Chapter 46: Weighing in at the Border of Crazy
It stares back at me from across the room. I glare back at this seemingly harmless 12″ x 12″ square piece of glass and metal that begs to be taken out from its slumber—taunting me with the hope that the numbers that show up on its face will belie what I know in my heart. The truth stands in the way of hope as I stand upon it, pleading for mercy.
177 lbs. flashes back at me like a massive billboard on the highway. I shrink in my shame, the relentlessly taunted little girl surfaces and cowers in the corner. Hunkering down to soothe my inner child, I scowl at this fucking inanimate object with abject hatred. I loathe its mere existence; I plot to send hate mail to the inventor of such a horrid creation.
What the fucking fuck! How did this happen?
The excuses begin to fog all logic. The soundtrack goes a little something like this: It’s a pandemic, for Christ’s Sake! You’ve been stuck inside, eating and drinking, drinking and eating. You sit at your desk for 15 hours a day in back-to-back meetings. You barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone exercise or cook something healthy. You’re exhausted, just rest on the couch for a little bit. Come on, don’t you deserve a glass of wine at the end of a hard workday, followed by another? Well, you might as well finish the bottle now…and another and another.
But there is no escape from the truth. I gained back all the weight (30 lbs. to be specific) that I released just three years ago and kept off for two years. I am back where I started again.
I feel the weight all around me stick to my bones like a fat suit.
Collarbones in camouflage; my pants don’t fit. I can barely walk up the steps without gasping a little.
Thank God for Rent the Runway because I refuse to buy larger clothes. Just a mere eight months ago, I was a size eight, and now, I’m pushing the buttons of a size 12. At 5’2,” every single fucking pound shows on every fucking single inch of my curvy body.
Oh yeah, I love those words.
Curvy, chubby, thick, zaftig, plump, stout, and so on, and so on. I just looked up the definition of the word ‘fat’ and ‘overweight,’ one of the terms was gross. Yes, so I’ve come back to my gross weight.
My inner saboteur answers the call, “Well, Ms. Piggy, it’s your goddam fault. You are fat and will always be fat.” The cruelty as familiar as my face.
If anyone else spoke to me this way, I would go Brooklyn on their ass. However, when it’s my voice, it’s hard to argue. A story that is all too familiar as my family, friends, even perfect strangers makes it their mission to remind me. They’ve all felt it was their duty to inform me of my body shape and size. Like I’m not fucking aware of my figure.
Some of my first memories as a child are of being ostracized for my weight. I wasn’t always fat, but somewhere along the line, I am convinced that my healthy body is offensive to others and was in dire need of judgment to push me to lose weight.
These memories begin with my Father and Mother.
My mom was overweight for much of my childhood (thankfully she is super healthy now). And from the time I can remember, my father was brutal to both my mom and me. He used to call her “chunka” and tell me that my ass was like a shelf. Some of my childhood nicknames included Ham Hog and Miss Piggy.
I wasn’t a particularly big child and was very active throughout my school years. My cousins and friends from the block would play ’til the street lights came on, so eating was not limited. But I wasn’t born with a thin disposition, and my curves began to appear at the ripe age of 11. One summer, I was flat as a rail, and the next I was a 36C, and my period followed shortly after.
Let’s not forget I’m Italian, so predictably the mantra of our family was sit and eat until your plate is clean. Don’t EVER waste your food, don’t you know there are starving children in the world. Yes, I did know that, but I’m not one of them.
In high school, even at a size six, I was called fat by my friend’s boyfriend and often the subject of ridicule because I was a cheerleader. Always the bottom of the pyramid because I was “strong” or “too big” to be on top.
One day, I was innocently walking in a parking lot with a friend, and some guy yelled out of the car, “I love me some fat girls.” Another guy at work told me I had Italian girl arms. No joke! “What does that even mean?” I stupidly inquire. He says, “Well, you know, like flabby at the elbow.”
Fat. FAT. Fucking FAAATTTT.
It’s just a little word that feels so very BIG. Being the rebel that I am, I was like fuck it; if everyone is going to call me fat regardless of my size, I might as well relish it and eat my face off.
The worst might be when I lose weight, and the compliments come flying in. “OH MY GOD, Cherry, you look fantastic, so skinny! What did you do? How did you lose all that weight?” Then when the weight inevitably comes back on, those compliments stop. Slowly but surely, the compliments dwindle until they are just eyes that scan my body up and down-filled to the rim with judgment.
