Where I am, and thoughts on visibility

I’ve not been in a happy place lately.

And when I say ‘lately’ I’m sort of talking about the last 6 months or so (although as ever I’ve been slow on the uptake and have only realized all this in the last wee while). Part of it can be attributed to finishing my graduate diploma and not knowing what to do next (ie. having no real goals), and part of it can be attributed to a recent lack of exercise and general physical activity (caused by my dodgy foot). Meanwhile my eating and self-image have taken a hit and I’ve been thinking about wanting to lose weight.

I don’t want to diet. I know weight loss endeavors rarely work. And I hated that mindset it takes place in, the daily grind of tricks, sneaky substitutions, lies and stress…. blame when it goes ‘wrong’ and euphoria when it goes ‘right’. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I suspect (well, I know) I have an eating disorder. It started with my first diet when I was 15 and has gone through several iterations before now (starving, starving and purging, binging and purging) but for the last decade at least it’s been about bingeing. Not what I’d call ‘normal’ bingeing, the sort everyone does at some time or other (eg. eating an entire packet of biscuits because they taste so damn good) but instead a sort of binge eating where the food is a punishment; each mouthful is a punch to the face and it’s not about eating food I enjoy but rather eating quantities that I don’t enjoy or want. It’s not a compulsion, it’s more a feeling of being pushed if that makes any sense. Even when I want (or crave) the food involved there is no joy in it, no good feeling attached. Part of me cringes when I put it into words because it sounds so self-indulgent and melodramatic but I want to make the point that it’s not like the ‘compulsive eating’ I see derided in so many books as simply an excuse to over-eat. It no different to anorexia in that (for me at least) there are strong elements of control and self-hate tangled up in it. With a background like this any kind of eating ‘plan’ is a recipe for (mental and emotional) disaster.

But. Living in the ‘real world’ as a fat woman (especially as fat as I am, 130 kilos at last weighing 2-odd years ago and I think I’ve put some weight on in the last month or three) can be hard and sometimes I just want respite. I want to be able to buy a goddam raincoat that fits me. I want to buy long sleeved tops seeing as it’s winter and I’m cold. I want to buy nice clothes in general without hassle and a huge price tag (almost all the plus-size shops in New Zealand top out just before my size) but I’ll settle for the functional stuff for now. And when I read, day after day, hate and vitriol and anger on the internet… I want to go out and about my day without looking at everyone I see and wondering “Do you think that way too? Do you agree with the person who told me they hoped my babies died inside me, rather than ‘suffer’ being born to someone like me?” 

I just want to be ‘normal’. But I can’t be ‘normal’. Even if I could, and did, lose weight, I have good reason to suspect I would still be obese. Still fat. Still non-human. Still Me.

The Man of the House (who isn’t fat and never has been) is sympathetic to the way I’ve been feeling but his suggestion was that instead of shying away from the world I should face it and embrace it. Not so much for me but for the sake of the world… he feels that by being visible just living normal lives we fatties can help change minds and attitudes. He feels that visibility leads to normalization. He’s right, I know he’s right, and I also know that – the general populace and their thoughts on fatness aside – it would be much more healthy for me to stiffen my resolve to just live my normal life come what may. Living life for/thinking of someone else isn’t healthy (in general). But in my current general slump… I’m not sure I want to be all that visible anymore.

I’d like to know what it’s like to blend in.

10 Responses

  1. Very moving. Just one thing… I have been very fat and (due to illness) I lost weight. It’s lovely being able to buy clothes more easily, but one thing I learned is that people really DID like me the way I was. The self loathing I felt about being fat was a lot to do with me, and me projecting those feelings onto other people. Fat discrimination exists – oh boy, I know all about that, believe me – but we internalise those messages much too well and being to see loathing everywhere, where sometimes it’s our own self loathing being projected back to us.

    Your husband is right. You have to embrace the world. As a good friend said to me once, this is the only body you get in this life. What’s the point of hating it? Do you think if you hate it enough, someone will give you another one? They won’t. Don’t waste precious time hating yourself. You only live once. That’s it.

  2. If I wasn’t so far away, I’d give you a hug (if it was okay). I have a compulsion to run away and hide a lot too.

    But, it’s true that it’s really important to keep facing the world. Not always in an in-your-face way, but just in an ordinary putting-yourself-out-there way. If the loss of the degree as a goal to work for has left a gap in your life, then wanting to set a new goal is only natural. It sounds like you’ve been there and done that with weight and eating, and it’s fraught for you. Maybe you should focus on something that makes you happy, or at least positively engaged, instead.

    (And you have probably already thought of this, but if you have a bum foot and are frustrated because you can’t be as active as you were, then swimming and water aerobics might be just the ticket. I had a bad hips for a few years, and being able to stay active in the water got me through it. Feeling fitter was worth the swimsuit, the commute to the pool and the chlorine.)

