onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “weight”

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.

It doesn’t matter how you say no, as long as you say it.

I am the member of a Facebook group for people who do what I do with food, and one of the newer members asked about how she was going to explain her food to someone new. And a friend of mine recommended I make a blog post about it. And it’s a great idea because it’s a huge part of having a specific lifestyle. Especially a food lifestyle like the one I have.

People have a lot of questions. They have a lot of thoughts. They have a lot of things to say and stories to tell. They are full of “helpful” information. So it helps to have a plan when it comes to how we are going to deal with people in our lives around our eating boundaries.
The first thing I want to say is that you really don’t owe anyone anything in the way of an explanation. Truly. What you put in your body is not up for debate. Nobody is going to shove food in your mouth. And if they do, spit it out. And then file a restraining order. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want in whatever way you want. 
But none of us lives in a vacuum, and chances are, there are going to be people that you want to make comfortable around your (possibly weird, or at least perceived as weird) food lifestyle. You want to be comfortable around your friends and family, and maybe your boss or your clients. 
My first piece of advice is to be honest. How in depth you want to get is up to you, and will probably vary based on your relationship. 
The person I end up seated next to at a wedding, who I will never see again, will probably get the bare bones of the matter. “I do this crazy food thing. There are lots of rules. Mostly I don’t eat sugar or carbohydrates.” They will most likely say something like “Good for you. You have so much willpower. I could never do that.” And then they will be handed a piece of cake or a drink and they will forget about your crazy food thing. Because chances are, they really don’t care.
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of weighing out my food in public, strangers want to know what that is and what I am doing. Let me tell you, I hate this. Weighing my food is of grave importance to me. I weigh my food because then the portion is exact. It is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. Yes, I am doing it for portion control, but also because I can spin my wheels when it comes to food. When I see an exact number on a scale, there is no doubt as to whether I had too much or not enough. I could plan a whole binge around how I possibly under ate and now I can “make up for it” with something else. So when someone comes along and they want to know all about what I am doing with a scale, they are taking my attention away from this action that requires my full attention. Most importantly, I don’t answer until I can safely remove my attention from what I am doing. I don’t need my scale turning off on me, or to accidentally hit a wrong button when I don’t know what is going on. And when I do have a moment to answer, I usually say something like “I can answer your questions later, but right now I am in the middle of something.” Sometimes those people are offended. I highly recommend not caring about that. Also, when they are not watching you do it, they never come back and ask. My experience is that people don’t actually care. 
When I get invited to go out to eat, there are a few ways that can go.  
If it is something I should participate in, namely family celebrations, I tell them I need to choose the restaurant. I go on line and scope out menus, and then call ahead and ask how certain dishes are prepared and how big portions come. If necessary, I ask them to put portions aside for me so that they are not prepped with foods I cannot eat, like flour or certain marinades. And then I ask them to let the waiter know I have special food needs. Also, I make sure I have enough backup food on me so that if I don’t get enough food from the restaurant, my portions are taken care of. Is this a pain? Of course it is. But I usually get a great meal and I’m there for the company anyway. 
And there are plenty of people who do what I do with food who love to eat out. They don’t mind the questions and the calls and bringing extra food. 
In other circumstances, I sometimes recommend people come to my home for dinner and I or my husband will cook. Our boss has come to our home for dinner quite a few times now. He always asks to take us out. And I alway request that he let us feed him. Especially in the south, it can be hard to find what I need in a restaurant. (A vegetable in the south is often a potato, or if it is a vegetable I would eat, it is breaded or cooked in wine or honey or some other sugar or starch.) The last time he was here he said he felt bad that we were always cooking for him. But I let him know that I prefer it, and he has seen me eat enough times to understand what I do. 
Sometimes, I go out, but don’t eat. I either eat before, or after, and I spend my time drinking iced tea or diet soda and enjoying people’s company. 
When people want to know why I am not eating, I usually say I ate earlier, or I will be eating later. I make sure they know I came for them, and it’s worth it to me to spend time with them. It’s not about food.
There are a lot of people, well meaning, loving people, who will think you are punishing yourself. In some ways, this is the hardest group to deal with. They think you won’t eat a piece of cake because you don’t like yourself. They think that not eating the cake is terrible for you. They truly do not know that *eating* the cake would actually be terrible for you. “Why don’t you live a little?” is a very common phrase. 
I recommend you be firm but gentle with these folks. Say no, clearly. “No thank you.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” “I’m great but I appreciate the offer.” “I don’t eat sugar.” “I don’t miss it.” “Quitting sugar is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I sometimes have to go more in depth. Be more clear about how sick I am with food. “I have a pretty serious eating disorder and this is how I take care of it.” “I was really miserable and desperate before I gave up sugar.” “This is a matter of life and death for me.” I don’t say these things dramatically, but I do say them seriously. And usually that is enough. 
It can be a struggle to deal with the expectations of people when it comes to food. For so many people, food is how they express love. It is how they show hospitality. It’s how they offer fun.
The most crucial thing I can say is “set boundaries.” Better to set a boundary and offend someone than to betray yourself. Set boundaries that are graceless and clunky. Sounding like a jerk is better than going back to food hell. Your boundaries will get smoother, kinder, more graceful. But don’t worry about that as much as you worry about taking care of yourself, being true to yourself.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had let her mother-in-law guilt her into eating a dessert she made “especially” for her. And it sent her into an eating disorder relapse. And she said “I will never do that again, because she sees me at that party, but she isn’t going to come into the bathroom to hold my hair back when I go make myself throw up.” 
Nobody else has to live with you in your body. Nobody has to go home with you and see the repercussions of that one bite. The way it affects your job, your relationship with your spouse or your kids, your self-esteem.
So say no however you need to say it. Just say it. 

