This is a collection--in no particular order--of my weight at different ages. As you'll see, my body weight was a defining and persistently pervasive part of my life from a very early age.
I am the fat daughter of a fat woman who desperately wanted to save me from the pain she'd suffered as a child, including the taunts and hateful messages of inadequacy and undesirability that came from her mother.
These words are written to document my life experience as a chubby child, fat teenager, and super-sized adult. There is no blame, and I am not angry at my Mother...This is My story, and I think it needs to be told. For those of you who are not, and/or never have been fat, the numbers alone may not provide enough information or insight. Wherever possible, I am including childhood pictures which can be viewed by clicking on my age at the beginning of the paragraph. I will add pictures over time as I find and scan them.
Please keep my story in mind when judging yourself, or someone you love (which actually, should be one and the same;-) Teach yourself, and the fat people in your life that their value should not be determined by their body shape, size or any of a hundred other variables. Learn to be beautiful, smart and strong on the inside first. This will radiate from your center regardless of your physical size, and everyone will know how beautiful you are!
If you'd like to see how I started out, click here and I will share a few pictures of myself as an infant and toddler.
Age 5: We lived in garden apartments, and an older boy of 7 named Kevin called me fat. Someone told me that he drew a picture of me in chalk on the front of the brick building. It was a crude stick figure with a circle for the head and a larger bubble for the body. That's the first time I remember being called fat.
Age 7: During a trip to the doctor for my usual earache problems, it is decided that I should be put on a diet. I don't recall my exact weight, but what I do remember is going home with a piece of paper which inspired my Mom to give me a bowl of Wheaties with skim milk and no sugar for dinner. The rest of the family had steak, or hamburgers. I was markedly different from this moment on.
Age 8: 88 lbs, I think. I have a clear, but distant memory of being at my cousin Selma's country home, and she gives me a pair of shorts to try on. They don't fit, and she tells me that a little girl my age shouldn't weigh this much, and that if I lose 40 lbs she will buy me all the new shorts I want...I adore Selma, so I promise to do it--because even though I'm sure she loves me, I'm somehow certain that she'll love me more if I'm not chubby. During this same year, I also had diet pills for the first time.
Age 9: 121 lbs. Mrs Wise's fourth grade class is lined up outside the nurse's office at Ridge Ranch School in Paramus, NJ. We are being weighed, and when it's my turn, I am logged at 121 lbs. The nurse points out that I weigh more than even the biggest and strongest boys in the school. I hear some of the boys in my class laughing and exclaiming "Wow, what a tub of lard--Mason weighs over a hundred pounds!" This fact is mentioned much more often than the fact that I learned a monologue in Norwegian--as well as designing and creating the scenery for the class play--a feat I personally found much more impressive.
Age 10: 131 lbs. My Mother takes me to Dr Di Donato because I have an earache. Of course, I am weighed (ear infections are directly linked to fatness, right?) and when the doctor comes into the examination room, he shakes his head in disgust and exclaims, "131 pounds! My nurses don't weigh that much!!!" I am humiliated, looking to my Mother for comfort--who in turn looks at the doctor and says, "Doctor, didn't you know? Susan is going to be wearing my clothes to school this fall!" The doctor seemed to ignore my Mother's remark, but says "We've got to do something about her," as though I were not even present. I was given diet pills again, and I remember later that year telling my teacher that I wasn't taking them, but flushing them down the toilet. I was proud of that, having read that diet pills can be dangerous...but I don't think she saw it that way, and though I'm not certain, I think she might have called my parents and told them. Was I clairvoyant, or simply "too smart for my own good?"
Age 11: 156 lbs. My sixth grade teacher was Miss Fowler, who was a bastion of strictness. She kept me after school one day to talk to me about the Girl Scouts--from which I'd just resigned. Miss Fowler told me that I was bright and talented, and oh, yeah--I had "such a pretty face," but I had to lose weight...
Age 12: 166 lbs. Before school started, my Mom took me shopping for back-to-school clothes. She held up a dress for my approval. I gasped and said "I'm not really that wide!" My Mother replied, "Yes, you are. We rarely see ourselves as we really are...the way everyone else sees us.
