Wednesday, 31 December 2008


I've been away from the blog for, oh, nearly a couple of months now. It wasn't deliberate, it was just that things were going so well that I didn't have much to say. Well, they still are. I haven't had a binge since September. I haven't even thought about a binge since September, except when saying things like "I haven't had a binge since September". Oh, I ate too much over Christmas, but it was just because there was too much there, and there was no compulsion. I'm still working on the plate-cleaning-even-though-full issue, but it's getting smaller.

I'm doing really, really well. I've even lost a little weight, for whatever that's worth.

Which is, of course, when the boom falls.

This morning I went to the doctor and was advised that (a) I have very high cholesterol, (b) I have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and (c) my fasting blood glucose test was so high that it had to be retested because it was reading diabetic. So I may, in fact, BE diabetic. If the blood I gave this morning comes back all glucose-y, then no doubt I'll have to do whatever other tests they have, but diabetes is a definite possibility.

And I just.

What the hell?

The truth is, all this stuff (well, not the PCOS) runs in my family. My father is diabetic. My sister is a Type I diabetic. I should probably have expected this, sooner or later.

The truth is, the PCOS is probably what prompted my last major weight gain back in 2004, when I gained about sixty pounds, but hardly noticed it because I was used to gaining weight and blaming myself. This is also when my menstrual cycle went horribly wrong – the doctor says my androgen levels are so high that I couldn't even be ovulating at the moment.

The truth is, I'm suddenly terrified, and I'm struggling with the fact that I cannot, I cannot undo all the good work I've done this year, and yet I'm now in a situation in which not modifying my diet is pretty much out of the question, especially if I want to normalise my body enough to conceive next year.

So the big question for 2009 is going to be this: how do I maintain my hard-won sanity and yet improve my physical health in specifically dietary ways?

Happy New Year...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

for better, for worse...

Here are some ways you can tell I'm getting better:

1. The desire to binge is largely gone. Until the other tonight, I hadn't thought about it in weeks. WEEKS. That was really good. But it's not completely gone, and it will come back if I don't stay vigilant about refusing conversations with myself about how I could lose weight.

2. I'm doing non-incidental exercise regularly for the first time in years. It may be "just" yoga, but it's making a difference. I'm more flexible already, and I want to sit and lie in entirely different ways because suddenly those ways are no longer comfortable.

3. I'm actually feeling hunger on a regular basis because I'm usually not eating until I get hungry, rather than just because now is the time for food.

4. The incidence of me snacking in the afternoon because of boredom has dropped significantly.

5. I no longer cringe at calling myself or being called "fat". I did cringe when my husband described himself as "grossly overweight" after a visit to the doctor (don't know if that was their word or his own), but I think that's because "grossly" implies a world of disapproval and loathing which I find really distasteful.

Here are some ways you can tell I'm still getting better:

1. Over the past few days, the diet talk has been sneaking into my brain again, mostly around, "my friend is getting married in a bit under a year, if I do X, Y and Z, I bet I could be a size 20 by then...". The result? Had a bit of an unreasonable incursion into the ice cream the other night. And it wasn't the normal "I just want a little more ice cream" kind. Alas, I know the difference only too well. I think the problem is that I've been doing so well that I started to think that having conversations with myself about how "I could be looking in X time if I would only do Y" wouldn't be destructive. I was wrong. It is. There's not a genuine difference between me being able to look at size 20 bodies and think "I want one of those because mine isn't good enough as it is" and between doing the same thing with a size 6 body. It's not okay for me to idealise a smaller body, even if that smaller body doesn't seem as unrealistic as a size 6. And it's not okay because as far as I've come - and I have - I am still recovering from an eating disorder, and "recovering" doesn't mean "cured". Recovering means that when you start having conversations with yourself about how doing X, Y and Z will make you even a little thinner, it isn't very long before you've eaten all the ice cream and feel terrible because you've eaten all the ice cream and are still fat.

And there's the other aspect, which is that when I start thinking like this, I stop exercising again. I'm well aware that there's more than a little Mary Quite Contrary going on here, but that's the way it works for me. If I think I'm exercising to lose weight, I stop doing it. And I am really proud of how far I've come in terms of moving my body. The last thing I want is to lose that ground because I've taken it for granted.

2. I still have to consciously stop myself mid-thought about losing weight in any capacity whether it's because I'm getting more exercise or eating in a less crazy way or what. I still have to say "stop" and force myself to turn around. It's working, I think - hence the reduction in binge eating - but the neural pathways are still there and still run automatically if I'm not careful.

3. I haven't yet learned to deal with feeling full. Some months ago, I saw a post in which a fat activist was decrying Paul McKenna's "I Can Make You Thin". In my newbie innocence, I slightly defended as being pretty close to intuitive eating (which, actually, it is in a lot of ways, though there's a fundamental assumption that thinner is inherently better which isn't good, and McKenna never clarifies that people may just find that their natural weight is higher than they think it should be). She wasn't terribly impressed with the defence because it included the notion of eating consciously, and she considered that an unreasonable expectation. I get what she was saying. Maybe it is, if the "full" sign pops up in your head in a normal way.

But you see, I've never really learned to stop eating. I stop when there's nothing left. And the consciousness is important because if I'm reading or watching TV or whatever, I'm not paying attention to what my body is saying, and I breeze past it. Not to mention, reading or watching TV or whatever is how I have always, always disguised binges - from myself, I mean, not from others. I don't binge in company, generally speaking. But paying close attention to other things has always meant that I haven't had to pay attention to the actual process of eating. And while I've come a very long way in relation to binge eating, I still treat my meals with this same attitude, that they're something to hide, to just tuck out of the way and pretend didn't happen.

Turning off all the distractions and paying attention to my food and what my body is saying in response to it...well, I'm not there yet, but I think this part is going to be as important as breaking the connection between exercise and weight loss. It is hard.

4. I will still eat food at any time if it's there. See point 3. I am no longer going to look for food as a distraction (mostly), but that won't stop me from eating whatever is in my drawer.

5. I have stopped worrying so much about being fat (well, had, till I let the "I could be X by Y" thing get off the ground again), but I have instead started to worry about how I'm going to look if, with all this progress and exercise, I lose weight and my stomach deflates like a beach ball.

So there we go. This is a hard process, and I have to keep working at it constantly. And then I have to keep reminding myself that I'm working at it constantly so that I don't just start giving myself a hard time because I'm fat or because I'm failing.

Of course, the biggest problem at times is that I don't know if I'm going to have to keep working at it constantly for the rest of my life. And I get tired.

Monday, 20 October 2008

this post will whittle your waist

I have for some time been endeavouring to get myself back into the habit of doing yoga regularly. I say "back into the habit", but it's been more than ten years since I did it regularly, and even then, it was only twice a week. I did love it then, though. Unfortunately, the kind of yoga, Oki Yoga, I loved seems to be practised only in Japan and Australia, and therefore I can't find a class for it in the UK.

But I have a good DVD in the form of Megan Garcia's Just My Size Yoga, and a good book, to wit, Barbara Currie's Look 15 Years Younger. I am trying to get into doing the first fifteen minute workout in the Currie book every day, mostly because I'm terribly stiff and my back hurts.

Now, overall, I'm making great strides here. I am learning how to concentrate on how I'm feeling while I'm in the posture, and not spend the whole fifteen minutes wishing it was over (which is my usual exercise MO), and the postures in the workout are great for me.

You can tell there's a but coming, can't you?

It's this: Barbara Currie puts a blurb on every single goddamn posture saying how it will make you thinner. It will "whittle your waist", "tone your midriff", "firm those jiggly arms", "tighten your thighs", "smooth out double chins" and "get rid of those saddle bags". Apparently doing fifteen minutes of yoga a day is going to turn me into a supermodel. Well, I suppose it's to be expected in a book called Look 15 Years Younger.

This is a problem for me. I am ignoring it as best I can, because I like everything else about the workout, but it's irritating me. A lot.

Exercise and I have never been good buddies. I am basically a great slow-moving coelacanth*. I do not like to move quickly, I do not like to sweat, I do not like discomfort, and I do not like to be out of breath. It's more than that, though. It's always been a terrible combination of wanting very badly for things to "work", i.e. "make me lose weight", and stopping doing them very quickly if they don't work, and stopping just as quickly if they do. I have had programmes that actually did start to show the kind of results I was after at the time, and I still didn't keep doing them.

But I've been getting better, I really have, and you can tell because I've actually got some motivation to exercise that has nothing to do with what will "work" in terms of losing weight or not. But it's the very absence of that obsession with what will "work" that makes it actually possible for me to work out. Put another way, it simply does not work for me to exercise with the goal of becoming thinner. Ever. That has the exact same outcome as trying to limit what I eat with the goal of becoming thinner: insanity. But I can just about exercise to make my back feel better, or to learn greater connection with the emotions my body is storing. I can do it on what is, essentially, neutral territory. Step outside that zone, however, and you start triggering all kinds of wackiness, and the end result is that I stop exercising. And we don't want that, because (a) exercise is good for you, (b) I'm in pain, and (c) I want to be a healthier person, and a significant way to do that is getting more exercise. And you know, I'm not getting any younger, and all the things that are bothering me physically now are pretty likely to get worse, not better, as I get older.