Impossible is just another word for “don’t stop eating junk food.”

Of course. Another article on how it’s “nearly impossible” to lose weight. An article about how there are receptors that help/hider weight loss on a molecular level. It even brought up the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Again. 

There was at least one thing about the article that I wholeheartedly agree with. Calories are not the answer to weight. Losing weight is not about creating a “calorie deficit.” 
And as for the study of the participants of The Biggest Loser television show, who had their metabolisms shut down, causing them to gain back their weight, along with not being able to lose weight any more, can we please remember that those participants were exercising for 6 to 9 hours a day. Which is a great way to create a dramatic physical change in a body for a reality TV show. But is not a practical practice for people who have to, say, go to work, make dinner for their family, have a life. And it is not a lifestyle change that facilitates long-term maintenance.
I am not saying the science talked about in this article isn’t valid. (Though I do not know who funded it and that always makes a difference.) But I take issue with some of the things the article implies. 
The most important one, I think, is this quote from an endocrinologist at Columbia University:
“These data are quite interesting, and are consistent with the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is in part due to evolutionary pressures to prevent starvation in stress,”
So we are just evolving to be fat?
Guess what was not mentioned. Food. Processed food. In the past 45 years, my lifetime, Americans (and people in general worldwide) have gotten bigger and bigger. Americans have stopped eating at home. We have stopped cooking fresh food for ourselves and our families. We have started buying and consuming packaged, processed and “ultra-processed” foods, most with added sugars, on a daily basis. We eat and snack all day, as opposed to having meal times. We have no concept of portions, and when eating at a restaurant, we feel cheated if we do not get a full plate. We eat the whole bag, the whole box, the whole pint. In the past 45 years, we have gone from a society that ate junk food as an occasional treat, to one that considers junk food a reasonable meal choice. And we’re talking about evolution to explain why so many more people are fat in that same 45 years? 
I feel like this is an example of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is probably the valid one. We have told “Big Food” that it can get us addicted to its poison with impunity. We have agreed that rather than call out chips, and microwave snacks, and soft drinks, and granola bars made with “all natural” ingredients, as processed junk, we will say it’s evolution that is the problem. That it’s our bodies that are betraying us, as opposed to the food industry. 
I can’t say this enough. I do not care what you choose to eat! I do not care if you are fat! I do not care if you are fat and sick! I do not care if you are fat and sick and still want to eat ultra-processed foods all day every day! I do not care! You do you!
I care that seemingly everyone in the scientific and medical communities wants to talk about every effing thing except food. They want to talk about how close they are to creating the magic pill. Or the magic procedure. They want to say that it is either too hard, or too silly, or too strict, to give up processed foods and sugar. 
No doctor has ever told me to give up sugar and carbohydrates. They told me moderation. Because I wouldn’t be able to do something so extreme. That it was crazy. That it was impossible to give up cake on my birthday. 
Eat what you want. Whenever you want. But if you are miserable in your body, and you want to lose weight, for yourself – not a spouse/partner, or your parents, or society in general – don’t believe that it is evolutionarily impossible! Don’t believe that there is no hope. Maybe try not eating crap. Maybe try eating whole food that still looks recognizable as what it was in the wild…
My bottom line is this. Can we stop pretending not to see the problem with our food? Can we stop pretending that food we eat and serve is not addictive? Can we stop pretending that we can’t possibly imagine what has changed in the past 45 years to create what we are calling “an obesity epidemic?” 
