Waiting to Be Thin
By Seenat Thongdee
In my closet, there are three stacks of jeans. One stack for the “fit now” jeans. One for the “will fit if I lose ten pounds” jeans. And the last category—which, when I lay eyes upon it, sets my head into many fantastical journeys—is the “may someday fit after being stranded on an island for six months with only half a carrot and water each day” jeans.
I have struggled with my weight all my life. My mother breast fed me until I was four. Even as I drank my mother’s milk, I still liked to eat the powdered milk by the spoonful. By five years old, my relatives were already calling me “Baby Pig.” But at that age, it was endearing. They would squeeze my chubby cheeks and exclaim, “How precious!”, and afterward put little treats in my greedy palms. Childhood was the happiest period of my life. I was surrounded by the warmth of my family and relatives, and the goodness of sweets.
Then when I turned seven, my mother gave birth to my sister. Nothing really changed. I still had all the sweets I wanted, maybe even more than before. I ate while my parents tended to my sister. For many months, I thought she was the ugliest little thing—all red and wrinkly. But then she got better looking as she got bigger. I liked playing with her. I would tie her soft hair in little rubber bands of different colors and wrap her up in my mother’s colorful scarves. One day I gave her a piece of candy and she began choking. My parents said I shouldn’t give her sweets and told me to stay away from her from that day on. I was not to be alone in a room with her.
I am thirty-three now, and I never did lose that baby fat that my mother said I would lose. Instead, I’ve gained adult fat on top of my baby fat. And my sister’s wedding is in three months. There is still enough time left. I have my goals all written out week by week. Total weight loss desired is 30 pounds, which isn’t so bad. I’ve read somewhere that the first 5 to 10 pounds are water weight anyway. That leaves only 20 actual pounds that I need to lose. And then there’s SPANX, which gives the appearance of being 5 to 10 pounds slimmer. So the absolute number of pounds required to shed is 10.
It’s not that my sister and I are close. She only asked me to be her bridesmaid out of obligation. “It’s the aesthetic quality of things, you know. They say it’s an important part of weddings,” she told me. “If you could try to lose just a little. Not a lot. Just a little. All the other girls are the same size. It just wouldn’t look right. You’re not upset, are you?” What? Of course not. “I knew you’d understand.” All I understood was that I wanted to sucker-punch her. She had gone ahead and purchased a dress for me several sizes smaller. “This is my gift to you, since we’re sisters. The other girls bought their own dresses. This can serve as your motivator. Take it with you so you can try it on each day.” Thanks.
It’s nobody’s fault, really. Our parents had us seven years apart. We were never close. I was too old to hang out with her and her friends. It wasn’t a problem. I had friends of my own. Well, that was the case until I moved a couple of years ago for work. I have few regrets about moving. My new place is only about two hours away, but these days, if you’re not within a ten minute drive, it’s hard to make time to see anyone. Besides, all of my friends have married and started families of their own.
My job is great, for the most part. Well, it’s okay, anyway. But I’ve already made a really good friend at work. Matt, who is my gay work husband. Though I’m not one hundred percent sure that he’s gay. He has never said so. But I’ve had my share of coming out parties for guys I’ve dated, so I’m pretty sure Matt is.
“Thirty pounds. That’s my goal,” I told Matt.
“Are you crazy? And how long do you have to lose this?”
“That’s not a lot of time. You’d have to not eat anything.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do? She bought the goddamn dress already.”
“Make your dog wear it down the aisle.”
“JoJo? Please. It’s not his color. Besides, you’ve seen him. I would have an easier time getting into the dress than he would. He’s as big as a house and can barely walk. His stomach hangs to the floor.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“I’m going to join the gym here at work. That way, I can go right after work. No excuses.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I was determined.
Day 1: Good Intentions, Results Postponed
I had every intention of going down to sign up for the gym membership, but was caught up with work. Things have been so busy lately. It’s been difficult trying to find time for anything else. But I had a light lunch today. I walked by the pizza, merely inhaled, then walked straight to the salad bar. The pizza smelled delicious. Special today was the meat lover: pepperoni, ham, sausage, and bacon. One of my favorites. My stomach was growling.
After lunch, I had a difficult time focusing in meetings. Valerie, my boss, said something and everyone laughed. I didn’t hear. It felt like a marathon runner was circling in my belly. I thought about what I would have for dinner. Maybe just carrots.
At dinner, I had some carrots dipped in ranch dressing, which weren’t all that delicious. But they are known as a negative-calorie food, meaning that it takes more calories to digest than the food contains. I chewed extra hard. Any movement utilizes energy. I ate about half a bag of baby carrots and figured that the negative calories would be more than enough to have a spoonful of Moose Track flavored ice cream. I ate one spoonful, but that scoop didn’t have any peanut butter cups in it, so I took some more, careful to get some peanut butter cups. The saltiness of peanut butter and the sweetness of the chocolate and ice cream were so good together. It was barely a spoonful.
