The Deep End: Part One of a Two-Part Series

This is a post I promised myself I wouldn’t write until I got to a certain place in my life and for the last few years, I started to doubt it’d ever get written.

This is the story about how I got fat.

In 2005 I started a new medication and I started to put on weight. Not a little bit here and there, a lot, fast. I’d always been a skinny kid so weight gain was confusing. I remember standing in my bedroom, which I had diligently decorated with Polaroids and plastered with Radiohead and Bikini Kill lyrics, trying to do up a skirt I had worn mere weeks before. This was the first time in my life I’d felt comfortable with the essence of whatever it was that was me. I was having a very self-confident year and I was very satisfied with a lot of aspects of my life. 

What was uncomfortable was the way the skirt suddenly felt like it was sawing me in half. When I couldn’t do it up, I assumed the washing machine had eaten part of it. I let this charade go on long past the point where white goods could be to blame.

I didn’t just gain weight, I became obese. People who’ve known me for years have argued that although I weighed a lot, I couldn’t possibly have been obese, maybe because there was six-foot of me to spread the weight gain across, but there’s no getting around the facts.

This turn of events both upset me greatly and numbed me. While I became obsessively self-conscious to the point of avoiding clothes shopping almost completely, because fitting rooms would make me panic to the point I would break out in a sweat, I somehow felt safer with a label. If I was fat, people could just see me as that, ignore me and move on. I never learnt to “embrace my curves” perhaps because they weren’t so much curves as odd bulges in hard to hide places. My self-loathing was very insular and I ignored it so diligently that I didn’t even notice the depression creep in, a low buzz that sapped me of so much energy and made me a homebody. I assumed my constant tiredness was a side-effect of the weight, except I wasn’t tired, I barely slept, I was instead exhausted in every way possible.   

I joined gyms, I ate microwaveable “healthy” meals, I bought bigger and bigger clothes and then I finally gave up. The thought of what I used to consider dinner and the portions I ate makes me feel ill now, but at the time I guess I thought that I was fat anyway, junk food made me feel better and what did kilos matter when they were just being added to kilos on kilos?

Nothing could stop me. Family members talking to me about my weight and the consequences didn’t, hating all my clothes and my reflection didn’t, being diagnosed with high blood pressure didn’t.

I was so numb that on the several occasions strangers decided to tell me I was fat, one man going so far as to follow me around the supermarket, I didn’t shed a tear. Whole Lotta Rosie? I was a whole lotta fuck you.

Then in 2010 I started losing weight slowly, living alone meant that the only things in the fridge were things I really wanted there. Bottles of soft drink became a can every now and then, I started cooking at home more, snacking less. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but the small results were nice and were enough to get me back to the gym.

Last year I lost more weight and learnt to love the gym, particularly lifting weights. I started to lose fat, and gain muscle, so although the scales weren’t moving much, clothes started to fit differently, I started to sleep better and I stopped hating every photo I saw of myself. I started letting people take photos of me.

This year, I set myself the same resolution I had done for about five years, but I tweaked it slightly. Rather than telling myself I would be skinny and a total heath food nut by year’s end, I told myself I didn’t need to do anything more than reach the weight I was when I first stepped on the scales in 2006 and realised I had a problem and probably needed to do something about it. It was still a huge task, but at least I had a number, and at least I was being realistic.  

On April 8, I stepped on the scales and realised I’d passed my goal with eight months to go, and I cried. I hadn’t realised until that moment how much weight loss actually mattered to me.

I’ve lost about 10kgs this year already and multiple clothing sizes. I fit into clothes I haven’t worn since my early 20s, whereas clothes that I bought as recently as November look ridiculously baggy on me now. I have developed a shopping addiction and had can’t stop clutching my sides and screaming, ‘Hip bones! Hello it’s been so long since I’ve seen you!’

I am nowhere near the point where I want to analyse the whole process or the long-term effects of ignoring that I felt so bad about myself for such a long time, and honestly, I don’t really want to get into the politics of weight in western culture either, so I’m just kind of enjoying it at the moment and trying not to run into things when I look at myself in shop windows, not because I’m arrogant, but because I keep having to check in to make sure it really happened.

