onceafatgirl

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Archive for the category “Body image”

I don’t have a pretty red bow for you today.

I have been thinking a lot about the evolution of this blog, which is actually my evolution. And, if you read regularly, you know I have been thinking about fat acceptance for a while now. 

So this week, I binge watched a TV show about a fat teenager in the 90s. And I happened to be a fat teenager in the 90s. And I identified with so much of the show. I laughed and sobbed and could not get enough of it. My poor husband doesn’t really get it. He kept asking me, “why are you purposely watching something that makes you cry?!?” (The answer is because I love art that evokes feelings! Even difficult feelings.)
But one thing that I had a hard time identifying with was that this girl had a classically good looking boyfriend who was proud to be with her. That was not my story or my experience. And this girl was ashamed of her body at first, but learned to be comfortable in that body with this classically good looking boyfriend. And I have been thinking about that pretty much non-stop for days. Could that have ever been me? Could I have ever gotten to that point? Could I have been as fat as I was, and be comfortable being naked with a super hot guy?
And it makes me cry to say it, (like literally cry. I am crying right now. Again. My poor husband.) but I don’t think so. I can’t imagine it. I can’t think of a possible situation that would have had me accept my body that much at that time in my life. 
And I hate that. I hate that the girl I was hated herself so much. And that even in retrospect, I can’t imagine her loving herself exactly as she (I) was. And I don’t know how to process that really. What does that say about me? What does that mean about my character? 
I know that the problem I had when I was fat was not a body problem. It was an eating problem. Food was making me crazy, and unhappy. It made my life more difficult. It made me high. It facilitated my bad behaviors and intensified my bad feelings. But it also created the body that I was in that I hated. I was fat because I had an eating disorder, and an addiction. 
The two are tied up so tightly for me that I don’t know if I will ever be able to unravel them. 
So that is it. I don’t have any great revelation in this post. This doesn’t get tied up prettily with a big red bow. It just sort of ends with this uncomfortable sadness. 

Don’t Watch The Biggest Loser. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

After last week’s blog, I don’t have much to say. That took a lot out of me. And I don’t really want to talk about what Jillian Michaels said. So I will keep it short and sweet and say this: 

Don’t watch The Biggest Loser when it reboots. (This is not about Jillian Michaels. Her being in the news just reminded me. I don’t think Jillian Michaels is on the reboot, but the truth is I don’t know and I don’t care. That’s not why I am saying this.) 
Don’t watch fat people be shamed, berated, dehydrated, worked to exhaustion, malnourished, and generally abused for a dramatic story for your entertainment. The Biggest Loser is not offering a long-term solution to anything. What they are offering is not a solution to a food problem. It is not a plan for sustainable weight loss. First, it’s exercise bulimia. They get people to lose weight by exercising for more than 6 hours a day. Unless your job is playing a superhero in the Marvel Universe, I’m not clear how that is sustainable. They are literally only offering a game of who can lose the most weight the quickest. It is meant to be a circus side show. Fat people feel like a “safe” spectacle. You can judge them and pretend it is about caring about their health. Watching someone lose weight can be very dramatic. I assure you, *losing* weight in an unsustainable way can be very dramatic. But this is not a fun game once it’s done. The contestants of The Biggest Loser don’t get anything lasting from it. Some might get money.   But mostly they all just get broken metabolisms, and an inability to maintain the weight they lost. 

What could be more feminist than doing what I want with my body?

Ok. I think I am ready to do it. It has taken me some time to get my thoughts in order, but I am ready to talk about fat phobia and weight loss. 

A little set up for this post. I follow a fair number of body positive, fat acceptance, pro fat, fat activist, fat model, and in general size-inclusive accounts on social media. I do it because I still feel very connected to this group. I did not lose over 100 pounds to feel like I am “better than” anyone. And I am not here to promote weight loss. 

But there is an idea that gets floated around within these groups. That the personal desire to lose weight is inherently fat-phobic and therefore anti-feminist. That you can take actions to “be healthy” but actively trying to lose weight is against feminism.

Ok, so now you have pissed me off. 

Let me lay out some things I believe are true.
• I believe that in the U.S. and Western Culture in general, we have been fed a narrow (and ever narrowing) definition of beauty through a bombardment of images and advertising, to control and make money off of women. This culture and the corporations driving it have tried to convince us to starve ourselves, exhaust ourselves, nip and tuck ourselves, and generally be disappointed in ourselves so that we are willing to pay for the next thing that will make us beautiful and worthy. (Worthy of male attention, primarily.)

