Why I will always eat the cupcake.

Miserable, drunk, size 10 me Vs. sober (more or less!), happy, size 18 me.

Like everyone else on the entire planet, I struggle with my weight. 

I was a pretty lean kid, due in part I’m sure to how much time I spent outside playing, and managed to balance my insane teenage “eating an entire Totino’s pizza followed up by a carton of Ben & Jerry’s” calorie overload with 4-mile walks and bike rides and trail adventures (the only good thing about living in the suburbs – you had to walk EVERYWHERE, and everything was super far away).

But that all changed when I hit 16 and got a job at McDonald’s (woot! free chicken mcnuggets and quarter pounders!), and simultaneously discovered alcohol. If there were ever two things that can mess up an awesome metabolism, it’s fast food and booze. It’s no surprise then that I gained 40 pounds in less than a year, and became more interested in getting drunk and watching TV than heading outside.

Still, the weight gain didn’t bother me that much until I dated an absolute asshole (more on that at a later date) who mentioned it. All the time. Every single day. Which resulted in my barely eating anything – I would basically have a can of coke for breakfast, snag a Hostess product for lunch, and drink my way through the rest of the hours at school. But (also no surprise), this method failed to help me magically drop pounds (turns out a fifth of Bacardi is not exactly health food), with the added benefit of frequent fainting spells, low energy, and being sick for days on end. Who knew? (Adults, probably.)

Luckily I finally wised up enough to dump said asshole, took a good, hard look at myself in the mirror, and clean up my act – ditching the booze for actual nourishment, and spending my now-relatively free and very lonely time in the indoor pool at our apartment complex. I was slim for about 4 years, and then I fell back into unhealthy eating patterns (read: when you’re young and broke, you exist on top ramen, easy mac, and the 99 cent menu at Wendy’s) and plenty of drink once I was settled down and engaged.

Which led to me being a classic yo-yo dieter for almost all of my 20s and some of my 30s. Fat, thin, fat, thin, fat, thin, fat. In desperation, I tried everything: Atkins, South Beach, eating only granola, drinking measured protein drinks for 2 meals a day, green tea cleanses, etc. And then, hilariously, the last time I lost a whole bunch of weight was completely unintentional — I have dubbed it “the heartbreak happy hour diet” — I was drinking more vodka/tonics than I was eating food by sharing 3 appetizers amongst 6+ people, and was passing out by 8pm, so my caloric intake was drastically reduced. One of my friends actually called me “the incredible shrinking woman” because it dropped off so fast. I was the thinnest I’d been in years, but I was MISERABLE about everything – except having a closet full of size 8-10 clothes.

What’s my point? Even I forgot. OH, RIGHT. All this up and down and second-guessing what I’m eating and what I’m not eating and how many steps I’ve taken or how far I’ve walked was gut-wrenchingly hard and I eventually just got totally SICK of it. Dieting MAKES ME CRAZY, and I never learn anything good from it. I only learn shame and remorse and how to feel like crap when I eventually cave and sneak in that sugary-carby thing I’m not supposed to have. Now that I no longer diet or drown my sorrows in alcohol every weekday from 5-7, my weight stays pretty much the same — unfortunately the number on the scale translates, according to the medical charts, to “obese”. (Related: You do not know pure rage until you step on a Wii balance board and have a cute, cartoony voice say, “You’re obese!” like some kind of demented Disney character.)

Look, I can’t really say it any better than Lindy West and Lesley Kinzel and hundreds of other writers I admire already have: weight is a super-personal thing, so stop judging people based on your expectations of what “too fat” or “too thin” is. There are absolutely times when I go out in public and worry about what people think of me when I order a fattening dish, or am conscious of people staring and imagining they are judging me because of my size. (Even though I know this isn’t true…most of the time.) And I’m sure there are people who are super-skinny who feel the same way — judged when they only order a salad or when they’re not hungry, being branded as anorexic, or bulimic, or worse – a top model contestant! When they might just be naturally thin.

There are also days when I feel beautiful and confident, and I don’t fucking care who thinks what about me, because all that matters is how *I* feel about me. This is when I suffer from what I like to call “reverse body dysmorphia”: whilst shopping I pick up a million pieces of clothing that I swear will fit me, only to find out that there is no way in hell that shit is going to stretch over my body once I get in the dressing room. Sometimes I shrug and say “Whatever” and grab a bigger size, and sometimes I leave that dressing room in tears, vowing to eat only salads and yogurt cups for the rest of the week….but then I come to my senses, and realize it’s not about that. It’s about being happy and accepting of me, the way that I am, and not stressing so much about what other people are thinking about me and my dress size. 

