Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Feast or Famine

So about now I feel as though, topped with a little chocolate sauce and some whipped cream, I could eat my own shoe. I'm hungry, folks. H. U. N. G. R. Y. I vowed just one month ago to never diet again, to never talk about diets, to relegate diets to the dark, dank dungeons of my brain never to speak of them again. And here I sit with my hunger and my meal plan and my disgusting, fucking pride, on a damn diet.

So here's the part where I try to justify what I'm doing. I want to say, "It's for health reasons. A little extra weight just isn't healthy, people." I want to say, "I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin." But the truth is I will never feel comfortable in my own skin. Not now when I weigh 125 pounds. Not at 100 pounds. Not at 85 pounds. Never. Because no matter what, the weight of my physical body, the weight of my brain, will always overwhelm me. And what I see when I look at myself in the mirror will never be the truth of what I am.

A diet is dangerous to me. Not fatally dangerous. I'm not suicidal. I'm not that much of a moron anymore. But I get addicted to diets the way that some people get addicted to alcohol, or shopping, or crack cocaine. And despite my obligatory complaints about hunger, I actually derive pleasure from that sensation. I could dine on that delicious emptiness for the whole of my life. There is nothing so tasty as the emotional numbness that comes with restriction. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating it. I'm just saying that some of us have brains that function in such a way that starvation actually feels like bliss. It sets the world aright. And if you are sitting there thinking, "What the fuck is she talking about?", then congratulations. You are mentally healthy. I would give up orgasms to be mentally healthy. Well maybe not orgasms. But something really, really good. Unfortunately, I don't think there are that many normal people left in the world. I'm hard pressed to find a single person who isn't as concerned about their weight as I am.

The biggest problem with starvation is that physiologically it's unsustainable. The work of Ancel Keys is particularly fascinating to me. What this scientific experiment demonstrated is that most people will respond to periods of starvation with food and weight obsessions and ultimately, binging. Is it any wonder that in a society where everyone is on a diet, we paradoxically have a so-called obesity epidemic? Everywhere I turn - on the news, in magazines, in conversations - there is somebody to tell me that I'm not okay. That what I'm doing to myself is acceptable, even commendable. I came home the other day to find an advertisement for a local gym stuck in my door. You know what it said? "Do you feel fat? Who doesn't?" And even in my diseased mind I can recognize that as twisted beyond belief.

I guess in my own way, I'm trying to fit in. It's the age-old, "well everyone else is doing it!" Deep down, I know it's stupid. I know it's ridiculous. I hate myself for buying into the idea that hating myself is the way to go. But I do it anyway.

I take big risks when I write so honestly about my thoughts. I am not anonymous. I can only hope the people in my life will respect my truthfulness and not over-scrutinize me or worry about me. I am as well as I ever will be. I do the best I can. Each day I arise to a new day and tackle the challenges therein. Full weight.


  1. I struggled with my weight for most of my life. I rode the train, stopping at every station to see if this plan or that plan would work.

    Then shit got ugly. I almost died. At 33. So I had weight loss surgery.

    Definitely NOT for everyone. But one glorious side effect is that I no longer obsess about food. It's like a switch was flipped. And it messed me up for a time, not having to think about it. To have that taken away so quickly, and quite unexpectedly, still amazes me . . .

    To repeat: I'm NOT saying this is something you should consider. Or that it's the only way to deal with weight issues. But for me, it saved my life . . .

  2. Tys Daddy - thanks for your comment. I guess its unfair of me to claim a weight problem when I weigh 125 pounds. When I hear stories like yours I actually feel guilty, petty, and vain. I realize that what I'm dealing with in terms of weight is nowhere close to what some other have to contend with. I am just a bit heavier than I want to be. And now I feel totally lame saying that after you've had to have weight loss surgery to save your very life. I'm so happy for you and that you are able to live a happy, healthy life now. Living without food and weight obsessions should be the goal - for all of us.

  3. I'm overweight and right now I'm noshing on some fried chicken fingers. I can't really bring myself to be upset about it. And I'm kind of ok with that. For now. Later might be a different story.

    Good luck on getting healthier, though. I could sure stand to do that, too.

  4. The grass is always greener...and yummier...on the other side of the street.

    I am terrified of that feeling for reasons I cannot STILL at the age of 41 pinpoint, but that does send me running to the fridge more often than is healthy.


    We are who we are.

  5. Some days I wonder why I ever got into recovery. I swear, some days numb is all I want to be. But, you know, it's kind of like poking a bear with a stick. I get my ass kicked every time.

  6. I'm definately vain, and think about my body too much and consider all manner of retarded and dangerous things to get back into my preprego 8's. I don't think I will ever stop having days where I wished I looked different, better. But the adult, the rational me, does very few of those destructive things and searches for a middle ground. On this matter, I basically have to parent myself. Food is in my opinion the most difficult addiction because you can't just stop eating. N one asks an alcoholic to have one drink a day or a meth user to learn how to moderate. We have adapted for feast and famine and problem is, it's all about feast these days, there is just so much food around, food commercials, food programs, chefs are the new gods..... Anyhow Gewn, you have a rpoblem that nearly every woman has and it's a constant struggle to tell yourself yu're ok and mean it. I'm a size ten now, I am 5'1 and weigh 148 pounds. I know plenty of women who would love to have my shape. My husband loves my body and tells me everyday(and chases me around constantly) and still, I pine for 130, ugh.

