FOR 20 YEARS, ROSEMARY GREEN ate very simply—anything, anytime, anywhere. Milky Ways and Butterfingers downed with Big Macs and M &M-encrusted cakes. At her worst, in 1986, the 320-lb. Beaverton, Ore., housewife would bake and eat a batch of brownies before her kids came home from school.
But now, at 42—after six pregnancies, years of chronic bingeing and carrying up to 185 unwanted pounds—the onetime beauty queen turned self-proclaimed “lardo” proudly fits into a size 8. She has chronicled her rise and fall (and rise) in Diary of a Fat Housewife (Warner), a painful account of life in the fat lane.
The book, which was discovered among thousands of unsolicited manuscripts sent to the publisher, has gone back to press four times in eight weeks just to keep up with orders. “I had a sense of mission,” says Green. “Everyone in America is either fat or has a fat friend, but many don’t really know what the morbidly obese go through.”
In a candid, breezy style, Green describes the humiliation of having to squeeze into two girdles and the “noise” problem during jumping jacks—that is, the sound of stomach rolls flapping against her thighs. And of feeling so much shame in the bedroom that she would undress under the sheets. “What could be more degrading,” she writes, “than trying to hide myself from the husband I sleep with?”
Green started her diary one miserable 260-lb. day in 1982 after her husband, Allen, a financial-services salesman, had said, “I looked at some pictures of you 10 years ago and lusted after your body. You were gorgeous.” “He hadn’t meant to hurt me,” writes Green, but “10 years of fat misery seemed to slap me in the face. I was devastated by the obese human I had become.”
During the first decade of their marriage, Allen had traveled often on business, leaving Green alone with their growing family. “I ate to fill a void,” she says, “and I created a mountain.” Too mortified to join such self-help groups as Overeaters Anonymous or Weight Watchers and convinced that diet books and fad exercises weren’t meant for someone as embarrassed as she about size, Green tried willpower. For days she would nibble on carrots and apples, then give up and binge on candy bars. Keeping a diary, she says, eventually brought the discipline she craved. “It was like therapy,” she says. “I just knew it would be published, and that kept me going.”
Green’s obesity had its roots in her Portland, Ore., childhood. A truck driver’s daughter, Rosemary Lind was the sixth of nine children raised in a family in which money was tight and food scarce. Her father, Roy, would reward his children, who were all thin, with ice cream; her obese mother, Elita, was a role model, she says, for “horrible eating habits.”
The 5’9″ beauty, crowned Madison High School’s Rose Festival princess in 1970, was still slender (142 lbs.) at her wedding the following year. But 16 months later, pregnant with her first child, she had ballooned to 210. By 1986 she was routinely bolting some 3,500 calories a day. Her husband served as an unwitting accomplice. “I was such a jerk,” says Allen, 54. “I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I’d bring home doughnuts for me and the kids.” Or he’d take the gang out for an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. He says he was never ashamed of his wife’s size and attributed her problems to pregnancy.
It was Green herself who put a stop to her bingeing. In 1990 she enlisted her family’s help. Although she had managed to reduce her daily calorie count to 2,200 per day—and to get her weight into the 200 range—she was still tempted by the ever-present sweets. A padlock now keeps her out of the kitchen pantry, where all the danger foods have been consigned, and no one dares come home bearing a nacho. These measures have helped, says Green, though she admits that the last 50 pounds came off only during a physician-supervised liquid diet late last year.
Currently, at 135 lbs.—and sticking to a 1,500-calorie regimen of daily fruits, veggies and whole grains—Green urges overeaters to consult a doctor, choose a buddy to talk to about their ordeal and prepare low-cal food in advance to combat the inevitable cravings.
Green intends to turn her tips into a diet program she calls the Winning at Thinning Action Plan, and she is busy on a second book aimed at changing kids’ eating habits. “I plan,” says Green, crossing her shapely legs, “to be the woman who gets french fries out of America’s school cafeterias.”
MIRO CERNETIG in Beaverton