Man. What is that such a hard thing to learn? Even when you’re 40?

Basically it boils down to this: I will never deny myself that frosty cupcake-y treat, or a donut for breakfast, or a bag of potato chips when I’m craving a salty snack. This is where some people would say, “Yeah, that’s why you’re fat.” – but obviously that doesn’t mean I just eat sugar and salt every single day, of course I recognize the importance of things like vegetables and fruits, otherwise, I wouldn’t ever have any energy to do anything and I would feel terrible all the time. It also doesn’t mean that all I do is lie around on the couch and watch movies while eating tubs of butter-drowned popcorn (man, I WISH), either. But I would rather have the thing I want to eat, when I want to eat it, instead of not. Does that make sense?

And really the whole point is: no one else is in charge of what I eat and how much exercise I get and how I look and I feel — I am in charge of those things. And no one else knows how many walks I take a week, or how many yoga classes I sign up for, and how much organic produce I cook with. People make assumptions based on someone’s weight, and that is the thing that hurts the most, doesn’t it? The thing that makes you feel the crappiest, like you aren’t doing enough, like you need to work harder — because obviously if you’re fat, you’re just being lazy. That is the thing that makes every person ever talk constantly about the gym and how many hours they spend there and exactly what elliptical machine they were on and for how long.

That does not mean I’ve found some magical way of accepting my body the way it is and feel amazing about it every day (who does that? anyone?); I’d just rather be happy than sad, and not beat myself up for making a choice to eat what I want, when I want it. Having one cupcake isn’t going to magically expand my waistline — while we’re at it, can the phrase “straight to my hips” die now, please? — and I also don’t want to eat it, then freak out and do aerobics for 3 hours straight to make up for having it. I don’t want to purge it because I feel guilty. I don’t want to never have a cupcake again because I’m only allowed one, ever. I don’t want to count the calories in the cupcake and estimate how much exercise I will have to do to burn those calories. I don’t want to order the sugar-free cupcake because it’s “light”, and I don’t want to cut it into fourths and eat a tiny sliver of it.

I just want to have it — the whole thing — and be happy about it, you know? I want to enjoy the sugar-sweet fluffiness of it, and move the sprinkles against my tongue and ENJOY that damn cupcake.

Life is just too short to deny yourself the little things that make you happy, especially if those things are frosted gourmet cupcakes. It won’t solve all my body issues in one fell swoop, but it will make me happy enough that I’ll forget for a little while.

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13 responses to “Why I will always eat the cupcake.

  • abbytron

    I can never make up my mind how I feel about my body. One day, I’ll feel totally committed to eating healthy and exercising, but then the next day I’ll buy a whole pie at Fred Meyer because I have a craving, and besides, if I lose weight my boobs will get smaller and I like my boobs so why should I worry about it so much? And because of that, those days where I’m really committed to becoming thinner are meaningless. One day on an elliptical and eating fresh raw veggies and whole grains means nothing if I’m spending a whole other day eating a big bowl of macaroni and cheese and not leaving the house. So I too will always eat a cupcake, because I’m gonna look the way I look regardless and it won’t be making a difference to my arteries at this point. In fact, I’ll eat two or three cupcakes because cupcakes are way too small.

    • Amie

      Yay! Viva la cupcakes! 🙂

      But also, I mean – I don’t honestly know ANY women who are completely happy with their body, even if they work out all the time and only eat brown rice and vegetables. I think the trick is remembering not to judge yourself as harshly as you believe other people are judging you. But if it helps, I think you look fabulous, Abby. You’re purrrty.

    • shriespangler

      OMG Abby, the boobs thing – I HEAR YA!

      And Amie, Yes, yes and a resounding yes! I think perhaps we are more alike than I originally thought. I feel this way through and through, and believe you are utterly beautiful (and beyond that a rad person) just the way you fucking are.

      Life is too short. This is something I’ve come to realize recently (while watching Doomsday Preppers of all things) and fully believe in. I want to live, love and experience. I don’t want to spend my life trying NOT to do things. Because in the end, when it comes down to my last moments on earth, I want to feel satisfied and think fondly of my time.

