18 August 2017

Making weight

Stephen loses at life

I've been fat my whole life — I was in fact born fat. Ten pounds, zero ounces. The doctor said he needed help holding me when I came out. I remember looking in the mirror as a kid and seeing pouches of fat at my armpits that other kids didn't have. I was fat, other kids called me fat. My uncle who is a doctor once told me it was good that I had fat on my legs because he said I would use it if I got sick. That memory sticks out like a bent nail, like the time Sandy Sleck said to me I was insecure. Why do I remember this. I was fat through junior high school, but then there were other kids who were fatter. When I played football that one dreadful year, my fatness was between a defensive guard and a linebacker. Being a linebacker is a good fat. I wasn't fat enough to be on the line. After that, I don't remember thinking that I was fat. I was fat, sure, but other people were fatter so it didn't matter.

I don't remember a number getting associated with my weight until I applied for a passport when I was sixteen. I wrote 201 pounds, but I don't remember why that was the number. I must have been to the doctor in the last year. I don't remember thinking that number was fat, but I think I lied and the number might have been higher. It feels like something I did, or thought about doing so much that I might as well have done. I don't remember caring one way or another after a year because I got a girlfriend who was not fat and much prettier than I thought I deserved, so it all made sense. I could be funny and intelligent and fat and it wouldn't matter. And everyone else was getting fatter anyway, particularly in college. I drank eight cokes a day, what did it matter — I was growing my hair out and serving God. I was fat in Japan, but of course, that was just being American. All Americans are fat, right, you're just another one. I eat a lot, yes, lots on my plate. I eat peanut butter and pop tarts and pasta. Yes, sure, yakiniku, beef on a stick, I love it all. It was a kind of a joke — everyone was going to stare, what did it matter what you ate.

Neal got me to work out for the first time, in Niigata, the same month that I met Yoko and I started thinking about wearing sport coats. I weighed myself there at the sports centre for the first time and did the thing I learned you weren't supposed to do: kept my shoes on. It was 89 kilograms. Not over 90. I kept a food diary for the first time, and realised that when I drank 5 cappuccinos at Saizeriya in Ogata — while I was studying kanji for the Japanese proficiency test — they were making me fat. Or better, I could just control what I ate and be whatever weight I wanted. All I had to do was stop. It was easy enough. Yoko and I got engaged — my mother said she didn't recognise me in the pictures. I rode my bike after I got a couple speeding tickets and lost weight. The fat started to come off, particularly in my face and I had a jawline and then a wife and a daughter and I wasn't fat, but healthy. I was running too, up and down the Agano River for 10, 20, 30 kilometers. Alone and quiet and the sun coming up while my wife and daughter slept in Matsuhama.

And then I was fat again, in England this time, starting my PhD in a tiny apartment with Yoko, pregnant, and Naomi. It was Tiger bread and butter — again, I remember. I thought, there are so many calories in this. I know there are. There's a picture of me that I remember, a picture of me fat that I saw and thought, I'm fat. Mei was born and I started running again and I took the weight off, like a cycle that I repeat and repeat. Gain from November until May, lose from June to September.

When Mia was born, I was thin for the first time. Not just not fat, but thin. Thinner than I had ever been. I was meticulous about numbers, what I was eating and how much. I weighed everything. I weighed cereal and milk. I counted everything I ate, a carrot, some celery. I hit 69.9 kgs one day, the lowest I had ever been since I was... I thought a long time about that, how long ago I had been that weight: 154 pounds. It must have been junior high school. I was thin, but I was still fat. I thought about the whole thing like it was a tight rope I could fall off of at any moment. If I just had one bad day it would be over. And then I had a bad day and it was over. We went to Malaysia and I gave up. I remember the precise moment I gave up. I was trudging through the sun and humidity trying to find some furniture while Yoko and the girls were sick in the hotel. I was at a convenience store and I bought some ice cream. I remember exactly what it was: a Nestle crunch bar. It was so cheap and I felt I needed it. I was fat anyway, what did it matter.

In my thirties, I have been fat and then thin and then fat and then thin and then fat for a year and now thin again. My 30th birthday I was thin — I ran in Washington Square Park, but then I had red velvet cake in a box and a beer and I was fat on a plane back to the UK. Being fat tracks with rejection and depression and running and and happiness and mania and obsession. Am I depressed? I might be fat or thin as a result. Am I running a lot? I might be fat or thin. Someone asked me, 'Have you lost weight?' and I didn't know what to answer. I have and I haven't. It depends on the last time you saw me. When was the last time you saw me.

I may be thin again, but not as thin as I have been at my thinnest. I put on a thin t-shirt today, the aspirational ones I bought last year. Small and snug. I still feel fat though, still look in the mirror and feel fat. In Sweden I ran and ran and ate and ate. I sat and talked to Chris after running 26 kilometers and put my hand around my wrist like anorexic people do, I'm told. It felt thin, but I was eating so I was going to feel fat in an hour.

You can look in the mirror and feel fat or thin. You can weigh yourself several times in row. You should do it first thing in the morning, after you use the toilet, and are completely naked. Don't drink any water first, of course. The weight can be up, or it can be down, it can differ each time, even if you just shut it off, move it, and turn it on again. The fat percentage is probably not accurate, you know that, but you can track it and it goes down if you are healthy. The weight can be up, but the fat percentage down. Or the fat percentage up and the weight down. You can eat too much or too little, but it will catch up with you, one way or another, you know it will. You'll eat and drink too much in a couple of weeks at that party that you are planning for. You can try to eat well at it, or you can let yourself go — neither will feel good. You can weigh yourself or not weigh yourself. You can count calories or not, count macros or not. Avoid sugar or not. Eat meat, not eat meat. Eat only meat, eat 7 eggs and nothing else. You can do it all, and still be fat, regardless of how thin you are.
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