So when I come across these paragraphs in this otherwise very useful book (I'm completely ignoring the diet section, but I really do like the workouts) which tell me how thin doing yoga is going to make me, it's weirdly demotivating. It's also total bullshit, because yoga may make you more flexible, stronger and probably more toned, but in my experience, fifteen minutes of stretching is not going to make you thinner. Hopefully, it'll make my spine fifteen years younger, but it's hardly going to turn me into an eighteen year old. And it shouldn't. I'm thirty three. That should be okay with me. And I'm fat, and I have to learn to be completely okay with that, because it's the only way I can stay sane.

And Jesus Christ, if YOGA can't be an exercise done mainly because of how it affects your feelings and your health, rather than your damn appearance, what can? It's yoga. It's not supposed to be about freaking beauty, for God's sake. Of any exercise, it's supposed to be a whole person experience, not just for whittling your waist or whatever, but for uniting your mind, body and spirit, and making your body function as best it can until you're an old, old lady with dyed purple hair and a face which is a mass of wrinkles, and who doesn't give a shit about how she looks but is really, really bendy. And dude, my mind gets really distracted by the notion that my experience of uniting said mind, body and spirit is supposed to be about making me thinner. That doesn't unite anything, except my neuroses.

I vastly prefer the attitude of Just My Size Yoga, wherein Megan Garcia has a tummy and arms and thighs and all those things Barbara Currie wants me to believe will magically melt away with her workouts, and is doing the yoga because it makes her feel good. But I'm more likely to do fifteen minutes a day than thirty, and, as I keep saying, I like the workouts in the book. I can actually feel them helping my back and my feet.

I am seriously considering taking the Tipp-Ex to the book. I can't have Barbara Currie's sales techniques getting in the way of me actually improving my life, and since I really like the workout I've been doing, I don't want to have to give that up because the person who wrote it thinks that whittling one's waist is more important than easing one's spine. I don't want this to be yet another thing that I quit because it's failing to perform magic. I don't want to be thinking about magic. I just want to have that goddamn fifteen minutes of connecting with my body. That's a miracle in itself.

*This isn't self-deprecation, it's just a quote from a play (Away, by Michael Gow) that entertains me every time I say it, so I keep saying it at inopportune moments.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

eating is not moral deviance

I have of late been talking to my sister about the question of fat acceptance - not in so many words, but we've had quite a long email discussion about privilege and fat stereotypes and all that kind of thing. And I'm fascinated to discover that she has, completely independently of me and my own experiences, and without any body image issues of her own, come to the conclusion that my mother has some issues with body image:

Mum has a terrible problem with acceptance of different body types. What’s interesting is that for a not particularly material person, she places a terrible emphasis on appearance. Dad’s, yours, mine, her own. She has this terrible habit of gushing over the way I look. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look good but I never, never want to be SEEN for what I look like, if that makes sense. My face and body is not ME – not who I am. And you’re right, the nagging has the exact opposite effect than the one she wants. Dad, I think, has a binge/secret eating habit as well, actually – so you’re not alone with having had that impulse. I will definitely mention that statistic [note: I told her about the 95-98% failure rate for diets] next it comes up. It really bothers me actually, as she honestly has no idea how to feed a diabetic anyway and HE rebels against her and eats even worse things. Plus, it’s not doing anyone any good. It makes her mad and him withdrawn and ashamed. Not healthy.

Then this morning, I had a conversation with my mother, and in amongst all the other things we talked about, she started going on about how she and Dad had eaten a lot at some event, so now they were trying to lose some extra pounds (she thinks all my dad's pounds are extra, but hey) so they could go to Fiji and eat. But she's been told that in Fiji, they give you lots of salads and things, so you can eat a lot and still be "good".

I told her I couldn't talk to her about dieting or the supposed morality of food, for my own peace of mind, and she was a bit non-plussed.

"I was just telling you what was going on for me," she said.

And that's fair enough, I suppose. But God, I just do not want to have conversations with anyone, however much I care about them, in which eating features as morally deviant, or something you need to suffer for doing. I can't do it. I hate it. I hate the smugness in my mother's voice when she talks like this, because she has no freaking clue how hard it is for me or, apparently, my father, to treat food in a healthy way. I hate how she can't even grasp what I'm trying to say to her when I say that I can't talk about food in moral terms. I hate that she thinks that talking about HER weight losing diet is okay with me, even though we can't talk about mine. I hate that she thinks that her eating disordered daughter should be supporting her in "losing a few pounds" because, all eating disorders to the contrary, losing weight is a fundamental moral good.

I mean, Jesus H. Christ, lady, the result of your attitudes was that you fucked up my relationship with food, possibly for life. What am I supposed to say? "That's fantastic, you've achieved the only thing in life that matters"? This is a harsh reaction, I know, and it wasn't one that I shared with my mother. But it's so frustrating, when I see myself coming such a distance, to realise that, despite knowing what her attitudes have cost me, she is still in exactly the same place mentally that she was twenty two years ago on the subject of "excess" weight. If she suddenly found herself in charge of a slightly chubby eleven year old, she would probably take exactly the same path of trying to make her thinner. I wish she could just enjoy her food in Fiji without needing to lose a few compensatory pounds beforehand, and without justifying the kind of food that is available in Fiji. I wish she didn't seem to feel that enjoying eating a lot could only be morally acceptable if she made herself (and her husband) suffer beforehand.

I suppose, though, this is another sign of recovery. I'm genuinely feeling increasingly detached from the goal of weight loss. Oh, I'm keener than ever on being healthy - not least because we have decided that we'll start trying for a baby in a year or two and I want to make sure I'm up to that physically - but the message that exercise is good for its own sake, and that it's okay to do a bunch of work for your health and never lose a pound is finally starting to sink in so that I believe it. And that has taken some doing, let me tell you.

There is still, I'll admit, a strong temptation to think about my efforts to be healthier as a way to fool myself into thinking that I'm just trying to be healthy, but SECRETLY I'll be trying to lose weight. I have the most tortuous, circuitous mind in the world. But I'm cutting that off at the pass more often, and I think I'm finally starting to understand it emotionally as well as intellectually.

I just wish my mother was on the same page.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


I have a confession to make.

The first thing I thought when I saw this was not "that's an appalling load of bollocks". That was the third thought.

The first thought was: "I'll bet I'd qualify for that. I didn't realise you could get it on the NHS. I wonder if I should ask my doctor..."

The second thought was: "Jesus H. Christ, what the hell am I even thinking?"

Then we got the one about the bollocks.

But it's amazing, really, how I can be thinking about recovery consciously so much of the time these days, and yet I see something like that and my kneejerk reaction is "OMG RLY?" Really? You could fix me? You could just cut me open and mess around and I'd be thinner?

If I thought it would really be that easy, I'm ashamed to say, I'd probably do it. That's hardly fat accepting, but, as I've mentioned before, I'm not all the way there yet. Intellectually, I'm sold. Emotionally, it's still a hard slog.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

the story of me

This isn't actually the story of me, because that is long and not very exciting. This, rather, is a look at how powerful The Story Of Me is in maintaining my eating problems.

Okay, it's going to start with a bit of the story of me. Here it is: I discovered Geneen Roth over a decade ago. Until that time, I really had no awareness of myself as a person with an eating disorder. I just thought I was fat and greedy and lazy and had no self control. And then I read When Food Is Love, and I spent the whole book thinking "THIS IS THE STORY OF ME!"

And that changed a lot of things. I stopped doing diets most of the time. I still bought the books, still planned to eat less, but I gave myself permission to eat, mostly. It helped a bit, though not enough.

But since that time, The Story of Me has had a significant plotline which is "The Story Of How I Have An Eating Disorder". It's a fairly confessional storyline - I tell people about it with the air of confiding a secret, though I don't know why. It's also a story I tell to myself a lot, mostly under the subtitle of "The Story Of Why I'm So Fat".

I have other plotlines, of course: there's "The Story Of Being A Recovering Christian", "The Story Of Suffering Two Major Depressions", "The Story Of Finally Meeting Someone Who Fancies Me" (there's a subplot of this story in which it turns out a number of people fancied me, but I was too dense and too insecure to notice it), and "The Story Of How I Write Books But Never Send Them To Anyone". The Story Of Me is pretty big and complicated, and has many twists and turns, but it does tend to keep coming back to "The Story Of How I Have An Eating Disorder".

And lately, with my ways of dealing with that eating disorder changing, and the subsequent mysterious backlash, I'm wondering a bit how much really trying to recover is setting itself up opposite The Story Of Me. By which I mean, how is recovery affecting my identity? And how is my identity, my self-told story, wrestling against my recovery, because it changes the whole damn story?

I've been telling this story for a really long time, both to myself and to others. I extend it far back in time to being a barely adolescent girl with enormous breasts and a mother who didn't understand that bodies are different. I've been flinging it out ahead of myself into the future. I have an eating disorder, I have had it, I will have it...

But for how long? And what happens if my recovery goes from recovery to recovered?

Now, truth be told, I am both navel-gazer and self-sabotager extraordinaire, so I manage to combine self-awareness with total failure to let myself get anywhere on a fairly regular basis. So I wonder if part of this weirdly conscious little relapse I'm having at the moment, where, having noticed actual progress, I'm having to make double the effort to stay conscious that I was before, is to do with the fact that The Story Of Me, at least the version I've been reading, hasn't ever toyed with a chapter which explores "The Story Of How I Got Better". Or "The Story Of How I Do Not Binge Eat Any More But Am Still Fat". That's quite a scary story for a person with an eating disorder - the whole of my story of eating problems revolves around "The Story Of How I Do Not Want To Be Fat". I'm working on changing that one, but the edits are far from finished.

