How can I unlearn this toxic lesson when it’s so deeply embedded in our everyday lives?
Lisa Lampanelli will be playing the Apollo Theatre in New York City on Wednesday, January 30, at 8 p.m. Please go to http://bit.ly/VOTfh4 or Ticketmaster.com for tickets.
All my life I’ve had two addictions: The first was food. Hey, what Italian doesn’t? When you’re Italian, you eat ‘til there’s a death. And I LOVED to eat. Not just the typical Italian foods -– pasta, meatballs, sausage. As a kid, I showed off by eating sticks of butter, whole cans of black olives, bowls of grated cheese.
That was all well and good through high school but when I left for college, it caught up with me. I gained the customary freshman 40 and for the next 30 years, I lost and gained over 300 pounds.
My weight went hand in hand with my other addiction: men! It wasn’t enough I ate food that was bad for me, I dated the junk food of men. There was Andy whose favorite book was “The Fountainhead” . . . need I say more? There was Pete who gave himself tattoos in jail. There was Ross the guy who said, “I’m not gay anymore.”
Really? If you’re not gay ANYMORE, how come we’re watching “Annie Get Your Gun: The Limited Edition” instead of making out?
Then I met Frank. I met Frank when I started doing comedy at the clubs in New York City. Every night I played this one particular club, I would notice this old model Cadillac driving around the block real slow. One night I pulled the club owner aside and I asked, “Hey, Al, who’s in that car?” He pointed to a headshot of a pretty good-looking comic and he said, “That’s Big Frank D’Amico.”
One night, after about a month, the car stopped, the door opened with this huge squeak and out came this guy and I realized why his nickname was Big Frank. Big Frank was 400 pounds. That is not an exaggeration.
Come to find out that Frank had been driving past that club all those nights looking for ME! So naturally, I HAD to go out with him. (Hey, nothing says “love” like stalking, right?) And Frank, to my dismay, was into me exactly the way I was -– food, weight, and all. So I started to think: maybe I’ve been doin’ this wrong all along. Maybe I shouldn’t diet. Frank liked me, and I wasn’t gonna talk him out of it.
When Frank and I were together, all we did was laugh. So, when he eventually asked me to move in with him, I said yes. Looking back now, I realize Frank combined both things I was crazy about -– he was a guy AND he had a thing with food. He was one-stop shopping. He was like that general store in the country that sells ice cream and live bait. It’s a combination that sounds bad on the surface but, to me, it was perfect.
One day, Frank said his toe was bothering him. I took one look at it and it was horrible. It was blackish-green, scaly, and brittle. It looked like Steve Buscemi’s teeth. I said, “We are going to the doctor NOW.” When we got there, the doctor took one look at it and said, “Frank, you have advanced diabetes and this toe is coming off. If you don’t do something about your lifestyle, you’re gonna have even bigger problems later.”
I can’t even describe how tense it was on the drive home. So I figured I’d better break the ice. “Frank,” I said, “we’re gonna do this together. We both have to change.” I continued, “I’m getting rid of everything in that house that has sugar in it.”
Frank was silent for a few moments and said, “You know what, you’re right. You know what I’m gonna do? I’m cuttin’ out soda.”
And I was like, “Soda?”
“Yeah, soda. It’s got a lot of sugar in it.”
I was flabbergasted, “Yeah, soda has sugar but so does all the other crap in the house.”
Frank snapped back, “That’s my plan of attack.”
I said, “Look Frank, I’m a woman of very high standards. I have a 7-toe minimum and you’re getting dangerously close.”
One day shortly after the doctor’s visit, I was flying home from a gig. As I was settling into my seat, I heard the stewardess say, “If the air pressure in the cabin should drop and you’re traveling with someone who needs assistance, put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then help them with theirs.”
My mind started racing as I replayed the safety message in my head. That chick was talking about Frank and me. That’s exactly how it was with us. And if the two of us were ever gonna have a happily-ever-after, I had to help myself before I could help him.
When the plane landed, I didn’t unpack my bags. I moved out.
Single for the first time since I could remember, I decided I had to make a drastic change. I couldn’t dick around with this yo-yo dieting anymore. And for some reason I can’t even remember, the word “rehab” popped into my head.
Tentatively, I Googled the words “food rehab” and, lo and behold, I found out it exists! I called my manager and said, “I want to go to this place for 28 days called Rosewood Ranch that helps people with their food issues.” She said, “28 days?” “Yeah, didn’t you see the movie with Sandra Bullock? It’s in a movie, so it’s obviously correct.”
She gave me 28 days off starting May 16th, but I forgot that May in Wickenburg, Arizona, is 115 degrees. And yeah, I know it’s a dry heat, but so’s an oven and I don’t wanna spend 28 days in one of those either!
I drove to Rosewood and, of course, I was sweating to death. I was wearing a sundress to try to look cute and, naturally, I wore my Spanx. Now, for you straight guys reading this -– all four of you -– Spanx are industrial-strength girdles and tights that suck you in all over. They’re sort of the fat women’s equivalent of a combover if you’re a bald guy.
