The honesty pants started out as an impulse purchase from Macy’s on lower State Street. I had originally thought they were black but when I attempted to squeeze into them at home the next day I realized they were sort of an olive green. My first thought was that I had the perfect blouse to go with that color, but as I pulled them up over my knees I knew that I might never fit into these pants. The honest truth was that I knew they were too small when I took them off the rack and held them up so the light coming through the skylight above would help me decide if I wanted them or not. I wanted them. They were on the second markdown, making them even more appealing. Now I just wanted them to fit me, and once they did to never grow too large for them again.
Finding clothes to fit me had been the issue since I started Kindergarten. I wanted a plaid jumper but the saleslady told my mother that line stopped at 6X. That’s when you have to go to regular girl’s sizes and the choices aren’t nearly as cute. So we brought it home anyway and if memory serves my mother stopped making mashed potatoes filled with more margarine than potato and macaroni and cheese that was more cheese than macaroni. On the first day of school the jumper fit like a glove. That made me happy, which in turn made my mother smile.
At recess I climbed to the top of the jungle gym and proclaimed myself to be “Queen of the Whole School.” When my subjects failed to stop in their tracks and give me the respect I was commanding I quickly jumped down, splitting the jumper right down the seam in the process. Before I could react one of the teachers took my hand and brought me into the classroom where she used the largest safety pins I had ever seen to put me back together so well no one else even noticed.
That marked the end of my innocence and after that day we shopped in the girl’s section of the store for my clothes.
As a child I was impatient and lacked focus. If you are familiar with the “Marshmallow Test” where young children are given the option of eating one marshmallow now or waiting for five minutes to have two marshmallows, I would have definitely been in the group that wanted mine immediately. I did not understand the concept of delayed gratification until much later in life.
I was pretty much unaware of my body until the sixth grade. That was when Michael Shiffren came into my life and I fell in love in the cafeteria. His wavy brown hair and deep like the ocean green eyes mesmerized me from the moment we met. Michael only had eyes for Debbie Howard, a popular blond who was always very nice to me. One day I raised my hand to ask Mrs. Nairn if I could use the restroom and on my way down the open hallway I saw Michael and Debbie talking by the drinking fountain. Debbie smiled and I walked closer to them but Michael ignored me. He even kept his hand on the faucet so I couldn’t get a drink. As I was walking away I turned slightly to see him with his cheeks puffed out. Debbie was not smiling.
Darting into the girl’s bathroom I felt my face, hot and red. Michael had been making fun of me. By filling his cheeks with air he was insinuating that I was fat. I looked in the bathroom mirror and did a quick appraisal of my appearance. I was fat. In that moment Michael did not seem so dreamy and I lost confidence in my worth as a human being.
Two years later I was sitting next to Patrick Tanasi in Mrs. Cline’s homeroom. Pat was handsome and funny and charming and I liked him so much. One day we walked together to our respective first period classes and he stopped at his locker while I kept going. My friend Gigi came up behind me, winded and smiling from ear to ear.
“Patrick just asked me to the dance. I’m so excited!” she announced.
I don’t remember if I answered her but the message came through loud and clear; I was Patrick’s friend but would never be his girlfriend. I vowed to go on a diet and to never go steady with him, even if he begged me. I was now equating popularity with looks, a pattern that would last for decades.
My time as a yo-yo dieter took its toll on my health, both mental and physical. It was my belief that when I could manage to keep my weight down that more people, guys and girls alike, wanted to be my friend. This was proven to be true when Stephen asked me out and soon after asked me to be his girlfriend. Now I was one of the popular girls and my life would be filled with fun and excitement and love.
The longer Stephen and I dated the more confident I became. We had many friends, including couples we could double date with on the weekends. I was on top of the world or so I thought. He said he loved me and I believed it was unconditional. That summer we both took part-time jobs. He was a lifeguard at our local pool; I was a waitress at the IHOP. He grew taller and stronger and more fit while I ate too much and was too tired to ride my bicycle with him after work each evening.