    • Thank you – it would most definitely be OK :)

      I used to swim when I was pregnant, and it kept me sane, but unfortunately we’ve moved since to a place where the local pool’s timetable doesn’t suit. My foot is getting slowly better though, and I have high hopes of my podiatrist.

  3. You can recover from binge eating disorder – I am recovering with the help of a fantastic book called “Overcoming Overeating” by Hirshmann and Munter. It’s a long process though, so try not to be impatient with yourself. I’ve been following it for 3 years and my eating is a lot different to when I started – my binge eating was very severe. I still go back to the book when my behaviours return (which is happening less and less often).

    There’s some wonderful ideas in the book which were completely new to me – one being that binge eating is your way of trying to help yourself, not of punishing yourself. That idea was a revelation to me and one I remind myself of when I slip. Knowing that my binges are really self-help serves to placate me and ease the guilt.

    There’s practical help in the form of a plan to completely let go of control of your eating, which is a terrifying thought to a binge-eater, but it really works long-term.

    Going on a diet is simply not possible for binge-eaters because it brings on the disordered eating behaviours in full-force, causing weight gain.

    Good luck x

  4. You can lose weight without getting into all of the diet crap, but it is still hard. It takes a lot of work, adjusting yourself psychologically and changing your relationship with food. It also means letting go of a lot of your prejudices about diet culture and thinness and finding what works rather than worrying about how it looks or feels. You can find your way out, but sometimes the path you take leads you through some disordered spaces along the way – sometimes you have to twist a screw very hard to get it out so you can put one in the right place. In the end, the important thing is that it is fixed, not that it was all done perfectly.

    Your significant other is definitely right about one thing. You can’t get better without getting out there. The first step is finding a way to accept yourself so that you stop punishing yourself with food. You have to feel you are worthy of being treated better before you can treat yourself better.

    • I still think that making losing weight a goal is a big mistake.

      I’m not saying I haven’t been hearing the siren song lately, and I know I’ve fallen for it in the past; but from experience I’m also aware that weight loss does not bring with it the promised happiness or ‘better’ life. And I’m not prepared to sacrifice in order to get there, either. My goal is happiness and contentment not a socially acceptable arse… I just wish there was less emphasis on, and more options for, my fat one!

      • You won’t be happier if you lose weight. I can guarantee that. I was “happier” when I was much fatter. That’s why I stayed so fat for so long. It was, however, a very destructive sort of happiness – the happiness of keeping myself safe and in a disabled state. The happiness of living within limits so I didn’t have to go out into a hurtful reality. It was the happiness of being taken care of and not having to take many painful and hard steps.

        You won’t be happier if you lose weight. You will, however, almost certainly spend less time unhappy because, if you have an eating disorder, it is making you unhappy every single day.

        It’s not about social acceptance. Remember what I said about preconceptions about dieting and weight loss? That’s one in the FA community. It’s about having the same mastery over one area of your life as the others. That isn’t to say “perfect” mastery, but at least being in a situation where you feel you are biologically and psychologically at the mercy of your inability to control how you deal with food. If someone slept in every single day and was always late and lost jobs, they’d want to deal with that. If you binge eat or overeat habitually, you’d want to change that. We all have imperfect control. It’s a matter of degree.

        Somehow, food is off the table as something we should work on having more control over because we’re afraid we’re going to “look” like one of those ridiculous people who live obsessed with food and care only about having a body that gets society’s blessings? It’s not black and white. I weigh 185 lbs. now (used to weigh 380 – well over 300 for most of my entire adult life). I’m still fat, but I am happier with how I relate to food. I don’t restrict. I eat sweets every day. I don’t exercise like a maniac (I can’t physically). By any dieter’s standard, I’m a “bad fatty”. I’m a failure. It’s the psychology that mattered, not getting a gold star from the world about my body (I’ll never get one, and I don’t care).

        The thin fantasy is just that. However, there is value in the absence of a negative. It’s not about the presence of a positive. It’s about the loss of something which has control of you instead of you having control of it. If you’re happy framing your relationship with food such that it’s all about either bodily acceptance (white) or bodily loathing (black) and can’t see that it’s about something more sophisticated and complex (gray), then your mentality is little different than the women who believe losing weight will be a transformative experience and you might as well dive head first into bodily acceptance movements and not come up for air.

      • Thank you for writing this. There is a lot in here… and much of it echoes some of the thoughts I’ve been having lately re FA and the whole shebang. I had typed out a whole reply but I think I may save it and put it up as a separate post.

  5. I just want to honor the challenges you’re facing with disordered eating, and the challenge of finding a way through that without falling into a different-but-socially-approved pattern of disordered eating, i.e., weight loss dieting. Best wishes to you in finding ways of eating that work for you.

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