Goal? April 9, 2015Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: angst, anxiety, BED, body image, change, crazypants, diet, eating disorder, exercise, fat acceptance, fear, fitness, plastic surgery, Regretsy, self-image, skin, weight loss
I have occasion to direct people to my blog when they find out about my weight loss and want to know what the what is up wit all dat. They ask for advice, and honestly, I have no idea where to start. I probably should come up with something, because working at a gym, I get lots of questions in that particular vein. I tell people I learned to eat less and move more, but that’s such a cop-out of an answer. It’s the short, small-talk version of “I didn’t have bariatric surgery, if that’s what you’re asking.”
The actual answer is so much more involved, and when the conversation is a more in-depth one and seems to head off in the direction of lengthy explanations and anecdotes, I tell them I changed my relationship with food, that it’s an ongoing process that I’m still working out, and in lieu of a facile answer, I direct them here.
The adage is that losing weight is 90% diet and 10% exercise, but that is just the physical part. It’s 100% mental, and I realize the math on that comes up to 200%, but math isn’t my strong suit and I’m not sure it can be quantified anyway. If there’s one recurring theme to all my posts about losing, it’s that there’s an awful lot of shit going on in my head, lots of it ain’t real pretty, and there are times I feel very much like I’m falling to bits.
I’m currently picking myself up off the ground after the last knock-down round and dusting off.
I had my first meeting with a plastic surgeon, just to get the lay of the land of what the next part of the journey will be.
After a lengthy exam in which he kneaded my abdomen like a cat and took careful measurements of my skin suit, the verdict was that I’m an excellent candidate for abdominoplasty, which is the fancy word for a tummy tuck. He said that what is left there, and under my arms is all skin. There’s no fat left there, so no liposuction would be necessary as is sometimes the case. He said I did that all with diet and exercise. He was a little less enthusiastic about my thighs, but it was because (as he explained) that legs aren’t his area of expertise. It’s a lot more involved and he’d refer me to someone who specializes in that particular area.
He’s confirmed what I had suspected from reading weight loss forums about results following skin reduction surgery, and that is that I’m probably carrying 20 pounds or so in excess skin that’s not going anywhere. As a rough estimate, mind you. But considering his years of experience, I’m going to assume his ability to eyeball such things is pretty darn good.
Now, I say it’s not going anywhere for two reasons. In the first place, I can’t diet or exercise skin away. He confirmed that the skin of my lower abdomen was shot, it was mostly stretch marks from hip to hip, and that the slack there was permanent, unlike the healthy, resilient tissue of my upper abdomen. Same with my arms and everywhere else. It’s not something that can be tightened up, and while healthy skin will shrink some, mine is mostly stretched past that point.
The other reason it’s not going away is that it will require surgery, and my insurance company does not approve claims for skin reduction after weight loss unless there is a medical necessity, and the only thing he said he’s seen them cover it for is in the case of a brittle diabetic with skin ulcers that would not heal. And even then he said they only covered a partial procedure to excise the extra skin and not the full procedure that basically resculpts the skin of the abdomen into something resembling a healthy torso. The tummy tuck alone is an $11,000 procedure, which puts it well out of my price range. That doesn’t include the upper arms or the more involved legs.
I’ve had a lot of well-meaning advice about how to get it covered, but in truth, insurance companies aren’t flexible, and plastic surgeons aren’t philanthropists. And I knew that going in. He pulled no punches about how my particular insurance company rejects claims for this particular procedure like it’s their job (which it is) and while I’m sure there are doctors who would maybe give a girl a break on some work if there was a true hardship, I really don’t have any hardships other than “I don’t have the money for this.” It’s nice to think about, but I can’t live my life with unrealistic expectations of the outcome. I’ve done quite a lot of that so far, and I’m trying to cut back.
So now I am at a point where I’m forced to sort out the ramifications of what that means for me, and where I go from here.
I should add that back in February, I sat down with my food journal and after bemoaning that I was “doing everything right” and still not losing weight, really took a good look at what I was doing back when the weight was coming off and found out I was WAY off track. I did manage to take it back to basics, and lo and behold, the weight dropped off. I had set 179 as a temporary soft goal to reach, and I met it. So now I’m down 180 pounds and have lost more than half my body weight. Which is a big accomplishment and being able to get to this point feels great.
As I sit here at 177 pounds, and factor in the loose skin estimate of 20 pounds, I actually weigh around 157, which is only 2 pounds over the high end of a healthy weight for me. I feel I still have fat left to lose from the waist down. My abdomen and arms might be all skin, but my thighs and ass are where the fat seems to want to hang on, and it won’t hurt me to continue to try to lose that fat.
Not being able to get rid of that skin means that there’s a sort of discrepancy between the two realities of my body, and I realize that this shit is all in my head. But in truth, all of this whole process has taken place in my head. My body is just along for the ride.
A long time ago, I spoke of picturing myself in a fat suit. There’s a skinny girl inside me trying to get out (I ate her), and all I have to do is take off the fat suit a pound or so at a time and she’ll emerge eventually.
I guess I didn’t really bank on the whole suit not coming off. I pictured what you see there: tight, flat abdomen, perky boobs, thin arms…I bet she’s got some amazing quads under that fat suit, too.
The reality is not that at all. I imagine I have a six pack of abs. I can feel them, but they’re still buried under the folds of loose abdominal skin.
