Fat


That’s how much weight I have lost since November.  The first 12 or so seemed to make no impact on my bod that I could see.  Maybe I was starting, subtly, to look more like a woman and less like a refrigerator.  But in the last week or two I cautiously tried on some of my shorts from summer-before-last, and they fit.  They even fit right out of the dryer.

This is huge for a few reasons.  #1, no diet has worked for me for about 8 years.  And even then, I think weight fell off because I was insanely exercising many hours a day by working a manual labor job.  #2 This is also huge because I am not dieting.

I’m the sort of messed up food freak of a person for whom not dieting is just so crazy, it might work.

Last summer I decided I could not diet again, ever, especially since I don’t even lose on diets anyway, and I started intuitive eating. I did what that book, and the books of Geneen Roth suggested, which was to make all foods “legal.”  I ate a lot of cake.  I gained 9 pounds.  It was a little bit scary.  But even as my weight went up, I could tell that my ability to escape with food was slipping away.

I realized that I had rarely dieted, or eaten healthily, from my own choice.  It was always that I was fat, and fat is terrible, and it’s obviously my duty to myself and the world to get rid of my fat as soon as possible.  I didn’t want to eat an apple when I wanted cake, but I told myself that being fat meant that I didn’t have choices anymore.  I was being punished, in some kind of food time-out that would never end.

I work out with a trainer and she was horrified that I gained so much weight after I started working with her.  I tried to tell her that even as my weight went up, I was finding peace and clarity about food.  Every bite of cake eaten under the new regime had a purpose, because it wasn’t sneaked or gobbled.  It was a gift freely given from me to me, and without the guilt and the defiance and the heavy weight of constant censure, I could finally taste the cake, and notice that one piece was plenty.

I tried to tell my trainer also that it had to go on until I knew when to eat cake and when not to, when I was full and when I wasn’t, and what I really wanted my body to look like.

Because that was another choice that had already been made for me.  I had always been fascinated by women who were fat and didn’t seem to care.  They just “put on a flowered dress and got on with it,” as my gay ex-husband used to say.  Thank God for those women, particularly those from other cultures where everyone is not as freaked out about fat as we American-Caucasians are.  Those women provided  me with an alternative narrative about how bigger isn’t ugly, and thinner isn’t always better, and the men who think bigger can be sexy are the majority, not deviants or gay.

I was not raised with that choice.  I was taught that fat is terrible, fat is shameful, fat means you will drop dead from a heart attack any day now, and above all: no man wants to date or marry fat.

Yeesh.  Obviously I had tons of reprogramming to do, and I’m certainly not there yet.  But gradually, as last fall rolled into Christmas, I just couldn’t put away as many cookies or pieces of cake.  I started noticing how nice it felt to be less than full, or even empty.

Underneath the fat and the suffering all those years was a terrible cycle.  I felt fat, and as you know, “feeling fat” might have nothing to do with actually being fat.  Since I felt fat, I decided to diet.  Dieting was supposed to transform me, and my life, and solve all of my problems.  Dieting usually failed right away, and then I would overeat more than I had been before as a response to the deprivation, and there I’d be, fat.  Again.

This was a trap for me.  The dieting phase was just as unhealthy and self-hating as the fat phase.  Dieting ate away at my sense of being okay, just as I am, at least in the eyes of God and my loved ones.  Dieting reinforces the idea that I am always fixable, always not quite acceptable, and it made me feel like I could be God in my life and have control.

Not surprising that it didn’t work.

Over the last few months, as I have let myself eat cake from time to time, I have been sure I was or would soon be gaining weight again.  But occasional cake wasn’t what put weight on me; it was every day, every meal, eating more than I needed or wanted.  Once that surplus was gone, the weight started coming off.

Now all the crap people always say about a “lifestyle change” and “diets don’t work” is starting to make sense.  Of course, half the time someone is saying “diets don’t work,” they are actually a corporation trying to sell you a diet.  And the “lifestyle change” is similarly something you see on the back of a cereal box more often than not.

But this thing, “Intuitive Eating,” is a lifestyle change predicated on a heart change.  And the funny, healthy, frustrating part is that it’s slow, and it mostly happens in the background.  If I just think about something else, and try to live my life, food is no longer center stage and I don’t eat as much.  But if I notice that I’ve lost, sometimes I decide I want to lose MORE RIGHT NOW and the next thing I know I’m overeating because I starved myself the last two days.

