in the pool or the beach, wondering how they could possibly bare to wear bikinis over such disgusting figures. If I looked like them, I would be covered head to toes. I know: a classical case of the what-goes-around-comes-around'itis. I was quickly humbled by life. Experience is the toughest of teachers, for it gives you the assessment before it teaches you the leason. First, my methabolic disorder made me one of the loathed girls. Than it tought me how hard it was to be in their shoes.
The first thing I've learned was that no trendy fashion brand produces clothes above size 12. In Brazil this gets even worse: nothing beyond size 10. For a woman as tall as I am, that already poses an obstacle when I'm thin. With the slightest overweight, I was already out of cool options. A more serious overweight, in my home country, means all brands are off limits, even the shabby ones. So, the moment I reached size 14, everything in the shop windows in a regular mall could no longer be covetted. What I found out next was quite shocking: if you are officially fat for the fashion industry, all your options are restricted to the uggliest floral and patterned fabrics one could possibly imagine. I'm sure they make it on purpose. It has got to be some sort of unusually cruel punishment. It isn't bad enough that you are condemned to fashion ostracism and look like the Michellin dude: you also have to be dressed like a fridge that has been covered by an ugly tablecloth that belonged to your granny.
But that's not all! The wonders never cease.
Some of your friends seem to completely lose the sense of compassion and actually start to bully you for being fat. Of course!, they seem to think, it can only be your own fault that you look like that. You've been obviously porking up in the middle of the night, devouring the remains of an entire roasted pig and a couple of chocollate cakes, devoid of any self esteem and good sense. There is also a few female friends that seem to become the extra-kilo keepers. They never miss a chance to point out you look fatter than the last time they saw you.
But quickly you learn that it gets worse: your family is even more merciless. I can't count the times I've had to repeat that I was not eating too much, and that I was still exercising, only to get a condecending look that said I could only be lying. What other explanation could there be? Even if they were around me for days on end, watching me and seing how much I was eating - which was usually less than all of them - it was like living in an alternate reality. The ultimate state of denial: their eyes were obviously tricking them. Or I was expertly sneaking to the kitchen in the middle of the night, eating my ass in, not making a sound or depleting the food reserves: the ultimate magical ninja.
But I would still have survived almost unscathed if I had not sufferred the ultimate betrayal: even the damn doctors wouldn't believe me. They were supposed to be the specialists in whatever else but excess food that can get you to put on extra weight. Yet, almost all the endocrinologists I've been to would listen to all my history and all I had to say, to ignore me and patronize me with diets that had more calories than what I usually consumed, and exercise regimes that were far less demanding than my usual work out. It was beyond unerving: it was highly demotivating.
I also went through years of feeling guilty at restaurants, for people would look reproachfully at me if I dared to eat anything but greens. There were also the people who would deliver real pearls to me, such as "You people are always so funny and have such nice round faces", coming from the lady doing my make up for a family wedding. Actually, the round face comment was delivered tens of times, mostly by friends, in the most varied fashion. At the mention of my round face, I would inhale deeply and avoid replying with something like: the shape of my face is not round, you damn ass. It only looks like this because I'm fat. It's like people commenting that my daughter's complexion is the only thing that she's inherited from her dad, not knowing my brother was born blond, or observing that my parents and siblings have all the same light complexion. I never say anything, just to give Gui at least that much on his contribution to our little girl's look, since she looks like a clone of me. But people who don't know better should just shut up.
But the ultimate blow was the ladies' public restrooms.
There are some unstated etiquete rules that go on inside the women's restrooms. Some of them are related to how we measure each other to check who is the prettiest. Because, if you didn't know it yet, we don't dress up for guys: we do it to impress and triumph over other chicks. It goes somewhat like this: you are retouching your make up with a couple of friends. Another girl enters the restroom. You and your friends briefly glance at her in the mirror. The oponent does the same. If she is prettier than you, you are allowed to stare a little longer in order to admire her acomplisment. If it is the other way around, you are allowed to grin for an instant and look back at yourself in the mirror, looking victorious and self-satisfied.
Well, when you are overweight, it doesn't matter that you are prettier. Since you are fat, you can't possibly be considered to be so. Hence, you get lots of smirks from ugglier skinny girls who feel absolutely superior to you, to a degree that their faces convey either despise or pitty. It's so annoying.
In my case, there was also the whole being-married-to-guy-with-the-body-of-a-greek-god-who-works-with-gorgeous-models-on-daily-basis thing. It doesn't matter how much he loves and worships you beyond comprehension, and that you keep him busy and happy pretty much daily, you go on thinking there is no way in the world he is not doing half a dozen other thinner girls out there.
In a nutshell, being the fat girl has made me paranoid, self conscious to a very unhealthy degree, even more cynical and, yet, a much stronger person. In time, I've learned to love myself for a lot other reasons that have nothing to do with physical appearance. It has made me a slightly better and more compassionate human being.
