Two events recently took place, concurrently, which begged for some personal reflection so far as it concerns this blog, my “weight loss” and this journey. One blogger (*waves hello*) called me out for dispensing advice when I have, essentially, “lost only 15 pounds in thirteen years.” Dodgy maths aside, there’s that. On the same day, a wonderful website that targets teenage girls (and boys, but primarily girls) trying to lose weight AND build positive body image, reached out to me about guest blogging. They liked the way I balance positive body talk with weight loss.
Being that both kind of touch on a similar theme and are so well-timed, I reckoned it was time for a Giant Post O’Navel Gazing Reflection.
The thing is, I didn’t always have the perspective on myself, my body and “weight loss” that I have now. It’s a perspective and self-esteem that I think is pretty healthy and positive. It was learning to love and like myself *regardless of size* that flipped the switch in my mind for lifestyle change and made true, gradual change possible. Numbers are becoming less important, as I focus less on what others tell me I should be, and more on what I want to be. I focus on how I feel — and on how fitness & muscle can transform my figure. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn if someone else thinks I haven’t lost enough weight. It’s really not about that any more.
So, yes: I failed, many times, over many years, to nip this weight thing in the bud. Like many a yo-yo dieter, I now weigh FAR more than I did when I started my weight loss efforts. I look back on my high school self and realize I wasn’t even fat! But my perception of myself — and the way others treated me — sent me another message, which I believed. That’s the delicious irony — if I had had a better self-image, and weren’t surrounded by family, peers and media that told me that I was fat — maybe I could have focused in on my behavioral & emotional issues as they related to food. Instead, embarrassment about my body coupled with a relentless guilt complex about food & “failing” lead to the same yo-yo dieting trend that most people struggle with (the success rates for “diets” = abysmal). I was so ashamed of my size, I was afraid to exercise! Talk about a negative feedback cycle.
But I forgive myself. I never saw myself as a failure, to be honest. Some would argue I need(ed) a little negative reinforcement – you’re too easy on yourself, fatty! But I think, deep down, I never hated myself fat – I was embarrassed and perhaps annoyed that I struggled where others didn’t. I never hated myself, period. But I didn’t truly love myself, either. I followed the fantasy of being thin and fabulous, convinced that I was awesome in every respect *but* my body, so I just had to fix that. Now I realize that was a damaging notion — maybe if I had accepted what I was, and WHY I was that way, I could have worked on the underlying issues a long time ago.
At the same time, however, come on! I was a KID! I had the same awkward, low-self esteem that many an early-blooming chubby girl has in this sex conscious, body-focused society. Through hormone addled middle school & high school, living abroad at 16, stressful (and buffet filled) college, post-college unemployment, first job stress + quarter life crisis, psychotic second job stress (with floor to ceiling snack closet & catered meals!), sexual assault stress (did you know that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? Many multiple times?), becoming a self-sufficient adult stress. I don’t blame any of these things for my food addiction or yo-yoing, but do you really expect the average young person to clue out the complex emotional issues of binge eating & weight gain, by themselves? Not in this diet & media culture, thanks.
I’ve been GROWING UP this whole time, struggling with self-esteem and establishing myself as an “imperfect” woman in a world that demands a lot of women’s bodies. It wasn’t until after my 25th birthday that things slowly started to click into place. I learned to like myself – fat (OMG, can you believe it?). I started seeing through the media and its bullshit — and gradually over time let go of a lot of that pressure (David Brudnoy, may he rest in peace, thank you for your Media Criticism class; also thanks to my Women’s Studies professor).
And I finally admitted to myself that I have an eating disorder. The media only really talks about “starvation” disorders — anorexia, bulimia. I told myself I would never have to worry about those because I love food too much (and loathe vomiting). I was blind to the fact that food addiction IS an eating disorder, and just as anorexic and bulimia sufferers have a warped perception of body image & want to control their food/bodies… so do I. It was just harder to see because I was used to everyone treating fat people like Terrible, Alien People who are to blame for being fat. I only started to work on the incredibly complex, nuanced issues I have with food and my body recently. It’s a process — you think you can give up a lifetime of food guilt & assigning moral values to food, over night? I may never become a “normal” person, but I can sure as hell strive to take on more normative approaches to food, including eating in moderation… and no “bad” foods.
You can call me a failure, if you want. I see my past experiences, however, as feedback. Previously, I lacked the tools — and the support — to reform my mentality, emotions & behaviors when it comes to food and my body. Now, I believe I have them. You can take what I write as advice, or bullshit, or just something funny to read. But I do hope to reach people and make connections, in the same way that reading other blogs has helped me realize I am not alone. I am not a Terrible, Alien person. Many, if not most, of my experiences as a fat person — and as a woman — are shared experiences.
I am done with misogyny. I am done with hating myself and my body. I am done with food guilt. I am DONE with diets.
I am ready for lifestyle change. I am ready for unconditional love (of myself and others). I am ready for health at any size. And I get to decide when I’m done, and what’s OK.
** yes, the title of this post is meant to be ironic XD