I have an impressive set of biceps. Unfortunately, the four-inch long flap of skin that hangs from it is what you see first.
I have runners quads. I also have loose, ripply, wrinkled thigh flesh that sags over it and hangs down and partially obscures my kneecap.
I am seldom without a pair of control top nylons or a pair of Spanx. I do not wear anything sleeveless except to exercise, and short sleeves must come to my elbow. Skirts cannot hit above my knee. I am not at all sure that I will be donning a swimsuit this year.
I understand that I’m not much different than most women, and I’m sure more than a few men as well. Everyone has body parts they hate and do their best to disguise or hide with clothing. I know women thinner than myself who won’t wear shorts because they hate how their legs look. I know women who won’t put on a swimsuit for love or money even though I look at them and go, “Bitch, you cray.” I get it.
I guess when I thought about taking that fat suit off, what I pictured the thin person inside to look like was an actual thin person, not just a less fat version of myself. I’m pretty good at figuring out what looks good on me most of the time, but I’m not sure why I resent having to shop for camouflage.
I suppose it all has to do with unrealized expectations I mentioned, and coming to terms with the fact that my expectations may have been quite unrealistic to begin with. I expected that I would be able to get down to 140 pounds. Or at least 155. The skin is most likely going to keep me from ever seeing those numbers. I need to figure out how to let that go. I’ve always been so reliant on the numbers as a concrete measurement of how I’m doing. For me even to assert that my weight is in the 157 range feels like a lie, because the skin counts. It matters, even though I’m the only one who decides if it matters or not. I feel if I say I weight less than I do, that I’m lying. But at the same time, including the skin seems not entirely honest either.
Even my back-up tape measure lies to me. I can lose another 20 pounds, but my upper arms still won’t fit into a size medium shirt, even though the rest of my torso does. I’d love to shop for single digit sizes, but the skin is going to always be in the way of that. And the skinny me is under there. If I had a big, fat bag of cash, a good surgeon could find her. He could strip away the last of my fat suit and get me to my goals.
As it is, I feel like in some ways, I’m at my goal. I have done what I set out to do. Even though the number on the scale is still high, allowing for excess skin, I’m at a healthy weight for my height. Or I should say I’m not carrying an unhealthy amount of fat for someone of my height and gender. That, of course, is another drawback to the extra skin in that there’s no way to get any sort of an accurate body fat measurement because what I’m measuring is empty skin, not fat. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. No surgery. No pills. No fad diets. I have done what I have always thought impossible, and as much as I struggle with many, many parts of this process, nothing takes that away from me.
On the other hand, I feel robbed of my actual goals. Part of me has always been uncomfortable with even rounding my accomplishments up. “This is Jen, she’s lost 180 pounds.” I always stop them. “Well, no. I’ve lost 177 pounds.” I get looks, and a series of “pffffft”s, but it’s hard for me to take credit for something I didn’t actually achieve. So lopping off the skin weight like it’s not there feels like cheating. Like I’m throwing myself a bone. Or taking credit for something I haven’t done. I know it’s weird. It’s not that I’m unhappy with how I look, I just thought I could do better. To look at myself and know that this is really as good as it’s going to get…it is a little disappointing. I won’t lie. Some days it’s a lot disappointing, and if that’s vain, so be it.
I know logically that it’s up to me where I stop. There’s no one setting goals for me, or even advising me that yeah, you can and should lose another 20 pounds. I’ve not reached the point where my most trusted friends are ready to tell me that I’m too thin, or that I look unhealthy.
If I decide right now that it’s enough, then it is.
I’m on the cusp of making that decision. I don’t know in the grand scheme of things why it would be so much better to be 20 pounds lighter and maybe a size or two smaller, if the skin will be there fucking it all up anyway. It seems like it might be a lot of unnecessary work, you know?
I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to stop concentrating so hard on the straight and narrow that I have to follow to lose weight and shift my mental energy towards coming to grips with my body as it is. I don’t see it getting measurably better any time soon. I don’t see any reason to change what I’m doing, necessarily. If more weight comes off, great. I can afford it, still. I need to not go up at all, and staying where I am is going to be hard enough.
I still turn to food when things get rough. After seeing the doctor, I got through Monday okay, but woke up Tuesday fairly despondent. If it had been only one thing, just the disappointment of seeing this door close for the time being would have been sufficient unto itself. But life has a way of tossing extra shit in sometimes, in the when-it-rains-it-pours phenomenon. Or as April Winchell of Regretsy fame once pointed out:
So I spent a few days wrapped in the embrace of Easter candy and toast dripping with peanut butter and marshmallow while I licked my wounds (and fingers) and sorted some shit out in my head. And talked some stuff out that needed addressing. And did the things that were needed to heal. The toast didn’t help much, but when life gets to be more than you can bear, you get through it however you can with the skills you have.
A weight-loss guru would have pulled herself up by the bootstraps (or shoelaces) and gone to the gym to exercise out the frustrations. Especially when she’d normally outrun her demons, only her new running shoes are still backordered and she’s just healed up yet another IT band issue and doesn’t want to screw that up again with being impatient.
Stupid body breaking down at the most inopportune times.
But then I’ve never claimed to be anyone’s guru. I’m human. I have a binge-eating disorder. I self-soothe with food.I eat my feelings more often than I care to admit. I’m far from perfect and most of the time I feel ill-equipped to advise anyone about anything.
