onceafatgirl

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Archive for the tag “weight loss”

An apology to the managers

I was talking to my dad the other day and he mentioned that in another post (this one here) I wrote that if you have never been able to successfully lose, or keep off weight, that I recommend that you give up sugar, or your personal binge foods for good. I said that I didn’t know anyone who had once been fat and both lost weight and maintained that weight loss by “managing” their binge foods. And he said that I knew him, and that he manages his food.

This is true. I know that he was bigger when he was younger and is not now. And I know that if he notices that he is gaining weight, he restricts his food intake; he stops eating dessert. I said to him that I wasn’t talking about “naturally thin” people, and he said that he did not consider himself “naturally thin.”

So I felt like I should touch on this again. At least clarify. Because perhaps what I am talking about is the ability to learn a new lifestyle. My dad had the ability to lose weight because he changed the way he ate every day. I had to change the way I ate every day in order to have a new body, and I am pretty sure that is true for everyone. If the way you were eating before your diet made you fat, then if and when you go back to that way of eating, you will be fat again. You actually have to change your entire eating lifestyle to maintain a long-term weight loss. Getting the weight off once does not “stick” unless you “stick” with the new food plan.

For me, when I was eating compulsively, I had two modes, dieting or eating. (Mostly eating, by the way.) When I was dieting, I was restricting the number of calories I was taking in. I was eating boring, bland food. I was eating everything steamed, and low fat, and “lite.” I was eating foods I hated, because they were “diet” foods. And then, when I was off the diet, I went back to eating the way I had eaten before because I hated the way the food I had been eating on a diet tasted. So I gained the weight back. And then some.

If you lost weight by changing the way you ate, and then never reverted back to the old way of eating, then you would have successfully changed your relationship with food. You would have successfully taken on a new lifestyle. If, in that new lifestyle, you let yourself eat like crazy on Thanksgiving, but then spend the rest of your time eating balanced, nutritious meals, and don’t take “Thanksgiving eating” into the New Year, then you could be said to be “managing” your food, it’s true. If you eat a sugary, or “binge food” treat twice a week, and the rest of the time, your food is clean, and your weight is steady, you could be said to be “managing” your food. And I do know a handful of people who have learned to do this.

But I would say, that if you have lost 30, or 50, or 75, or 100 pounds, only to gain it back, possibly more than once, then I am going to guess that you have a problem with sugar, or a problem with your binge foods, and that the answer is abstinence.

I, personally, have never been able to manage. And I would suggest that if you have been on Weight Watchers, or Nutrisystem, or any other diet, lets say 3 times, and you have not learned how to eat in any way that helps you maintain a weight that you are content with, then perhaps you cannot manage either, and you should consider abstinence. If it doesn’t register for you that you have to change your eating habits as a whole in order to maintain your weight, then perhaps you are an addict, and you should consider abstinence. If you know that you don’t want to gain weight, and you know that you should not eat that cookie, but you cannot not eat that cookie, then perhaps you should consider abstinence.

Ultimately, my point is that in order to lose weight and maintain that weight loss, a lifestyle change is necessary. But I could not change my lifestyle because sugar kept sucking me back in. It was only in choosing abstinence from sugar, grains, and starch that I was able change my eating as a whole, and maintain my weight long term. So if you can manage, then by all means manage. But if you have given managing a good, hard try, and you repeatedly fail, then perhaps you should consider abstinence.

And an apology from me to all of you “managers.” Just because I could never do it, I ain’t mad at ya!

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If I end up in the political correctness slammer, please don’t sneak a file to me in a cake…

Perhaps you read the article in the New York Times this week called Losing It In the Anti-Diet Age. If not you can read it here

I found it interesting. Especially because the author is, herself, a fat person who can tell you first hand what it’s like to be a fat person in America. I too know what it’s like. I know how it feels to go on a diet, and lose weight, only to gain it all back, even though you don’t want to, don’t mean to, would literally do anything to not, from sticking things down your throat to make yourself throw up (something I did personally), to, say, getting your stomach removed (something I did not do, but know people who have). I know what it is like to be made fun of and have people talk about you as if you are a thing, with no feelings. To have them question your goodness, your honor, your worth; a fat person must be lazy, stupid, careless, and pathetic, or they would deal with their weight. I was struck hard by the author’s mention that a commenter on another article she wrote said, “Why doesn’t she stop eating so much?” As if we hadn’t effing thought of that ourselves already. There is talk of willpower. A doctor talked about getting an individual down to a goal weight with medication so that they could make a fresh start, but then they were going to have to get willpower. (Seriously? Screw you.)

All of this sounds to me like thin people who have no idea what it is like to be fat, trying to solve a problem they don’t even understand in the first place. Thin people don’t need to figure out how to stop eating. They already don’t overeat. That’s like having a person with a lot of hair try to cure baldness just because they have hair and bald people don’t.

