Stop shoving food in your mouth and you’ll get thin!

April 18, 2008 at 11:32 am (media, weight loss) (, , , )

I’m getting really fed up with advertising recently, specifically advertising targetting fat people.

Subway’s got full page ads in magazines about how going through life “supersized” doesn’t make for a good childhood, or having a “supersized” childhood is no way to have a life or something like that. I was unable to find this ad on Subway’s website, or mentioned on line, but I have to say something here: I was a fat kid, and my fat didn’t cause my problems. Other peoples’ reactions to my fat did. I’m a fat adult and, again, MY FAT is not the problem. MY SIZE is not the problem. MY BODY is not the problem. It’s OTHER PEOPLE TREATING ME LIKE CRAP that’s the problem. It’s OTHER PEOPLE TREATING ME AS LESS THAN HUMAN that is the problem. Further, it echoes the Animal House quote “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.”  So, you know, thanks Subway. You think my life is worth less than a thin life. That’s good to know. Now I have another reason besides the incredible bland taste of your sandwiches and poor service in general to avoid your stores. Thanks!

There’s television commercials where people stumble across discarded lumps of pale lard. These are chunks of peoples’ bodies (double chin, back fat) that they “lose” because they “snack on veggies and fruit while on vacation!!!!” or “get the small popcorn instead of the large at movie theaters!!!” Hear that, fatties? If you’d just stop shoving food into your gaping maws every possible second, you’ll magicaly become less fat! Chunks of you will drop off and fall onto the floor for stylish, slender people to find and marvel at. Do you have a double chin the size of a pregnant woman’s stomach? Well, fret not! If you simply snack on veggies and fruits while on vacation, those pounds will melt away, since obviously you never consume any veggies or fruits whatsoever and probably just shovel lard-coated Big Macs into your mouth non stop. And, you know, losing large amounts of weight is so incredibly easy that you can do so simply by making small changes for a week or so while on vacation. it’s just that simple!

Remember: your body size is wrong, and you’re inferior for having it. If you can’t change your body size by doing small, simple things then you need to mutilate a major organ in your body or else starve yourself or perhaps compulsively exercise. If that doesn’t work, it’s because you’re lying and secretly gorging on breath  mints and dough nuts. But above all, your body size is WRONG and you are BAD for having the body you do.

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The Diet Mindset

April 8, 2008 at 11:49 am (diets, disordered eating, weight loss) (, , , )

It’s pervasive, this idea that if one simply limits one’s calories below what they need to survive, one’s excess weight will melt away like so much ice cream in the hot sun. Despite studies that have shown that people burn calories differently when they have plenty to eat versus when they have little to eat, and despite studies that have shown that biologicaly fat people and thin people burn calories at a different rate, most non-fat-friendly people who talk about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC lead off with the assumption that fat is a choice, and fat people could all be thin if they’d only eat less and move more… despite the failure rate of diets, and despite the fact that most fat people have been on diets and failed, and despite the fact that many many many articles talk about “the dangers of yo yo dieting” in the same paragraph they talk about yet another low calorie starvation fest.

I know my body. I’ve lived in it for a long time, and started listening to it actively recently. I know for a fact that I can limit calories to starvation levels while doing intense aerobic exercise for many hours a day and still not lose weight. But the other day while changing into pajamas and thinking about whether or not I wanted to have some ice cream, that little niggling voice in the back of my head whispered that if I’d just skip the ice cream my clothes would fit that much better. And maybe I should just have a salad for dinner, or skip it entirely. I have been losing weight after all. If I just take control and limit my calories a bit, I’ll lose even more weight, even faster.

