Friday, November 30, 2012

TMI and TW: Body Hate, A Naked Experience

I remember the first time I pulled up a website with pictures of nude fat people.

Not porn; this was a photographer's art project.  But the models were all my level of fat and they were naked.

The images weren't beautiful to me, but they were powerful.  I felt like . . . my insides were all a hollow shaft and someone dropped a piano down through me.  A great and melodic sound of destruction verborating all throughout empitness.

I'm the fattest person I've ever encountered.  I stopped fitting into anything off the rack about six years ago.  I actually go beyond belief.  Seated, I have no body.  I'm pouches on top of pouches, with two pouches on pouches legs.  Oh, and there's the gross asymmatry of my bosom -- one of the breasts never developed. 

Everywhere I look at myself, something unique, something uncorrected, something that shouldn't be there.  I only exist because my mother lost weight, for crying out loud -- she lost twenty pounds and forgot to get her diaphram refitted, ba duh bing, here's your firstborn.  It just makes sense that I'm a freak of fatness.
  Like I'm some sort of biological glitch that somehow slipped through playtesting.
I honestly thought I was the only one like me in the entire world.

Evidence that that wasn't true, that it isn't true . . . it should feel empowering, but that's not what I feel.  Exactly.  I just want to cry.  They might not be beautiful to me, but they're beautiful to themselves.  Nature allows them to exist and feel beautiful.  How is that possible?


Science, Bitches!

The problem with aruging the validity of weight loss from a scientific standpoint is that nobody can agree on what they mean when they say "weight loss." Does it mean any weight loss? A loss of X pounds? A reduction of adipose tissue only?  A loss of a percentage of one's current mass?  What percentage?

There isn't a good consensus on the definition of "overweight," either. The tool currently in use, the Body Mass Index, was conceived as a way to measure trends in large populations, it wasn't designed to be a benchmark of health

The benefits of weight loss are cloudy too -- research is indicating that increasing one's strength and cardiovascular endurance lead to more positive outcomes than just losing weight.

It hasn't even been determined that being fat is in and of itself unhealthy, because studies haven't proven that being fat directly causes any problem (excepting joint stress and even that's manageable).

So it boils down to an arguement for a phenomenon whose success you can't define, to address a problem whose criteria you can't agree on, for health benefits you can't demonstrate . . . and for that matter, that problem you're trying to correct might not be that harmful anyway. And ply me not with "common sense." Common sense tells us the world is flat.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some Thoughts For The Acceptable

1.  Get over the idea that Fat Is Killing Me.  Fat is not killing me.  The stress of life as a person in a fat-bigoted culture is killing me.
2.  Can the melodrama and the guilt-trips and the If You Loved Me You'd Lose Weight scenes.  Good intentions don't make it any less painful and humiliating.
3.  Know that I'm the best judge of what's best for my body.  I live here!
4.  Accept that I am not "slowly killing myself with food."  Not all fat people have eating disorders and skinny people die of heart attacks too.
5.  If you believe I'm in crisis, get help.  Otherwise, respect my decisions when it comes to managing my health and allow me to set my own boundaries when it comes to others' input.

6.  Respect me as I am.  Not in spite of the fat.  I'm a person; the fat is tissue.
7.  Anyone who says fat people cost taxpayers more money is talking out of their ass.  That idea's based on two flawed assumptions -- being fat makes a person less healthy, and treating a fat person is more expensive than treating a skinny one.
8.  Keep in mind that my situation is unique, and resist the temptation to compare me to someone you've met or heard of.
9.  While we're on that subject, keep in mind that most of the people involved in the health and fitness industry are either salespeople or people who make their living by their bodies (athletes, performers, etc).
10.  It's okay for you to find fat unattractive or ugly.  Recognize that that's a matter of personal taste on your part and not a moral failing on mine.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kid . . . Have You Rehabilitated Yourself?

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  Have some good dinner, take fellowship with your friends and neighbors, splut[1] anyone who gets in the way of the good dinner and the fellowship . . . and join the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement!


The Bad Kind Of Crazy

I was keeping tabs on a flame-spat over on Fierce, Freethinking Fatties, and reading some of the vitriol I came to a couple of small revelations.


I've mentioned this -- I've been on short commons before.  It occured to me, that at the same time I was also exercising regularly.  I didn't have a car, so I had to walk a mile to the bus stop every night.  Another time, I was walking about two and a half miles a day and surviving on two small meals.

