The childhood me was painfully thin. Mom would tear up watching me walk off to school, my legs like two pick-up sticks in my colored tights. When I was in junior high, Mom promised me a new wardrobe if I added to my 85 pounds. She dragged me to a doctor, who prescribed an iron tonic with a not surprisingly rusted flavor. My brother suggested if the potion worked, Mom should buy the doctor a new wardrobe.
A decade later, newly married and on the Pill, my girth swelled to 105 pounds, giving a snug fit to my previously loose size 4 1/2 engagement ring.
Penny was even skinnier than I, proudly possessing several extra inches of height. She looked more classy than emaciated, owing to her stylish hairdo, impeccable southern girl makeup, and chic wardrobe. She worked as a secretary, while I manned a desk in acquisitions in the same seminary library in the mid 1970s. We were earning our PhT—Putting Hubby Through.
Each evening by the time she’d worked eight hours, retrieved her adorable toddler from day care, and fixed supper for her good-looking husband (southern girls don’t cook; they fix meals), she had no appetite. She told me her husband would urge her, “Eat a little! It’s good!” as he appreciatively wolfed down his meal.
All the other library wives worried as Penny remained skinnier than I. But Penny had a vision for the future.
“Someday, Roberta,” she told me, a faraway look in her eyes and a smile playing on her thin lips, “years from now, we’ll run into each other somewhere. And we’ll both be so fat that we’ll waddle toward each other…”
“And bounce off each other when we embrace…” I added hopefully.
“And we’ll go out for lunch. And we’ll have to sit at a table…”
“Because we won’t be able to fit in a booth!” I encouraged her.
We continued to fantasize about our future as plus-size women: Comfortably cushioned laps for grandchildren. Elastic waistbands. Bras that were functional rather than decorative.
Decades have passed, and I haven’t yet run into Penny. However, now that four pregnancies and menopause have run over me, I am living her dream.
It’s waddle time.
My celery stalk figure has morphed into the dreaded apple, complete with visceral fat. Visceral! What does that even mean? It means my abdominal organs are cushioned with blobs of fat, giving me the appearance of late second trimester pregnancy, although my last baby just turned twenty-two. The dictionary rudely suggests “visceral” exudes “coarse, base, earthy, or crude emotions.”
Well, you would, too, if you had to look in the mirror and see that.
On the other hand, pear-shaped women carry subcutaneous fat on their hips, derrieres, and thighs. Subcutaneous—do you hear the “cute” in “sub-cute-aneous”? These women are praised in rap songs about “booty.” What’s more, their cute fat poses few health threats, while my visceral fat has me shopping for a plus-size coffin.
To postpone my demise and guarantee my survivors won’t have to hire extra pallbearers, I’ve begun the Pare-Your-Apple-to-the-Core diet and fitness plan. A medical doctor, whose qualifications include publishing a book and selling it to my local library, promises losing two inches from my waistline will decrease my risk of death from heart attack and stroke, improve my mood, and bring peace to the Middle East.
This doctor—whose book jacket photo reveals she is neither an apple nor a pear, but a string bean—discourages weighing portions and counting calories. Instead, she divides proteins, carbs, and fats into Elite, Better, Good, and Wasted Calories. My life is now an all-you-can-eat-Elite-food buffet. Drench those legumes with tofu dressing!
I’m having a bit of trouble mastering these categories, since my previous experience classifying foods was limited to milk vs. dark chocolate. Whole wheat toast is Elite…unless you put Good jelly on it, and then it’s Better…I think.
The great thing is, this diet allows me to eat whatever I want one day each week. So, while I used to make poor choices every day, now I only get Wasted on Sundays.
As I stir vanilla soy milk into my coffee, I nostalgically remember my half and half addiction…just last week. (I’m wearing a patch.) I raise my mug to Penny, who was even skinnier than I.
If you run into her, let her know her fat friend is looking for her.
(Thank you, Linda Au, humor writer, for your helpful edits. Penny is a fictitious name for a real woman...a very skinny real woman.)