Losing It, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 10 May 2002)


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This fictional account contains adult language and sexual themes.  If such
language and themes offend you, please do not read further.  The persons and
events described in this work are purely fictional.  Any similarity to actual
persons or events is strictly coincidental.  Copyright 2002 by SSTORYMAN.  All
rights reserved.  Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this story in any
form and for any purpose as long as this notice is reproduced and no financial
remuneration is received, directly or indirectly, by the person reproducing or
using it.

The author gratefully acknowledges that some inspiration for this story came
from a 1998 story entitled "Weighty Problems" written by an anonymous author
posted elsewhere on this page.

LOSING IT

1.	The Problem Solver.

   "Ms. Morel, your daughter's fine," Dr. Sawyer said.  The elderly,
gray-haired pediatrician looked dignified in his white coat as he
pontificated.  "It's a minor rash.  I wrote a prescription for an ointment to
clear it up."  He hesitated.  "But I _am_ concerned about Francine's weight."

   Suzanne nodded.  "I know, Doctor.  I am, too."

   "She's far too heavy for a girl her age.  According to the chart, for her
age and height, Francine should be more like 105 pounds, not 145."

   "It's tough getting her to eat right and exercise, Doctor.  She and I've
talked about it recently, though.  I'm trying to get her to do something to
get down closer to her ideal weight."

   "This is the time to establish good eating habits," the doctor continued.
"By the time they go to college, it's too late.  But Francine's still in high
school.  I'd like to see her lose some weight if you can motivate her."  He
paused.  "You seem to be in much better shape these days, Ms. Morel.  What's
your secret?  What happened, if you don't mind my asking?"

   At that point Francine entered, after dressing in the examination room.
Suzanne smiled at her daughter.  "I don't mind telling you, doctor.  The last
few months I've worked out several times a week," she went on sweetly, nodding
at Francine.  "And I've controlled my eating, of course.  When I do eat, it's
healthy food.  I got a low-fat cookbook and try to eat right."

   "Well, great.  Yes, you sure look good, Ms. Morel."  The tone in his voice
was almost too complimentary.  "So, you've lost, what?  Twenty five pounds
since I last saw you?"

   "Thirty two, to be precise," she smiled proudly.  "I'm in better shape than
I've been in years, I'm pleased to say."

   "Yes, well, you sure are," Dr. Sawyer blurted out.  He returned to his
patient.  "Francine, I told your mother your skin rash's not serious.  I wrote
a prescription that'll clear it up.  But I'd like to see you lose some weight,
young lady, like your mother did."

   The teenager groaned.  "I know, Doctor.  It's just so hard."

   "I know.  But let your mom be your example.  Ms. Morel, whatever you did to
lose your extra weight, I hope you encourage Francine to follow your
footsteps."  He smiled at the teenager.  "You may not want to hear this, my
dear, but excess weight's a health issue, particularly as you get older.
Please take this admonition the right way.  It's important.  Perhaps you can
take a page out of your mom's book.  Do what she did.  It'd be really good for
you."

   Francine was glum.  She gave a noncommittal nod.  "I'll try, Doctor.  I
understand.  I am trying," she lied.  "I just haven't been as successful as
Mom; not yet, at least."

   "Good girl," he said in a fatherly tone.  "Ms. Morel, we're done.
Congratulations on your fitness program and all the weight you've lost.  You
look really good," he repeated.  "Francine, I hope you'll consider redoubling
your efforts in the same direction."

   Minutes later they walked to the car.  Francine began to cry.  "Oh God,
Mom.  I hate going to the doctor!  All Dr. Sawyer does is talk about how fat I
am!  And now, to make it worse, he thinks you're perfect!"

   Suzanne smiled.  "Well, you _should_ try my program.  With the treadmill,
exercise bike and weight machine, it's been easy to work out and lose weight.
I tried to convince you to give up all that damn junk food, Francine.  I did.
It's not that hard, honey, if you put your mind to it."