• I believe that diets don’t work, and that decreasing calories and eating in moderation is impossible for the majority of people who are not just doing that naturally. I believe that the medical industry has never offered me anything in terms of advice, diets, surgery, or medication that in any way makes long-term weight loss attainable. That what they do have to offer, besides physical mutilation, is “willpower” and “moral fortitude,” which are both bullshit, decidedly not helpful, and only reinforce the messed up idea that being fat is a moral failing. My experience is that it takes a lifestyle overhaul around food and eating to change your weight in the long-term. And that if you won’t or can’t do that, that’s fine. And totally valid. And doesn’t mean anything about your heart, mind, or morality.

• I believe that being fat does not *necessarily* equate to being unhealthy. I know that there are plenty of healthy fat people. But having said that, I have met a great number of fat people with serious health and pain issues *directly related* to being fat. And for many of these folks, losing weight and maintaining that weight loss has made them measurably healthier, and has greatly increased their comfort.

• I believe that being fat is now, and has been for generations, an easy mark for cruelty and discrimination. Whenever I hear someone say that society has “accepted” fatness, it’s usually to also say, “and that’s a problem and is contributing to the breakdown of morality in our society,” or some such nonsense. And that is bullshit. Society has not embraced fatness. And when (if) it does, it will be an important step towards inclusion and equality. Not the slippery slope to moral decay.

• I understand that I, as a straight woman, have a different relationship to thinness than many women who are not straight. The widely accepted and agreed upon view of the kind of woman men are attracted to is that she is thin. The thinner the better. Skinny, sometimes to the point of death, is what the fashion industry has been selling as the height of beauty for at least the past 30 years. So yes, I wanted to lose weight in the first place to meet a bullshit beauty standard. But as I have pointed out before, there were many classically good looking  men who were attracted to me when I was fat. But they were embarrassed by it. And I was shamed for it. 

So I do understand how loaded weight loss talk is. And I do agree that fat *is* a feminist issue. But when you tell me that my weight loss is anti-feminist and upholds the patriarchy…well now we’re going to have words.

It reminds me of an argument I occasionally heard growing up, that women who chose to stay home with their children and work as stay-at-home moms rather than have some kind of career meant they could not be feminists. 

But I thought feminism was about making our own choices, and doing what we chose for ourselves. I thought feminism was about agency and autonomy. I thought I got to choose what to do with my body. All of my body, in any way I wished.

When I was fat, I hated stairs. Sometimes, if I knew I was going to have to climb a lot of stairs at some point that day, it would haunt me until it was done. It would take up space in my head and create anxiety. I did not hate stairs because of internalized fat phobia. I hated stairs because that level of exertion caused so much pain that I lived in fear of stairs. When I lost my weight, that stopped. In fact, I started to love physical exertion. I started to love moving and walking and jumping. And yes, even stairs. OK, maybe I didn’t start to *love* stairs. But I most definitely stopped fearing them.

When I was fat, I loved to dance. I went out dancing several times a week. And there was always a point when my feet would ache so bad i couldn’t dance anymore. Even if I wanted to. Even if my favorite song came on. I wasn’t not dancing because of internalize fat phobia. I was not dancing because the weight of my body on my feet was more than I could bear. When I lost that weight, I could dance all night, and my feet never hurt. Or if they did, not enough to keep me from jumping up for my favorite song.

And here is another thing. (But it’s muddy. And I get that.) It was also a relief to be in a body that people didn’t feel entitled to shame. 

I don’t think it was OK for people to shame me for being fat. And people did. Men and women. Family, friends, and strangers. People made me feel less than, and disgusting, and shameful. And I most certainly internalized that. 

But when that stopped, there was a freedom for me. And I am not going to tell you that I don’t like it. I do. I like not having to worry about someone making an unsolicited, cruel comment. I like not thinking about my body almost ever. Especially when I thought about it, and lived in fear and anticipation of vocal judgment, constantly though my early life. 

It is not the way the world should be. And I will fight against it with everything I have. It is not OK to shame and belittle fat people.  But you don’t get to tell me what kind of body I have to have in order to do that. And this world, the world where fat people are shamed publicly and privately and in backhanded and overt ways, is the world I live in. And since I have to live in this world for now, I like living in this world much better in a body that is not continually scrutinized. 

