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Diet Diaries : Part 2 : The Milkshake Diet and Soo’s Homemade “you can always eat it tomorrow” Plan

14 Oct

I measured myself after a week of adhering to the Atkins Diet (as described in my previous blog) and I did not lose a single centimeter.  Not one.  I cannot tell you whether or not I lost mass, as I don’t own a scale, but even if I had, it would be a misleading brain hump, as centimeters are what really count in this game.  So scrap that.  All that suffering for nada.

Well maybe it was good for something – my veggie friends would be delighted to know that I am currently repulsed by the texture and smell of red meat.

So here are my measurements, as promised, the week before, and the week after the Atkins Diet :

Chest 98 cm’s (38 ½  inches)

Waist 77 cm’s (30 ½ inches)

Hips 91 cm’s (36 inches)

Thigh 57 cm’s (22 ½ inches)

Calve 34 cm’s (13 ½ inches)

Upper Arm 27 cm’s (10 ½ inches)

 

hmmm.. I am not sure I have got a fair shake

 

For the first three days after abandoning the Atkins Diet, I followed a Milkshake Diet.  This was probably venturing a little too deeply into old territory for the sake of science, but I weighed up my decision for about 30 seconds and decided I could handle it.  I went to the Supermarket and picked up a can of Strawberry “SHAPE”.

Although Milkshake Diets may have become more sophisticated since the nineties and there a several more popular brands available these days, “SHAPE” will always hold a special place in my heart.  I lived off it for six weeks straight (and the occasionally cup of Black Forrest Tea) while taking part in Bikini Competitions when I was 21.

It is cheap (R85 buys you a tin good for 15 meals) and it always promises quick results, if you have the right sort of twisted willpower.  I wondered how I would fair on it now, all these years later.

Making a glass of “SHAPE” involves scooping 3 nuclear pink tablespoons of powder into a glass, and adding 200ml of milk.  This inadequate amount of milk makes for a very sad looking half glass of shake, so I always top it up with water, which also dilutes it down, as I find it a little thick for my taste.

I watch the powdery lumps circling round the top of my shake nostalgically.  When you use the chocolate flavor you will grow to love those lumps, and hungrily claw at your empty glass with your fingers to scratch out the last of them, but the strawberry flavor is quite a bit sweeter, and the lumps are just plain nasty.  I had forgotten about my trick of making a paste with a bit of hot water first to remove the lumps.

“SHAPE” is quite delicious, although you will tire of the strawberry flavor more quickly than you will of the chocolate (which is almost impossible to find at the shops).  You need to replace two out of three meals in the day with the shake, and then you need to ensure your evening meal is modest.  A pamphlet attached to the lid of your tin (containing a ridiculous weight to height chart seemingly designed to make overweight people feel better about themselves) helps you work it all out.  A good evening meal would be a skinless chicken breast and steamed vegetables.

I find a good evening meal to be another serving of “SHAPE”.

What you can expect on a milkshake diet :

  • You will be starving ALL the time, despite what the packaging says.  I am not joking or exaggerating.  If you have never been able to handle feeling starving without heading for the fridge, this is NOT the diet for you.
  • Although you will be starving, you will not feel shaky.  Not feeling shaky will help you to get over feeling starving.  You are not going to pass out.  You will not feel dizzy.  Certainly better than being garden variety starving, with all the other side effects normally associated with it.  Here’s the catch though… people often quit diets because “I was feeling dizzy and felt as though I would pass out, and I can’t be expected to live like that”.  Well if those excuses have been your free pass to quit this sort of extreme regimen in the past, you will be deprived of them here.  The milkshakes are giving your body just enough nutrients to not shut down, but not enough to avoid discomfort.
  • You will be constipated.
  • You will feel like a social freak, so work around this by using your allowed meal on occasions where you are dining out with friends.

Milkshake diets are fuss free, as you don’t need to agonize over planning your next meal, and you can stick to them while working at an office.  Milkshake diets are NOT easy to follow.  I can’t stress this enough.

After a day or two on a milkshake diet, if you are a certain sort of person, you will start to enjoy the deprivation.  You will feel virtuous, smug and light.  You might even feel highly energized.  If you are me, with a certain history and following the plan for the purposes of blogging about it, this is when it is time to stop.