Day 2: The Pang of a Mere Spoonful
I thought I would die last night. My stomach was in pain from the hunger, which woke me up several times during the night. I resisted the urge to raid the fridge. For breakfast, I made myself two eggs, over easy, with light sprinkles of sea salt and pepper. Finished with a glass of orange juice. Vitamin C is supposed to help break down the proteins.
I decided on a slice of pepperoni pizza for lunch. The slices are usually very large, so I could have half for lunch and half for dinner. But when I went to pay, I couldn’t resist also getting the cookie with M&Ms placed next to the cash register.
Work was so busy that I didn’t even realize I had eaten the entire slice of pizza and the cookie as well. But I am definitely going to sign up for the gym right after work. Matt walked by and saw the pizza plate and cookie wrapper and said, “You know, they say that nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” Shut up! The bastard. Knew he was kidding though. But it’s true.
I am now a member at the gym. I asked how soon I could start working out, and Jenna, the staff and trainer, said “immediately.” Immediately? “Immediately. The membership includes all the group classes as well. And if you’d like, you can also sign up for a personal trainer, for an additional charge.” Oh, that’s great. Thanks. I wished I’d had my gym clothes. I’d thought it was going to take a few days to process the membership.
Dinner was not so bad. I decided to skip it and have just a handful of salt and pepper potato chips. They say that part of a successful diet is that you don’t feel deprived. So small quantities of the things you love will help you endure the diet.
Day 3: Slightly Off Course (Reason: Alcohol)
Starving like mad again last night. JoJo was no help. He kept staring at me. I’ve put him on a diet with me. I’m giving him only half portions of what he’s used to.
I had my gym bag with me today. But I couldn’t bring it in with me in the morning. I had my laptop bag, my tote bag, and a third bag would have been too much. I left it in the car with the intention of getting it during lunch, but was caught up with some urgent issues at work. I thought about getting it after work then heading straight to the gym, but it’d been so cold out. The clothes were probably freezing. I didn’t really want to get into cold clothes.
I left my laptop locked up at work so I would have no trouble with the gym bag tomorrow.
A group of people were going out for drinks and food after work. I thought about going too, but didn’t want to drink all those empty calories and eat all that greasy bar food. So I didn’t go. “You should come out,” said Matt. I can’t. All those empty calories. “But you’ll have fun.” I’ll pass on the fun for now. “You can always get bigger pants.” Not cute!
I came home and had a nice glass of red wine, which is supposed to be good for your heart. And it goes so well with filet mignon. Only a petite size, with some asparagus, which makes your pee smell really bad.
Hmmm…I didn’t realize I had drunk half a bottle. Gave JoJo a full portion, since I had veered from my diet a little too.
Day 4: The Scale of Reckoning
I’m feeling good and very proud. A small salad for lunch and went to the gym and was 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. It felt like my lungs were going to burst. I hadn’t sweated like that in years, or ever.
I came home and decided to get on a scale. It’s been over a year since I’ve been on one. I’d tucked it way back in the closet after Jack dumped me for bad sex. I couldn’t help it. When my legs were pressed toward my head, I couldn’t focus on anything else aside from the rolls pushing against my breasts. I tried doggy style, but gravity was even more cruel from that angle. So after he left, I put away the scale and tried to focus on loving my body without the number attached. They say as long as you’re healthy, the weight doesn’t matter.
Getting on the scale…
Just carrots and ranch dressing for dinner today. Actually, just carrots.
Day 5: On the Right Footing
Worked out like a mad woman today. Was 30 minutes on the elliptical. At one point, my foot came off the step and I thought it was going to be disastrous. But I thankfully recovered. No need to hide my face from the gym. I also did 3 sets of 10 bicep curls with 8 lb dumbbells. My arms were wobbly for a while after.
Oatmeal and honey for breakfast. Small lunch and dinner. Today was a great success.
Day 6: No Pizza, No Cookies, No Problem
Told Matt about progress yesterday. “Wow. That’s good,” he said. “Stay away from the pizza and cookies. You don’t want to erase all that hard work.” I know. I brought my own lunch today to avoid any temptation. “So you’re really sticking to this?” Trying to. “You should just get SPANX and call it a day.”
Another excellent day at the gym.
Day 7 and Day 8: Untitled
Fuck! Fuck! FUCK! Who knew working out would increase your appetite so much.
Week 2: Hold, Please
Will be recording progress on a weekly basis from now on. They say that your body fluctuates from day to day, so it’s better to record on a weekly basis.
Made excellent progress this week. Down 2 pounds.
Mom called for me to come down for the weekend. She was going to cook some healthy diet food for me to take home. And asked me to bring the dress. She wanted to make sure I was on the right track to be ready by wedding day. I told her I was swamped at work and needed to spend the weekend to catch up. I don’t want her to see me until I’ve lost a bit more weight.
In college, my dorm mates went clubbing nearly every weekend. I never joined them. I had a pair of jeans that I absolutely loved. I bought them though they didn’t fit, wanting to shrink into them. I told myself that once I fit into the jeans, I would start going clubbing and wearing cute little tops like them. But weeks turned into months and eventually, they stopped asking me to join.