The last thing I will say about this is that I could not have had this conversation when I was still fat. Because I really had internalized fat phobia. I hated myself. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I was also addicted to the foods making me fat. It turns out, I didn’t have a weight problem. I had an eating problem. I gave up man made sugars, grains, and starch because eating them caused cravings for more. They made me feel crazy and out of control. I started to control my portions, because part of my addiction was always wanting ”more.” My weight was the physical manifestation of my addiction. The physical addiction and the psychological addiction. And I didn’t know that until I gave up those addictive foods and put boundaries around my eating. I did it for vanity. But what I got was sanity. And the ability to look at fatness with love, and with compassion for the way fat people are treated.

I say it pretty often here. I am not skinny. I can shop in regular stores for straight sizes, but I am not lean. I have a big butt and hips and belly. I eat decadently. I am never hungry. I don’t deprive myself. I just have clear boundaries for how much food I will eat and stay away from foods that I am addicted to. And I don’t miss them. I don’t miss cake. I don’t miss French fries (which was a surprise to me. I thought I would miss them the most.) I feel great in my mind and my body. 

So I am not advocating weight loss. But if you think you would rather be in a thinner body, I understand and appreciate that. It doesn’t make you less of a feminist. It doesn’t mean you have embraced the patriarchy. It just might mean you are tired of fearing stairs and missing out on dancing to your favorite song. It just might mean you want some control over your body. The one that is yours to do with whatever you want. And what could be more feminist than that?

Another year of my heart and mind at peace

Ah. The week between Christmas and New Years is always a weird time. Everything seems to run together. It doesn’t seem to follow the usual routine. But one thing doesn’t change for me. And that is my food. And for that I am grateful.

Today I almost forgot to write this blog. Yesterday my husband and I drove the 10 hours from Oklahoma to the South Suburbs of Chicago. I need to go grocery shopping, because I usually do it on Saturday but couldn’t yesterday. I have food for the next couple of days so I may decide to cook later in the week. My routine is way way off.
But I still only eat 3 portion-controlled meals a day, every day. With no sugars, grains or starches. Even on my 10 hour drive I had my meals with me. 
I do not worry about gaining weight over the holidays. I do not worry about eating or drinking myself sick over the holidays. I don’t worry about my food or my body or my sanity at all over the holidays. That part is taken care of. 
I do still want to write about weight-loss and fat phobia and feminism. I want to really delve into my experience of the complex societal pressures and personal experiences  of being fat and a woman. But it is still swirling around my mind for me. So I will save it for another week. I will get to it some time next year. In the mean time, I am going to ring in yet another new year with my eating under control and my heart and mind at peace. 

If you don’t like Lizzo, don’t look.

One thing about writing a blog that is so personal is that sometimes I need to stew on things for a while. I need to sort my feelings and my thoughts. A lot of things, as they relate to fatness or society’s view of fatness, can be particularly loaded for me.

I have some things brewing in my head that I have not gotten a handle on. Things that are so emotional for me that I don’t want to write about them this week. Things around what it means to *choose* to lose weight in a fat phobic society. And how it reflects on fatness to love having lost weight. To have zero regrets about not just having my eating under control, but to also be in a smaller, easier, more comfortable, and more socially acceptable body.

But then this week, while I was trying to sort out these very personal feelings, about some very personal choices, I ended up hearing Joe Rogan and Michelle Wolf talk about Lizzo on his podcast and I was reminded again how being fat is vilified in this society. And how the argument for vilifying it is that it *isn’t* vilified, or at least not enough. 

Lizzo, of course, is a fat, black rap artist who has had a year very much in the spotlight. She regularly dresses provocatively, dances in sexy and suggestive ways, and enjoys herself and her body. She has fat, black backup dancers who also dress and dance provocatively and enjoy themselves and their bodies. In other words, she is unapologetically fat and black and encourages fat blackness. And while this clearly speaks to a lot of people, as her popularity suggests, there is a lot of backlash.

On his podcast, Joe Rogan asks (in all seriousness, which would make me laugh if it weren’t so angering) why Lizzo is allowed to show her butt, while thin women (women *he* would actually want to see) are not allowed to. I would like to know where this magical land where Mr. Rogan resides is, that loves it when fat women show off their bodies and doesn’t like it when thin women do. Because I want to go there and be worshipped as the goddess that I am! 