We should really be calling it a “malnourishment epidemic” or a “toxic food epidemic.” We should not be vilifying the people who are reaping the consequences of a consumerist culture gone awry. An obesity epidemic seems to me to imply that fat people are to blame for not “putting the chips down” and “pushing away from the table.” But companies are making an awful lot of money on these same people. Food companies, and medical/drug companies. They sell us the ultra-processed microwave meal, with an “Organic/All Natural/No GMOs” label slapped across the front, and tell us it’s healthy. And then they get us under the knife for a procedure to “help us” out of the horrible bind we’ve gotten ourselves into by not having enough willpower. (I hope the eye roll implied there was not lost on you.) Those lap bands and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t free, you know. And we all know that insulin is so expensive some people are going bankrupt to stay alive. 
Do not believe them when they say it’s hopeless or impossible. Do not believe that evolution alone has made us fat. We have certainly evolved to have the bodies we have, but I firmly believe that evolution is not making us as fat as our addictive food choices are. 

And I say that as someone who has maintained over 100 lb weight loss for over 13 years. That is not a fluke. That is not an anomaly. That is over 13 years of not eating addictive foods. I *know* that it is not impossible. I am living proof.

“Follow Me” and change

I was very excited this week to get to see a documentary I am featured in about sustained weight loss. It’s called Follow Me, and it features 12 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for 5 years or more. I am honored to be a part of it. You can visit the website and see a trailer for the movie at www.followmefilm.ca
What I particularly like about the film is that it features a bunch of different approaches to sustained weight loss. But they all have one thing in common. We each had to change our lives. 
One of my biggest problems with losing weight when I was still eating sugar, was that I wanted to do what I had always done, and have it be different. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was not eating so I could eat later. The reward was the same. Just less often. And someday. Until I couldn’t wait anymore and I ate again. And I couldn’t put it off anymore, and it went back to being the norm, not the exception. 
I could never stop eating sugar when I was eating sugar. I could never *want* to refrain, because I craved it. My brain and my body told me I needed it. And when I first *really* gave up sugar I experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain. The cravings were intense. The feelings I had been numbing with sugar were overwhelming. I was cranky. I felt high from not being high. I had to cope without my primary coping mechanism. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the lake and told “don’t die.”
But I did learn to “swim.” I learned a new way to live. And it was a life I never knew I wanted. But I did. 
One of my many (many) problems with the fitness/diet/beauty industry is that so much of what it is advertising is something that will do the change for you. Hell, even the medical industry is selling that. Take these “vitamins,” they will melt away fat. Drink this shake, it will make you want to eat less. Get your stomach removed/constricted. It will make it impossible for you to overeat. Except it doesn’t. Not even the medical/surgical solutions. I have met people who have stretched themselves a new stomach after gastric bypass. They are not the solutions they promise to be. (Oh great. Now, I am going to be singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina all day…)
I am not saying that surgery is necessarily “bad.” Eating as a coping mechanism worked for me until it didn’t anymore. A gastric sleeve might save someone’s life. But  if one’s problem is eating, like mine, and weight is a symptom of that problem, I don’t think anything outside of oneself is going to help. 
And I am not saying that anyone “needs” to change their eating. I want to be friends with fat acceptance, body positivity, and fat pride. I want to make this a conversation about choice. 
But I hated being fat. And I *wanted* a solution. And I was doing all sorts of self-harm and acts of self-hatred in order to try and wrangle my body into a certain shape and size, hoping that one of those awful, painful, and shameful things would be the solution to my self-loathing. And none of them were. 
But finally I found a real solution. One that doesn’t require sustained starvation. One that doesn’t require hating myself into submission. One that is abundant, delicious food, plus a body I actually love, and love to live in. 
So I am honored to be part of this film, Follow Me. I am honored to talk about the fact that sustained weight loss is not a fictional fairytale. That it can be done. And that it’s not about being special or being a specific kind of fat person. That it’s about choices and change. And that if you want something else, there is a way to have it. 

