I was a skinny kid, but put on weight as a teenager. In my last years of high school I would come home from school and sleep, then get up when the family had gone to bed. I also spent many school days sleeping at sick bay. I guess I was depressed. When I started work, I spent money on food and alcohol. My first job was with the Public Service and the office lift went straight down to a bar. Very handy.
When I hit ten and a half stone, and my ex-boyfriend had set his date to return from overseas, I joined a gym near work. I worked out a few times a week. I would get myself weighed on the way to work at Woolworths every Monday morning. There was a weighing machine with a man attending who would write down your weight on a slip of paper. I still have that record of my weight slowly dropping from ten and a half stone to eight and a half. I’m only five foot two, so that was significant. We have a family portrait hanging up at my parents’ house taken when I was fat. My sister, on showing a friend around the house, said, ‘And here is a photo taken when Catherine was a blob.’ Nice.
I think I only had that gym membership for a year (because then I moved into a share house with musicians at Darlinghurst, and I guess going to the gym was not cool), but I learned that going to the gym can work for me, even though I do think it is a bit strange to pay to exercise in a specific place when people have always just exercised as part of everyday life. When I was at acting school a few years later and working shift work in various jobs I had a gym memberships again. I remember feeling miffed that they were closed on Christmas Day. I was in catsuit-on-stage condition. Then again when I was at uni in a country town I had a gym membership. I remember walking through the snow to go to the gym, and going even when I had stitches after getting a mole removed. I was keen.
I’m thinking that being overweight didn’t suit me. Here is my mother’s farewell advice when I left for uni.
Mum: Bye. Don’t get fat.
Me: What about ‘don’t sleep with your lecturers?’
Mum: You can handle that. But if you get fat you’ll be unhappy.
By the time I had kids my metabolism had changed. Then, for many years, I was sleep deprived and hardly sat down. I think I started putting on weight when the youngest was a preschooler and more sure of walking around in the world. And I didn’t eat sweets or drink alcohol. I went through at least ten Easters without eating chocolate. I gave up drinking during my first pregnancy and just never got back into it. And I never weighed myself.
I remember a long time ago Kathleen Turner talking about her weight. She said that at a certain age you had to choose between your butt and your face. If your butt was trim, your face was gaunt. If you want a fuller face you need a bigger butt. That was in the days when no-one but Cher used Botox. (I remember seeing an interview with Cher, thinking, she’s so regal - she barely moves the muscles in her face. Little did we know...) Anyway. I’m up to that age.
I’m getting bigger around the middle for no good reason, except age. I’ve had a gym membership for the last year, and even though I’ve not been doing the sweatier classes that I did when I was younger (80s Step took a toll on my knees, childbirth on my bladder) my weight and measurements are the same as when I started. I don’t eat much sugar now, but I do pop a square of fair trade organic chocolate into my mouth occasionally. I’ve been going to the gym mostly to feel good and stretch out my back (I fractured my tailbone birthing my middle child). I’m letting my membership expire because I can’t justify the expense when we don’t know what’s happening financially for us this year. So, I’ll be moving on to swimming, yoga at home, walking, maybe some dance classes, and exercise videos. I’ve been reading David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison, so maybe I’ll cut out sugar and see what happens. I don’t like the idea of being addicted to anything except tea, so, maybe I’ll try giving up the little bit of sugar I now consume and see what happens. My friend has lost a few kilos by following his advice.
Or maybe I’ll happily keep eating sugar for the sake of my face.