As luck would have it, I arrived at Rosewood just in time for dinner. The nutritionist greeted me and introduced me to this girl in her early ‘20s, Bridgett, saying, “Bridgett will show you how to eat.” Show me how to eat? Trust me, bitch, I’m 230 pounds. I know how to eat. Clearly I’m ahead of the game!
The first thing I noticed about this Bridgett chick was that she was rail thin. I immediately thought, “Wow! This place works. I better not get too attached to her ‘cause she’s clearly cured and must be leaving tomorrow.”
Bridgett and I headed to the dining room and when we entered, I was in shock. I looked down this huge Thanksgiving-size table, and one girl was skinnier than the next! Wait a minute -- something was off here. I had signed up to spend 28 days with people who were like me, people who had the same problem I have, but there I was in a room full of “afters” and I was the only “before”!
I sat down and I looked at the girl to my right. “So, uh, what’re you here for?”
“Anorexia,” she answered without taking her eyes off the plate of food she wasn’t eating.
I tried with the girl on my left. “What brought you here?”
Oh my God! I knew the website said this place helps people with all kinds of food issues but this was ridiculous! I was the only fat bitch here!
I barely got through my meal without eating off my neighbors’ plates -– thank God I had stopped at Wendy’s on the way! -- when a girl from across the table said, “OK, time for affirmations. I’ll go first. I am exactly where God wants me to be.”
Now, truth be told, I have never bought into affirmations. I always felt affirmations make you feel worse because deep down you know what you’re saying isn’t true. I mean, if you have to look into a mirror and say, “I’m pretty,” chances are you’re not.
As they went around the table, each of the girls was taking her turn giving an affirmation, and they were closing in on me. I thought fast and said, “I can do this one MEAL at a time.” See what I did there? I took the AA phase, “One DAY at a time,” and edited it for food rehab.
All the girls started clapping their little bony hands in glee. It was only my first day and I was already the headliner in rehab!
When the last girl was finished, I grabbed my tray, stood up and practically ran to my room. After only two hours in this place, I could already tell it was totally fucked. I had to talk to somebody but there was no one here who’d understand my shit. I scrolled through the address book in my phone and saw Frank’s number. Frank! He’d get it!
I got his voicemail and I left a message: “Hey, Frank, you ain’t gonna believe where I’m calling you from. Call me back!”
That was just the beginning. Every day, they tested me and things got crazier and crazier.
At 5 a.m., we had Equine Therapy. That’s therapy -- with a horse! You have to lift this horse’s hoof to learn a slogan like “Let go and let God.” Honestly, I still don’t know what I was supposed to get out of that. All I know was that it was 5 a.m., I was starving, and that asshole of a horse kept taunting me with his feedbag.
Then we went to the gym. Now, a lot of the girls in Rosewood were over-exercisers, so we were only allowed to do 20 minutes on the treadmill –- not a second longer. One day I made the grave mistake of doing 25 minutes, and the gym monitor yelled at me right in front of everybody, shaming me like I was 3. I’m like, “Clearly, over-exercising isn’t my issue, you douche!”
Then we got to go to the pool. Now, I realize this may be politically incorrect, but anorexics and bulimics look slammin’ in bikinis. There they were looking gorgeous and thin around the pool, and I was sitting there in my size 20 one-piece from the Delta Burke swimsuit collection.
By Day 21, I’d had enough. I was ready to jump off a ledge. I’d had a particularly shitty day already, but around dinnertime, I noticed that it was even worse than I’d thought. I had lost my serenity rock.
Now, serenity rocks are these rocks in rehab that have slogans on them -- something positive like “Tranquility,” “Peace,” “Dream” –- and, as silly as it sounds, those rocks give you hope. It sounds queer but I’d hold onto my rock some days and it made me remember why I was at Rosewood in the first place.
So, I discovered I’d lost my rock, and I went out to the smoking pit and told the girls I was bummed about it. Pretty soon, I started to joke that I should sell my own line of rocks that say things like, “Worthless, “Loser,” “That’s Not Your Real Mother,” and this chick Meghan interrupted me and said, “Hey, don’t be too funny in here. They don’t like it. They don’t like when you make fun. They say humor is a way to hide your feelings.”
Oh my God! I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t relate, and now I couldn’t make fun of myself, anyone, or anything in the world. So basically I couldn’t be myself! How can I work on ME if I can’t even BE me?
That was it! I was out of here! Nobody at Rosewood got me! I had made it through three weeks, and that was e-Goddamned-nough!
I stormed back to my room and started packing. I needed to vent to somebody, and then I remembered -– Frank! I checked my voicemail to see if he had called me back, but no such luck. I decided to log on to see if he’d sent me an email, and when I opened by mailbox there was only one email. It said, “Big Frank D’Amico died June 1st from complication of his diabetes.”
I had nothing else to say. I got into bed and pulled the covers up over my head. But before I went to sleep, I set my alarm for 5 a.m. I had to get up early. I had a date with a horse.