Have you ever thought to yourself, “Tomorrow, when I wake up, everything will be different. It’s going to be a new beginning, a fresh start at life. A brand new day! A brand new me!” Author Kathleen Irene Paterka has …
I don’t know about you, but I lived my life thinking like that for quite a number of years — including the four years spent in high school. A chubby kid growing up, I blossomed into a fat teenager. Every year I gained a few more pounds. Okay, lots more pounds. So many, in fact, that by my senior year and graduation, I tipped the scales at 300 pounds. Granted, I’m 5’11” and the pounds were spread over a larger frame. But facts are facts, and it’s pretty hard to disguise the fact that you’re overweight when you wear size 28+ pants.
Yo-yo dieting. Binge eating. Been there, done that. I can’t tell you how many nights I went to bed, telling myself that it was all behind me … promising myself that when I woke up, it would be the beginning of my new life, the beginning of a new Kathleen. A Kathleen who was no longer always thinking about food. And yet, when the ‘new day, the new beginning’, finally dawned, it usually ended up in a messy mixture of cookie crumbs and crumbled resolve by mid-afternoon. The years went by as my life dissolved into a puddle of pudding and tears.
Ever seen the movie Love, Actually? It’s one of my all-time favorites: a 2003 British romantic comedy starring a Who’s-Who list of renowned British actors (Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Adam Rickman, Colin Firth and others). Their characters are involved in ten separate stories all linked together during the five weeks leading up to Christmas. One of the stories involves Juliet (played by Keira Knightley). Juliet has just married Peter, the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, Peter’s best friend, Mark, is secretly in love with Juliet. Thoughts of Juliet consume him, but Mark has such respect and admiration for his friend Peter that he would never do anything to jeopardize the relationship. Juliet believes Mark hates her, because he keeps her at a distance, and she has no idea it’s because he’s trying to protect himself and his heart. Eventually, in a scene that makes brings tears to my eyes every time I view it, Mark comes to Juliet and confesses his love without a single word but rather, through a recorded Christmas song and a series of storyboard photos that leave her laughing and crying and realizing the torment he’s been living with since he’s met her. It is the ‘big black moment’ when Mark finally comes clean and faces Juliet (and himself), acknowledging the truth about the love he feels for her … always has, and always will, but that it can never be. And then, after she rewards him for his honesty with a sweet poignant kiss, Mark sighs, and with a deep breath, finally turns his back on Juliet and says to himself, “Enough. Enough.” And squaring his shoulders, knowing it’s forever, he walks away.
“Enough. Enough.” Just like Mark’s torment and longing for Juliet, food was all I could think about. It was destroying me, and I knew in my heart that I had to let it go. I had to come to terms with the fact that I could no longer continue carrying on a one-sided love affair with food. Eventually, I had to face my ‘Juliet-moment’, too. And the day I finally said, “Enough. Enough.” to food was truly the beginning of a brand new day. A brand new life. A brand new me.
The pounds are long gone, and I’ve been at a normal weight (153 lbs.) for more than 35 years. Nowadays, when I wake up, I’m not looking for a brand new anything … I’m simply glad to be alive. I’m no longer trying to make myself over, or into something or someone I am not. Each day is a blessing, because I know things are continuing from the day before, that I have people to love, things to do, a life to make, and books to write. It’s a good life, but it’s a life that no longer revolves around food. Like Mark in LOVE, ACTUALLY, it took awhile, but eventually I said, “Enough. Enough.”
Fatty Patty is my debut novel, released on May 15th. Patty Perreault is the overweight heroine whose childhood nickname was Fatty Patty. Though she’s now an adult, Patty still remembers the cruel childhood taunts from the very same school playground where she’s now a teacher. The novel deals with Patty’s struggle to confront her self-esteem issues, put down the fork, say “enough… enough”, and give her heart a try.
I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. If chocolate is like a drug, I probably qualify for Chocoholics Anonymous. But first, I’d have to be willing to give it up. Which I’m not. I’m not an addict. Besides, everyone deserves a treat now and then. And I’ve been good for so long — how many days now? — and I’ve only lost four pounds.
Tyler offering me that cookie on the playground earlier this morning started the ball rolling. All day long, I couldn’t let go of the thought of chocolate. And instead of hitting the pool on my way home from school, I detoured to an out-of-the-way party store on the other side of town where I grabbed a six-pack of my favorite candy bars. Why? There’s got to be a reason. But at the time, I didn’t want to think about the why. I didn’t want to think, period.
I just wanted the chocolate.
