Monday, 28 April 2008


This is the problem - time flies no matter what you're having.

I'm in a rather odd frame of mind at the moment. I've been doing some energy work around my eating problems, and it seems to be working, insofar as I've been a lot less psychotic than usual in the past week, and I feel better for it.

But at the same time, I'm reading an awful lot of anger and negativity in the Fatosphere and everywhere else, on racial issues, fat issues, and gender issues, and because of the fact that I'm in this particular energetic headspace which is all about healing and peace, I'm finding the juxtaposition rather peculiar.

On the one hand, there's some great thoughts out there, and I always like to read intelligent pondering.

On the other hand, what I want, more than anything else right now, is to be healthy, physically and mentally, most specifically with regard to eating and my relationship with my body. I'm not sure how healthy I can get if I'm angry all the time. I don't WANT to be angry, if being angry is going to get in the way of my being healthy.

And the truth is, it does. The truth is, when I do this kind of energy work, I feel like I'm seeing something beyond all this, beyond this life even. The desire for health and happiness in this body is, in a sense, rooted in the notion that I am so much more than this body that I want to be able to relate to the world around me as best as possible, that I should love my body because it is how I get to be physical. It's my body that allows me to look at bluebells, knit cardigans, make up stories. My love for it should go beyond any culturally comfortable notion of beauty, because my love for it should not be based just in form but in function, which, to be honest, has been neglected, while I've been so fixated on form.

But I come back to earth with a bump when I start reading all this anger. Yes, these are blogs which have helped me enormously to get to this point of wanting health above any other physical priority. But in the process of becoming more healthy, I'm not sure about where fixating on outrage is actually going to get me.

This is a challenging question, because I do think the fight is important - not just for me, but for all the fatties out there. I do think it's important for society to become more tolerant, less hateful, no matter who the target is. I do think it's sick and wrong for people to be writing articles about how it's the fat people who are creating global warming (I don't even drive, dude - whose carbon footprint is bigger?) or how we "ruin moments". I do think these people need to have the hatefulness and prejudice of their notions challenged.

Hell, I think all those things about women's issues, gay issues, racial issues and more.

I'm just not sure I can do that right now without undermining my own healing process, because anger just makes me, well, angry. It doesn't make me feel at peace with myself.

Some background:

Basically, my parents, particularly my mother, are the only people in my life who ever gave me a hard time about my weight. My mother put me on my first diet at the age of eleven, and never quite let go of it. And, while I was never destined to be a skinny person, thanks to my genes, I was actually never fat until decades of compulsive eating had taken their toll. So in essence, my parents made me both crazy and fat.

When I first realised this, I also realised that their motivations had been good, so I tried for a very long time not to blame them.

Then I did blame them, and I blamed them hard. I got angry, I stayed angry, and I told them I was angry. To their credit, they just went with it. It probably made them sad, but they didn't fight me.

And then, having gotten angry, it was like I'd never been angry at all. All of a sudden, unexpectedly, having announced to both my parents that forgiveness was overrated, I found that I really did forgive them, because they really hadn't meant to hurt me. They did everything they did out of love, and while I still wasn't over the eating disorder, and while I was still the fattest I'd ever been, anything that happened from that point had to be up to me.

And it turned out that forgiveness wasn't overrated at all. Oh, the "forgiveness" of my childhood was overrated - the desperate need to push hurt deep down into my gut because I thought God would be angry with me if I was unforgiving, that was overrated. That was, in fact, not forgiveness at all. But the actual forgiveness, the actual gut knowledge that I was really okay with my parents, no matter what fuck ups of theirs I was still living with, that was not overrated. That was amazing.

And the anger was crucial to the forgiveness; the anger was vital to my being able to move past this huge barrier of resentment. The anger was, in fact, my impetus for moving forward. I'm down with the anger. If you don't get angry, the resentment will stay with you forever.

But, and this is a big but, I didn't get any better while I was angry. I felt better, in a lot of ways. It felt good to get to that point of just being really fucking pissed with those people who, however ignorant or well-meaning, had taught me to hate myself for things I had no control over. I fairly revelled in it.

But my eating didn't change, my self-loathing didn't change, certainly my body didn't change (not that it's obliged to - we'll see what happens as I really get healthy). The only thing that changed was that I stopped repressing my rage at my parents. It didn't change how I felt about myself.