This idea that thin women are not loved and admired for being thin is ridiculous. It’s blatantly false. Look at any tv show, magazine ad, calendar, literally anything depicting women, and tell me that half-naked to naked thin women are looked at with scorn. How many people have been upset by Victoria’s Secret fashion shows with skinny women’s butts on display. 

And then Joe Rogan made the comparison of Lizzo showing her butt to a baboon showing its butt. I wonder if he has ever made the same comparison when a thin woman has shown her butt. Is he comparing Victoria’s Secret models to animals? I’m going to guess not.

And the other thing that makes me angry is this idea of “confidence” as a code word when dealing with the discussion of fat bodies. Confidence, when used in this context, really means “nobody actually wants to see that so you must be confident if you’re going to show it anyway.”

And that seems to be the general through line. Certain groups (I’m looking at you straight men) have decided that what they want to see, or at least what they claim they want to see, is the most important thing. That they are the valid voice of truth and beauty. But the actual truth is that lots of people want to see that. All sorts of people. 

So here is the thing for me. When I was fat, there were lots of straight men who were attracted to me. Lots of classically good looking, thin men. And they pretended they weren’t in public, and treated me like shit, because they were embarrassed to be attracted to me. So I am going to guess that there are a lot of straight men who are attracted to Lizzo. Not by her “confidence,” but by her actual body. The one she’s using to dance and sing and be joyful.

And here’s another thing. Straight men are not the only people whose attraction counts. Many of the people who are attracted to Lizzo are going to be women. Lesbians count. They have opinions and tastes. They have money to buy the things that are being sold. And many are going to be straight women who have been told that they are not sexy. But they look at Lizzo and they think she’s sexy. So they can maybe start to look at their own sexiness. They count too. 

Here’s the deal. Everyone counts. And just like I do when I see underwear models that I find too skinny, too filled with silicone and botox, and too plastic, Joe Rogan, and all of the dudes who don’t want to see, and all of the women who are shocked and appalled, can turn it off, change the channel, not look.

I am still unpacking a lot of thoughts and feelings about where I fit in a fat phobic society when I go to great lengths to both have my eating under control, and keep my weight at a place that is comfortable for me. But do not tell me that thin women have somehow gotten a raw deal because one fat black woman is unapologetically loving her fatness. I will not be buying what you are selling.  

Self-care is a virtue. Thinness is a state of being.

When I realized that I was a sugar addict, I got to understand that being fat isn’t a moral issue. And that what I eat isn’t a moral issue. And that was a great relief to me. 

When I was fat, I had a lot of mixed up thoughts and feelings about fatness and about myself. I thought that I was “broken” and my body was “substandard.” I thought that I was morally deficient and that if I were “good enough” I wouldn’t be fat. I thought that having a fat body was a sign (and a neon one at that) that basically said “this girl is unworthy.”
But then I started to understand that there were foods that I had a reaction to. Foods that, once I put them in my body, set up a craving for more. Not a craving. A CRAVING! A desperate need. I felt like I might die if I didn’t eat more. And I would live in deep pain until I did eat more. So I ate more. And was fat, and I hated being fat. And I hated not being able to stop eating. And I was overwhelmed with shame *all of the time!* There was literally not a waking moment that I wasn’t aware of how “wrong” I was.
For all of the non-weight related benefits of having my eating under control, when I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, and put boundaries around my eating, I did it to lose weight; to not be fat. And it worked. It was not easy, but it was simple. And in the beginning, I had a few years of being skinny. And they were lovely. I enjoyed them. It was fun to not only not worry about my body, but to have it admired. (OK, sometimes I really did not like the attention, but often I did.) 
Over the years (13 years, 11 months and one week, give or take) my weight has fluctuated. I have not been skinny like I was for a while there for the past 7 or so years. But the definition of fat in the US has also changed in the past several years.
See, fat Kate would have wished desperately to be the size I am now. A straight size L. Sometimes XL depending on the cut. (I have a big butt.) And the world that fat Kate lived in would have said that L or XL wasn’t fat. But in the world today, “fat” keeps getting smaller and smaller, while real human bodies keep getting bigger and bigger. And thinness is being seen more and more as a moral issue. Thin people (women) are “good” and anyone (any woman) who is not thin is now fat, and also “bad.“ And who qualifies as thin keeps getting more and more exclusive. And harder to achieve. 
I am very happy in my body, which can climb stairs with ease (a very real anxiety for my fat self) and jog 2 miles 5 days a week (it would not have even been an option for fat Kate to be anxious about.) I am happy naked and in my clothes. I am happy because I am not a slave to food. And in not being a slave to food, I can also not be a slave to public opinion, or cultural standards. I do what I do. I stay in my lane and mind my own business. And I don’t have to worry about who thinks what about my body. *I* think it’s a miracle!
I want to continue to devalue thinness in my world and in my thinking. I value my eating boundaries, not for keeping me “socially acceptable,” but for keeping me free of food obsession, for keeping me active, for keeping my comfortable in my body and in my skin, for letting me not be constantly thinking about what other people are thinking of my body.
I want to continue to dismantle the ways I have internalized “thinness as a virtue.” I also want to note that when I was skinny, besides having my eating under control, I was a pack-a-day-smoker. Since I quit, I have never gotten back to being as skinny as I was then. So part of my thinness was due to abusing my body. Hardly virtuous. I want to be virtuous by caring for my body with good food, good exercise, good sleep, good hydration. I want to remember always that self-care is a virtue. One I want to cultivate. Thinness is a state of being, and it has zero moral implications or ramifications. 