I lost 4cm overall in 3 days.

After that exercise in stupidity, I followed what I would like to call the “you can always eat it tomorrow” plan, for what remained of the two weeks leading up to today.

The rules are simple.  Stick to universally recognized healthy eating guidelines.  Drink more water and less soft drinks.  Cut out sugar wherever possible including the fair chunk you have in coffee and tea every day.  Remove visible fat from meat.  Eat more vegetables.

And most importantly, when you need to eat something delicious, eat it, but don’t eat it all.  Eat half of it, and put the rest in the fridge, and tell yourself – “you can always eat it tomorrow”.  When tomorrow comes, see if you can trick yourself into delaying it by another day.  Or eat it.  Whatever.  If you keep delaying it, it will eventually get nasty in the fridge and you will rather choose to throw it away.  If you do eat it, it is only a half portion of the original, spread over two days.

Here are my measurement’s, as of this morning.

Chest 95 cm’s (37 ½  inches) – 3 cm’s lost (the boobs always the first to go… *sigh*)

Waist 75 cm’s (29 ½ inches) – 2 cm’s lost (the place I really want to lose it)

Hips 88 cm’s (34 ½ inches) – 3 cm’s lost (the place I really want to lose it)

Thigh 57 cm’s (22 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Calve 34 cm’s (13 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Upper Arm 27 cm’s (10 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Total lost in 2 weeks : 8cm’s (just over 3 inches)

 

there it is

 

I took these photographs this morning, and perhaps it is appropriate to admit a few things.

  • I probably wasn’t fat 3 weeks ago.
  • I probably got hysterical when I laid eyes on a very unfortunate and unflattering photograph of myself (see below).
  • I probably went about this all the wrong way.
  • I am probably still going to try to lose a little more, but not by using Atkins, or drinking shakes.
  • I probably need to pay a little more attention to my state of mind when conducting “experiments”.
  • I am probably only human, and I would rather be real, than pretend to be perfect, either physically or emotionally.

Next time, I would like to talk about what all of this means.  Do you know any women who have a healthy relationship with food?  What IS a healthy relationship with food?  And other thoughts.

Thank you as always for your emails.  I do understand why you cannot comment here.

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Diet Diaries Part 1 : Atkins

30 Sep

Suzanne’s Perspective

Let me start this post with a disclaimer.  I am doing my best to blog honestly.  I do not believe it is helpful to anyone for me to self edit through this process.  I do rant, I do get revolted with myself and I am not always a paragon of virtue, goodness and light.  Please read this blog as being personal to me and my journey.  I am not calling you, or anyone else any of the names I occasionally call myself.  I ask any reader to please not project, or feel persecuted by my rants.  The alternative to posting honestly is to bottle up and lie, and I am not going to do that.  Please deal.  Thanks in anticipation.

One week ago :

It is spring, and I find myself a size 34, instead of a 32 or a 30.  I have these great boobs at the moment, but after that, there is not much to recommend it.  My face is plain and moonish, the tops of my thighs rounded and lumpy and I have a little pasty paunch.  I am as close to chubby as I ever allow myself to get.  Size 36 would be unforgivable –  I would commit myself to the fat farm if it came to that, but this is close.. too darn close to being completely revolting and out of control.

I succeed at healthy eating, most of the time, but for the last couple of weeks I have not, and on top of the 3kgs I was carrying from earlier in winter, this has been enough to deliver me to my present circumstances.  You won’t hear any excuses from me.  There is nothing wrong with my metabolism.  I am not big boned.  I did not eat hardly anything and then just glanced at a pizza and gained weight.  I am the only one who raised my greedy paw to my mouth and who tucked into second helpings of pasta.  Me alone, my hand unguided by any malevolent chubby fairy.

I will also spare you all the boo-the-hoo-hoo’s about how I have been stressed and under pressure in various areas of my life, as well as occasionally lonely and housebound in the cold and miserable weather of previous months.

If chocolate is a friend, who needs enemies, right?