When I gain weight, I stop looking in the mirror. I can’t bear the sight of my own body. I quit taking pictures; I stop going to parties (pre-pandemic, of course). The shame, the pure hot embarrassment of a thick curvy body, is enough to make me avoid getting dressed in anything tighter than sweatpants.
It’s a spiral that I begin to drown in. I soak in self-pity and self-hate. The hatred for my inadequacies and inability to stop putting fucking food in my mouth. Body dysmorphia from the time I realized my body was a continual source of ridicule or praise.
Now, I’m my worst critique. I’m always on a diet or totally off it. Over the past six months, I’ve tried Weight Watchers, Isagenix, Noom, Keto, intermittent fasting. I try eating carbs, then not eating carbs. Lose ten, then gain ten back plus one or two lbs. for good measure. Never mind how many diets I’ve tried over the past thirty years! I’ve gained and lost one thousand pounds throughout my 47 years of life.
As many of you may know, after 40, your metabolism becomes a slow-moving snail. I mean, not just slow, the fucking slowest of the bunch.
December 28th, 2020, I celebrated my 47th birthday, so much closer to 50. So that fucking snail just went on a permanent vacation, and I’m shit out of luck. I’ve got to fight 3x as hard to battle the inevitable and steep decline of my internal engine.
One night during Christmas break, after drinking two bottles of wine, I couldn’t sleep. My heart was racing so fast it appeared to be jumping out of my chest. No kidding, I thought I had a heart attack. I checked my pulse, tried to calm myself down as the more upset I got, the faster my heart pumped.
I sat in the dark, thinking, and breathing. Suddenly, I found myself in a trance, and the time machine of my mind journeys back, drifting to different moments and remembers; the nicknames, the judgment, the shame. The times I would suck in my stomach or wear clothes that hid my hips. The years I was thin (for me) and bravely wore a form-fitting outfit, I found myself ridiculed once again by some asshole who thinks it’s his (or her) duty to call out my cellulite. As I recall these horrible moments, I realize I was never comfortable in my skin.
Suddenly, I wandered to the present, and MSP comes into focus. Her beautiful face is clear as day.
A flash of memory surfaces. She told me last year that two kids in her class called her fat. She innocently asks, “Mama, do you think I’m fat?”
My heart heavy and aching with guilt, I answered, “NO, my smart, sassy, strong girl. You are not. Not even close, not even for a second. How do you feel about that? How do you feel about what they said?” She sweetly responded, “I don’t think I’m fat Mama, I think I’m me. Maybe that’s different than the other kids, but no two people are the same, and that’s ok.”
This memory of these wise words strikes me like lightning. My daughter teaches me a lesson I’ve never been brave enough to learn, and I’ve got over three decades on her!
The solution is so clear. As a self-inflicted yet acceptable punishment for being “fat,” I’ve swung on the diet pendulum binging and depriving myself for years. Depending on my life circumstances and stress level, I’ve chosen to starve or gorge, to nourish or deprive.
Not just that, I’ve been highly dependent on food, liquor, and cigarettes as an outlet for the pain I buried. To function, I looked to these sources of comfort to help me get through each day.
Smack in the face. Well, there it is, Cherry. You cannot hide now. The question is, what the fuck are you going to do about it? How are you going to be an example for your daughter, even more for yourself! You’ve overcome every single obstacle in your life. You are a college drop-out who escaped an abusive father, three abusive long-term relationships, and working so hard that it landed you in the hospital from exhaustion. You’ve survived your own attempted slaughter. Because worst of all, you’ve been slowly killing yourself with these supposed salves.
And here we are back at the beginning. Yet, my life is vastly different. So far away from that little girl cowering in the corner, I’m a formidable woman: a successful executive, leader, mother, fiancé, and homeowner. I’m a beloved friend, admired career-woman, volunteer, writer, and interior designer. I have everything to live for and a life worth living to the fullest.
It’s time. This fucking bullshit has got to stop. No more excuses. No more shame. No more.
I got up and looked at myself in the mirror. I really looked, and another rush of thoughts came to the surface from down deep. You will relinquish this reign of terror. You will stop being an antagonist of your body and become a champion and advocate.
The answer is quite simple. If I am going to conquer this demon truly, I must change everything. No fucking diet is going to solve my weight problem because it’s all in my head. I know how to eat healthy. There is no magic pill to help me lose 20 pounds in 20 minutes. I’m on a lifelong journey, a marriage to my health.