It's my first year in Junior High School. Mr. Cirinelli is my homeroom teacher, and he takes it upon himself to mentor me in "You'd better lose that weight now, 101." He has just lost 66 lbs on Weight Watchers, and encourages me to join. So, I join the teen group of Weight Watchers that meets in the lunchroom of Alexander's Department Store on Friday nights. That first night, they weigh me and give me a report card which logs my weight and progress and also displays my goal weight, which is 88 lbs. The woman who weighs me in says "You have to lose a whole person!" I was very gung-ho for a while, but slipped up--no, I cheated! Mr. Cirinelli warned that I was going to ruin my life if I didn't lose weight, and my Mother told me that it was more important for me to stick to the diet than for her...my whole life was ahead of me, but hers was already settled. She was 42.
Age 13: I'd just survived the most interesting summer of my young life. My parents sent me to diet camp in upstate New York. I was almost 200 lbs, but can't recall the exact number. I'd never been to sleep-away camp before, but I willingly went so that I could transform my life and guarantee my future happiness through weight loss.
The short version of this story is that the camp was a broken down hell-hole, and I responded appropriately to this situation with Civil Disobedience, a cornerstone of 60's politics for change! The result? I was expelled from diet camp. The camp director called my Mother and said "You've got to come and get her...she's got her whole bunk on strike...girls are refusing to come to meals or go to activities. Susan has turned this place upside down and disrupted the entire camp!"
I was thrilled to be leaving. I swore I'd stick to my diet and make my parents proud. It had been the longest four weeks of my life, and it wasn't until we were a few hours away from the camp that my Mother turned to me in anger and said "We didn't come to get you because we love you so much. We came because the camp director, Selma Ettenberg said you'd disrupted the entire camp, and they could not get things under control until you were gone!"
On the surface, I was devastated and embarrassed...but underneath, I was smiling. It was my first taste of power, and I knew that I had been right!
Age 14: 257 lbs. My freshman year in high school, and the school nurse weighs me in at 257 lbs. I'd been admitted to Bergen County Vocational & Technical High School in Hackensack, NJ. My entrance exam scored in the top 10%. My plan was to study commercial art...but my memories of diets and fat-bashing are much more vivid than anything I accomplished in my academic career--including ribbons won in a national Teen Arts Festival, and a very successful performance in a one-act play competition.
After the sudden death of a beloved second cousin from cancer, I was determined to lose the weight "so Marty would be proud of me." That was my first go-round with Dr. Stillman. Hamburgers, hot dogs, hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese, plus 8 glasses of water a day. I lost about 30 lbs or so before I faltered.
Age16: 311 lbs. In an obesity clinic at Hackensack Hospital, I weigh in at 311 lbs. The nurse in charge of my case is very nice. I like her a lot, and she convinces me that I can do this--maybe even lose enough weight for someone to ask me to the prom next year. How sad...after all, I didn't know that self-esteem would have gone a long way in making me desirable. As usual, I lose some weight, but it's never enough. This is also the year that I auditioned for the part of Mama Rose in Bergen Tech's production of "Gypsy." Despite a standing ovation for my audition, I didn't get the part--because of my weight. I was told that I just didn't fit the image of Mama Rose because of my size. Oy.
Age 17: 321 lbs. Our family belonged to a camping club, and one of the people from the Jersey Skeeters was a woman named Carol. She was well over 300 lbs, with a husband and children who adored her. Suddenly during the last year or so, she got thin. On Weight Watchers, of course...so now that I had my drivers license, I joined the class that Carol lectured. She told me how much everyone in the class adored me, and how much the rest of the world would, too--once I'd lost the weight. She wanted to make a giant poster of my "report card" to motivate me and help the class monitor my progress. Duh. Can you say "Make an example of me, and humiliate me any way you can?" A couple of months, and I was gone!
Age 17 3/4: 356 lbs. My Mother worked at Castro Convertibles in Paramus, NJ. She was their first female salesperson, and she was fat.
One day, I'm in the store to see her, and I notice this man watching me. I didn't like the way he was looking at me, but I ignored him because I was in my Mom's place of business.
That night, she tells me the strange man was Bob, and he'd taken an interest in me because he'd lost over a hundred and fifty pounds on Weight Watchers. So...a few days after high school graduation, I join yet another Weight Watchers group and weigh in at 356 lbs. Bob assures me that if I do the right thing, I'll lose weight and someday, maybe even have a boyfriend. If I don't, I'll never be happy.
