Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fat Failure

{I am putting a trigger warning on this post for eating disorders, body issues, and self-harm.}

I'm still new to the concept of fat acceptance.

I have been trying to love my body for years. I understand that I have tried everything short of weight loss surgery to lose weight and was never able to get lower than 140lbs. On a 5ft frame, that is still pretty big and still put me in the overweight category according to the BMI. I had to eat nothing but apple juice and saltines, plus throw up two to three times a day for a whole month to get to that weight too. When given the choice by my very scared (now ex)girlfriend between eating and not puking and being put in the hospital against my will, I decided to try to eat again. Within a few months, I had regained all but 2 of the 40lbs I had lost in that scary month, and had gained anxiety attacks and an occasional heart issue as well. When I tried to get my heart issue examined, I was told to lose weight first, regardless of my protests that I hadn't had a heart problem until after I had lost weight. I have come to the realization in recent years that my girlfriend's threat probably would not have been carried out, not from lack of intent on her part, but because by most medical standards, I was still fat even after starving and purging for 30 days straight.

When my Grandmother was on chemotherapy for her second (and eventually fatal) round of breast cancer, she drastically lost weight. All people at her office could see was that she was skinny. So what if she was going bald? So what if she was nauseous and tired all the time? So what if she was dying? At least she was finally thin!

And we reach my central point...the value we have on thinness. The myth that it is better regardless of how it is reached. I have been told that I should lose weight before I could get fertility advice, because I am supposed to put my health in jeopardy for arbitrary standards of what is attractive in order to win the right to reproduce.

As much as I want to love my body, I am buffeted constantly with images, people, advertisements and medical professionals telling me that fat is BAD and since I'm fat, I must be weak-willed, lazy, gluttonous, and immoral because being fat is a "choice" that I made. It started from childhood, with a schoolmate calling me "chubby" in the first grade to my dance teacher when I was 12 nick-naming me "mama cow" because puberty made me balloon to my school mates in junior high taking up the nickname and mooing at me in the hallways, and in the end, all of this is considered justified because I wouldn't be fat unless I wasn't trying to be thin, amiright?

I have accepted this idea of the morality of body shape/size to such a degree that when I don't do something right, I criticize my body. When I feel incompetent, I can feel my body very acutely, and the feeling of it touching my clothing reminds me of how big I am. I tell myself to stop being so damn fat as if my fat disappearing will take all of my foibles as a person away with it, and being thin will mean that I have attained perfection. It takes all of the mental energy I have not to freak right the hell out and break down crying when this happens. I know that its not true, I know that its a fantasy, and that just reinforces my feelings of being a failure. Its a nasty downward spiral that usually ends with me in the bathroom tearing my clothes off and punching my own stomach repeatedly.

My spouse tries to help by telling me that I'm beautiful when I complain about feeling fat. While the sentiment is well-meaning, and I know zie truly finds me beautiful, the problem still remains of juxtaposing a truth about me, my fat, with hir perception of me as beautiful. It translates in my warped, self-hating mind to hir loving me despite my fat. My fat is still bad, zie just tolerates it. That probably is not the case at all, but that is what happens in my head. My sister-in-law also makes such well-meaning gaffes. I try to talk about my fat as a morally neutral fact, in order to counter my fantasy of being thin, and it can help to a point, at least on the surface. She can always be relied upon to rush to reassure me that I am not fat! Not at all! She doesn't realize that she is assuming fat is always a bad thing. Then again, she and I are both dancers and have been subjected to the same brainwashing, so I can understand to a point why she does this. Her intentions are sweet, but not helpful at all.

All I want is to get a point where I don't actively hate my body and myself for having it.
Why the fuck does it have to be this hard?


  1. One of the things that helped me get over bashing my body all the time was to think at least one positive thought about my body every time I had a negative thought. I also thought about all the things my body could do, in spite of the fact that it's fat. It's not easy replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones, but it's well worth the time and effort.

  2. Your heart issues are undoubtedly connected to the starving--the heart needs POTASSIUM to beat properly. EAT BANANAS AND AVOCADOS IMMEDIATELY--squawks mom. :) No manufactured supplement has as high a concentration of potassium as either of these two foods! I would suggest as many a day as you can take, for awhile at least. Add to your diet permanently! Really, you'll be surprised at the difference.

    Since foods like these are "high calorie"--this is a major reason anorexics (and even simple "dieters") develop significant heart issues...

    ((hugs))) Love yas.

  3. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Hi--saw this linked in the blogaround comments at Shakesville. Your inner discussions sound very similar to some that a friend and I have often. We are both unhappy with our weight; she feels over, and I feel under.

    Anyhow, I'm not sure if this will help, but I thought I'd a perspective from the thin side. I actually weigh more than you (150), but I am also 5'11" with a large frame. Freshman year of college, I weighed 195, but the dorm food, spontaneous lifestyle of never going to bed or waking up at the same time day to day, and changes to my metabolism resulted in some pretty serious weight loss that I absolutely did not intend and is probably unhealthy. I had to keep buying new pants and I'm afraid I will lose my wedding ring because it keeps slipping off my finger. This is some context for something I told my friend the other day. I complained about people telling me how nice and slim I look for three central reasons.
    1. I didn't try to lose the weight. I don't think dieting makes anyone "good," and the assumption that I not only lost the pounds on purpose but also that this makes me morally superior and deserving of congratulations drives me crazy.
    2. I am not slim--I am unhealthy. I was actually proud this week to notice I was back up at 150 after a month at 145.
    3. I do not like the way that my body looks or feels without much fat. My bones stick out and hit up against each other (poky elbows on protruding hips...ouch). No matter what I sit on or how I sit, I am uncomfortable. I have to keep shifting positions because I have no natural padding.

    I realize that my body type is privileged over others, but I wish it wasn't. People may think I'm "sexier," but I don't feel that I am. I wish I wasn't so stressed and busy with school that I had more time to eat regularly, fix calorie-and-nutrient rich meals for myself on a daily basis, etc. Mostly, I just wanted to let you know that I sympathize and to share what the body image maze is like for me. ((hug))

    I'm also sorry that this comment is anonymous--I couldn't figure out how to sign in to any of my commenting accounts from here (not that anybody knows me...I'm a pro lurker)

    -muchell (misaventure)

  4. Hi there. Just wondered if you'd been reading junkfood science < > at all... it might help, it might not, it's certainly interesting to me :)

    I'm sorry you see fat as a negative thing. My boyfriend struggles with the same issues when his weight (barely) fluctuates, and nothing I say seems to have any impact, no matter how beautiful I think he is.