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Me and My Shadow

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I knew it was coming. The day would come when my mother’s words would come back to haunt me.

I was an athlete. I played at least three sports (not sure if you’d count Cheerleading as a sport, but let’s add it). I ate like someone who played at least three sports. After-school runs to McDonald’s for a Quarter Pounder with cheese Value Meal (large) with a chocolate shake and a side of six piece Chicken McNuggets was not uncommon for me. And that was my snack! For the average, non-sport person, that’s over 1,500 calories (1,955 to be exact). But I was not the average, non-sport person. I played sports. I’d burn that off in no time.

And I did.

As I got older, I graduated to a school that had no sports program. Before this hiccup, I’d played sports long enough that my body kept a rhythm of high metabolism. It remembered to burn whatever fat I’d stored at the rate I maintained during my athletic days. Perhaps it was this illusion that kept me on the fast track to gorging on any fast food restaurant I saw. I could have whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, however much I wanted. I played sports. 

I played sports.

Eventually, my body caught up to my brain. Gone were the days of running suicides in the gym, the endless practice sessions after school. My life of extracurricular activity was over. With no sports programs, I had no reason to burn an insane amount of calories. My regiment dwindled from active to sedentary but, in my mind, I was still playing sports. That was the only place I was playing them, too.

I had no one to tell me what to eat and how to eat. I was still making stops to the local fast food joints, and still coming home to full, home-cooked meals of fried foods, and just about anything you could smother or drench in gravies and sauces. Imagine my surprise when my seventeen-year-old body tipped over 170 pounds. I’d never seen the scale reach so high. Not with me on it.

I come from a family of big-boned women. Big-boned women who are black, hail from the South, and love their sauces and gravies and fried things. By all accounts, given my family’s physique and history of big bones, this was my destiny. Here I thought I was an anomaly because I was the only skinny one. But I just played sports.

And now I didn’t.

So, what were the words of my mother that would come back to haunt me? At the height of my sports playing-fast food days, she’d say, “Keep it up. Before you know it, you’ll roll out of bed one morning and be carrying another person with you.” The morning I turned seventeen, the memory of her words were the only ones I could hear. But foretelling my fate and preventing my fate are two different things. While I was doomed genetically, there were things I could have done to prevent such a pass. But my family was big-boned for a reason. The older I got, the more I realized it wasn’t genetics. It was ignorance. No one knew how to break the cycle of poor health and weight issues because no one told them. In turn, no one told me. We were all enablers of poor health habits with every piece of fried, smothered, drenched thing we cooked and ate.

I am now in my thirties.

I have learned new and better eating/cooking habits. I don’t fry. I met and married a man who not only hates fried food, but showed me how to broil and grill and eyeball correct portions. Until I met him, I had no clue how that section of my stove worked.

I had two children—girls who don’t have to inherit the trend of big bones, and won’t … if I could just keep them away from the cookie jar.

I have lost and gained my excess weight at least two times over. I learned having babies will do that to you.

I don’t eat fast food … much. I know my weaknesses. For instance, me and fried potatoes are sworn enemies. In fact we’re at war with each other right now. They try to convince me they’re better for me because they’re fried in canola oil. I tell them they’re still fried. They throw baby spuds at my head. It’s an ongoing battle. We’ve tried engaging in a truce, but battles are tricky that way.

I have become the anomaly I always knew I was in my youth. I am still big-boned. I still don’t play sports. But I am the new example of what my family could and should be. Healthy.

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