Week 3: Who Needs Cover-ups?
Another excellent week. Down 3.5 pounds. I feel wonderful. All week, while on the elliptical, I envisioned myself in my bridesmaid dress gliding down the aisle and everyone staring in disbelief. And I also imagined myself in a sexy bikini this summer, walking along the beach with no beach towel wrapped around my waist. They say it’s important to picture what you want to look like, and not focus on what you look like now.
Week 4: Will Smile for Food
I went to the gym every day (every working day). Didn’t go out or see anyone outside of work. It was a bit of a drag. I was hungry all the time. And people on my project team were pissing me off. Yelled a lot during group discussions.
Week 5: Untitled 2
I really don’t want to talk about it.
Week 6: Name Calling, It Worked in Grade School
I really need to get back into it. I went to the gym only twice this week and have been eating more than usual. I tried taking JoJo for walks, but he kept stopping to scratch himself and would just lie there on the sidewalk.
I really don’t think I can do this, I told Matt. “You’re pushing too hard.” I have to; I don’t have much time left. “Do you really want to do this? Is it worth it?” Yes. I really do. “How can I help?” Just insult me each day. Call me fatty or something. That should motivate me. “I’m not going to do that. If HR gets wind of it I’ll be pounding the pavement.” Just do it.
Week 8: Sticks and Stones
I just realized that each year, I wish I was the size I was the year before. Since I was twelve, I’ve looked back each year thinking to myself, I wish I looked like I did before.
Pulled myself together by midweek. If all those celebrities could spring back into shape after popping out twins, triplets, and even sextuplets, I could lose 30 pounds. I could do this.
Matt walked by my cube and said, “Should I call real estate management and have them remove a wall so you can get out?” What? You asshole! “You told me to insult you!” Oh…you’re still an ass.
Week 9: One to Not Share
Down 10 pounds! It’s amazing. I feel great. Even went out with people from work for happy hours. Limited myself to two Bud Light Limes. Best beer ever! And a couple of chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. So delicious. I haven’t had anything deep fried in weeks. Oh, so delicious. Maybe a small cheesecake. “We only have one size, ma’am,” said the waitress. That’s fine. Just bring it. I’ll share. Can you bring two spoons? The waitress forgot to bring the second spoon. Poor service. I didn’t want to bother asking again.
Week 10: Sister So Good
Down another 3 pounds! My pants are actually a little loose around the waist and thighs. I called Mom and said I was coming over to visit.
Neither Mom nor Dad noticed that I’d lost weight. Mom said, “Why didn’t you bring the dress? Have you tried it on? Have you been exercising and dieting? You don’t have much time left.” I have been going to the gym at work. I’ve lost some weight. “I should never have let you develop such bad eating habits. You’ve been this way since you were little, you know. Your sister was never like that.”
Week 11: Give Me Death and Give Me Thin
Oh, who gives a fuck anymore. I’m so sick and tired of eating carrots. My skin is actually turning orange. I don’t know why I bothered in the first place. We are all going to die. Then what? Does it matter once you’re dead whether or not your corpse is thin? Worms will eat me thin. I can be skinny in death. Why not enjoy life?
Got really drunk a couple of nights this week and ate the entire tub of Moose Track.
Week 11½ : A Moose of a Defeat
So many regrets. That tub of ice cream was not worth this. Every inch of my body aches. I went to the gym every single day and worked out twice as hard.
Was talking to Matt and started crying. “You shouldn’t do this to yourself. Go to the wedding. Don’t zip the dress. Just make sure you wear hot panties.” Started laughing. Matt could always do that—make me laugh.
Two days before the wedding: HHH (Help Harry Houdini)
My sister called. “You did lose the weight, didn’t you? Mom said she didn’t see any result last time you came. But you did, didn’t you? That was weeks ago.”
Got off the phone and went to try on the dress. Put on the SPANX and tried to zip the back. It went up about a third of the way, then the zipper teeth unclenched and I wasn’t able to unzip.
Tried for over an hour. My arms were so tired. I was tired.
One day before the wedding: Throwing in the Towel
Shit! What am I going to do? The dress is in two pieces. I had to cut myself out. There was no way around it. My sister is going to kill me. Fuck it. Her and her wedding.
I called my boss and left her a message that I needed to take some personal time off, then removed the battery from my cell phone. I used the money that I was going to give my sister as a wedding present and booked a trip for myself to Aruba. I packed my two-piece bikinis and no beach towel.
My sister can see me when I’m thin.
* * *
Seenat Thongdee was born in Cambodia; she and her family migrated to Thailand as refugees when she was three years old. She lived in refugee camps for seven years before admittance to the U.S. 1986. She currently lives in Massachusetts.
She holds an MBA from Bryant University, but intends to pursue a graduate degree in English and fulfill her dream of becoming an English teacher. Writes Seenat: “I began creating stories in my head as a child, because what I imagined was safer and more pleasant than my surroundings. I write as an adult to rediscover that child, and because writing always feels like that big mango tree next to our concrete home in the refugee camp—warm and pleasant.”