But another issue in this article that I wanted to address is the change in the language of dieting in the culture. Words like “diet,” “dieting,” and “weight loss” are becoming taboo. We want to talk about “health,” and “strength.”

Except that we only want to talk about them. Ultimately, we want, as individuals, especially fat individuals, to not be obese. I didn’t want to be fat. I still wanted to be treated like a whole, worthwhile human being, fat or not, but I did not want to be fat.

Perhaps this is where the disconnect lies. See, I hate this new cultural phenomenon that I call “the feelings police.” We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, so we don’t talk openly and honestly about difficult subjects, for fear of being branded politically incorrect, hence heartless and out of touch.

But not facing these things head on is not helping anyone. Strike that. It’s helping the sugar and junk food industries. And it’s helping companies like Weight Watchers. Who are still selling a diet, but are marketing it, in true politically correct fashion, as a program for getting healthy.

Here’s the problem: Weight Watchers never changed the barometer for how you would know it was working. It’s the same barometer. Did you lose weight? If we were truly having a conversation about health, we would have a different measuring stick. Stress test results, for example. Getting off your diabetes medication. Being able to run with your dog in the morning. If you are calling your program “Beyond the Scale,” perhaps you should measure success with something other than the number on the scale.

But I am not actually condoning that; I am merely pointing out the problem with consistency. If you want to be healthy, and you don’t care what your weight is, and you use some benchmark other than weight for your own happiness, good for you! You go! Do it! I am all for fat acceptance. I will not judge you for loving yourself at any and every size. In fact, I encourage it. I truly believe that it is in loving ourselves without caveats and conditions that we can begin to make changes that are both healthy and lasting. But I think that if you want to lose weight, really, you are going to have to look at it for what it is. You have to stop worrying about political correctness. You may have to deal with a late night knock on your door from the feelings police telling you that you have violated statute whatever-whatever stating that you will not say anything that could, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt the feelings of any person, or group. You are going to have to get real.

The author talks in the article about going back to Weight Watchers for a third time in her life. And perhaps you are asking why. She already knows from her own experience that it does not work, so why yet another attempt? I don’t have to ask why. I already know all too well why. Because if you hate being fat, you will do whatever you can, whenever you can to stop being fat. And you will hold out hope against hope that this time will be the special time where the thin “sticks.” And also, because, in my experience, programs like Weight Watchers tell people that if they are “good” they will get results. If they get some willpower, they will be thin. As if willpower is out there to be had, if you are lucky enough to run across some, like a perk in a video game. You have acquired willpower. Lose 100 pounds and level up.

But here’s the thing that I found lacking in the article, perhaps because the author doesn’t have a context for it: when she talks about going around the Obesity Week conference she says, “…it [made me sad] because if you have this many hundreds of smart and educated people trying to figure this out, and nobody has anything for me but superfood and behavior modification and an insertable balloon and the removal of an organ, it must be that there is no way to solve fatness.”

To this I say, abstinence from processed, and sugary foods. Or, perhaps it is better to say, abstinence from your personal binge/trigger foods. (I know a man who knows that his personal trigger foods are “the guy foods,” like barbecue ribs, as opposed to me and cake.) Total and complete abstinence. To my mind this is not behavior modification, because that term seems to imply that the problem is with my hand, rather than my brain. “Doctor, my hand just keeps grabbing donuts and shoving them into my mouth! What should I do?” This article in no way addresses food as an addictive substance, or mentions any modification in diet (specific foods as opposed to portions) as a lifestyle change. The author talks about Thanksgiving as a kind of food hell for dieters. But of course it is! It’s a room of foods that trigger our reward centers and create a craving for more. If you go to Thanksgiving and you eat the things you have not been eating for the past week/month/year, and they are back in your system, so are the cravings.

I cannot think of a person that I have met who has had long-term weight loss by “managing.” In fact, I believe it is exactly this “managing” that keeps us in the cycle of losing and gaining it all back, feeling like this time we can do it, and then feeling like failures. If you cannot or will not give up your binge foods, then I recommend that you either get comfortable with that cycle of yo-yoing, or you stop trying to lose weight in the first place.

I am not talking about thin people. We all know that thin people are not having these problems. They can, as the author ends the article noting, lovingly lick the icing off a cupcake with impunity. They already are managing without having to think about it. I am talking about people who are fat and don’t want to be. Eat whole foods, in moderation, and abstain from foods that make you want more of them.

Perhaps you are thinking, “But cupcakes are so good!” Or “I could never give up barbecue ribs!” Cool. Then get your fat acceptance on! Work that! Eat your cupcake and love your beautiful, fat self! But if you want to lose weight and keep it off, chances are you are going to have to give up certain foods forever.

That is an unpopular opinion. Feel free to call the feelings police. I may get sent to political correctness jail, but I’ll be there in a comfortable body with my dignity intact.