I think if I focus hard, I can learn to be more accepting. I feel pretty certain that I can let go of the disappointment of not weighing what I thought I should, or being as small as I had planned. I know it’s all up to me, and I need to try to see myself through other people’s eyes more. I need to try to gain a bit more objectivity about something that is so painfully personal, and that’s a tall enough order.
The hardest stretch will be learning to love my body as it is, folds of wrinkly, ugly, stretched out, floppy, flabby skin and all. So far, it’s been the most difficult thing to handle. Knowing that I’ll probably never see the beautiful muscle tone I work so hard for is something I am going to mourn. Like food, or more accurately, the ability to eat whatever I want whenever I want in whatever quantity I want, it’s going to take work to get to a place where that doesn’t make me sad. It’s a genuine loss, and I have to allow those feelings to happen because no matter who invalidates them or how hard I try to shove them in a closet, if I don’t deal with them, they’re just going to come rocketing out of nowhere and knock me on my ass forever.
I’m going to mourn the loss of cute sleeveless dresses, or a pin-up bathing suit because I just don’t have the body for them. It will be okay. I have the body for lots of things that other women don’t. Fitted tops and tight sweaters. Pencil skirts. High heels. Turtlenecks. You know how many women can’t pull off a wrap dress? Lots. I can, and I look smashing.
One of the hardest things, and something that knocked me on my ass out of nowhere recently is seeing other people lose weight right past me. Hearing a friend say she bought clothes in the size I currently wear, even as she self-identifies as overweight, and is herself losing weight, made me realize that she is going to be thinner than me. She will find the success that I won’t see because of this stupid skin.
Knowing that she has a lot less to lose than I did is only a bit helpful. Being told that she is in the first mile of a 5K while I’m on mile 24 of a marathon was a bit helpful. But sweet bleeding Jesus did I begrudge her that victory. And I hated myself for it! I wanted to be happy! I know I’m an inspiration to her and a lot of people, but seeing others find success where I feel I have failed is hard. I think it’s part of why giving up on my original goals is so hard. I feel like a failure. I feel like it’s quitting or copping out. Or dropping out of the marathon at mile 24.
Before you jump in my shit for this, I know I haven’t failed at anything. I know it’s not a race or a competition. I’ve succeeded beyond my own hopes and dreams, and I think past what most people thought I could do. I have made other people consider that maybe they, too, can figure out their own relationship with food and make changes that will last. But I am learning to let go, and to be accepting, and meet myself where I am. And that’s going to be a hard slog.
This is all part of the work. No one tells you about it, but there it is. So if you find yourself in a place like this at some point, hopefully you won’t be blindsided by it like I was.
Maybe someday I will be able to afford the surgery and I’ll find the thin girl that I ate all those years ago, with a few new long, purple scars. Maybe I’ll never have the surgery and I’ll come to love the thin girl who’s just got a bit more meat on her than I thought she would. Maybe I’ll see a thin girl in the mirror who wears the remnants of her fat suit as a badge of honor and with pride of who she was, and what she’s transformed herself into.
Maybe it’s time to let go of goals, and accept that there’s no end. The only thing to work towards is happiness.
Eat Right, Exercise, Get Hit by a Bus April 19, 2013Posted by J. in Domesticity.
Tags: BED, diet, eating disorder, exercise, fat clothes, fitness, food journal, health, high blood pressure, hypertension, obesity, weight loss
I’ve lost 45 pounds. I’ve taken most processed foods out of my diet and I’m continuing to weed them out every day. I eschew chemicals in my food. I eat vegetables and fruits at every meal. I drink lots of water. I exercise at least 6 days out of every seven. I feel better than I have in years. I have a spring in my step. I don’t gird my loins when faced with a staircase, nor do I seek out the closest parking spot to the door (unless it’s raining or snowing or some shit.) I don’t dread a “long walk” into a store, or get frustrated when I get to the dairy section of the grocery store and realize I forgot something in produce and have to walk allllll the way back over there.
Last week, when I had a touch of a particularly painful stomach bug, I called the doctor. And when I got to the clinic, I sat right down in a chair with arms on it. I fit. No moment of panic wondering if I’d fit. No seeking out the armless chairs. No standing rather than squeeze into a too-small seat and leaving bruises on my thighs.
That’s something those of us on the far side of morbidly obese have to think about. I don’t know if thinner people understand that–what it’s like to be scared of a chair. To wonder if you’ll fit, or be humiliated in some way by it. Chairs with arms have been the enemy for so long that it’s hard to get my head around the fact that I don’t have to fear them anymore. Granted, the way some are made is still not comfy. I’m not tiny. But I can stand up without holding the arms so that it doesn’t come off the floor with me.
But when I got in there and the nurse took my blood pressure….well now, there’s some cause for concern.
Not at first. A reading that high couldn’t be right. I don’t remember what it was exactly. I can only remember the systolic reading, ever. The bottom number always eludes me. Always. Even when I was in nursing. Couldn’t remember it from the reading to writing it down. Weird, huh?) But the top number was over 160. I’ve never had even elevated BP in my entire life. Even 9 months pregnant after walking up the stairs, it was only “slightly elevated.”