The pic from two weeks ago which tipped the scales : don't you want me baby? (in my defence, that was actually my first drink at a Fancy Dress party, and it was a dark garden, suddenly lit up by the flash of the camera, which revealed the true horror which is me)

I have rationalized to myself, how the 6kg’s  I need to lose presents me with a perfect opportunity to trial a couple of diets, and allow you, the audience, to suffer through them with me.  So here it goes.  You will get only honesty from me, so if you are not sure you are going to like it, stop reading now.

Perhaps I should have said that a few paragraphs ago?  (Don’t worry past week ago self, your future self added a helpful disclaimer, but you should still expect a little hate mail)

The Atkins Diet.

I am looking for fast results, and I don’t mind a bit of sacrifice.  Truth be told.. I NEED  a bit of sacrifice.

In case you have been locked in a trunk for the past 40 years, The Atkins diet is a high protein, low (as in NO) carb plan.  You are allowed to eat large quantities of meat, eggs and cheese and not much else.

I have had a run in with the Atkins Diet before and it worked out rather nicely for me.  I have never been able to sustain it for more than three weeks, and I am interested to see how I fair this time (ie. I am ready to do it again, because I have forgotten how nasty it is).

I start by emptying my fridge of all offending, forbidden items.  Out goes the low fat yoghurt I eat for breakfast.  Into the freezer go the bananas and strawberries I still have a stock of.  I leave the milk behind, as I will still need it for guests.  The cream also stays because I am allowed to use it as a milk substitute in coffee.

yup. there is is.

There wasn’t much else in my fridge, so I head for the shops.  I soon realize this is going to be an expensive little experiment as I fill my basket with bacon, steaks, full fat cheddar, pork chops, chicken breasts and Avo’s.  I spend R500 without even trying, and it’s probably not enough to last me more than three or four days.  I feel a little resentful.

I take my measurements on the first day as I don’t have a scale (which is why I judge myself based on clothing size not on weight).

I decide to refresh my memory about anything else I need to know about the pros and cons of the diet and hit the interwebs.  I am soon confronted with some sobering news.  No alcohol.

I thought I had remembered being allowed vodka and Coke Zero (which has been my staple for years), but apparently not.  I ponder how I am going to survive my date the same evening.  We had planned to “go for drinks”.  I mean it’s not like I am an alchie or anything, but I do have one or  two vodkas about twice a week on dates, and when I meet friends.

Alright then, I will suggest we meet for coffee instead.  Perfectly reasonable, and most places serve cappuccinos with real cream if you ask for it.  I read further.  No caffeine.  Ok.. now that is going to be more of a problem.   “I didn’t sign up for this!”  I wail.

I keep reading.  “You can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms from caffeine if you are a regular coffee drinker, such as headaches and listlessness”.  No kidding.  I feel the immediate onset of a migraine.

Oh, but heres the kicker.  “No Aspartame.  Please choose a soda which does not contain aspartame”.  Well, I never realized this before now, but no such diet drink exists on the South African market (that I can find).  Which means I will have to sip water on my date as coffee and Coke Zero are forbidden.

I have eaten steak and chicken all day, but I decide before leaving the house that the options presented are just too humiliating for me and I allocate myself 2 x Coke Zeros WITH vodka for the evening.

First day diet fail.

I wake up feeling ashamed of myself the next day and decide to not leave the house for the duration of the diet, unless strictly necessary, as there is nothing I am allowed to consume at any restaurant or coffee house.  It was going to be a little easier as for the first 6 days of my diet I would be working from home, and only on the last day did I have a working day which took place outside of the home.  I would barricade myself in, with just bacon and steak for company.  So be it.  Great sacrifices and all that.

I took six aspirins on the second day to combat my caffeine withdrawal, which was severe.  I also noticed I had not been to the toilet.  Hit the net again and found “severe constipation” was to be expected, and combated by adding some husks or other to your food and drinking lots of water.  Yay.

The days pass and I am sticking to Atkins like a crazed zealot.  I have to wash my frying pan four times a day.  Everything is dripping with fat and I pretend it does not repulse me.  My drain blocks from all the fat getting washed down it from pan cleaning on day three and I have a sharp vision of the same gunky glue trying to work its way through my system.

I finally pass one small dry parcel on day four.

I am not sure if I am losing weight or not. I check myself out in the mirror each morning, waiting to see some sort of change (Atkins promises weight loss of between 2 and 5kg in the first two weeks).  My paunch seems bigger, probably because every pork chop and avo topped chicken breast is still churning within it.

