From the book
Chubby for LifeI don't remember a time when I wasn't chubby. Like being Indian, being chubby feels like it is just part of my permanent deal. I remember being in first grade, in Mrs. Gilmore's class at Fiske Elementary School, and seeing that Ashley Kemp, the most popular girl in our class, weighed only thirty-seven pounds. We knew this because we weighed her on the industrial postal scale they kept in the teacher's supply closet. I was so envious. I snuck into the supply closet later that same day to weigh myself. I was a whopping sixty-eight pounds.
Some of the first math I understood was that I was closer to twice Ashley's weight than to her weight.
"Don't be closer to twice a friend's weight than to her actual weight," I told myself. This little mantra has helped me stave off obesity for more than two decades.
My mom's a doctor, but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids. In fact, she and my dad didn't mind having a chubby daughter. Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is? It will then not come as a surprise to you that I've never been thin in my life--except the day I was born, when I was six pounds.
It's a small point of pride that I was a six-pound baby, because from my limited understanding of baby weights, that's on the skinnier side. I flaunt my low baby weight the way really obese people must flaunt their dainty, small feet. It's my sole claim to skinny fame.
As you can see, from then on, however, it was full-speed-ahead food paradise! In grade school, I would vacillate along the spectrum from chubby to full-on fat until I was about fourteen. Being overweight is so common in America and comes in so many forms that you can't just call someone "fat" and have the reasonable expectation anyone will understand you. Here's the breakdown:
Chubby: A regular-size person who could lose a few, for whom you feel affection.
Chubster: An overweight, adorable child. That kid from Two and a Half Men for the first couple of years.
Fatso: An antiquated term, really. In the 1970s, mean sorority girls would call a pledge this. Probably most often used on people who aren't even really fat, but who fear being fat.
Fatass: Not usually used to describe weight, actually. This deceptive term is more a reflection of one's laziness. In the writers' room of The Office, an upper-level writer might get impatient and yell, "Eric, take your fat ass and those six fatasses and go write this B-story! I don't want to hear any more excuses why the plot doesn't make sense!"
Jabba the Hutt: Star Wars villain. Also, something you can call yourself after a particularly filling Thanksgiving dinner that your aunts and uncles will all laugh really hard at.
Obese: A serious, nonpejorative way to describe someone who is unhealthily overweight.
Obeseotron: A nickname you give to someone you adore who has just stepped on your foot accidentally, and it hurts. Alternatively, a fat robot.
Overweight: When someone is roughly thirty pounds too heavy for his or her frame.
Pudgy: See "Chubby."
Pudgo: See "Chubster."
Tub o' Lard: A huge compliment given by Depression-era people to other, less skinny people.
Whale: A really, really mean way that teen boys target teen girls. See the following anecdote.
There have been two times in my life--ages fourteen and nineteen--when I lost a ton of weight over a short period of time. At fourteen, I lost the weight because of Duante...