BEAVERTON, Ore. — "Rosemary! How many calories in a pear?"
Allen Green is proud of his wife who, like a carny, can guess your weight. But she goes one better: She can tell you exactly how many accursed calories you are about to drop into your sinful maw.
"How many \o7 ounces \f7 in the pear?" Rosemary Green shoots back, illustrating the attention to detail--no, make that crazed obsession--that is behind her new book, "Diary of a Fat Housewife" (Warner Books).
Rosemary Green weighs 135 pounds. She reached her goal weight in the nick of time, just before her book came out. This gives her a total weight loss of 185 pounds from her 5-foot, 9-inch frame. The return to her pre-six-children figure took about half of her life, although the diary covers a mere decade of agony, self-loathing, brave resolutions and humiliating defeats.
In her book she tells what it's like to be morbidly obese. Some of it is kind of funny, like when she decided that exercise was a pain--not because it was so difficult, but because it was too darn noisy. As she performed jumping jacks, her stomach would fly up and then slap down against her thighs, like a pancake flipped on the griddle. She says it sounded like "jump, slap, jump, slap, jump, slap."
But some of what she describes in the book and during an interview at her suburban Portland home is just plain scary.
She tells how the immense weight on her body drained her of energy and caused her emotional and physical pain. She tells how body odor was a constant concern because bacteria would build up between the fat rolls, how the weight of the fat caused the skin to tear, how the tears took forever to heal because of the sweat.
But that's the whole point of the book--to scare you; to make you drop your complacent attitudes (read denial) about obesity; to make you say, "Ha!" the next time you hear someone say, "Big is beautiful." Green already gets hate mail from the fat acceptance people, even though her crusade--including a book tour and a recent appearance on ABC's 20/20--has barely begun.
"Big is not beautiful," rails Green, who was jolted into action after her husband chose to gaze longingly at a honeymoon photograph rather than at her. "It's ugly and disgusting. I cannot describe in gross enough terms the ugliness of a body that has big globules, fat rolls of ugly, jiggly fat."
Just the same, Green says her heart aches when she sees obese people. She feels their pain, having lived it for so many years. Still, she'd like to take fat people by the scruff of the neck and shake the denial out of them.
She knows denial well. Even as the scales crept up to the 300-pound mark and beyond, Green continued to focus only on the center of her face--her eyes, nose and mouth--when she looked in the mirror. She's lucky. That part of her, she says, always stayed pretty and showed what it took for her to be named her high school's Rose Festival princess.
"Fat people still see themselves as they used to be," says Green, one of nine children, whose parents and siblings are or were obese. "But you know, I reached the point where my nose was starting to get fat."
Now she claims to be the "last honest fat person in America." Not many other fat people, former or current, are likely to reveal the shocking behaviors that she calls "fat secrets." Here are a few examples:
* After Halloween, when her kids were at school or elsewhere, Green would eat all their candy. Then she'd rush to the store to buy replacement candy.
* She'd buy five candy bars at a time and eat them all at once.
* She'd lock herself in the bathroom to eat cake.
* After eating chocolate, she'd sometimes share morsels with her family so that their chocolate breath would make it impossible to detect her chocolate breath.
* Feeling queasy after devouring four candy bars, she once ate a whole box of chocolate mint cookies, telling herself that the mint was like Rolaids.
The book is hardly a how-to manual, rather a glimpse into the hellish abyss in which an obese woman dwells. The emotional horrors she describes bring to mind "The Lost Weekend," but Green's account is more like the lost decade.
She finally broke obesity's mighty grip with a diet plan of her own invention, which she intends to market, something she calls the Winning at Thinning Action Plan. Basically, it's all about putting her obsession down on paper.
In a loose-leaf binder, she still maintains a daily checklist. She checks off prayer, followed by menu planning and matters of hygiene, including showering, flossing, manicuring her nails and putting on makeup. In another section she lists everything she intends to eat that day, and at night she notes any changes that have occurred.