By the calories in/calories out model, I should've been dropping weight hand over fist.  Maybe I was; I wasn't keeping track.  I didn't feel any lighter or fitter and my clothes weren't hanging any differently.
Say I was losing weight.  What was the cost?

**What do you mean by cost?**

I mean, what toll did it take on me to live that way?  I was tired, a total emotional basket case, couldn't sleep, and I spent most of my time intensely depressed.  I almost killed myself once, and thought about suicide a lot.  I even had a plan; when I finally got fired from the Bank of Evil, I was going to take the razorblade out of my old box opener, go into the ladies' room, and open my wrists.

So, the side effects of dieting -- and keep in mind, I was exercising with the intensity recommended by doctors (walking at a moderate pace for more than half an hour five times a week) -- include lethargy, insomnia, emotional instability, and depression.  Is all that a fair trade for lower weight?  Especially when you factor in that long-term weight management has a roughly four in five chance of failing?

**Is it fair to judge the concept of dieting by those bad times love?  You weren't in a very good place emotionally then.**

I think it is.  The echoes come back to me whenever I get hungry enough to hurt inside.

**That's true.**

To borrow from Victor/Victoria, I've come to the conclusion that it's simply not worth it.  Dieting makes me unhappy in the extreme, and it doesn't have to be that way because there are alternatives.

**To be fat and happy?**

No, to direct my energy at things I can actually fix.  Physical frailty, hypertension, disordered eating . . . I can do things about those.  Fixating on my weight's done nothing but make me the bad kind of crazy.  I don't wanna be the bad kind of crazy anymore.  That's it.  I give up.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Process -- Always Question Yourself Kindly

One of the things Coach Carlisle[1]  talks about a lot in his postgame natter and other interviews (most coaches do) is how development is a process. Meaning that changes and improvements come gradually. It's important to trust that what you're doing is doing good, even when it feels like all you're doing is shoveling shit from a sitting position.

So I've been trying to recouch the way I think about appearance. Not just mine, but everyone's.

Someone's wearing a dress that pulls snug across a big tummy? Or they're showing off a bare midriff? Or isn't wearing a shirt? I'm trying to step back from the Go Home And Change reflex. There are standards of propriety in the professional world, of course, but when people are out living their lives they've got a right to roll however they do. My distaste is a matter of my own personal preferance, not their failure to live up to some criteria of good enough. It's wrong to insist other people live by my standards.

It's interesting. I never thought of myself as a body-hater, but a lot of my time and attention is spent doing that. Stuff like declaring when I come to power it'll be illegal to have a butt as shapely as so-and-so's, or that someone-or-other shoud really not wear slacks that snug, and of course 'Spandex -- It's a privilege, not a right.' It says I'm maybe not so free of appearance-judgement as I thought.

It's okay for me to do it to others but everyone else has to accept me as I am? Gee Beej, double-standard much?

I can't reserve for myself the bad habit I demand that everyone else let go of. Or put another way, it's very difficult to be accepting of one's self when one's busy condemning others.

**So what's the process you should be trusting?**

I kinda wandered away from that, didn't I? That I can't just flip a switch and undo a lifetime of self-hate conditioning without questioning and changing other aspects of how I relate to the world.

There's another process I need to trust too. Ragen was talking just today[2] about how giving up dieting wasn't as easy as standing up and declaring I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore! It's about giving up the hope that if you just work hard enough and wish hard enough you'll be normal and your real life can begin, all insecurities forgotten and all problems manageable.

It's the dream of a child, and it needs to go away.

**Surrendering a deep belief takes time, and beating yourself up for maintaining it doesn't help.**

I know, I know. I'm tempted to refer to the Kuebler-Ross model of dealing with loss, also known as the Jewish Law Firm from All That Jazz.

It's silly to think of Stage One of Intuitive Eating -- giving up the diet menality -- as a process of loss that requires grieving. Is this valid or am I overidentifying with a movie that's struck chords in me more than once?

**It's something to chew over anyway.**


In A Roundabout Way, Screw The Stats

I was on SparkPeople for a while about six months ago, and dropped it due mostly to bone idleness. I did get a few useful things out of it; their Nutrition Tracker can be set up to track individual nutrients, which is how I found out I don't typically get enough iron and potassium in the course of a day. These days, I take a multivitamin and keep electrolyte drinks close. I think SP's tools are flexible enough one can use it if one's a HAES adherent, but it'd be difficult. The communities and advertising are geared towards weight management.

