A few weeks ago I was at a dinner party, distracted and zoning out a bit, when I realized the person talking was doing so directly to me. I thought maybe I had missed a question, but I quickly realized that he was talking generally, but staring only at me for some reason.
I tried to figure out what was going on. We had just met, so this wasn’t an inside joke or anything. The conversation continued, I remained quiet and he kept looking at only me every time he spoke. What the heck was his deal?
I suddenly remembered feeling like this when I was much younger. A waiter came to the table and only stared at me as he took everyone’s order, and then I was relentlessly teased about him thinking I was cute. “Oh!” I suddenly realized, “This guy’s checking me out, hello.”
I was once accustomed to this innocuous-but-awkward behavior, and to related behaviors that weren’t innocent at all, but it had become rare in the last five years or so — something I attributed to gaining 45 pounds. And you know, I really didn’t miss the attention. I didn’t miss strange men following me home, or suggesting that I might have sex with them for money or touching my person and then accusing me of being grumpy when I asked them to stop.
I became accustomed to the weight, to my new power of invisibility, after years of counting calories since struggling with eating disorders. I loved this new freedom of eating whatever I pleased. This acceptance of food turned into an interest in food and an appreciation for quality food. I moved my body plenty, and I was in pretty good shape. The only difference is that I was a size 12, when most of my life I had forced myself to be a 6. I felt empowered by this acceptance of myself and my body type.
Then one year ago, in an attempt to curb some medical symptoms that were growing out of control, I made a drastic change in my already pretty healthy diet. I went organic and plant-based (with some meats), cut out gluten and dairy and minimized sugar and processed foods to barely any. This winter I also did a candida diet to restore health to my gut — two months of no carbs or sugar at all, not even starchy veggies.
These things, combined with frequent nausea and an improved ability to metabolize food properly, have caused me to drop 30 pounds. I became homebound due to an illness at 176 pounds, and by the time I started venturing out regularly again, I was 145 pounds. It’s been fascinating to be able to compare the experience in such a contrasting before/after kind of a way.
I’ve been primarily confined to doctor’s offices and grocery stores, but I’ve consistently been confused as to why I’m being stared at with weird dreamy smiles or lecherous glares, neither of which I’ve regularly seen since my 20s. Men, in general, seem to be nicer now, often going out of their way to help me; while I’ve noticed an ice from some female strangers that must have been deemed unnecessary during my plump years.
It's like being chubby was an invisibility cloak, and now it’s gone. I’m still female and aging — so I’ll probably get a new one in no time, but for now, I’m learning to love my ironic gift of weight loss (doesn’t it seem like as soon as we no longer pine for things they become ours?) and doing my best to stop feeling a desire to hide.
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