It’s like my body has finally kicked me out of the control booth, and is telling me that it, not my wounded and deceitful heart, is now in charge of what and how much I eat.  These days I have odd cravings for strawberries or corn or fish or an apple.  Humble simple foods, that may have called my name before, but there was so much noise in my head I couldn’t hear.

I’m sad that so many women like me are preyed on so easily by the diet industry and the magazines and each other.  The philosophy of dieting and “body sculpting” and makeovers is not empowering.  Each time we are told that some part of us, from our wrinkles to our cellulite, can be “fixed,” the message is not just that we can fix things – it’s that we should.

Like teeth.  Remember when it was okay for teeth to be a normal, ivory – yellowish white teeth color?  Not anymore – now everyone is whitening, and if we don’t achieve the same freaky bluish whiteness, our normal teeth suddenly aren’t good enough.

It’s ridiculous.  Yet I sometimes believe it.

The fifteen pounds helps with all this, so much.  I can now feel in my body, and soon people will be able to see, that loving me and being kind to me is also a beauty regimen that actually works.

Today I went to the local clinic, the one that does take my insurance.  The faxing of the orders and all that worked out, miraculously.  Being an IVF veteran was helpful… I knew that the stuff I was having done today isn’t crucial, and so I didn’t get myself into a twist about it too much.

The local monitoring thing is different.  Apparently when having your IVF done elsewhere, you’re the red-head stepchild of the monitoring clinic and they don’t go out of their way.  These people were nice, but I’m to pay everything up front and I have to submit my own claims to Blue Cross.  I guess monitoring patients don’t make them much money.

Before going to the clinic I read some of their website, which for some reason included a long section on “diet and exercise” and many tips and questionable facts about nutrition and weight loss.  This made me feel so defensive that I had to eat a piece of chocolate before I could leave the house.  By the time I got to the clinic, my butt barely fit through the door.

I felt so… fat and frumpy and defective.  I kept imagining every person in there looking at my date of birth and whispering to each other “can you believe she’s trying to do an IVF… 47 years old…”  These pictures in my head looked suspiciously like my imaginings of the girls from fifth grade talking about my polyester pants with the seam down the front.

Since I have some distance from the whole infertility struggle, I can see how deep the grooves are in my heart and soul.  But infertility didn’t cause those scars.  They were always there.  Because of the generation, and a lot of people’s brokenness, everything about womanhood and our bodies was treated as dirty or a nuisance or embarrassing when I was growing up.  Or it was not mentioned, so that it was a vague, undiscovered country that other girls navigated while I hung back.  I know now that my mother sighed in sympathy when she found out I got my period (also in fifth grade), but at the time it seemed like she was disappointed in me.  I was taught that bad cramps are to be expected, periods to be “cleaned up,” sex not mentioned except in the context of  “don’t get pregnant.”   Femininity, the kind that we celebrate as part of our uniqueness, was an empty place for me.

I’ve always felt like my womanhood was messy and a burden, and that I wasn’t doing it right.  My obesity has probably been a way to express how dirty I feel due to some childhood sexual abuse.  My sexuality, even though I was a  shy suburban heterosexual, a virgin almost until college graduation, was terribly threatening and scary to me.

It’s all jumbled together now.  I felt definitely insufficient as a girl, or a woman; clueless about what to say to boys, often ignored or invisible, buried in fat, numbed by years of compulsive overeating.  But I was also too, too much.  Too many feelings, or so I was told.   Conflicts were sometimes blamed on my “strong personality.”  (um, why is that bad?)  Too much fat, of course.  Always too much of me, except when there wasn’t enough.  Except when I was wrong or broken.

Infertility was just a reprise of all that.  Once again,  broken.  Deficient.  Too old.  IVFs didn’t even work when they should have.  Not enough time, not enough eggs.  Underneath it was the same: undeserving, inappropriate, and defiled.  Unusual, but never in a good way.

The thinking and healing I’ve been doing about me and food has revealed these myths about me, embraced and retold and lived out by me for decades.  I see now how infertility just clicked right into the same grooves, even as I hoped that having a baby would heal, just a little.

