Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Looking God in the eye and rememberin​g what’s none of my business, which is almost everything

So a friend read my blog for the first time the other day. He read “How the Kate got her stripes”. The one about my stretch marks. He texted me shortly afterwards and said that reading it made him feel like an intruder in my life. And that made me feel bad. It embarrassed me. I had to ask myself if I have been saying too much. Or too graphically. It made me wonder if I have crossed the line from intimacy to exhibitionism. TMI, if you will. Because making someone feel like an intruder is hardly warm and fuzzy. And it is definitely not the purpose of this blog.

It felt empowering for me to write openly and honestly about my body. It felt good to say that my body is not perfect, and that I love it anyway. It felt like a gift to write that, as beautiful and sexy as I am, I do not look like an underwear model. Because you probably don’t look like an underwear model either. Because as you probably know, if you don’t live under a rock, even underwear models don’t look like underwear models. (Even I know that and I practically do live under a rock. I am pathetically under-informed about most things cultural.)

But hearing from a friend, and maybe more significantly, a man, that this blog gave him an unpleasant feeling, jarred me. I write a blog about living with eating disorders because I want to feel like I’m giving honor to the truth. It is powerful for me because I hope it empowers others. I want to believe that sharing my experiences has some meaning for you, as well as for me.

And maybe it upset me because admitting that my body is flawed, flawed because I abused it, was hard for me. I was already worried that you would judge me. That you would think, “Ew. Gross.” And that “Ew. Gross.” would not be about a body. But about my body. That yucky feeling, that judgment, would be about me.

What I try to remember every day is that what other people think is none of my business. Not even what they think about me. The only thing that is my business is my relationship with God. And my relationship with God is solely based on my personal integrity. I have a phrase for it. Looking God in the eye.

When someone doesn’t like me, or is angry at me, or feels yucky because of me, I try to make a point of knowing why. Being the human that I am, I can, on occasion, be an asshole. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes unwittingly. If someone doesn’t like me because I behaved badly, crossed a boundary, made a mess of things, well then that’s a personal integrity issue. That’s between me and God. And I do my best to clean it up with that person. Because making my wrongs right with someone is actually between me and God as much as it is between me and them.

But plenty of times a person doesn’t like me (or something I did, or my blog) for reasons that have nothing to do with my integrity. And that’s between them and God. (Or them and life, or them and themselves, or however they choose to see it.) Some people don’t like me because I honor my own life first. Some people don’t like me because I’m happy. Some people don’t like my personality or my sense of humor. Some people don’t like me because I have boundaries around my food that I don’t cross for any person, place or thing. (That last one makes me laugh, because if you think you don’t like me with my food under control, you obviously don’t realize what an asshole I would be if I were eating compulsively again.) But I can’t be worried about those people. If I can look God in the eye, I’m golden.

I went back and read “How the Kate got her stripes”. It was honest. It came from a place of love and honor. It was not written to shock. I was not trying to shake you up, or make you uncomfortable. There was no agenda other than healing. If it did shake you up, or make you uncomfortable, I’m sorry. Because I do my best every day to bring love and happiness and peace into the world. But also, if it did, I can’t be responsible for that. That’s not between me and God. And frankly, like almost everything else in the entire world, it’s none of my business. When I ask myself if I can look God in the eye after posting it, I know I can.

So let’s get back to my friend. Because this works both ways, right? All he did was tell me the truth about how my post made him feel. And I didn’t like it. I got scared. I started to worry about the fact that I’m doing something that leaves me open to being judged. (Um…duh, Kate. You’re writing an intimate yet public blog about a divisive issue.) And those worries and fears are not between my friend and God. They are not his responsibility. That stuff is all mine.

Do I want you to like me? Of course I do. Do I want you to like this blog? I can’t even tell you how much. But I have to remember that I don’t write this blog to be liked. I write it because I feel called to tell the truth about my experiences as a woman with eating and body image disorders. And I can’t start catering to individual readers because their reaction made me feel ashamed or embarrassed. I have to keep telling my truth to the best of my ability. Because that’s between me and God too.