Food is not my enemy (anymore)

I am not “on” a diet. I have a diet. I find that this is a distinction that a lot of people don’t have. Most of the people I interact with see no reason to maintain food boundaries when I am in a “normal” sized body. One should only “take such drastic measures” if you are fat. Other than that, it seems crazy to them to not eat a cookie. It’s just one cookie. Because to the average person, food revolves around weight.

I don’t keep my food boundaries to manage my weight, though, to a certain extent it does manage my weight. That is just a side effect of keeping my eating under control, just like being fat was a side effect of eating compulsively. My point is that fat is not the disease. Eating is the disease. And while I have never been fat since I gave up sugar, grains, and starch, I have also had times when I was not thin. I made food changes in those times, and sometimes they helped me lose weight and sometimes they didn’t. For example, when I quit smoking over 5 years ago, I gained weight. I tried to eat lighter at that time –less bacon, smaller fruits, more salad, not cooking my vegetables in fat – though still within my boundaries, and it did not help. I did not lose weight, and sometimes gained. Even cutting my food didn’t help me lose then. The only thing that helped was time. I put my body through a lot with all of those chemicals and all that tar for so many years. I suppose it needed time to heal. But in that time, though I was desperately miserable about my body, I did not seek out some other thing to help me lose weight faster – pills, exercise, fasting, extreme calorie cuts – because I had already learned that being thin wasn’t the answer to my problems.

In my mid twenties, I had lost a lot of weight by counting calories and working out. From the outside, I looked normal. In fact, I had never looked so “normal” in my life before. But I would say that I have never been crazier than in that time. I felt insane. I made plenty of poor life decisions. And I was really miserable, partly because I felt so crazy. Look, I am not talking about feeling out of sorts. I mean I thought that I must really belong in a mental institution, and I spent a lot of time trying to hide my crazy so that I wouldn’t be found out and institutionalized. I was living in fear of somebody realizing I was so unstable. And I was so thin. At the time, the thinnest I had ever been, and certainly thinner than I have sometimes been in the past 11+ years with my eating under control.

Being thin didn’t make me happy. Food was my enemy. We were at war, and food was winning. Everything I ate was either “good” and tasted disgusting to me, or “bad” and was delicious, but made me ashamed for having eaten it. I could not win, and I still hated my body, even though it was thin.

Nothing has ever made me as happy as having a handle on my food. And I do it gently. I eat foods I love, because I am not being punished. I don’t feel the need to “detox” or fast. Food is not my enemy anymore. Food is a delight, my 3 moments of respite in the day. Food is my “me time,” where I stop worrying about the things I have to do, and get to drift away into bliss. I don’t count calories. I don’t work out for more than 45 minutes a day. I don’t treat my delicious, nutritious, abundant food like a poison I need to get out of my body before it ends up on my thighs. My thighs are going to be my thighs.

I eat my meals and only my meals. My food is my food. My body is my body. And neither one is my enemy. So I am not on a diet. And I don’t plan to ever be on one again. And that makes me happy as well.

There is still joy in foodville now that sugar is cut out.

This week I was interviewed for a documentary about people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for a certain period of time. I was excited to do this interview because I am frustrated by the way the media often covers weight loss.

There is a lot of talk about the “obesity epidemic,” specifically in the western world. And there is an underlying assumption in the way it is covered by the media, and I would dare say even the way it is studied: “No one can entirely give up ‘comfort food.'”

We’ve got Oprah managing her bread. We’ve got contestants on The Biggest Loser exercising for 6 or more hours a day and ruining their metabolisms in the process. We’ve got Dr. Oz recommending sugar in moderation rather than artificial sweetener. In fact, we have an army of nutritionists recommending eating what amounts to junk food in moderation, so people won’t feel deprived.

What I think this does is perpetuate the myth that if you give up junk food, there will be no joy left in life. And this is a belief I see and hear all the time. When you give up cake, the first thing that everyone asks is, “But not for your birthday, right?”

I gave up cake entirely. Even on my birthday. I gave up my grandma’s lasagne for Thanksgiving and Christmas the last few years she was alive.

The idea that food equals joy is not entirely foreign to me even now. I have favorite meals. I look forward to them. I sometimes do a little dance, or talk to them in a baby voice. (This is not a joke – ask my husband.) I love to eat. I love food. It brings me joy, it’s true. The difference is that the food I eat now is all nutrient rich food. It’s all real food. It’s all whole food. It’s mostly stuff that grew in the ground, and can still be identified. 

I don’t know how to stop this idea that a person both cannot, and should not be expected to, give up unhealthy food, because that would be cruel. A punishment. 

But there is something important that I would like to point out. It was not always this way. This “obesity epidemic” is new. And I know that it is, because when I was growing up fat, I was the exception, not the rule. I was the weirdo. I was the one who was considered lazy and shameful. So I remember a time when most people were a healthy weight. I was not one of them, but they were the majority. In 2011, the U.K. medical journal, The Lancet, reported that obesity rates world wide had doubled since the 1980s. 