It has.   The being-a-mother part has called up in me a mighty and feminine strength that can’t be diminished by the size of my ass or whatever else somebody wants to say is wrong with me.  Age can’t touch it, and it is burnished and made truthful by blood and barf and periods and stretch marks.  Being a mother is the birthright of every woman who aches for it, I think; and that’s what IVFs and adoption and fostering and all of it are for.*

Being a mother has not healed everything.  That is not what it’s for.  But it’s helped me see the lies and the myths about me so much more clearly, and I finally am understanding how much of who I am is up to me.  Not parents, not teachers, not fifth-grade girls; nor fertility clinic receptionists.

I get to decide what is true about me, and what is lies, and I get to decide what and why and how much I eat.   I get to stay in the moment with my hurts and I am learning that God is bigger than my pain.  But I am, and always was, just the right size.

*if you don’t agree with that statement, read the comments of the New York Times when they run an infertility article.  You’ll find plenty of people who say that wanting a baby is selfish (but only for the infertile), and that adoption is the only correct option for us, and plenty of other hateful things.  Sadly, most of the hate comes from women.

I hurt my back a few weeks ago.  Actually I hurt my back three separate freaking times, all three caused by a certain baby whose name I won’t mention.  Said baby is 1) not getting any lighter and 2) hell-bent on diving off the changing table.  These back injuries are the worst most frustrating kind, because instead of just – ow! my back hurts! – I get nothing, until the next day when doing something innocuous like lifting a spoon from the dishwasher causes my back to go into spasm.  My back is like some nice lady who says “oh, no, I’m okay, I don’t mind” and then stabs me – yes – in the back.  Back!  Get some boundaries!  If I knew in the moment that you were straining, I’d go easier.

Except when the baby suddenly can crawl at the speed of light and is heading for the edge of the bed.

Anyway, I went to the doctor for drugs; I am not a fool.  But I also got a prescription for physical therapy, because I am not going to just put up with this, what with the baby who insists on growing bigger and heavier.  I don’t have a “bad back” – aside from its obvious passive/aggressive issues – I just need to be stronger.  So I went off to physical therapy and was assigned a therapist who has either done time or has a dishonorable discharge hidden away in his un-checked background.  At first I thought he would be great, because a little bit of …stern… is fine with me, and kind of motivating.

But as of yesterday, when I ran out of the physical therapy gym and paced the hall, sobbing, he is not fine with me.  I think he’s kind of a … dick, really.  In my several stints in physical therapy over the years, I have usually worked with shiny young PTs in their twenties who think of me as someone old-ish and fat, and they have treated me with kindness and low expectations.  But this therapist, we’ll call him Gunther, asked me to do the exercises I’ve been doing at home, and then peppered me with comments like “you’re weak in your core” “you should be able to hold that for 20 seconds” “why are you working out with a trainer when you’re weak in your core?  You’re wasting your time.”  Gunther is the kind of guy who makes sure to tell me that he’s been “doing this for 40 years” every time he sees me, and he seems to need me to progress at a certain rate so that he can be sure of himself and his “program.”

Here is where the depression makes everything complicated.  I go to the gym because it’s good for me, and I like it, and blah blah blah.  But I also go because I hate myself.  I could say, well, actually I hate my fat, and that is true, but the sad truth is that I also just hate ME, and I want to fix ME, and there is this obvious body with its flaws and injuries that presents me with plenty of things to fix.  So consequently I am somebody who always goes to the gym and always works really, really hard. I’ve been working out with a trainer since the baby was six weeks old, just to lift weights and do the things I hate to do, and even though I’m depressed and gaining weight every week, I have gotten a lot stronger and fitter.  She nags me to come to the gym and do the exercise things that I hate on the days that I’m not working with her, and I work harder because of her encouragement.

Then I often sit in my car and cry, because it’s so hard and I feel so exhausted and hopeless.  Then I go home and eat.

Sigh.  While Gunther is a dick, he had no idea that all of THAT was brewing when he unleashed his meanness.  And I am confused about how much of what happened – his, uh, motivational style vs. my emotional fragility – was depression-fueled.  I did push back, and told him he was in my face, and that if he overestimated me in the first session that was his problem, not mine.