This, despite the fact that I’m losing weight at a time when I’ve eaten more calories than I have in years. I’m eating more food over the course of the day than I usually do because I’m not restricting what I eat, I’m not eating what I “should” eat. I’m eating enough to be healthy and have energy and to keep me alive, and my body’s responding by stopping it’s OMG FAMINE HOARD HOARD HOARD freak out and letting go of the excess fat I have… the fat that truely is excess, and which has me at a higher point of my body’s natural set point. I know what’s healthy for me, what’s good for me. Yet even knowing that, I still feel the urge sometimes to act in unhealthy, destructive ways; to engage in disordered eating and compulsive behavior again.

And that’s not right and that’s not good and that’s not healthy, and that’s the diet mindset that grips this country.

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Weight Loss

April 2, 2008 at 1:00 am (diets, disordered eating, weight loss) (, , )

I haven’t been doing any extra excercise lately, or conciously restricting my caloric intake. I have, however, been pretty sick, to the point of not eating. But when well enough to eat, I’ve been eating pretty fatty things– in large part a response to my enforced fasting, I think, and the fact that my body is trying very, very hard to recover and get well and needs to burn calories to do so. Despite that, I’ve been losing weight over the past few months.

I first noticed it, as I always do, in my breasts. I’ve gone down a cup size. And now my pants are too large on me as well, and some shirts with very snug arms now fit a bit better in the shoulder/upper arm area. When I look in the mirror I look different. Shirts on hang on me differently. I don’t know what I weigh. I don’t own a scale, and the few times I’ve stepped on one, out of curiousity, in some friend’s or family member’s bathroom, the needle has burried itself in the “lolfattylol” range of over 250 pounds. Just… thunk.

If I mention my weight loss to most people they congratulate me. “You must be so proud,” they say. But I’m not proud. I’m not doing anything to lose weight, and even if I were, why should I be proud of the size I am? How is that an important thing?

What I am, however, is worried. I’m something of a hypochondriac, so I lose weight without meaning to and my brain is all “OMG cancer! OMG thyroid problems! OMG tape worm! OMG YOU WILL DIE.”

I spoke with another friend of mine, who is also fat and who also grapples with positive self image, FA, HAES, and intuitive eating. She asked me if I started losing weight after I started eating more intuitively and yes, that’s when it started. When I finally let go of a lot of my hangups with food and started listening to my body, I started losing weight. I’ve been feeling healthier for a while now, eating a more balanced diet. I doubt I’ll loose MUCH weight… just get back to a lower point in my body’s natural range, which is still fat. But people tell me I’m looking better, that I must be proud. After all, I’m losing weight! Isn’t that fabulous?

I was sitting in the lunch room at work while a co-worker talked excitedly about finally fitting back into a pair of pants she hadn’t worn for sixteen years. Which means that she hauled these pants (and other articles of clothing) around with her every time she moved for sixteen years. For sixteen years, those clothes have been taking up closet, shelf, and drawer space. Instead of buying clothes that fit and look good on her, she’s been maintaining a shrine to clothes she can’t wear, for over a decade and a half. They’re nice pants, don’t get me wrong, but not worth wearing around your neck for sixteen years. She took a break from marveling over the new shape of her butt and thighs to congratulate another coworker on her recent weight loss. The other coworker tried to deflect the congratulations by saying she’d been really sick. “But you look so great! So thin!” “Yeah, I was really sick. I almost went to the hospital. It was awful.” “You must have dropped two pants sizes! You look so good!” “Uh… I couldn’t stop puking. Seriously. I thought I would die. I was so incredibly dehydrated. I burst all the blood vessels in my eye balls.” “Really really great! You’re so slender now! Your clothes are just hanging off of you!”

Because being thin is always healthier than being fat. Always.

I’m so glad I found FA.

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Medical Care

March 31, 2008 at 12:25 pm (medical care) (, )

When I was three, I got sick. I never got better. My nose ran all the time, I got cold after cold and ear infection after ear infection and strep throat after strep throat. My dentists and orthodontists would comment on how large my tonsils were, even when I wasn’t actively ill. Taking pills was an ordeal because my tonsils, so large they touched, made swallowing anything but especially hard and sticky pills, extra hard. By the time I was a teenager, I had hearing loss in one ear from built up scar tissue, consistantly had difficulty breathing, and suffered from bronchitis 2-3 times a year.