   "Yeah, but be honest, Mom.  You didn't tell him the whole truth.  Working
out and eating low fat food isn't the only thing you did to help you lose
weight, and you know it!"

   "I know.  But honey, the doctor wouldn't understand the rest of it."  She
clicked her key chain to unlock the car doors, and opened the passenger side.

   Francine slid in the driver's side and started the car.  After buckling her
seat belt, Suzanne opened her purse and got out a gold pack of Benson &
Hedges.  She shook out a cigarette and slipped it between her lips.  "There's
no point in upsetting Dr. Sawyer," she smiled, clicking her lighter and
touching the flame to the cigarette.  "You must admit, it worked for me!"

   Francine watched her mom exhale a preliminary cloud of blue gray smoke
before taking an earnest drag on her all white, one hundred millimeter
cigarette.  "God!  I hate you smoking so much, Mom," she bitterly shot back.
"You smoke all the time now.  It's not good for you, and you know it!  I don't
care what Dr. Sawyer said.  He doesn't know about that!"

   "Being overweight wasn't good for me, either," Suzanne answered, releasing
a thick stream of smoke into the car's interior.  "Look, I don't want another
argument about smoking.  We've covered that ground too many times.  Come on,
let's get home.  Now, check your rear view mirror before backing out,
Francine.  You're upset by what the doctor said, but don't let it affect your
driving."

   During the drive, Suzanne thought about recent developments.  She, too, was
grossly overweight for years.  She developed bad eating habits to compensate
for the stress she felt after her husband left, when Francine was five.
Eating too much became a way of life, and she eventually passed it on to her
daughter.  It became Francine's vice as well.  But at age forty, Suzanne
finally did something about it.  She bought a treadmill, an exercise bike and
weight machine.  She fixed healthier food and stopped buying herself junk
food.  It helped, but she realized her biggest enemy was obsessive snacking.
She ate mindlessly all the time, while reading, working at the computer and
watching TV.  She needed something to replace her constant nibbling.  Then she
realized when she was young, there _was_ something else she did instead of
eat.  In a flash of inspiration, she decided to use that activity again, to
help her toward her quest.  Reluctantly, she returned to smoking.  After ten
years as a non-smoker, she rediscovered her old smoking habit.  It proved to
be the key, the last missing piece to successful weight loss.  Now she was
smoking again and no longer eating between meals.  That, with her exercise
program and new eating patterns, made those excess pounds melt away!

   Suzanne did feel guilty about smoking.  It was bad for her, she knew, and
she was concerned it'd also be a bad influence on Francine.  She needn't have
worried.  Her daughter hated her smoking, and let her hear about it
constantly.  The complaining encouraged Suzanne.  It meant Francine wasn't
tempted to try it.  She never wanted her daughter to smoke.  It was a bad
habit, and quitting was hell.  That's why Suzanne quit in the first place
years before.  She felt it was best if Francine never even tried it, though
it'd greatly helped her.

   Adding smoking to her routine worked wonders for Suzanne.  Exercising, a
new diet, and smoking instead of eating between meals, made her waist and
thighs shrink.  In five months, she lost thirty two pounds, and she was still
losing both pounds and inches.  She looked and felt better than she had in
years.  The new, fit Suzanne Morel was attractive again.  She looked much
younger than her forty years.  Dr. Sawyer wasn't the first man to leer at her.
She especially liked that.  She enjoyed having male attention after years of
men looking the other way because of her weight.  The slim, trim Suzanne Morel
was supremely pleased with herself, even though she was smoking.  But, she
rationalized, you can't have everything!

   It wasn't that she didn't like to smoke.  She did, and that was the
problem.  Nevertheless, it was the only lingering chink in her armor.  One day
soon, she imagined, she'd give up using cigarettes as a crutch to stop eating.
It was a temporary phenomenon, she assured herself, something to bridge the
gap between old, fat Suzanne and the new, slimmer, trimmer Suzanne.

