I woke up this morning proud of myself for staying away from the Halloween candy yesterday. Because once again, I'm dieting to lose twenty pounds. And I laughed to myself. Because it never really ends.
My full name is Patricia, and everyone started off calling me Patti. But I had a super skinny sister, and one of my older brothers thought it was funny to call us Sticky Vicki and Fatty Patti. That spilled over to the neighborhood gang of boys, and every time I left the house I got to hear my nickname. So at age five I decided to change it to Patricia. But no one but me changed it.
On the first day of kindergarten, each child walked up with their mom to the teacher, Mrs. Winterbottom's desk to get a nametag. When it was my turn, I wanted to say my name as Patricia, but my mom spoke first and said Patti. Mrs. Winterbottom said, "Nice to meet you, Patti," as she wrote out the nametag. My heart sank. Here was my big chance and instead I was stuck with my Fatty Patti name.
First grade came and it finally became Patricia in school. And I started my lifetime of dieting. I would cut up a bowl of celery and eat it with a spoon. I would run around the block to burn calories. And I would never, ever tell anyone how much I weighed.
That year my sister broke her arm, and was trying to hide it. My father said, "How did you break it?" and she said, "Patti sat on it." For the life of me I couldn't remember sitting on her arm. But a neighbor told me the whole school was laughing about it and I believed her. I only found out a few years ago that she had broken it rough housing with that same brother. At the time I was yet again Fatty Patti.
My mom would book my sister and I in the annual physical appointment together. One year when I got off the scale my sister jumped down from the examining table to see what the doctor wrote. Afterward, at Jones Beach, she poked fun, "You wanna know what Patti weighs?' My mom said, "What?". My sister whispered in her ear and my mom looked at me and bit her lip.
And there was that horrible kids "Pay What They Weigh" promotion at a local restaurant. I cringed walking by it. My mom joked, "Well, that's okay for Vicki, but for Patti..."
I have no idea what I weighed. I was never out of the healthy range. As a matter of fact you would see a childhood photo and think this was entirely preposterous. And I know my mom was deeply self conscious about her own weight, and probably just worried that I would have some weight problem later. But I was in a constant private state of cringe for not being lighter.
As a junior in high school, after the various starvation, bulimia, and diet pills phases, I found a book called, "Eat to Win, the Sports Nutrition Bible" at a library book sale. I read it from cover to cover and tried all the recipes. I used my job money to buy whole grains and vegetables to steam and taught myself healthy eating habits that I have kept to this day. And I no longer care about the scale number... Okay, I totally care about the scale number. But the obsession is far lighter.
And my family still calls me Patti.