So here is my point, this idea that people cannot be expected to control their eating is ridiculous. There is no biological reason for it. But there may, in fact, be a reason for it that has to do with money, specifically profit.

There is a whole industry out there making food as addictive as possible. There are scientists in labs working on “food optimization,” doing whatever they can to make everyone feel the need to eat more. Even if it is killing us. They are looking for the perfect combination of fat, salt, sugar, and texture to keep you eating past the point you know is healthy. They are trying to get you to eat without ever feeling satisfied. They have buzz words like “mouth feel” They are working to create “addiction.”

I put “addiction” in quotes, because I don’t know how much of it is what I would consider a real addiction. “Addictive” is a word we use for everything now: TV shows, video games, songs, apps, just about anything. So the truth is, I don’t know if the salt, fat, sugar, mouth-feel, and crunch combination is simply “tricking” us into eating more than is healthy, but ultimately we still have control, or if it is really creating an inability to stop. But when we are talking about food, especially junk food, it is having a real effect, with real consequences on our lives and our health. Real whole food that can be identified (i.e. is not or is minimally processed) does not keep one on the hamster wheel of more. 

Here’s the deal: I’m fine. I am a-ok, and I am going to continue to be just fine. I found a real and lasting solution to my eating problem. I live a free and happy life. I am not saying this for me. I am saying this for the people who are suffering and keep being told that there is no solution, because, apparently, “nobody can avoid junk.”

If you want to avoid junk, you can. And perhaps we should all, as a culture, be asking who is gaining from our weight gain, when seemingly everyone is telling us that losing it is impossible.

The Biggest Winners of The Biggest Loser are The Biggest Industries: TV, Beauty, Fitness, and Food

So perhaps you saw the article about how contestants on The Biggest Loser have a lot of trouble maintaining their weight losses. It turns out that over the course of the show, their metabolisms slow way way down. Contestants had faster metabolisms when they were overweight than they end up with after the show. Now here is what pissed me off about the article. The conclusion of this article seems to be that a body has a “natural” size or a “true” size, and that any body will work hard to go back to that “true” size. The implication is that the people on The Biggest Loser are just “meant to be” overweight. And that’s where I call bullshit.

In the article, it clearly states that these people lost huge amounts of weight by exercising for at least 6 hours a day. (!!!!!) There is a name for that in the eating disorder community. It’s exercise bulimia. Bulimia is any of the ways that people try to rid themselves of food after they eat it. Because they cannot keep themselves from eating it in the first place. Some people force themselves to throw up, some people purposely take too many laxatives, and some people exercise themselves for hours a day. I know. I have been an active bulimic. (I say active because I still consider myself a bulimic, even though I have not done any of those things in the past 10+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating. I don’t believe bulimic thinking is something that ever really goes away. Thankfully, mine is dormant at the moment.)

See, my point is that there is this television show that is promoting exercise bulimia as the smart, even honorable thing to do. We promote an idea that people are overweight because they are lazy or sloppy, so we cheer for them for “finally” doing something about it. And then when that doesn’t work, science steps in and, instead of saying “6+ hours of exercise a day doesn’t lead to long-term weight loss,” it says that when overweight people lose weight, their body does everything it can to gain the weight back. 

Here’s a thought: Maybe if you lose weight 3 times faster than is natural or normal because you are exercising excessively, then your body does everything it can to gain the weight back.

Perhaps long-term weight loss requires a much more significant change in eating habits and a more moderate view of exercise. Of course, that is not as exciting as watching someone drop 100+ pounds in 6 months, But maybe long-term weight loss can’t be jammed into a 13 week television season. 

It takes years to lose weight naturally. And no, exercise bulimia is not natural. Who naturally has time to exercise for 6 hours every day? How do we not look at it on television and see that it is ridiculous? 

I, personally, lost my weight without any more exercise than walking. And not for hours and hours. I am taking about walking to the store instead of taking the train. I am talking about using the stairs instead of the elevator. 

I want to be clear that this is not about the contestants on The Biggest Loser. If I had not already found my solution, I would probably have loved the opportunity to get on a show like that. I was willing to do anything to lose weight. In fact, I tried exercise bulimia. It didn’t work for me either.

For me, this all comes back to the big money to be made off of those contestants. These are people who are desperate and suffering, and they are being used by the television industry, the beauty industry, the fitness industry and the food industry. And they are not getting anything in return except for broken metabolisms and a “scientific” conclusion that they were never supposed to be thin in the first place.

Yeah…And people say what I do is extreme.

…But that’s none of my business…

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what it looks like to let people be themselves. Make their own choices. Fight their own battles. Live their own lives.

It’s a hard thing. I know that it is hard for everybody. And I like to think it is something that I am relatively good at.