So I was all, “This ain’t right.” But the nurse took it three damned times using a variety of cuffs. The doc, after telling me he thinks I had a stomach bug and not something more serious like diverticulitis, told me to keep an eye on that BP reading. Take it at home once a week and come back if it stays high. Technically, I wasn’t his patient. I haven’t selected a new PCP yet since my old one left, and I only see the doc when something is wrong.
For a few days I thought about it. About the high reading. About having a dad who is a heart patient. About how I have a strict policy of What I Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Me when it comes to doctor appointments. About not caring about having a PCP because I only need one when I’m sick and all they do is fling pills at me anyway.
But then, I really don’t want to be known as “the chick that had a stroke on the treadmill” either.
I really REALLY don’t want the words “my first heart attack” to be part of my vocabulary.
So I made an appointment and went back and set myself up formally as his patient. And told him I was concerned. He took my BP again and yep, it was still high. Lower than it was the week before, but still hypertensive.
So yesterday, this is the bus I was hit by:
I confess to taking the morning to mope about it. Really and truly. I’ve worked hard to treat my body well and get healthier. I confess to feeling a bit betrayed. I confess that my first impulse was to get in the car and treat myself to lunch at McDonald’s because FUCK YOU, BODY. I treat you well and this is the thanks I get. Bitch, PLEASE.
I mean, when the doctor told me to watch my sodium intake, I was all, “FUCK YOU. I count calories and fat grams and dietary fiber as it is. I read every cocksucking label on every product I even contemplate buying. I put stuff back for being not organic, over-processed, or just plain not good fuel for me. SALT IS THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES EATING LIKE A FUCKING MONK BEARABLE.” Well, not out loud. I’m not rude. But I was thinking it.
But instead of hitting the drive-thru hard, I came home with a fresh bottle of pills in hand and got out my food journal and started calculating my sodium intake over a random smattering of days. And since I’ve cut out so much processed food, my sodium levels hover right around the recommended levels anyway. Which is all he was asking. No dramatic cut-off of sodium, just keep it to “normal” levels. Holy shit. I’m doing something “normal” and not “extraordinary.” How weird is that?
I always tend to feel envious of people who don’t have to diet, whether they’ve accepted their fat and eat what they like, or because their bodies are super-human and aren’t affected by crap food. I still feel somewhat abnormal in my picking-and-choosing-carefully eating habits. I always bemoan the fact that I’ll never be able to eat “normally” ever again. I see someone diving into a greasy burger and fries or a big old meat-covered pizza and I miss it. It’s like mourning the loss of a loved one. Sitting in the pharmacy eyeing the Snickers bars and saying to myself, “You’re dead to me now,” I may have shed a tear. It’s hard to lose something that means so much to you. I don’t suppose normal people feel that way.
But now I see that I’m the one that eats “normally.” My sodium intake is for the most part quite normal. Most Americans eat two to three times the recommended amount and don’t even know it. I’m not doing anything freakish. Most people don’t actually eat half a dozen donuts at a sitting. Or sit down with a can of frosting and a spoon. Most people don’t drive through McDonald’s and order two meals, eat them in the car and throw away the evidence before they get home because they’re ashamed. If there’s no evidence, it didn’t happen.
“I eat like a bird! I don’t know how come I can’t lose weight! My body is broken!” Yeah. Denial’s not just a river in Egypt, Poops.
The hardest part has been changing how I think about food. Always in the past, the idea of a life without a slice of birthday cake was a dim one. Or knowing that my summer will go by without a clam roll or a dish of ice cream from Jordan’s. But it goes back to my perception of “normal” eating habits. Ice cream every night in the summer is not normal. That’s a lot of sugar and saturated fat for anyone. God on a wheel, when I think back to the amount of iced coffee I consumed with real cream in it last summer, I want to cry. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are things I can have once in awhile, I just don’t need them every day. Even yesterday, I found myself looking at a bag of pretzels and the amount of sodium in a serving and saying “I won’t be eating these anymore.” I’m not sure why I’m hard-wired to see things as all or nothing when it comes to food. I don’t do it in other areas of my life. I’m so much of a gray-area kind of thinker I’m practically a waffler. I’m as middle of the road as they come–except with food, it seems. It’s crazy.
So anyway, to make myself feel better, and because it’s the time of year to weed out winter clothes and rotate in the warm-weather stuff anyway, I threw out a bag of clothes.
I realized awhile back that because I yo-yo diet, I always have an assortment of clothes that don’t fit. And I’m bad about getting rid of my fat clothes. I’m more likely to get rid of “thin” clothes because they make me feel bad about myself when I start packing the weight back on, but I keep the fat clothes because it’s good to have them around for when the weight inevitably comes back. It’s hard to trust myself after trying and failing as often as I have.
Back in November, I was wearing the biggest clothes I owned. Buying new clothes was nearly impossible because the biggest sizes they carry in plus-size stores were too tight. I bought three t-shirts at Lane Bryant a few years ago in the biggest size, got them home, and realized they were just too small. I was too humiliated to return them for being too small, so I tossed them aside. Well, they fit now. It’s still a bittersweet victory. Fitting into the largest size LB carries isn’t exactly a thrill. It’s not like having to cancel your credit card there because you no longer fit into their smallest size. That day is coming, but it’s still a long way off. I try not to dwell on it, but unless you’ve ever had to lose more than a hundred pounds, you can’t really know what staring down that long road feels like. Focusing on the path right in front of you is the only thing you can do, but sometimes you put your head up, and feel kind of tired. So it’s good to turn around and see how far you’ve come.
