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Gratitude for my very normal, very human body

I used to be angry at my body all the time. It was my enemy, and I treated it accordingly. Mostly, I hated it because it was not the size or shape other girls’ and women’s bodies were. It did not look the way magazines and television told me it should look, and indeed *could* look if I worked hard enough.

I was smart and interesting and funny. I had a wonderful mind. So I felt like a brilliant human stuck in a broken vessel. Broken is a great way to express what I thought of my body. Broken like a machine. Bad parts. A lemon.

When I got my eating under control I started to think about my body in a different way. First, giving up man made sugars, and most grains and starches, made my body smaller. And while I could not really change the shape of my body without surgery, I started to think about all of the ways that it served me, even when I was abusing it. 

And I didn’t just abuse it with drug foods. I abused it with over exercising to the point of injury, and still exercising more because I wanted it to be thin, but I couldn’t stop eating. I abused it with laxatives. I drank castor oil. Eventually, I started to stick toothbrushes down my throat to make myself throw up the food that I could not stop eating. 

But when I got my eating under control, I necessarily had to have a different relationship with my body. I had to ask not what my body could do for me, but ask what I could do for my body. Not to whip it into shape. Not to make it lovable and attractive to anyone who happened to be in its vicinity, but to make sure it was taken care of. For me, because it *was* me. Make sure it was nourished and hydrated and strong and healthy. 

And that changed how I dealt with all of the unappealing parts of having a body. I am 43. My hormones are crazy right now. And I should probably expect that to continue for maybe another 10 years. That is a whole *decade*!!! But also, that is normal. It is completely expected for my woman’s body to experience this.

And this past week was hard. I was exhausted all week. I needed to lay on the couch and do nothing, not even knit or crochet! I had several outbreaks of cystic acne which are painful as well as ugly. I was cranky and sad and did lots of crying. And at least half of it was *not* over imaginary characters in novels, comics and TV shows. And of course, I still had to do all of the things that I have to do. I had to prep food and clean the kitchen (I totally half assed a lot of that, and my husband did some as well) and do the shopping and go to work.

But because I have a level of clarity about my life and my body from having my food taken care of, I am not angry at my body. I do not blame it for doing what bodies do. I feel like it is a very modern concept to think of one’s body as getting in the way of one’s life. We have created so many workarounds to get out of dealing with our physical humanity, that we don’t necessarily see what is natural and good. We spend so much time powering through, that we think our bodies are the problem, and not the lifestyle we have created that doesn’t have any room for the basic needs of actually *being* a carbon-based machine.

My eating boundaries have given me a sense of reality about my body. Not only about what it can and should look like in the real world (not according to the latest Photoshopped ad for designer jeans, or the ad promoting some supplement guaranteed to make you lose 10 pounds in 10 days), but also how I can expect to feel and what I can expect to be able to do. Realistically. Because I have a normal body doing normal things.

I like my full life. I like my job and my commitments. I like the people I work with and the friends that I have. I am not campaigning for less modern conveniences. I love my gadgets and my technology. I just don’t want to forget that my body is not some separate gadget. It doesn’t need an upgrade. It isn’t in the way of my life. It is my life. It is me. And I show myself how much I love me, by loving my body and honoring it exactly as it is. Flawed and sometimes uncomfortable, and gloriously, normally human.


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.  

Want to get a bikini body this summer?

Put a bikini on your body…

I have mentioned before, just last week even, that other people’s eating disorders can bring my own eating disorders to the forefront of my thinking. That’s true of my body image disorders as well. And I’m in a funny place right now. I would say that it’s a pretty good place. But weird.

See, for the most part, my body is not an issue lately. But also, grocery store checkout tabloids and people with body issues on social media are putting images that make me angry (frustrated? freaked out?) all up in my face.

I did not lose 150 lbs for my health. Period. (Just like I did not quit smoking for my health.) I have never ever ever done anything for my health. It is not what motivates me. And I’m not sorry for it. Or ashamed of it.

Yes, I know that the world wants health to be the great motivator. Good Lord, they say it often enough. Just try putting some artificial sweetener in your coffee in a public place. You’d think you were snorting cocaine on the Starbucks counter top. That’s so bad for you!

And it was certainly vanity that got me to get control of my eating. (And quit smoking.) But it was not really physical vanity. It was less what my body looked like, and more what my body said about me.

Here’s the way I think I can explain it. Being fat was, as far as I was concerned, the physical manifestation of how messed up, out of control, morally bankrupt, self-hating, unlovable, and pathetic I was. It was the big billboard that announced “This girl is totally f***ed up!” So yes, I did not want to be fat anymore.

But my experience is that there is a crazy paradox that goes along with losing weight. And even more specifically, getting the body I wanted. And now love.

I had to stop caring about whether or not I would get the body I wanted. And I had to love the body I had. I had to let go of what I thought would be a good body, the right body, a beautiful body.

Because I do not have the body that I thought I would have to have before I could love my body. I just plain don’t. But I sure do love my body. LOVE it!

