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I Told My Husband My Weight And The World Did Not End

I told my husband my weight this morning -- and the world did not end.

In the entire time we have been together (8 years of dating plus 26 1/2 years of marriage), I had never told him my weight.

This lovely man has been with me through thick and through thin(ner), and yet I have always carried this secret dread that, if I divulged the number on the scale, he would look at me; repeat the number, pack his bags, and be out the door in a flash.

Guess what? it didn't happen that way at all.

We were out for breakfast at our favourite local diner when the subject of my weight loss came up. He asked me how much weight I was planning to lose. I told him I was hoping to reach about 175 lbs. -- the weight I had been on our wedding day.

The moment the number exited my mouth, I realized the gig was up.

My weight was no longer a secret.

He simply had to add two and two together. Well, to be more precise, he simply had to add 175 lbs. (the weight I hope to achieve) to 111 lb (the amount I am trying to lose) to calculate my starting weight.

Then, if he subtracted how much weight I have lost to date (21 lbs.) he would know what I weigh right now.

I'm not sure he was even aware that any of this information was available to him (clearly there was a certain amount of paranoia at work on my part), but I figured I might as well put the numbers on the table so that dreaded number on the scale would no longer have the same control over me.

What happened next did not play out like the horror movie script in my head.

The world did not end.

My husband did not run screaming from the diner.

He simply told me what I have always known, but refused to believe (until now):

"Your weight has never mattered to me."

We continued on with our meal. And everything was good.

This marks the achievement of a major milestone for me.

One of my biggest fears no longer has hold of me by the throat.

What will I do with this heady new freedom -- the freedom to live my life without being in fear of being judged unlovable by the person I handed my heart to oh-so-many years ago?

It feels great to luxuriate in the possibilities and to feel calm and at peace with myself because I have allowed myself to accept the gift of unconditional love.

Fat as a Cocoon

When I was a high school student, I had a summer job working in a plastic bag factory. My job was in quality control. It was my job to test the strength of the seals on the plastic bags -- to ensure that they would be able to hold up under pressure. 

One night, I was taking a break in the quality control lab. I was working on my own that night so I had the lab to myself. I remember sitting in the inner office of the lab, flipping through the pages of a magazine as I sipped on a cup of vending machine coffee. I heard the door to the outer lab open. A man in his sixties walked in. He was wearing a red t-shirt and beige pants. I recognized him as the man who was responsible for gluing labels on the cartons in the factory. He didn't have any reason for being in the lab.

As I swivelled my chair sideways so I could see what he was doing, he entered the inner lab office. 

"I've got your tape measure," he said. I'll give it back to you if you give me a kiss," he said.

"You can keep it," I replied.

He walked over to the desk, placed the tape measure in front of me, and began kissing my neck.

I twisted away.

He laughed and left the lab.

I reported the incident to the shift supervisor and I was allowed to go home.

The next day, the man who had kissed me was forced to apologize to me.

It was all very confusing. 

* * *

When I was a university student in Toronto, I made an appointment to talk to a family physician who came highly recommended by one of my roommates about the stress and anxiety I was experiencing at the time.

At first he seemed great. But, over subsequent visits, things started to get a bit strange. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him.

After making some rather odd comments about my weight ("You've finally reached the Big 2-0-0!" he announced one day), he suggested that I take a particular brand of cold capsules to suppress my appetite. He told me this was how he managed to control his own weight. 

While discussing the importance of deep breathing as a means of promoting relaxation, he slipped his hand into my bra so he could feel me breathe.

Finally, midway through a counselling session about stress, he asked me when I had last had a pelvic exam -- and suggested that we do one right then and there. I hopped up on the examining table.

That was my last appointment with the doctor.

By this time, I had finished university and was about to move to another community.

A few years later, I read in the newspaper that this doctor had lost his medical license for professional misconduct -- for sexual improprieties involving three patients. 

* * *

I didn't think too much of these two incidents until over a decade later -- after I had lost and regained a significant amount of weight.

When I think back to that time period -- when I had lost 74 pounds -- I realize how vulnerable, how naked, I felt in my new body. I was by no means skinny, but I was much slimmer than I had been and I was having to deal with attention from men for the first time in my adult life.  

This new-found male attention freaked me out. I think it may have caused memories of what happened at my summer job and in the doctor's office (experiences that I should more accurately refer to as sexual harassment, perhaps even sexual assault) to surface on some level, even though I wasn't aware of it at the time.

My response? To take my new butterfly self and crawl back inside the much more familiar cocoon of fat. 

If I am going to be successful at losing weight and maintaining the weight loss this time, I am going to have to prepare myself for these uncomfortable feelings to surface again.

Fortunately, I am much stronger and much more political than I used to be.

I am strong enough to speak out for the younger me who had yet to find her voice.

The Producer

A few years back, a television producer invited me to meet with her to talk about the possibility of putting together a TV show pitch for a parenting show featuring me.

We had a great conversation.

We shot some film.

And, at the end of the day, the producer took me aside and told me that she thought I'd be perfect as the host of a parenting show.

There was just this one problem.

I would have to lose a serious amount of weight.