Relatively. I mean, it’s not easy. Especially when I love somebody. Or in my pride I think I know what would be best.

And maybe what I think other people should do really would make them happy, or give them peace, or just generally make things work out for the best. But none of that matters.

When I was growing up, a lot of people wanted me to lose weight. Doctors and family and friends. Not because they didn’t like or love me fat, but because they did. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be healthier and happier. They didn’t want me to get obesity related illnesses. Or be made fun of. Or get hurt and rejected.

But nothing those people wanted for me ever helped me. None of their opinions or advice ever landed as anything but judgment, cruelty, and conditional caring. I am not saying that that is what it was. I am not saying that it was not genuine love and concern. But it did not occur that way. It occurred as intrusion. And for the most part, it still does.

I love advice.

When I ask for it. Because I am choosy about whom I ask. I go to people who have something I want when I ask for advice. When I wanted peace around food, I went to people who had peace around food. I did what they did. Not people who were skinny. Not even people who had lost a lot of weight. I wanted food to stop being an issue. So I went to people for whom compulsive eating was no longer an issue. When I wanted to open my heart and find a powerful relationship, I asked for advice from people in the kinds of relationships I wanted. Not people who happened to be married. Not women who were trying to land a husband. It was about relationships. When I wanted to quit smoking, I went to people who had successfully quit smoking and were empowered by it. Not people who still had a puff every once in a while. Not people who had never had or wanted a cigarette. People who quit so that they could grow.

What I do around food is not for everybody. Plenty of people are not sick with sugar addiction or eating disorders, and can eat sugar and drink alcohol normally and without negative repercussions. Or have other food issues that would be exacerbated by what I do.

And no. Not everybody wants what I have. And I can understand that. I think most people can’t imagine how sweet and delicious my life is. I don’t think many people can fathom what it is like to have found a certain amount of peace. I bet they think that what I have is a dull as can be.

But even more, there are people who do, indeed, want what I have, but are unwilling to do what I do. Almost everybody wants to know how I live with the idea of never eating chocolate cake again. Or never having a glass of wine with dinner. Or they want to make sure that I know that they never could. So many people, when they hear my solution, decide that it’s too much. They want an easier, softer way. Not so hard. Not so extreme.

And who am I to tell them differently? Who am I to judge them for not doing what I do?

And it’s not just food. Food is just the most obvious example to me. My “amazing” weight loss transformation that is written all over my body. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I put amazing in quotes because I happen to know that my weight was the symptom of my eating disorders. That what’s really amazing to me is the gift of having my eating under control, which takes care of my weight issues. And that more than amazing, it’s work and dedication and giving myself over to grace.) Who am I to offer advice about any choice. Who am I to tell anybody anything? Who am I to tell another person how to live. Or what happiness is. Or where to find it?

Unless you want to ask me. And then I would love to tell you what works for me. And even then, I give it as a gift. With no strings. To do with what you will. Because your life is yours. And you get to live it for yourself.

Think before you google.

I did something today that I shouldn’t have done.

I googled.

If I were a friend of mine, I would give myself a good, stern talking-to. I even have a specific good friend whom I have (lovingly) made promise me that she will not google. Because no good can come of it.

Let’s face it, when you google, everything you see convinces you that all hope is lost. You have cancer. Or a sexually transmitted disease. Or dementia. Or whatever. But never anything good.

I googled: When will I lose the weight I gained from quitting smoking?

And all it did was piss me off.

Apparently I didn’t gain weight from quitting smoking. Or if I did, it’s because I ate too much. And there is nothing wrong with my metabolism. And quitting smoking didn’t change my body in any way except to make it healthier.

In other words, if I can’t lose weight, it’s my own damn fault.

This makes me feel like a big, fat loser. And rational thought doesn’t help. Because I will give you the rational low-down.

When I quit smoking, I had had boundaries around my food for 6 ½ years. I started gaining weight. First slowly, but then 10 lbs in a month. And then the weight gain slowed down again. But it didn’t stop until after about 10 months. So all together, I gained 30 lbs in 10 months.

I eat an exact amount of food. I had for 6 ½ years before I quit smoking. And I have for the 2+ years since I quit. And after I gained 10 lbs in a month, I (with the help of a sane and loving friend) significantly reduced the amount of food I eat every day. Still exact. Just less. And I continued to gain weight. Until it stopped.

And I have not lost the weight.

I suppose I could be extreme, even within my food boundaries, with the hope that I would lose weight. That I could choose skim milk and fat-free yogurt instead of 2%. That I could stop eating bacon once a week. That I could stop eating steak and carrots and squash. And eat steamed broccoli. And chicken. And lettuce. (I hate chicken. And lettuce.) With the hope that I might lose weight. But even in that there is no certainty. I went from full-fat to 2% and still gained weight. From bacon 3 times a week to once, and still gained weight. From full portions of carrots and squash, to half portions, and still gained weight. I went from cooking in fat, to fat on the side and still gained weight.