Beautiful. But still not skinny

When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away. 

But when I put boundaries around my eating, and especially when I stopped eating foods I am addicted to, like sugar and carbs, I lost my weight, and it was staying off. And I wasn’t afraid of gaining it back. At all. I didn’t feel like it was a fluke. I wasn’t what they call “white knuckling” it. I was in a regular sized body and fully expected to stay that way. 
But he didn’t show up. For years he didn’t show up. I went on dates. I got pretty hair cuts from a salon. (The kind where you needed an appointment!) I regularly got my nails done, fingers and toes. I wore pretty clothes. For a few years there in the beginning I even wore makeup every day. (I would stop after about 5 years of having my food under control.) But no husband.
I went on dates. I went to bars. I talked to men on the subway and in Starbucks. But he did not show up. 
And then I quit smoking. And I gained weight. I gained a lot of weight. After the first 30 lbs, I stopped weighing myself. I had my food under control, but my weight was out of control. I was terrified. I was miserable. I felt betrayed by my body. But I kept my boundaries around my eating, even in the face of that weight gain and insecurity. 
And I thought “I missed my window. My husband didn’t show up while I was skinny. And now that chance has passed.”
And then my husband showed up. When I was not skinny. When I was, in fact, the heaviest I had ever been with my eating under control.
And I had to come to terms with the fact that being skinny was not what made me beautiful. And it occurred to me that having my eating under control is actually the thing that made/makes me beautiful. The clarity. The kindness. The confidence. The good judgment.
So here I am, a woman with her food under control, who is not skinny. I am fit, and present, and growing, and happy. And still in love with my husband who is still in love with me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. (I still think so too. Because…humble.) But still not skinny. 
And I am so grateful that I got to learn that lesson. That my beauty is not determined by my physical size. That my size is fine, whatever it is, as long as I have my eating under control. Because it was the compulsive eating that made me feel ugly and crazy and unlovable. And in having my food taken care of, I am showing my body that I love it. That I think it is worthy of love. And that opened the way for my husband. Love opened the way to love. Not being “skinny and perfect.”

I don’t want to feel broken even after the broken part got fixed

I have been struggling with how I feel about a recent(ish) weight again. I feel like this happens once a year or so, in the past 4 years. I gain weight. For no discernible reason. I do not change the way I eat, at least not it in any major way. I just gain weight. Eventually I lose it. (At least that has been the case so far.) And then I gain it back months later. And then lose it again. Back and forth, over and over.

