Same Pen, Different Me
Chantal Johnson

Fat Addict

I am an addict.

I am an addict in recovery.

Or am I? Aren’t you supposed to quit the thing you are addicted to? But I can’t. I literally can’t. Because I am addicted to food. I am an over-eater. And I, ladies and gentlemen, am Fat.

Let’s start with the fact that I know this is killing me. Trust me, I can feel it, so I don’t need you to tell me that this is killing me. It makes me borderline diabetic, it saps my energy, it kills my sex drive, it makes me a laughing stock in the US. I am intelligent. I can see all these things. However, I cannot stop the impulse to eat. There is something that breaks down between my intelligence that that impulse to just eat.

I realized I was addicted the day I sat on my couch eating leftover cake from a party that had been transported home in a Ziploc bag. At some point, the cake had become smashed. It was so smashed it barely even resembled a piece of cake. I let it sit, overnight, pondering whether or not to throw it out.

It would have been ok to throw it out. I know we live in America, the home of wasted food, but what else can I do with a smashed piece of cake? I wouldn’t have even been wasting my hard-earned money because I most certainly didn’t buy the cake. All it would take is one flick of the wrist and the smashed bag of cake would go from my counter to my trashcan and this entire ordeal would be over. So I grabbed a spoon and scooped as much crumbled cake out of that bag as I could, stuffing my face in a combination of guilt and food-induced ecstasy.

I don’t know why it was that particular incident when there were a million more that could have been my wake up call. Maybe it was just the right time to admit it to myself, but it was a cold and hard reality. Since then I consider myself in recovery, trying every day to rationalize what I eat. Some days are good. Some days are eat-a-whole-pack-of-cookies-by-yourself days. It’s tough. It’s the only addiction I can think of where I still have to continually use the substance I am addicted to. Relapses are easy, common, painful.

I wish I knew why I eat. I guess I can chalk it up to the good old eating your feeling thing. I eat when I am happy, I eat when I am sad, I eat when I am stressed or bored. I eat because I am alive. If there is food and I can see it, I will eat it.

When I was a teenager I was pretty outwardly confident about the weight. Whatever, I am fat, you are a jerk, doesn’t matter. I held a secret shame, though, deep down: I feared being 300 pounds and I made a deal with myself that if I ever hit that number, I would commit suicide. It was a very teenage reaction to a problem; all or nothing. But I wasn’t too concerned at the time because I was still a good 30 pounds away.

On my 25th birthday, I looked in the mirror and felt fat, so very, very fat. I looked at the scale. 293. Now I was just seven pounds away. In seven pounds, I would be forced to kill myself according to this arbitrary deal I had made with myself as a teenager. Except, that I didn’t want to kill myself. I really loved my life. So I decided that the alternative would be to lose the weight and clean up the eating.

I lost 60 pounds in a little less than a year. It wasn’t the total amount I wanted it, but I had energy, drive, and confidence. Since I was feeling so good, I stopped focusing so much on diet and moved my focus to maintain. I went from a size 24 to a size 18. I had always wanted to be a size 18.

I maintained that weight for five years. I made sure I ate well, rarely overdoing it and overeating. I made healthy choices at home, and would occasionally splurge when dining out. I exercised when I could, although never wholeheartedly. And most importantly, I lived my life. I traveled, living in Oakland, Denver, and Los Angeles during that time. I made movies, a lifelong dream.

A month before I turned 30, and what marked the five-year anniversary of that decision, I was asked out on the date that would change my life. It took me from single to married, Los Angeles to Denver, and from recovered overeater to official overeater. It took me back to the 293.

I don’t blame my husband. He never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do. The weight gain was, in part, because I was so deliriously happy and in love; it was because we ate out all the time and celebrated our happiness with appetizers, then dinner, and of course dessert, this was a special occasion after all. My husband likes to eat too. I had someone to share in the eating. So we ate more. Heck, we even fist-bumped when we ate something large or decedent.

Then we moved in together and all we wanted to do was stay in with each other. We would eat. We would stay in bed. We would binge watch TV. We both love staying in bed and binge watching TV! Together, we were our own worst enemies.

We decided to get married, enter stress eating! Then we were married, enter more blissfully happy eating! Eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat. And do nothing. Sunday? Nothing. Day off? Nothing. Holiday? Nothing.

A year into our marriage I realized I was dying. Not from anything terminal or even diagnosed, I was dying from my own bad choices and I could feel every choice eating away at my body. I was officially out of recovery, and I finally realized it. It was time to wake up and take on my eating, my life.

I am an addict. An addict in recovery. My husband is too. We now actively seek to be each other’s support system, reminding the other one when it is time to go out and exercise, or when we mindlessly go for seconds. We make plans for the weekend so we get out and don’t stay in and binge watch TV.

I haven’t lost 60 pounds yet, and I have discovered that losing weight in your 20s is very different from losing weight in your 30s, but I am happy when I see 273 on the scale instead of 293. I run now; not well, not fast, but I do it and I am better and better every time.

Most importantly, I feel good. I feel alive. Sure I am still dying, we all are, but I am not racing to the finish line as fast as I was before. And I have broken that agreement with my teenage self that I will kill myself if I am ever 300 pounds. I still don’t intend to reach that weight, but I now know there are far better solutions at hand. As long as I stick with my plan to stay healthy, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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