I remember growing up and being told the story about the first female grandchild born to the Amato clan. My grandparents telling my father not to call if it was another boy. They were speaking in jest of course, but it proved the point that after two boys – the family really wanted a girl around. My mother would interject at this point and remind my father that during labor with her first child, a former student was in the delivery room and said some random jokes to her. Any woman in labor will tell you, this is not the time to meet a business contact or former student. You’re certainly not in any mood to deal with it and in my family’s case – my father has an attention span of a gnat – so this was a bad combination. My parents would go back and forth about the details of my birth, but the end of the story was always the same. My father thought I was a boy, afraid to call anyone because the umbilical cord was between my legs. The doctors and my mother had to correct him. The Amato clan had their first female grandaughter at 8lbs 9ozs, 21″ long and a full head of dark brown unkempt hair.
Being the first girl, everyone sort of pampered me (at least I was told this happened) and everything was PINK. I love red, but this adherence to gender roles and stereotypes has permanently banned any and all pink from as many aspects of my life as possible. I hated it, but it was on my walls, the furniture, and my clothing. When I was slightly older, I wanted jeans, t-shirts, flannels and I got them. We weren’t a well off family. Hand me downs were normal and perfectly okay. That was until I couldn’t fit into them anymore.
I was affectionately called a butterball at a young age. I know they meant no ill will – but to this day it sticks in my mind. The names continued throughout my young life as I would gain a lot of weight before growing a few inches. Each time, I was told I was getting “chunky” before I’d grow. Truthfully, this was the beginning of the hatred for my body.
“Thunder Thighs” and “Lardass” were a common refrain when referring to me from around 6th grade until I graduated grammar school in 8th. I was a catcher and a basketball center/forward, so my size was considered a plus on the playing surface. I would go from one extreme to another every day, never fully understanding that this yo-yo was unhealthy for my mind and my future. It was during 8th grade that I started skipping breakfasts and downing soda or some other sugary beverage to help me wake up and face the day. It was also how I would take my mother’s diet pills she hid in the cabinet. Dexatrim was not meant for a child not yet into her teenage years – but it promised I would lose weight and I needed to do that. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I now know I was taking a cocktail of ephedra/other chemicals that could have had severe consequences. Maybe they did, I’ll never know.
I continued skipping breakfasts and sometimes lunch in an effort to lose weight. At this point in my life, both my parents were obese. I was still playing sports and working out, but my eating habits were horrid. During my junior year, I lost my grandfather, aunt, and a friend – I had no control over emotions or my life. I wanted out in so many ways, but I needed control over something. So, I controlled food. This was around the time I started micromanaging what I ate. If I knew we were going out for breakfast with family on Sunday for example, I would schedule being out with friends or working on homework so I could skip all the other meals. Sometimes it worked, but not enough to change my weight at all. I was my full height of 5’9″ by the time I was sixteen. Growth wouldn’t help me lose anymore, and that made me hate food more. Seeing all the people around me doing the same things I did and being a size 0 or 2, it really bothered me. After everything I had tried, WHY wasn’t I losing anything?
When I was 21, I tried a new tactic. I had graduated from college and was running from audition to audition. I was always in Manhattan or at work trying to pay my bills. Either way, it was the first time I was away from prying eyes. It was also the first time I heard the phrase “too overweight” from a casting director as I was leaving. That one line was reinforced by my girlfriend at the time. She told me I had to lose weight to be sexier to get more rolls. That lead to eating one meal a day consistently for three years. I went from 155lbs to approx 120lbs in that time. I had finally managed to lose weight. I remember being so proud that my ribs stuck out. Hell, when I laid down, my hips would hold my pajama bottoms up away from my skin. In my mind I was perfect…
… but apparently not perfect enough.
My wife met me around this time. Her first thought, “someone please give her a burger”. It was the first time I felt horrible for being thin. After a year with her, trying new foods, etc, I realized being that skinny was dangerous for my height and bone structure. So, I ate better and worked out all while getting my master’s degree. It worked. I was healthy for a while until I turned 30 and went into anaphylaxis with a previously unknown allergy. Steroids are evil. They can save your life, but they put you right back into the bad mental place you fight to flee consistently. I have had three or four trips to the ER for anaphylaxis (thankfully I know my trigger and pop Benedryl before it gets life-threatening) and ended up with steroid prescriptions all the time. Not only was I gaining weight, but once again food hated me as much as I hated it. In 2015, I went into anaphylaxis the last weekend in September. Got a steroids script. Grandmother passed away the following week and I couldn’t sleep. Got a severe case of bronchitis that refused to leave my lungs – two more rounds of heavy steroids. Ballooned to 199 lbs. I hid it very well due to my height, but to say this was my breaking point… is an understatement.
With help from a trainer, I got down to 158 healthily. Then I had two shoulder surgeries and most recently another steroid script… needless to say I am back up to 176lbs. I’m a writer and work my ass off daily to get my books out to my audience. I have a standing desk, that I truthfully rarely use standing… I have a wife who portions meals and only cooks with non-GMO Organic Foods. I have been fighting myself and my view for so long, that I’m exhausted. I am so fraking over it. I hate food. I hate medicine. I will forever dislike how I look… but that’s okay. All of it will be a means to get healthy so I can do the things I love. I can travel. I can write. I can live longer to lay on the couch and snuggle with my wife. I’ve tried to divert the negative into the positive with specific goals in mind.
After seeing Brie Larson in the movie Captain Marvel, I wanted to know how she got in shape. She wasn’t overly muscular, but she looked good and from interviews – felt good. I wanted that. Enter Jason Walsh and his Captain Marvel workout on the Playbook App. My wife and I are going to be doing this in conjunction with our evening walks, eating right, biking, hiking and whatever else we want to do in the summer. It’s a hard, but not impossible, workout – I won’t lie about that. I have had to modify a few things due to injuries/surgeries and low ceilings in my basement. I’m hoping to build up the surgically repaired areas so I can do the regular moves. Until then, I have to be patient, something I suck at.
If I can do this, so can you. We can fight together against the perfect ideal of what we’re supposed to be. We can fight and get healthy for the most important person – ourselves. I’ll be updating every week on my Instagram page and here with my progress. I can’t promise it will be easy going. I know I am going to fall off the wagon and binge on chocolate. It’s the nature of the beast. BUT I will get back on it and that is truly what matters. Quit isn’t a word in the vocabulary anymore. So let’s fight together, shall we?