I still had my tonsils.

I still had my tonsils because my pediatrician took a look at them, after writing yet another prescription for pennicilin, and told my mom that “we don’t do tonsilectomies anymore” and then offered that if I lost weight I might have better health.

 Because tonsils, you know, are nothing more than sacks of fat. When a person gains weight, it’s routine for their tonsils to get fat as well.

Oddly enough, I had a different doctor as an adult. The first time she saw me she pinpointed my tonsils as a problem, scolded my dad (who’d driven me and was in the waiting room) for not getting them taken out earlier, and arranged for them to be removed in about a month’s time. That was eight years ago, and I’ve had bronchitis one time since then.

I suffered with constant ill health, exhaustion, hearing loss, and infection after infection because a doctor was unwilling to look past my fat to find the root cause of the problem, even when the problem (and solution!) was an incredibly obvious one.

I had bronchitis a month ago and saw a nurse practitioner about it. She listened to my lungs and asked me if I’d been screened for asthma. I said no, but now that I had insurance I was going to… I just needed to find a doctor and make an appointment. I didn’t say that I’d never been screened before because as a minor my complaints about shortness of breath were consistantly dismissed as me being out of shape, despite the fact that I danced competitively, had allergies, had chronic bronchitis, and had a parent with asthma. In other words, I was active, and had three red flags for asthma. But, you know, I was also fat and apparently fat trumps everything else as cause of illness and pain.

 I hear a lot of talk in the “everybody knows” vein of how fat people are a scourge on humanity because they cost so much more in medical bills. But I can guarandamntee you that if I’d had my tonsils out as a kid, it would have cost less and would have taken less of a toll on me, personally (a few days recovery versus three weeks recovery for the actual surgery, not to mention all the illnesses I wouldn’t have had and gotten treated). If I’d had my asthma treated and controlled in a timely manner I’d be in much better physical shape now, both because I’d be more active and because I’d be less suspectible to colds and respitory illness. In other words, my fat has cost me more money  not because fat is unhealthy, but because I’ve received shitty medical care that has wound up costing me extra money because I have gone untreated for some pretty basic and obvious things. So I guess fat people don’t cost extra money so much as incompetent jerk-ass doctors cost patients and insurance companies more money when they fail to treat their patients’ complaints.

But that doesn’t make a good soundbite, I guess.

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Food Dreams

March 28, 2008 at 10:15 am (binging, disordered eating, dreams, fasting) (, , , )

The problem with fasting for a long time is that after awhile you get hungry again. Sure, you can ignore that hunger for a few hours, a few days. You can ignore the light-headedness and the confusion and the shaking hands. But after awhile your body reasserts its claims, its needs. And then you get hungry. Ravenously hungry. Out of control hungry. Your body craves fuel, craves sustenance, craves life. Driven by my body, I would binge.

I’ve read accounts of other people who binged (and usually purged. I never did. Not out of any reason other than I have a paranoia of vomit.) where they recount the tubs of ice cream, entire cakes, multiple bags of chips they devoured until they were stuffed and groaning and distended, unable to move. I would eat… wait for it!… several pieces of toast. A sandwich AND chips AND soup! A bag of chips! A carton of Chubby Hubby Ice Cream! You know, amounts of food that were fairly normal for most people, but I’d internalized the idea that since I was big fat fatty mclardass I must automaticaly be eating more food than other people and therefore when I ate a meal I must be pigging out and cramming mass amounts of food down my gullet. So a fast food combo meal or dinner at a Greek restaurant became not a meal but a horrible binge, more fat coins put into the lard back that was my gaping maw.

