I hit my goal at Weight Watchers. It took me 15 months to lose 25 pounds. At 140 pounds (5’4″) I am solid, not svelte. In Levi’s speak, I’m down from a snug 36 inch waist in a “relaxed” fit to a comfortable 32 inch waist, even in a “slim straight” cut. I haven’t worn 32’s since the last millennium. I’m ready to celebrate.
I wrote here about the incongruity of joining Weight Watchers. How it is geared towards straight, conventional, suburban women. Soccer Moms and Grandmas. Other women talk about losing weight to feel more attractive, to look better for a wedding or family reunion, to fit into a particular dress. Every week I weigh in, attend the meeting, and feel like an outsider. Not because I’m not fat enough, but because I am gender trespassing.
Last week Mindi, my group leader, asked me to talk in the meeting about how I felt before I started Weight Watchers, and what I learned while doing it. This is a summary of what I said.
For years I ignored how I looked; I was in denial. I lived as a boy in my head and as a butch lesbian in my external life. I managed the contradiction by eating and drinking myself numb. My mother and grandmother would say “you’d be pretty if you lost weight.” I did not want to be pretty. At one point I weighed 195 pounds.
I don’t want to fit the stereotype of the dowdy, fat, middle-aged, butch lesbian. The kind you see on the street and think, ugh, those men’s pants don’t fit your hips, your stomach is hanging over your belt, your shirt is so tight the chest buttons are going to pop. I don’t want to feel like a flabby round peg crammed into a hexagonal slot. Some people manage to carry their weight with dignity and flair. They are full figured and handsome. I carry mine with casual frump.
In order to lose weight I had to break being slim from being feminine. I had to disassociate being overweight from rebelling against being seen as a girl. I needed to make going to Weight Watchers feel as butch as going to the gym. I had to think of it as part of my imaginary training routine.
When I looked for my masculine self in the mirror, I saw a chubby Elmer Fudd. I did not see a cute and handsome Jamie. Losing weight changed the shape of my body. I no longer look round. I am streamlined except at the bust. Weight Watchers is not top surgery (that is another post). Now, when I look in the mirror, I see a cuter Elmer Fudd that also looks a lot like Jamie.
The hard part is running in place; eating and drinking at a level that allows me to stay at this weight. I don’t want to slide back into sloth. I don’t want to gain the weight back. One of the things I like about Weight Watchers is that what you eat while losing is exactly what you eat to maintain your weight. I know I can do this because I’ve been doing it. But I’m scared that I’ll wake up fat again.
It would be great if I could separate eating, body size, and weight from gender. Meanwhile, I will think of Popeye eating his spinach, and imagine him adding more fruit to his diet, taking a smaller portion of whole wheat pasta, and only drinking a beer on Sunday while out with Olive Oyl.
Note: I just finished “Born Round” by Frank Bruni, the former restaurant critic of The New York Times. It is a great book about eating and overeating.