   As they pulled up to the house, she thought about Dr. Sawyer's ironic
comment.  If he only knew the truth about her weight loss plan, she mused, he
wouldn't be so effusive with his praise.  And he sure as hell would _never_
encourage Francine to follow her footsteps.  No sir!  Still, he was right.
They had to do something about Francine's weight.  Underneath her forty extra
pounds, she was really a pretty girl.  Suzanne hated the thought of her
missing out on all the fun of being a teenager because she was so heavy.  Now
Francine had heard someone else, someone other than her, tell her that she
really must lose weight.  Suzanne smiled.  Now maybe Francine would get
serious about a weight loss program!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Francine sat in her room staring at the wall.  A Tori Amos CD played, but
she didn't listen.  She was thinking about being fat.  She hated being fat.
She'd always hated it.  As long as she remembered, she'd been overweight. But
it didn't bother her till her mom started slimming down.  That was depressing.
For years she and her mom were two peas in a pod, best friends.  But now her
mom was different; she was skinny.  That, and she smoked.  Francine had no
friends, except her buddy Kristen.  Soon she'd be sixteen and driving, but
with nowhere to go.  The kids at school called her "F.F." for short, a code
name for "Fat Frances."  She pretended not to care, but she did.  It hurt.

   Dr. Sawyer was right.  She had to do something.  When Suzanne got the
exercise equipment, Francine never thought her mom would stick with it.  But
she did.  Suzanne was incredibly faithful to her workout regime.  Four nights
a week she went downstairs to grunt and groan.  That made Francine
uncomfortably guilty.  But it really pissed her off when Suzanne said she
wouldn't buy any more junk food.  Francine hit the roof!  She screamed and
cried.  Finally Suzanne relented.  Francine still had her Oreos, ice cream and
other goodies, but her mom no longer ate them with her.  Suzanne had a stupid
substitute; smoking, and as a result, the pounds had melted off.  Francine was
jealous of the result, though she hated the idea of enduring exercise and a
diet almost as much as she hated Suzanne's smoking.  But as much as she hated
it, she knew she had no choice except to endure the exercise and diet to lose
weight.  No smoking, though, not for her!  She never wanted to smoke!

   She hated the smell of her mom's cigarettes.  She thought it was incredibly
unfair to be forced to live with the constant stench of smoke in the house.
It was embarrassing having a mom who smoked.  Well, except that she had no
friends who cared.  Her only friend was Kristen, and she didn't mind.
Kristen's parents smoked, too.  But to Francine, it was the idea of it.  She
wished her mom could lose weight without those terrible cigarettes!

   That night, after Suzanne's evening workout, the two of them were in the
family room with the TV on.  Francine spoke up hesitantly.

   "Mom, I've thought about what Dr. Sawyer said.  I guess he's right.  I
should start working out on the exercise equipment.  And maybe I should also
stop eating so much."

   Suzanne stopped toweling herself.  "Honey, really?  God, that's great!
It'd be good for you if you would.  I bet you'd lose some of that weight in no
time."

   "Yeah, well, in a month I'll have my driver's license.  But what's the use?
I have no friends except Kristen!  I'm tired of everyone calling me Fat
Francine at school.  Nobody likes me.  I hate the idea of working out, but the
alternative's worse.  It worked for you, you lost thirty pounds.  I want it to
work for me.  I want to look nice.  I'd love to be popular.  Like you, Mom.
You look great.  Did you see Dr. Sawyer look at you?  He practically
propositioned you!"

   "Hush, young lady!  Dr. Sawyer's much too old to think that," Suzanne
blustered and blushed, though Francine was dead on.  She changed her tone to
speak empathetically.  "Francine, you're pretty.  You have a lovely face and a
beautiful smile.  If you lose some extra pounds, you'll be absolutely
gorgeous.  It'll change your life, I think."

   "Mom, I guess you're right.  I decided.  I'll start working out and, from
now on, no more snacks.  Don't let me eat junk food.  Stop buying it for me."
She laughed as she saw her mom's surprise.  "I have cookies hidden in my room
because you yell at me for eating them.  But no more.  I'm turning 'em in,
putting 'em in the trash.  From now on, you'll see a new Francine!"