I think it's good to be righteously angry at those who make us doubt and hate ourselves. It's good to be angry, because it's the first step to understanding that we are, in fact, not obliged to hate ourselves, that those people who loathe our fat are ignorant and hateful and probably hate themselves as much as they hate us. That anger is good and necessary.

It's just not the whole process.

(Actually, even the forgiveness isn't the whole process. I did the forgiving a couple of years ago now, and it's only in the past four months or so that I've really started to address the disorder itself.)

This step of the process is the one in which I really, finally, learn to love and care for myself. And that takes work and it takes energy, and I'm not sure I have the time OR the energy to learn that love AND be angry at the same time. It's too...confusing.

"I love myself...those guys are bastards" doesn't really work as a personal mantra.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

privilege and ethics

Interesting stuff here, on the subject of privilege, which I have been thinking quite a lot about lately, thanks to various discussions both in the Fatosphere and other places online.

This comment really struck a chord with me:

I am not likely to have to listen to conversations/commercials where people talk about how not to look like me.

People in my office are always going on about their diets, their exercise regimes, how fat they are, how they have to lose some weight, how bad they are because they ate a doughnut, and how they absolutely must not look like me. They don't say "we are doing this to avoid looking like you, because, Jesus!" But yeah. That's what they mean.

Of course, if I pointed this out, they'd say that isn't what they meant at all, and that's the truth too. They don't mean that they don't want to look like ME (although they don't) because they haven't actually figured ME into the conversation at all, even when I'm part of it, or sitting one desk away. It doesn't enter their minds that it might be okay to look like me, that I might not be miserable looking like me, that there's not something horribly wrong with me, but it also isn't a conscious series of thoughts in which they think "I hope I never look like Maddie, pass me a carrot."

But I've long loathed their "OMG admire all the effort I am putting into avoiding looking like you" camaraderie, and I didn't quite understand why. It was partly about my own eating problems, which are myriad, and which are made a hundred times worse by making the kind of effort they're making. But part of it, I finally realise, was that they were saying "you are ugly and I would rather torture myself than look like you".

And they don't realise that, actually, I'd rather torture myself than look like me as well, but, lucky me, I get to do both. I've completely internalised the entire line about the relative values of fatness and thinness, and my self-loathing is generated from there almost entirely.

I am now well-armed with very reasonable arguments about health, and the unhealthiness of diets, and my own mental health, and on that level, I can say, yes, I am okay with being fat.

But if I'm honest, I have to admit that on this basic level - the level of not wanting to look like myself - I am not happy about it at all.

You know that ethics test where they say, hey, if you could get a million dollars for pressing a button which would kill one person in a far off country somewhere whose life you would never encounter, would you do it? And you're supposed to say no, because of the sanctity of human life.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if someone offered me that chance to be permanently perfectly thin.

Of course, no doubt, if I did kill an innocent person just so I could be think, I'd then have the fascinating experience of discovering that it's not really about hating my fat at all, and the feelings could remain long after the body had changed.

Wow, I'm in an impressively bad mood. I'll blame it on the fact that I just had a wonderful holiday, but am now forced to go back to a job I loathe, in the same office as those diet-obsessed people I mentioned above.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

grief and contentment

I recently had a couple of assessment visits with an eating disorder clinic. I'm not terribly impressed at this stage, for various reasons, and I don't know if I'll end up getting any help from them. There are distance and time issues which make it harder. We'll see.

But what I remember vividly is the sheer power of my emotions once I got onto the subject of my relationship with my body and with food. I haven't cried like that in years, not since I was depressed and seeing a counsellor weekly. And I just realised why.

It was grief.

I don't think I understood that before.

I don't think I understood before just how much I have lost.

My sister emailed me the other day, making, to me, a completely astonishing remark:

I just live with my body type. I should absolutely do more exercise and stuff, but I'm content enough to go along with what I have!

This shouldn't be shocking to me – even by current standards, my sister is in good shape. She's a Type 1 diabetic, so her diet is pretty carefully monitored anyway, but she's not uptight about what she eats. She doesn't mind if she gains or loses weight. She just is, in her own words, content.

I wonder how that's possible, especially considering that she came between me, with compulsive eating disorder, and our youngest sister, who was anorexic in her teens (though happily fully recovered now). How did she manage to glide right by the issues with food that have plagued me for over two decades, or those which plagued our sister in her teens.