When he broke up with me he said things that hurt me very deeply. He wanted to be with someone who liked more of the things he liked, who would understand when he wanted to be with the guys, who was… someone else. He wanted someone thinner and prettier and that was someone else than me.
I was crushed at this loss and began a period of grieving that lasted into the fall and winter that year and into the next. I had never experienced a loss of this magnitude and didn’t want to share my feelings with anyone. I was in shock and unable to snap myself out of it. It was as if someone had died and deep inside I knew that might be me and I would never recover.
Said author Joan Didion, after experiencing the death of her husband, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.”
As an adult I learned how to diet effectively. This meant starving myself until I could once again fit into the clothes I wanted to wear. Fad diets were predominant, including the “apple” diet where you only ate apples, but you could eat as many as you wanted to and any type of apple was acceptable. The easiest one for me was to count calories and only allow myself five hundred a day. I would lose a pound a day by sticking to this and I can remember one time after doing it for a month gorging myself on buttermilk pancakes at the local restaurant that had an “all you can eat” breakfast deal one Sunday a month.
I had a clothing size – size 12 – that I would not go beyond, yet I dreamed of being a size 8. During the times when my weight wasn’t an issue all was right in the world. I based everything I did on how I looked and forgot about how I felt. Stuffing my feelings replaced stuffing my face and the only thing that mattered was how I looked on the outside. My jobs and relationships and life achievements were measured in pounds and inches and clothing sizes, instead of on deeper ideas and loftier aspirations. Younger bodies respond more easily to fad diets and neglect and excesses but I believed that someday it would all be different. Someday I would be able to maintain my goal weight without having to think about it. Someday I would marry a man who would love me no matter what I looked like or how much I weighed. And someday my life would be exactly how I had dreamed it should be. Someday…
There was always next month, next summer, next year to get to my goal weight and clothing size. When you’re young you are convinced you have all the time in the world to do those things you keep saying you truly want to do. Then the time passes and life happens and one day you’re three bills and change and the doctor prescribes four different drugs to bring down the blood pressure and to stave off diabetes. He skips the lecture because he has given up and when you ask if losing weight could take it all back and make it go away he nods and looks past me, not uttering a word as he backs out of the exam room.
And then you sit in the car outside of the pharmacy and cry until you can taste the salt from your tears and you ask yourself where the time went and why you didn’t get it together sooner. But no answers come and you resign yourself to the fact that everyone else will have the life they want and the relationships, and the clothes, and the vacations and the fun and the…
The text message is from the pharmacy and my prescriptions are ready. There’s a glucose monitor and lancets and more pills than I have ever seen with my name on them. They ask if I have questions but I can’t think of any and I drive home the long way. I go past the lake where I have dreamed of walking with friends but didn’t have the energy to do more than sit on the bench and take pictures of the ducks and geese and turtles. I drive by the elementary school and think back to my twenty years of teaching, measured by how much I weighed and how I would be accepted by others. There were a few “fat years” that were okay. The children accepted me for who I was on the outside but I didn’t trust that this was what I should have expected from everyone in my life. I can only think of two years when I was at a healthy weight and now I can’t think of how they were better than the others. Perhaps they were all the same.
My life has been a series of ups and downs and numbers that get larger and smaller and disappointments, in myself mostly and now it might be too late, no, it’s never too late and when I return home I take a long nap to dream of a way to solve my dilemma. Instead, I toss and turn going over the questions I can’t answer. I need to do something, but what? I need help, but what would that look like? I need a plan, but my experience with plans related to dieting have not been successful. I need something else.
When I get out of bed because sleep did not come on that day I go through my photos on iCloud. I go back to 2017 when my extended family visited me in California from their native Finland for a month. We all look so happy, excited to be together in so many wonderful places. Then I fixate on a series of photos taken at Disneyland during our three days in the happiest place on Earth. The emotions come as I recall the day in California Adventure where we waited in line for the Radiator Springs ride. It had been one of the highlights of their previous trip two years earlier and something we had talked about for months.