Speaking of churning, my stomach is constantly groaning and mubbling like a cement mixer while I am on this diet.  It keeps me awake some nights.

Because it inspires me to remember why I am doing this, I sit around naked a lot while working, to not allow myself to forget about my belly and lumpy thighs.

I may be acting like a crazy person.

would you like a creamy de-caf coffee with your flesh madam?

I am exhausted.  I don’t manage to get through a single day without a nap, and I haven’t found time to exercise this week, which is not like me.

Everything on my plate is brown or yellow and equal parts crispy/greasy.  I am allowed a few handfuls of all the boring vegetables per day, which offer nothing in compensation.

On night four I dream of feasting on chocolate, fruit and cakes, and when I wake for a panicked moment I am not sure if I have or not.

Night five presents another challenge.  I have to leave the house.  It is my “Rumble in Pub” debating night, and I never miss it.  What to do about the beverage situation??? What to do???  I turn back to the net to try to find out why caffeine is the devil on this diet as I remember it never used to be in Dr Atkins first edition.  Apparently new discoveries show caffeine (and the dreaded aspartame) cause carb cravings.  Deciding I couldn’t possibly crave carbs any more than I am already, I make the decision to have three fully loaded cappuccinos at the pub.  They are DELICIOUS and as punishment I get about 3 minutes of sleep that night.

I have spent many hours this week scratching flesh out my teeth.  When you eat this much protein you realize how sinewy and stringy it actually is.  Even a well cooked steak or chicken breast is as easy to chew as a ball of string.  My gums are sore.  My breath stinks.

On day six I ponder how stupid I have been feeling all week.  I feel mildly brain damaged and can’t wrap my head around any of my daily chores or assignments.  I have procrastinated all important tasks, and even this blog, written on the last day of the week is a massive slog which I am plonking out with red eyes, my fingers feeling as heavy as lead on the keyboard.

Is there anything I have enjoyed about this diet? *stares blankly for 20 minutes into the middle distance*

I haven’t once had “that shaky feeling” which I get when I go too long between meals or eat too much sugar or carbs.  Atkins claims to balance your blood sugar levels, and maybe there is something in it.  But before I give them too much credit I was following their guideline of not going more than six waking hours between meals, which may have made the real difference, as I have been guilty in the past of going entire days without eating anything more than one large evening meal.

There have been a few moments where I feel manically energetic and my heart races, so its not entirely true to say I have been tired ALL the time.

One week on Atkins is enough for me, I suspect, and tonight I will take my measurements to determine if my pain and suffering to date has yielded any sort of result.

Don’t worry, I will post them, and we can all compare and stuff.  I would never deprive you of that.

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Confessions of One who has NEVER binged…

1 Jul

Written by Suzanne mid 2008

(Note from Suzanne : I am posting something I wrote a couple of years ago.  I find this quite difficult to read, as  I don’t even recognise myself.  I had just started an “episode” and I wrote this to justify to a boyfriend why I was eating a single boiled egg a day.  I am two different people.  I am one type of person when I am in the grips of an “episode”.. and another the rest of the time.  I admit that an “episode” is never far away, and that the most random thing can set it off… that pic… below for example – the back roll pic.  UGGGH.  It makes me want to vomit that after a mere few months of not paying attention, I am a pork roll again.  I worry why I am embarrassed to post this, because I weigh 59 kilograms / 130 pounds, RIGHT NOW.  I feel like a fraud, are the eating disordered ever allowed to be chubby?  Is healing about achieving chubbiness?  Is that the Holy Grail?  Should I love my current pudge?  I don’t.)

I think the statement is "I am not weak.. like you"

I like everything about food, which may surprise you. I like the way it looks, smells and tastes. I like to cook, touch and be near it. Liking food was never the problem. Liking food in fact, was always the problem.

I don’t like to talk about anorexia. I don’t like to say the word out loud or even write it. Up until a year ago, despite the dark days gone by I have never referred to myself as such. It seems an overly dramatic term. I have never been hospitalised after all.. have never been fed by a pipe because of it.  I have never been anywhere near thin enough.  I have never had anyone gasp at my weight as I passed by.  I have never truly proved myself worthy.