But yesterday, for example, my acupuncturist was suggesting that I needed to avoid certain foods to help strengthen my spleen because that is causing some pretty enormous menstrual problems. (I don't know what that all means, but it works pretty well, so who am I to argue?) And I said, yes, that sounds fine, but just so you know, restricting my eating is an issue for me, because I Have An Eating Disorder.

Now, on one level, there's nothing wrong with that - she's suggesting dietary changes, I'm pointing out that it isn't that simple for me, which it isn't, and that although I will be aware of this and do what I can, I'm not promising anything.

But at the same time, she's not suggesting dietary changes so that I lose weight. This is the Chinese medicine version of saying telling me I'm allergic to wheat or I'm diabetic. There are dietary restrictions which are necessary to a person's ongoing survival and physical comfort that might or might not result in weight loss, but for which that weight loss is a totally irrelevant side effect. And you would think, actually, that mostly avoiding cheese and sugar and eating thick vegetable soups would be a relatively small price to pay to stop having five week long periods, especially since I like vegetable soup. And it would be, except that this is "The Story Of How I Have An Eating Disorder", and in this story, our heroine is incapable of taking any action at all that might hypothetically under certain circumstances possibly lead to weight loss even if they don't start out being for that purpose without eating everything in town. So she doesn't do that, and that leads to a certain level of control, and that's fine. (Sort of. This is the same story that led to me stopping doing an exercise activity which was definitely changing the amount of energy I had because I was also noticing a little weight loss. This is a powerfully confusing and contradictory story.)

But it's ignoring "The Story Of How I Have Menstrual Problems", and the advice of someone who has treated me for a number of things over a long period of time and knows pretty well what she's talking about. But part of my own story is that I hear "less dairy and sweets", and I don't think "normal menstrual cycle and more energy". I think "Jesus H Christ, what if I lose weight?" and then I freak out because that is both too wonderful (according to "The Story Of How I Don't Want To Be Fat") and too terrifying to be believed in.

I really am totally fucking bugnuts, aren't I?

I think I need to start working on a different story, really. Maybe it's called "The Story Of How I Used To Have An Eating Disorder". Or maybe it doesn't mention the eating disorder at all. Maybe it's "The Story Of How I Am Healthy And Don't Overdo The Dairy Products Because They Cause Problems".

As always in this blog, I don't have any great answers. I'm just realising that my recovery isn't just going to be about consciousness (though that's great) or feelings (though they're great too). It's not just going to be about having no limits, or about managing things. It's going to involve a change of identity as well, and a new story to tell myself and others about who I am. In the same way that going from from having a constant internal struggle with my religious beliefs to not believing any of those things completely changed my life, my view of myself and the view of the world, the transition from the eating-disordered story to the recovered story is, I think, going to shake things up a lot.

Occasionally, I really just think all this psychological stuff is just waaaaay too much hard work. But I am hopeful that this new story is going to be a kickass good one.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

anatomy of a conscious binge

Forgive me, folks, for I have backslidden. Backslid?

Except I haven't, really, because this is different.

For some reason, today as I was walking home from work, I felt the strong desire to stock up, go home and eat till I puked. This is the sneakiness of the beast. I'm doing all well and happy, lalala, and boom! I wish to binge.

So I went looking for whatever feeling it was I was trying to displace with food.

Nothing there, apparently. That's the weirdness. I'm not upset, I'm fairly happy right now – I don't want to die rather than go to work, our court case is finished, things are quite good. So why the need (and I say "need" deliberately) for the binge?

So I kept looking, and found only the monstrous dark shape of the binge urge itself, and that kept running off.

I chased. Finally, I collared it, and it swung around and turned out to be less of a dark monster and more of a teenage girl in a hoodie. (I know, this is all getting a bit surreal, just go with me.)

"What's going on?" I said. "Why are you bothering me? I was doing so well."

She pulled some of those faces teenagers pull when they're being asked how their day was, and finally came out with something along the lines of "it's just time, you're due."

Now, part of my entire plan at the moment is that I don't try to force myself not to binge if I really want to, because that results in worse bingeing, so I went to the shop and bought a bunch of stuff, and pondered this question of why and how I could be "due" for a binge.

Prior to today (which we'll get back to in a minute), I haven't had a binge in a couple of weeks. That is pretty amazing going. I've usually not even thought about it, and that really is amazing going. So what is this sudden need that comes from nowhere and nothingness and just says, it's time? Am I that regulated by bingeing? Is this just some kind of maintenance strategy? I need to binge just because I haven't for awhile? Seriously? What the hell??

So anyway, I stocked up. I decided that I could eat as much as I wanted, but I had to pay attention to it while I was doing it, because bingeing and distraction are like peas in a pod for me – you can only have the former wrapped up nicely inside the latter. I had some beef jerky. It was okay, but didn't taste that great, certainly not as good as it tasted in my head. I had a Turkish Delight, which has long been one of my favourite treats, and that was okay, but didn't taste quite right either. And all the time, the hoodie-wearing teenage altar ego of my binge kept muttering, "seriously, you need a book or something, this isn't not working for me."

She was right, it wasn't at all. But I gave it a game old try, and had some crisps. They actually were really nice, but there also seemed to be a lot of them.

And then I had three raspberry liquorice laces. Out of a whole packet, I had three. And now I have completely run out of steam. I still have a bag full of crap, and I just don't even care. I'm also very fascinated by what has just unfolded, so much so I'm not even feeling bad about having a kind of demi-binge. It was educational.

And now I'm sitting here typing this and pondering the question of why I cannot binge consciously.

The truth is, I rarely even eat consciously, but bingeing, dear God, how impossible is it to eat ridiculously large amounts of food when your mind is actually on it? Well, I don't know about you, but for me, it doesn't work. Actually, I think it's the same kind of process as sitting with my emotions. Actually sitting with my crazy sneaky teenage girl of a binge and saying "go right ahead then" resulted in her looking at me askance and sidling off, muttering "well, I didn't really want to do that anyway..."

So what is it about consciousness that changes the way things unfold? What is it about attention that does it? Why do my emotions start tapping their feet and looking at their watches when I give them my full attention? Why does my previously desperate desire to binge huff off when I don't allow myself to immerse my brain in something while I shovel food down my throat? Is it that my attention is that boring, or that all these emotions are kind of like cockroaches who want to scatter when you turn the light on them? I don't know.

I don't really understand this process. I mean, I'm pleased with it – half a binge is not so bad, especially when it ends the way this one has – but I'm confused by it at the same time. Stay tuned to see if I have any epiphanies about it.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

feeling and healing

I am doing well. It's funny to say that. It's rare to say that, mostly because I am extremely pedantic about the truth, and tend to assess every possible thing that could come under the heading of "well" and conclude that, actually, I'm not doing that well. I'm "okay", or "bleh", or, if we're really lucky, "fine".

But with specific reference to my eating disorder, I'm doing well. Actually well. This is radical news. I pointed this out to my husband last night and he said, "yes, I didn't like to say anything, but you have been."

Like this: I actually do not remember the last time I had a binge. Oh, I've eaten a couple of big meals, I suppose, but they've just been meals, and I'm becoming much more conscious of when my body is saying "enough food" and actually stopping at that point. There's been no compulsion (apart from the compulsion to clean my plate, but that's another issue), and no desperation. I just don't remember the last time I wanted to eat like that. Well, I suppose it was probably when I wrote this entry. And that was only the desire – it didn't result in any action. Actually, I'm planning a bit of a greedy lunch, but for the first time in possibly ever, I am just going to tell my husband what I had for lunch instead of hiding the evidence.

Like this: the other day, I was violently nervous about something that was happening in the afternoon, and yet I felt no desire to eat.

Like this: yesterday, I was extremely bored in the afternoon, and yet I felt no desire to eat. I had a cup of tea. A cup of TEA, people. I didn't even think about going to the canteen. I mean, sure, I'd had a late and fairly big lunch, but being full doesn't usually stop me.

Like this: I've been very distressed and stressed about certain family situations in the past couple of weeks, and yet I haven't felt the need to binge.

To be honest, this is pretty weird and confusing. I am so used to a particular, if painful and depressing, way of dealing with things that when I notice that I'm not doing it, I'm startled.

I have to put it down, mostly, to the fact that I have changed (am still in the process of changing) my habits in relation to dealing with my feelings. Instead of trying to remedy my bad feelings by stuffing them full of chocolate till they shut up, I've just been sitting down, saying "it's okay for you to be here" to whatever feeling it is, and letting it run. So sometimes I cry a bit, and that's okay. And it's okay for me to want to stab things or people (note: as long as I do not carry out this desire). It's even okay for me to feel really bad about myself and my body, as long as I just sit there quietly with it and feel whatever it is.

And here's the cool part: the feelings go away. Amazingly, when I give my full attention to feelings that I normally run from, they seem to lose momentum really quickly. I have no idea why this is.

The thing I've been realising is that I have invested a hell of a lot of time and energy over the years in trying not to feel things I don't like, and yet not one single thing I've ever done to avoid feeling bad has ever worked. Every time I've felt bad, I have been in a mad scramble to get back to this state of mind I call "normal", to just not feel off-kilter, and yet that scramble always seemed to make things worse, and to spark eating habits that weren't healthy and made me feel desperate and crazy.

And more than eating like a fairly normal human person, I feel...different, about my body, about myself. I'm up and down on most things in my life – I still don't like my job, or the town we live in, and there's always crap. But I feel...taller. Does that sound crazy? But I do. It's not like I'm waltzing around singing "I love me, I love me...", but I feel both more and less bound up in my body. I feel more connected to it, more aware of how it's feeling, but less concerned about its appearance or what people, including myself, are thinking about it.