But I'd probably rather die - or maybe resort to something less tragic, like bulemia (urgh!!) - than going back to that.
Note for my concerned and beloved friends who still don't get the humor in self-deprecation: I don't intend to kill myself for any reason in the world. I'm far too egocentric for that. ;)
But should it really be so?
Now that I have started to leave a long trail of loose GAP jeans on the wake of my new non-chubby self, I’ve started putting some thought into how thin I should really get.
If I consider how much I am weighing now and how much I weighed in average most of my adult life, I just can’t get back to that. I would be down to a size 4, probably, which would look down right cadaveric on my 1.75 meter (5.74 feet).
I don’t care what guys think of Giselle Bundchen (I’d rather think about hubby, Tom Brady, BTW), but I’ve seen her in person on a couple of occasions and she looks like a stronger wind could break her bones. I would be scared shitless (I know, not classy or ladylike, but more consistent with my actual thoughts and feelings about the subject) of bumping into things or bending too fast, which could summarise some adult activities I’m not ready to relinquish before I’m 96.
I know a lot of men go for that twiggy look, but I’d be more into guys that like the olive more than its toothpick. (Prudent usage of the verbal form that conveys I’m not single and my husband wouldn’t be too happy if I stated it in the present tense...). It’s just not natural by the way. What kind of normal man should like chicken bones rather than chicken legs? Their primordial brains should be thinking “Oooh! I can’t possibly perpetuate the species on that! I’ve gotta get me some meaty, pink cheeked, healthy gal to do.” Instead, they go against nature: skinny meanwhile big-breasted, quiet, silent, homebound, uncomplaining, saver: is this even a real woman? Maybe, if you don’t have a brain, get some implants and go through life feeding on greens and water. But wait! That’s a cow.
Back to the core subject, a friend of mine used to say that you know you are properly thin when you are able to run on your bikinis in the sandy beach.
At first this would look like a perfect metric. It’s all about being healthy and fit. However, after a certain age, no matter how thin you are, running on your bikinis is just not becoming of any sensible woman. It couldn’t possibly be a nice sight. For starters, gravity just won’t help.
Thus, I couldn’t yet reach a conclusion. GAP pants will keep on being left behind, waiting for a time to be re-fitted. In the meantime, if you see me one of these days and think I look too thin, first – thank you very much – second, tell me to stop this nonsense immediately.
I had been invited to run the local franchise for a computer school for kids. It was fascinating. I put the university’s semester on hold and went for it with all the enthusiasm one could master.
I did everything: from getting the proper permissions from the City Hall to overseeing the construction work for the school at the local shopping mall. I approved layouts, procured furniture and computers, hired the staff, took care of the marketing and sales plans, managed the finances. I made the school operational and launched it. It was a struggle to put the first 3 classes together, but we did it. Being a general manager this early was one of the greatest experiences in my life.
However, there was the owner. He seemed like a nice enough guy. I was recommended to him by a common friend, so I didn’t check his background. Granted, I was also still very naive at that time.
After a few months into the school operations, he stopped the cash flow. We couldn't honour our PO’s to most suppliers, except for the absolutely essential ones. He couldn't care less and started telling me about what vendors could be pushed further. He would say: let them sue us if they want.
After a while, we didn’t have enough to pay the staff salaries, or my own.
That’s when I decided to check on him: the guy was being sued by the government and three different banks, not counting numerous vendors.
I confronted him and, after a couple of weeks, he had fired me along with most of my staff. Salaries were 3 months due.
There I was, nine months into it and feeling empty handed. I had lost two whole semesters and had my graduation postponed. Back then I couldn't see it was still worth it. That experience helped shaping me as a professional and is one of the reasons I got to be successful.
Nevertheless I was completely stressed out. I got seriously depressed.
In a single week, without eating anything extra, I put on 9 kilos. Yes! In a single week.
I lost almost all my clothes. I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror or any other reflecting surfaces. I would walk on the street across a shop window and it would take me a while to recognize the chubby girl reflected there as myself.
A friend recommended me a wholesale outlet where I could get some good and cheap new clothes (not much money around back then). I got 3 short stretch pants and several loose shirts, and got on with my life. This time, teaching at another computer school in the evening and keeping to my university classes during the day.
It took me two years to get back in shape again. And when I think back, I know it only happened when I started to feel happy once more.
As I did not bother going to a doctor to find out what had happened, I couldn't understand that stress and depression could get one to gain that much weight in such a short period of time.
But it happened again 7 years later, while I was working for Microsoft. Actually, during my years working there, it happened 3 times. In total, I put on 26 kilos.