Those fashion magazine articles that tell us to tape pictures of women with the bodies we want on our refrigerators for motivation, with the promise that if we work hard enough, and be good enough, we too will get that body, well…they’re lying. Those women are models. And I’m going to be blunt here, they are models because they have a rare body shape and type. That a very greedy beauty industry is trying to sell us at all costs. And those pictures are probably photoshopped. The truth is that no matter how disciplined, committed to our diets and regimented in our workouts we are, we will probably never get a body that looks like those women’s bodies.

I know for a fact that I never will. Never ever. I have my own body. It’s the one I got from my parents. And God, or Nature, or Life, or whatever you want to call it. And there is nothing wrong with that. Did you get that? Let me reiterate. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! I even abused the hell out of my body. And it is fantastically beautiful!

If I had gotten control of my eating to get a beautiful body, I would have given up a long time ago. I would have decided that none of it was worth it. If I couldn’t have a magazine-worthy body, I might as well have had chocolate cake.

But I don’t need to have a model’s body. Thank God! I don’t need to be seen as skinny. Hell, lately, I don’t even need to worry about how fast (or if) I’m going to lose the rest of the weight I gained when I quit smoking. (I do still have body image disorders, so frankly, that might come up again. But for now it’s a non-issue.)

I certainly do not think of this blog as being a weight loss or eating disorder instruction manual. I do my best to keep it about my own experience. But today I’m branching out a bit. So if you read me looking for clues about how to lose weight, here’s my advice. And it’s good!

Don’t wait to lose weight to love yourself. Love yourself now. Don’t wait to get a beautiful body before you start thinking your body is beautiful. Think it’s beautiful now.

Because there is magic in that! It’s a Jedi mind trick. It works. It will probably help you lose weight. And even if it doesn’t…You will love your body! How could that be a bad thing?!?!

Grrr. I really thought I was smarter, braver and more empowered than that…

Something has shifted in me recently. I’m peaceful. I don’t hate my body. I can see that it’s not any smaller than it was 2 weeks ago. But I can also see that it’s pretty sexy. Beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong. It still looks big to me. Not grotesquely fat anymore. But chubby maybe? Soft? Smushy? Anyway, not the body I had that I loved. Because for a while there I was in love with my body. And proud of it. Not proud of myself for having that body. Proud of my body for managing to withstand 28 years of abuse and still end up gorgeous. I mean guh-ore-juh-us! (Good work, body!)

The honest-to-God-truth is that I still think this body is temporary. And that I want it to be temporary. But as long as it is temporary, I can allow that it is beautiful in its way. That being soft and womanly has some appeal. Though I don’t know what I would do if it turned out to be a permanent change. For example, would I start eating my vegetables steamed instead of sautéed in butter and olive oil? I don’t know. I love food. But do I love it as much as my size 6 body?

But when I ask myself what is so important about being a size 6, I do not like my answer. Because it seems I have bought into the image that I hate. I have taken on the impossible ideal. I am judging myself against bodies that don’t exist. It seems I am comparing myself to pictures of already thin women, Photoshopped to make them look even thinner and more symmetrical. As if they live without internal organs. Like their skin doesn’t pucker under a strap or a band. As if they are made of marble. And I am fascinated by how this could have happened! To me! I have been actively trying to avoid this kind of faulty concept of my own beauty. I don’t watch TV or go to the movies. I don’t read magazines. I spend my time with real human beings in real bodies. On the street and the subway. In shops and restaurants. I know what actual, real bodies look like. And yet somehow I am not seeing myself as a regular body in a sea of regular bodies. I am seeing myself as compared to underwear models as they appear in ads! Dammit!

It’s funny that when I was growing up, most of the beautiful women in movies and on TV were a size 8, the size I am now. And I was morbidly obese. Now famous women are 0s and 2s, and size 8 is considered overweight in movies and on TV. (Ok. It’s not that funny…)

And the other thing I don’t like is who I want to be a size 6 for. I am active and healthy and I have powerful integrity. In life and around my food. Who do I owe being 24 lbs thinner to? Some man I haven’t even met yet who would like me because I’m beautiful, smart, funny, sexy, have a profound relationship to my word, and being with me makes him happy, if only I were 24 lbs thinner?

The hardest part is that there is a little voice in my head that says, “Yes. That guy. So you’d better lose those 24 lbs before he shows up.”

I don’t know what to do about any of this. I don’t know if there is anything to do. But I feel like it’s important to note that I can have this philosophical discussion with myself because my self-hatred has lifted. I was paralyzed with my own irrational thinking. And I don’t know what changed. Perhaps my metabolism has started back up again. Or perhaps it’s hormonal. The one thing I will say is that I am so grateful that through that particularly long and difficult attack of body dismorphia, I kept my food boundaries and did not eat sugar. If I had, I am quite sure I would not have been able to get through such a dark period and find some peace. Here’s hoping it lasts!

So I’m curious. Tell me about your relationship with your body and body image. How much thinner “should” you be and what would you have if you were?

You can share my blog. You can follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5

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.

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