Consider: this morning, I passed a couple of men in my workplace and walked up the stairs. As I did, I heard them laughing. In the past, I would assume they were laughing at my fat bum, which may be ridiculously self-involved, but is representative of the kind of paranoia I have felt about this, and felt depressed. (And yes, of course, this is an entirely internally generated issue – neither today nor at any other time did I have any real basis for the assumption that I was the object of the laughter.) Today, I thought "they could be laughing at my bum", and then I thought, "oh well, whatever makes them happy, why should I care?"

It's funny, actually, because I haven't really been noticing this as it's been going on. I've been thinking, hm, must update the blog, but wasn't really sure what to talk about. And then I realised, well, that's because things are changing.

This has only been going on for a couple of weeks, to be sure. But you have to realise that, in twenty two goddamn years, this hasn't happened. I don't recall a time in twenty two years in which this wasn't a constant, every-day battle, when every shop I passed wasn't calling my name, where every thought of food brought guilt and shame and yet a desperate desire that I couldn't control.

So here's what I've learned which is helping me a huge amount, both in relation to my eating disorder and other aspects of my life:

1. It is okay to feel how you feel. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to feel desperate and out of control and full of the compulsion to shovel food into your mouth to temporarily numb the desperation.

2. There are no bad feelings, there are just feelings. Some of them feel better than others, sure, but there aren't any morally superior ones. You are not a bad person because you feel however you feel, and you don't have to feel bad about feeling what you feel. Pretending you don't feel it will not make you a better person, and it certainly won't make you a happier person.

3. Avoiding your feelings doesn't make them go away. Even if you fill them up with KFC and chocolate, they will still be there, and if you refuse to recognise them as yourself, they will come back as an alien intruder. (Thank you again, Stephen Cope.) You're way better off giving yourself permission to be where you are. I'm not saying that you should wallow, or talk endlessly about it. You probably aren't feeling it properly if you're telling the story about how miserable you are. But just, when you can, take a few minutes to sit quietly and feel it, only feeling, no talking and no action.

4. Bad feelings are almost certainly not as bad as you fear. Seriously, I know some bad feelings. I have a lot of them, and really facing them is not easy. But for me at least, I've been astonished by how hard it is to hold onto misery when you're really giving yourself permission to be as intensely miserable as you can.

Now, of course, the issues are not gone. I still look in the mirror and want to be thinner. I am still worried about my health. I still am in the habit of eating more than I actually need because I'm not attuned to when I've had enough. I don't know what tomorrow will hold in terms of my desire to be thin, and I don't know how I will deal with it. That's okay too.

A lot has happened, really, in just a couple of weeks.

(Note: This has been completely helpful for me, and I'd strongly recommend it as well worth a go, but I don't know your emotional states or if you're suffering from any other emotional disorders, so I can't guarantee that it'll work for you like it has for me, especially if you're suffering from depression or something similar.)

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

fat acceptance and compulsive eating

I got some great comments from people on yesterday's post, and one basically triggered another post, so thank you, lovely people, for being encouraging and smart.

Here is the comment that resulted in the following mass of words:

The compulsive eating behavior has absolutely nothing to do with being fat. You could be thin or average weight with compulsive eating, and your feelings and reactions to it would still be the same. Being fat and being a compulsive eater are two separate things.

This is true. And then again, it's not really the whole picture, especially in the FA community.

I understand why fat acceptance activists, who are usually trying to disrupt the stereotyping of fat people, harp on about health at every size and how fat people don't eat more than thin people and all the rest of it.

The thing is, though, if you have a person who, like myself, is inclined by nature to be less thin than other people (if not fat), and who then goes on to eat compulsively for twenty years, you'll get yourself a fat person, who probably got fat by trying to not BE fat. And although I love to hear that being fat is not the end of the world, that it isn't the end of your health, that the stereotypes don't hold up, etc etc etc, I am still a fat person who got fat, primarily, by eating too much. And there is a strong tendency amongst FA activists to reject that as a reason for a fat person to be fat. It doesn't have to be the reason they are fat. It doesn't have to be the reason most fat people are fat - as I say, even if I wasn't this fat, I still wouldn't be exactly thin. But it is a reason that some of us are fat, and pretending that we're not part of the fat spectrum kind of hurts.

It's kind of like if you got a bunch of gay activists together, and one of the things they wanted to do was bust the stereotypes of gay men as "effeminate", and so they spent a lot of time proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that that you can be gay without being effeminate, that gay men are, on average, no more effeminate than your average straight man, and that there's nothing wrong with being a non-effeminate gay man (replace "effeminate" with "unhealthy" and "gay man" with "fat person", and you'll see what I'm saying). Those things may all be true, but you can imagine the feelings of gay men who actually are camp.

And that's without considering the feelings of any effeminate man who isn't actually gay (who would be the thin compulsive eater). I'm not, by the way, trying to draw comparisons between anti-gay and anti-fat prejudice, to engage in comparative suffering, nor to imply that there's anything wrong or self-destructive with being a camp gay man, because obviously it's an entirely different thing from having an eating disorder. I'm just trying to highlight that any group exists on a spectrum, which includes real life realisations of identifiable stereotypes, even if those stereotypes are representative of only a small proportion of that community, and other members of the community would prefer that people did not assume that everyone in the community is the same way. Fat people are not a homogenous whole, and, just as there is a section of the gay community which is identifiable as being stereotypical, there is a section of the fat community that is that way as well.

Fat people who got fat by compulsive eating are not necessarily naturally fat, and are certainly not healthily fat. But we're still fat. And a lot of us got that way by behaviours which our culture identifies as "fat person" behaviours, i.e. eating too much, regardless of the mental illness which drove us to develop those behaviours. And yet the only place we can come to which tells us it's okay to be fat still emphasises the notion of having the habits we recognise as "thin person" habits (even if that's not true) and which we know we don't have.

Now, I get it. If you're a fat person who lives a very healthy life, it must be frustrating and depressing to feel like the compulsive eaters at the other end of the spectrum are dragging down your public image. And I understand that healthy fat people would love to stop being stereotyped and suffering from prejudice because of those stereotypes, and that part of doing that is educating themselves and others about the fact that fat =/= unhealthy and/or greedy.

But becoming fat accepting is, in my experience at least, a vital part of recovering from an eating disorder, because we can't really release this problem without accepting that our bodies are going to end up where they end up, and that getting better may not equal getting thinner (this is not easy when you're obsessed with that notion). And yet being immersed in the "we are healthy fat people" culture in the FA community can actually be just as freaking depressing and alienating as reading a magazine with five articles on how to lose weight, and two photo spreads on how Posh Spice and Lindsay Lohan are too skinny.

The thing is, of course, that those of us who got fat via an eating disorder aren't REALLY stereotypical. We're not "just" gluttonous – we have a mental illness. But it looks exactly the same from the outside. That guy watching me eat my donut at lunch isn't thinking "well, I bet she spent an hour thinking about that before she ate it, and I bet she'll be agonising over the decision for the rest of the day, and that must be very hard". He's thinking, "wow, no wonder she's so fat". And you know, part of me, even while I'm acknowledging my issues, is thinking the same thing.

And more importantly than that, we're people who already have a tendency to beat ourselves mercilessly with our supposed moral failure to control our eating. So sometimes, being surrounded by fat people who have exemplary eating behaviours and an agenda to demonstrate that you can be fat and yet completely "good" (even while they decry the moralisation of food, as they should) results less in feeling better about being fat and more in feeling worse about being such a bad example of a fat person.

Please understand, I am absolutely on board the FA train in theory. There are a lot of really important messages that everyone needs to hear about what constitutes actual health, and how thinness is not the only or even main goal of health, and I don't want the train stopped at all, not least because the external pressure to lose weight would be significantly reduced if people would stop going "OMG U R OBESE U WILL DIIIIIIIIE".

But. That doesn't mean that I'm unaffected by the fact that the people I look to for a reminder that my being fat doesn't equal hideous, worthless and on death's door usually defend fatness with the (perfectly true on average) weapons of "fat doesn't mean being unhealthy" and "fat people are not greedy".

As for the thin compulsive eaters, yes, absolutely, we share an illness and I have no doubt that it is as destructive for them as it is for me. But, as is often discussed in FA circles, thin people with terrible eating habits are not subject to the same scrutiny as fat people, because thin and healthy are so equated that no one pays any attention to the five donuts being devoured by the 95lb girl at the next table. She may be eating a lot of donuts, but it can't possibly habitual, because, hey, 95lbs. (This is probably a bad thing, actually, because it means that compulsive eating disorder is harder to identify amongst the thin, because it's culturally okay for thin people to eat like horses as long as they don't gain any weight, and less support is likely to be available, because eating too much, even in a crazy way, doesn't seem that abnormal as long as you don't end up fat.)

But you see, thin people with compulsive eating disorder are unlikely to seek out fat acceptance, because they're thin. They don't need it. They certainly will need some of its principles, IMO, if they're going to recover, because they'll need to learn to accept and love their bodies whatever weight they turn out, but they don't need to learn to personally accept bodies that are culturally unacceptable. I'm not saying that they are at a particular advantage in that by any means - I'm sure there's a whole other bundle of troubles for the thin compulsive eater - but they don't need to seek out an environment where people will say "there is nothing wrong with your body", because most people will say that of a thin person – even if the eating disordered person doesn't believe it. Those of us who are fat, on the other hand, often find comfort in FA blogs and communities because here, at last, are people who are telling us that it is really okay to be fat, which we, in the midst of our war with our bodies, really need to hear.