I kept one fat shirt. It’s staying in my wardrobe so that on days when I put my head up and see how far I have to go, I can put that on and remember to turn around and look at how far I’ve come.
So, that’s enough navel-gazing for one morning, I think. I have to go make my oatmeal. I’m adding ground flax seed to it now, because my body deserves the best fuel I can give it. I took the supplements that keep my depression at bay and my lady bits working as well as possible considering my advancing age, and yes, I took my blood pressure medication. And unlike yesterday, today I feel really good about it. I feel like I’m in control of my own health. I think I won this round.
Please Pass the Kale April 3, 2013Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI.
Tags: BED, binge eating disorder, body image, diet, eating disorders, eating healthy, exercise, fat, fat acceptance, fitness, food journal, fruits, gym, health, mindfulness, motivation, Planet Fitness, produce, vegetables, Weight Watchers, workout
I turn 44 in a week and I have finally realized that fruits and vegetables are good for me and I need to eat them to feel good.
I can’t believe I just admitted that in public.
Back in November, I offered some weight-loss advice to a friend. I felt qualified, because even though I’m fat as fuck, I’ve lost (without exaggeration) hundreds of pounds in my adult lifetime. Talking the talk is no problem for me. I know everything to do to get pounds off, I just chose not to do them.
But doling out the advice, hearing myself say “You need to…” and not doing it myself seemed hypocritical. I knew I was at the heaviest I’d ever been. The biggest clothes you could buy in any Fat Person Store were too snug. I ached all over. I was tired all the time. I knew I didn’t feel well, but such are the wages of sin. You want to top off half a pizza with three pieces of cake, it’s going to cost you.
“You need to…” rang in my ears every time I said it, though. Little things, mostly. You need to eat more produce. You need to drink more water. Stuff like that. I could eat more produce if I put a mind to it. I could drink more water if I put a mind to it. And so I put my mind to it. Maybe it was seeing someone else make that commitment and feeling like I couldn’t be very good support or guidance, or even a sympathetic ear when things got dicey, if I couldn’t even bring myself to walk the walk that got me started again.
I dusted off my Weight Watchers materials, turned to a fresh page in my food journal, and started in. I guessed on my weight, having thrown out yet another bathroom scale after my last dieting attempt succeeded for awhile before being abandoned. It came back to me pretty easily, all things considered. And because I wasn’t really doing it on my own this time, there was a certain accountability to backing up my own advice with actions of my own.
It helps that I have a lot of support at home. All I have to say is “I’m trying to eat better” and Larry picks up healthier foods for me. He doesn’t bring crap into the house, and if he does, he chooses crap that’s not my favorite crap in the whole world. Some crap I can take or leave, but some crap…oh, it lies in wait, calling my name. Fucking Girl Scouts and their fucking cookies, man. Yeah, I’m looking at you bitches. But Larry doesn’t judge what I eat. He knows if I bite it, I write it. I account for it, and I know what I’m doing.
It’s more support than a lot of people get, I’ll tell you what.
About four weeks into my renewed efforts at losing some weight, I had no idea what I weighed. I was eating better, following my own “you need to” advice, and keeping careful track of how much I eat, and what kinds of foods I eat. And I happened to stop into the drugstore after a dentist appointment, and saw a scale way down on the bottom shelf for sale. I don’t even know how I noticed it. It’s selling point was that it weighed up to 450 pounds, and those tend to be a lot more pricey. I bought it.
I got home and found out that after four weeks of dieting, I weighed 358.7 pounds. The scale wasn’t wrong. I was THAT FAT.
And I had likely taken at least 8 or 10 pounds off already.
Jesus weight-watching Christ. That certainly got out of control, didn’t it?
I don’t know if you know what it’s like to step on a scale and realize you have to lose the weight equivalent of a whole, grown man. It’s…daunting. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to say “Oh, God. Why bother? It can’t be done. I’ll lose the weight, put it all back on again, plus 20 to 40 extra pounds just for good measure because that’s what I do. I suck, I’m a loser, and I’m going to always be fat. Oh, and it’s all about being healthy and fit at any size? FUCK YOU. I’m not healthy, I’m not fit. I weigh almost 360 pounds. NO ONE is healthy and fit at that size except Shaq and maybe some pro wrestlers. And power lifters. Not my fat ass, that’s for sure.”
That was a sobering, and then utterly depressing moment. I mean, the urge to say fuckitall and just fill my face was strong.
After I wrapped my head around the whole thing and decided to keep going the way I was, I came to grips with a few things. The first was knowing that setting my usual goal weight of 140 pounds was stupid. Yes, it’s what’s considered a healthy weight for someone my height. And it’s attainable…by someone, I’m sure. But in the past, I’ve made it down to around 200 and stalled. Plateaued. And I look good at that weight. I’m still fat, but I’m curvy, and I feel pretty good about myself and how I look and feel. But the mental issue of being stuck there, of not losing past that point no matter how hard I work and finally giving up because it’s too much effort to not be able to get where I want to go is where I lose it every single time. I let things slide until I give up entirely. I “take a little break” and the weight creeps back on, and I’m back into my fat clothes again.