I do however like to think about anorexia. I like to think about it a lot. I also like to read about, to watch movies on it, and to look at pictures of girls affected by it. I used to be a member of an ana website (yes, there is a supportive sisterhood) but because of the difficulty I have to admit to myself and others that I am anorexic (I prefer the expression “I have food issues”), I entered the site as an observer. I pretended.. absurdly enough.. to be a bulimic, so as to not attract too much attention to myself while deciding if they were worthy.. or a bunch of fakers. There are plenty fake anas about.. if a chubby girl tells you she is ana.. she needs a kick in the chops.. you don’t do this half way. I have no time for pretenders. As it turned out, I was really amongst some stellar examples on the site, but that is not why I didn’t stay.

In the caste system of eating disorders, bulimics are those chubby girls that wish they could be anorexic, but don’t have the willpower, those with a true understanding of the lifestyle consider them to be the girls that learn to crawl, but don’t keep the sport up long enough to learn to run. The anas on the sight didn’t recognise me as one of their own, so I never really fitted in there, and didn’t last for long.

Bingeing might be part of the recipe for some, bulimics in particular, but it has never been part of the recipe for me. I would never do something that disgustingly ill disciplined as gorging myself for hours. The idea is completely revolting to me. Throwing up is also so obvious.. it’s looking for attention, and that’s the last thing I want. I have thrown up a couple of times to try it, but its far too theatrical for me, and for the most part unnecessary. If I don’t want something in my stomach, I wont put it in there in the first place. I control food. Food does not control me. I do not have a problem stopping my hand full of food reaching my mouth. I do not need to bolt the refrigerator with a padlock. I just don’t eat it. I just stop. I don’t have to, and I wont. Load the table with whatever you like. Bring it on (in fact, I will enjoy resisting it). I do not need to touch a single morsel.

diet coke? You can live off that. The rest? A choice.

In the past, on one of the occasions where I had been trying to lose weight (hang on.. trying is the wrong term.. as I always succeed), and had decided to allow myself one meal a day at the company canteen. On my way, walking with a group of girls – one of the chubby ones.. the type that is always trying to fatten up everyone else… says “Oh Soo… I see you are coming to lunch.. I thought you were on a diet?” (she smiles smugly…delighting that I am weak like her). I stop walking… right there… turn around and head back to my office saying over my shoulder “You are right. I have suddenly lost my appetite. You girls go ahead. I don’t need lunch”. And I don’t need it. I really, really don’t.

The same applies if I am at a restaurant and decide to order a dessert. It arrives and I am pleased with it.. and pick up my spoon and take the first mouthful. My dinner guest says to me “Oooh.. you are attacking that with gusto! you must have REALLY been looking forward to that!” It instantly turns to shit in my mouth and I won’t even be able to swallow that mouthful. I push it away immediately.

Maybe my dinner companion understands the urge to shove a dessert down her throat like a pig at a trough.. maybe she is one of those that likes chocolate more than sex, perhaps that’s why she feels the need to make that comment. In my mind.. she is probably just gloating at a sign of weakness from me (see above). I am not. I do not need it… and it is not about proving it to her. It’s about proving it to myself.

honey, are you going to eat that?

I hate the way people comment when I have lost weight. “Oh.. you are looking great!” etc.. etc.. It bothers me because they didn’t say a word the week before, which in my mind reads as “Aww shit you look fat today, I better keep quiet about it”. Either you say something every time.. or say nothing all the time. I would prefer the latter.

Do not confuse this with not wanting to be looked at, or not wanting to matter. I want to be looked at very badly, I always have. People do look at me, and for the most part, they like what they see. It would be great if I was pretty enough that my body didn’t need to factor in, but my body has always factored in, and people who have known me for years expect me to look thin.. and many of the nastier ones would just love me to get fat.

This creates a certain amount of pressure.

Christmas would come early for those girls if I arrived at a party looking fatter than them. It’s NEVER going to happen. Being thin is the only high ground I have ever had, and yes I validate myself on it to a large degree. If I wasn’t thin.. what would I have? Heather is the pretty one, Suzanne is the thin one, that’s how it has always been. It’s carved in stone and bolted away in some deep place that can’t even be reached.