I just hate not being sure of myself.  I can’t tell if I over-reacted.  I’m sure that he’s inappropriate, but I think bursting into tears – not just tears but the hiccuping deep sobs that you can’t stuff back down – was ? a bit much.  It doesn’t take a genius to note that this PT situation hits many nerves: older male authority figure, fitness / gym setting where I seek my redemption, physical pain, too many freaking MIRRORS do they have to have a MIRROR on every wall?

But, oy.  So much drama.  I feel like I carry around a bucket of deep sorrow and the slightest little jostle from anybody spills it all over the place.  I want to stay home so there isn’t so much spillage and mess, it’s less embarrassing.  But I’m not going to stay home.

And I’m going to stay with Gunther.  I don’t have much choice, he’s the only back / neck guy they have, and I’m a hostage to the daycare at this rehab center.  Besides, being able to hold the single leg bridge for 10 sets is the best way I know of to give Gunther the finger, so that’s what I’m going to do.

I was excited after I went to the fertility clinic.  A little too excited, actually.  Having another baby seemed like it would be so great!  I was really liking the idea.  It would give me… a reason ?  A purpose?  An excuse?  I don’t know.  I came home from the clinic and was all about the protocol (much easier than my last ones) and the timing (very soon) and my husband put the brakes on, fast.

And I did not like that.

But I knew he was right.  First of all, I am fat, and getting pregnant at this weight, when my joints already hurt and I seem to have a back strain or a swollen knee or some damn thing every week, would be a major strain.  A sick pregnancy, where I don’t gain a lot of weight, would be bad enough.  A normal pregnancy, where I might put on 30 MORE pounds… could be a disaster.

But I was so disappointed, and that was kinda weird.  I started to notice that I need something.  Another baby, a project, something.  It didn’t feel quite right, and I had to keep reminding myself that at the end of that pregnancy there would be another newborn and no sleep and the baby we already have isn’t exactly going anywhere.  THAT’s a project.

But I just kept thinking that I need it.

Not good.  I do need something.  I have been seeing a therapist for several months now.  I have been in therapy on and off for most of my adult life, because that is what it has taken to get me through the many many stages of recovery from childhood sexual abuse.  Since the really crazy ugly part of that recovery is well behind me, I’m always surprised that I’m not done yet.  But, I’m not.

So, yes, I need something.  I have now gained almost 40 pounds since my son was born, and while I’m all about not hating myself, and learning to have peace with food, et cetera, I am still overeating and finding it hard to stop.  I know I’d like to have a job, and I may not find one that fits my mothering schedule for a while.  I’d like to be writing again, and I’m not.  I seem to need to be busy all the time,  to be accomplishing or creating or fixing, to be okay.  But I’m not finding anything to do.  I could use more and better friends, but I seem to suck at picking up the phone.  All I do anymore is tell myself why someone isn’t a good fit for me, or why she doesn’t like me, or our kids aren’t the same age.  Or I just watch 4 “Grey’s Anatomy”s in a row until I’m too tired to remember to get a life.

I went to my therapist on Friday and we again approached the idea that I am okay, no matter what my weight, no matter what my accomplishments or lack thereof, and I again started to sob that I didn’t know how to be okay, and my therapist told me that she thinks I’m depressed.  I may have postpartum depression and I may also, based on my history, have always been depressed. She wants me to go and see a psychiatrist to be evaluated for antidepressants.

At first I thought “no way!” Because in my life I have been depressed, as in face-down, no color in the sky, can’t-hardly-move-my-mouth-to-speak depressed.  That is not how I have been feeling.  But I have cried a lot, I have felt worthless a lot, and lately I’ve been wondering why I am this unhappy person in the middle of my very fortunate circumstances.  It’s easy for me to say that I’m sad because I’m fat.  But, I’m starting to think, maybe I’m fat because I’m sad. Part of me is crying for help, maybe, but the rest of me just wants it to shut up and keep smiling.