I did the smart and obvious things to lose weight. I did the science and math things. So it makes me angry to read that my truth is perceived as a lie. Or at least as a misguided and mistaken notion.

But why was I even googling in the first place? Why do I need to know if I can lose weight? If I will? When and where and why and how? Why do I need to be something I am not? Why do I need it to be different than it is?

And why still? Why, after a year and a half, am I still not content to live in this body? Why can’t I just be peaceful? Why can’t I just let it go?

When I read all of those posts that pissed me off, I did eventually get the message. The message from God to me. That I should mind my own business. That it is none of my business when, or how, or even if I lose weight ever again. That I should trust the way my life is going. That it’s a great life.

And it is a great life.

Of course the answer to why I googled today is Because I am a woman with eating and body image disorders. And I always will be. And just like I’m sick around food, I’m sick around my body and how I think and feel about it.

But it has occurred to me that there might be another reason. Maybe I needed to write my truth for the people like me who gained weight when they quit smoking, simply because they quit smoking. And are being told that they did not. That there is something that they are doing that is making them gain weight. And they feel crazy. And angry. And like nobody is seeing or hearing them.

Well, I do. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. Because in my heart, my head and my soul, I know my truth. And no amount of googling can make my truth false.

Though I’d still do better not to google in the first place.

As every parent knows, “There’s nothing wrong with the one you’ve got.”

I’m in a funny place about my body lately. Not terrible. But not great either.

I have not been weighing myself for many months. And I am grateful for that. For some reason, numbers make me irrational. But I can tell I go up and down. In the way my clothes fit. And how big my butt is.

For whatever reason, a few weeks ago, I was up. And I can tell that I am in the process of going back down. And while I don’t know how much in terms of pounds, it is not a lot. I am not growing or shrinking out of my clothes.

But I am disappointed lately. Because I had hoped that I would have lost more weight by now.

If you don’t know, I quit smoking for my 35th Birthday. And I will turn 37 in less than 2 months. In the first 9 months of quitting, I gained 30 pounds. Not because I was eating to compensate. But simply because that was one of my side effects. I had others too. For the first 6 weeks I had open sores in my mouth and for about 10 months I was depressed. But it was the weight gain that was most devastating to me.

As a former fat girl, I have all sorts of eating and body image disorders. Sometimes they are dormant. And sometimes they are active. Though only in my head…When it comes to eating, starving, binging, purging, laxatives, over-exercising, and all other manner of acting out with food, I have the action part under control with strict rules and boundaries. And I have for over 8 years.

So gaining 30 lbs, especially with my eating under control, was triggering for me. It made me crazy. And unhappy. And it was hard to reconcile myself to it. I felt like I was being punished. And it was especially frustrating because I felt like I was being punished for quitting smoking. You know, no good deed goes unpunished, and so on.

But I felt like I could handle it, because I thought it would be temporary. I thought that after some time went by, I would lose that 30 lbs. Or at least the greater portion of it. And here I am almost 2 years later, and a full year since the excessive weight gain stopped, and I have not lost any weight.

There is something that I have told more than one person recently, and I would do well to remember it myself. When I was actively eating compulsively and eating sugar, my eating habits were surely the reason I weighed 300 lbs. (Duh.) But since I got my eating under control and stopped eating sugar, I have noticed that what I eat has generally had the least to do with my weight. The thinnest I ever was in my life was the time that followed the illness of my Dad’s mom, who was the first love of my life. In the months that led to her death, I must have dropped 15 lbs, and I was already thin. Then, and in the years following that time, it did not matter what I ate. Drenched in butter, deep-fried, bacon, full-fat dairy, huge portions. Every day. Just to maintain a tiny little body. And then I quit smoking. And even cutting portions in half, reducing fat content and limiting how often I ate certain foods, I still gained weight. I gained 30 lbs, eating less than half of what I had been eating before I gave up cigarettes.

I’m saying I don’t want to start worrying about what I eat. That I don’t want to start drinking skim milk and eating nonfat yogurt. I don’t want to start steaming my vegetables. I don’t want to stop eating roasted squash and carrots. In the (possibly vain) hope that I will lose 20 lbs. Because for years now, what I eat has not had nearly as great of an impact on my weight as all of the other things going on in my life. My stress, my sadness, my anxiety, my withdrawal, my unwillingness to let things go.

And I’m also saying I want to stop judging my “willpower” and my looks so harshly.

I know that my eyes are broken. And I can see that sometimes I think I look like women who are significantly bigger than I am. But also, the truth is that I am not particularly thin right now. And I don’t like it. And dammit! I don’t like that I don’t like it.

