And For Dessert, Maalox With A Pepto Chaser

How far would you go to prove a point? My knee-jerk response—and maybe yours, too—is, “As far as I need to.” After all, right is right. Right? And if you have to prove it educate along the way, so be it.

But let’s think about this. Rationally.

Suppose you believe fat people are fat because they eat too much and move too little. Sounds logical, right? Simple math.

Is it so logical and so simple you’d be willing to gain 43 pounds over the course of three months then attempt lose that weight over the next three months to prove your point?

Me neither.

But that’s what British TV personality Katie Hopkins did. Katie believes fat people are bankrupting the British healthcare system, and that any talk of genetics or endocrine issues is rubbish; they just need to eat less and move more. Period. And to prove it, she would intentionally gain weight and then lose it.

Hmm. Intriguing premise. Not the politics, or the losing-weight part—the idea of eating whatever I want. I began salivating at the thought, images of cartoon gumdrops and giant carnival suckers and drippy ice cream sandwiches floating through my head like a Candyland game.

Well, it was intriguing. Until I tallied the numbers. Quicker than you can say, “No thanks, I’m full,” the premise went from intriguing to plain nauseating.

Katie began her journey consuming 5000 calories a day. Poor baby—she couldn’t gain weight so she began “circuit eating” with a trainer, who bumped her calories up to 6500 a day.

6500 calories. A day. She averaged 400 calories an hour, 16 hours a day.

It wasn’t just hearing the daily calorie requirement that got me—it was the calorie count in context. I went on Fatsecret.com and put together a daily menu totalling close to 6500 calories. I can’t even say, “Here’s how the meals look” because there are no meals—just nonstop eating. So here’s how the day looks:

Breakfast: IHOP Belgian waffle with syrup

Eggs Benedict

Midmorning: 2 cups of Cap’n Crunch Cinnamon Roll Crunch

Lunch: 2 Big Macs

Medium fries

Coke

Afternoon: 2 slices sausage pizza

Dinner: Large Panera macaroni and cheese

Caeser salad

Chocolate chip cookie

Dessert: Slice of German chocolate cake

Midnight Snack: 1 cup of Baskin-Robbins Pralines n’ Cream ice cream

Now, eat that every day for three months. I’m salivating again, but this time it’s that weird behind-the-ears salivating, like just before you’re sick.

But Katie did it. And she proved her point about calories in/calories out by turning around and losing the weight in three months—except for 11 pounds because her family thought she’d been too thin.

This certainly wasn’t a controlled experiment; just one person’s way of proving her point, of putting her—ahem—money where her mouth was. And for that, I admire Katie’s moxie.

Maybe not her cholesterol reading, but her moxie.

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Chrysalis

Courtesy CC/Flickr

Courtesy CC/Flickr

There was a girl I knew once. She was fourteen years old last time we saw each other. Her quick smile revealed lavender and pink rubber bands on her braces, I remember, and you got the impression she was like every other bubbly blonde on every other high school campus.

But this bubbly blonde was different.

This bubbly blonde had a 4.5 International Baccalaureate GPA and dreams of joining the space program, a fact illustrated by the dog-eared NASA application packet on her bedroom desk.

I knew her well. I knew the raised scar on her wrist was from a curling iron burn, and that she used too much hairspray on her bangs. I knew she was a rotten basketball player, and that she loved Mississippi mud cake. I knew her well, though perhaps not as well as I thought.

The last time I saw her was seventeen years ago, in a hospital. She was a patient there, I her visitor. You needed that scarred wrist to identify her; a ventilator hid the lavender and pink rubber bands, and her bangs fell flat. State-of-the-art medical equipment crammed her private ICU room, and she appeared small and inconsequential in comparison. Doctors shook their heads—either in disbelief or nonbelief, I’m not sure which—when they heard about her intellect, her plans.

Months later she emerged from a medically-induced coma, and people waited—waited for her to talk, or at least acknowledge a visitor’s presence. She did neither.

Over time she learned to use hand controls on her power wheelchair and an iPad for communication, because the devastating illness that stole almost a year of her life also stole her ability to walk and talk.

What, her friends and family wondered, will become of her?

Over still more time she returned to high school and graduated with her original class, near the top of her class. Later she was honored as Free Wheelchair Mission’s Ambassador of the Year after delivering sermons on their behalf, lifting hundreds of individuals off the ground “through the gift of mobility,” as Free Wheelchair’s tagline says.

How, you may wonder, does a nonverbal person deliver a sermon, anyway? The simple answer is, by typing with one finger and having the message read aloud. The complex answer is, with a lot of grit and grace.

Because drooling is a problem for someone with little motor control. So is being front and center when, I imagine, you’d rather sit in the back of the room. I said I didn’t know her as well as I thought, because the girl I knew would never have opened herself to public scrutiny, to curious looks, to outright stares.

The bubbly blonde is gone. Maybe she didn’t disappear in that hospital; I don’t know—maybe she just grew up. It happens. Her evaporated NASA dreams, I’m sure, disappoint her. But her earthly contributions now, today, impact more lives than if she’d traveled in space.

So why does a fourteen-year-old girl—a girl I haven’t seen in seventeen years—continue to haunt me? Because that girl was my daughter.

But so is the young woman that girl has become.