It's just that sometimes (I do note significant exceptions to this, such as Meowser's excellent post about mental health counting as part of Health At Every Size) the framework for it being okay to be fat is that it's okay to be fat as long as you're healthy, and you defy greedy, unhealthy fat person stereotypes. And, you know, I just don't.

Of course, the thing about any movement is that there's always a need to raise public awareness, and change public perceptions which are based on harmful stereotypes. I even agree that that's a need. Activism and individualism are an uneasy mixture at best, because any activism is about a group of people who are disenfranchised in some way, and, outside of the one thing disenfranchising those people, they may have little in common. What we fat people have in common is that we're fat. Some of us lead healthy lives, some of us don't. At the moment, in an effort to try to have our existence legitimised, a lot of FA supporters are emphasising the fact that you can be both fat and healthy, and that's fine, because it reverses a lot of assumptions held by society at large.

I suppose just, as a minority within a minority, I occasionally want to put my hand up and point out that the unhealthy amongst us are still people. Occasionally crazy, self destructive people, sure, but we're probably trying really hard, even if we're failing.

So yes. Two different things, fatness and compulsive eating, but when you're a fat compulsive eater, quite often you have to deal with them as part of the same package. For me at least, I'm this fat because of the way I have eating for decades. I need, badly, to know it's okay to be fat, because it's only when I stop warring on my body that I stop eating like this. And maybe that'll result in me being less fat and maybe it won't. But I also need to know it's okay for getting better to take awhile and for me to not be able to be "healthy" at the moment, because the last thing I need is another weapon against myself.

Monday, 11 August 2008

a portrait of compulsion from earlier today

I don't know much about blog entries being triggering myself – I can't say I've ever read anything that has triggered me – but I suppose it's possible that this could be one. So be aware.

I want to eat.

I really, really want to eat.

I'm not hungry, I had a perfectly good lunch a couple of hours ago. I just want to stuff food into my mouth until it crushes down all the things that I'm feeling because they're just unbearable.

I'm conscious of the fact that if I do that, I will then feel guilty and ashamed, like I do every time I eat in public, even if it's not crazy eating. At the moment, I don't care. I feel like the Hungry Tiger in the later Wizard of Oz books, whose hunger was never satisfied. Even when he was eating, he was never satisfied.

I just want to fill my mouth and throat and stomach and just keep on filling until my jaw aches and my stomach aches as though filling every hole in my insides will crowd out all the things I just don't want to feel.

It's almost as unbearable as the feelings I want to bury in it.

And this, I suppose, is the time when all that talking about feeling my feelings comes into play, and it would, except that I can't sit down and have a good cry right now, because I'm up to my elbows in work that I loathe.

I wonder what would happen if I just did that. I don't know that I want to find out. It's the kind of thing I could write a story about, one of those very modern short stories that doesn't really go anywhere, is like a snapshot of an event. Woman in office cries, and refuses to explain herself.

This is interesting, though, because usually I don't have this conversation with myself. I usually just zone out as much as possible and go looking for the nearest thing with which to stuff my face.

This is the part that non-compulsive eaters don't understand, and usually mock, and non-eating disordered fatties outright reject as fat person behaviour. I understand why they do that. This is pitiful and contemptible and, while from the inside it's just as painful as the desire to starve yourself until you don't feel anything any more, from the outside it just looks gluttonous, as though it has something to do with whatever you're eating, as though it was the same kind of luxurious, enthusiastic consumption of food that you see, for example, when my six year old niece is faced with a plate of pancakes, syrup and berries. I wish I could eat like her. I wish it was as adorable for me to eat like that as it is for her. I wish it had anything to do with what I was eating.

I remember years ago watching The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy, and at one point there's a supposedly hilarious scene of Sherman crying and pouring M&Ms into his mouth. I've never quite gotten over that scene, because everyone else in the cinema was laughing their heads off, and I was sobbing, because, oh God, it isn't funny. We don't do it because it's fun. Christ, I wish it was fun. I wish people understood that gluttony may be fun, but compulsion really isn't.

It isn't funny that this feeling, this desperate desire to consume, resembles most closely the urge I had years ago during a deep depression to take razors and slice up my arms. It wasn't even a desire for death, just the urge to make cuts because that was me making them, that was me taking what control I could in a situation where I felt there was no control.

So what's the difference if it's food, instead of a razor, if it amounts to a destructive physical urge to distract myself from something I just can't cope with? The difference is only that people pity the girl with the razor cuts on her arm (unless they think she's doing it for attention), and despise the woman with the bag full of Mars Bars.

One thing is that I'm writing, and while I'm writing, I'm not eating, and while I'm writing how I'm feeling, both the feeling and the urge to eat have died down a bit, if not completely.

I suppose this is what I was talking about in my previous posts, really. While I reject whatever I'm feeling – and I do that a lot – there is a need to manage that somehow, even if it's destructive.

This may not look like progress, but I assure you that it is.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Troll Policy

Look under the bridges, that's where they hide...

Sigh. I was quite pleased to see myself on the Fatosphere feed, but it seems that there are some devoted Fatosphere trolls, and they have found me.

The internet is like a very long street full of houses belonging to people. A lot of those houses are wide open, and their owners invite people to come inside. Sometimes they come in, love it, and return often. Sometimes they come in, hate it, and leave quietly. Sometimes they come in, hate it, and start flinging shit at the walls and spitting on the floors.

So here's a policy.

All trolling comments will be deleted.

All of them, concern troll and otherwise, all comments suggesting I just need to work harder and eat less, all comments acting as though compulsive eating disorder is not just as much of an illness as anorexia, all comments promoting dieting or a dieting mentality, all comments suggesting fat people are weak or lazy or ugly, all comments that just seem trollish to me, and all comments responding to trolls will be deleted. They probably won't be deleted as quickly as I'd like, because I have no access to Blogspot during the day, but they WILL be deleted. I will not be answering any of them. I will not be blogging about any of them. If trolling continues, I'll just make all comments go through moderation. I don't particularly want to do that, because I only check Blogspot once a day, usually, but I will if I have to.

Who decides if you're a troll?

I do. And I won't get into a discussion with you about why I think you're a troll. If I delete your comment and you really think you weren't trolling, think about why someone else without your assumptions might think you were. If you comment again protesting about being deleted, I will delete that too. I will ignore your emails on the subject, unless you come in sackcloth and ashes repenting your trollishness. Think that's unfair? You are free to leave.

Trolling includes trying to explain to me that you're concerned about my health and should go on X diet because it will fix me.

I have been on that diet. It didn't work. I don't care if you think you care – you don't really care, because you don't know me. If you really cared, you would understand that this is a blog about my eating disorder (and a few related things which may occur to me), and you would understand that any kind of eating disorder is a huge and destructive disease which wreaks havoc on a person's life, and that working through it is exactly that – work, hard, tedious, tiring work which never ends. If you really cared, you would know that you can't fix me with facile advice, and you wouldn't want to hurt me with superior or hateful remarks. Ergo, if you comment here with diet advice or to berate me on not being good enough, you are not concerned, you're an insensitive asshat.

The thing is, this is my blog, my house, it's quite a personal blog talking about some things which are meaningful and sensitive to me, and sometimes about things in society which piss me off. But it's really representative of very little of my external life, and you really don't know me. Oh, you know I'm fat and that I have an eating disorder, but you don't know what I do in my daily life, how fat I actually am, how much I eat or exercise, how much damage this disorder has done to my body or mind, how much I'm progressing, how hard I have to work on a daily basis just to maintain some kind of equilibrium, or anything about the many things that I do which make my life worthwhile.

And I've come far enough not to give a flying fuck what you think. You don't have to like what you see here, but I'm not preventing you from clicking "Back" and leaving me to be fat in peace. I will not engage in email or anything else with you. Clear? Good.

And you lovely people who are reading this who are not trolls, please don't feed the trolls. They'll be deleted, and if you respond to them, so will you, even if I like the rest of your comment. I'm sorry about that. I've thought about it – I even wrote responses to the trolls on my last post. And then I thought, "but I don't owe random asshats a soapbox", and decided on a zero tolerance policy. I just don't have the time or energy to waste on idiots who have nothing better to do than go to strangers' blogs and explain to them how wrong they are. Trolls are a battle I choose not to fight.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

creating eating disorders

You know, the thing that drives me crazy about all these new and horrible measures the government is putting into place to stem the supposed tide of obese children in the UK is not quite the same thing that drives a lot of other people crazy. It's not just about the fact that BMI is rubbish science (though it is), or that diets make people fatter (though they do), or that no one has yet figured out how to permanently make a fat person thin (though they haven't).

No, it's the fact that I can't see how shaming children about their weight – sending home report cards which include their BMI, lecturing them endlessly about food, giving them the constant message that Fat Is Bad – is going to do a single damn thing to make them thinner.

What I can see is that it's going to make them crazier.

And by crazier, I mean crazy like I am. These kids are going to end up in this same boat I've been trying to get out of for two decades. Some of them will become as fat as me, some of them will become very thin. Some of them will remain of average weight, but will still be crazy. I can't see anything but an increase in obsessive behaviour, whether dieting or eating or exercising.