As we got closer to the front of the line my stepdaughter and I looked at each other while thinking the same thing. Would we be able to fit in the seats this time? After several attempts we excused ourselves and the two cars holding our family left the station. We consoled ourselves with ice cream and talked about how next time it would be different for us. But would we really lose the weight and keep it off the next time? The tears flow and I think about the example I am not setting for the rest of the family, the children I did not influence to eat better and exercise during my twenty years of classroom teaching, and the damage I am doing to my body, not to mention the psychological implications of feeling the way I do each day because of something I could take control of and change.
Now I’m standing in my closet, a room larger than any I ever had as a bedroom while growing up. Today I must try on the honesty pants to see if I will be able to wear them in just less than three weeks to my in person event I am hosting in Los Angeles. It’s the third week of February, 2020 and I want this event to be a special one. Even if the pants are too tight I will have enough time to lose a few pounds to squeeze into them, at least for a few hours during the first day. The honesty on this day will be one more painful reminder of who I am and what I intend to do, someday.
I take the pants carefully off the hanger and hold them up to the light, much as I did when I bought them just before last Christmas. I hold my breath and cross my fingers and slowly step into them. I know by the time I have both feet and lower legs in they are not even close to fitting me right now. The honesty is almost too much for me and I yank them off and leave them on the closet floor. Now I am calculating how many days and how many pounds and how many calories I can eat between today, February 14th – my God, is it really Valentine’s Day today? – and the day I will drive into Los Angeles to the hotel. Yes, it’s possible.
Possible, but not probable. My behavior has become predictable and as each day begins and I promise I will start my diet that day I know down deep that by noon I will have an excuse for not getting started. Then I begin to beat myself up. My argument since I started my business in 2006 has been that if I am capable of succeeding as an author and entrepreneur and public speaker I most certainly should be able to successfully lose weight and keep it off. I have what I refer to as “crossover skills” that should transfer over from one part of my life to another. This just hasn’t been the case so far, but it’s coming someday soon.
I check my email and see the message from Denise Wakeman about the intermittent fasting challenge she is hosting with her business partner, Dr. Ellen Britt. I’ve known both of them for more than a decade yet I know little about this part of their lives. Denise will be speaking at my event again this year and the challenge begins the day after we finish. Yes, I will sign up and be able to talk to her about it while we are together in Los Angeles.
The world begins to unravel during the following week and I am about to come apart at the seams wondering what this will look like in the coming weeks. The virus we first heard about in January has now reached the United States. I call the hotel almost every day and hold my breath as they give me the latest update. No one has cancelled and they will be full while I am there. They aren’t sure what would happen if I wanted to cancel. Do I want to cancel? No, if even one person from my group shows up I will be there for all five days, I reassure the event coordinator. I give only a passing thought to Denise and Dr. Ellen and the intermittent fasting challenge, except to note that I can eat what I want right now because it won’t begin until Monday, March 9th, the day after my event ends. I hang up the honesty pants on a velvet lined hangar, draping the blouse that will match them over the top to keep the outfit together.
By divine intervention we are able to have the event during the very last weekend it would have been possible. A two hundred person wedding party cancels for Saturday. The flight crews that regularly stay at this hotel because of its close proximity to LAX begin checking out in mass as flights are cancelled and they are sent home. By the end of the weekend my group is the only one still at the hotel and we are beginning to realize that things are changing at a faster pace now. As I drive home on the eerily quiet freeway I think about the challenge and I am excited to begin the next morning.
Intermittent fasting has not only changed, but is saving my life. My doctor is over the moon with my ongoing, steady progress and believes me when I say this way of eating will serve me forever. And the olive green honesty pants with the matching floral print blouse? The outfit fits me, not like a glove but comfortably and I only feel bad knowing that someday soon they will be too large for me to wear. Then I will preserve them for eternity and tell my grandchildren the story when they are old enough to understand the meaning. Someday is coming soon and I am ready to embrace all that will mean in my life.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, living each day for today, not someday and knowing that my life can be whatever I choose it to be, with every thought, belief, action, and result I allow to be possible. Won’t you travel this journey alongside me so that we may both experience all that life has to offer? And please let me know if intermittent fasting is something you’d like to know more about from someone who has been doing it with great success. Connect with me on Twitter.