Winnie-the-Pooh and My Tummy Too

Delta Winds cover 2002Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Winnie-the-Pooh and My Tummy Too

Sarah Pope

"When I up-down, touch the ground, it puts me in the mood Up-down, touch the ground, in the mood . . . for food! I am stout, round, and I have found, speaking poundage-wise I improve my appetite, when I exercise" (Milne).

I have awakened each morning for the past three years and have hated my reflection in the mirror, because of my weight. I do not look like the person I picture in my head (thin and pretty); instead I look like a younger parody of my mother. Fat thighs, stretch marks, droopy places and rolls in a stomach that used to be flat.

My experience is not unusual. I am just another faceless woman who has given birth and paid for it with my body, and just like every other woman on the planet who cannot look at herself in the mirror with her glasses on, I have been searching for a way out of this 168 pound fat suit. Yesterday morning I thought I saw hope in my fight for my weight. Yesterday morning I thought I saw a kindred spirit speaking to me out of the pages of O magazine; instead I started on the pathway to an epiphany.

The day started normally. I got the kids up, got them dressed and packed off to school. I almost drove past the McDonald's but my terrible eating habits and fatigue got the best of me and I stopped for my usual bad-for-me breakfast. During my meal of a sausage biscuit with egg and a coke I found an article in the Stockton Record, my favorite daily breakfast companion. The article had an extremely long title that caught my attention immediately:

"Finally, new research uncovers the five causes of lower abdominal bulge and how to flatten it like a board; excess fat is not the biggest cause" (Soper).

I began to read the article enthusiastically. After all the Stockton Record is not like The National Enquirer, a newspaper that thrives on misinterpreting facts and creating outrageous lies. It is a serious newspaper, with careful reporters dedicated to producing serious works. The article looked very promising. It had many examples of beautiful people who used to look like me along the right hand side of the column, and it was laid out to look like a normal newspaper article. The author of the article is Larry Soper, editor of the Sun Journalof Canton, Ohio. It is about two men, Frank Campitelli, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, and his colleague David Dearth. These two men appear to be giving advice about losing weight using a product called BioGenesis. After reading the article, I was disappointed to realize that it was not a regular article but in fact an advertisement endorsed by these two men.

The advertisement angered me in several ways: I did not like the fact that it was disguised as a real article; it was also fundamentally un-helpful. Larry Soper first reports that special nutrients could help an obese person lose weight:

"University and biogenesis studies found that most overweight people do not take in any more calories than those people who are not overweight. It was found that most overweight people can be deficient in the following eight nutrients that enable the body to burn fat: L-carnitine, chromium picolinate, choline, inositol, biotin, pancretin enzyme, betaine enzyme and vitamin B6. These nutrients are only found in certain foods and you must get enough of these nutrients to properly burn fat. These 8 critical fat burning nutrients are provided for BioGenesis in capsule form."

Soper also writes that exercise is necessary for weight loss. Campitelli and Dearth then reveal that, in order to flatten the abdominal area, a number of things have to be done that are very specific and require expert advice. Much of it actually requires doing little-known exercises to other parts of the body to flatten the lower abdominal area.

I don't know about you, but if I need to buy pills and do the correct exercises to lose weight, then I am back to the beginning of my problem. I still had no time and no self-control, except now I have to remember to take medication. I threw that depressing article in the trash, along with the rest of my meal, and I left the McDonald's to pick up my kids from school.

Later that same afternoon I was going through some magazines from my grandmother-in-law when I came across a headline on the front of O magazine: "Feel Good Naked: a fabulous 10-point plan, no diet required" (Redmond 236). I decided to read the article. "No diet" sounds pretty good. The Lord knows that I do not have any measure of self-control. Oprah wouldn't put an advertisement for diet pills disguised as a medical breakthrough in her magazine, and I had put my kids down for a nap, so I did not have anything better to do. I opened up to page 236 to read about the life of Laure Redmond. Laure began with an appeal to the heart, about how she always remembered being heavy, and she followed with the statement, "I know the pain of despising one's body. It's rampant, it's debilitating, and it's not limited to those who are clinically overweight" (Redmond 236).

I completely agreed with her. I am tired of hating my body because I am forty pounds overweight, so I was relieved to read about someone who knew about self-hatred, instead of somebody who had had a perfect life. Laure began to detail her life: her childhood around New Orleans cooking, her mother's remarriage at 14 and then her mother's death when Laure turned 15, and some of the hurtful comments she endured from her grandmother and her stepfather; they said things such as "Damn, Laure, with thighs the size of yours you could play football for the Miami Dolphins" (Redmond 237).