This time I’ve set my goal weight at 200 pounds. It’s a soft target. I know I can do that. Mentally, I can cope with idea of losing 160 pounds better than I can losing 200 pounds. I don’t know why that 40 pounds matters, but it does. I figure, if I get to 200 and stall again, I will call it maintaining and focus on that. If, at that point, I can continue to lose weight and the numbers keep going down, I’ll let them. I won’t live or die by that magic number this time. At least I hope I won’t. There’s a lot goes on in my head when it comes to losing weight.
I have an eating disorder. I’ve known about it for awhile. For years I joked that I was half-bulimic. I binge like a motherfucker. I mean, true bingeing, but unlike a bulimic, I can’t purge. I have a lot of the same thought patterns as a bulimic, except where that disorder is marked by a psychological need for control, binge-eating is the opposite: it’s losing control. It’s more like an alcoholic on a bender. It’s not eating for fun or enjoyment, just as an alcoholic isn’t drinking herself to oblivion because it’s a party of one. “I started and I couldn’t stop” is the feeling.
In May, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is going to be added to the new DSM V as an “official” eating disorder along with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. I first read about it more than 20 years ago. Even back then, there was an understanding that binge-eating was more than just eating too much. And that when someone with BED is dieting, there are mental obstacles to succeeding long-term that need to be addressed. For someone like me, the advice “Just put the fork down and step away from the table” is not only useless advice, it’s hurtful. Being told “you just need a little willpower!” is like slapping me in the face.
I got a lot more insight into it when I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I don’t believe I’m a food addict. And I stood up at meetings and labeled myself as a “compulsive overeater” when that’s not entirely true, either. I have an eating disorder, and the way I think about food, the way I relate to it, and my power over it is not the same as either of those things. I can control over-eating by just paying attention to what I’m eating. That’s not the issue. That’s not even hard for me. I have that control when I choose to exercise it. Bingeing is another whole story.
I don’t think I ever got anything practical out of the 12 Steps as they relate to food. But it did make me take another look at why and how I over-eat. I did realize that I use food the way an alcoholic uses booze, just not all the time. And unlike alcohol, you can’t just not eat. I mean, I can take the crap food out of my house and I’ll still binge on good food. The actions are the same, even if the damage is minimized.
I’m not even remotely cured of my binge-eating, and I still binge. Again, it’s about minimizing impact and doing damage control after the fact, but it’s still there, though it’s a lot less frequent now, and the duration and intensity have decreased. I’ve rid myself of triggers that I know about, and as such, I spend a lot more of my time in control. But sometimes there’s a “just barely” tacked on, and that feeling of being on the edge of a binge, of hanging on by your fingertips is a dreadful feeling. It almost feels better after the binge when you can sweep up, write down what you ate, assess the damage and take steps to neutralize things. It’s about control, and that’s when the bulimic impulses take over.
I fight the scale. See, there are things that logically I know to be true. But there are things my head tells me that I don’t believe, but hearing them still affects my impulses and my actions. I know that if I’ve had a good week, worked out, stayed within my points range, drank all my water, made good food choices, and that scale doesn’t move, or goes up, that it’s probably water. Logically I know my body didn’t gain fat by doing everything right, but oh…those numbers. I NEED TO SEE THEM GO DOWN. When you’re staring down a 160 pound total, every little bit counts.
So I start thinking of how to trick the scale. I start doing things to make sure that every ounce is squeezed out. I play games with my points, sometimes under-eating in an attempt to jog the scale into moving, or taking water pills before my weigh-in to make sure I’m rid of as much water as I can. Logically, I know it’s stupid. You can’t fool the scale. It’s all going to come out in the wash. But it’s about control. Losing it, regaining it, trying to get a firm grip again when so often I feel like I’m flailing.
I know my body is getting smaller. My measurements have gone down. But that scale is what MATTERS in my head. I can’t seem to let that go. I advise others to, but I can’t do it myself. In that aspect, I’m a hypocrite. But I try. I keep talking the talk in hopes that like so many other things, it will fall into place eventually.
I’ve come to realize that just telling myself that it’s about being healthy, not losing weight, is a lie too. Not a complete one, but if there was no payoff to this–if I wasn’t going to look better as a result–I’d have a lot less reason to keep going.
Unfortunately, realizing I didn’t like the way I looked has brought up a whole new crop of issues for me.
When you are a Person of Great Size, if you want to be able to love yourself, you have to look in the mirror and accept what you see. You have to love the fat as part of who you are. I’ve been a big girl my entire sexual life, and have never let my weight get in the way of feeling sexy and beautiful. I have had a lot of practice in becoming confident, and confidence is sexy. It’s never been a problem.
I’ve come to realize that my own self-acceptance is what has kept me from keeping my weight off. I’ve become complacent in my acceptance, and have told myself for so long that “I look good” that I have believed it. When the truth is, my fat is not attractive to me. My confidence has made me appear more attractive than I am, but my body, objectively speaking, is a hot, blubbery mess.
And not long ago, I realized that, and I looked in the mirror for the first time in years and I felt disgusted. I looked hideous. And it was doing a number on me. I’d put on my shoes, happy to get out to the gym to work out. I’d trot across the parking lot feeling good about myself and then I’d catch a glimpse of myself reflected in the glass doors of the gym, and I wanted to die.
Fat. Fat fat fatty fat fat. Fat.