Immediately, I go into action and open my tried and trustworthy research resource, Google. I type in, “what are the best diets to lose weight?”
WHAT DID I JUST SAY? WERE YOU FUCKING LISTENING? Ok. Ok! That’s ALL wrong! Stop. Start again. Backspace and retype, “How can I nourish my body to better health?”
With the results of my search and years of experience with diet plans, I came up with The NOurishment Plan:
NO SCALE. I’m divorcing the scale. Like my ex-husband, it has never served me well and never will. The numbers on the face of that thing do not determine my health or how I feel.
It will only derail from my long-term commitment to being healthy. For the next month (at least), NO SCALE; no weighing in. I will listen and feel my way through this to get my mind, body, and soul in sync.
NO ALCOHOL. That’s right, folks. Eliminating alcohol is the most significant modification I made to my healthy life plan. Besides being pregnant and sober for about a year and a half, I’ve always drank alcohol. My first drink and cigarette were at age 11 out in the woods with my best friend (she stole the liquor and cigs from her mom’s stash).
Candidly, I was worried. I was genuinely concerned that after all these years, I might have physical withdrawal symptoms.
The good news is that Mr. Pizza and my Uncle Jeff agreed to stop drinking as a team. Taking on this challenge with my fiancé and uncle is helpful because we are usually popping bottles together, especially throughout our quarantine.
This decision is big friends, and we started on January 1st.
Dry January may sound familiar to some of you, but it was a foreign concept to me (Note to reader: I’m about two weeks in with no drinking so far, so great. I never got physical withdrawal symptoms, I’m sleeping better, not depressed and full of energy). Additionally, post dry January, I will not drink during the week and not binge drink on weekends. I will eventually allow myself to enjoy a glass or two. However, I will not drown my sorrows down an 8oz glass of fruity Sancerre.
Instead, I’ve started to cold brew green tea in a large container that sits in my fridge. I put flavored tea bags (pomegranate, blueberry and acai, and spiced ginger) with sliced lemon, orange, and raspberries with some Stevia in the Raw (a terrific sugar replacement but in moderation, of course). When I want a glass of wine, I drink this instead. Plus, La Croix is fantastic if you want something with a little fizz.
NO DIET. Laugh, all you want. There is no diet I tried that will sustain over years of ups and downs. While I was successful in many of them, it wasn’t for the long term because I changed my behavior with only the goal of losing weight. Never did I go on a diet to be healthy as most are not. Listen, it’s not the diet’s fault. No diet can be successful on its own.
It typically deprives your body of nourishing foods, so you ultimately binge to reward yourself, which only serves to keep the dieting cycle in constant repetition. Plus, you become so fixated on food that it becomes your main focal point instead of being sustenance.
I’ve always envied those people who eat to live. Conversely, as a born and bred Italian girl, I live to eat. I’m hoping that this relationship will evolve. I expect that by not depriving myself of food but rather nourishing my body with GOOD, healthy food, it will become less of a contentious relationship wrought with angst.
Mr. Pizza and I meal plan every week, so we know what we are having for dinner every single night. Considering how busy the work and school days can be, we can have a healthy homemade meal in under 15 minutes by meal planning. While it is an investment of time on a Sunday morning (about four hours), it makes the rest of the week less stressful and minimizes our desire to make reservations (or order) instead of making dinner.
NO HIDING. Part of the reason I’m dedicating my blog to this subject is to be accountable to myself and all of you. There is no doubt in my mind that someone out there suffers as I do, many people in fact.
I’m in this to win my life back.
To live much longer than I would have if I did NOT act. I’m thinking long-term, not for the short-term win on the scale. I’m going to be vulnerable to my pain, so it’s not a devil sitting on my shoulder encouraging me to indulge in things that only provide immediate gratification, followed by a pile of steaming hot guilt after the last bite.
NO INSULTS. I will not be cruel to myself anymore. I plan to nourish my soul and forgive my trespasses. I’m going to allow myself to accept the love and joy I’m fed daily by Mr. Pizza, MSP, my family, and my friends. I will look in the mirror every day and be thankful that I am healthy, whole, and able. Many are not as lucky as I am, and I refuse to decline or ignore this gift. The gift of a wholly enabled body that is limitless.
NO INFLAMMATORY FOODS: NO White carbs, gluten, added sugar, processed meat, dairy, processed or high-fat oils. Minimize red meat to once per week.
Contrary to popular belief, a healthy diet is simple. Load up on fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains, beans, seeds and healthy oils like olive and sesame.