It was hard to hear.  I’ve been depressed my whole life?  Oh.  Faaabulous.  Am I a lie?  But… I think she’s right.  I’ve been striving my whole life.  Striving to get through school, to get a decent job, to get a boyfriend (always the boyfriend), to lose weight.  I elevated striving to epic levels.  I wrote and performed and got married and got divorced and started my own business and ran marathons and took a manual labor job and went to graduate school and got married again.  Then of course came the infertility.  I’m now in a very solid wonderful marriage, with an extra cute baby and a good shot at having a second child, in an incredible house in a beautiful little town that I love.  I have every right to coast for the rest of my life, but  the idea of that – that I’m no longer under construction, that this me is “it” – that idea is so scary and empty and depressing that I know I have some serious work to do.

So I walked out of that therapy session with a phone number in my pocket, wearing a diagnosis, a different paradigm, like an unfamiliar haircut.  It seemed weird, and like some kind of cop-out, to just say, okay.  I’m depressed. But then again…life shouldn’t be this hard.  And especially the food thing.  It’s one thing to struggle with food, and all that, and I always have.  But to gain 40 pounds in 6 months?  That is kinda scary, don’t you think?  When I thought of that I started to feel a little bit relieved.  As in, maybe all of this isn’t my fault, or my personality, or my destiny.  Because it has been really crazy hard just to eat healthily and feel like a normal human who has a right to be here.

I’m pretty suggestible, so for a few days I felt around in my psyche to find the sore, depressed parts. Ow!  They’re there.  After a few days, I got right on board with the idea.  Psychiatrist, meds, sure, okay let’s go.  But then there was the getting in touch with the shrink and the words I dread when I call for an appointment: “His next available…” You could be dying and there will be somebody on the end of the phone telling you his “next available” is sometime next YEAR.

His next available is the week after next.  Sixteen days away.  Knowing how long it takes the meds to kick in, the possibility that I might have to try a few before I see any benefit, and how crappy I am realizing I feel… well, grrreat.  So I am trying to implement every old school depression lifter that I know of.  Fish oil.  Exercise.  Singing.  Sunshine (it’s supposed to rain cats and dogs here until SUNDAY, thank you God.  Yes, that was sarcasm; the Lord has heard it from me before).  Friends, support, expressing my feelings.  Salmon, chocolate, bunnies, whatever.  What choice do I have?

Sixteen days.

Yeah, I’m still here.  I won’t bore you with my how-do-I-blog-after-infertility ruminations since you’ve probably heard it all before.

I just made an appointment at the local clinic to start the process for conceiving baby #2.  Woo hoo.  I have agonized over this for several reasons.

Reason 1.  We are old.  Is it ethical to go out of our way to have children when we are so damn old?  We have to go out of our way no matter what, of course.  I often do the “when he’s 20, I’ll be 66” calculations and I don’t even do them for my husband anymore.  (He is even older than I).   With regard to being old, I feel more sanguine about it now that we have survived the first several months of baby #1.  It’s not as hard as we thought it would be.  The demands of pregnancy and labor,  lack of sleep, the physical demands of carrying a little one around, the emotional stress, the financial cost.  None of it has been as hard as I feared.

It’s sticky for anyone to start wondering if it’s “ethical” to bring a child into the world.  We all bring deep flaws to the table, and any of us with a drop of humility can find good reasons why we might not do a perfect job at parenting.  Expand those flaws to include a less-than-perfect balance sheet, less than ideal genes, and /or the state of the world that our kids will inherit, and we can all talk ourselves right out of reproducing at all.  While I am sad to think that my kids might not have a dad once they hit their thirties, I don’t think I want to be childless because of it, and so we went ahead with kid #1.  Now that he is here, we hope to balance things with a sibling.  At least if we are gone from his life too soon, he’ll have some family.

Reason 2.  I’m scared.  I’d be a fool if I were not scared.  Having a pregnancy, delivery and then another baby to care for is so huge.  And knowing how scary deep the love for a child can go is sobering.  Any miscarriage or other loss would hurt ten times more since I now know so much more about what we would lose.  And knowing how much trouble a perfectly healthy child is makes me terrified of what life would be like with a medically fragile or disabled child.