And so this is the serious side of the story, a fairly superficial snapshot of one of the biggest struggles I’ve had.

Probably the biggest thing I will take away from the experience is this: I have never met a seriously overweight person who doesn’t have mental health issues, and it’s a chicken or the egg scenario, but I don’t care which came first. It doesn’t matter. I don’t find fat jokes funny, I don’t understand the intolerance people feel for, say, overweight people at the gym, overweight people sitting next to them on the plane, overweight people eating in public. It’s not necessarly gluttony and laziness, sometimes these people are very, very slowly slipping away, self-medicating on food, faced with a huge task to get better. To taunt them, to use them to make yourself feel better, is cruel.  

 

I was the same person, the whole time.

Canberra, our nation’s capital capital!

On Friday Jeff and I went to Canberra, our second road trip in as many weeks.

After forgetting my hair-straightener, deodorant and any form of bra that held my chesticles above my knees, we decamped to a car rental place situated above a garage, heavily populated by idle taxi drivers like flamingos around a watering hole. I’m not sure what I was going for there, mostly just the image of a lot of taxi drivers.

The fake leather couches in the demountable office only solidified the  distinct atmosphere that this was the sort of place where you could probably trade sexual favours for a few more charge-free kilometres per day.

With no sexual favours exchanged, we were on our way.

Jeff has both pros and cons as a travel buddy. Pros include owning TomTom and knowing how to set up blue-tooth to play music from an iPhone over the car’s stereo, actively encouraging snack breaks and being understanding about my inability to park cars very well. Cons include refusing to make out at red lights, mocking my inability to stop at suggested snack break establishments, highlighting my tendency to hang left and insisting that it was unsafe for me to drive with five Cheezels on my left hand.

We stayed at the Mecure, in a two-storied room and I celebrated such a score by purchasing some gin and tonic in can and retiring to the bath, where I caught up on The Wall Street Journal* and The Economist**.

The weather was gloriously cold and I squealed and curled up in my suitcase alongside my thick stockings and jackets and array of very grandma-esque underwear that keeps my kidneys and lady bits warm in the cooler climates. I love winter clothing.

I think this winter’s look is best described as ‘Soviet sex spy’.

Saturday was the Canberra Craft Beer Festival which happened to be held in our very hotel. We met up with some of my favourite buddies from high school – Adam, Marty and Tim – and settled into seven hours of drinking, coupon heists and sausages.  

Photo by Tim.

 

Photo by Jeff.

Afterwards, Jeff and I went to the Neutrell household and played Fruit Ninja on Kinect. It’s amazing how seven hours of beer can make you unselfconscious about ninja chopping the air and getting overly competetive about who is the greatest food ninja and crying in the corner when it isn’t you. Poor Jeff***.  

The next day we met up with one of my most dearest, darlingest friends, Skye and visited Jeff’s adorbs puppy, Po before beginning our trip back to Syds, during which I was still not allowed to wear Cheezels rings while driving.

I recommend a good roap trip, I think it’s healthy to get a change of scenery. Just remember: forgetting to pack a bra is an expensive, expensive mistake unless you can fashion a weekend replacement with a coathanger and two shower caps.

* By which I mean Who magazine

** And again, still Who.

*** By which I mean me.

#aprilphotoaday: batch one

Day 1: #yourreflection

Two things happened to me recently. First, my hair grew ridiculously long without me noticing. Like more than halfway down my back long. Everyone else noticed, mostly because I am now prone to leaving giant hairballs wherever I’ve been, which obviously means someone’s probably already cloned me. Maybe this is the clone typing now. The second thing, and this is worth some musing of its own at some point soon, I lost a heap of weight. I’ve been slowly losing weight for a few years now, but in the last few months I’ve been dropping kilos and kilos. This weekend I tried on a skirt I last wore when I was about 24 and it fit. It’s been a really strange process, mentally. Anyway, this photo was really the first time I could see what other people had been telling me: I have long hair and lost a bunch of weight *hacks up a hair-ball*.

