Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Skinny on FATNESS

We’re coming up on 3 months of “stay at home” and social distancing. We’re in our 9th day of protests across the country over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and three other officers who either helped kill him or did nothing to stop it, and over America’s historic and current systemic racism. In two weeks or so we are likely to see spikes in Covid infections among the hundreds of thousands of protestors, some masked, some not, most not practicing social distancing. Hurricane season just started and it’s predicted to be a rough one. -45 is still president. I. CAN’T. EVEN.

I ate this teenager.

So let’s talk about fat. I’m a fat girl. I was a petite thing once; in junior high, I remember weighing in at 73 lbs, and I thought—even then—I was enormous. Somewhere, somehow, in that age of Twiggy (Google her, kids), the distortion and fat shame was already gurgling in my pubescent brain.

The men in my family are mostly tall and thinnish. The (1) women in my family are all roundish and overweight. But I managed to stay pretty trim until (2) childbearing began and the true tyrants of human life--HORMONES--kicked it into high gear. With each of three pregnancies, I packed on more weight I couldn’t lose. Then came perimenopause, which I call The Dark Years. I experienced, like many women, irregular periods that were often extremely heavy. I was prescribed (3) bioidentical HORMONES to control the excessive bleeding. I packed on more weight, and they made the flooding so much worse that one weekend I turned even whiter than I already am, and I was too faint to get up. I called the doc, who said to double the dosage and call her on Monday. I said I’d be dead by Monday and hung up on her. I stopped the HORMONES immediately. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with (4) depression
(12) How I got fat?
For the next few years, the weight steadily increased. Then true menopause. The depression got worse. (5) My activity level bottomed out. More weight gain.

Then I had (6) a right Pons stroke at age 56. Docs never really know the cause, no matter what they tell you, but it was probably a combo of stress (both at work, and home trying to deal with the depression), high cholesterol, and smoking—a trifecta. The stroke recovery took about two years and left me with a draggy left foot, no balance, and chronic daily fatigue. So I didn’t get much regular exercise while I was re-learning stair climbing and shirt buttoning. I was also put on (7) antidepressants after the stroke, which were a miracle for me but which often cause…you guessed it…weight gain. Also, the less you move, the slower your (8) metabolism, and the more weight you gain.

Two miles of blissful torture.
I’m 63 now (everyone knows (9) it’s harder to lose weight the older you get), and 5’4” with red hair, so I look like a little fat milkmaid. I’ve been on EVERY DIET KNOWN TO HUMANKIND. For days, for weeks, for years: fasting (starvation), macrobiotic, keto, Whole 30, Noom, Medifast, Profile, Weight Watchers, vegetarian. I’ve eaten cabbage soup till my pee turned green. I once lived for a couple months on rice and soybean sprouts.

I don’t work out, but I move pretty constantly—walking across campus, climbing two flights of stairs in our house several times a day, shopping, etc. I try to break a sweat every day. I track, and log, and journal, and own seven kinds of fitness trackers.

My latest attempt to lose weight (and get back some strength and balance) is the “Eat Like a Bear” (ELAB) 23/1 plan: I fast for 23 hours a day, and eat very low carb for 1 hour, mostly something called the “Ridiculously Big Salad” or RBS, a gigantic bowl of vegetables with 6 oz. of protein. You laugh, but this is the kind of self-flagellating fat people do. In addition, I’ve been walking at least two miles a day. After two weeks of sweat-walking and a week of ELAB, I’VE LOST 5 LBS. Only five fecking pounds, and any serial dieter will tell you that’s probably all water.

I know that not every fat person has a spiraling, compounding vortex of predicaments like this, but ALL WEIGHT GAIN IS COMPLICATED. There are LOTS of reasons people get fat. I have a friend who attributes her weight to the (10) sexual abuse she suffered throughout childhood, and to a desire to be undesirable. How do you tackle THAT with Nutrisystem or Noom?!?

Here’s my bottom line: If you are one of those skinny, perfect-weight, easy-losers or never-gainers who keep saying “you have to try harder,” “you should run,” “simple—burn more calories than you eat,” “have you tried the celery and iced tea diet?” or any of the other “helpful” advice I’ve been hearing all my adult life, or you’re one of the people who tells me, “I keep losing and I’m not even trying,” or “I just forget to eat,” my answer is, in my sweetest little milkmaid voice, ALL OF YOU CAN SHUT THE F*%K UP BEFORE I EAT YOU.


  1. I fucking love this Marcella! So many of us can relate to so much of what you have been through. Thank you - it validates me! You are a brilliant, bold and very funny woman. I really love you.

  2. soul stuff - pure soul stuff

  3. You are some combination of Molly Ivins and Erma Bombeck, and every bit as brave as either of them.

  4. Y'all are so great. Thank you, and I promise not to eat you. ;)

  5. I do relate to this, Marcella. I've slacked on my exercise during this whole Coronavirus thang, but I'm going to get back to it. If I exercise daily for at least an hour, avoid sweets, and don't eat after 8 p.m., I've found that I can lose half a pound in a week. That doesn't sound like much. And it isn't. But it's something. It's hard to keep up. I think of my Grandma Drenkhahn, who taught me that the Norwegian word for grandma is "bestemor." I remember it because I translated it in my child-head to "Best of More," as Grandma D. was chubby, shall we say. I saw her fat in a positive light. Of course, she suffered a lot of mini-strokes and other issues related to being overweight. That said, let's not beat ourselves up. (It's so easy to do.) All we can do is try and move on.