Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thinner: the curse undone


One word – A curse.

Thinner is a novel by Stephen King. It is the story of Billy Halleck, an overweight and arrogant lawyer. In a moment of distraction while driving, Halleck hits and kills an elderly woman on the street. He manages to get away thanks to his connections. But he cannot get away from the revenge of the old gypsy whose daughter he killed. The old man curses Halleck with just one word, “Thinner.” And then begins the creepy nightmare as Halleck begins to lose weight, little by little, until he comes dangerously close to death. Even as the clock begins to count down to his death, he must find the old gypsy and get him to reverse the curse.

Born chubby and having been pleasantly plump, as they say, throughout my growing years, I nevertheless managed to be slim for most of my adult life. When some friends of mine asked me how I could have such a healthy appetite (I was raised to finish whatever was on the plate) and yet remain trim when they managed to put on weight just by glancing at an ice cream or a slice of cake, I used to laugh. I’d accept the compliments of course, even though they weren’t always meant to be so. But I had no explanation really for why things were as they were. I could sense their frustration at not being able to lose weight. At having to gym, diet and crash diet, and look away from the desserts in restaurants, while it seemed as though I was blessed beyond compare without any effort on my part.

Bending low under the weight of the undercurrents of resentment I sensed, I would apologetically try to talk my way out of the situation, hoping words like metabolism and catabolism would rescue me. Then one day, I read King’s book. Overnight, I had an answer that would amuse my interrogators and diffuse the tension around the issue of weight. I would recount the plot synopsis of the book, and surmise that perhaps I too had been cursed to retain a certain weight, no matter what I did.

Of course, at 45 kg, I was underweight, and concerned friends would advise me to put on a few kilos. I would remind them that just as losing weight was a big challenge for them, gaining it was difficult for me.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to hit 50 kg. I retained the weight even after I got married. I ballooned to 65 kg during my first pregnancy, but managed to bounce right back to 50 kg after La Niña was born. Three years later, I became pregnant again. Losing the pregnancy weight wasn’t so easy this time. I didn’t need the scales to tell me that. The mirror spoke loud and clear.

When I dared to stand on the weighing scale, a few six months after El Niño was born, my fingers trying to shield my eyes from the ghastly shock I was in for, I was relieved to see the digital scale read 52. I was happy. Not happy as in happy, but happy as in as-happy-as-could-be. 

The birth of two children was bound to change the topography of my body, I reasoned. It could have been a lot worse. As it is, at 52 kg, I could still fit into my old clothes. Those that were loose accommodated the new me without a grunt. Those that were close fitting and well tailored in the good old days now required more than a little stress and strain. Wearing them also put into sharp focus an unsightly paunch, and I regretfully folded those clothes and put them in a corner of my cupboard.

In a recent exercise of spring cleaning, I gave away a lot of my wardrobe. But those old clothes of mine, reminders of a time when I was young and slim, and the closest I’ve ever had to what they call a washboard stomach, those I couldn’t bring myself to give away. I almost felt as if giving those up would mean never becoming thin again. Hope refused to shrivel up.

52… I sighed. 

Was 52 so bad? After all, mothers had to look as if they were mothers. They had to look motherly, matronly.

52 is the new 50, I told myself. 

I also never stood on a weighing scale again. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Between looking after the kids and working full-time, I just never found time for this activity. In any case, I saw myself in the mirror every day. If there was any change, I’d see it for myself, wouldn’t I?

The weight issue was dispelled to the unreachable recesses of my mind, not unlike my slim and trendy clothes that occupied the far corners of my cupboard.

So well had I buried the issue that when I went shopping for formal shirts for myself some weeks later, I unthinkingly picked some S-for-Small shirts off the rack and went into the trial room. Suddenly I began to sweat and heave as I tried on the shirts. The puffed sleeves got stuck around the elbow, and when I huffed and puffed and pulled them on, the buttons wouldn’t fit.

What horrible quality control! 

I came out and told the Husband, “This country has no measurement standards whatsoever. Looks like this brand has revised its idea of Small.”

The Husband appraised me and said, “Yes, these clothing manufacturers are like that. Why don’t you try Large?” I glared at him. He quickly explained, “I’m sure they’ve messed up the Mediums too.”

Before I knew it, I was buying Ls. 

Some months later, we went shopping to another shop. I picked some T-shirts in size L, with a twinge of regret, and headed to the trial room. But it seemed as if I was doomed to wear new clothes by the sweat of my brow. I came out shamefacedly, and picked up an XL instead. 

Going home, I dug out my old treasures and hugged them. I wasn’t naïve enough to blame the clothing manufacturers this time. Like it or not, I was on an expansion spree. 

Last Thursday, I checked my weight again. 57, it said. 

After all those years of joking about being cursed to be Thin, had someone put the opposite curse on me? 

But the shock died soon enough. I now realize the truth.

I have been cursed.

  • By wrong eating habits
  • By my tendency to gobble up filling and high-calorie but nutritionally empty and unwholesome food at work
  • By a sedentary lifestyle spent in front of the computer all day, with almost no form of exercise 
  • By a huge drop in the amount of water I drink while at work. From drinking almost 1½ litres of water every day, I now barely manage to drink 500 ml. 

And to think I insist on my kids eating healthy. 

It isn’t vanity alone that is pressuring me to lose weight. It is also the desire to live a healthy lifestyle, and practice what I preach to the kids. I’m not about to starve myself to become a Size 0. But I’m also going to stop treating my stomach like a waste paper basket. And I’m going to try to eat only when I’m hungry. Not when I’m bored, or frustrated, or just feel like eating.

I don’t hate this slightly-overweight me. I’m not obsessed with being skinny. I just want to be healthy again.

In King’s novel, the gypsy tells Halleck that the curse cannot be reversed. It can only be passed on.

Fortunately, the curse put on me by my bad habits can be reversed.

Here’s to wearing that old dress again. 

Wish me luck, would you?

(This post has been written for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, October 2013.)

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  1. Good luck. losing weight as a working mom of 2 kids is indeed a challenge. Takes phenomenal self-control and self-discipline. Nischala

  2. Given that we have now hit the festive season, and since the festivities are going to last until New Years, now might not be the right time to long for the perfect figure!
    Though 57 still sounds ok to me!

  3. Thank you, Nischala. I am beginning to learn just how much self-control and self-discipline I have. Abysmally low, I tell you. I hope self-indulgence doesn't pop up to make things worse.

  4. Hey, Rickie, thanks for pointing out the size of the challenge. But now is exactly the time to do something. If I'm not on my guard, it won't be long before that 57 begins to look like 67. At my height, not ok at all.

  5. Imagine getting a course like this. I mean I would have begged for it :D :D


  6. Good Luck ! I am trying very hard to loose some weight. Though the festive season is a bad time for it !



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