By Q Bomb
Everyone loved her in the bikini.
Sandra was thrilled when she was selected to appear on the TV show "Survival of the Fittest." She'd be sent to a remote tropical island for three months . . . well, you know the drill by now. It was going to be hard and grueling, and she wouldn't see her boyfriend, Bobby, for the whole time.
The island life was even harder than she expected, and the food was particularly dreary - the only meat she ate for three months was bugs and rats, and she never realized how badly she'd miss her favorite snacks, like ice cream and chocolate. She'd stay up at night, the hunger gnawing at her, talking before the cameras with a few of the other young women about the things they'd eat when they got off the island - Sandra went to bed each night dreaming about big sundaes and Snickers bars. It helped keep her mind off the mosquitoes.
At the beginning of the show, Sandra, in her orange bikini, cut a striking figure: 5'6", 128 pounds of sleek curves, taut legs, a cute face and shoulder-length sandy brown hair. Wearing the bikini almost constantly on camera, she won legions of fans watching the show. But they also saw something else: Sandra's physical deterioration as the televised ordeal wore on. She lost twenty pounds, ultimately requiring her to make some creative adjustments to her bathing suit top, which was hanging loose as her chest grew smaller. Her hips narrowed. Her hair grew scraggly and clumps fell out; she gave in and had it hacked back to just below the ears by one of her island-mates. Her legs were pock-marked with bug bites.
But she almost won, winding up as the runner-up. And when she got on the boat to leave, the first thing she asked for was a jar of peanut butter, which she spooned out and ate - the whole jar. Her first meal back at the hotel where the contestants were staying before heading home? A big steak. And lobster. And French fries. And lots of buttered bread. And chocolate cake afterwards. And, oooooh, it tasted so good. Sandra had watched her weight before the island, but she certainly didn't need to now, she told herself, as her clothes hung off her. She needed to get some weight back, in fact, and she was desperate to enjoy some food. Of course, she was practically doubled over with a stomach ache that night, since her stomach had shrunk from eating the meager food on the island. But she did find time to check the scale and was amazed - she hadn't weighed less than 110 pounds since junior high.
Bobby met her when she got off the plane back to Minneapolis. "WOW, you've gotten skinny! I thought you looked too thin on TV, but I guess it's right about the camera adding ten pounds, you look ill."
"Gee, thanks Bobby, you look great, too."
Sandra was shivering - not only had she lost weight, but the bite in the air in Minnesota in early October was a very long way from the tropical "paradise" she had left behind. Bobby tossed his jacket around her and they went looking for a place to eat . . .
Sandra loved Halloween when she was a kid, and she felt like one again that morning as she sat on the floor in her living room, packing the bags of candy for the neighborhood kids and munching steadily on a sampling from each of the candy bowls. She was wearing a heavy sweatshirt and stretch pants with two layers of leggings to keep the heat in, as she'd struggled to deal with the cold since she returned to Minnesota. Her cheeks bulged with the candy, and as she thought of eating bugs and "weed stew" on the island, her hands reached for another Snickers.
Sandra stepped on the scale before she got in the shower, holding her belly, which was swollen from the candy binge. 123 pounds. Good, good. 15 pounds in just over three weeks. In the past she'd have been alarmed, but now she was happy. She needed to get healthy, and that meant gaining weight. "But soon I'll be back to my old weight and I won't need to keep checking the scale," she thought, her hands running down the bulges starting to form at her hips.
+Bobby waited at the doorbell, flowers in hand, checking his watch. He wanted to get to Sandra's parents' house in time for the Vikings-Lions game. The game was the best part of Thanksgiving.
Sandra opened the door. She looked great - vibrant, healthy. Her hair had grown back and recovered its old glow by now. She was dressed in a long, ankle-length dress that hung loosely over her form, with a shawl to fight off the cold. Still not handling the cold well, and it was below zero out. She threw on a heavy winter overcoat, hat scarf and gloves and went out to the car.
Sandra's parents, as they had since her return, marveled over how much better she was looking. Sandra didn't know what she weighed now - a few weeks earlier she'd hit 126 on the scale, and stopped weighing herself. She sat down by the TV and grabbed a handful of potato chips, and put up her feet. "So, when are you going back to work?" her dad asked. "I don't know, maybe after the holidays."
Sandra had quit her job at the airport before leaving for the island, and she'd won a few hundred thousand dollars as the runner-up on the show, and figured she could afford a few months off to relax. She'd developed a passion for reading that she'd never had before, back in the days when she'd just work 9 to 5 and go to the gym and then out on the town. Now she skipped the gym - "I've put myself through enough sweat for one lifetime" - and mostly stayed home with a book and a carton of ice cream, a bag of Cheez Doodles or a few slices of pie.
At dinner, she outdid herself, gorging on turkey and all the trimmings. "Mom, this is great. I wish they'd had turkey like this on the island, and I wouldn't have lost all that weight." She went to lie down on the couch, stuffed to the gills, only to rouse herself for pie. And a second piece of pie, with ice cream on top.
December brought the end of the televised run of the show, and a reunion on the air. Sandra did the rounds of the morning TV shows to coincide with the episode where she got booted, and the reunion show. She chose a thick, long sweater and black jeans to wear on the shows, just thinking that she looked good in them. They camouflaged her weight gain up to a point - 140 pounds wasn't really that much on her frame - but the contrast of her chubby cheeks and curves bursting out of her sweater at both ends to her appearance on the island was dramatic, and the tabloids, the drive-time radio talk shows and internet message boards had a field day with how the "bikini beauty" had "porked up." But Sandra was caught up in her own little world, and paid it little enough attention. She loved the attention she got in public, but didn't follow the media that much these days. Her family and friends watched the reunion episode, and everybody said she looked great, so healthy.
