Monday, January 13, 2014

Weighty Matters

Our weight is a pretty sensitive thing, isn't it? I had 16 years of sweet ignorance before the lifelong, society-induced battle caught up with me.

I have two siblings and fortunately for them, they inherited my dad's "eat anything, never gain weight" metabolism. I was not so lucky, as I inherited my mom's "look at cake, gain weight" metabolism.

When I was a kid, you would have assumed I was going to end up like my siblings. I was tall and slender, with skinny arms and legs. Then the big P hit: puberty. Still, I really didn't think about my weight. I remember being proud every time I stepped on the scale and the number had gone up. At the CNE one year, I played a Guess Your Weight? game thing. I think the guesser thought I was 100lbs but I was actually 114, and I was absurdly proud that I was heavier than I looked.

Me at 14, terrible at accessorizing

In high school, I started gaining about 5+ pounds a year. I still thought I looked pretty good, though. I'd never cared about my weight before.

The year I was 16, I remember having a conversation with one of my friends. I can't remember what we were talking about, but I remember she told me I had "a little extra to pinch" or something like that. I'd never, ever thought of myself as fat before and suddenly, someone was telling me I was, kind of. At the time I was probably 125-130lbs (I'm 5'5½"), so obviously not even "kind of" fat, but I didn't see that at the time. All I saw was hips, thighs, stomach. I started internally freaking out. No longer did I pass over myself in the mirror when dressing, I started scrutinizing everything and deciding I hated my entire midsection, mainly my hips. Before writing this, I went through my journal at that time of my life. I wrote long tangents about how much I hated my body.

That summer, I started an extreme regimen to get skinny. I tried to eat as little as possible, and bike as far as possible every day. I wrote down everything I ate and felt proud when my calories reached only a few hundred that day. I would bike 2+ hours a day as fast as I could handle. A very slippery slope, and I knew it. I must have gotten distracted or bored with it, fortunately, because that was my only foray into disordered eating and exercising. Interestingly, looking at my journal during this time, I talk frequently about how I felt close to having a nervous breakdown. Our family was having huge, loud, mean blow-out fights nearly everyday. My family was always threatening to send me away to a group home. I hated my mom and my brother, and screamed at them constantly. I hated everything going on around me. I will admit, I was a difficult teenager. I never realized until tonight that the disordered weight obsession mirrored dysfunctional family fights (my parents separated a year later, BTW). How I never developed a full-fledged mental illness escapes me, although as a teenager I always felt I wasn't normal. I think my frequent volunteering at the community theatre and my determination to move out fought off what could have been a lot worse for me.

Me, on the far right, at 16. Not a great photo but the only one I can find from when I was 16.


At some point later on when I became a "woman," I realized I needed to learn to love my body, because somebody said so. I don't think I've ever achieved this. I don't think I know how, I don't know if I'm capable of it. I don't even know if I agree it's necessary. I know I feel proud of myself when I lift weights, but love? That's a strong word. I don't hate my body anymore, I guess I just feel ambivalent towards it. I know I love cake, and my feelings about my body don't even come close to how I feel about cake.

In the 12 years since I was 16, my weight has fluctuated about 20lbs up and down. I get serious about being healthy, but then cake. In the past 5 months, I have learned that the way I naturally want to eat leads to weight gain, and it's a long road trying to change that.

Today I stand 123lbs, less than what I weighed at 16, and I do not love my body. In fact, its continued flabbiness and my continued dissatisfaction over it bother me deeply when I look in the mirror. I still hate my hips. Honestly, I thought I would look better at 123lbs. This is a number that 5 short months ago, I would have been fucking ECSTATIC about seeing on the scale. And now that it's here? Meh. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I'm here, but a switch didn't flip inside me where suddenly I loved my body. I think that's a very popular misconception with weight loss. It's not a magic wand that fixes all your problems. You just become a skinnier you with the same problems. That said, I don't think I have "problems" per se, just a continued dissatisfaction with how I look.

This year, one of my new year's resolutions is to start lifting weights again. It's amazing what feeling physically strong can do for your self-confidence and not to mention, for carrying in the groceries. The weight lifting needs to wait until I have less pain in my jaw, though. In the meantime, I'm going to try and think of something positive about myself whenever I catch myself staring disappointedly in the mirror. Maybe I might even learn to like my body more, I don't know. All I know is I need to do something or I will end up gaining all the weight back and learning nothing.

Anyway, I don't think I even really touched on what I meant to talk about when starting this entry. I meant it to be less about me and more about people in general, but alas, I'm not very good at talking about people in general. I hope this doesn't come off sounding like I'm still 16 years old, and I especially hope you don't think I'm pushing some kind of "omg u gotta love urself!! real women have curves!" agenda, because I'm not. This is simply a history of me and my weight. And before you harass me in the comments, no, I don't think I'm fat. I've actually never thought I was fat, just flabbier than desired.

Me as a toddler, picking my nose and sucking my thumb: exactly zero fucks given.

2 comments:

  1. Not sure which is my favorite part. This line: I get serious about being healthy, but then cake. Or the last photo and its comment. :)

    I get ya. I really do. I have lost 155lbs yet still look in the mirror and see my flaws. I really think I would benefit from more time with the mental health worker that visits town. I spent a year with her discussing body issues and eating after my sleeve surgery and it was so helpful. But then demand for her got high, I got deemed normal, and punted. Damn it.

    So how do you get to the bottom of your dissatisfaction? What makes you dissatisfied other than the general flabbiness? Is there something else in your life that is upsetting you that is coming out through this? We talked a lot about that with my mental health worker and it was amazing the reasons I ended up learning about why I was dissatisfied with my body. I now think 30 years of low self esteem and learning to hide my feelings from the world is my main reason for looking at myself and still just focusing on the flaws. I am working hard to acknowledge those feelings so I don't eat to bury them, and at the same time, trying to change the way I think about myself when I look in the mirror. It is fucking hard though.

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  2. This is such a hard topic to talk about. Kudos to you for writing about it so openly and honestly.

    It was hard for me to come to terms with the idea that there wasn't some perfect weight or shape I could get to that would make me totally happy. In fact, when I used to diet and lose weight periodically, it was always at my thinnest that I hated my body the most, when I was the most conscious of my "flaws" and angry at myself for any perceived dietary infraction. For me, the big shift was discovering the health at any size/fat activism movement and stopping dieting for good.

    Still, I hate the idea that you're supposed to "love your body." My goal is something more like indifference--I want to enjoy food and be healthy and strong enough to do all the things I like doing and not waste time or energy worrying about being any particular size or shape. At least for me, that's always a work in progress.

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