the state of being obsessed with someone or something
an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind
Since the age of fourteen, when my boobs decided to grow faster than the skin around them warranted thus adorning me with red tiger stripes, I got the sense that my body was irreversibly changing. When those same stretch marks made their way across my hips, I remember thinking: That’s it. I’m done for.
While many parents shy away from sex ed with their pubescent teens, my mother sat me down to share three droplets from the pearls of wisdom she’d accumulated throughout her years.
Pearl One: Pick a good-looking man. The world is hard enough as it is without your children having to deal with being ugly.
Pearl Two: Being healthy is the biggest gift you can bestow your child. Find out his family medical history before you commit to anything serious. I’ve already saddled you with diabetic genes. Don’t add more to my future grandchildren’s woes.
Finally, Pearl Three: Make sure you are married before you have these children. Your body will look like an empty sack of potatoes after giving birth and that ring will help secure your relationship.
I was more in need of advice about asking a boy to the cinema without him thinking it was a free pass to grope my sore stretch-marked breasts for two hours. But my mother’s words made me think long and hard about my changing body. She was taking diabetes medication and already resigned to her future destiny of being toeless and stuck to a dialysis machine.
I thought about my ethnic heritage: sunbathing, middle-aged Maltese men who resembled beach balls; women with boobs draped over fat round bellies, with skinny arms and legs poking out, and no bums.
I looked in the mirror. My slender childhood body had been replaced by a well-padded cushiony one friends loved hugging. The scales went up 18 pounds during puberty thus beginning my obsession with weight loss stories.
One day, I purchased a slimming magazine and read it cover to cover in my bedroom with a pack of donuts. Immediately, I was hooked on the success stories and accompanying before-and-after photographs. Huge rolls of fat once hanging from shoulder blades with ill-fitting bras now slender and tanned in tango dresses and pink lipstick.
Soon I was buying as many as I could. My ritual would involve making sweet milky tea for dipping chocolate bars into while I read — fascinated by the various rock-bottoms and ‘A-ha!’ moments of both men and women. I felt compassion for them when they were too large to fit into an aeroplane seat to see their daughter get married abroad. My heart sank as men would describe not having a shred of self-confidence. To even consider anyone finding them attractive was so far removed from their reality that after their weight loss they still didn’t feel as good as they knew they now looked. I would get inspired to deal with my own adolescent blub, but only after reading the magazine, only after eating this one last chocolate biscuit. No, this was the last one. Maybe this one. Actually, I’ll make a plan on paper and start tomorrow…or Monday.
I was big on daydreaming. Still am. And so my ‘idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind’ became the ‘Kelly’ fantasy. I constructed the perfect conditions to get the body I (day)dreamed of. I needed to live away from London, somewhere healthy like Florida or California. I needed sun, sea, sashimi and roller blades. I would go on a strict diet and daily exercise routine until I hit my targets, taking weekly measurements and keeping a food and exercise diary. I would even change my name to Kelly, for the six months, to really immerse myself in the task. Meanwhile, my inner thighs and even the backs of my calves had begun to split red tiger stripes. But it was all right. Soon I would be 18 and finish school and get to work(out).
Well, I’m 32 now, and have never been known as Kelly. I did slim down, but there was no rock-bottom, no ‘A-ha!’ moment. I simply got a job as a waitress before university and lost 7lbs. I gave up milk, white bread and stopped taking sugar in my tea and another 7lbs came off. Then I took up cycling to work and finally lost the last 4lbs until I was 168lbs – which is on the cusp of ideal for how lanky I am.
I still fantasise about 154lbs Kelly, who does long beach runs and daily yoga and eats edamame and grilled vegetables. And just last month, I picked up my first slimming magazine in nearly 10 years. I’d like to say I got over my obsession with slimming success stories but video killed the printed star. I’ve been getting my fill from programmes such as You Are What You Eat, Supersize vs Superskinny, Britain’s Biggest Loser and more recently, some show with an American babe living in the UK giving fat Brits a year of his time to get them into shape. Plus I have YouTube homemade success stories like these:
Changing human body shape fascinates me. It requires such grit, such willpower and staying power that I think losing a ton of flab is one of the biggest achievements there is. I’m so in awe of people who put their minds to something and actually go for it; and with weight loss, that success and determination is physically visible to everyone around them. Such strength of mind makes me really admire these people, even if I’m doing so while reaching for the biscuit tin.
Before/After photograph source: People Magazine. Read the full article here.