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My grandma was a fat woman trapped in a thin woman’s body. Or rather, she was a woman for whom thinness required more mortification of the flesh than is usual, eating like an anorexic (they do eat — sometimes) simply to get her BMI down to normal. At times, this meant weeks of her eating nothing but carrot broth. More generally, it meant cooking deliberately unpalatable food (justifying it as “healthier”) for her whole family, to discourage “overeating”. She was also a hypothyroidic woman who came of age in an era when thyroid supplementation was not widely known.
Trouble keeping weight off isn’t the only sign of an underactive thyroid. The other signs — frizzy, thinning hair, the perpetual frog in the throat, catching chills — grandma had those, too. Not that you’d know it when you met her, since she wore a wig and retained just enough foreign accent to dress up her chain-smoker’s growl (in one who never smoked) as the smoldering alto tones of another Marlene Dietrich. My grandma was an elegant lady; built like a brick house even at her thinnest, but trim and sexy, very sporty; the kind of woman who’d pester the local rowing club into admitting women in the morning, then doll herself up for the evening in a dress looking far less shabby than it really was to go out on the town, dancing and pretending to sip fancy cocktails (not really sipping them, though — calories). My grandma had an iron will, not just iron but huge, rolling and inevitable, a steamroller. Her physical beauty was a manifestation of this, winning her several proposals when she was widowed before her time. For grandma, thinness was a moral issue.