On Actually Being Fat

No, I’m not fat-shaming myself. I am not referring to myself as fat in vain. Truthfully, I’m pretty uncomfortable using the word to describe anyone or anything. It’s become quite taboo. But, from a medical standpoint (albeit a somewhat extraneous one), I was once obese.

The first time I heard this word used to describe me was surprisingly not from the voice in my head that decidedly hates me and does not want me to be happy. I was in Kindergarten, probably just being five and minding my own business, and a set of twins in my class pointed it out to me. And I was. At the time, I was roughly a foot taller than most of my classmates, and I would be until I finally stopped growing in the sixth grade. As a rule, height comes with weight. Due to my awkward spurt of rapid growth, I was given the unfortunate role of taking up more space than everyone else in the room at any given time. Turns out this is pretty traumatic as a kid because everyone notices. It also just so happens that children tend to be very uncensored, so they make sure to tell you that you look weird, or in my case, fat. By the time I was twelve, I weighed in at roughly 150 pounds. Again, from a medical standpoint, I weighed in at ‘fat.’

Between neurotic late-night Google searching “WHY WHY WHY DID I GAIN SIX POUNDS IN TWO DAYS WILL IT EVER GO AWAY” and a general interest in weight-loss, I have read my fair share of other people’s experiences. Going into reading about people’s weight struggles, I suppose I’m essentially looking for something to relate to. Eventually, I sought out reading material more geared specifically toward women who had eating disorders. Thus, I found that most people who suffer from anorexia go from an average weight to underweight. This lead me to believe I was alone in my own experience; I was obese, and at my lowest, a few pounds shy of underweight. The fact is, this facilitates the idea that “fat people” can’t have eating disorders.

First and foremost, I’m going to point out that I did not reach obesity through “normal” eating habits. The first time I recognized my disordered eating, I was merely six years old. I became consciously aware that I ate “too much.” It was my first disordered thought followed by disordered behavior. I specifically remember reacting to this thought by eating. From that point on, I kept my emotions well-fed.

At 17, I weighed in at my highest. I had neglected to keep up with the number for a year or two at this point. I was in an incredibly unhealthy relationship, and my situation at home had become unbearable. I had a GPA of less than 1.0 and I was using a very wide range of drugs on a daily basis. All of the emotional turmoil was showing. This is the only time I can recall seeing the number on the scale as something more than a reflection of my appearance. I understand now that in my case, the number has always reflected much more than my appearance.

Now I’m 21, and I’m at my lowest weight. I’m about the size that I was in the fourth grade. It was an awkward transformation, almost like reverse puberty. It was a total shock to the system. My body desperately wants me to put on weight, while my metabolism is like, “NOPE!” Despite physically being my ten year old self, as a woman with a restrictive eating disorder, I am still “fat.” Now I’m just calling myself names. You can tell me how I’m not fat all you’d like, but this is the reality of the way people see things. Anorexia is synonymous with emaciation to an entire society of people, and I’ve (thankfully) never quite fit that standard.

Initially, this misconception was my defense. I didn’t need help because I wasn’t underweight, and I wasn’t going to get any help until I got there. Truthfully, I still fight this feeling every day. I stood in front of my mirror each morning, rapidly shrinking each couple of days, maybe a week. Inch by inch, my clothes hung from my shoulders like the hangers I took them from, growing wider. I picked up the fist-sized ball of hair on the floor every time I ran a brush through it. One, two, three brushes, and I couldn’t bear letting any more fall. I listened to my heart beat, faint and mostly undetectable without great concentration. Still, I wasn’t sick enough because the scale said so. I had been subscribing to the rules of the scale my whole life now. Through years of intense phases of bulimia, I never reached a weight below the high end of “average.” Therefore, I wasn’t sick enough.

Now I’m understanding that there’s no such thing as sick enough. I feel like a lot of people who are hesitant about treatment use this as a device, even if they are underweight, because of such an unrealistic perception of the body. Of course, someone whose organs are failing can’t see them failing, but they can see their shrunken self in the mirror the same as they looked when they were alive and healthy (otherwise known as “fat”). The thing that I struggle with is actually having been fat. The fear of gaining weight that characterizes disordered eating is that much more overwhelming when you know what it’s really like to be “pretty for a bigger girl.” I still see that person in the mirror. I am almost entirely incapable of seeing the difference in me now from a hundred pounds ago.

One of the first things my therapist told me when I sat down on her couch was, “You can sue me for millions if you get fat.” Yeah, it seems a little vain at first glance. But I think about it every day when I have momentary freak-outs about – you guessed it – being fat. I’m starting to think she means something more along the lines of, “You can sue me for millions if you spend the rest of your life thinking you’re fat.” Positive progress in terms of interpretation, right? Which, to me, is what the word “fat” needs in all respects – a new understanding.

EasterFamily

 

This week began with a splendid Easter Sunday. I don’t remember the last time I had a Sunday off! I made a light and healthy brunch for the family. Now that Spring is upon us, I’m making better efforts to eat local. Pittsburgh isn’t exactly an agricultural hub, but it’s easier to source local food than I thought it would be! My plan is to quit the (corporate) grocery store from May 1st until roughly October as a means of shortening my food chain and becoming more strict about my food budget which has become not much of a budget at all! I picked up some pastured eggs and asparagus for the fritatta at the farmer’s market, while the potatoes were from Clarion River Organics which I received in my CSA along with the cheese. I juiced some oranges after not having OJ for months, and I probably drank half the pitcher! It was a simple and beautiful meal. I can’t believe I had never made a fritatta before. It turned out to be a crowd-pleaser, too. I was surprised considering my family is usually a little skeptical of what I’m eating. We have wildly different tastes and cooking styles.