She was just being honest, she said.

None of the major networks would consider taking on a show with an overweight host. 

* * *

That conversation freaked me out -- and it freaked me out for a long time.

I lost the confidence I had previously had before the TV camera.

I stopped pursuing opportunities to appear as a guest on parenting and lifestyle TV shows, having concluded that I was a misfit in a world of perfect hosts and perfect guests. 

I went into hermit mode.

I gained 60 lbs.

I felt even worse about myself.

* * *

As I am embarking on this weight loss journey, I feel the need to state this quite emphatically: 

I am not losing weight because of the pressure I have faced to lose weight. 

I am losing weight in spite of it.

The motivation to pursue change must come for the right reasons and it must come from within.

I have finally reached that place.

Related:

Brave Letter

I just wrote and sent this letter to one of the people I love and admire most on this planet. I knew I had to write it as an important next step on my journey. I'm sharing it with you in case you feel the need to write a similar type of letter to someone in your life.

Dear [Tremendously Important Person in My Life]:

It's tough having a [relative] who is really intelligent and Internet savvy. You can't hide anything online. :-) I know it's only a matter of time before you find my new blog, so I thought I'd save us both some awkwardness ("Has [he/she] found it?" "Does she know I've found it?") by simply sending you this link:

http://bravenewblog.net/blog/

I want you to know that I will do my best not to hurt other people as I write about my weight issues in this blog. Unfortunately, it is difficult to write about my life without indirectly writing about other people, too -- although I will be as cryptic as possible.  That is one of the things that has held me back from dealing with my issues -- the fear of hurting other people. 

I have decided that I need to be brave in order to move forward with my life. 

I know I have the ability to be both brave and kind. (A person learns a few things over the course of 49 1/12th years of living.) 

I know you love me and that your attempts to encourage me to deal with my weight problem in the past, albeit clumsy, were made with the very best of intentions. 

You're gloriously imperfect. 

I am too. 

I guess we have that in common.

I also know I have your support and love as I journey on this path yet again. 

Thanks.

Love,

Ann

Brave New Me

I've been drafting this post in my head for a very long time. Most of that time was spent wrestling with it, trying to prevent it from escaping. Of course, the energy that I spent trying to keep the post it distracted me from other things that I could have been doing, like writing or living. It was kind of a silly thing to do, when you think about it.

But I was afraid. Seriously afraid. I was afraid that if you read this blog post, you would suddenly open your eyes and realize that I'm overweight. (Morbidly obese, to be more precise. If I'm going to be brave, I might as well be uber-brave.)

Being brave about weight isn't easy for me. You see, I grew up in a family where being overweight was considered a crime: where the men disappeared to weigh themselves and compare weights at family reunions; where the Easter bunny brought chocolate bunnies to skinny little girls and skipping ropes to fat little girls; where elephant jokes were anything but taboo. 

The ironic thing is that I started out life being somewhat underweight (5 lbs. 13 oz, to be exact). Then due to factors beyond my control (hey, I was a baby), I tended up being a chubby baby and a chubbier tot. I made countless efforts to lose the baby fat, achieving the goal that the insurance company height-weight charts set out for me oh-so-briefly -- the month before I became pregnant with my first child.

I'm extremely healthy right now (according to my doctor), but I worry about the future. I'm going to be celebrating my 50th birthday later this year and I have at least another 50 years of living to do. I would hate to die prematurely and miss out on writing the short stories and the novel I want to write. Or in seeing the Harper government defeated. Or in growing old with my husband and watching our four kids make their mark in the world in all kinds of magnificent ways.

Lately the universe has been sending me some signs that this is the right time for me to start getting serious about increasing my physical activity and trying to lose a serious amount of weight. (The feminist in me hates the fact that this conversation has anything to do with weight. We'll be talking a lot about that in the blog posts to come, trust me.) 

  • Three people in my life have lost a serious amount of weight in recent months, inspiring me to believe that maybe, just maybe, I can do the same. (You'll be learning more about them in the weeks/months ahead.)
  • I am in an amazing place psychologically. A lot of the stresses that have weighed me down (interesting choice of words, huh?) for many years have disappeared. I am incredibly happy with my life and, more important, I am happy with me.
  • I am feeling brave. Instead of struggling with my weight loss nemesis in silence (the result of years and years of fear, shame, anger, guilt, and grief), I am ready to reach out to others for the support I need to be successful.

Just so you know, I'm not prepared to make this all about a number on a scale. A scale will never measure my worth as a person. But I will tell you this. I would like to lose 100 lbs. When I lose that 100 lbs., I will still be heavier than I was on my wedding day and after I gave birth to my first child, but I will be at a much healthier weight for me -- a weight I can live with and maintain for the rest of my life. I think that's a worthy and achievable goal. 

If anyone else would care to join me on this journey (either as cheerleaders or fellow walkers), you're most welcome to tag along. (I'll be doing a lot of walking on my treadmill and in my community. I've already started, in fact.) You can contact me via the comments section below or, if you prefer, you can send me a tweet @anndouglas. 

That's it from me for now. 

Bravely,

Ann

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
— Lao Tzu