  7. WRH - "We are who we are" - words so wise in their simplicity. I'm trying to accept that. It's hard.

    Mong Girl - I had an addiction to - to anorexia nervosa. I'm recovered but, like you, I still long for the numbness that my addiction brought me. Obviously, I have more moments of clarity where I remember the hell that was those years of my life wasted to that illness. But I still WANT to be anorexic some days. It takes a lot of strength and courage to resist the urge to return to that.

    Formerly fun - you are right when you say I'm probably no different than other woman in my struggle. Yet, the difference is that I HAVE crossed the line in the past and was in serious crisis because of my weight and food obsessions. I read your post a few months back about body image and was so moved by it that I wrote a post of my own about it. I look at your pictures on your page and think you are lovely.

  8. I really appreciate you writing about this.

    My daughter has occasional bouts of starving herself, and she's found the writing of Marya Hornbacher to be helpful. Have you read her book, Wasted?

  9. musing - I have read Wasted, years ago. I'm surprised your daughter found it so helpful. Honestly, that's a very triggering book, meaning it can exacerbate anorexic syptoms in most people with the illness because of it's explicit reference to weights and unhealthy weight loss methods. Most anorexic adolescents are NOT permitted to read it in treatment because of these elements. I'm glad your daughter was helped rather than hindered by it. Hopefully your daughter is doing well. There's a book called "Life Without ED" by Jenni Schaefer (spelling?)that a lot of people with eating disorders find helpful as well.

  10. We could have one helluva conversation on food obsession and body image. You've got (or had in the past) one extreme of the problem, and I have the other. How is it that some people look in the mirror and can never love what they see, and others can look in the mirror and never want to make it better? Isn't there a happy medium? For yearssss, I was 140 pounds heavier (yes, you read that right!)and was for the most part, happy as a clam. I can't even imagine what the hell was wrong with me that I was able to live with myelf like that for so long. I talked myself into ignoring my body and health, letting myself go for all sorts of irrational reasons. (I'm a good person ... I have lots of friends .... people shouldn't be judged on their appearance, and on and on). It's a crock of shit. There's no reason to let yourself go like that, just like there's no reason to starve yourself or binge/purge.

    No matter what the flavor of food obsession, it's a gnarly animal. I'd love to be a lab rat for a food addiction study.

  11. I'm the rare exception. I have never worried about my weight or what I put in my mouth (except after my husband died and then I had surgery and was hideously underweight). This is even more remarkable considering my mother has always had an eating disorder. My fear is her passing it along to my daughter--who is not yet 2. Her exact words to me recently, "I hope Ava is not eating out of boredom." I can't make that shit up.

  12. Lisa - I agree that no matter what kind of food obsession we're cursed with, it's a terrible, terrible thing. I think anorexia/compulsive over-eating are two sides of the same coin. I actually don't blame our culture so much as I believe that our culture can trigger what is a neurological predisposition and turn it into some form of eating disorder. In other words, there are susceptibilities in humans to have these types of disorders. It's been proven that binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia have distinctly genetic components. I think the reason we have a higher incidence of eating problems now is because there are just more environmental triggers. I think you are an inspiration. Losing 140 pounds is just an unbelievable feat of courage. Just know that I would still think you were amazing if you hadn't done that because you seem like a really great person - you are funny, smart, and an awesome writer. Trifecta of greatness.

    Sandi - I'm so happy to hear that you have escaped that doom so many of us know. Your mother's comment is unfortunately so typical. I know people who comment on my kid's weight (she's 3). I mean not negatively - just they notice. She's normal in every way. I just don't think a 3 year old weight is remarkable except at her doctor's appointment. People are weird. And your mom is ill so that makes it harder for you.

  13. Hey Sandi! Let's get your mom and my mom together...my mom announces everything she's put into her mouth and recently offered, unsolicited, to pay for a tummy tuck for me.


  14. My mother is overweight and extremely unhealthy-high stress job, heavy smoker, eats like shit, no exercise...My mother in law is bulimic or at least recovering bulimic, not sure. She is obsessed with food and frequently talks about diets and losing weight... My kids are perfect. They eat healthfully and even though I could be a Grade A couch potato, hubs and I do a lot of "active lifestyle" things to model good habits for the kids. After it making me more and more nutty, I finally pulled my mil aside and told her as nicely as I could, hey, the kids? they pay attention to EVERYTHING we say, they have no issues with food and hubs and I are very conscious of not talking about dieting or "food is te enemy" or anything that will make them think about eating in an unhealthy way. To say that she was a bit put off is an understatement but she has definately been more quiet on the whole calorie, diet...business. I am kind of a nazi about the television and Gwen you are right, the triggers are everywhere, I keep the tv viewing to a minimum because of the commercials and even how so many kids shows in my opinion oversexualize young girls and get girls thinking way to early about how they look. Don't think I don't let the tv babysit my kids once in awhile, I do, I just put a movie in so I can control the content and minimized the commercials. I know all the stuff will get to them eventually, but I just want the girls to be unselfconcious girls as long as they can. Really thoughtful comments from everyone, I enjoyed reading them.