Love for myself and my fat sisters

The internet is a fascinating place. And I am in an unusual position. I am a person who grew up fat in the 80s and 90s, when being fat was less common. And I lost my weight just at the rise of smartphones, when the internet, and more specifically, social media, became prevalent. 

In this blog over the years, I have had the opportunity to get over a lot of the feelings I had about being fat. I got to learn to separate my eating disorder from my body. I got to learn to separate how I felt about myself and my body from how I was treated by others. 
But in the 80s and 90s, there was really only how *I* was treated. Fat shaming was just a person to person experience.

On the internet, now, in 2019, we have these self made soap boxes and anyone and everyone gets to spout an opinion about all things. And I get to see a lot of nasty, fatphobic, self-righteous ranting about the wrongness fat people, very specifically fat women. Some of it from men, but so much more of it from women. 

There were, for so long, so many things tied up together in my own brain,  that I now understand shouldn’t have been. Like how I hated being fat, and how others hated me being fat. The first is my business and nobody else’s. The second is none of my business and not my problem. Or how I hated my fat self so much for being disgusting and a failure and I transferred it on to other fat people. As if now that *I* had the solution to my own self-hate problem, those without it were foolish, or lacking, or disgusting. Just like people used to treat me.
It took years for me to untangle these messy feelings. For example, I had to give up any notion that I could convince someone to do what I do with food, or that I knew better. I had to give up any notion that I was helping anyone by forcing my story on them with the expectation that it would save them. I had to give up the idea that fat me and straight-sized me were different people. I had to learn to love and appreciate my young fat self for all of the things being fat taught me and created in me. And I had to forgive the mean girl I was when I first got my eating under control, who fought so long to hate that fat Kate. 
But being in my forties, and very happily married, and so much less self-conscious than the skinny 30-something woman who was getting so much attention, while getting used to fitting into a socially acceptable body for the first time, has given me a new perspective on what it is to be a fat woman. And not being skinny, but still feeling sane, happy, and beautiful, has changed what I want for fat girls and women. 
I do have a dog in this fight. I have a little girl/young woman inside me that could still use some healing. And my guess is she always will. Because she was hurt a lot, by others and by myself. I wish my young, fat self had been available to be liked and loved. But I was not. I wish my young fat self was told she was amazing as often as she was told she was lacking. And I wish that for all of the men who were attracted to me then, some of them would not have acted like it was a shameful thing. But I should take some responsibility for that as well. Because just because I was offered crumbs, doesn’t mean I had to take them. I wish my young, fat self knew her worth. 
It’s a mine field out there for fat women. And there are more and more fat women out there, and they are facing discrimination. As soon as someone tells them they are OK, someone like Bill Maher says, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end it needs to make a comeback.”
Being shamed is a part of life for fat people. And perhaps the Bill Mahers of the world will never entirely go away. (Though a girl can dream…) But I am not going to be one of the people talking about the shamefulness of being fat. Did I hate being fat? Yes. Do I love keeping boundaries around my eating so that I can maintain a weight I am comfortable in? I do! I absolutely love it. But I am nobody but myself. And I think how much better my life would have been if I had not been ashamed. So I am not interested in shaming, myself or anyone else . I want to be an example of love. Self-love, and love for my fat sisters. 

