onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “body dysmorphia”

Fat and out of shape is in the eye of the beholder. And when the beholder is me…well, I’m kinda messed up…

I went for a long walk the other day. I am not sure how long. But I would guess I walked between 6 and 7 miles. And I am out of shape. Or at least more out of shape than I have been in a while. And I am feeling a little fat. And I don’t like it.

First, I am not, fat. My clothes fit. (I actually had a moment of panic writing that, so I just got up and tried on my size 6 jeans to make sure my clothes still fit. And yes, my clothes still fit…Good Lord, Kate…) And thank God I am not weighing myself. Because I am in a place mentally where the number couldn’t be good. No matter what the number was.

Of course, the number is something. I have a weight. Obviously. I just don’t know what that is. Because I would not be able to handle it.

And I am not sure why I am thinking about my weight again all of a sudden. If something in particular triggered it, or if it is just par for the course when one has eating disorders and body-dysmorphia. It could be that my boyfriend and I are going to the Florida Keys next weekend. (Um…YAY!) Which will mean bathing suits and sundresses. Fewer clothes. I’ll admit that I have wondered if I will look huge and ugly in my bikini. Which I managed to wear all summer without fear, even though I was a size larger than I am now. But it turns out body-dysmorphia is never ever rational. If it were, it wouldn’t be a disorder, I guess.

I have also been thinking lately about how I had hoped that I would have lost more weight by now. I had hoped that my metabolism would have sped up. Really sped up. Back to the way it used to be. Back to where I could eat more and weigh less. Like I did for years before I quit smoking and gained 30 lbs. I hoped I would be smaller than I am after over a year and a half since quitting smoking.

But I don’t like feeling out of shape, either. In some ways, that is hitting me harder than being afraid that I am fat. Because I have been so in shape for so long. Living in New York City will do that for you. (If you let it.) Walking instead of the subway. Subway stairs if you don’t have time to walk. It’s a place where it’s not out of the ordinary to take the stairs instead of the escalator. And even if you take the escalator, you walk while you’re on it.

And I was a babysitter. It was my job to run, jump, and play. To go for a walk for the sake of exploring. Or getting some sunlight. Or just for the sake of walking. And then there was the post-homework dance party.

But now I get to work in a car. I work at a desk. I do a lot of sitting. I walk a couple of miles a couple of times a week. Which is not nothing. But I have been noticing my body. Feeling it. I didn’t used to notice my body. I just used it. I just wanted to do things so I did them. But when I started my walk the other day, I didn’t want to go. Because it was going to hurt.

Of course it didn’t hurt that bad. The anticipation of pain and discomfort was so much worse than the reality of it. And it was fantastic to get my heart pumping and my muscles working and my blood flowing. It was wonderful to feel energized. I had a great time. And I am not exactly out of shape. I’m really just not as fit as I was a year ago. I am comparing pretty in shape me with very in shape me.

But I am afraid of what happens next. Will I not go for that walk next time? Will I let myself get sick and old and slow because over and over again I’ll choose not to walk? Because I will be afraid it will be uncomfortable?

I am writing this to you to get it out. To shine a light on these things so they don’t fester, unexpressed. But really, when I start thinking like this, I try to remember to change the channel. To think about something else. Because it doesn’t make sense to worry.

I don’t want to fight feeling fat. I don’t want to give it weight. (Oh, tee hee. I just noticed that’s a pun.) I don’t want to care enough to let it be important. I want to trust myself. I want to keep my food under control for my sanity. I want to remember that while my eating is taken care of, I may not be “skinny”, but I will not get fat. And I want to love my body exactly the way it is. And I want to care for it with loving exercise. Exercise that I do to keep myself healthy and happy and free of pain. Not that I do to be skinny, or smaller, or good enough. And I want to trust that I will choose to walk. Or dance around my house. Or something that I haven’t even thought of yet. Out of self-care. And I want to wear my bathing suit without shame. And I want to enjoy a vacation with my boyfriend.

Because I can’t unshoot the gun. And I don’t know that I would if I could…

I was talking to a friend this morning. Another woman with eating disorders and body image issues. Someone I love and identify with. The kind of person with whom you can have a conversation that is both intellectual and spiritual at the same time.

She said something that I had never heard before. “Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.” It’s a quote by Dr. Francis Collins.

I believe that I have a genetic predisposition to have an unhealthy physical reaction to sugar, grains, and starch. And I believe that when that physical reaction was triggered in my childhood, it triggered a mental obsession. But the environment I grew up in triggered a very specific mental obsession. It was an obsession with eating. Eating more. Eating constantly. I hated being fat. So I disconnected from my body. But my obsession was with food. Sugar, specifically.

Then I moved away from that environment. To New York City. And in that new environment, I developed a whole new set of mental obsessions that stemmed from that same physical reaction. All of a sudden I had a kind of vanity that I had never experienced before. I did not have bulimic tendencies or the same kinds of body image issues before I moved to New York City. There I was still obsessed with eating, but then there was this added obsession with appearances. With being beautiful. With appearing like a normal eater by maintaining a socially acceptable body.

I am clear that I am not going to be able to reverse any of these things now. Perhaps if I never moved to New York, I would not have become a bulimic. But I did. And I am. And now I can’t unshoot that gun. Or the sugar addict, compulsive eater gun. I am now irreversibly a compulsive eater, bulimic, exercise bulimic, and sugar addict with body dysmorphia. One particular blessing is that I do not have to engage in the damaging behaviors of these diseases because I do the work I do every day to keep my eating and my eating disorders under control.

But then I have to ask, what of it? Does it even matter? Is there an environment that I could have grown up in that would not have triggered my eating disorders? And even if there were such an environment, that’s not how my life went. Who is to say that growing up with a healthy relationship with food would have given me a better life?

Because along with a certain amount of pain and difficulty, my eating disorders gave me another gift. Dealing with them meant changing the way I looked at life and the world. In other words, I don’t know if I would have learned the best lessons of my life if I didn’t have to learn them to stop killing myself with food.

• Keep your eyes on your own life. You don’t know what people are going through by looking at their shiny hair and skinny thighs on the subway. All you are seeing is their outsides. You don’t know their troubles or their pain.

• You have your journey and everybody else has theirs. You didn’t get a bad one. Or the wrong one. You didn’t get a life any worse than any other.

• Control is an illusion. The only things you control are your actions and your reactions. Outcomes are totally out of your hands. So behave in a way that makes you proud of yourself. Because when you think doing it “right” means it will turn out the way you want, you’ll start to think you always do everything thing “wrong”. Bit if you live like you can’t do it “wrong”, you start to notice that everything always turns out “right”.

• Perfection is not an option. And once you accept that as the truth, you are free to be yourself. And free to be happy.

I guess what I’m trying to say today, is that it doesn’t matter that genetics loaded the gun. It doesn’t matter that environment pulled the trigger. It doesn’t matter that I can’t unshoot it. It’s life. My life. I happen to think it’s a good one. Full of blessings. But in reality, it’s the same life as when I thought it was a great big bucket of suck. I just make better decisions now.

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