If people don’t like me thin, I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know how to process it. So thin isn’t pretty to you? Where does that leave me? What must I do with that? It’s pretty to most other people.. I know this.. because they all tell me they envy me all the bloody time. If it’s not pretty, then that leaves me nowhere to turn.

thin = pretty. fat = ugly. Let's not monkey around.

I make a very revolting chubby girl. I have been a chubby girl.. I was a size 12 for about 5 minutes back when I was married when I thought I was happy. I look back on the pictures and it isn’t pretty. I look like Jabba the Hut and worse than that.. I was very.. very ordinary. My bone structure is very fine. I cannot get away with even being a generous size ten. It does not suit me. My face goes all round and I don’t have enough hair to balance my face. My head looks like a piece of dough someone has shoved on a stick. I also get a belly, because I don’t have much of a waist to start with.

Years ago I really applied my obsession aggressively. Before I entered the MNET Miss Bikini Comp I was on a milkshake diet for a month (I didn’t eat the evening meal though.. it seemed quicker to have the milkshakes and nothing else), and took a triple dose of laxatives before the finals in Plettenberg Bay to get my stomach really flat. I came third. Praise and affirmation for a job well done? Of course.

The girl who won  was thinner than me.

At my worst, I was using every method available to me and it was at a time in my life when my system was developing. I have messed myself up a bit, and I still need a proper diagnosis as to exactly what that means for me. It appears to mean no children.. but after the initial discussion with my doctor and her questions getting a little close to the truth, I never went to the specialist she recommended.

I chose to leave it.

That was 4 years ago, 3 and a half of which I was with my ex without using contraception (he has 2 kids already). I leave it because I feel that I have earned that condition, and that’s the price I am going to have to pay for all of this. I don’t expect anyone to understand, and I deliberately seek out men that don’t have baby ambitions so that the issue is not a deal breaker down the line. I would have liked to have had children and I mourn the loss of the choice, but moping and whingeing about it isn’t going to get me anywhere. I would also have liked to have competed in the olympics and I never did. boo hoo.

I refuse to consider my life to be “incomplete” just because I find myself in this position. Exercise helps me normalise, but then my obsessive focus gets directed there. During my modeling years I spent many months going to gym twice a day for three or four hours at a time. During those times, I could eat what I wanted, as I burnt it off immediately. When I climbed Killi I lost 6 kilograms / 13 pounds in 7 days, even though we were eating fried bread and tons of food three times a day. I like the high I get from exercise, the more extreme the better.. and I like the fact that no one judges you for going overboard in pursuit of a perfect body.

On that note.. no one needs to tell me that my body is not perfect and think that I need to hear that and get over myself. I have never ever ever thought that.. not even for a millisecond. The list of things I hate about my body could fill a few pages. I have been eating relatively normally for years. I will not pretend that my viewpoint of food has ever been normal.. but I have been fitting in nicely around regular folks for quite a while now.

I have had a bit of a flare up recently since starting the book, because I have been forced fed at the hotels and James freaked me out more by making an issue of it and calling me “Karen Carpenter”. Anything that draws attention to it makes it worse. What is my current status? well I think I am see-sawing somewhere in the middle. I would like this to not become the thing that defines me in the eyes of people who have just met me. I do not want to be pitied or looked down on. I want to treat it like its nothing.. and allow it to be nothing.

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Who is the Big Sister?

29 Jun

Heathers’ Perspective

I am the oldest, tallest and fattest of four sisters.  Andrea and Zubedia (my half-sister and step-sister respectively) are fairly recent additions to my family and arrived in my life 14 years ago when Dad re-married.  But it is the relationship that I have with Suzanne – my full-blooded sister – that is the focus of this blog and our book.

Suzanne (on left) and Heather (centre) - 1984

Suzanne is two years my junior and our relationship has ebbed and flowed over the years in a manner typical of most siblings.  As is true of most relationships, we’ve been through good times and bad.  There have been times when we loved each other’s company and other times when we’ve hated each other’s guts, especially when we were teenagers.  She may have been younger and smaller than me, but it didn’t stop her from yanking fist-full’s of hair from my head,  sinking her teeth into plump flesh – or gouging craters in my skin with her sharp little nails.  Her actions earned her the nick-name “Vicious” – which I call her to this day, a name to which she happily answers.  Suzanne wears a very loud warning sign on her forehead.  It reads:  “You do not wanna mess with me!”… and as her sister, I can assure you, that you don’t.