Day 2: #colour

April is the month of road trips and road trips mean supplies and supplies mean going to Priceline and buying miniature versions of the makeup goods you use at home and miniature things make me happy. I had this blinding revelation in the middle of the night that I wanted denim coloured nail polish and it was all I could do not to buy all of them. I’ve been liking bright colours lately, because when I’m at yoga I need to have something to focus on while I’m twisted upside down, hating yoga.

Day 3: #mail

I don’t get much mail anymore, but in 2003 I started a subscription to Vanity Fair and while it’s lapsed, I still buy it each month and now have every issue from December 2003 ’til the most recent one. I’m thinking of going the subscription route again, if only to have something to look forward to in the mail.

Day 4: #someonewhomakesyouhappy

The V. My nephew, V is two now and talks a bit and is really funny and gregarious and social. He loves naming animals and swimming and crackers and cookies and planes. He’s also exceptionally fond of Stevie and Stole and Jeffy!

He makes me happy because he really is a bundle of cheer and really sweet.

Day 5: #tiny

I bought these tiny Kewpie dolls at Mao & More years ago and they’ve lived on various desks of mine ever since. Here they are waiting to make a telephone call in a tiny telephone booth. Naturally.

#marchphotoaday: batch three

Day 11: #someoneyoutalkedtotoday

This is the back of my friend Lilla. I’ve known Lilla almost the entire time I’ve lived in Sydney. She is a Doctor of Philosophy and exceptionally good company. She is a vegetarian who owns both a cat and a whole cat skeleton. This was taken on our way to a sunny Sunday brunch in Newtown.

Day 12: #fork

A fork in the road, a buzz in the lines. The time just after nightfall is one of my favourite times.

Day 13: #asign

This is many a sign! Bonjour!

Day 14: #clouds

I took this from the top of the stairs at Redfern station, on my way to yoga, one of those rare vantage points in Sydney where you can see how big the sky is.

Day 15: #car

On my street are two really awesome old cars, this one, a metallic blue and another light tan coloured one. Neither of them ever seem to move and I can understand why. If you find a car spot long enough to fit a car this big in it in the Inner West, you never give it up.

Day 16: #sunglasses

Hello, my name is Julia, I am a sunglasses addict. At one point I owned 14 pairs, now I own six or seven. I bought the ones on the lower left in the US and decided I’d never find a more awesome pair. I bought the ones in the top left in Portland at a vintage shop called Magpie about two days later when I realised I could find a more awesome pair.

Day 17: #green

I had planned to somehow convince Jeff to be my subject for ‘green’ being that he has a well-known green addiction. Then I went into my ex-horse stable, now-porn sauna bathroom and saw this.

Day 18: #acornerofyourhome

I spend hours and hours and hours looking at my bookcase, either enjoying the way everything looks together, or plotting the next line of reading I’ll take.

Day 19: #funny

This is funny because as soon as I saw it, plastered on the front of one of my local pizza places, I knew who was responsible.

Day 20: #before/after

This is me aged 3-ish and 26-ish, at a guess.

Day 21: #delicious

Every week after yoga, my cousin and I walk home and stop for a chocolate break. I always get a strawberry Freddo because, um, they’re delicious.

Day 22: #kitchensink

I love the little window in our kitchen and I find washing up relaxing. I am my mother’s daughter, despite the rumours.

Day 23: #moon

Moon is the one movie that’s made me sob in public. That bit where he holds out his hand and says ‘I’m so lonely’? Jesus.

Day 24: #ananimal

I call this The Urban Zebra.

Day 25: #breakfast

NOTHING TO SEE HERE. To be fair, I actually stopped eating breakfast for a huge chunk of time this month, so on a technicality, I completed March photo a Day.

Day 26: #key

This belongs to my soon-to-be-no-longer-a-housemate housemate. I think it’s so amazing.

Day 27: #yourname

Left: my writing, age 7-ish. Right: My writing, age 29.

Day 28: #trash

Garbage is still one of my favourite albums ever. It’s all sex and sadness and rain and too much eye makeup.

Day 29: #feet

These are Steph’s amazing rubber leopard print boots.

Day 30: #toy

This is Joshua. He is 29. He’s a real pal.

Day 31: #whereyourelax

Yin yoga. I almost meditated myself to sleep last time.