How the Kate got her stripes

Since I told you all about my irrational body image issues in my last post, I decided it’s time to write about my rational ones. I decided to talk about “what is so” about my body, so it seemed like a good idea to mention the things I am embarrassed about. Still. At least sometimes. Even after going from 300 lbs to 133ish.

Let’s start with my knock-knees. This is not a genetic trait. It is something I did to myself. First, and nobody’s “fault”, I was born with a club foot. To remedy this, doctors put me in various hip-to-toe casts as a baby. They were changed regularly, of course. But this still stunted the growth of my right leg, which is now an inch shorter than my left. Then, growing up fat, my thighs were so big that they kept my feet and knees from ever meeting. Walking and standing while carrying so much excess weight as I was growing made my longer, left leg grow crooked. The femur has a slight bend to the right, the tibia and fibula an exaggerated bend to the left. When I lost my weight, and my thighs got thin, it turned out that when my knees touch, my feet are still six inches apart. When I bring my feet together, my left knee overlaps my right. This embarrasses me. I don’t know why. Maybe because I did it to myself. I wear heels to make it less obvious. And I have a modified “supermodel” walk so that my knees don’t bang together.

But even more embarrassing to me is my skin. I have a lot of it. A crap-load more than I need. It hangs. And it is covered with stretch marks. And there is nothing natural to do about it. The most noticeable places are my arms, breasts, belly, and upper thighs.

I was in a tank top at the playground the other day, and the 3-year-old I take care of said, “Kate, look!” And she pointed to my under-arm. “You have stripes!”

I said, “It’s true. I do.”


I said, “That’s a long story.”

She asked, “Do you have it at home?”

“Do I have what at home?”

She said, “The book. With the story of why you have stripes.”

I read a great analogy once about skin after a huge weight loss. It said that if you take a garbage bag, and stuff it too full of cans, when you take the cans out, the bag is still stretched out of shape. Even if you do it slowly, one can at a time. It is not that I lost my weight too fast. It is that I got so fat at all. I realize that skin is a living organ. That it’s different from a plastic bag. And, indeed, my skin is not still the skin of a 300 lb woman on a thin woman’s body. It has bounced back quite a bit, to be sure. But I still have plenty of extra. And after years of being thin, it is clear to me that it’s never going to go away entirely and leave me with a lean, smooth, tight body.

And I worry about what other people think of that. I would be lying if I said I didn’t. I am afraid of having my body judged. Partly because I’m very protective of it. It’s mine. It has been very good to me. And partly because I am ashamed of having done to it what I did. I scarred it. And I am afraid of owning that. And being reminded of that. Especially if it’s because someone else brought it up because they saw something they found unattractive. (No, I don’t mean the 3-year-old. She loves me just the way I am.)

I have worn a bathing suit in public maybe 4 times in the past 20 years. Always with my family at a hotel pool. Never comfortably. Not even since I got thin.

Being with a man, actually just the thought of being with a man, can bring up a lot of insecurity about my body. I have learned that if a man wants to see you naked, he’s never disappointed if he gets to. But knowing this has never made it easier to take off my clothes in front of one. And I have always wanted to apologize for my body. As if skin and stretch marks make me the booby prize. As if any man wouldn’t be damn lucky to be with a beautiful, intelligent, fascinating, and incredibly sexy woman. All of which I am. If I do say so myself…

But here’s the interesting part of it for me. The truth is that when I am alone with my naked body, I think it is positively beautiful. Saggy boobs, belly flap and all. It is certainly not “conventionally” pretty, but conventional has never occurred to me as all that pretty in the first place. My body is interesting. And womanly. It has a history. And I love it.