When my gram was sick in the hospital before she died, I lost a lot of weight in a few months. I definitely was not trying. I just dropped weight. I got down to about 131-133 pounds. That’s skinny for me. I was still pretty curvy, but definitely skinny. And from about April of 2010 to about August of 2012 I stayed basically the same weight. I stayed skinny regardless of what I ate. I ate a lot of bacon. I ate a lot of fried foods. I had to add a second piece of fruit to my day to keep from losing even more weight. And I just stayed skinny. 
But ever since I quit smoking, my weight has fluctuated wildly. A huge gain in the months following the weight loss. 3 years of maintaining that higher weight. Then I lost it in just a couple of months. Never all the way back down to my skinniest, but back into my size 6 jeans. Then a gain and a loss and a gain and a loss. Again and again.
A friend who has thyroid problems recommended I get mine checked. It’s not a terrible idea. But living on the road makes it a bit of a pain. Though we have great insurance and I could find a doctor anywhere. 
But the problem is also that I don’t like doctors. Having grown up fat, I don’t trust them to listen to me, to respect me, to look at me with anything except what seems to be a disdain for my lack of willpower. I was told for a long time that everything that was wrong with me was that I was fat. And that I could do something about it if I would only pull myself up by my bootstraps, or whatever. 
It’s hard for me to take doctors seriously when they all had opinions about me, but none of them could actually help. They sent me to nutritionists who told me to eat in moderation. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just stick to a diet. They were frustrated and angry with me. For not being good enough. It’s hard for me not to feel like they were the ones who weren’t good enough. That they were the ones who failed me. That they shamed me for my disease, when they didn’t actually understand the disease. And kept forcing on me a “cure” that wasn’t.
But that’s unfair. Kind of, anyway. Because I don’t know if I would have been able to give up sugar if that had been the recommended treatment. I don’t know if 12 or 16 or 23-year-old Kate would have been available for that. Thank God 28-year-old Kate was. That took care of the eating. And most of the weight.
I don’t want to worry about my weight. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to care about it. I don’t want to be ruled by how much gravity is exerted on my body. I want to take care of it to the best of my ability, and just have that be enough. I want to nourish it and hydrate it and move it with love.
I probably should find out if my thyroid is not working properly. I should probably brave the doctor and find out if there is something wrong with my hormones, something that could be corrected. For that love of my body. Not to squish it into a socially acceptable size and shape. 
But that said, even if I do get my thyroid checked and it turns out that I am not running at 100%, I don’t want to care about my size. I don’t want to judge myself for the size of my butt or my belly or my thighs. I don’t want to feel like I am sick or broken because I am not skinny anymore. Especially when the thing that was most sick and broken about myself, my eating, my addiction to sugar and carbohydrates , is taken care of, with commitment and honor and love, 3 times a day. No matter what.

Easing into Oklahoma

I am already pretty used to my new routine here in Oklahoma. I am enjoying my outdoor jog in the morning. Though admittedly, it is still pretty chilly when I go. I don’t exercise well in the heat. Which is surprising for someone who is almost always cold in temperatures below 75, and doesn’t seem to notice the heat when not exercising. When I stopped eating sugar I started to get cold. I lost weight, of course. But even when I am not particularly skinny, I still get cold easily. 

I have also been eating lighter out of necessity. Mostly just for breakfast. There are not a lot of the really decadent breakfast foods here that there were in my neighborhood in Tennessee. There are no giant 12-15 oz honeycrisp apples, or 5+ lb cantaloupes. No honeydew melons bigger than my giant head. I have been having 8 oz of frozen strawberries in a smoothie for breakfast. It’s delicious. And a lot smaller than my Tennessee breakfasts, and also a lot fewer calories. Because I can’t get my really super decadent Greek yogurt here. The one with a hundred more calories per serving than any other plain Greek yogurt. (Also, I don’t count calories. I just happen to know that’s the case.)
But I’m not unsatisfied. It’s delicious. I feel sated when I’m done. All is well.
I have not noticed any weight loss. Which is, of course, not why I am eating less. I am eating what I most want to eat given all of my options within my boundaries. It is how I always eat. But I had wondered if smaller fruits and less fat would make a difference with my weight.

