At the start of 2003 I was still wearing my Lard-Coloured Glasses. My self-perception, and the way I imagined people perceived me, still revolved around my size. I was a size 20, hovering close to the "normal sizes" but still rather hefty. So I was prone to paranoia, with a bizarre need to explain myself to people: "Yes, I know, I am fat! But hey, I used to be fatter — I AM IN TRANSITION, GODDAMMIT!".
The stupidest example of this was when I had my wisdom teeth removed in February. They were severely impacted, crowding my mouth at crazy angles, so the bastards needed surgery to get out. I was to be put under IV sedation, and the doctors warned me that when I came out of it I might start talking a lot of shit. This terrified me more than any concerns about pain, blood or swollen chipmunk cheeks. Sure, they said it was a routine dental procedure, but I had seen too many A Current Affair horror stories. My paranoid fears included:
- I was so fat that they wouldn’t be able to knock me out. My fat was more powerful than their chemicals!
- If they DID manage to sedate me, I would wake up halfway through and hear them laughing at my thunder thighs or measuring my tummy rolls with steel instruments
But they had no troubles sending me off to loopy land. I remember someone saying, "Righto, we’re done", just as I was drifting back to earth.
And that’s when I started babbling.
"Hey you people," I mumbled, "You’re probably thinking, whoa this chick is fat, but let me tell you I have lost 50 kilos. That’s right 50 kilos."
"Is that so, dear?" asked the nurse, "That’s fantastic! How did you do it?"
"Well I started out with Weight Watchers but then I got into the gym…."
It was mortifying. My mouth was out of control. I could hear a voice rambling about exercise regimes and healthy breakfasts and faintly realised that it was me. The lights were all fuzzy, the room came in and out of focus, my brain screamed WHAT ARE YOU DOING MOUTH, SHUT UP YOU IDIOT! But I was all drugged up and powerless to stop it.
They left me in a chair to recover for half an hour, then my sister arrived to take me home. The nurse handed her my bloody teeth in a jar and said, "She’s done well, hasn’t she?"
Embarrassing at the time but makes me laugh now to see just how much I was still obsessed with my blubber.
But that started to change later that year when we moved to Edinburgh.
My sister had first raised the idea of us doing a stint in the UK in 2000, but I had said I wasn’t interested, in other words, "I’m too fat". But a couple of my good friends had gone over there and loved it, and after a couple of years of Lard Busting I was feeling more adventurous. We’d set a departure date of 25 March 2003 and had been saving like mad for about a year beforehand.
A few weeks before we left I freaked out. Firstly I wondered just WHY the bloody hell we were leaving? Things were going great! Not only did I love my job and living arrangements, all of my bestest friends now lived in my town. I was happy and content, so why mess that up?
Secondly, I was cranky with myself for not having reached a "normal size" before I left Australia. After a good start to the year I’d gained a few kilos between the high-calorie mush I’d eaten while recovering from the wisdom teeth, and the fifty bazillion restaurant meals I’d eaten farewelling friends and family.
But the wheels were in motion and before I knew it, my sister and I were standing in the middle of Edinburgh with our suitcases, watching the sun setting over the castle and wondering what the hell to do next.
Moving overseas was nothing like I expected it would be. It’s such a well-worn path, Aussies doing a couple of years in Britain; so I expected any easy transition. Instead we were completely thrown out of our comfort zone. My sister and I had enjoyed such cozy, middle class lifestyles in Canberra, and suddenly we found ourselves in grubby hostels, our savings rapidly dwindling.
We found somewhere to live very quickly, but it took far longer than we’d budgeted for to open bank accounts and find work. I’d left a cushy Government marketing/web job in Oz, and had naively hoped to find something vaguely similar in Edinburgh. But there was sweet bugger all available. With my limited Visa, I wasn’t suitable for permanent roles so it pretty much came down to temping agencies. My degree and experience went out the window and instead I was dumbing down my resume, taking typing tests and trying to prove my competency in Word and Excel.
I look back now and just have to laugh at myself. I used to be so proud and snobby! A few crap secretarial jobs soon knocked that out of me. I was taking home half the amount of money I’d earned in Australia, while living in a city that was twice as expensive. In a perverse way I am glad it turned out that way. I learned so bloody much that year! I lost the luxury of fretting about my weight and wondering if I should buy that lipstick in my lunch hour. Now life was rather elemental – work, shelter, food. We wanted to travel so we quickly learned how to keep to a very strict budget.