The meaning of fat

I read something interesting on Twitter this week. It was a fat woman asking for thin women to stop saying they are fat when they have recently stopped their restrictive diets, when they have gained a few pounds, or when they feel ugly. This woman lamented the fact that we don’t use (or really have) different words for these things. 

And this was of particular note for me because I have been 300 lbs, I have been a size 28 (the largest size in the plus size stores at the time) and even after maintaining a weight-loss of over 100 lbs for over 10 years, I still talk about being and feeling fat all the time. Just like this person said, if I gain a few pounds I think of myself as fat. If I eat heavier than usual (let’s say I have pork rinds twice in one day or a few days in a row) I may say I feel fat. I may actually *feel* fat. It doesn’t matter if I know that I am not fat. That word, that concept, is ingrained in me. In many ways it haunts me.

Now some of that is because the experience of growing up fat in the US has shaped me. It has created the basis for how I see myself and how I see my culture and society. The name of this blog is a nod to the idea that “Once a fat girl, always a fat girl.” Having grown up fat is an irrevocable part of me. It cannot be taken away. I cannot unsee the ways that I was treated. I cannot forget that I was judged, and often humiliated, for the size of my body. 

I also cannot forget that as I grew up, I was inundated with images of thin women. And that over the past 35 years, those women became thinner and thinner and those images more and more impossible, and that inundation more and more inescapable. After all, I am writing this from a mini computer connected to the whole world, that fits in my hand and goes everywhere with me. 

But when I think about it, it seems a little obnoxious to me that I want to be able to use the word “fat” as I want just because I was fat in the past. And I know what actually fat Kate would think of me right now complaining about my weight or feeling fat. She would roll her eyes so hard she’d get a glimpse of her own brain. She would cheat, steal and kill for the opportunity to shop in regular stores, fit in a seat, not have strangers make remarks about her weight in public. So it seems a little cruel to her, and to fat people in general, to deny the fact that fat doesn’t mean “not skinny.” And fat doesn’t mean “bigger than before.” 

I don’t have an answer to this right now. I am just thinking about my language and how I want to think about and express my experiences. Because I may not be skinny but I am not fat. And it is worth it to find language that fits my personal situation as well as the situation of others. Society is not getting skinnier, for all of our glorification of it. And language creates our world as well as describing it.

On making friends with a new devil

I consider myself pretty good at change. I have a lot of experience with it. From all of the kinds of jobs I have had, to all of the moving I have done to different homes and different cities and towns. And I have learned to give up things. Like simple sugar and carbohydrates. And smoking. 

