Big-boned? Not so much.

I will never understand why women my age have this campy nostalgia for the Reagan years. The 90s gave us Nirvana and grunge, a burgeoning economy, Bill Clinton and a relatively peaceful world order. The 80’s, on the other hand, gave us the Challenger explosion, Ronald Reagan and the first installment of the vanishing of the middle class, Jazzercise and Duran Duran. Not a lot to look back on fondly. But the 80s did give us the films of John Hughes which did serve the purpose of distracting the American people from the Gipper and refocusing on leg warmers and Olivia Newton John. One particular line from one particular movie rattles around in my brain this morning.

“Y’see I’m not sure if you know this, but there’s two kinds of fat people. There’s fat people that were meant to be fat, and there’s fat people that were once thin but they became fat. So when you look at them, you can kind of see that thin person inside.”

  • John Bender
  • The Breakfast Club

I’ve been fat my whole life. Not that pathological fat like when a thin person looks into a mirror and still sees the fat person they once were and leads to eating disorders. The kind of fat you get when you are addicted to Bryers Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and Ok-Ke-Doke Hot Cheese popcorn. I am cursed (blessed?) with a physiology that simply won’t tolerate that crap and it manifests in a pretty rotund beer gut. I’ve had it my whole life and been through all the stages of denial like insisting that I was just holding on to baby fat when I was 13 and thinking I could lose my extra tonnage if I watched Rocky III a couple times and worked my way up to doing 5 push-ups. I would have l loved it if it truly was a beer gut and, when I got sober, it finally took its leave. Unfortunately, all that happened was I got even more addicted to candy and those little tins of fluorescent Frito’s Radioactive Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese and Spicy Nacho Doritos. Yeah, I trimmed down to a respectable 20-pounds-over my target weight when I got on a brutal jag of working out 5 days a week and guzzling protein shakes. But alas, my body and metabolism had grown accustomed to the state of rest I maintained for much of my life so when I stopped with the protein shakes and downgraded to the gym 2-3 days per week. Likewise did my eating habits grow lax again and I resumed my search for the perfect cheese popcorn (still Ok-Ke-Doke, although Vic’s or Indiana will do in a pinch).

But during that brief stint when I did nothing but walking around the airport in my down time (which was most of the time) at work and maintained all those trips to the gym, I took a few photos where I looked pretty good and felt pretty good, even with a strict adherence to the cheese popcorn-and-Reese’s diet. I even expanded the arsenal of junk food to Reese’s Nutrageous bars, Reese’s Mini’s and SmartFood and Maggie’s Cheese popcorn (Yep, Ok-Ke-Doke defended its heavyweight (see what I did there?) belt).

When I started HVAC school and my HVAC job last summer, I realistically trimmed down my gym frequency to accommodate my new 50-hours-per-week schedule and redirected my focus to learning the new trade and making the necessary sacrifices. Sadly, this also meant the reintroduction of a nemesis I all but banished from my life when I read Fast Food Nation 15 years ago. Whether I was buying lunch for my crew as a gesture of good will or simply sick of the sandwich wraps and protein shake I had dutifully packed for my lunch, slowly the sinister Croissanwiches and reviled Chalupas infiltrated my menu and I was bona fide fat again. Not as bad as when I was drinking, but bad enough that when I weigh myself at the gym, I don’t have a little internal triumphant YAWP! But rather a defeated sigh.

To my credit, I did make some noble efforts to turn this franchise around. I moved the old tube TV downstairs and bought a new DVD player so I could play the yoga DVD a friend graciously gave me a couple years ago. I started watching glute and circuit training videos on YouTube and made a half-ass effort to stick to some sort of regular schedule on the exercise bike. Unfortunately, I placed them right next to the piano I’m struggling to relearn, so I’ve effectively created a Disappointment Wing in the basement chock full of ways to feel remiss at all those things I did before my addictions consumed my life. Couple that with my physically taxing and time-consuming job, going back to school a few weeks ago, wedging in time for penning blog posts as well as my magnum opus, all in the middle of a particularly cold and icy winter, and you’ve got a hearty helping of eat-dinner-and-binge-watch-Lost-before-going–to-freakin’-bed.

Oh, I suppose it bears mentioning that I’ve also decided to make a concerted effort to quit smoking (Have I mentioned my knack for trying to accomplish 6 different things at once and being delusional enough to convince myself I can do it all?) Well, I made a promise to myself a couple years ago that I will have quit smoking by the age of 40. Then my 40th birthday came and went, I had bought plenty of nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges and Dum-Dums and Jolly Ranchers to get me through the long dark night ahead. Y’know what else comes in pretty handy to get through the new job, new trade, a lot of driving, seemingly perpetual status of Never Married/No Children at the dating sights and sitting in my car while the defrost function cranks up to lukewarm? A goddamn cigarette, that’s what.

Of course my mom tried to reason with me, stating I should try to bring my weight down to a manageable level because I will gain weight as I give up smoking. Then I hear people say they gained as much as 50 pounds when they quit and you can lose the weight eventually. Then my cousin and I were going to lean on each other and both quit before she texted me yesterday all full of triumphant confidence that it had taken her all of 2 weeks to quit. Well isn’t that just swell for you Colleen. Now do me a favor and bug off.

I suppose a lot of Midwesterners endure some sort of funk as December turns into January and there’s no end in sight. The trick is to not give up hope, that there is an end and you will get there. It’s foolish and short-sighted to convince yourself that the next 4 months have to be consumed by defeat. I mean, that’s 1/3 of your life you would be committing to throwing in the towel and saying “I’ll get my ducks in a row in, like May.” That yoga DVD and circuit training videos and practicing piano and learning to juggle (I totally forgot about that one)? It all starts anew today! Right after I make myself a big plate of eggs and sausage and catch up on my shows.


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