I was too preoccupied to worry about my weight for the first wee while. We’d looked at joining the gym but it was £50 per month – $120 AU. I used to bitch about paying $50 AU per month!
But by May I was feeling miserable. I missed my friends and family. The shitty jobs were making me cranky. The lack of exercise made me feel like a slug. My diet was shoddy as I struggled to adjust to a smaller budget and higher prices, not to mention the delicate Scottish Cuisine.
I’d gotten into the bad habit of grazing on junk food at work out of sheer boredom, then coming home from work and flopping on the bed and sleeping. Or crying. Crying because I felt like a big fat loser and I’d come such a long and expensive way to feel like a big fat loser.
One Saturday night I was plonked in front of the BBC eating Twix bars, when I suddenly thought, "This cannae go on". I recognised these shitty feelings, and knew where they would lead if I didn’t stop now. I refused to go down Depression Road again, especially when I knew I felt crap purely because of these strange new circumstances. For once, I wanted to learn from past behaviour. So stomped upstairs to my sisters room, declared that I was miserable, sobbed for awhile then made room in the budget for the gym. And it was worth every penny:
It is the Holy Grail of gyms. This gym is the luscious Godiva chocolate of gyms, whereas my old aussie gym was a half-eaten packet of stale Home Brand jelly beans.
The gym scales revealed the results of the Chocolate Bar and Lard Diet – I was back up to a hefty 105 kilos. D’oh! But once I was back on track with exercise, the crap eating stopped and the self-esteem inched higher. Which brings me to:
TRIUMPH OF THE YEAR: The long-await Scale Milestone – getting under 100kg!
FEARS OF THE YEAR: Nothing specific, just the ongoing Sporadic Episodes of Fat Girl Paranoia.
Which brings me to…
June! I was enjoying life in Scotland. There was something so liberating about living in a city where noone knew a thing about you or your past.
We were at a pub quiz with some new friends. I had lost a couple of kilos, but wasn’t looking particularly sexy that day. My jeans were too big, I had on this awful purple top that had started to pill from wearing it so bloody much. But I remember feeling calm and happy, like I was finally adjusting to my new life. And for once I wasn’t thinking about the goddamn fat.
And in walks the Scottish Companion. He was running late, as I would later discover was his habit. He was introduced as a friend of my friends. I was I knew instantly that there was something about the boy. Sometimes the cliches are true. He had the loveliest accent, so quiet that I’d have to get him to repeat things (whereas I was loud and competitive as is my way at pub quizzes). He was so unassuming, genuine and quietly witty. I instantly took a liking to him when he knew the answer to an obscure question. Then when my sister and I mentioned we were off to Paris for the weekend, he said he’d been to Paris not too long ago. I asked what he’d seen and he replied that he’d been to EuroDisney and went on all the rollercoasters, and had taken a bus from Edinburgh to Paris because he didn’t have a lot of money and it had taken like three freaking days to get there. I thought that was so hilarious and charming.
But it took another few months before I realised I like liked him, and apparently he felt the same way. The romance spewed up a dazzling array of new insecurities and freakouts:
He may just well be the most sweet and gorgeous guy I’ve ever met, who could possibly be very understanding about my Issues. But you know, if it ever comes to me taking off gear, there will be soft lighting, and I will be rambling on. I will be feeling the need to EXPLAIN why my body is such a wreck and REASSURE that efforts are being made to rectify that. Then I will probably feel the need to outline my gym timetable, nutritionally-sound eating habits and highest squat weight, just so he knows I am aware of the problem!
Even when the gear did come off, there were still some bizarre episodes:
The other night I crashed at his place after we’d been out to see some bands. My top was reeking of smoke, and I’d forgotten my PJs. We’re laying there in the dark and he says, "Man, the smoke from the club is really clinging to me tonight!" and I piped up that it was actually my stinky clothes.
He offered to go get me t-shirt to sleep in. I quickly refused.
"But why?" he said. "It’s no trouble really, you shouldn’t have to sleep in your nice clothes."
"It’s fine, don’t worry. I’ll just sleep without my top on."
"Well that I don’t mind, but it’s freezing."
"It’s okay, honest."
I could see him half-smiling half-puzzled frowning in the dark. "I demand to know why you’re refusing to wear my crappy clothes!"
But of course I just laughed and took my top off and told him not to worry about it. This is how ridiculous I am – I would rather sleep and freeze with no top on… than risk him getting me one of his t-shirts and not being able to fit into it.
. . .
I finished the year at about 95 kilos, so 10 kilos lost for 2002. I went from an Aussie size 20 to a UK 18. Not too shabby!