Only last year, 15 years after that first episode, I learned from different doctors that stress and depression will lower one’s metabolism to almost nothing, as well as causing a condition called insulin resistance, which prevents you from getting thinner – no matter how much you exercise or how little you eat – as well as getting you infertile. So, no more babies for me until it is fixed.
Tragic? I don’t think so.
I’m happy. I’m full of energy and excitement.
And I’ve lived through enough challenges to accumulate a wealth of experience that very little people have at my age. Even though I still seem to lack enough wisdom at times. :)
I only have about 10 kilos to go now. The magic Lebanese herbs are working wonders.
Time gets things into perspective. And I still have plenty of it to get anywhere I want.
I’ve been feeling thirsty all the time. It remains to be seen if it has something to do with the 42 degrees weather or the magic herbs…
Another upside of taking metabolic acceleration pills: left the office tired, distraught and very annoyed. Decided to annihilate some ice cream on my way home. As never hungry, forgot about it on my way to the car. Two hours later, I am still to eat something.
Stress is known to get me fat even in the absence of food. (I know!! It’s very unfair.) Closing the quarter this week should have porked me up beyond recognition and, yet, I’m only a little bloated from fatigue, and my pair of jeans is threatening to fall on its own volition. The Lebanese magic herbs rock!
The biggest problem of not feeling hungry is eating. You can’t quit the damn thing! (It’s actually very simple: you stop eating and your reptilian brain thinks you are facing catastrophe – giant asteroids, exploding volcanoes, evil aliens and the likes – and food is now scarce. The result is simple: the metabolic rate reaches rock bottom and your body starts turning even air into fat.)
Hence, you have to start thinking about healthy food options to consume and, after figuring out you only have mean carbohydrates in your kitchen, you are left only with – I’m sure you’ve guessed by now – meat and water. Only you don’t want meat, and you’ve already had 56 glasses of water.
So you start considering a trip to the closest organic market in order to purchase such tasteful delicacies as gluten free, yeast free, whole wheat bread, or wholemeal buckwheat noodles. But – oh no! – they are also carbohydrates.Finally, you resign yourself and grab an apple. The fourth in a day.
- Give away their firstborn.
- Sell their immortal soul to the devil at a discounted price.
- Submit to unimaginable torture, usually provided by spas and plastic surgery clinics.
- Practice self-flagellation, also known as weight-lifting, treadmill walking or running, or any other semi-stationary exercises that will bore one’s mind into stupidity; all executed within the confines of closed rooms crowded with sweaty people.
- Ingest poisonous substances that will render them automatons, wondering around with dry throats, goggle eyes and murderous temper.
- Face near – and flavourless – starvation: disgusting cabbage soups, as well as sufficient greenery to cover a patch of the Empty Quarter, included.
- Abdicate of such wonders as freshly baked bread with luxuriant butter; pasta; chocolate, and even fruits, mercilessly generalized by diet doctors as carbohydrates. Actually, after looking at a complete list of carbohydrates, you find out you are only left with meat and water... Let’s discuss possible variations on both one of these days, starting with ice cubes...
- Vomiting!!!! I won’t elaborate on this one. It repulses me to a degree I would consider – if ever very drunk, or having been poisoned (one never knows) – to sleep standing, or having the contents of my stomach drained by a pump, rather than resorting to it.
Things I have considered in order to lose weight:
Practically all of the above. However, I would probably choose a life as the fat lady in the carnival before relinquishing even a locket of my little girl’s hair. Also, I have a different business proposition to Lucifer, if he ever agrees to a meeting: it may have something to do with looking like Megan Fox, singing like Madonna, writing like Nick Hornby, having the financial genius of George Soros, all combined in an eternal living being...
So, what I’m doing right now, is taking this obviously miraculous Lebanese herbal compound. I know it sounds fishy, but the lab is a serious one, and the box comes with a holographic authenticity stamp to show they mean business! So far, it’s working beautifully. And I’m yet to feel murderous.
So, as the bard would say: all is well that ends well.
But what has really pushed me over the edge was running into one of my old pictures from 2005: the last time I was anywhere close to my appropriate weight, looking more like a nymph than my actual pre-history fertility goddess look.
I then decided – yes, again, I know – that it was time to get thinner. But this time I mean it – yes, again, I know. My extra fat has its days counted: it will suffer the wrath of my chubby self on a temper.
However, those who really know me also know I’m not very disciplined when it comes to exercising. It bores me half to death, even though I try to stick to it as much as I possibly can.
Furthermore, I don’t eat much (long story for the next posts), hence there isn’t much I can do in terms of cutting on the calories.
I’m really left with my metabolism, which is as fast as a limping snail on a bumpy trail. Seriously, a Chinese acupuncturist, after a thorough examination, told me I was a walking wonder, since I shouldn’t be alive with an absent metabolism.
So, this is really a quest after my lost metabolism, and my attempt to make it catch up with the fast and crazy pace of my life. May the best podgy girl win!