I have also wondered if my stress levels going back to basically normal will affect my weight. My experience is that stress causes me to gain and lose weight. My last job ended with me under a lot of stress. This job started out difficult and stressful. A few weeks in it is starting to go more smoothly. Things are falling into place better. The other job is done. Perhaps that will shed a few of these pounds.
I want to say that I wish I didn’t care about my weight. I wish I didn’t see it as such an indication of how “good” I am. That is an old story and it has never done anything worthwhile for me. I am in better shape now than I have ever been. I have not been skinny and in great shape ever. It has only been in the past 4 or so years that I have been so fit. And I have never been skinny in all that time. 
My run has gotten easier too. I don’t want to cry every time I get to the big hill on my jogging path. And since 5 laps is 2 miles, that’s 5 fewer times I want to cry (and swear) in a day. Which I am grateful for. And I am significantly faster now than I was when I started 2 weeks ago. 
I am always amazed by how quickly my body can adapt to things. This jogging path seemed like such a burden when I started using it. I kept thinking I wanted to find a gym and run on a treadmill. But the truth is, now I do not miss the treadmill at all. And I am loving the outdoor experience. I used to only run outside, and forgot how much I appreciate it. And I forgot how much a little variation in incline and direction can make a difference in my stamina and health. I am in even better shape for the change. Plus I hope that a gradual change in the weather will ease me into running outside in the heat of summer.
I am reminded that I always get better than I think I want. That whenever something goes away, something else shows up. Usually better. At least in some way or on some level I wasn’t expecting. I lost a gym in my apartment complex and gained a better workout. I lost giant fruits and fatty yogurt and got reminded that I adore smoothies for breakfast. And I am reminded that I can always eat foods that I love, wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Because the foods that I love are not limited to sugars and carbs. They are fruits and vegetables and proteins and fats. They are seasonings and flavors. And I eat all of it without guilt or shame. 

In defense of sugar. JK! It apparently has enough defenders.

I saw two things on social media this week that frustrated me. Both of them were about how sugar is “not the problem.”

One of them was a tweet from an obesity doctor that said that when people come into his office and say they gave up sugar and lost weight, they really mean they gave up junk food. What they really did, according to this doctor, was reduce fat, starch, and calories, not just sugar. He literally ends his tweet with “It wasn’t just the sugar.”

And the other was an article about debunked health myths. And one of the “debunked” myths is that sugar is addictive. First, the title of the section is “Sugar is as addictive as heroin.” This is the last line of the section:

“So, scientists don’t know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.”

Fanciful. Total silliness! Ridiculous! Go get yourself a cake and hang out in a food coma until scientists agree that sugar addiction is a thing. Or better yet, a diabetic coma. Whatever.

The thing that really pisses me off about both of these is the condescension . If you believe that sugar is the problem, you are an idiot. You are delusional. “What people are *really* doing is cutting calories, but they are too stupid/brainwashed to understand.” “Its fanciful to believe that sugar could be addictive.”

I believe in science. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But I also believe that science, and our true understanding of the effects of something, can be limited by our biases, preconceived notions, and beliefs. I believe that the food industry has knowingly and purposely propped up sugar as “innocuous” for over half a century. “Food is food.” “A calorie is a calorie.”

But we have paid the price for it. There is more sugar in our diets than ever before, and there is more obesity in 1st World civilization than ever before. And I cannot stand this defense of sugar, and the subsequent shaming of people suffering from obesity, in the name of science.

“It’s not the sugar. It’s you. You are the problem.”

First, I do believe that sugar is addictive, but that not everyone is as likely to become addicted. I happen to believe that I have a predisposition to become addicted in general, and that I am addicted to sugar. But I know plenty of people who can and do eat sugar in moderation and do not suffer from health problems in any way from their sugar consumption. My husband is one of those people. I buy him sugar all the time. I pack it in his lunch. I keep it in the house for him.