I’m the peacekeeper in our relationship.  Suzanne hasn’t been much of a peace-loving person since I’ve known her.  She once threw her popcorn box at the head of a person who was chatting loudly in the movie theatre – a few rows in front of us.  When the offending chatter spun around indignantly (her throw was very accurate) – my sister quickly put him in his place by snapping:  “Next time, it will be my fucking shoe!”.  The man was quiet for the rest of the show.

On another occasion, she purged herself of no less than five girlfriends in one sitting.  Suzanne is fiercely loyal, and she demands the same courtesy from anyone she calls friend.  When she found out that the five had been spreading rumours and gossiping behind her back, she sat down and penned a generic letter addressed to all of them.  The letter included details of the offences committed and ended off by stating that she wanted all of the offenders out of her life and didn’t want to see them or speak to them again.  It worked.  They never saw her or spoke to her again and Suzanne drew herself closer to the trusted ones in her life; friends and family who loved her unconditionally in spite of her sharp bristles and the occasional verbal snipe.

Heather (on left) and Suzanne - 1980

Those of us who know Suzanne, know that beneath the prickly exterior (and I must admit, she’s a lot less prickly these days than what she used to be)… lies a sensitive soul with strong beliefs and a good heart.  There’s a lot about her to love.  She can be wickedly funny and unlawfully sarcastic.  She can get piping mad when faced with injustice, and doesn’t mince her words when she’s angry.  But she can also be marshmallow soft, especially around my two children, animals and the people she’s closest to.

I’ve made my fair share of assumptions, over the years, regarding the state of Sue’s life and inner workings… and I thought I knew her well and sometimes even arrogantly assumed that I knew her better than she knew herself.  It’s only recently, as I am now older (and hopefully a bit wiser) that the slow realisation is beginning to dawn on me that perhaps we aren’t as different as I always supposed.  It was only within the past 4 years that I discovered that Suzanne has obsessed about weight and about food for almost as long as I have.  This was a startling epiphany.  I had always assumed that, as the fat one, my morbid relationship with food and weight was my territory – and mine alone.

I can’t remember exactly when my obsession with food began.  I know only that it has consumed most of my life in the kind of all-encompassing way that a ruthless affliction might render it’s victim hopelessly incapacitated.  I’ve been fighting the demon of addiction for as long as I can remember and it’s a strange consolation to finally realise that I’m not alone in this war.  Stranger still, to realise that one of the people who has always been fighting alongside me is my little sister.  My thin, never-been-fat-ever… little sister.

Suzanne (on left) and Heather - March 1985

Suzanne and I are different in many ways, but I find it almost amusing to discover that the way in which I thought we differed most – is the way in which we are most similar.  We share an unhealthy love of food and an obsession with weight, but Suzanne, it seems, has managed to hold the demon at bay by managing to remain thin, in spite of it all.   I, on the other hand, seem to have lost the battle.  At 122 kilograms, I am almost 63 kilograms (139 pounds) heavier than my little sister and deeply ashamed because of it.

Suzanne (on left) and Heather - April 2010

Writing our book and this blog together, and the enlightening conversations we have shared in the process, has been wonderfully healing… I think for the both of us.  So much is beginning to make sense:  why we are the way we are.  Why we think the way we think.  And mostly – the understanding I have gained that Suzanne is not at all the shallow, self-obsessed individual that I thought she was some years ago.  She’s actually more like me than I ever thought or cared to admit.  We share something deeper than family genes.  We share… an understanding.  And I think that there are many millions of women around the world who share it with us, who may be able to relate painfully well to our particular journey, on a multitude of levels.

Allow me then, to introduce myself.  I’m Heather.  I’m taller, fatter and older than Suzanne.  In more ways than one;  I’m the big sister.

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Pears and Apples

29 Jun

Suzannes’ Perspective

Pears and Apples.  Two well known body shapes, to which most women are assigned.  Possibly invented by the same nameless twits who came up with “endomorph” and “ectomorph” – or maybe it was someone who was trying to explain “endomorph” and “ectomorph” to someone dim and disinterested.

how do you like dem apples?