I prep crudité in little baggies, plus a salad each week. I make Tzatziki and pesto sauce, and Mr. Pizza makes an amazing chipotle tahini sauce for a healthy dip when I’m craving a snack.
We get easy recipes off the Food Network app or just a simple Google search (all roads lead back to Google). We invested in an air fryer. It’s best to get the crunch you want without all the fat. Cuisinart makes an incredible version that also bakes, toasts, air fries, and broils all in ONE appliance. We also just got a killer Cuisinart food processor from Amazon, which cut our meal prep in half. Live and learn!
To stave my sugar craving, we buy Ghirardelli dark cacao chocolate (92%). Put a little almond butter on it, and you have yourself a new and improved version of a Reeses peanut butter cup! Almond butter is a bit healthier than peanut butter, but hell, if peanut butter is your jam, go for it; halve the portion and buy organic if that’s affordable.
For some simple replacements for the above list, below I share other great foods and products: Ezekiel bread, Tinkyada Brown rice pasta, Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (I put that shit on EVERYTHING), Dairy-free cheese (like Daiya Cheese or Violife Mozzarella Shreds are excellent replacements if you crave dairy), brown rice, couscous, sweet potatoes (ideally not white potatoes) are fantastic in the air fryer.
To create a new version of pasta we roast spaghetti squash in the oven and then sauté it in fresh tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil (buy San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, you will thank me!).
When we make turkey meatballs for Italian wedding soup, we make 2lbs of turkey chopped meat and then make mini meatballs for the soup and medium sized for a Sunday sauce. Essentially, we get two for one meal with the same ingredients. Again, great recipes on the Food Network app (can you tell I’m a fan?)
NO ORDERING OUT (ok, that is not realistic, we are limited it to one restaurant meal per week). Considering the toll the pandemic has on restaurants around the country, I still want to support my community. While that sounds like an excuse, I think one time per week is reasonable and gives us a break for a meal. Remember, this is not about deprivation but nourishment and moderation. Diets are ALL or nothing. We are attempting to strike a realistic balance.
Mr. Pizza and I decided that half of Sunday would be dedicated to cooking and prepping for every single meal during the week. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here’s a sample of what we cook and prep so that grabbing something quick doesn’t turn into a disaster.
Breakfast: Avocado toast (with everything but the bagel seasoning) and a “fried egg” (using organic olive oil spray) OR a Berry Smoothie: half banana, a handful of frozen berries (part of our food prep is washing and freezing berries in a freezer bag), almond milk, teaspoon of peanut or almond butter, a teaspoon of flaxseeds and frozen spinach.
Lunch: Air-fried homemade falafel (Ree Drummond has a great recipe on the Food Network app) with prepared salad and homemade tzatziki sauce with a little white balsamic vinegar to thin it out. OR Ezekiel toast with Tzatziki spread with salmon lox with sliced cucumber and radish on top with a side of berry salad.
Dinner: Italian Wedding soup (SOOO easy to make it’s a crime) with garlic bread made with Ezekiel bread OR pistachio-crusted chicken tenders (just get shelled low salt pistachios and grind it up in a food processor or mixer and combine with gluten-free bread crumbs, bread as usual) with sweet potato air fries and roasted broccoli and cauliflower (buy the pre-cut and bagged florets, mix with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic).
By cooking large portions of food (double every recipe), we can freeze and reheat throughout the week and use a lot of leftovers for lunch as well!
NO LARGE PORTIONS. I’ve curated some best practices from Noom and Weight Watchers over the years. These two companies position their plan as a lifestyle diet which is an oxymoron. However, they have given me some best practices I am using forever!
One of the best and easiest lessons for portion control is merely eating on a smaller plate (think appetizer plate) or measuring ounces of meat using the palm of your hand is helpful. Plus, eating slower allows your stomach to catch up to your brain. Eat high fiber and high protein foods to stay fuller longer. Really simple and smart ways to satiate your hunger while controlling calorie intake.
NO THIRST. Drink water and then drink more water; even when I think that’s enough, drink even MORE water. I’ve cut down on coffee to two-three cups a day (I was up to five or six throughout the quarantine). Also, by adding the green tea mocktail to our fridge, I get a break from the water. If you add a wedge of lemon or orange to your water, you are getting added vitamins and better flavor with all the citrus benefits.
