Someone asked me an interesting question the other day.
Exactly how long ago were you fat?
When someone asks me that question I automatically think back to me in front of the BB King statue at the Memphis visitor center.
If I pause and think a bit longer, I go back to my childhood. Especially this time of year as I get ready to “celebrate” my D (Diabetes) Day Anniversary.
At the end of July 1985 I was a fat little girl. There really isn’t a better way to say it and I have the pictures to prove it. That summer started out like any other. I spent my days reading and watching TV while drinking Pepsi and eating my favorite ham, cheese and potato chip sandwiches. Occasionally (when I could convince my mom) I would stop the ice cream truck for an Oreo ice cream sandwich. Anything remotely athletic was not on my agenda.
The first week in August I got sick. Not a little sick, but a lot sick. I won’t go into the gory details but food and most liquids were not an option. Nothing my mom tried helped. A call to the pediatrician equaled the notice that my doctor had suddenly retired. With no one available to see me the nurse actually recommended a GP who told me I had a virus and sent us home with antibiotics. Not oral antibiotics either since nothing would stay down.
A couple of days later and a frightful night of wrenching back pain and hallucinations, my mom took me to the emergency room. My blood sugar was over 1000 so the diagnosis for them was easy. They said a few more hours and I might have ended up in an irreversible coma.
My life changed that week. The unintended side effect of nearly dying was I was no longer the fat kid. All of the sudden I was “normal”, having lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 pounds in only about a week.
It was the worst fad diet ever.
I went through diabetes education classes the week and a half I was in the hospital (including 3 days in ICU). I learned that I now needed to balance insulin, food and exercise. I learned not eat sugar (what they told diabetics back in 1985). I learned how many “points” a day I was supposed to eat as a normal sized growing girl.
Oddly this was also my first foray into meal planning and food logging. Really my mom did it, but I was in charge of the binder and learned to help by looking up the points in my little food booklet. We switched to diet Pepsi and sugar free ice cream. I still ate the ham, cheese and potato chip sandwiches. All acceptable as long as I stayed within my point range.
However, the logging and point tracking didn’t last forever, maybe 6 months to a year. As I adjusted to my new life, the doctor visits were farther and farther apart. No one was looking for those food logs or reminding me how to eat. Just like a dieter I wanted to get back to “real life”.
I became a teenager. I wanted to eat the things my friends ate. I survived on French fries, burgers, bagels and Chinese food with lots of white rice. I still said no to sugar. I switched to Diet Coke, maybe it was cooler then, I can’t remember. When I went out on my own, everything really started to unravel. 39 cent hamburgers from McDonald’s, late nights and no exercise really started to take their toll. I had zero energy, zero self confidence and I had to switch to button fly jeans because I kept busting zippers. Blood glucose levels were erratic because my eating and activity were.
Fat again, my body was paying the price when I was only 22.
Vanity, seeing that picture of myself in Memphis, was certainly a big motivator. But my health is what turned that motivation to commitment. It took a couple of years to really figure out how to do it, but I did and I’ve never felt better. As another D Day Anniversary passes for me, I appreciate the question about how long ago I was fat. It helps me keep things in perspective and remember that we all start this journey for different reasons but we are all in it together. Just some of us are a little farther down the road than others.