How in the hell does that create a healthy population, let alone a thin population? Aren't increasing numbers of eating disorders going to put a pressure in the health system? We're going to end up with a bunch of people with the normal range of bodies, and the totally intolerable mental state known as an eating disorder. Seriously, I got this way with only my parents having a go at me about my weight. I can't even imagine how horrendous it must be for the kids who have their schools and teachers and random prejudicial people from the local council all chipping in on the notion that being fat is the worst thing that you can possibly be, so, hey, let's treat it like you failed a subject.

The thing is, I'm pretty fat. And I have a few health issues that might be related to my fat. But by far the biggest and most distressing health issue I have is not the pain in my feet or my wonky menstrual cycle (though that might not be related at all). It's the fact that I have compulsive eating disorder and have spent nearly twenty two years obsessed with my body and obsessed with food. This is a health issue far more serious than my actual weight, and it is, in fact, the cause of my weight. Quite seriously, if no one had ever started telling me in adolescence that I was too fat, I would not be this fat. The government is just lining up to do to all children what was done to me, and maybe the intentions are just as good as my mother's were, but the results are going to be just as disastrous.

The whole thing is idiotic and hateful and, you know, it's completely immoral. It's immoral to make children suffer because dubious science reporting and hysteria has created a world in which thinness is equated with moral superiority (and now, apparently, about saving the planet - I mean, GEEZ, people!). It's immoral for schools and governments to tell children that there's something wrong with them, especially when it's something that they don't really have control over.

And you know, in ten years time, when they start complaining about how now seventy percent of teenagers have eating disorders, and blah blah, what a drain on the NHS that is, I will just be sitting here saying, "I fucking told you so."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

feeling my fears

Further to the thoughts about "feeling my feelings" from my last post, I've had a bit of an up and down day today.

I called my youngest sister in Australia this morning, and we had a good long chat, the kind we don't have often enough. She told me about her kids and how she's dealing with the middle one acting out in what we think is an effort to assert some kind of individual identity and the weekend away she and her husband had for their anniversary. I told her how I didn't get the job I interviewed for last week, which I was disappointed about, and how my husband works too much.

And I'm not sure how we got onto the subject of babies. Specifically, my babies, and the things that fill me with fear and dread when I think about having them.

The thing is, for years I've been saying I'm not sure about having kids, and that's partly true. I'm ambivalent because we live a pretty relaxed sort of life, and that would all change with kids. But it's only partly true, which I only realised today when my sister asked "taking away all the intellectual stuff, how do you FEEL?", and I burst into tears, because, yes, I do. One, anyway. No more than two, but at least one.

But here's the thing: I am very, very scared about it. I'm scared because I would probably get a lot of shit from doctors about being so fat and trying to have a baby. I'm scared because my period has been all fucked up for some years, and it might be related to my weight (I never had a problem till I got this fat, and that apparently can affect your hormones). I'm scared because I don't know how to model a healthy relationship with food or exercise, because I don't have one. I'm scared - and I'm ashamed that I'm scared - because I'm fat and my husband is fat, and that makes me think that our baby would be fat (although I suppose it's not necessarily a given - three quarters of our parents and all of our siblings are thin, and neither of us was actually that fat until well into adulthood), and I've been a fat person and it's pretty shit and part of me isn't sure I want to give that to another person. (Please note: this is not a judgement on any fat parents out there, I've never thought of this in conjunction with anyone else, it's just part of my package of fear.)

I'm scared because my weight has consumed so much of my life, and I am terrified that I'll be overinvolved or underinvolved, that I'll end up creating the same thing in my child that my mother, all unknowing, created in me.

So I decided to go with what I've been working on - I went and lay down and really went with it, and cried a lot, and breathed, and cried some more, and breathed some more, and... it wasn't as big when I got right into it.

It's still there, don't get me wrong. I do feel that before we should even try to start getting pregnant we have some work, physical and financial, to do. But it wasn't quite as big or quite as painful as I thought it might be.

But I'd be a good mother, fat, eating disordered, financially challenged or not. I would love my child and listen to them and support them. There are millions of shitty, neglectful, abusive parents in the world, and I'd beat all of them hollow, even if I was twice as fat.

And more, even if we had a fat baby who was a fat child and a fat adult, that doesn't mean their life wouldn't be worth living, that they wouldn't be deeply loved. And even if we had a thin baby, that wouldn't guarantee that their life was easy.

I think this is a fear I'll need to keep going back to for awhile, inviting it in and just letting it be what it is, if only so that I don't keep putting things off while I'm crushing it down and telling myself I don't mind.

And I have to take some action, not for the purpose of any changes in my body (though it'd be great if it would stop my feet hurting), but just so I'm getting in touch with how my body is feeling and what it wants, and so maybe some of the hormonal patterns get sorted out, and so I'm up for actual pregnancy and birth and parenting and all the rest of it.

Monday, 21 July 2008

feeling my feelings

I've been listening to Stephen Cope's "Yoga for Emotional Flow" today, and my mind, she is blown. To be honest, I've been listening to, reading and meditating on a number of things for some time which have related to this, but this just drew it all together and suddenly things seem...well, clear.

The nutshell of what really struck me is the radical notion of actually feeling your feelings. Whatever they are, however they feel, just be with them. Don't try to change them, or make them go away. Just let them be and be with them. And particularly of interest is the fact that he says that this is the point of yoga - to bring you to feeling what you're feeling as you do it. Not losing weight, not being physically stretchier, none of the things that most people seem to put into yoga. It's to help you feel what you feel.

This is incredibly difficult for me. I don't do anger, for example - I repress, I intellectualise, I push it far away and try to smooth it out because part of me is convinced that my anger could destroy the world. I don't feel my feelings about eating either - I dive into the food, always with some distraction to prevent me from feeling it or thinking about it.

There's a whole bunch of psychological stuff I could go on about, which I'm not going to get into, but I have had a frustrating, boring and stressful day, and at the end of the day, I just wanted to eat. I left work thinking "I want to go buy Mars Bars and chicken nuggets and just STUFF MY FUCKING FACE".

But since I was listening to this CD, I thought, "well, till I get to the shops, I'll just feel this desire. I won't fight it, I won't try to repress it. I won't ignore it. I'll just feel it.

I will feel all the wanting for that volume of food that will choke down all my frustration and fury over being so frustrated.

I'll just be here.

I want to eat. I'm wanting to eat."

It was overwhelming. I walked down the street choking on sobs, really allowing myself to feel that wanting, that desperation and that feeling of eternal judgement on myself for having that wanting.

And then it left me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still sobbing like a baby - everything is making me cry - so there's clearly a lot of emotion that wants to be felt right now.

But that feeling, that desperate, repressed, frantic feeling that I had to eat right then, I had to binge, all the self-loathing I felt for having that feeling, it all went away. I mean, within a few minutes, it just...went.

And this is what is clear, all of a sudden, which I have understood in part before: maybe the largest part of my problems with eating have to do with not feeling what I'm feeling. It's not really about a war with my mother on the battleground of my body. It's certainly not about feeling bad about myself because I wasn't physically sufficient when I was younger. It's all a massive created problem around avoiding feeling undesirable feelings.

I grew up in a religious household where certain types of emotion weren't really considered appropriate. Things happened in my early childhood as a result of my own anger which completely shattered my world. And for all of my life, I have wanted to just sustain some kind of "okay" feeling. Any time something goes wrong, I'm just so desperate to get back to "okay" because I don't know how to sit down and be with what I'm feeling. I try to distract myself like waving a toy in front of a crying baby.

So this is a whole new and, today, painful experience, and a liberating one. I really felt my desperate wanting for food, I was overwhelmed by it, and it was okay. It was okay, and because I didn't try to push it away, it left by itself. I am, right now, genuinely hungry, but all that desperation and panic and hateful fear are gone. Because I said, okay, since you're here, let's just be here.

Suddenly...a lot of things make more sense.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Sometimes you just want to take the spectacles off

I keep reading a lot of Fatosphere posts lately about Wall-E and how it's anti-fat, and all the rest of it, and...well, people may be right, but I don't particularly want to go into the movie looking for that.

God knows, I'm alert to all kinds of isms all the time. Seriously, I did Cultural Studies at university, and I loved it, but it does mean that I never, ever don't notice things. Sometimes I can just ignore them, but I never fail to notice them.

I'm not sure I want this to become another thing that I can't stop noticing. I'm not sure I can stop it, but I'm not sure I want it. I suppose it's because I take it more personally than anything else. That is strange, when you consider the amount of sexism I notice. But the difference is that sexism and misogyny just infuriate me, they bring out the fighter in me, and that may not be as fun as laughing, but it's more fun than crying. And laughing at the fat people makes me cry.

Once, I went and saw The Nutty Professor, the horrible Eddie Murphy one, and there's a scene in the middle of the film where he was compulsively eating (M&Ms, I think) and everyone else in the cinema was laughing, and I just sat there and sobbed. Because I knew, you see, what that felt like. To everyone else it was something so extreme that it could be a joke. To me, it was everyday behaviour that hurt.

I don't feel bad about being a woman. I get angry when I see misogyny, because I don't think that I or any other woman deserves the bullshit we get heaped on us because of our gender, even by those who share it.

But even now, I feel bad about being fat. Part of me still thinks I deserve what's said about my body. I feel bad about the way I eat. I feel bad that I am positive that when people look at me they see a giant blob taking over the world. Part of me believes all the propaganda. And you know, I'm just not sure that I want to notice the propaganda as long as I believe it.

Of course, it's a vicious circle - is it even possible to stop believing the propaganda as long as it's being dripped into me subconsciously so that I keep on feeling bad about myself? I'm not sure, but since most of my self-loathing really is self-generated, I'm not sure how it's going to help me to invite in all the other players to generate some more.