I had to make myself go in. I fought tears the whole time I was on the treadmill. I’d look around and see that I was the fattest person in the room. “You’re the only one thinking that.” Yes, but I’m the one that counts. I know what I know to be true. I am often the fattest person in the room in a country where morbid obesity is an epidemic. That does NOT make a girl feel good about herself.
My instinct? Skip the gym. Pop into Shaw’s and hit the baked good section hard. Sit in my car, eat until I literally can’t get another bite down, hide the evidence, and then go home and lie about how hard I worked out. If I came close to quitting, it was then. And it wasn’t once. It was every day. I’d get dressed and realize I’m nowhere near ready to abandon most of my fat clothes. Sure, a few shirts are fitting more loosely, but I’m a long way from needing new pants. And that sucks. What do I need? Bras. My tits are shrinking. How’s that for a cosmic kick in the crotch? The only good thing about being fat is having big boobs, for God’s sake!
I told myself that what was important was not that I was the fattest person in the room, but that I was in the room in the first place. I was in the gym, not in my car with a dozen Boston creme donuts and an iced coffee. God, that was hard to do, though. That little voice that was fighting back was so much quieter than the one yelling “FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT FATTY MC FATTERTON FAT FAT FATTY FAT FATASS FAT!!!” in my ear.
I had a really hard stretch there of feeling just wretched about myself because of it. Reject the fat, reject what I see every time I look at myself. I realized that I don’t want to be a fat person anymore. I don’t love the fat. I want it gone. And the fact that it’s still there bothers me. It’s hard enough to love yourself when you accept what you see. I have no clue how to do it when you actively reject it. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’ve lost the weight. Will I still feel fat? I don’t reckon this journey is over by a long shot.
I’ve come to peace with it for the moment through a bit of mental gymnastics. I told you so much of this is head games for me, and I’m not joking. I was looking in the mirror naked one morning, absolutely loathing what I saw. Pinching and pulling at big, nasty rolls of flesh, watching it do all the gross things fat does. Then later, quite out of nowhere I found myself thinking about it, and somehow in my mind, I pictured it as a fat suit. All of a sudden. It occurred to me that the real me is in there, and while she might not be skinny, she’s fit and healthy. She’s just wearing a fat suit!
I can’t go into wardrobe and take it all off at once, just one pound at a time. And when I went back and looked in the mirror again, I pictured a fat suit. I am a healthy, fit person wearing a fat suit. I just need to get it off to see the real me. I can stand to see my reflection again.
Now, I know what I’m supposed to be concentrating on is my health. I’m supposed to be doing this for health reasons. I’m supposed to be focused on making healthy changes so that my body will be greatly improved, and the weight loss and improved appearance will be a wonderful side effect.
Whatever, man. I want to buy clothes in human sizes. Vanity, thy name is Poops.
In my case, it’s more accurate to say that my health has been a wonderful side effect. I hate to even admit it out loud because honestly, I’ve always been pretty proud of the fact that my body runs as well as it does with the crap food I’ve put into it. The fact that I can move at all is damned amazing when you consider the junk with which I fueled it.
Vegetables are my Achilles heel. I loathe the fucking things. And it’s another thing to wrap my head around. My new mantra is “food is fuel.” At first, I’d tell myself that when I was eating produce and I’d rather have had pizza. Or when I was having salad because green leafies are absolutely wonderful for me, but the McDonald’s french fries smelled soooooo good. Food is fuel. At first, it was a way to dismiss the idea of food as a celebration, or an event, or merely as something designed to give me pleasure. Unfortunately, food is kind of like sex in that respect, really. You can do it to make a baby and get the job done, or you can do it RIGHT, and when you do…hnnnggghhhhh….
Which is how it is with food. You can make eating a drudgery, something you have to do, or you can eat all the things that make drool run right down your face. You can eat just to keep your body going, or you can do it RIGHT. And like sex, I’m starting to understand that crap food isn’t better than no food at all. I figured out the last time I embarked on this weight loss journey that I lose more weight per week if I don’t eat crap food. Now, the beauty of WW to me is that it’s flexible. You don’t have to cut anything out. You can eat anything you want as long as you have Points enough for it. If you need to have a Dairy Queen or a cocktail or a Cadbury egg because it’s not just Easter without it, then you can. And I always made sure I wasn’t “deprived.” I kept all kinds of low-Point snacks on hand and had some every day because it gave me a sense of normalcy, a “See, I can eat like regular not-fat people, too!” kind of feeling.
And on weeks where I did everything right, stayed in my points and exercised faithfully, I’d gain, or stay the same. For no reason. It should have worked, but it didn’t. Then I noticed on weeks where I pulled way back on the snacks, limiting myself to a treat after supper, I lost more. But I hated it. I hated that I had to deprive myself after all! NOT FAIR.
Well, life isn’t fair, and that’s a fact. If life was fair, vegetables would cause unsightly face boils and chocolate would cure cancer. I wish to God there was an easier way. I wish fad diets worked. I wish cutting out one food or one food group or one thing was the key, but it’s just not. There’s no magic pill. Just “eat less, move more.” Anyone trying to sell you something else is…well, selling something.