I started having horrific dreams where I’d wake up terrified, soaked with sweat, and feeling huge whomps of guilt. What was I doing in those dreams? Eating food at barbecues. Buying cakes at bake sales. Eating. Or… trying to eat food at barbecues, trying to buy cakes at bake sales, trying to eat. The dreams would often involve me feeling so shameful and guilt ridden that I couldn’t eat in front of other people, or I’d be unable to find my money and thus pay for the food, or everything I wanted would be snatched away and I’d run through mazes trying to find it. Or I’d eat and eat and eat to satiety and wake up feeling guilty because I was full and satisfied in the dream. And I’d feel “off” and shaken all day, and depressed. I felt bad about food even in my dreams. I felt bad about eating even when my dreams were trying to tell me to eat.

When did food become the enemy?

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The Way It Began

March 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm (disordered eating, fasting, highschool) (, , , , )

People were always telling me I “would be so pretty if only” and then a bit of a pause, and then a litany of my failings. If only I were thinner. If only my teeth were straighter/whiter/didn’t have braces on them. If only I just did something with my hair. If only I wore better clothes. If only I had better skin. If only I were thinner. The “thinner” one is, actually, the one I heard most often with the skin thing coming a close second. In my whole life, I’ve had all of one person come up to me and offer to help me with my awful, awful skin (her own words). I’ve had hundreds, literally hundreds, offer me unwanted advice about how to shed my awful, awful weight.

I can’t remember a time that people (my peers, kids younger than me, adults) didn’t pick on me for my weight. Looking back at photos of myself as a little kid I was a huge toddler, and then “normal” sized when I hit pre-school and kindergarten (right around the time I had two growth spurts), and then started chunking up in first and second grade. I’ve been fat ever since then. Consistantly the same amount of fat, consistantly the same size. Consistantly too big.

When you’re constantly told that you’re bad and weak and wrong because you’re fat, what do you do? How do you address that? When other people constantly question how much you eat, constantly ask you if you’re “really” hungry, how long does it take before you start second guessing yourself?

When I was in highschool, my diet on a good day consisted of:

  • Several cans of caffeinated soda, all diet (of course!)
  • Half a bag of M&Ms, Skittles, or Reeces Pieces, shared with someone else
  • Whatever my family was having for dinner.

There were times when I didn’t eat for two or three days.

I was cranky and out of it all the time, constantly tired. I had problems focusing, concentrating. I never got the final growth spurt my school mates got between 8th and 12th grade. My  nails were brittle and broke easily. And I remained fat. And people still insulted me for being fat, and told me that if I just ate a little less and stopped pigging out I’d lose weight. I hated myself for so many reasons, and sometimes I still do. I became more and more restrictive with food and eating, and became more and more depressed, until I realized that I was actively suicidal which was a bit of a wake up call and very very scary.

A few months ago I started practicing intuitive eating, trying to eat what I want to eat when I want to eat it in the quantity that I want. If I want to eat a baked potato for dinner, I will. Or a salad. Or soup. Or a pound of steak. Or some green beans. Or artichoke dip and pita chips. Or waffles.  It’s changed the way I eat. I don’t feel as compelled to finish off those last french fries. I don’t feel as panicked that food might run out. I have less horrific, guilt-ridden nightmares about food and eating. I am eating a wider range of food than I have in fifteen years. And people still give me shit for being fat.

Because, obviously, fat is a choice and if I’d just try a little harder, I wouldn’t be fat. If I’d just eat slightly less, I wouldn’t be fat. After all, humans are just like bunsen burners, and if you consume less calories than you’ll burn, the pounds will just melt away. If an 1800 calorie diet doesn’t cause you to lose weight, drop down to 1500 calories, 1000, 800, 500. If you can subsist on water and air for a long enough time, you’ll be thin, and who cares about malnutrition because thin! Thin is healthy! Automaticaly!

I am a woman of abundance. My hair and nails grow quickly, I have a big stomach, big arms, big belly. I heal quickly when injured. I am fat. I am hated for that. I am trying very hard not to hate myself.

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