Age 19: 375 1/2 lbs. I am accepted for participation in an obesity research program at The New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Behavior modification, incarceration and the fear of being integrated with, or mistaken for a member of the general psychiatric population--These were a few of my favorite things.
I stayed for the better part of six months and lost 88 1/2 lbs. I was under 300 lbs for the first time since the age of 16...
Age 20?: 375ish...again. Following an automobile accident and serious back injury, I land in a drug rehab in Miami, FL on May 20, 1976 because my Mother has convinced them that my compulsive eating is comparable to chemical abuse. I'm admitted because the paperwork goes through, and the program gets the bucks.
This place makes the diet camp look like paradise. The food is horrendous, the facility (an old motel just a block off of Biscayne Bay) is roach infested, and worse...and a self-imposed regimen of arbitrary fasting is easy. Yeah, I lost weight. And then I regained it...
Age 22/23: Still in Miami, now working in the program. One of the directors decides that I have to lose weight to set an example for our clients, so under the threat of "lose weight, or lose your job," I go to Mount Sinai Hospital on Miami Beach and enroll in the Optifast Program.
David Kudzma, my doctor is very cool. He's searing, sarcastic and taunts me, telling me I'll never succeed. I did though...I lost 67 1/2 lbs, and he admitted that he might have been wrong. In the long run, he wasn't. And I already had the seeds of anorexic and bulimic behaviors planted within me. I wasn't drinking my 5 packets a day, thinking that somehow if I cut the 350 calories a day in half, I'd lose more weight...faster. I ended up in the hospital after nearly passing out--repeatedly over a period of a week or so. I was too weak to drive to the hospital, so a friend brought me. I keeled over in Dr. Kudzma's office. I remember "spiraling" toward the floor, and the next thing I remembered was wondering how, if I was on the floor, the ceiling seemed so close...(I was actually being wheeled to the emergency room on a gurney. I never asked, and don't think I want to know how they got me up off of the floor.)
Once I'd recovered from what was referred to as an "unknown viral thing," I am determined to resume my diet. I beg for an appointment with a staff surgeon who will perform a gastro-intestinal bypass on me.
The surgeon tells me about all of the risks, presumably to scare me, but I am not afraid. "I am going to die anyway," I tell him. "Just do it." He refused. I'll bet that's a record, huh? His name was Dr. Ackroyd and he was at Mount Sinai, too. I hated him that day...but if I could thank him now, I would.
Age 24: 433 lbs. I couldn't believe I'd broken the 400 pound mark, and with the blessing of the doctor by whom I was employed, I embarked on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. When that didn't yield long lasting results, I had my jaws wired shut. I lost about 22 lbs in 8 weeks. Every morning, I beat a raw egg into a glass of orange juice. I don't know how I survived--physically, or emotionally. One of the things one must do when their jaws are wired is keep a pair of wire cutters handy in case the victim--er, dieter, that is, begins to vomit. The wires must be cut to avoid choking on ones own vomit. (If this frightens or makes you uncomfortable, good. It ought to. I wish I'd been frightened instead of desperate.)
I had to have the wires cut to have emergency dental surgery, and chose not to get them re-wired. A year or so later, I asked a dentist to remove the braces because I had no intention of being re-wired, and he refused at first. He wanted me to reconsider--and he wasn't even the one who'd put them in!
Age 25: 450-500 lbs (approximately) I couldn't weigh myself, but this is a fair estimation.
Age 26: 425 lbs on the morning of my Gastroplasty surgery.
Age 27: 321 lbs, and I am now anorexic and bulimic. Yes, really! I know, because I watched all the talk shows and read the books. The symptoms said that someone suffering from these eating disorders is often emaciated, (but not always) The real key was, and is behaviors! I'm not talking here about "behavior modification," or discipline. I'm talking about the self-destructive, self-loathing behaviors that destroy our bodies and our souls. Self-Esteem is the Penicillin that keeps these destructive obsessions with dieting and airbrushed physical perfection at bay.
44: 420 or so (give or take a few pounds,) but
does it really matter?
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