Monday, 12 May 2008

sneaky beast

Eating disorders are sneaky things. I've been having a fairly good week, till yesterday, when I did a bit too much grazing, thanks to an extremely frustrating and boring job.

But then this morning, I was walking through the pouring rain to work, and happened upon a Mars Bar in the street. Which is to say, it was half eaten, and lying on the filthy pavement in the aforementioned pouring rain.

And I thought, "I could totally eat that Mars Bar."

I didn't, I'm pleased to say, but it was touch and go for a moment or two, and that, let's face it, is pretty disgusting. I'm not really sure why it was touch and go. Especially for a filthy, wet, half-eaten chocolate bar, given that I'd been in a shop with plenty of clean, wrapped, brand new Mars Bars about five minutes earlier and hadn't even been tempted, and was about to be close to the work canteen, which also has plenty of clean, wrapped, brand new Mars Bars.

And after getting to work, I didn't even want one. I just ate my Special K, and had a biscuit when it was offered (wafer with white chocolate coating and chocolate cream). Hell, I actually have a clean, wrapped, brand new Toblerone with fruit and nut in my bag, and I haven't touched that.

It's baffling.

It's sneaky in other ways too. I get a fair bit of exercise, which is largely incidental because I don't drive and therefore have to walk everywhere, but I keep thinking I would like to branch out a bit. Consciously, I think this because of the thing itself. Consciously I think I would like to be more flexible, more centred, have better balance, strengthen my painful feet, stretch my painful back...There are many benefits to exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss.

But there's this niggling little voice in my head all the time, what if it doesn't work?

"Work?" I say to myself. "What do you mean, work? Dude, if I do a little yoga and/or a little Tai Chi every day, it'll work. I'll be more flexible, better balanced, stronger and probably in less pain."

"Yes," says the little voice plaintively, "but will you be thinner?"

Of course, to make matters worse, I have a feeling that, contrary being that I am, there are many kinds of exercise I've avoided doing over the years because, if I did them, I would probably have lost weight. There are things I stopped doing, for no apparent reason, while they were achieving the exact effect I allegedly wanted.

For me at least, this disorder is a sneaky, subtle and contrary beast. On the one hand, it's a rare day on which I don't feel desperate to lose weight at least part of the time, even if I'm shoving food into my mouth at that exact time. On the other, this seems to have developed in such a way as to prevent that loss. I guess I could put that down to rebellion or determination by some inner goblin to be loved for itself, not for its body, some battle for control over my body against a mother who was determined it should be different than it was.

I don't know, I really don't. It's like living with a highly erratic and completely unreliable relative who has burdened you with their presence for twenty odd years without ever explaining why the hell they can't just go live somewhere else, or contributing in any way to the running of the household.

My father, who is a psychologist, says that all behaviours originally served an important purpose. We could argue, perhaps, that my eating problems started as a kind of war for territory against my mother. He says the problem is that they often persist long past their usefulness. Assuming that my eating problems are the war for territory, yeah, this is long past any usefulness it may ever have had. It's beyond useless at this point. I'm thirty two, I'm married, and I live on the other side of the world from my mother. Furthermore, I've told her in no uncertain terms that there should be no discussion of my weight and that she shouldn't buy me clothes. So as far as my original war is concerned, it's over – I won. I'm fat as a baobab tree, and my mother does not try to influence what I eat. The territory is all mine. Whoo.


I keep writing these long, rather rambling posts that come to no clear conclusion lately. I don't have a conclusion yet. As much as I can look at events or people in my life and say, "hey, that's how this started", I haven't yet figured out how to make it end, even so many years after the starting points have ceased to be relevant.

I'm just so tired of being ambushed by myself, and I don't know how to get me to stop.

It's interesting, though, in the light of some of the recent Fatosphere discussion about dieting and fat acceptance, to wonder where someone like me fits into that. To be sure, I've been anti-diet longer than I've been remotely interested in fat acceptance, simply because diets make me crazy, and also fat. Actually, I suspect they make everyone crazy, but I know they make me crazy. That knowledge hasn't stopped me wanting to lose weight. Finding FA hasn't made me stop wanting to lose weight.

Fundamentally, you see, I don't believe that I really should be this fat. It would be easier to be accepting, in a sense, if I was also sure of that. And when I say "should be", I mean "my genetics may give me a predisposition to being overweight, but I don't believe that without compulsive eating, I would actually be the aforementioned baobab lady." I'd probably be on the bigger-than-curvy side – there would still be a lot of people who would call me fat. But not THIS fat.

Then again, maybe my current ideal body of size UK16, something I feel I could live with, is just as ridiculously out of range as a size 10 was in the days when I was size 16. Maybe the point of the entire thing is to learn to live with myself as I am, because it would change nothing if I was a size 16 and still felt like this about myself, or a size 10 for that matter.

No less crazy, no less ambushed by this sneaky beast which tracks me all day and all night and everywhere.


Mizbig said...

Superfantastic post! I feel EXACTLY like you. I thought it was just me who felt so conflicted about wanting being Fat Accepting, yet, still thinking about weightloss, every single darn day.

Thank you for writing this!

Maddie said...

Thank you MizBig. No, you're not alone, and I suspect there are many more of us. I want so much to be accepting of my body the way it is, but it's so goddamn hard when the biggest investment of thought that I have had over the past twenty one years has been about the exact opposite. I grasp all the theory of Fat Acceptance, I totally agree with the concept, but it's still to really take root with me, FOR me.