Last time I posted about re-thinking how I see myself during this Fat Season.

(I didn’t have my comments set right in WordPress, by the way, so comments were being held for moderation when I didn’t want them to be.  So if your comment disappeared for a while, that doesn’t mean anything and it should now be there.)

I saw a therapist once who told me I should not be using the word “fat” because apparently it’s part of being “mean to myself.”  Which I certainly am.  But saying “overweight,” “heavy,” or whatever other words might seem more socially acceptable, doesn’t feel right either.  When I got halfway into “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies,” I understood why.  Using a euphemism for “fat,” which is how I hear those other words, reinforces the idea that fat is intrinsically bad.  Using a euphemism also indicates (to me) that it is not just bad but shameful.  Since I am doing battle with those two concepts – that fat is automatically bad, and that fat is shameful, the use of the euphemism isn’t going to help me.  So “fat” it is.

What do you think?

On to the food part.  Since I have been on a diet for most of my life I have become obsessed with food in every way.  Obsessed with what the healthiest, low-caloriest, bestest most perfect thing to eat would be, at every moment.  The concept of enjoyment left the building a long time ago, since when it comes to food there is striving, there is guilt, there is shame, and there is nutrition.  Enjoyment of food is for skinny people.  Not me.

I have had forbidden foods since I can remember.  In my home growing up, my parents had forbidden foods and they, both the parents and the food, taught me all kinds of craziness.  Chocolate chip cookies are bad!  Chocolate chip cookies are orgasmic!  Chocolate chip cookies are available on rare occasions and we must eat them all because we will never see them again!  We will eat only one cookie, and be good.  Let’s hide the cookies.  Where are the cookies?  We must find them.  We ate all the cookies!  We are bad!  But if the cookies weren’t here, we would not eat them, and we could be good again.  No cookies !  We are good!

Oh, how we long for cookies.

Oh, how crazy.  Multiply that by everything celebratory, everything junky, everything comforting, everything you see at a party in the month of December, everything Halloween, everything Fourth of July, everything that isn’t vegetables, and you are in the crazy dark world of my food obsessions.

Since I am a compulsive overeater, dieting only makes it worse.  But, since I am a compulsive overeater, I am fat, and dieting seems like the only solution.  Until now.  The solution for me, I now believe, is the wildly counter-intuitive and controversial process called “legalizing” food.

All three of my seminal nondieting books say that it must be done, so I have done it.   I am allowed to eat anything I want, anytime I want, in any quantity.  Since the goal is to only eat when hungry, stop when full, and find my body’s wisdom about what it craves, instead of what I want to stuff into it, I’m supposed to eat without distraction.  No eating in the car, in front of the TV, in front of the computer, or while reading.  No eating standing up.

This seemed easy at first, in the glow of the glorious freedom of eating whatever I wanted.  But it’s turned out to be harder than I thought.

Anyway, that first day I went to the store and bought a cake.  Contrary to what I have always believed, I did not eat the whole thing in one sitting, nor in one day, nor ever.  I got tired of it and about a week later there was still a piece in the fridge that I threw away.

After that cake (a carrot layer cake, if you must know) there was a big chocolatey cake called “Double Chocolate Confusion” which cracked me up.  All kinds of chocolate?  What is there to be confused about?  After serving it at a party, where it was barely dented, I ate the rest of it over about a week.  Since then?  I have asked myself about a thousand times if I want more cake, and I guess I don’t.  Eh.  Cake.  What was the big deal, all these years?

I have similarly worked my way through cookies of various kinds, including homemade; chocolate bars, M&Ms, various junky foods like Fritos and Tombstone pizza (couldn’t even finish half of one of  those).  The Fritos are unfinished in my pantry, I bought the M&Ms just to show off and haven’t really been interested in them, I have about 9 Hershey bars left from a 12-pack.  It is all kinds of crazy, the foods that I used to feel very much in love with that I now am … eh.  Just not that into.

The legalizing is so strange and crazy.  When I identify something that is sexy and forbidden, I must not just buy it, but buy a lot of it.  The more I have of it, the less I eat.  It’s nuts but it’s true.  I have not worked through ice cream as quickly as I have other things, maybe because ice cream is so freaking good, or maybe because I have a lot of ice cream baggage.  All I know is, I was buying lite ice cream and eating a ton of it, then worked my way up through non-lite all the way to Ben & Jerry’s, and am eating less and less.  Knowing there is a ton in there just takes the edge off the whole ice cream drama.

Meanwhile there is joy, there is freedom, there is a lot of thought about what self-nurturing can be.  There is also terror, and weight gain, and the terror of weight gain.  It is part of the process for most people who do this; the weight goes up before it starts to come down.  But hey, my weight was going up anyway.  Before intuitive eating, (IE), every day I sat down and planned how many calories I would eat that day. I then systematically violated that number with joyless mini-binges like extra spoonfuls of peanut butter eaten quickly, standing up in the kitchen, followed by misery and guilt (and heartburn) as I added up each day’s calories and found myself hundreds over, with not even a moment of enjoyment to show for it.

There is also dawning insight about how I got here.  Since I turned to food at such an early age, my ability to comfort myself in any other way is stunted.  When trouble comes, I often look like I am handling it capably.  There is no complaining on the outside, there is only superhuman effort, sometimes superhuman accomplishment, followed by secret eating followed by agony, guilt, shame and fat.  The need to be superhuman increases as I get fatter, and have more to apologize for.  My right to complain, or be overwhelmed, or ask for help, dwindles as I get fatter and (can it be that I believe this?) deserve less love.  The part of me that handles trouble is still eight years old, and I am trying to track her down and tell her it’s okay to cry, to complain, to say that it’s too hard.

I am getting better at knowing what I want, eating when hungry, stopping when full.  But I have a long way to go. I’m uncovering big  holes in my heart that are still there, even after so much therapy and so much healing.  I’m crying a lot, as I realize that by my eating I have not just burdened myself with all these extra pounds.  I have cut myself off from the comfort that I crave.

It is sobering that I am doing this work, now, when I am finally in a happy, incredibly nurturing marriage, and have the missing piece: a child.  I have found that there is only so much comforting another person can give – ultimately I have to be able to sit myself down and deal with whatever.  It’s sobering that in this happy, incredibly nurturing marriage, I have gained 10 pounds a year.  I blamed infertility and drugs but really, people, it is me.  Me and food and sadnesses great and small that I never admitted to. I just ate them.

I wish I could help people understand that when they see a big, huge, fat person, that is someone who knows a far worse pain than that of being fat.  That being fat is easier than whatever they are really dealing with.  So I cry a lot, for what I have done to myself, for the long road ahead, for the uncertainty I’m embracing instead of the quick fix that a diet would promise (but, for me, never deliver).  I’m also sad for the deep groove cut into my soul by all the failed diets.  We are so in love with the false idea that we can change everything about ourselves.  Makeup, surgery, hair color, therapy, weight loss.  Transformation = perfection = the end of our pain.  I never did get the hang of all that, and it’s only after decades of trying that I am starting to realize that maybe nobody can.

What a pack of lies, eh?