   "God, that's great, honey.  I want to help."  She hugged her roly-poly
daughter.  "Let me know what I can do."  Without thinking, she automatically
reached for her cigarettes.  "I mean it, honey," she went on, shaking out a
Benson & Hedges.  "Anything else you think might help, just let me know, and
I'll do it."

   Francine made a face as Suzanne lit up.  "Thanks, Mom."  She paused.  "But
what I'll never do, like you, is smoke.  I mean it.  That's where I draw the
line.  I never want to smoke!"

   "I'm glad you feel that way," Suzanne soberly nodded, aiming a plume of
thick smoke towards the ceiling.  "It's a nasty habit.  I told you, I intend
to quit soon.  It's just helping me for the time being.  But as soon as I get
down to my ideal weight, bang!  These damn things are history!"  She took
another drag and inhaled.  "I mean it."

   "Right, Mom," Francine sighed, hoping it was true.  "I hope you will quit."

   She and her mom developed a plan.  Francine would begin a regular nightly
workout routine with the bike, the treadmill and the weight machine.  She
groaned realizing what she'd committed to.  But she knew she had to give it a
try.

   At first, it was pure torture.  She hated exercise, but she stuck with it.
She tried not eating junk food, and for the most part succeeded.  Oreos and
ice cream were replaced by carrots, celery sticks and low fat yogurt.  Suzanne
cut Francine's portions at breakfast and dinner.  Between meals the youngster
chewed sugarless gum instead of eating junk food.

   Suzanne was amazed by her daughter's unexpected perseverance.  It shocked
and delighted her.  Finally, at last, both of them were eating right and
working out.  She was ecstatic about Francine's dedication to the new routine.

   Instead of resenting Suzanne's work outs, Francine now tried to surpass her
mother.  After a few days of huffing and puffing, she found she could run
farther and cycle longer than Suzanne, undoubtedly because of that dreadful
smoking habit!  She pushed on with glee, delighted by her unexpected
competitive advantage and totally fixated on her goal of, before too long,
losing at least as many pounds as her mom had.

   Suzanne saw Francine running and cycling better than she could.  She knew
it was due to her smoking.  But despite her pronouncements, deep down she
seriously doubted she'd ever be able to quit smoking again.  She'd been a
non-smoker for ten years until she re-started.  But now she relied on
cigarettes for more than just a food substitute.  She'd become totally
dependent on nicotine, and knew it.  Smoking was a great substitute for
snacking, but at what price?  She feared she'd never drop the habit again,
even if she tried.  She was now smoking much more often and more aggressively
than she ever did in her prior life as a smoker, and she was smoking full
flavored cigarettes, to boot!

   Suzanne's acquaintance with smoking began at sixteen.  She was Francine's
age.  Her parents didn't smoke.  She was never interested till her best friend
started.  She and Bethany were close in high school, and Suzanne was shocked
when Bethany began smoking.  Other friends took it up, too, and peer pressure
did its thing.  Suzanne had to try it.  At first she smoked only on weekends
at parties, one or two, with her friends.  But soon she found herself wanting
to smoke more.  She had two or three cigarettes at a party, and enjoyed an
occasional one at other times, after school or hanging with Bethany.  As her
friend's habit grew, so did Suzanne's.  Her parents learned she was smoking
when she turned eighteen, her senior year.  They forbade it, but they should
have saved their breath.  Suzanne was stubborn; she wouldn't quit.  They
reluctantly relented, and she began smoking more than ever.

   In college her smoking habit took off.  Suzanne and Bethany roomed together
at the state university.  Free from parental restraint, both girls indulged
regularly.  At its peak in college Suzanne's habit consisted of fifteen
cigarettes a day.  She was studying to be an architect.  As time went on, she
began feel to guilty about her escalating habit.  After all, it was bad for
her.  But she liked smoking and studying, smoking and partying, and smoking
while doing just about anything else.  However, she decided to try to quit her
senior year, before she started looking for an architect's job after college.

