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RELUCTANT REFORMER

I’m wearing the fattest of my fat pants right now.

I’ve always fancied myself capable of pulling off a voluptuous and artsy Rubenesque, even at this late date. A Jane Russell versus a Marilyn Monroe. Kate Moss? Forgetaboutit.

I slept through size-zero one night in fourth grade after I’d had the stomach flu for a week and my fever broke.

Since taking up yoga five years ago, I’ve maintained a relatively happy, fat-but-fit body and mindset. I’m good with a size 12—considered a plus-size in our culture. I remember hearing Kathleen Turner say that, at a certain age, a woman has to choose between a good face and losing weight. If you saw her in Body Heat and then 27 years later in Marley and Me, you might have added a few worry lines to your own face. I think the last time I saw her she was playing a transgender, her voice descended from tenor to bass. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. She seems entirely comfortable in her own skin. It’s just that her dramatic on-screen evolution reinforces my fear of “letting myself go” by failing to intervene in time.

Taken independently, aging and change don’t bother me. It’s the combination that freaks me out.

Enter my theories about my weight gain and exercise avoidance. I figure my guess is as good as—or better than–a therapist’s. Years of counseling and self-help book hoarding have turned me into an understudy. I’ve kept journals since I was in college (let’s be kind and call them a little redundant).

I’m onto myself big time.

Anxiety about the unknown has to show itself somehow, and in my case the presentation is an extra 15 pounds gained since last October, when I almost lost my mother. That’s when the over sized postcard announcing the uncertainty of life and impending doom arrived in my monkey mind’s mailbox.

About a month later, I was informed my company was being sold and I was being laid off. As far as stressors go, the latter was nothing. Seeing my mother in an induced coma, dependent on a breathing tube, put everything into perspective. But it also made it impossible to deny big losses ahead. If I didn’t have my hair colored once a month I’d look like Albert Einstein—only heavier and without that all-knowing look in my eyes. My eating habits took it on the double chin.

Losing a job is something I can get over and eventually wind up better off. Losing my parents? I can’t work that, or get over it. And I want to deny it in the worst way.

If you’ve been following me, you know I had fierce apathy for my work and yearned for a life of more meaning. There was severance pay. A door shut, windows opened. I am grateful for the time to figure it all out.

An opportunity? Yes. But it threw me in the middle of an intersection at a time when I didn’t need another fucking test (I had also just finalized my divorce). Really? Haven’t I been tested enough? I hate being tested right now. Can we put a moratorium on testing for a few years?

I was taught as a child that God deliberately tested us, and that if only we had enough faith, or good behavior, or hero worship, we might be spared suffering. And if we were obedient and still suffered, God had a reason. Quite the gamer, this God character.  If we’re expected to worship someone unconditionally shouldn’t they send some kind of acknowledgement, or at least be required to make their tax records public?

This period of fear, uncertainty and indecision—coupled with growing doubt about the existence of God—makes a restaurant delivery service especially appealing. The multitude of menu choices, and the way they text at every juncture like a good boyfriend, rewards me with a feeling of control.

It’s time for a 12-step program. I need a circle of trust. I need to let go of thinking I’m in control. Clearly, I’m not. So I went online to discover a huge and diverse offering of 12-step group meetings in my area. I’m going to begin with Overeaters Anonymous. They meet every Tuesday night at 7.

Decision made, I then watched my brain jump the track. I remembered someone telling me two weeks ago about a meeting that was cancelled due to icy roads. That little bit of hearsay gave my chunky monkey an escape hatch. I began to imagine a snowy Tuesday night at home with a big bowl of hot chili topped with cheese and sour cream, surrounded by a ring of blue corn tortilla chips.

Not sure I’m ready for this. I’ll report back soon.

Holly Smith-Berry
Holly Smith-Berry
Like you, I’m a shape shifter, living as many roles as an umbrella has spokes: marketing exec, entrepreneur, parent, daughter, friend, sister, yogi, writer. Most of my career I’ve worked in the Housewares Industry developing new products. Sometimes I’ve taken them all the way from the gleam in an inventor’s eye to America’s kitchens.
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