Can I pick my pedestal?
There’s something that I have been thinking about regarding this blog. It has probably become clear to you if you’ve been reading a while, but it’s on my mind, none the less. My blog is called onceafatgirl, and I regularly talk about the fact that I’ve lost 165 or so lbs. And that’s important. But it’s not really the point. For me, it’s not about going from fat to thin, but more about having been fat. And why I was fat. And what being fat meant to me. And what it did to me. And what it was like. And what I had to go through to get my eating under control. And how growing up fat and with food addiction affected my head and my heart and my life. And still does.
Most people consider losing that much weight impressive. People are impressed. It’s not like I hold it against them. But from my point of view, it’s misguided. My weight loss does not particularly impress me.
I am addicted to sugar. The way crack addicts are addicted to crack. When I eat it, my body wants more. It thinks it needs more. It thinks it will die without more. And I also have eating disorders that are about my thinking. Before I got control of my eating, I was obsessed with food. And also my weight and my body. At first, my body obsession was about how horrible it was to be fat. But eventually, after I lost a lot of weight counting calories and working out (which was not control of my eating the way I refer to it now), it was about how to eat and not get fat again. How to eat so that nobody noticed. What to eat and when. And how to get the body and life I wanted without having to give up eating the way I wanted to eat. See, I have never really had a weight problem. Being morbidly obese was just a symptom. It wasn’t like I was lazy and just hadn’t gotten around to getting thin. I had a food problem. I still do. It’s just arrested.
I am very open about my eating disorders, and hence, my weight loss. Not just in this blog, but in my everyday life. I kind of have to be. It comes up a lot. And I am not ashamed of having eating disorders. It’s just the simple truth.
It may not occur to you if you don’t have food issues, but people talk about food constantly. They want to know if I’ve tried that new restaurant. They want to know why I don’t want a free sample of cake. Why I don’t want the piece of chocolate they are offering. They want to wax poetic about what they ate recently. With many adjectives and sound effects. They want to know what I’m eating. (They’re called vegetables. They are a kind of food. I’m eating food.)
Sarcasm aside, it’s really fine with me. I get it. I don’t mind people talking to me about food. I don’t worry about what anybody else is eating. I don’t get offended or upset if people eat in front of me. Or offer me foods I don’t eat. Even if they know about my food boundaries. People forget. It’s second nature for most people to be hospitable with food. I don’t need to make a big stink about saying no. “No thank you” usually suffices. (If it doesn’t, and I get harassed about it, well, yes. That annoys the hell out of me.) But I don’t crave the foods I have stopped eating. I don’t pine, or feel deprived. I have entirely altered the way I see food. It is now either mine, or not mine. If it’s not mine, it’s just not. I keep my eyes on my own plate.
But there is a thing that I’ve noticed because I am so open about my food issues. Most people don’t register that I have food issues. Even if I tell them I do. What they hear is that I overcame a weight problem. It doesn’t occur to them that I was fat because I was eating my own self-hatred. They don’t have any concept of the kind of punishment I was inflicting on myself with food. They cannot fathom that I lost weight because I made a decision to stop abusing myself. And they look at me and see a beautiful, happy woman, and they have no idea that there’s a fat girl who lives in my head who wants me to hate myself again so she can have her cake back. (I am not condemning them. How could they know?)
There is one thing in particular that I hear a lot that makes it clear to me that most people don’t understand. That they think it’s about weight. And in the past tense: “You should be really proud of yourself.”
I am not proud of myself for losing 165 lbs. I am not even proud of myself for getting control of my eating. Not that it was a breeze. Not that it didn’t suck to give up sugar. (No, seriously. It sucked. The withdrawal was excruciating. I sincerely pray that I will never have to do it again.) But being proud is the last thing I need. It implies that it’s done. Whew! Glad that’s over! (Yes. That’s more sarcasm.)
Being proud is a dangerous place for me to hang out. Pride goeth before a fall and all. I can’t afford to start believing I’m too good for my food boundaries. That I don’t need them because I’m special. That I accomplished something great, so I shouldn’t have to be so strict anymore. If I get proud, I might forget that I don’t have any willpower. (That’s not sarcasm, just so you know.) If I get too big for my britches figuratively, I will surely do so literally.
What I really do, every single solitary day, is protect my relationship with food. It is an ongoing, never-ending process. So I am not proud. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am so effing relieved that I don’t have to eat compulsively today, that I do whatever it takes. I do the work. And then I do it again. And again. It is not glamorous. But it is the most important thing I do in a day.
I didn’t get peace in my heart because I got thin. I got thin because I got peace. I didn’t start loving myself because I lost 165 lbs. I lost 165 lbs because I started loving myself. I guess my point in all of this is that if I got to choose what impressed you about me, I would not choose my weight loss. I would choose for you to be impressed by how I learned to honor myself. And how I continue to cultivate that honor every day. How I do the work even though it can be inconvenient. Even though it is not fancy or sexy. Because it gives me a joyful life. That I figured out that I deserve to have a joyful life. That I went from being a girl who was killing herself with food and self-loathing, to being a woman who celebrates herself with love and kindness. At least that is what impresses me about me.