And I have an experience. That life will always give you the opportunity to go back to the way it was before. It will always let you choose to go back to the *you* you were before. Because when you make a commitment, you change your life’s trajectory. You set yourself on a new, unknown path. 
When I was single, and it didn’t work out with a man, he would inevitably show back up in my life just when I had moved on. Within a week of the day I quit smoking, I had a neighbor stalk me and I had to call the police and my landlord. It was very stressful. Exactly the kind of emotional upset I used smoking to soothe. 
It comes back to that old saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” I find that life always gives me a chance to escape the unknown and return to that comfortable misery. 
Now, I don’t believe that the devil you know is better. And I have known plenty of devils. When it comes to change I agree with Mae West. “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
There was the devil of significant weight gain when I quit smoking. And wow was that difficult and painful. And there are, of course, lots of devils to keeping boundaries around my food. There is the time it takes to shop, prep, cook, and pack. There is the navigation of the feelings and expectations of people who don’t understand. There is the planning involved in having my meals be complete and accounted for daily, while still having a life. There is all of the extra work involved in eating out, when for most people, eating out is when they *don’t* have to do any work. And there are all of the *feelings* that can be painful, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, unwelcome, or just plain yucky.
But when I was eating compulsively, I already knew a lot of devils, and they were shame, self-hatred, self-doubt, crippling anxiety, an inability to move forward with my life, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, regular emotional paralysis, and physical pain and difficulties.
I promise, those devils were worse. But if you asked that Kate, who was suffering under all of those devils, she would most certainly have told you the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And if you had told her that she would spend a huge portion of her time shopping and prepping and cooking, and also feeling uncomfortable feelings, she would have said that sounded like the worse devil! Who would want something like that?!?!
But now, I have reached a point of no return. I am not saying I could never go back into the sugar. I am still an addict and it is still as dangerous to me as it ever was. When I put sugar in my body, it sets up a craving for more. That is biological and inescapable. But I know all of the devils now, and I’ll never be able to think of the difficulties of food boundaries as worse than the prison of self-loathing.
I hated myself when I was eating sugar and carbohydrates. And I hated myself so much and for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped. But the point is, it did stop. And I found that in doing all that work, and feeling all of those feelings, I came to love myself, to like myself, to trust myself, to enjoy my life, to have fulfilling relationships, and to respect myself and others.
And I want to say something about this regarding fat acceptance. I hear a lot on social media about how society has socialized us to hate ourselves if we are fat, and to internalize that bigotry. And I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue. There is certainly an aspect of being taught that we are less than. But I want to note that after quitting sugar, grains, and starches, I did not loose weight all that quickly. And there have been many times in which I have gained weight keeping my boundaries. But my self-hatred has been stilled ever since I started. And when I was thin, but eating compulsively, I hated myself as much as when I was fat. Perhaps more, because I felt like the body I was in was a lie. I don’t want fat people to hate themselves. I don’t think it’s healthy, or helpful, or right. And it is certainly my wish for you to love yourself in whatever body you are in. But for me, it is very clear that my eating, not my body, or my weight, is what made me miserable and ashamed. And in taking care of my eating, I learned how to love my body and my life. So consider that just maybe there are angels hanging out with the devil you don’t know.

Kurbo Your Enthusiasm

Buckle up, my friends. It’s a long one.

Let’s do it. Let’s talk about Kurbo, from the Corporation Formerly Known As Weight Watchers. *Sigh…*

I did a little reading, especially after all of the backlash that came up on my Twitter feed. Kurbo is an app. The app is free, but for $69/month you can get 15 minute coaching sessions with a coach. It’s aimed at children aged 8-17. It’s a “traffic light” system, with red foods being foods to eat only occasionally, yellow foods being foods to be cautious of, and green foods being fruits and vegetables which you can eat as much as you want of. It shows pictures of these kids with their “results.”  Some of these results are based on BMI. (Don’t even get me started.) And they claim it is “a scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight, derived from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program.” 

When I look up Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program, I find a link to the program, itself. And there are two things I particularly took note of. 1) That the program is for *families.* And 2) this quote on the programs site: “Since 1999, more than 80% of participating children and adolescents have achieved age-appropriate weight reduction.” Which tells me nothing about whether or not they have gone on in the future to maintain the lifestyle, or if they lost the weight while in the program only to gain it back. Because every dieter I know has lost weight. The question is always “did they gain it back?” For some of us, we have gained and lost hundreds of pounds. Successfully losing weight does not add up to a “scientifically-proven behavior change.” If it did, WW would already be out of business. But they already know that.

The biggest issue I have heard about this is that it is setting children up for eating disorders by forcing them to see certain foods as good or bad. I don’t disagree. Though I am not 100% on this bandwagon. There is a saying I am fond of. “Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” I am not saying that every kid will have a warped view of food because of this. But my guess is that it is parents who are upset about a child’s weight, who have already made an issue of it, that will be acquiring this app for their children to “fix” what they see as a problem. It will teach children that green foods, of which you can have as much as you would like, are “diet foods.” To this day, I refuse to eat celery or raw carrots. These two foods are so ingrained in me as diet foods, and I always felt so punished when eating them when I was fat, that I have given them up completely and have never looked back. They are the foods that will make you skinny and socially acceptable. And those red foods are “special,” and “something to look forward to.” I never would have been able to love vegetables the way I do, if I were just eating them as the means of “earning” cake. When I was fat, vegetables were my punishment for being fat. Cake was for “good girls” who could get and stay thin. 

Another thing I took note of was having a coach help you “set goals.” And by goals, they seem to mean weight loss goals. This screams “DIET!” to me.