And second, I am for freedom. True freedom. If you want to eat sugar all day, I believe that is your right. Even if it means morbid obesity. Even if it leads to diabetes and hypertension and Alzheimer’s and stroke. Even if it means suffering. I am not going to tell you how to eat. That is none of my business. And I don’t think it should be.

But I am not for the shaming of humans in defense of sugar. Nor am I for the belittling of my intelligence because science has not come to a consensus on whether sugar is addictive. As a person with a very clear experience of sugar as an addiction, I do not doubt that science will eventually show what I already know. But even if it doesn’t, that in no way diminishes my experience that when I abstain completely from sugars, grains, and starch, excepting some whole fruits and vegetables, I do not crave more than is healthy, and I do not suffer from food obsession.

But I can’t help but be frustrated that an obesity doctor would be so obnoxious about people, his own patients, who say they gave up sugar and lost weight. Is *he* a sugar addict? Or is he being paid off to downplay the effects of sugar on a person’s health? Otherwise, I can’t see why he would go out of his way to point out his patients’ “wrongness,” to defend a substance. It seems cruel and rude to me.

I will close with this. My whole life, growing up fat, doctors and nutritionists would tell me to eat sugar in moderation. But I cannot eat sugar in moderation. I cannot eat a slice of cake. It is either no cake, or the whole cake. I don’t have a done button. So, as far as I am concerned, any obesity doctor who can’t even consider the possibility of sugar addiction for some number of his patients, is not very good at his job.

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.

F*ck Karl Lagerfeld

This week I kind of freaked myself out. I was looking in the mirror, which I do all the time because I am particularly vain, and I was thinking that I look really beautiful. Again, this is not that far fetched for me. Body dysmorphia aside, I think I’m pretty hot much of the time. And then the next day, a friend whom I had seen on a video conference told me that I was looking really beautiful. But then I realized why I, and perhaps others, may have been thinking I was so beautiful. It’s because I am particularly thin right now. And that made me uncomfortable.

So I did something I almost never do. I asked my husband. You should have seen the look on his face. You’d think that Admiral Ackbar just snuck up behind him and yelled, “It’s a trap!”

Of course, it wasn’t a trap. But he was wise to tread cautiously. Obviously weight and size are loaded in this society in general, especially for women, and super extra especially for me. And my husband had to live through my most debilitating body dysmorphic episode ever after I quit smoking and gained 30 pounds, even with my food boundaries firmly intact. He knows first hand that nothing can reduce me to tears (and insanity) as quickly as some unwelcome belief about my weight, real or imagined.

He told me very clearly that he actively avoids looking at my size. That he knows no good can come of it. And that ultimately, it really doesn’t matter to him.

And if my obsession with my weight and body were, as I truly believed for basically all 35 of my single years, about being attractive to men, especially the one I am in love with, then this post would be done. But it’s not, and it’s not.

The truth is that I have mixed feelings. I do like what I see in the mirror, whether I have been conditioned to think so or not. And obviously, I am not the only one, if a friend was seeing and saying the same thing that I was. And I truly hated being fat, whether that was also conditioning or not.

Wallis Simpson is credited with saying that a woman “can never be too rich or too thin.” But she said this before the 1970s and 80s, which is when cases of eating disorders began to escalate. (It is worth noting I think, that this is also when cases of obesity began to escalate.)

Now we know that a woman can, indeed, be too thin. A person can starve themself to death. Vital organs can shut down. Perhaps Wallis Simpson couldn’t imagine a world where a girl would have a heart attack in her teens because her desire to be ever thinner led to the weakening of all of her muscles, including the ones to keep her alive. Perhaps she had too much faith in a human’s survival instinct. (I have opinions about whether it is possible to be too rich as well, but as this is an eating disorder blog, I will keep those to myself.)

But on the other side, I think that there are reasons that being thin, or at least not being fat, is considered attractive. I mean that I don’t think it’s entirely about societal conditioning; I think there are also evolutionary reasons.