Reason 3.  I’m fat.  This is actually the only reason that has truly given me pause  (apparently the other two are just recreational agonizing, at which I excel).  I am still exploring the outer margins of my fatness, i.e. with intuitive eating, trying to accept the body I have today, and questioning every automatic assumption that fat is unhealthy / disgustingly unattractive / shameful.  All that is going well.  My hope is that it will go so “well” that I start to “transition to my natural weight.”  Meaning I would like to “transition” out of being so effing fat.  The idea of going through another pregnancy at this high weight is scary.  I don’t know whether to hope that I am just as sick during this pregnancy as I was before, since that prevents me from gaining weight…. or to hope that I actually have a halfway enjoyable pregnancy.  The really sick part of me keeps whispering that getting pregnant again might be a great way to LOSE extra weight.  Heh heh.. yeah, I know.  Sick.

Eh.  The trouble, for me, comes when I consider the perfectly sensible idea that taking off some of this weight would be especially helpful if I become pregnant again.  It’s a really short trip from that concept to the idea that I don’t deserve another child if I can’t take some weight off.

I should know that willpower doesn’t take off weight any more than relaxing makes babies.  And I should know that if I could have magically resolved my eating / food / fat issues to pursue some incentive or greater good, I would have by now.  I should know that babies come through persistence, luck, God’s will, medical intervention, and all or some of the above – in ways no one can fathom.  I should know that they do NOT come because we earn them through prayer or good works or relaxing or adopting or focusing on our careers.  For me, they don’t even come from SEX.  I should know all that… I do know all that… but I don’t seem to know it by heart.

So, even though I do not want to get pregnant today / this week / this month, I made the appointment to start the process.  If I wait any longer to do so, it will start to feel like it felt when I was 9 / 11/ 13/ 15 years old, with my mother continually suggesting that we wait until I lose weight to buy new clothes.  Nope.  Not going down that road… instead I’m trying a new tack: compassion.  I’d love to be thinner before I get pregnant again, and since I had to wait through six IVFs for the first pregnancy, I think I’ve got time to eat some broccoli and lift some weights before it happens again.  If it happens sooner than we think, well, then I’ll just be one of those annoying people who got pregnant sooner than she expected to, and you can all hate me.

The appointment is week after next.

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?

Here’s the thing.

I have always struggled with my weight.  I have been on a diet since I was, oh, nine or ten.  I remember going to Weight Watchers and being the only kid there.  I did a liquid protein diet the summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school and lost about 60 pounds.   I did some other Big Diets like Nutri-System and Diet Center.  I did some more esoteric diets like: I spent my senior year of high school on black beauties and Tab, and just a few years ago I lost ten pounds by drinking a liter of sugar water several times a day.  I have weighed as much as 250 pounds, then gradually lost about 90 of that over ten years (my thirties).  I became a healthy eater, a marathon runner, and a bit of a nazi after that.  I went to Overeaters Anonymous and gave up sugar for several years.  The healthy eating knowledge and some of the habits stuck, as did the regular exercising, thank God.  The abstinence from sugar, the extreme control over what goes in my mouth, and the weight loss did not stay.

I have the genes for overweight which includes the body type – quick to add muscle, quick to add fat – and I have the love-of-sugar gene (I have read that there is one).  I also have the food obsession, which may or may not be genetic.  I am halfway through Frank Bruni’s “I Was a Baby Bulimic” from last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine and boy do I know what he’s talking about.  I don’t remember much about my childhood but I remember the food in living, intimate detail.  I know that my overeating is always at the root of my fat – I’m not blaming mysterious metabolic issues or genes – but I also have some serious physical and emotional pathologies to deal with.  I’m not one of those people who put on a few pounds in college, took them off after making a few “lifestyle changes” and lived slim and happy ever after.  Those people love to give me advice and I wish they would stop.it.right.now.

Anyway.  I have dieted and dieted and agonized and worried and dieted some more.  When I was a kid I used to fantasize about cutting the fat from my body with a knife.  People, I am done.

I have had my consciousness raised and the revolution has come.  I have read “Intuitive Eating” (Tribole and Resch).  I have read all of Geneen Roth, particularly “Why Weight,” and “When Food is Love.”  I am now reading “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies” (Munter and Hirschmann) which is the basis for their “Overcoming Overeating” program.