We loathe these labels for several reasons – for me it is the sheer finality of it.  You are a pear.  No matter how well you eat or how much you exercise, you need to face the reality of your large arse and small tits.  If you try to get more than your share of tits – you will get an extra helping of arse.  If you want less arse, it means no tits and a scrawny, bony upper body to boot.
If you are an apple, you get a big fat lumpy gut to carry around with you and a fat back soft enough to ooze around your bra straps and make any sheer fabric blouse, so flattering to the pear, completely impossible.  If an apple gains weight they will continue to grow humptier and dumptier while their legs and arms remain stubbornly skinny.  Also to be expected, particularly later in life;  a flat arse that looks sullen and beak-like in tight pants.
The apple and the pear.  I understand where they got it from – really I do – as much as it offends me.  It’s a shape thing and the visual comparison, is, I begrudgingly admit, appropriate.

"Besides being from the same family, the apple and pear don’t have much to remind one of the other despite both being fruit."

My sister is a pear and I am an apple.  Besides all the horrific physical incarnations that come with that (much much more about that later), I think the analogy can be taken quite a bit further when it comes to the two of us.  Besides being from the same family, the apple and pear don’t have much to remind one of the other despite both being fruit.  It is the same with Heather and I, or so I used to think. Up until about a year ago I believed that we couldn’t have been more different.  Heather, it always seemed to me, was a product of my mother in both temperament and desire, and my father had used my mother’s womb to incubate me.  Of course, things are never that simple.
We grew up in the same home with the same parents – what happened that made us so completely different?  Heather and I are certainly one hell of an argument for the nature vs. nurture debate.  I am sure you wouldn’t place us at sisters,  and I am not talking purely about mass difference here.  Weight was always an issue, but there were always bigger issues behind it  – bigger fatter issues – that neither of us had the equipment to appropriately deal with.  We are writing this book together as adults and I hope it helps heal us a little.  Maybe we can forgive ourselves, and each other, for a few things said, done and eaten, along the way.

"hey look.. we can both shine!"

Heather is an artist, both musically and graphically.  She can take what is in her head and present it as a picture or as a string of musical notes.  This has always been her gift.  She doesn’t like boundaries, restrictions or rules, and rebels when cornered.   She never took to school, although her academic progress was more remarkable than mine in the early years (check the report cards!).  Something put her off it, and when that happens for Heather, there is no turning back.  She is a brilliant friend and a loyal and supportive sister – a bond, which we only discovered, was worth pursuing once we were both married and out the big house.  She is married to a great guy and has two small, cute children.
I am a workaholic I suppose.  The little choo-choo train that could or whatever.  The one that has to win, that has to prove everyone wrong.  I finished matric and did my degree through correspondence while working full time.  It was deliberately matryish – which is this thing that I do (lots more about that later).  I overdo things, and pick away at them until they explode in my face.  I have been equal parts successful young exec and broke dogs body in my life (during the recovery periods from one crazy scheme or another), never quite managing to find a healthy balance.  My relationships seem to follow a similar track.  I love to write and it is my way to be crazy creative, but I don’t do it enough, because when I do.. it’s never RIGHT.
You will meet the rest of the family on the way down the road we are about to travel together, but let me summarise by saying my father is a workaholic (no, not a coincidence) pretending to be semi-retired who is remarried to a much younger wife and has another two daughters, one acquired, one made.  Dad is a determined impatient man who does not suffer fools but he has his own way of showing us he loves us.  My mother was a homemaker while we were growing up and is the idea fountain from which we both caught the creative bug.  She is a lover of hugs and kisses and wants to save the world through her work with the church.  She went through a lot in her life, but has found a new lease on it since her divorce which involved swearing off men and living on a plot of land in the wild wild South African west in pursuit of her dream.
This book is about lots of things, some of them can be eaten, others are hard to swallow.  A less important fact but one which in the context of this book needs to be noted : I currently weigh 59kgs, half a bag of dog food shy of my all time heaviest weight of 65kg and am 1.7m tall.
I am the little sister.

Suzannne (far left), Heather (far right), 1978

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