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Last weekend, Brandon went out for Record Store Day and picked us up some goodies. I finally went over to see what he had gotten, and I was pleasantly surprised. We added nearly 25 new records this week! He picked up lots of classics, some of our favorite new albums, and some exclusives. This is his official RSD haul with some Regina Spektor and Atmosphere especially for me!

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Now I’m looking forward to finishing up building the deck my carpentry class is working on at Garfield Farms tomorrow. We’re having a pizza party, and there is no better combination than pizza and power tools.

I am still trying to find my “blogger voice,” I suppose, but I’m trying to be consistent and not be too worried about my writing being “good” or “bad” at the moment. I can’t tell whether I’m accomplishing anything with what I’m writing, but that’s okay for now. So if you made it to the end, thank you for reading!

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Why my new blog is a blog at all.

Well, I’ve always had random blogs and good intentions, but none of them ever quite became of anything. That’s fortunate considering they were largely compiled of naked people, cats, and song lyrics typed on photos of trees. Let’s let this one be the exception! I have to say, I almost gave up when they asked me to NAME my blog. I’m still not sure whether I like it. Within the past month, I read and enjoyed both ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf and ‘A Place of My Own’ by Michael Pollan, so I came up with what I’ve got. Better than being defeated by the pressure.

Lately, a lot of people have suggested that I start a blog dedicated to recipes and cooking and whatnot. As much as I would love to do that, there are a few problems. First, I don’t have a nice camera. Sure, it isn’t necessary, but I don’t much care for full-size, low-resolution photographs of otherwise photogenic meals or recipes without any photos at all. Two, I am not ready. Not at all.

That isn’t to say that this isn’t a food blog. Everything I write will probably boil down to food in one way or another. But, I am by no means in any position to focus on my culinary prowess just yet. Recently, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder by a professional lady who apparently knows what she’s talking about. She has not told me which disorder – which is fine – but she calls them out depending on what my past week looked like. I am not DSM criteria for anorexia despite my lack of a menstrual cycle, but I am also not strictly bulimic despite my now instinctive ability to make myself sick. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as the spectrum is much wider than that. I don’t think that a concrete definition would be of any particular benefit anyways. The point is, I have suffered from severely disordered eating habits for over a decade. More importantly, I still am.

I am now in my fourth month of recovery. It seems like a strange word. Honestly, I feel unworthy of “recovery.” I associate such a process with being institutionalized and being thin, both of which I am not. Regardless, I’m making up for lost time. Sometimes, when I become intensely aware of what I’m putting into the recovery process, I come to terms with the slightly grim reality of my existence up until now; I have been aggressively working against my own freedom and health in an attempt to be perfect. I can’t even say that my goal was ever to be a certain size or weight, because it was always so beyond anything that was actually attainable. Silly, isn’t it?

Now, I was never expecting any of this to be especially easy. After all, it’s quite simply what I’m accustomed to. Most times, I literally have no idea how to react to anything without putting my body in physical distress. This is becoming more and more painfully obvious throughout the recovery process. As a result, it seems as though recovering is getting increasingly difficult. As with most new things, there was the initial honeymoon phase during which I felt enthusiastic about my health and less disappointed by my shortcomings. Now, though, I have a lot more days where I wonder if things will ever get better. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting this whole deal to be a walk in the park, but it is really tough stuff which leads me to my overall blog objective: I want a place to process my thoughts in text with a potential audience and a platform for feedback/discussion.

Most people, even those who have been close to me for years, have no idea what I’ve  been dealing with. I always thought it was pretty uninteresting to discuss topics like what I wish were different about my appearance or how much weight I needed to lose at any given time. That’s not to say I never mentioned it; I just never stressed it any more than the average young woman, which is quite a common focus in the first place. Eventually, the loss of 100 pounds ensued, which caused a little commotion. It was gradual in the sense that I would lose 30-50 pounds pretty rapidly, and either gain it back or maintain for a few months. Considering the fact that I had that amount of weight to lose, though, everyone around me praised my efforts. This praise always resulted in the same question of  “How did you do it?” This leads me to my second objective in starting this blog which is taking responsibility for my habits. If you want to lose weight, don’t ask me how. Physically, I am half the human I once was. Mentally, I am completely unauthorized to guide you on a mission toward a number. I am absolutely delighted to help you develop recipes, curate shopping lists, and teach you about nutrition and food (still, not a professional), but I don’t have a single weight loss tip for ya.

My goal in writing on here is to be completely honest to the extent that I feel is necessary in regards to my recovery and the possibility of benefiting someone else. Lastly, I will never disclose any information in an attempt to receive attention or pity despite the self-criticism that will inevitably rear its head at some point.

And in true blogging fashion (I think), a brief recap of my day! I had a really wonderful, early morning before work. I got up before dawn and went to the Farmer’s Market Cooperative of East Liberty to grab some produce, cheese, and eggs to make fritattas for my family on Easter morning. I chatted it up with all the vendors and sampled lots of delicious hummus like curry, gorgonzola chive, and honey habanero. The vendor from Greek Gourmet even offered me a discount, so I left with a nice little stash for the week! I went on to discuss artisan cheese with middle-aged men like I had any idea what I was talking about. Best of all, it beat holiday grocery store madness (and the dreaded parking situation that comes with it). I headed up the street for a cappuccino at Taza D’oro as I had a few minutes to spare, and they arguably make the best in Pittsburgh. I decided to stop at La Gourmandine Bakery in Lawrenceville afterwards for a sandwich and a macaron. I went with prosciutto / pickle / butter on baguette and chocolate-mint. It was a little indulgent and out of character on my part, but it was totally worth it!

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And I guess that’s that! (Excuse my poor conclusion while I curate my perfect blog signature). Until next time?