Let Inga Tell You: Advice for the Thin Police

Measuring tape

Several years ago at a holiday lunch, I was seated next to a woman who had opened her own clothing boutique in North County. She thought it was a travesty that women’s clothes were mostly targeted toward the really slender. So in addition to carrying clothes for the emaciated svelte (my term), it was her plan to design clothing for her boutique for the “larger woman.”

“What sizes?” I inquired, suddenly taking interest.

“8-12,” she said.

It was all I could do to not accidentally knock her nicoise salad (dressing on the side) into her scrawny size-2 lap.

Prior to my divorce 30 years ago, I always wore a size 4, which in today’s deflationary size market is probably a 2, or even a 0. (Personally I think size 0 is what you should be after you’ve been dead awhile.) Afterward, I packed on 40 pounds eating the Post-Divorce Mrs. Fields Cookie and Chardonnay Depression Diet. Alas, I’ve been heifering, er, hovering around a size 16 ever since. I’d consider wearing sizes 8-12 really good news.

Every year, shedding at least 30 of those pounds has been my No. 1 New Year’s resolution. And every year on Dec. 31, I say, “Well, next year!”

Anyone who has lived in La Jolla for any length of time knows that the Thin Police are on regular and vigilant patrol. It is their mission to make sure that anyone who displays more than a certain level of avoirdupois is (1) a regular topic of discussion and (2) must be “helped.” When I gained so much weight, it was abundantly clear to me how much air time my weight was getting among some of the locals.

In my first few years in the oinker set, a very slender acquaintance made it her full-time unsolicited project to assist my weight-loss efforts, including showing up at my door one day with a package of over-the-counter diet pills that had been opened with one missing, saying she’d bought these for herself but wasn’t going to use the rest of them and thought I might be interested. No!

I’ve never understood the compelling desire to tell people how much better they would look if they were thinner.

To this day, what I wish I’d said to the fat helpers was: “Oh my God! You’re right! I would look better thinner! Why didn’t I think of that? I just want you to know that the credit for every pound I lose will go to you and your amazing suggestion that never even occurred to me!”

This is what I like about writing a column; you get do-overs, at least in fantasy. I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t take this bull by the horns then. But I didn’t want people to think I was both fat and surly.

I’ve always been a walker — at least two to three miles a day. Somehow this never seemed to impact my weight, which I think you’ll agree is totally unfair. But for years I used to see the same uber-thin woman whose kids were the same ages as mine out jogging on my same route. She would routinely jog up next to me and inquire enthusiastically, “Hey, have you lost weight?” No other topic, ever. It got hugely irritating because it was clear that in her mind, she thought she was helpfully encouraging me to shed some pounds.

She suddenly disappeared, but a few months ago, after a 15-year absence, I was out for a walk when she jogged by, as slender as ever. As she jogged in place (some things never change) alongside me, she mentioned that she’d moved out to the desert some years ago but was now back in town being treated for osteoporosis. What struck me immediately was that between years of leathering desert sun and waaay too little flesh on her sunken face and skeletal frame, she looked 100. Seriously. I wanted to grab her by her pointy clavicle and scream: “Stand still! You’ll break your little tiny bones!”

“Hey,” she said, “you look great!” (If she’d said “Have you lost weight?” I was prepared to take her skinny butt down.) I don’t know how great I looked (same weight as ever), but compared with her I felt like Cindy Crawford. OK, a fat Cindy Crawford. I didn’t point out that among the advantages of being a little chunky as you get older is that you’re your own weight-bearing exercise. No osteoporosis for me!

Fortunately, the Thin Police have long since given up on me. And for this I say “Thank you.”

But I do have some advice for people who are tempted to “help” other people lose weight:

Shut up and go away.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at ◆