Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weight For Me! Part I - Growing Up Chubby is Not a [Pretty] Plus

The Nancy my school
friends remember.
Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with many people that I grew up/went to school with (and haven't seen since). One comment that I always seem to get from old friends is how different I look. The reason being, from the ages of 9 through 17, I was what was euphemistically called (in Sears lingo) "Pretty Plus." This two-part blog post is about my journey from skinny little kid to chubby adolescent to healthy teenager to anorexic young adult to [relatively] fit and healthy woman. If you've ever been overweight (and unhappy with yourself), I hope this post helps you realize that you are NOT alone. If you are overweight and love yourself as you are, God bless you. That is awesome! :) All that REALLY matters is who you are inside - society just makes it really tough to remember that.

Skinny me in Grade 3
I started out as a pretty skinny kid. Right up through third grade, I was as tiny as any of my friends. Then, the summer between third and fourth grade, the "Villa Gene" kicked in and I returned to school the following August significantly plumper than I had left the June before. I call it the "Villa Gene" because every female in my immediate family - sister, nieces, daughter, and some cousins - seem to hit that awkward phase around age nine or ten, when we began "filling out" (and, unfortunately, I'm not talking about our chests). As if impending puberty isn't horrible enough, why not throw a few extra pounds on? Now, I will admit wholeheartedly, I did nothing to prevent this from happening. I was never even remotely athletic as a child - I even hated P.E. when I was a string bean. Being heavy just made P.E. that much more humiliating. 

The summer the Villa Gene took over
Days in school I vividly remember, and dreaded like the plague:

1. Weights and Heights Day - Remember when the school nurse and/or parent volunteers came around with the scale and weighed each boy and girl and measured to see how tall we were getting. For the heaviest girl in the class, that was NOT a fun day. I speak from experience. To make matters even worse, I remember my fifth-grade teacher holding my face in his hands and telling me that I needed to lose weight. (True story...)

2. Field Day - Most kids LOVE Field Day - a day set aside to run relay races and basically play outside all day. Not this one! Try being the biggest and slowest person in your class during a relay. Back then, I think I would have rather died than go to school on Field Day. Even when my kids had Field Day when I was a relatively-fit adult, I could not volunteer. It brought back way too many bad memories.
Yes, I do love chocolate.

3. The President's Physical Fitness Test - Put up against other 41-year-old women today, I think I'd score pretty damn well. As an overweight, out-of-shape pre-teen girl, though, this was the one test in school that I BOMBED. I know you had to be able to do a somersault, so my father tried to teach me at home how to do one. TO THIS DAY, my brother-in-law says that is the ONLY time he ever saw my dad lose it. When I was in 7th Grade, Coach Hall actually "gave" me one chin up because I couldn't pull my body up with my flabby, weak arms. I was pretty pathetic.

Horizontal stripes are not flattering.
I AM wearing shorts, by the way.
4. Dodge Ball Days - Let's face it, any day when a chubby adolescent girl has P.E. (and doesn't have a note to excuse her from dressing out) is NOT a good day. Being picked last (and understandably so) for any competitive sport; any kind of test of fitness, speed or agility; running laps around the track; anything that required the least amount of coordination was just demoralizing. But nothing, NOTHING can compare to the horror that was dodge ball at Pompano Beach Middle School. My middle school friends can attest to this. Let's face it, as an overweight, unfit girl, I might as well have had a red bulls-eye painted on my body. I can still smell the fear and fight a panic attack every time I go into the PBMS gym to this day. 

Other assorted humiliating incidents I endured as a not-so-thin girl growing up in the 80s:

1. Overhearing a friend's mom tell her not to eat any more at lunch, unless she wants to end up looking like Nancy.
2.  Having a not-so-thin-himself kid constantly tease me about how tight my clothes were.
3. Having to shop in the "Pretty Plus" department at Sears because clothes in the regular girls department didn't fit me.
Me in 9th Grade.
Not "fat" but not "skinny."
Check out the JT bangs!
4. Not being able to wear Jordache or Sergio Valente jeans, because they were not made to fit over legs greater in circumference than a baseball bat, or shop in popular teenage girls' stores like 5, 7, 9 (because I couldn't wear a 9 - much less a 5 or a 7!) 
5. Having to lie down on the bed and suck in my stomach to get my Guess jeans to zip (and they weren't a size 5, 7 or 9 either).

Even in high school, when I would have loved to have a boyfriend, but knew that the guys that I was interested in would NEVER be interested in me; when I would have loved to wear the skinny jeans and cute mini-skirts that girls were wearing; I really didn't make a major effort to change my eating habits (which were HORRIBLE - we're talking a lot of burgers, fries, chips, candy, Jessica's Cookies, etc.) and NO exercise. It wasn't until my Senior year in high school that I finally made the decision that changed my life. In January 1988, at age 17, and nearly 140 lbs. (which was a lot for my 5'2" frame. = To be clear - I was never "obese," but I was definitely a good 25-35 pound too heavy for my height.) I joined Weight Watchers.
At  my heaviest (right before I joined
Weight Watchers). You can just tell that
I was not happy with myself.

Back then, Weight Watchers didn't have the cool online tools and the Points Plus program. Famous young people were not promoting their success with Weight Watchers on TV. I went to meetings every week. (I was the youngest at mine until my friend, Jen decided to join with me - Thank you, girl! <3). Weight Watchers didn't have all the food choices they have today either. Basically, you got a new "menu plan" to follow each week. I set my weight-loss goal at a healthy 112 lbs. The first week was hell - nearly all salad. I had never been a big fan of vegetables and fruit, but when that was practically all I could eat, I learned to love them. As the weeks progressed, I could gradually add more variety back into my diet. I stuck to the diet plan pretty religiously. I managed to avoid the temptation of the clubs at school selling M&Ms, avoided eating mall food when I worked at Kay-Bee Toys, etc. I remember one weigh-in after a week that I had been so good, and I had GAINED a pound or two. I was devastated. I stuck with Weight Watchers until I hit a plateau at 118 lbs. I stopped going, but by then, I had learned how to eat healthily. I made up my mind right then that even if I didn't get down to my goal weight, I would never let my weight get as high as it had been because I never wanted to have to lose it again.
Healthy and happy.
One year post WW.

At 118 lbs., I was healthy. I had dropped several sizes. I could wear the cute clothes that I wanted to. I finally had boyfriends (which is kind of sad, when I really think about it!). After eight years of being overweight, spending what should have been the best time of my life as a quiet, shy, chubby girl, I finally felt pretty good about myself and had started to come out of my shell. About a year after stopping Weight Watchers (but maintaining my weight loss), I started dating an older guy (NOT the guy in the photo) who I was crazy about. One night, he took me out to dinner. At the end of the meal, he looked at me and said, "You don't work out much, do you?" (True story.) I don't think that he said it to deliberately hurt me, but that one phrase struck a chord in me that changed my life forever. Needless to say, we didn't have many more dates. Shortly thereafter, I began a diet regimen and workout routine  that not only helped me shed those last six pounds, but took me to the brink of anorexia. Lucky for me, around this time I also started dating a wonderful guy (who ironically was a former world-champion athlete, who won a medal for his performance on the President's Physical Fitness Test in school AND who had a "No Fat Chicks in Bikinis" bumper sticker on his 280Z in high school) who saved me.

To be continued...

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

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