When I changed my lifestyle, one of the first things I was told was to stop worrying about my weight. That in changing my eating, my weight would take care of itself. That I needed to lose my diet mentality. That I was not supposed to count calories. That I was not supposed to eat diet foods. I just had to get my eating under control, by giving up sugar and carbohydrates, because I was addicted to them. And by putting boundaries around portions and times of eating because my ideas about eating were making me feel crazy. I was encouraged to eat things I loved. I was told to eat the biggest and the best. To eat decadent meals. To use butter and oil. To find a 1 lb apple! That I get a cantaloupe bigger than my head and eat half of it for breakfast. That the problem was not with my weight, but with the fact that certain foods set up cravings. It was recommended that I quit those foods entirely. That saved my life.

I was told I did not have to exercise if I did not want to. That I was tackling my eating disorder, not my “weight problem.” Eventually I wanted to exercise, but not because of my weight. I didn’t start jogging to lose weight. I started as an act of love for my body, not an act of penance for being unattractive. 

And what is this idea that you can and should be able to eat as much as you want of certain foods? Yes, I was told I could eat a giant apple. But once the apple was gone, and the meal was over, it was time to move on to the next part of my day. In my experience, this concept that I should be able to eat all day, was a big part of my problem. And I had to relearn that I not only did not need, but also did not want, to eat constantly. That the idea that I should eat all day if I wanted to, but let it be pickles and lettuce instead of chips and cake, simply reinforced my craziness around food. I needed food to cease to be my dearest companion. And that meant not eating constantly. That meant finding things to do with my time. It meant learning to sit with situations, experiences, and feelings, and not eating.

It has also occurred to me that Kurbo is putting the burden of food choices on children at a time in life when food choices should be coming from parents as a means of offering children an “eating culture,” at least for younger children. I mean, seriously, you’re going to make an 8-year-old be responsible for what they eat? Oooooooor, you could be a parent that makes meals of whole foods with lots of vegetables and fruits and who loves them and gets excited by the prospect of eating them. Perhaps one who doesn’t keep sugary drinks or sweets in the house as a regular occurrence. You could be a parent that lives a particular lifestyle and passes it along to your children. 

What I am asking is what are the parents of these children eating at home? Are they unwilling to give up their soda and chips and cake, because they don’t have a “weight problem?” (I’m sure that would never mess a kid up…*eye roll*) Or they do, but they can’t live without their treats? Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do?” And do I really need to explain to you how effective that is in practice? 

But here is the kicker for me. If a parent is not willing to change their lifestyle for what they claim is the health and well-being of their child, then they need to quit it with the judgement about the child’s weight. If a parent is putting it on a child to change themselves within the family, and the family culture is not changing, the parent is just going to make that child an outcast. Because of their physical appearance. And that hurts my heart. 

And of course, for me, we have to talk about sugar addiction and the “red foods.” Because one thing that I specifically read was that you are *supposed to* eat some of those red foods. And that is an excellent way to keep an addict addicted.

Just a little. Just a taste. But *nobody* can give it up entirely. That would be ridiculous/crazy/unfathomable! 

What would a doctor say if you told them you had quit alcohol, cocaine, meth? Certainly not “Oh no! You still still need to have that every once in a while. Who can live without alcohol? What a terrible pressure to put on yourself.” 

Look. Our country and our culture has been creating addicts for a while now. An opioid crisis. A subsequent heroin crisis because of the opioid addictions our medical community has created. And our food industry has created what is nearly an entire generation of addicts. With ultra-processed foods specifically/scientifically designed to make you want more. And we have let them. And belittled and shamed the people who have become fat as a result. 

And of course it is children who have been raised on this junk who are deeply affected.  So now we want these children to be shamed? Sure. What better way to ensure the next generation of weight loss, fitness, and beauty industry customers? 

Ultimately my problem with Kurbo is twofold. That it seems to be a diet being sold as a lifestyle. And that it is aimed at children. 

There are ways to really change your lifestyle. There are steps to take and choices to make. But I, for one, am not going to put my faith in a corporation that has made its money off of diets and selling “thinness” as an ultimate goal. And I am saddened that it has targeted children now. It’s an excellent business strategy. It is a great way to teach children early that they are lacking based on their size, and keep them paying money to achieve social acceptability. And when it doesn’t work long-term, because of sugar addiction, or an eating disorder, or because it’s really just another diet, it will probably keep quite a few of them coming back again and again. Because that one time they lost weight. And maybe this time, if they are just a little better, work a little harder, are a little more worthy, maybe *this* time it will work.

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