NO OVER-WORKING. I’m not a morning person. I start my day on camera at 9:30 AM; I check email first when I get up to quell the stress from work. After making breakfast for my family, I work out for at least 30 minutes. Working out in the morning is the best because it stokes my engine and gives me energy all day long! I’ve found myself more peaceful and relaxed because of it. Who knew?! Yeah, you probably did know and so did I, but I’ve finally accepted this as a fact and pushed myself to become more active in the mornings.
I’ve committed to taking at least one or two breaks a day to get away from the computer and find myself assessing which meetings are most critical. My goal is to give back time to rest and reset to be a better creator, leader, and partner to my colleagues and clients. Additionally, I will end my day at 6 PM (barring anything critical), so I can make dinner and enjoy it with my family. While the pandemic has been brutal on many levels, having dinner together every night has been one of the bright spots.
Time management and time-shifting are more achievable than balance. I forgive myself if I need to log back on after dinner to finish up a project, especially if it makes the next day run smoother.
However, I limit nighttime work to once per week if possible. Finally, I take my vacation and plan it well in advance to ensure I take time off. My goal is to take at least a few days per quarter but the full weeks during our slower time in the summer.
NO EXCUSES NOT TO EXERCISE. It must be a daily activity. Not a three times per week scheduled event. Yes, every single day minimum of 30 minutes with at least 5,000 additional steps (if I can’t get the 30-minute workout in, I have to supplement with 10,000 steps). My Apple Watch has been an fantastic partner in accountability to help me stay on track.
This level of activity is achievable and manageable. Body Groove (you can find free videos on YouTube), Mr. Rudolf water rower (I follow along with Dark Horse Rowing on YouTube), walking (anywhere and everywhere), and after the first month, I plan to add weight training. I’ve also started dancing with my ballroom instructor again; if you are interested in joining, he is a ray of sunshine and does virtual private lessons or group lessons. Sign up at Add A Dash of Dance www.addadashofdance.com and just mention that Cherry Maggiore sent you!
NO TV AFTER 11 PM. Yes, I’m one of those. I used to fall asleep to the TV or be on my phone till all hours of the night and then couldn’t sleep. The horrible cycle was causing me to be cranky, and half- baked all day (which led to extreme coffee drinking to keep me up, followed by wine to calm me down at the end of the day).
It was a vicious cycle that I needed to break. Mr. Pizza and I are now in bed by 10 PM and watch a little TV and then shut it down at 11 PM. My sleep cycle is more regular, and between this routine and no drinking, I’m sleeping straight seven hours without disruption or waking up with heart palpitations. Plus I’m waking up naturally as my inner clock is synced.
NO INNER SABOUTER. I’ve murdered that mother fucker, and he went straight to hell.
There it is, my Nourishment Plan. Truth be told, I’m super excited and after following this plan for two weeks so far, I’m energized. This will take a lot of work, so I’m simply taking this process day-by-day, week-by-week.
The big fuck you to all the antagonists in my past (including me), is that I plan to win this 47-year battle. A lifelong war that was delivered to me by both genes and environment, nature, and nurture.
But the most brilliant thing we have as humans is free will. And therein lies my responsibility; it is my freedom to choose the life I want to lead and the body I exist within.
2021 holds a lot of promises and resolutions, but those are usually empty.
Instead, as the song says, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” I choose to leave behind and never bring to mind that devil on my shoulder, that inner saboteur who is a compilation of all those voices of the past. With Mr. Pizza and MSP in my corner, there is no goal too big, no challenge too mountainous to climb.
The scale is my tormentor; it will always be until I am in charge of it. Today is the day I stop holding myself back from being wholly and beautifully, perfectly imperfect. To have the courage to show my daughter and me that no one has the right to hold our bodies to a standard that is not of our making.
Instead, I toast all the sizes I’ve been because in each one, despite the odds, I’ve succeeded. I toast my size 12’s and my size 6’s. I toast my thick thighs and belly rolls. I cheer for an ass that’s like a shelf and Italian girl arms that jiggle. I applaud my back fat and cellulite. I’m going to love every inch of me for the sake of my sanity; ultimately, to accept myself at every size and weight because, as my wise daughter once said, “I’m me, and that’s ok.”
Cherry Maggiore is the proud mom of her 11-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka MSP – Miss Sassy Pants), two-year old furry daughter, Bella and soon-to-be betrothed to Mr. Pizza. She’s spent the past 25 years as an award-winning senior marketing executive at a major media company.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company, Cherry Home Designs LLC, after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.