My dad sent me an interesting podcast a few weeks ago. In it, Gary Taubes, who wrote a book called “The Case Against Sugar,” talks about how he believes that there is a fundamental flaw in the way the health and medical community views weight. (I feel the need to note that Taubes clearly states that he is making a case, but that there have not been clinical trials and scientific studies that have proven this idea. He is simply making an argument, and he would like to see this idea studied. I will also say that in my very much not scientific, but particularly personal experience, I think he is on the right track.) He says that we talk about obesity and weight in terms of a balance of energy – calories in must be equal to calories out – but that what the calorie comes from doesn’t matter. He argues that, in fact, what we eat matters because foods have chemical and hormonal impacts. In this podcast he said something that really struck me: “People don’t …accumulate 100 pounds of excess fat because they eat too much, they do it because their body is telling them to accumulate fat. And that’s going to be a hormonal, enzymatic problem.”

I happen to think that over millions of years of evolution, we humans “understand” various things subconsciously. Not in thoughts and words, but in basic “gut” reactions. And I think it is possible that humans find fat less attractive because it indicates some form of ill health, some problem with the functioning of our hormones/chemicals/biology.

I know (rationally) that I was not fat because I was lazy, stupid, greedy, or shameful. I did not want to be fat. I wanted to be able to stop eating. I went to nutritionists and did workout tapes. (Yes, I said “tapes.” That’s how old I am.) I joined programs with weekly motivation classes and pre-packaged food plans so you didn’t have to think for yourself about what to eat. I worked my ass off to work my ass off and it never did go anywhere. I could not manage to not be fat.

And while I limit the amount of food I eat now, I still eat a lot. Pounds and pounds every day. Including full-fat greek yogurt, whole milk, pork rinds, bacon, and sausage. But I am not eating most sugars (except for some natural sugars in the form of some whole fruits and vegetables) or things that turn into sugar, like grains, starch, and other carbohydrates. And the elimination of those foods has meant that for the past 11+ years, I have never been fat again. And I think that chances are good that eating sugar was always the culprit; sugar was signaling to my body to store fat.

But if it were only a matter of a healthy, properly functioning body, versus an improperly functioning body, then I wouldn’t be so freaked out about the fact that I like being thin. I’m freaked out because we have taken “thin” too far. And I am afraid that I will mix up what I am constantly told I “should” look like, with what I look like when I am in a healthy, properly functioning body.

From the 50s through the 80s, famous beauties generally had a BMI of somewhere between 17-20.5, while the average American woman had a BMI between 23-25. As a young adult, I had a BMI of about 45. (Yes, I know that BMI is a flawed system, but it is a “standardized” system, so it is helpful in illustrating my point.) So when I was growing up, the real knockouts were somewhere between a modern size 2 and 6. Today, a model who is a size 6 is considered “plus size.” So a woman with a BMI of 20.5 is considered fat by today’s (fashion industry) standards, while the average American woman currently has a BMI of 27.6 and is a size 14.

My point is that I don’t want to get caught up in liking or not liking my body based on a fundamentally flawed definition of acceptable weight made up by an industry that makes it’s money by telling women that they are lacking. I don’t need Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace, or Mark Jacobs to tell me that my healthy, strong, fully functional body is not pretty enough, because clothes “look better” on a girl who is about to experience renal failure. (Seriously, f**k them.)

But mostly I am afraid that I will get brainwashed by them. You see, I don’t want to listen to them; I don’t want to come to believe them; I don’t want to let them in my head. And I am afraid that if, when I look in the mirror, I like my thin self better than my less thin self, I will make myself sick physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s not that I don’t want to like what I look like, I just want liking what I look like to not be so tied up in weight. I want to be able to be happy that I am thin. I have changed my entire life so that I could be happy in my body. But I also don’t want to have to take it that seriously. Perhaps ultimately I should think about my weight the way my husband thinks about my weight, which is to say, not at all. But for a girl with a lifetime of food and body issues, perhaps that’s asking too much…

 

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