As I said, there is nothing natural to do about “fixing” my skin. But there is, of course, something to do about it. Plastic surgery. And I don’t want to. It’s not that I’ve never considered it. It’s not that I’ve never thought it would be nice to wear a bikini to the beach without worrying about the shape of my stomach. Or a backless dress, which can only be worn bra-less. (Which is just not a possibility when you’ve gone from a 44DDD to a 34D…and straight down…) And my step-mother even offered to help me pay for the plastic surgery if it was something I decided to do. But when it comes down to me and me, my relationship with my own body, I like it just the way it is. Flawed, weird, interesting, and beautiful as hell. It’s me. It is exactly who I am. And I don’t need to forget that, or deny it, or pretend that it’s not.

What I’d like more than surgery, is to wear my bikini in public. In my gorgeous, sexy, flawed body. Without shame or embarrassment. Baby steps, Kate…

Does this blog make me look fat?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my body image disorders lately. Body image has been coming up in the media quite a bit, of course. But for me it has a weird extra layer, because I was so fat for so many years. Not just fat by Hollywood standards (which I still am, by the way…at a size 6. To which I say eeewwww.) But fat by any standards.

I very often don’t know what I look like when I am not standing in front of a mirror. I mean that in all seriousness. (It might be why I like looking in the mirror so much. I am incredibly vain!) Sometimes I will catch a glimpse of myself in a store window as I am walking down the street, and it will take me by surprise. Wait! That’s me!?!? It happens less as the years go by with me living in a little body. But it still happens pretty regularly.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I still think I look like I weigh 300 lbs. But that’s part of why it’s so sick. It’s subtle. It’s sneaky. It’s an interesting look at the ways I’m still messed up in the head. And heart.

“That man thinks your ass looks huge in those pants.” “That woman thinks you shouldn’t be wearing that dress.” “Everyone is looking at your stomach.” “That cute guy would never talk to you. You’re too fat for him.”

These are the kinds of thoughts I think all the time. I’m 5′ 6 1/2″. I weigh between 131 and 135 lbs on any given day. And I have plenty of muscle. These thoughts are ridiculous and irrational. But they are a part of my daily life. And they are between me and me.

I’m not a model, a dancer, or an actress. I don’t work in any industry where people are telling me I need to lose 5 pounds. Yes, I think that’s gross. Yes, it upsets all of my sensibilities. But it’s not the world I live in. In fact, I don’t even think about it terms of losing weight to “get thin”. In my mind, I both understand that I am thin, and conversely, that I will never get thin. There is a corner of my mind that holds the belief that I am fat. As a way of being. Not that Kate’s body is fat, but that Kate is fat. Like there’s nothing to do about it. It’s just the way it is.

It’s funny because I do know that I’m attractive. Ok, hot. (I should call it like I see it. False humility is ridiculous.) But, like many other aspects of my eating disorder brain, much of my thinking about my body and my self is warped. Knowing I’m thin and hot, and knowing I’m fat and unattractive live side by side. It doesn’t make rational sense. But it makes perfect sense to me.

I wore a path in my mind with thoughts about the inevitability of my fatness. The undeniable “truth” of it. And wearing a new path of thinking of myself as thin, even having a beautiful body, often means wandering untrodden territory in my head. But I do it. Even though it can be scary and uncomfortable. Because I believe in the power of thoughts. Because I don’t want to think myself back into compulsive eating.

I want to note that I do not live in fear of being fat again. I know it’s possible, because my eating disorders and my sugar sensitivity are irreversible. (You may disagree about the nature of such things, but please, keep it to yourself. I have no shame in my weakness/sickness. I have no need to become “normal”. It gives me peace to surrender to the “forever” of my disorders.) But I don’t clutch at keeping my food under control with white knuckles. I have every intention and expectation of keeping a handle on my eating. I have peace around food. I do the work I need to do daily. The practical part, the emotional part, and the spiritual part. And one aspect of that work is to start thinking new thoughts about what it means to be Kate.