I really want to be comfortable in my own body. Exactly as it is. And I don’t want to feel like I should eat diet food. And I don’t want to judge myself on what I am eating. And I don’t want to feel like my worth is based on how “good” I can be. And I don’t want how “good” I am to be based on how much I can deprive myself, and how much I can suffer for a smaller body. And I don’t want to buy into the notion that a smallest possible body is always healthier, prettier, better.

Because that is the notion in modern Western culture, right? That any body bigger than tiny is fat. That the best body is the smallest one. That as a woman, that’s the one to strive for. And if you are not striving for the smallest possible body then you are somehow lacking. Lazy, or shameful, or ultimately unwomanly.

There is a kind of person that I want to be. And it involves having peace around what is so. And it involves trusting that I have exactly the body that I am supposed to have. And knowing that this body is beautiful. Because it is well cared for. Well fed. Well hydrated. Well maintained. Well used with out being abused.

And I want to be the kind of person who has some perspective about bodies. Specifically my own body, but also in general. Human bodies in the world. To have a realistic and sane outlook on them. To see that they aren’t all created to grow into doe-eyed, pouty, ectomorphs, if only their owners would behave properly. To understand that they all grow into different shapes and sizes. And at different rates. And that I got as good of one as anybody else. And you did too.

Putting the ‘fun’ in functioning like a normal human being

This is the first weekend in long time (6 weeks? 7?) that my boyfriend and I didn’t have any obligations to take care of. I didn’t have to jump out of bed and get ready for the day. I got to lay around until whenever this morning. (Whenever was about 7:30) I had a leisurely breakfast. I took my time cleaning up the kitchen. I threw a couple of loads of laundry in.

The last couple of months have been exciting. It has been great to travel. It has been fun to see friends. To celebrate life and love. To dance. To experience new places and things. I have enjoyed it very much.

And I am also positively loving this lazy day at home with my boyfriend.

One of the best parts about having my eating under control, is that I can enjoy just general life. (Frankly, the very best part about having my eating under control is having my eating under control, but anyway…)

I was basically unhappy when I was eating compulsively, but not just about being fat, and food obsessed, and ashamed. I was also never satisfied. With anything. I would have been easily angered and frustrated by all the traveling I enjoyed so much this past month. I would have been devastated by the smallest hiccup in any of the plans. The truck breaking down. My flight from New York being delayed. I would have been so worried about embarrassing myself and trying to be, look and act perfect that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the wedding.

And then this morning, I would have been some nonsensical mix of anxious and bored. Or I would have spent my entire day doing nothing (high on sugar), and then have been humiliated at night when I did nothing all day.

The other thing that I sometimes forget is that when I ate compulsively, I never slept at night. I stayed up until at least 1 or 2 in the morning, if not later. If I had to be awake in the morning, I often overslept. If I didn’t have to wake up, I would easily sleep until 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

I hated the daytime. People were doing useful and productive things in the daytime. I wanted to eat and smoke and read comic books and not have anything be expected of me.

I am so the opposite of that now. If I am up past 10 pm, I am exhausted! I love the morning. I love breakfast and coffee and sunshine and making the bed and straightening up the house from the night before.

When I was eating compulsively I lived in terror of missing out on all the fun. But I never really enjoyed the “fun”. Now, I show up for what is going on, and I usually have fun, whatever that is. Whether it’s driving for 12 hours, dancing at a wedding, or laying on the couch reading and drinking coffee.

And finally, there is one more thing I want to talk about today. At the very end of September, I spoke to my friend who helps me make decisions about my food, and she recommended that I stop weighing myself on the first of the month for a while. She understood that it was torture for me. She said that as long as I was keeping my boundaries around my food, I was doing the right thing. And that there was no reason to punish myself by weighing myself. This is what I’m doing for now. The time when I begin to weigh myself on the first of the month will probably begin again at some point, but that point is not now.

Well… since I stopped weighing myself a little over a month ago, my clothes have been getting bigger. Around mid-September I bought some new jeans. One pair that I bought was a size 8 and fit. One pair was a size 6, and I could get them on, but they did not fit. Last week I noticed that the 8s were falling off of me, and today I am wearing the 6s.They fit.

Everything in me wants to get on the scale. Wants to see the number. Wants to see exactly how much weight I have lost in the past 2 months.

But the truth is, that will only lead to eating disorder thinking and I know it. I will not be happy with the number. Whatever it may be. I will want to lose more. More quickly. Now.

And the other truth is that I do not think it is a coincidence that I started to lose weight after I stopped weighing myself. I have not been eating any lighter. (If you didn’t know, I got a deep-fryer!) I believe that fear of my weight kept me stuck. I believe that the obsession with my weight wouldn’t allow me to release it. In other words, I couldn’t let it go until I let it go. I don’t want to think about my weight any more than a body-dysmorphic girl with eating disorders has to. And insisting that I get on the scale, when I have been given a loving suggestion not to, is to go looking for pain and drama.