I can see sexism and misogyny without feeling bad about myself. I can't see anti-fat stuff without it. So I'm not sure I want to look for it right now.

Monday, 30 June 2008

I shouldn't have to see that...

Damn, did I really last post almost three weeks ago? Slacker. Anyway, on with an actual post:

The truth is, I'm rarely verbally abused for the shape of my body. Most of the abuse I get is internal, which isn't any better, but is, at least, not publicly humiliating.

So this is an unusual experience for me. My husband and I were walking along a road at about 10.30 on Saturday night in the village where his parents live. A car drove past, and someone shouted something unintelligible out us out the window. He was angry, but I hadn't even understood what they said. The car came past again, and again shouted something I didn't quite make out. It wasn't until the third pass that I actually caught it: "I shouldn't have to see that..."

Do you get this? Someone – more than one someone – took the time to drive past us three times to tell us they shouldn't have to look at us.

Actually, I suppose they could've not wanted to look at us for other reasons, but I can't think of what they would be, since we're both okay looking people with no major deformities, we're white people so any local racist element wouldn't have been troubled by our presence, and we're clearly male and female so it wasn't a homophobic drive-by. And they probably wouldn't have shouted at a person with major deformities, because that would be cruel. But it's okay if the person you're shouting at is fat, because they deserve it. Of course.

I just can't get my head around it. My husband was furious, but I wasn't, and still am not, because it's just so incredibly...well, stupid. It's stupid to drive past someone three times when you're offended by the sight of them. If we're that visually offensive, go somewhere else.

But more than that, it's just such a fascinating idea – these passing idiots genuinely believe that their "right" not to see things which are not pleasing to them is more important than our right to exist. And more, there are somehow people on the earth who want me to believe that the pleasure of their eyes is more important than my entire existence.

Think about that for a moment.

They want me to hear words like "I shouldn't have to see that" and to feel shame because I do not please their eyes. As though their eyes should matter to me more than my existence.

Although I am a kind, creative, intelligent person, these shallow brutal fools wish me to believe that I am of less value than them because I do not please their eyes. It would never occur to me to shout insults at anyone from a car even once, let alone burning the fuel to do so three times, but I am supposed to be the one who feels shame.

They're unlucky, in this instance. I didn't walk away feeling shame, just pity for people who are so infinitesimally small of mind that they think this is clever and funny.

But it's worrying all the same. All this anti-obesity fuss that's going on is, at least in part, rooted in the same attitude as these idiots espouse – "I shouldn't have to see that". It's not that people particularly care about my health – if they did, they would care about the fact that my eating disorder of twenty one years standing is likely to only make me fatter if overemphasis is placed on my losing weight – or even my supposed overuse of resources (they don't, after all, go after skinny people who drive SUVs and eat three Big Macs for lunch, because, hey, they're thin!). It's because they think they shouldn't have to look at me. Because they find me ugly. And what kind of screwy measure is that for allowing people's existence?

Furthermore, they don't seem to realise that the way they're responding to finding me ugly is going to create a generation of people just like me, who can't control their eating because eating has become an act of defiance against those who wish for us not to exist because they don't want to see us.

Here's a news flash, folks: we don't stay pretty long. Longer than we used to, certainly, but sooner or later, all human beings, no matter how gorgeous they were to begin with (and let's face it, most of them weren't that pretty to begin with), will end up being, in life, a mass of creased skin, lumpy flesh, thinning hair and broken veins. All of us will become less than pleasing to the average eye. If prettiness is all humanity has to offer, then we should give up here and now – certainly, people like my drive-by shouting friends incline me to the belief that we might as well.

I'm currently fat. I may always be fat. I am getting older daily, and I will never go back to the peak of my looks (which I didn't appreciate while I had it). But my value isn't, has never been, just in what pleases other people visually. It can't be – there's no worth to any of us if that's all we are.

And even if that was all, it's clearly not a universal position - on my way home less than an hour ago, I had a man, a perfectly normal-looking and also non-fat man, cycle up alongside me, ask me the time, tell me I was very beautiful, and then cycle back to ask me out. And I, of course, had to wave my left hand at him and say "I'm married". So there are at least two people in the world who like to look at me, which I think probably means that the morons in the car are cancelled out.

Funnily enough, I'm not any more chuffed by the compliments of a random guy on a bike than I was upset by the random insults of assholes in cars. I mean, it's nicer than car insults, but it's not really about me. Some people find me visually pleasing, some don't. Neither of them really matter.

This is an oddly zen frame of mind for me when it comes to my appearance. Something to be explored further, I feel.

Monday, 9 June 2008

You have to look close to see what this disease has done to me...

Further to my last post about the double-mindedness of eating disorders...

Something that bothers me exceedingly at times is the fact that, as much as my husband expresses his love and desire for me on a daily basis in a multitude of ways, I don't always, or even often, or even really, believe in it.

You wouldn't know this about me just by looking; in fact, I'm not sure that my husband even knows it, because I have good enough manners not to reject anything he says or tell him that I don't believe him. I smile and say thank you and I love you too.

But, oh, there's always a little catch of protest inside me.

I suppose if I were a different kind of person, I would blame him for this, as though there was something extra he could be doing to prove that he loves me. There are people of both sexes whose self esteem, like mine, is so low they can't believe in others' love for them, and some of those people play their partners like fiddles, because there's just nothing another person can do to prove to someone that they are loveable when they deeply believe that they aren't. Really, both of us are lucky that I'm not one of those people, that somewhere I learned how to accept a compliment without outward protest, so that we don't have to wrangle over some imagined failure of his to bolster up my self esteem. And I'm glad of that, because there's no way in which he fails. He is frankly amazing at expressing his feelings for me, in all kinds of ways. All the failure here is mine, because part of me just looks askance at all of it, and then wonders what kind of person actually feels these things for me – for me, for heaven's sake.

There's just something in my brain that doesn't quite cope with it when he says certain things to me. I pretend I do, but there's a little tripwire in there that just doesn't believe a word of it. It's bizarre, because I completely believe in his sincerity, I just think he's, well, wrong. Isn't that stupid? I believe that my husband's love and desire for me, physically and mentally, is wrong, because I don't believe that I am loveable or desirable.

The notion of people being attracted to me has always been shocking to me, if not downright unbelievable, and there has always been something just a little…intolerable about it. There are certain looks I've caught in people's eyes at times, including my husband's, that I just can't bear. I have this immediate reaction of shying away, because how can I bear being the object of that feeling which I don't feel I deserve, because – and really only because – I'm so fat?

It's just sick, this whole thing, which I suppose is why it's a disease. It's sick that I think my husband is wrong to adore me. It's sick that I think anyone would be wrong to have feelings for me. It's sick that, if I'm not careful, I judge my husband, and anyone else who has ever told me that they cared for me in this way, as being lesser because of their feelings for me.

All that being said, I'm incredibly grateful that I have been so lucky, that I, almost accidentally, slid in to a relationship with an amazingly generous and loving man who never gives me reason to doubt him.

I just wish that my confidence in myself was sufficient that when he says how much he loves me, I had no reaction but joy and the return of love.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

faith and reason

It amazes me sometimes how many contradictory thoughts I can contain.

I'm a fairly intelligent woman, certainly a thoughtful woman, a woman who sees both sides to an argument. On one level, what I believe about women's inherent value and about the body fascism that is so prevalent in our society is very clear and simple to me, and I can articulate that easily.

What I usually don't mention, however, is the violence of the conflict that rages inside me – me versus me, forever at war - on this subject.

Here are some things I believe:

I believe I am not really this fat woman.

I believe I am a much fatter woman.

I believe being fat is not a moral position, nor is it an inherently unhealthy one.

I believe that I am not putting in enough effort, that I'm failing and that I am probably killing myself.

I believe that fat is ugly.

I believe that many fat women are beautiful.

I believe that my husband is very attracted to me.

I believe that no one in their right minds could be attracted to me.

I believe that it's more important to have a healthy relationships with food and eating than to be the "right" size.

I believe that it's quite possible that I would kill someone if their death meant I would be thin.

I feel like half a dozen different people on this. There's someone in there who is clearheaded and reasonable, looks at the facts, considers the arguments, can be dispassionate and logical, and who has it all taped.

But there's also someone in there who agonises every goddamn minute over how fat she is, how her arms jiggle, her thighs sway, her boobs rest on her stomach when she is braless. Someone who sees herself in the mirror and wants to cry.

And someone who is so angry about all that self-hatred.

Someone who thinks that she should just be what she is, yet wears make up every day, in the hopes that maybe she will still be pretty.

I honestly don't know who the fuck I am some days.

The thing is, all the arguments are very clear, and that's great. It's good to have clarity and logic. And I can present with that. It's just that faith, you see, is a different thing. And faith and reason rarely live together easily. And I still cling to the vestiges of a childhood faith in my own shameful fatness which should be hidden and repudiated and expunged. It doesn't seem to matter how much reason I have to defend against it, it still creeps back in.

I don't suppose it's helped by the fact that most of the society I live in shares this faith, and presents a set of arguments about it that are quite convincing also. We all sit together in some kind of bizarre mass in worship of beauty and youth and thinness which undermine any notion of personal value if we do not fulfil those criteria, and afterwards list all the reasons that these beliefs are logical.

I suppose this is the thing about a disorder - at least about my disorder. It can be justified with reason ("thinner is healthier"), but it isn't really about reason at all. That's only its outer garb which makes it more presentable to the world. At its heart, it is about faith, faith in fatness, faith in my own unworthiness, faith that I can't ever conquer either my body or my feelings about it.