   It didn't work.  Being a full-time professional was stressful, and Suzanne
compensated the same way she dealt with stress in college; by smoking.  A
group of other architects at her firm also smoked.  In the eighties,
professional offices allowed smoking.  She was never a real heavy smoker, even
in those days, but it was a regular part of her life.

   All that changed when she got married at 25.  Bob was an avid anti.  They
worked at the same firm, and felt a strong mutual attraction.  After a
whirlwind romance, they impulsively tied the knot, and began a five year
nightmare.  Suzanne was methodical and ordered; Bob was unorganized and a
slob.  But he complained about her smoking.  She tried to cut down for him.
But when she failed, he berated her, not just about smoking but soon about
everything.  Francine was an unexpected surprise twelve months after the
wedding.  Suzanne cut down during her pregnancy, but was never able to
completely quit.  After Francine was born, the stress of having a little one
in the house only worsened her stormy relationship with Bob.  In an attempt to
head off the inevitable, Suzanne finally and completely quit, shortly before
her thirtieth birthday.  But it was too little, too late.  Bob walked out a
few months later, when Francine was five, and Suzanne bid the bastard good
riddance.  At least, she told herself at the time, he made her quit smoking.
That, and Francine, were the only good things he ever did for her.

   But the anguish of a failed marriage reared its ugly head in other ways,
despite her denials.  She began to eat compulsively in a vain attempt to cover
anger and disappointment.  She ballooned from a petite 110 pound female to a
160 pound blimp in twelve months.  Eating became her defense mechanism, and
she needed lots of defense after the divorce.  She joined a new architectural
firm, without Bob, and began to enjoy work again.  She was lonely, but her
tiny daughter and compulsive eating ended her dating career before it began.
No one wanted a thirty-something female that big!  She periodically dieted,
but never got under 150.  That is, until at forty the exercise equipment and
new diet finally helped her drop lower for the first time in years.  Despite
that, she hit a plateau at 140 which she couldn't overcome till a return to
smoking as an additional weight loss tool finally allowed her to drop even
further.

   Now forty years old, Suzanne was 118, still heavier than at the time of her
divorce, but far below her behemoth size of recent years.  She felt better;
she didn't get as tired as she once did carrying all the excess weight.  But
one thing was radically different than in her old life.  As a teenager, even
in her late twenties, she topped out at fifteen cigarettes a day.  Now she
regularly smoked thirty a day, and more when stressed.  When she woke up, she
lit up.  Instead of breakfast, she sipped coffee and had three or four
cigarettes.  She chain-smoked driving to work, and her morning and afternoon
breaks consisted of two, furiously smoked cigarettes.  At lunch, she didn't
eat, living instead on coffee and non-stop smoking.  She regularly polished
off a full pack by nightfall.  Even with her strenuous workout program, she
managed another ten or more cigarettes by bedtime.  She was smoking way too
much, but rationalized it by telling herself she only smoked to keep from
eating.  And that was true.  She never ate breakfast or lunch, she smoked.
Instead of snacking, she smoked.  The only meal she ate was supper with
Francine.  Even then, Suzanne only picked at her food.  She merely waited
patiently till her daughter finished eating, so she could run for her
cigarettes again.

   Given the extent of her revived habit, Suzanne doubted she could ever quit.
In her honest moments, she had to admit she didn't want to.  After her divorce
she found comfort in eating too much.  That had been replaced by smoking too
much, delighting in the predictable lift that nicotine generously delivered
through her precious, full flavored cigarettes.  More than she remembered
during her prior life as a smoker, in her teens and twenties, she absolutely
adored the feeling she always got from lighting up, sucking smoke deep into
her lungs, and slowly, luxuriously exhaling it over several breaths.  This
time she'd gotten herself really hooked, and in her heart she knew it.  But it
was worth it, in her mind, to be thin again.

   She took solace in the fact that Francine would never duplicate her stupid
behavior.  Little did she realize that that was exactly what would ultimately
happen!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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