I don’t want to care about my weight. Yes, I want to be healthy. Yes, I want to be sane. Yes, I want to be in a comfortable body. But I want to be free to be comfortable in the body I am in…

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Last week, I learned about the existence of something that I found deeply upsetting. (This is gross hyperbole, by the way.) And I had to decide if I wanted to write about it here. Because I didn’t want to give it publicity. Or help steer people toward it.

But I realized pretty quickly that I needed to write about it. Because it exists. And my responsibility is to tell my truth. Not to shield others from reality.

This thing I’m referring to is something called Pro-Ana. As in pro-anorexia. As in “all for starving yourself as a means to be as thin as possible in order to be beautiful.” There are people who refer to anorexia as Ana, and often personify the disease. Like I’m hanging out with my friend Ana. She’s the only one who understands me.

Obviously, this creates a visceral reaction in me. When I looked into it, I immediately became an unsettling mix of angry, nauseous, and down-right terrified. And that kind of knee-jerk response makes me want to spout off. It makes me want to say cruel, sick things. It makes me want to lash out at these people, and verbally attack them where they are weakest. Because I know where they are weakest. It is where I, too, am weakest, and most afraid.

But I’m not going to do that today. Today, I am going to talk about disease. I am going to talk about the ways eating disorders affected my spirit and my mind. The way they ruined my life. Until I found out how to deal with them. I figured out how to control my eating disorders. Not “myself”, or my weight, or my eating. I did eventually get control of all of those things. But first I had to get control of the disease. The spiritual, mental and emotional sickness.

I’m not going to spout about health and beauty. Because to focus (attack) on health and beauty is to imply that I would like to deny people their own standards and opinions, their own choices, and their own rights to live as they want to live.

And the terrified girl inside me does want that. Wants to say that pro-ana should not be allowed. Wants to vilify the people who are creating blogs and websites promoting eating disorders, giving tips and tricks for how to be better at starving and/or purging, and glorifying extreme weight-loss with pictures and stories.

But I don’t get on my high horse when it comes to smoking, or drinking alcohol, or drug use. I have respect for healthy people’s life choices, and sympathy for people living in addiction.

But eating disorders revolve around obsession. They eliminate even the opportunity for satisfaction. And they lead to deeper and deeper self-involvement that leads, not to self-love, but to self-loathing.

I have been morbidly obese. But I have also been a bulimic, an exercise-bulimic, and a laxative abuser, among other things. I have less experience with anorexia, but I have some. I have gone through short periods of starvation. And I have gone through periods where I restricted to the point of shutting down my body. Eating only egg whites and raw vegetables. Not eating any fat. So that I stopped getting my period. And ended up so bloated that people started asking me if I were pregnant.

I went to a gynecologist when my period didn’t come for 3 or 4 months. She asked me how and what I was eating. I was secretive and dishonest. I wanted my period to come back. I wanted her to fix me. Even though I knew that the problem was the way I was and wasn’t eating.

She could never understand. I had been so fat. I could never go back there again. I needed to lose more weight. I just needed her to make me start menstruating again. It was none of her business what I was or wasn’t eating.

She put me on birth control pills. That made me get my period again. But it didn’t stop the bloating. And it didn’t stop me from feeling out of control, and crazy. It didn’t bring me the peace I wanted. I wanted my period to come back because I wanted to be assured that I was ok. But I was not ok.

So then I went on a 6 day green juice fast. I had nothing to eat for 6 days. I drank 3 green vegetable juices a day from a juice bar. That made me feel fantastic! It made me feel powerful, and in control and like master of my weight and body. It made me lose all of the water that I had been carrying in my belly. I think I lost over 15 lbs in those 6 days. And that triumph was followed by the darkest period of my life so far.

It led to uncontrollable bingeing. It led to the most damaging bulimic acts I would ever commit. It lead to the deepest self-hatred I have ever experienced. It lead to self-enforced isolation. It lead me to distrust everyone. I was delusional and crazy. I was miserable.

And I felt trapped. I couldn’t see any way out. I felt doomed. Either to perpetuate this horror of bingeing and purging and exercising and starving and striving. Or just plain giving up and gaining back the 150 lbs I had lost. And living in shame for the rest of my life.

One thing that my eating disorders did was allow me to convince myself that a certain weight would bring peace and happiness.

Of course, I might reach that goal. I did. A few times. And I would be happy. Maybe even satisfied. For a moment. But then I would either want more, or I would be tortured trying to maintain what I had accomplished. I’m saying it was never enough. I was never good enough. I was looking for perfection. And I was positive that if I were only good, better, worthy, I would attain it.

That is what my eating disorders did to me.

I can’t go on anymore today. It’s too big a topic for me to be able to handle in one post. Even having had this week to think about it. I’m feeling how scrunched up my face is at this moment. This has been painful for me. But important. I’m glad I got to write it. And I will probably write about it again in the future. But for this week, put a fork in me. I’m done.

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