The first candy bar was gone as soon as I hit the car, before I even fastened my seatbelt. I barely tasted it as it slid down my throat and it only whetted my appetite for more. I ripped into the lush caramel and rich dark chocolate of the second one as I nosed the car out of the parking lot. I gnawed through the third wrapper with my teeth as I pulled into traffic.
And now that Priscilla’s finally off to bed, the other three are waiting.
I creep up the stairs, school bag in hand, and slip through my bedroom door. I throw the lock, then flop on the bed in the darkness. Moonlight filtering through the window is my only witness as I peel the wrapper off the fourth candy bar, settle back in the pillows and savor the lush sweetness filling my mouth. I’ve deprived myself far too long. The second gooey bite is even better than the first. Chocolate bliss. I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Polishing off the fifth candy bar takes a little longer. The craving is gone and I force myself to finish. I’m in no rush to unwrap the sixth candy bar. My stomach feels queasy. Maybe it would be better to stash it somewhere and save it for later. But if I don’t eat it now, that one last candy bar will be staring me in the face tomorrow morning… a big gooey reminder of what I’ve done. I rip off the wrapper and stare at the chocolate. Tomorrow, I promise myself. Starting tomorrow, I’ll put myself on a brand new diet. Starting with breakfast.
Food. Ugh. My stomach lurches and I drop the candy bar. My breath reeks of chocolate and I stumble into the tiny bathroom off my bedroom. I use my toothbrush like a weapon, attacking the enemy sugar on my teeth, scrubbing away the contraband. I swish water back and forth under my tongue, around my teeth, spit it in the sink. Somehow I find the courage to face myself in the mirror. It’s not a pretty picture. Hollow, bloodshot eyes; mascara staining my face. I don’t recognize this person.
What is wrong with me? Why in God’s name did I do this? What happened to my resolve? What happened to my dreams of being thin?
What would Nick think if he saw me like this?
No more chocolate. Never again.
I pull off my clothes, drop them in a heap on top of the bathroom scales. Pulling a cotton nightgown over my head, I shuffle back into the bedroom, flop on my bed, and set the alarm. School again tomorrow. If only I didn’t have to go.
If only I hadn’t given in. Why did I crack? Now I have to start all over again.
What a horrible feeling.
But not as horrible as knowing when tomorrow dawns, there’ll still be that one leftover candy bar taunting me from the bedside table. Suddenly I grab it, crinkle the wrapper around the candy so I won’t smell the chocolate, then toss it in the trash, burying it under some used Kleenex and an old magazine.
I hit the light and try to settle down. Nick’s face dances in the darkness. What is it with him? Why is he being so nice to me? I don’t know anything about men. The three guys I dated in college turned out to be losers. So what do I do now? I’ve never chased a guy in my life. And Nick isn’t just any guy. He’s gorgeous and available — the type who attracts women wherever he goes. Nick is in the big leagues and way beyond my reach.
I punch the pillow and flop on my side. If only I looked like Priscilla. If only I could lose ten pounds. If only I had the courage to try.
But I’ll never find it if I don’t get myself back on track.
And back on a diet.
Brand new diet. Brand new beginning. Brand new me.
I sit up straight in bed. Damned if I want to wake up tomorrow, knowing that last candy bar is hanging around to haunt me.
I fumble through the wastebasket in the darkness. My fingers snag the wrapper, then curl around the candy. I take one bite, force down another. The craving is gone. I’ve already brushed my teeth and the chocolate tastes like chalk. I choke down the last bite, throw away the wrapper, and head back into the bathroom for one more bout with my toothbrush.
This hasn’t been the best day. I’ve broken my diet, upset Priscilla, shamed myself… and all for what? Why did I buy that chocolate in the first place? It’s not like I even wanted it.
What I really wanted was cookies…
About the author
Kathleen Irene Paterka fell in love with writing (and food) at a very young age. By the time she graduated high school, she’d completed her first manuscript and she weighed 300 lbs. Though the extra pounds have long since disappeared, Kathleen still carries the emotional scars of being a former fatty. FATTY PATTY was born from the cruel teasing she endured on the school playground. Kathleen is the author of numerous novels which embrace universal themes of home, family life and love, including the Women’s Fiction series, The James Bay Novels. Kathleen is the resident staff writer for Castle Farms, a world-renowned castle listed on the National Historic Register, and co-author of the non-fiction book FOR THE LOVE OF A CASTLE, published in 2012. Having lived and studied abroad, Kathleen’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Michigan University. She and her husband live in the beautiful north country of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Kathleen loves hearing from readers. You can contact her via her website at http://www.kathleenirenepaterka.com or follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka.
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