These books are amazing to me.  I was raised to hate and fear fat, food, and (sadly) myself.  I was taught that fat is ugly and disgusting.  When I was 14 years old my father sat me down and told me “you need to keep in mind that the boys won’t like you because you’re fat.”  I have never understood until now, more than 30 years later, why if being fat was the worst thing that could happen to me, I continued to eat in a way to make sure that it does.

“When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies” is the most revolutionary book of them all.  In addition to illustrating the failure of diets, this book makes it clear that hating and fearing fat is a choice that I do not have to make.

I have heard this before.  We all have.  How to wear a pretty scarf to “draw the eye” away from my huge ass.  How to look in the mirror and “find something” to like, as if saying “I have pretty hair” makes up for all the real estate from the neck down.  How to “dress for my body type.”  It’s all about camouflage, finding something that “flatters,” accentuating the positive because there is so much that is negative.

Forget that.

I weight 224 pounds today.  (I think).  I’m not getting on the scale very much these days.  I am about a size 18 except in the area of my belly which is always a size ahead of the rest of me.  After putting on more than 20 pounds since my baby was born, which is only six months ago, I’m not crazy about being this size.  My feet hurt and my back hurts and I notice the extra pounds many times a day.  But I am done hating myself.  I am trying to learn to stem the rush of self-hate, shame and disgust that rises like bile in the back of my throat every time I see myself in the mirror.  It’s hard but I am getting somewhere.

I am angry about this.  Who says that being fat, and not just fat like me but fatter than model-skinny, is so bad?  Not me.  People are pulling the strings somewhere about what I should look like and it’s designed to be impossible and out of reach for most of us.  One body type rules us, regardless of our genes, regardless of the real unique beauty each of us brings.  Why do we put up with it?  Because make no mistake, we do.   We women are self-policing.  Most men don’t hate our fat nearly as much as we do.  We tell ourselves that men aren’t attracted to us when our bodies aren’t perfect, but look around you.  There are big fat women going home with men who can’t wait to jump their bones regardless of (because of?) the jiggle.

So: I am done.  I am done dieting.  I am done hating myself.  I am done wearing black, unless it’s what I feel like wearing.  I am done letting other people violate my boundaries by telling me what’s wrong with my body, what’s wrong with the way I look, what I should eat, what I should not eat.

And by the way, even though I am probably fifty pounds over a “healthy weight,” my blood pressure as of yesterday is 112/70.  My resting pulse is 70.  My aerobic and strength assessments are in the “fit” category.  My cholesterol and triglycerides are in the healthy range.  I have never had an abnormal blood sugar reading, pregnant or not.  I don’t love being this weight and I hope it changes, in due time.  But I am healthier than a lot of people who are a “healthy weight,” right this minute.  There are legitimate health concerns that accompany obesity for some, but one size (as usual) does not fit all.

None of this is easy.  “Dare” to be fat is the right word, because it’s a huge, risky step for me.  There is a ton of emotional drama that accompanies leaving myself alone, accepting myself today, and letting go of the “when I am thin” dreams.  The idea of eating what I want, legalizing all foods, and learning to stop when I am full, is terrifying.  The conventional wisdom says I will eat and never stop, gain and never stop, and that my loss of control will somehow drown me and devour the world.

But I keep hearing the gravelly voice of Judd Hirsch as Dr. Berger in “Ordinary People:”

“Control is a tough nut.”

Indeed it is.  I have little to lose (gain) since I have lost zero pounds on every diet I have tried for the last four years.  I have been to Weight Watchers three times and gained weight each time.  Like Dr. Berger, I am no longer a big fan of control.  Controlling my eating, controlling the shape of my body in the ways we have been taught to do since we picked up our first copy of “Seventeen” magazine, controlling the ways the world sees me.  It does not work and I am done.

Yesterday I saw a skirt, one of those crinkly hippie skirts.  The colors called to me across the store.  It starts out orange and then becomes pink, and then purple.  The darkest color is at the bottom, while the bright orange hits me right across the belly.  It probably will not camouflage my “figure flaws.”

I bought it.  I am done apologizing.

And guess what?  This eating what I want, wearing what I want, and “losing control”  is what’s going to save me, body and soul.  It’s going to restore me.  My weight is already stabilizing and will eventually return to a healthy level.

The revolution is here and I like it.

Next time: I’ll talk about the food part.

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