This time out, it’s been the same thing, only more so because now I’m older. I’m 44, almost, and menopausal. I’ve had three babies. I’m fatter. And did I mention I’m older? My poor metabolism is lying there, gasping, and giving me the finger. This time, right from the outset, I had to adopt the “food is fuel” way of thinking. I know crap slows me down, so I got rid of it. And the weight loss was STILL slow. So I looked for what I’ve come to think of as “hidden crap” and started weeding it out. High-fructose corn syrup–out. Artificial sweeteners–out. Packaged snacks–out. Potato chips–out. Fast food–out.
Bit by bit, week by week, I’ve been replacing shitty food with good food, and telling myself that food is fuel, lamenting with rent garments and a wailing and gnashing of teeth that I am doomed to a lifetime of eating like a monk. *dramatic sigh* Only as the weeks have stretched into months, I swear by all I hold holy, I feel better.
Let that sink in for a minute.
I. FEEL. BETTER.
I have been openly disdainful of anyone who extols the virtues of kale or adds flax seed to anything. Fucking hippies, man. GET OFF MY LAWN. The notion of “eating mindfully” was just a lot of dirty hippie lingo to me. Until I found myself actually doing it. When you eat, and then write what you eat in a food journal, you become mindful of your food choices. When you look at your patterns of eating in order to see how and where to make changes, you’re being mindful. When you sit down with a meal and find yourself saying “food is fuel” and you feel really good about that because the food you’ve prepared is not only good for your body and is going to give you energy through the day, but it’s also pretty damned delicious as well…holy shit, you have become a hippie! You’ve gone over to the dark side!
The day I said “food is fuel” not by way of encouraging myself to choke down something I didn’t want, but instead as an affirmation that my body was in for a treat, I stopped shaving my armpits and rubbed on some patchouli. In for a penny, in for a pound, baby!
I don’t think I’m ever going to truly love vegetables. But I have hope. I just ate my breakfast and it was amazing.
Oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla, and with an apple and a banana cooked in. It’s sweet, filling, full of fiber, hot, and so good. I have almond milk in my coffee–it has 50% more calcium than milk, and is full of fiber, too. I will eat that at 9 in the morning and not be hungry again until 1. The fact that I love this makes the person I was back in November want to punch me in the face.
But back then I wouldn’t have believed that eating cleaner would make me feel so much better. I’m not hungry all the time. I don’t crave crap like I used to. I still have the urge to binge, and I still have the days where the control is so tentative that it makes me want to cry, but they’re fewer and farther between. I can sit in my kitchen all day and not have to get up all the time to see what else I can eat. I just don’t have the urge to.
I always hated the expression “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” because I can’t relate. I’ve never been thin in my entire adult life. I have amended that to my own use and I’m pretty sure that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. I like how I feel. There was a box of Cap’n Crunch on the stove this morning, and while the thought crossed my mind that a couple of bowls of that would be tasty, I knew I’d have a headache by noon and feel like shit. It just wasn’t worth it.
My body is responding to being crap-free. The better I eat, the better I feel, and that’s the truth. I find out new things all the time. I’ve discovered that artificial sweeteners make me crave sugar, but pure cane sugar doesn’t. I might have either an allergy or a sensitivity to MSG. Processed foods make working out harder, where whole foods improve my performance.
And yes, I’m working out again. Right now I stick to the treadmill. I can control the calories I burn and my heart rate very easily and I feel I get maximum results from it. I didn’t like the 30-minute circuit thing at all–too much up and down, on and off the equipment. It felt jerky and disjointed and like I wasn’t getting a really good workout. My trainer is back at the gym after being away, and I’m going to start adding weights back to my cardio routine again. I always loved weight training and I’m looking forward to it. But to be honest, I hadn’t done it because I didn’t want that lean muscle to show up on the scale. How stupid is that? It’s that head game with the numbers again. I have to let it go, and cling to the reality that building lean muscle will help me burn fat more effectively, and faster, no matter what the stupid scale says.
And for now, the scale says the weight is coming off. I’m officially down 36 pounds, though there was a good month at the beginning where I didn’t weigh myself, and if history is any indication, I lost a fair deal of water weight in those first few weeks. Even if I averaged a modest 2 pounds a week at the beginning, I’m probably down another 8 or 10 on top of that, but it’s hard to say. I try to tell myself that the number doesn’t matter, but the eating disorder won’t really let me do that. It is important to me. It’s something measurable that I can hang onto when the non-scale victories are scarce.
I have a long way to go before I shed my fat suit, but I feel like this time it will come off for good. I’ve never done this much work on the mental aspect of losing weight. I could always say the words, “I’m making healthy lifestyle changes” but without really changing a damn thing. The thoughts have to change first. When you change your mind, changing the way you live becomes easier, and after that, changing your body practically just happens.
For the first time in my life, I don’t accept any excuses from myself. I know my limitations, and I work on pushing past them in whatever way I can. No, I can’t run, but I can walk. I can build the muscles that will eventually protect my knees so that I can run. I’m working towards it. No, I don’t like vegetables, but I can figure out what ones I tolerate and find better ways of preparing them, trying new ones, adding them bit by bit until I grow accustomed to them. I can learn to like them. I don’t let my eating disorder act as a license to lose control. I don’t win every binge-battle, but I don’t have to accept defeat, either.
Will this work in the long run? I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve been gung-ho before, and determined, only to get to that stupid plateau and let my mind decide for me that I was done. I’m hoping my advancing age and multiple experiences will help me put the pieces together. I feel like my thoughts have changed in a way they never have before, so we’ll see where this takes me, I guess.