Late January, 2:53 a.m. Sandra wakes up, in a cold sweat, just starting to yell out. She was having that dream again, the one where she'd been on the island so long they run out of bugs and have nothing to eat and only salt water to drink. Her stomach rumbles. She lifts herself out of bed, pulls the robe across her waist, oops, too tight again, loosens it a little, shuffles into the kitchen. Roll. Bologna. Mayo. Mmmm, more mayo. More bologna. Glass of milk. Always does the trick, the dream will leave and as soon as she's done eating, she'll fall right off to sleep.
March 14, Bobby popped the question. He had taken Sandra to her new favorite restaurant, a German place that specialized in heavy meats and dark beer, and asked for her hand in marriage just before her steaming plate of bratwurst arrived. The ring didn't quite fit her finger, but they figured they could get it sized right later. He felt the softness of her arms and the swell of her belly as they embraced. Then the food came . . .
In early May, with the remnants of winter still hanging in the Minneapolis air, Bobby convinced Sandra to take a vacation to somewhere warmer. She didn't want an island - still not ready to face that scene again - but they did pack their bags for New Orleans.
When they got to the hotel in New Orleans and unpacked those bags, Sandra called out from the bathroom to tell Bobby that she needed to go shopping. She had packed last summer's outfits - shorts and T-shirts - and nothing fit. She walked out in her underwear and a bathrobe, hanging loosely enough that Bobby could see how her stomach pressed outward below her breasts. "Nothing?" Bobby's voice was incredulous, but he really wasn't surprised. "Well, you know I had to get my weight back up after the show, and I think I've put on a little more weight than I lost," Sandra said matter-of-factly. "And just as well, I don't want to get that skinny again; it's not healthy and it certainly wasn't pretty." She dropped the robe and started pulling on the stretch pants and baggy sweatshirt she'd worn on the plane. Bobby did a bit of a double-take - they were waiting for marriage, and while his hands had done some walking, he hadn't seen her with her clothes off since she wore the bikini on TV.
He was still reacting when they were in the stores. Sandra picked out some new clothes and tried them on. Shorts stretched tight around the new rectangle framed by her hips, accentuating the fact that each butt cheek jiggled in three or four different places when she moved. T-shirts that hugged her back, revealing a bra strap that parted her back fat like the Red Sea. Yet Sandra was still, apparently, unconcerned about the new sizes of clothing she had to wear; she was hardly looking at the labels. "These seem kinda tight, but you like that, don't you Bobby?" "Uh, yeah, of course." Bobby wasn't turned off - quite the opposite - but he hadn't, before this, given thought to having a fat wife, let alone one who everyone in the country seemed to remember when she was thinner. He was starting to feel embarrassed when she was recognized in public, although as they walked around the Big Easy over the following days, Sandra hardly attracted a second glance. With dark glasses and a figure that reminded nobody of "Survival of the Fittest," she blended in with the other well-fed tourists at the restaurants, outdoor cafes and bars where they spent most of their time, sampling the local cuisine and boozing it up more than they should have.
It was mid-July, a year since Sandra embarked on her tropical adventure, when she was invited to participate in a live VH1 "Survival Beach Party" with the rest of the cast, none of whom she'd spoken to since leaving the show. The VH1 people called her up on the phone, sight unseen, and she agreed to go on the show. As the call was ending, the woman from the network added, "Of course, you'll have to wear the bikini. Everyone wants to see it."
Sandra suspected that the bikini wouldn't fit, although she was surprised to discover she couldn't even come close to pulling it on. Shopping for a new one proved difficult, since after a certain size, it's hard to find two-piece suits.
The network people obviously hadn't paid much attention to Sandra's appearances since "Survival of the Fittest" ended, and they were speechless when she arrived the day of the filming - well, temporarily speechless. Soon enough, tongues were wagging behind the scenes as she stripped down to the new bikini (which very obviously had a lot more material than the old one) for the start of the filming, with a volleyball game on the beach.
"She must have put on sixty pounds, at least!"
"So much for being the fittest, huh?"
"What on earth have they been feeding her?"
"Where'd she get that bikini? The old one probably wouldn't fit around her wrists now!"
But Sandra wasn't ashamed, just a little self-conscious, as she jumped up and down after the volleyball, shaking and jiggling all over. (It was actually about 80 pounds since she left the island - her weight was now somewhere in the 185-190 range). Her arms were thick and meaty and dimpled at the elbow. Her once-washboard stomach now swelled out forwards and sideways from the base of her breasts, then swelled out again from the folds where the love handles started, giving her midsection the look of two terraces of flab. And the thighs - hefty, rippled thighs. Even her knees were inches wider.
After the volleyball game and a round of videos, the plan was a barbecue. By now, the producers had caught on to the curiosity factor; they knew people would be starting to tune in to see Sandra and how fat she'd gotten. So they asked her to run the grill, guaranteeing a lot of camera time for her new, flabby self and a steady stream of cheeseburgers (she ate four on the air). "Ohhh, these are really good," she mumbled through her third one, trying in vain to wipe the grease dripping onto her belly. Bobby winced, but he knew he still wanted to marry her. Sandra could still get people riveted to the TV in her bikini - but she'd never let herself go hungry again . . .