      Brett and I often say we’re the worst fat people we know! He cooks 5 nights a week out of our weekly CSA bounty, we walk the dogs EVERY single morning almost two miles, I go to yoga, we work in the yard, we are active.

      Much love to you, for making me feel more comfortable in MY skin, if only for a moment.

      • Amie

        Thanks so much for the awesome compliments, Shrie! Living, loving, and experiencing is definitely wayyyy more awesome than worrying about every single calorie ever ingested. 🙂

        SO much love to you too, beautiful.

  • dahliacactus

    Yes, just eat the goddamn cupcake. Try and remember how good you look naked when those clothes don’t fit, or at least until I learn to sew better.

    For me it’s pie. At least once a week, right by my house… because I like it.

  • Wendi Dunlap

    I am eating a cupcake right now. (Salted caramel, Trophy Cupcakes.) Though, honestly, I prefer pie anytime. And when I do have a cupcake I often don’t eat much of the frosting! I am a weirdo.

    You got it: “It’s about being happy and accepting of me, the way that I am.” Yup. I am working on it for myself.

  • Will Von Wizzlepig

    Conformity is a moronic and hurtful concept to apply to people’s shapes.

    Loving yourself no matter what shape you are is one of the hottest attributes a woman can have- and it is so rare. Congratulations, Amie, on coming out ahead in that game.

    Liking people for who they are is completely different from liking people for what they look like, and I think a lot of the world never figures that out. Took *me* long enough, but then I am a boy, and we can be pretty thick in the head.

    If you can, at least on the inside, forgive the morons who obsess over people’s shapes and who choose to run their mouths rudely, and let them go, they’re not worth your worry or lost sleep- and they’re certainly not going away anytime soon. As soon as you hit one over the head with a folding metal chair, there will be another right behind them. You are ahead of the game, a place a lot of people never get, even with explicit instructions…

    • Amie

      Well said, Will! I appreciate the support – and the gist of your comment. Although don’t give *me* too much credit; it’s a daily battle, and even though I think I do alright with it, I would love to feel awesome and beautiful every single day.

      • Will Von Wizzlepig

        Thank you, and you are welcome!

        I was thinking about what you wrote a little more…

        We all want people to be attracted to us, and society piles on the pressure for women to be attractive. You know there are people who love you for who you are, you know there are people who are attracted to you just the way you are now- it seems to me it is the caring about people who don’t know you yet, and the idea that you can somehow be someone else if you try that is bothering you. Am I right?

        I hope I am not getting annoying going on like this, but I realized something when I was doing online dating a while back, and I realized it by thinking about my favorite video games. (Wow, that sounds dumb.) Anyway, many of my favorite games have been accepted as successes but never been immensely popular- Thief, Stalker, Messiah, etc. When I realized I was excitedly waiting around for the gaming industry to magically produce things I would like, and perhaps more frequently than every other year. *Epiphany* : They are not going to, because I am not the average gamer. And at some point I realized when I was dating that the same thing applied not just to who I was looking for, but for who would be looking for me. And now I own that MOFO. I am different, and not for everyone, and that’s just how I expect it to be. It’s a little annoying when people don’t like you, but you know, now that I know myself, I know I am not for general consumption, and I expect a lot less out of most people I meet. I am finding more opportunities to be surprised at people I meet.

        So, that is: you are pretty, and tall, and curvy, and smart, and sassy, and a sharp dresser, and mister it’s too damn bad if you don’t like that, you can take a number and get in line to kiss my ass. There are plenty of people who do like what I am, and I’m already done worrying about what you think.

        (Come to Portland some time, you can crash at our place and I think we gots cupcakes here somewhere.)

  • Wendi Dunlap

    “And at some point I realized when I was dating that the same thing applied not just to who I was looking for, but for who would be looking for me. And now I own that MOFO. I am different, and not for everyone, and that’s just how I expect it to be. It’s a little annoying when people don’t like you, but you know, now that I know myself, I know I am not for general consumption, and I expect a lot less out of most people I meet. I am finding more opportunities to be surprised at people I meet.”

    Quoted for truth.

    I am going through some tough stuff this week but this resonates pretty strongly with me because of what’s going on. Thanks, Will!

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