Of course, I've left a faith before, which shattered my life for a couple of years, but in retrospect, was a blessed relief. I suppose the difference is that you can walk out of a church, but you can't walk out of your body. But I would like to rediscover that courage that allowed me to get up from a faith my life had revolved around for twenty six years and walk away from it.

Friday, 30 May 2008

c is for cookie

As a general rule, I am very conscious of food. Like, all the time. If there's food on that table over there, even if I'm not hungry, even if I'm busy, part of my mind is eyeing it and muttering.

And all my eating struggles are about the fact that eating relieves [insert objectionable emotion here] and once I start, it's very hard to stop. So stopping is something worth noting, in my book.

So having said that, let it be noted that today, I bought two freshly baked chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips at 9am. I then ate my breakfast and started work and forgot all about them, until 11.45am, when I ate one. ONE, mind you. I could've eaten the other one, but I wasn't hungry, so I just put it back in the drawer, and forgot about it AGAIN.

At about 12.30, I was talking to someone in a room where there was a large box of various fresh cookies, and she offered me one. And I didn't take one, because I'd just had one a little earlier, I didn't feel like it and I was about to have lunch.

It is now 2.45pm, and I am eating the second one.

I have never bought two of those cookies and not eaten them both at once before. In its way, this is a kind of miracle.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

art and body judgement

I take a pottery class on Wednesday evenings, nothing major, just messing about with clay and occasionally making a vase or something to take home. Well, last night, I finished my candle holder - just needed to go to firing - and so I had to start something new. So I decided to try my hand at a little sculpture.

Now, I'm not the most visually inclined person in the world - my visual recall is somewhere about the level of the three blind mice and I can't draw for toffee - so to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to go that well. But I started anyway, and decided to make a fat lady, mostly because one of the other women in the class had made one previously and it looked pretty cool.

So I got my lump of clay, and I was playing with it, and rearranging it, and trying to work out where boobs go on a person. Obvious, you would think, but I'd never really given it any consideration, just from a purely technical perspective, where breasts land on a body, or how a stomach curves, or how hips swell.

And it hit me as I sat there trying to make my little clay woman's breasts fall right - not too perky or sticking out like basketballs - I'd never looked at a woman's body like this before. I'd never just looked.

Every glance I've given to every woman's body I've seen, whether real or an image, has been steeped in judgement: too big, too small, too flabby, hips too wide, boobs too big, bum too flat, bum too big, boobs non-existent, wow just right. Doesn't matter whether what I saw was positive or negative in it, every single encounter of my eyes with women's bodies, including my own, has contained judgement. I have never in my life before looked at a body and just...seen its components.

I mean, I looked at that Julian Freud painting of the fat woman and thought "damn, she's fat". Never occurred to me to look more closely, just to see how it all fitted together.

It has never occurred to me to just see what's there for itself without any of my or society's bullshit heaped on top of it. Just what's there.

So this is a challenge to myself: try to look at women's bodies and see what's actually there without putting a value on it. Don't look for good any more than I look for bad. Just...see.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


I'm different to a lot of the fat acceptance bloggers I read, who seem to live healthy lifestyles, eat in a happy and sensible manner, enjoy exercise, all that palaver. I don't eat happily or sensibly. Sometimes I do, but mostly it's a constant tug-of-war between the part of my brain that thinks I should be on a strict diet and the part that knows that that would lead to bingeing at best, and I'm pretty consistent about eating more than I "should". Yes, "should" is problematic in and of itself. There are plenty of thin people who eat lots of crap and are still thin. But even if I was thin, the way I eat a lot of the time would not be healthy, because it isn't. (Though to be honest, the past couple of weeks have been okay. I actually attempted a binge today and completely failed because I was uncomfortably full. Which was kind of nifty.)

It's just that...for me to follow any kind of diet that puts a restriction on anything isn't psychologically healthy, and results in a diet that's way worse than the one I already have. But it makes me wonder if it's even possible for me to be "healthy at every size", because I've been consistently UNhealthy at every size. I suppose it's a question of whether that "health" includes mental health. I've been prioritising my mental health for some time now, and I'm sure that's come at a cost to my physical health; but on the other hand, if I hadn't made it my priority, I would probably be even worse off. So there's that.

I think this is what makes fat prejudice so complicated. I'm not going to get into whether it's harder or easier or more or less socially acceptable than any other form of prejudice, because that's an impossible discussion, and would no doubt leave me with my privilege showing. But prejudice against the fat is complicated, and the main reason it's complicated is this: most people believe that fat people can be thin people if only they would work harder.

Most people do not believe that women can be men (transgendered people facing a whole other set of prejudices), or that black people can be white. You can see class prejudice (or at least money prejudice) showing in the same way - there are a significant number of people who think that poor people wouldn't be poor if they weren't so darn lazy. And you can see it in some people who are homophobic - for some reason, they think that being gay is a choice, and that being the case, it's just weird or wrong or both that people would choose to be gay.

It is complicated to be part of a group of people whom the bulk of society, including ourselves, believes both can and should change. Twiggy recently said something along the lines that with all the medical knowledge about the disbenefits of being fat, there's no excuse for it. And a lot of people believe that.

So it's wrong to be fat, it's unhealthy to be fat, and yet millions upon millions of people, despite all the knowledge to the contrary, continue to be fat...apparently by choice. Because it's just so much fun to be fat.

I'm not particularly healthy in my habits, and I still don't choose to be fat. Certainly, when I was an unfat adolescent who was put on a diet, and who spent every day from that to this obsessed with her weight, I didn't choose to be fat. Even if I ate perfectly and got even more exercise than I do, I'd still probably be what society calls fat, and although I'm pretty comfortable with where I believe I'd end up (which is just as far away as actually being thin), given a choice, of course I'd still choose to be thinner, because it would just be easier.

The problem with fatness being perceived as a choice is that people assume that all it takes is making the "right" choice. They can't comprehend why anyone would make the "wrong" one, so it must be down to a moral flaw, laziness or greed, because clearly, when the choice is so easy, what else could it be?

But it's not a choice. It doesn't really matter whether you became fat like me because your relationship with food is fucked up beyond recognition, or whether your genes just say "look, we're going to have a lot of padding, I don't care what you say", or whether your means are limited so that you can't make some of the healthier choices Twiggy gives you no excuses for not making. It's a rare person who says "yep, fat is the look I'm going for". Why would we, in this fat-obsessed culture? We're not masochists. We're not stupid. We know it would be easier for us - people wouldn't call us particular kinds of names, or suggest we lose weight. And goodness knows, compared to some of the stories I read, I suffer very little at other people's hands as a result of my weight. Why would we ever make a choice to be fat if being thin was as easy as all that?

I have friends who have lost a lot of weight, who have worked very hard to do so, and are proud of themselves for doing so. And I'm proud of them too, in a sense, because I love them and I know how hard they have worked. But, damn, they've worked hard. They've worked harder on that than on anything else in their lives. They've restricted their food intake, they've worked out for hours daily. They've had to make being thinner the focus of most of their life. It's not easy, even for people who take the trip successfully.

And for me, and others like me, it comes, if it comes at all, at a huge and unacceptable price. My ability to function in a normal way, to focus on the things that are actually important to me, to not want to kill myself because I want to eat a block of chocolate, that's too high a price to pay. Part of me wants very much to be thinner, and maybe one day I will be, if I get this disorder under control. But only then, because I can't sacrifice my mind to create a thinner body.

Monday, 12 May 2008


Two in one day, whoohoo. Actually, they were both written several days ago. I keep writing things and not posting them. Anyway:

This morning, one of my co-workers, who is more than a little obsessed with dieting and going to the gym, said "you look like you're losing weight."

"Oh," I said, "really? Maybe it's just that I'm wearing black."

"No," she said, "you definitely look trimmer."

"Oh," I said, very conscious of not wanting to greet this with OMGYAYTHANK YOU, and yet wanting to be polite, "well, thanks, I haven't really been trying to."

"Oh," she said, "really?"

Hell, I might be losing weight, I really don't know. We don't own a scale, and I'm not measuring or anything. My clothes feel about the same. I haven't taken any particular action – I mean, I walk everywhere, and I'm trying to eat more fruit. But that hasn't necessarily resulted in me eating any less of anything else.

What struck me, though, wasn't the tone of the compliment itself. She really meant it as a compliment. What she meant was "you look nice". It's possible that I look slimmer – maybe I have lost a few pounds, or maybe it is the black, or maybe I do just look nice and she associates "nice" so heavily with "thin" that it amounts to the same thing.

No, what struck me was the tone of her voice after I said I hadn't been trying to lose weight. That "oh really" was loaded, let me tell you.

There was a layer of "you're that fat and you're not trying to lose weight, are you crazy?"

There was a layer of "you're losing weight and you're doing nothing, how is that fair?"

There was a layer of "why aren't you more happy that you're losing weight?"

There was a significant slice of indignation that I wasn't more grateful for the best compliment a woman can be given, after all. And that right there is a horrendous statement, that the best thing you can say to a woman is that there's less of her, that she is taking up less space.

Fabulous. I know she meant it as a compliment, but it just felt hollow. Nothing complimentary about it. I want to feel better and be healthier, I really do, and if that leads to weight loss, okay, and if it doesn't, I have to learn to love myself that much anyway. But the assumption that there being LESS OF ME is inherently better is disturbing to me.