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.

Using food as a punishment

When people talk about eating disorders they usually mean bulimia or anorexia. Binge eating is becoming recognised as a disorder but most people, even professionals, see it as nothing more than a lack of self control. But I haven’t yet seen anyone talk about using food as self-punishment. And that interests me because I have a history of doing just that. Am I abnormal, or are there other people out there who do the same?

It began when I was a teenager, after my first diet. When I was 15 my parents paid for me to join Jenny Craig as a 16th birthday present (my first school ball was coming up that year, and all I wanted was to be thin for it). I won’t go into my experiences on that diet except to say that at the end I was eating one chocolate bar a day – nothing else – and while I lied to my folks about it the Jenny Craig ‘counsellor’ I was seeing knew and did nothing. So long as I was losing weight it was OK.

The diet ended badly, despite the fact I lost weight (I still felt ‘huge’ and my life didn’t change… wasn’t losing weight supposed to garner me friends and romance?) It was then that I began to stuff myself. I was working at a supermarket part time after work so I had money, and I used it to buy junk food and binge eat. Only it wasn’t just bingeing; I used to force myself to eat. I ate to the point of wanting to throw up but I refused to allow myself to do that; I just kept piling the food in.

I thought I was a pig. I thought I had no will power. I felt out of control.

Over the years I’ve gotten a little better in that I don’t do it all the time now. Sometimes, when things get bad, I will stuff myself again. And it doesn’t have to be junk food, either – I have binged like this on fruit before. But the characteristics of the behaviour are always the same; I eat to the point of feeling sick and force myself to keep going, I don’t really taste what I’m eating, and there is a ‘frenzy’ to it that doesn’t exist with the “Oh, yum, I could eat a *box* of these!” ‘binge’.

The problem is that as I’ve gotten older I have more access to money and I tend to eat much more in each ‘episode’. Sometimes I worry that our financial difficulties are due to the fact I keep doing this; eating much more than I want or need out of some odd desire to hurt myself. And the worst part of it is that this kind of behaviour isn’t considered a ‘problem’, as such – it comes under the heading of ‘little self-control’.

But it is a problem for me.