Have you ever looked back and tried to pinpoint where it all went wrong? Where you crossed the line from chubby to morbidly obese? Sure, there’s lots of contributing factors as to why one ends up so lardy, but I can zoom in on the precise moment that sparked my Michellin-man future.
The day it all went to shit was about my second week of university. I remember the day with startling clarity. A girl I knew from high school needed a place to live for a few weeks and I had a spare room. So in she came with the most enourmous pile of groceries I’d ever seen. At that point I was around 100 kilos, quite overweight indeed, but I’d been having healthy stir-fries for dinner and had already lost a few kilos.
"We must celebrate tonight!" my new roomie declared. "Let’s watch Felicity and have a pig-out!"
"Right on," said I. So off we went to the supermarket.
My definition of a pigout at that time was buying a small packet of chips or maybe a Mars Bar. This is why I had managed to stay "managably fat". As we wandered up and down the aisles, I wondered if I’d go for the chips or chocolate tonight. Meanwhile, the roomie was deciding between two different packets of chocolate biscuits.
Oh right, I thought, biscuits it is. I headed for the checkout.
But then she went down the frozen aisles to examine the ice cream. "Would you look at this?" she plucked out a tub of Conisseur Cookie Cream Commotion. "Ice cream, cookies, it’s an oral commotion!"
I frowned as she added it to the basket. "Is that for tonight too?"
"Of course! Now we gotta balance that with something savoury."
She selected a giant bag of corn chips, then purposefully strode to the dairy section and got a tub of French Onion Dip. A family block of Cadbury’s chocolate was the finishing touch.
I was so stunned I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe she was buying all these things all at once, with the intention of opening all those packages and tucking in that very night. It had never occurred to me that this could be done. I had only just moved out of home, and where such treats were purchased singularly then strictly rationed. I wanted to ask her, can we really do this? You mean it’s possible to eat five different kinds of junk at once? Won’t we get in trouble?
We got home and parked ourselves in front of the telly. I felt strangely excited as we ripped open the chips and biscuits and shoved two spoons into the icecream. I loved the sound of foil and paper as I snapped the chocolate bar in half.
I had never eaten icecream from the tub before. Finally there was noone here to tell me to slow down with the dip or to have one biscuit only or to allocate me one row of chocolate then put the bar back in the pantry. I relished the explosion and texture of cramming a handful of chips, then followed it up with the creamy grittiness of the icecream, the salty sweet of a Tim Tam biscuit. Forget taking drugs or graffiting my name across the school playground, this was rebellion, baby! We ate and ate until the flavours blurred and we couldn’t move. I felt high.
Soon the roomie got a place on campus and she moved out and moved on. But I didn’t. That night was a turning point and from then on I began my descent (ascent?!) into obesity.
I was obsessed with eating. Initially it started with the occassional binge like I’d had with the roomie, then my days became one continual pigout. When I arrived at university I was shy and full of loathing for my already lardy body, so I guess I created this little world for myself where it was just me and the food, and I got some kind of happiness out of it. Eating became an activity, I would ponder what I would eat next and how I’d get it. As soon as my roomie left for the weekend to see her folks, I drive the three blocks to the supermarket and stock up. Something savoury – usual chips and dip, or a loaf of white bread and a jar of the Kraft cream cheese spread I’d loved as a child but Mum only allowed us to have as a treat at my grandmother’s house. Well screw you, Mum, I was going to toast that loaf and plow my way through the whole jar.
That had to be counterbalanced by sweetness. I had a penchant for Cadbury’s Black Forest, (family size, of course) Nestle Milky Bar and choc-coated honeycomb. I’d buy a jar of Nutella and finish it in one sitting. Then there was the ice cream. I really went to town with that Cookie Cream Commotion, so many times I’d eat the whole litre at once then wonder why I felt so ill afterwards.
Sometimes I’d do the fast food binge. There was a McDonalds, KFC and Red Rooster on the same block. I’d have a craving for a Red Rooster Hawaiian pack – 1/4 of a BBQ chicken, chips, a pineapple and a banana fritter. I’d go through the drive thru for that, ignoring the way my belly was closing in on the steering wheel. Next I’d think, I’d love some coleslaw with that, so I’d go to KFC coz the coleslaw was better there. And maybe get some more chips too coz the KFC chips were the best. I’d throw a newspaper over the Red Rooster so the pimply kid on drive-thru wouldn’t think I was a pig. Then I’d often make a last stop at McDonalds for a chocolate shake or a sundae. Or both. You gotta have dessert.
I would go home then eat it all, quickly and urgently, barely tasting a thing. It was more about the texture of the food, the stringiness of the chicken, the warmth I’d feel as this horrible greasy shit filled up my insides, the crunch of the chips, the salt on my fingers, the way the ice cream seemed to slide down my throat then make everything feel all cool inside my rib cage. It sounds bizarre but the whole shopping and eating thing made me feel purposeful, it was an event. I didn’t have much of a life to speak of.
I didn’t stop this behaviour for five years. From 1996 – 2001, I gained over 50 kilos – 110 pounds.
I don’t even know why I am writing about this. Maybe just to remind myself of how things used to be, when I get angry at myself for still being the tubbiest git in my gym, or for eating one Tunnock’s Tea Cake. Sometimes you need a little perspective.