I began to sympathize with Laure more and more. I have been called a "fat bitch" when I wasn't moving fast enough in the line at a grocery store, and I was told recently by a clerk at the lingerie store "Victoria's Secret" that "maybe I wasn't meant to wear lingerie."

By now I was halfway through the article, and halfway in love with Laure. She was ugly, I was ugly, she had had a hard life, and I had had a hard life. Anything she could say to help me love myself would be appreciated. However, my illusions of kinship were quickly shattered as she described how she gained her self-confidence with good friends and an exercise regimen. She found a girl who appreciated her as a person and together they exercised until Laure felt good enough about herself to get her dream job. Redmond writes, "Because on July 7, 1984, right after I graduated from college, Gilda hired me to run her Upper West Side studio. The 'heifer' from New Orleans had finally arrived" (238).

Well, wonderful. All the votes are in. I have to have a dream job and be beautiful to feel better about myself. It won't happen. I am not a single co-ed, but the very busy mother of two kids, with a body that has been stretched out like a balloon. Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am, but I trusted O magazine. I would think that Oprah would put the limelight on a woman who is fat and loves herself (somehow). Instead I get another healthy person telling me how to feel good. Laure's ten steps on feeling better (highlighted in the center of the article) were predictably the things I already knew. If I could just find the willpower to exercise and eat right, I would be fine.

I put down O magazine, and as I sat on my ugly blue couch I became mildly depressed. I do not know what I was expecting from the newspaper and magazine ads I had read that day, but I did not feel better at all about myself. Now, I look back and think how silly it is to expect a magazine or an article in a newspaper to fix all my problems with my self-image, especially since most articles dealing with weight loss are designed as advertisements to prompt the reader to spend money, or self-help articles that highlight the life of someone the average low income mother of two cannot even begin to copy.

My pondering was interrupted by my children waking up from their naps, so I got them up and put a "Winnie-the-Pooh" movie in the VCR and sat down with them to watch. The epiphany I had been working on all day finally arrived while I was watching the movie. I watched Pooh Bear go inside and exercise, then lose self-control and go to his pantry to have a little snack. He found that there was no more honey left so he took his pursuit of honey to his friend Rabbit's house and proceeded to eat so much that he got stuck in Rabbit's door trying to leave. All his friends came to help him out. After starving him for a few days, they popped him out of Rabbit's hole and he flew directly into the hollow of a tree. His friends immediately ran to help him. Winnie-the-Pooh wasn't in a hurry; the hollow in the tree was full of honey, which was exactly what he wanted.

I realized that the silly old bear created by A. A. Milne had the life that I really needed to be concerned about, a life filled with the enjoyment of the things you love best and with friends that still love you -- even if you can't fit through their doorways. Throw away your self-help magazine ladies; burn up all those advertisements on how to look perfect for the low price of $200 a month and your first-born child. Ignore your sister when she says, "No offense but you may be able to look like that naked, but I am never going to have kids if I have to look like that."

No offense taken. Really.

It is strange to find a kindred spirit in a cartoon animal, that sweet yellow bear with the ill-fitting red t-shirt and the unquenchable need for honey. I too practice my "stoutness" exercises in the morning, sometimes sit-ups, sometimes just a quick jog around the house. My unquenchable need may be for cheeseburgers but I am just as single-minded in the pursuit of my comfort food. For all you moms out there, or you unhappy wide-loads who try to stay adrift in your high schools and your jobs, I am proud to join your ranks, your pity parties, your Saturday night binges, because I have earned it. I have two children, the love of a good man and my mother, and my health. I should not waste my life obsessing over a few extra pounds, or try to find peace in the written opinions of people making money off of mothers with weight problems. Winnie-the-Pooh and I have a place for you. The exercise isn't hard and the food is good, and our friends never try to make us join health clubs. The only password to our club is self-esteem. Find yours and join me. I am the fat girl on the old blue couch.

Works Cited

Redmond, Laure. "Feel Good Naked: A Fabulous 10-Point Plan, No Diet Required." O: The Oprah Magazine. Oct. 2001: 236-38.

Soper, Larry. "Finally, New Research Uncovers the Five Causes of Lower Abdominal Bulge and How to Flatten It Like a Board: Excess Fat Is Not the Biggest Cause." The Record (Stockton, CA) 10 Oct. 2001: Insert.

Winnie-The-Pooh and the Honey Tree. Dir. Wolfgang Reitermann. Perf. Sebastion Cabot. U.S.A., 1998.