I’m telling you this because since I’ve been writing this blog, a lot of emotional and spiritual wounds that I have written about have healed inside me. Or have at least begun to heal. And I would like to heal this too. I would like to honor my body exactly the way it is. So it is best to acknowledge what is so. What is so is that I am thin. And there is no honor in clinging to obsolete thoughts of self-deprecation.

Happy Easter! Now leave me alone.

I don’t do holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are no longer a part of my life. I haven’t celebrated them since I got control of my eating.

Let’s be honest. Holidays, especially the family centered ones, are about food. You get together with as many of your relatives as you can pack into a home, people cook their most decadent dishes, and then you eat yourselves into oblivion.

First, I don’t eat like that anymore. Ever. I can’t afford to start if I won’t be able to stop. And second, I don’t like my family.

They are good people as individuals (with a few notable exceptions), but as a group, my family’s dynamic is one of passive-aggressiveness, and cruel humor. Yes, they are incredibly funny. But nearly always at someone else’s expense. And as the most sensitive member of the family, I was by far the easiest target.  And there are a lot of them. My mother is the second oldest of 11 kids. I have 23 cousins and a brother on that side. To be the girl with a bull’s-eye on her forehead in a room full of 30+ people was a horrible experience. I can remember being reprimanded regularly by my mother for being “too sensitive” when they made me cry. I never learned that lesson though. I’m sensitive. I don’t deal well with people being mean to me. Now I just surround myself with people who are nice to me. People who treat me like they like me. And that’s not my family.

The other thing is that I ate over feelings. Especially the kind of shame and humiliation that my family specializes in. And I come from a family of eaters. So any holiday will always have a ready supply of exactly the foods that can make me numb. And Aunt So-and-so saying something nasty about the way I look, or Uncle Whoever making an obnoxious remark about something stupid I did 15 years ago, is the kind of thing that makes me want to be numb. I can already hear the fat girl inside me: Oh, don’t mind them, Kate. Look! There are chocolate bunnies!

I’m strong. I’m committed to having my food under control. I’ve done it every day for over six years. But I have absolutely no desire to test that commitment by being surrounded by both sugar, and people who make me want to eat it. And for Easter? Well, that doesn’t seem like a particularly good reason to me. I don’t practice any religion anymore anyway.

And I don’t want to go to anybody else’s family either. Not to avoid being alone. Just because it’s a holiday. I don’t want to have to explain what I do with food. I don’t want to have to tell your grandmother why I can’t have any of her special cookies. No, not even just one. Not just a taste. I don’t want to be the ill-mannered guest, whom your family was kind enough to invite because she didn’t have anywhere else to go. I do have someplace to go. I just don’t want to go there. I don’t do holidays. And I don’t mind at all.

People expect that I’m lonely. They tell me I’m lonely. Because they would apparently be lonely without somewhere to go for a holiday. But the fact of the matter is that I like to be alone. Any time. And on holidays especially. Post childhood, the only thing I ever really liked about them was food. Not just food, but eating ridiculous amounts of food. And in the open. Because everyone was over-eating. In the open.  So much of my eating was done in hiding when I was eating compulsively. I was ashamed of it, so I did as little of it in front of people as I could. But holidays were when I could look around at everybody and see them being as gluttonous as I was. It was a relief. But not eating compulsively any time, for any reason, is a much bigger relief. I do not feel deprived. I promise, I had more than my share of chocolate bunnies for the first 28 years of my life. In fact, I had my share, your share, and the shares of 2 or 3 other people.

Maybe if I have a family of my own someday, I will want to celebrate holidays again. Not with the gluttonous eating, of course. But with traditions and gatherings. I can imagine that Christmas or Easter might look different to me if I were looking at it through the lens of a family I made myself, rather than the one I was born into. But in the meantime, I will happily celebrate the holidays by spending time with the person whose company I enjoy the most. Me.

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