For me, you see, I can't imagine a world in which I don't imagine people judging me when I buy crisps with my lunch, in which I don't feel guilty and yet compelled whenever there's food in front of me, in which my body is a neutral thing that I can just "go along" with. At every point, I seem to be battling, feeling conflicted and ashamed, either because I'm failing to meet even the beauty standards in my head or because I'm failing to meet the moral standards I've been setting myself. Even as I begin to understand the meaning of "fat acceptance", I'm still usually overwhelmed by the feeling that it just isn't okay for me to be fat.

It's not even coming from the outside, mostly. Oh, there are occasional comments, and occasionally I read hateful remarks that people make on FA blogs and wonder if that's what people are actually thinking that about me. But mostly, it comes from me. There's no one else who's second guessing my crisps – really, if anyone was, I'd say they were in serious need of a life. It's me.

I wish I knew how to make me shut up.

But then, maybe that's part of the problem – I don't look at the part of me that is terrified by crisps and try to understand her, ask her why that bothers her. I tend to want her to shut up and go away, because I think that if I was free of her, maybe I would be able to be happy in my body. Maybe I would lose weight. Maybe not. I think of her as a burden, as something to grieve over, and maybe she's still screaming, in the midst of all my understanding and indignation over FA issues which you would think would make me feel better, about how I'm too fat to live because she's still scared, and I still treat her like shit. I can see so clearly how my disorder works, and yet I still don't ask it what it's doing for me, what necessary function it performed once upon a time that made me cling onto it.

The other day, I was reading Geneen Roth's blog, and came across the following:

"Whether we are sailing into the New Age or facing Armageddon, our work is still the same: to look as deeply as we can into our hearts, to tell the truth, and to question our old beliefs. To be willing to have our hearts break rather than keep ourselves protected. Emotional eating is based on old beliefs of what keeps us safe. Wars between countries are based on old beliefs of what keeps us safe. Question the war inside yourself because what you find inside you is what gets reflected in the world we live. It can't be any other way, since the world is us. If you want to change the world, start with yourself. Start by asking yourself if eating cupcakes for breakfast is an act of tenderness. Question the way you treat yourself, your children, your neighbours. Become your own beloved."

It's so hard to remember to do that. It's so hard, in my grieving for the body contentment that my sister has and I, somehow, lost, to remember not to blame the part of me that has spent twenty years trying so hard to get on top of this. I'd like to separate from her, but she's still me.

It's back to the abused spouse metaphor again. I still haven't stopped treating her like shit.

Sigh. If anyone's actually reading this, I apologise for being so misery-guts-ish.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

a question of sleeves

When I'm not blogging about my body, I have numerous crafty hobbies, the most time-consuming at present being knitting. Since I've not yet reached the point of designing my own knitting patterns, I therefore spend quite a lot of time looking at the millions of patterns available online.

Recently, I've gone a little yarn-mad and bought several different beautiful yarns which I want to use to knit things for myself for a change, including some French blue silk which is light and soft and beautiful, perfect for a summery top. I'm limited by a few things – the amount of yarn I've got, the sizes most patterns go up to (a subject for another post), finding patterns that really suit a body of my dramatic curves, and most of all, by sleeves.

I'm looking for a pattern with sleeves. Because I want to cover my arms.

Originally, I was going to knit a rather nice pattern for an empire style tank top with wide straps or a corset top, but as time as passed, I'm thinking, "I like those, but my arms are fat, which will undermine the niceness of the top, and my beautiful yarn..."

But I wonder why I think this. I'm a warm person – even when I was smaller, I got warm easily. It's not as though I need the extra coverage. I'm simply looking for it because I feel like leaving my arms hanging out there will present some kind of visual affront. Never mind that the top might show off my killer rack or (comparatively) tiny waist. It's my arms that are a problem. Note: my arms are the problem. Not "people looking at my arms instead of my gorgeous handknitted top", not "society which judges my arms", but my actual arms are the problem.

This is stupid. Hard to fight, but stupid.

To be honest, I'll still probably go for a top with sleeves, if I can find one. I'm working on getting on with my body, but I'm not sure I trust anyone else to do so yet.

I wrote that earlier and looking at it now, I'm thinking, but isn't that the point? Not that other people have to get on with my body, but that I have to love and approve of myself to the point that someone else's judgement, particularly judgement that is almost certainly going to stay inside their own heads, doesn't carry any weight? I mean, if I'm okay with my arms, and my husband is okay with my arms, then who the hell cares about anyone else's private opinions of them?

The frustrating thing is that I intellectually understand this. It's not that I wish to make myself obnoxious to the world at large, I just want to love myself so much that I'm really okay with being seen.