Friday, May 18, 2007

Dicky Moe

When I was a kid, we watched Tom and Jerry cartoons only when there were no other cartoons to be had. Even those terrible, mass-produced super hero cartoons, obviously (even to a 9-year-old) designed to sell products, were better than the tedious antics of the cartoon cat and mouse. There was one Tom and Jerry cartoon, however, that stands out from the rest like a cupcake on slag heap, and that's "Dicky Moe."

"Dicky Moe" is the Tom and Jerry version of Herman Melville's classic novel about the wages of life-long obsession, "Moby Dick." I was about to launch into a rant about the decline of culture that has made low-brow, literature-based humor a thing of the past, but then I remembered that I never actually read "Moby Dick" and, really, all the information I have about the novel came from "Dicky Moe."

"Dicky Moe" was funny to me at that age not because of the literary reference but because Dicky Moe was such an goofy name for a giant, cheesed-off whale - and because it was funny to hear this grim, white-faced sea captain tearing around the deck of his ship growling "Dicky Moe! Dicky Moe!" Of course, it is because of "Dicky Moe" that I found out about "Moby Dick" (which I still haven't read), so that I could then recognize other people's references to "Moby Dick," and "Moby Dick," frankly, makes one hell of a metaphor, so I'm glad of that.

Anyway, "Moby Dick" (and, consequently, "Dicky Moe") is about Captain Ahab and the white whale, Moby Dick, who has eluded capture by him again and again - at one point (if the cartoon version is to be trusted), taking one of Captain Ahab's legs with him. Captain Ahab's life narrows down to single, focused point: Dicky Moe...Dicky, I mean Moby Dick! Moby Dick! Eventually, he loses his life in pursuit of the white whale, not that there was much to say for his life by then, and he STILL never caught the damn thing.

That's the kind of wanting it takes, if you want to drop over 100 pounds. I know this because I did it, and as I sit here, thinking about trying to drop the 70 I've regained, I find myself very, very reluctant to go there again. People forget, when they tell you that all you need to do to lose weight is eat less and exercise more, that it takes more than simple will power to do that. Along with all the considerations this would-be helpful person probably recognizes ("it's hard!" "food GOOD!") there's another one - the biggest one of all, as far as I'm concerned: you have to keep wanting it. Will power's worth nothing unless you keep believing the thing you're supposed to be applying it to is worth all that effort. Not only do you have to keep wanting it, you have to keep wanting it every day for years.

Inevitably, the Choice will come up - do I have this baby, or do I keep losing weight? Do I go to med school, where I won't have time to exercise four hours a day anymore and vending machines may be the only source of food sometimes, or do I keep losing weight? It's not that anyone ever really puts it to themselves this way, but the fact of the matter is, as a person struggling against the tide of lifelong fatness, a choice to have a baby or go to med school probably means a choice to stop losing, and inevitably, gain weight. Bravo for us! It's way cooler to go to med school or have a baby than to be thin.

Healthy lifestyle/weight maintenance is one thing - I think that may be doable without unrelenting obsession (though I don't know for sure, because I've never managed it myself). Losing a half or a third of your body weight is another thing entirely. Committing yourself to starve for a couple of years while simultaneously upping the demands on your body's resources by maintaining a rigorous exercise regimen takes a lot of time and mental energy that could be put toward other, family, LIFE. My point is that this energy is, in fact, finite. Time is finite. In order to lose 100 pounds, losing that 100 pounds has to be your number one priority for as long as it takes to get the job done. That's the reason the weight loss didn't take with me, and I'm pretty sure that's why it doesn't usually take with anyone - which is reassuring in a way. It's good to know that, for most people, there are, ultimately, more important things in life than being thin.

Over at BFD today, there is a good discussion going on about the thinning down of former loud and proud celebrity fat girls, like Oprah and Sara Rue, and how it becomes hard for their former, fat/normal constituencies to relate to them after that. I don't begrudge anyone their weight loss - being thinner makes life a LOT easier, especially if you are in the public eye - but for a lot of women who loved seeing someone bodily normal (fat, per Hollywood standards) like Sara Rue on television, it is always a blow, and I don't think it's just because we are jealous, or feel judged because Hollywood judges these women so much more acceptable when they toe the line. I think at least part of it is that we loved seeing a woman who was clearly not thinking about it. Watch her sit down to a meal and she'll probably just be eating something - not carefully tweezing up three granules of sugar for her coffee or chewing her celery with more vigor than she might naturally want to because word on the street is that it's possible to burn enough calories chewing celery to end up with a negative intake from eating it. On her birthday, she probably eats a slice of her own cake.

Even though the conventional wisdom points in the other direction, dieting is a huge rejection of life, and much of what it has to offer. Not just because you don't get to eat your own birthday cake, but because of how much energy weight obsession bleeds from you - how it changes your outlook, and possibly what you see first and focus on in other people. If you're pouring most of your energy into getting or staying thin, that's what your life gets to be about. That's what my life got to be about, when I was a weight loss 'success.' The only thing I miss from that time is the athletic shape I was in. Getting into shape to do long hill rides on my bike was totally worth it, and being lighter in the saddle helped.

Ultimately, I think - I HOPE I'll find some happy medium. I'm not back up to my normal rate of exercise after this difficult 6 months. Once I am, I think some of the weight I gained will fall off, my stress-based eating pattern will abate (I need my fat and sugar when my life is shaken by its foundations, man) and I will feel, bodily, much better. I don't think I'll ever be as thin again as I was at the end of that weight loss journey, though, and I think that's probably a good thing. I think.


Blogger mo pie said...

This is just an awesome post, Mary. You are awesome.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous littlem said...

"Committing yourself to starve for a couple of years while simultaneously upping the demands on your body's resources by maintaining a rigorous exercise regimen takes a lot of time and mental energy that could be put toward other, family, LIFE."

The "JUST eat less, exercise more" yapyaps (who generally tend to be male, with more muscle and less body fat, so weight falls off them if they stop eating their one bag of Cheetos a day, or whatever) just can't manage to wrap their minds around that, can they?

OK, back to reading the ENTIRE REST of the blog.

Why? Because it's just as awesome as Mo said.

8:27 PM  

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