Anyway, it's time you guys met my imaginary friend.  I popped to my neglected SP blog for this entry:


I don't really want to do this, because the inside of my head is a messy place. But my imaginary friend kind of insisted.

**She's right, I did.**

He's a figment of my imagination dreamed up to counter some bad brain habits. An externalization of the part of me that doesn't agree with the majority -- those parts that insist everything is fine the way it is, because outward form should reflect inward and there isn't anything in me worth much.

**What I'm trying to do is break her habit of cyclic negative thinking, and persuade her to change without resorting to screaming. She's had plenty of people -- some of whom really do love her a lot -- yell at her, use emotional blackmail, shame her for being different. I'm trying to untangle what she is from what she does. She's not a bad person, she's made bad decisions. Thinking she's a bad person full stop gives her the idea that she doesn't have to bother learning from her mistakes. And that's incorrect.**

**She hasn't been listening to me lately because she's had other things going on. SparkPeople looked like it was working, from a lifestyle management standpoint.**

Except that I don't like feeling constantly on the defensive about anything, and sooner or later I'll reject that paradigm. Taking questions of any kind as a sort of personal attack -- it's just one of my fantastic personality issues.

**She's oversensitive about judgement--**

Which is another way of saying I'm a huge drama queen--

**Stop that. It isn't your fault your father couldn't think of a better way to discipline you than to make you feel bad about yourself.**

Oh the nuances of communication. He was probably saying What You Did Is Stupid Don't Do It Anymore; what I heard was You Are Stupid! Stop Being Stupid! Or Else!!! I Can Hurt You!!! Even Though I Never Have!!! I MIGHT!!!!! (a sentiment communicated with that world-shattering bellow). And you know what? Understanding that doesn't make the memories any easier to live with. Just like knowing my mother's problems with touching don't have anything to do with me -- my mother's an incest survivor, she's very protective of her personal space. But I can't help but wonder; is she recoiling because she's uncomfortable with contact in general, or just contact with me? Then I remember that I'm a selfish shit for even wondering that. Go me.

**Sweet one, you feel what you feel. Remember Captain Awkward--**

"It's impossible to work through your feelings when you're berating yourself for having those feelings to begin with.[1]" I'm paraphrasing, obviously.

**You're also disassociating[2]. Go get Mr. Sadface[3] and take some belly breaths.**

. . .


A little.

It's yet another place where a sporting mindset has tried to help and failed, I think. SparkPeople's less about how one feels than the quality of the stats one keeps -- I ate my produce, I drank my water, I stayed in range, I got in my twenty minutes exercise (though to be accurate all four of those things happening at once was rare, what can I say? my taste for vegetables is a work in progress). Sometimes I felt good. Most often I felt whatever it is I feel usually. Sometimes I felt very discouraged and downright pissed at myself. Of all the possible variance in genes and physicality and environment, why did I get the body that can somehow saddle up almost 400 pounds of adipose tissue?

The trouble with applying sport's obsession with stats to health is pretty simple; people aren't machines, life doesn't follow clear understandable rules, and there's no criteria set to determine positive versus negative outcomes. I read on SP once that people intimidated by weight loss shouldn't shoot for an ideal weight -- a 10% reduction in one's current body weight would ensure significant benefits. But is that really a Weight Loss Success? Last time I weighed, I tipped a 520. Subtract ten percent, that's about 470 pounds rounded up. That's still in the Why Aren't You Dead range of BMI and still far outside the socially acceptable range of curviness.

So throw out weight as a data point. What about health conditions? A long-term study on the effects of dieting on Type 2 diabetes was shut down two years early because the data showed calorie restrictions don't produce positive effects[4]. Studies have shown many people with obesity have hypertension, but no one's been able to draw a clear parallel between weight loss and a corresponding drop in readings. In fact dieting often results in a swing pattern of fasting and feeding (weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting), and that *does* have a negative impact on metabolism, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

What I'm trying to accept is that scientific understanding of how the body needs and uses fuel and energy is a work in progress, and the work that's been done so far doesn't support the conclusions being bandied about with such evangelical fervor. I can accept being told what to do if doing as I'm told will keep me safe and happy; weight management does neither. So I'm not going to do as I'm told.

**What do you mean by that sweetheart?**

I mean:

-When I eat something, I eat it because I want to for my own reasons and don't have to justify it to anyone including myself
-I'll exercise if and when I want to, because I like to, and not because I'm afraid of Death walking with me. She does that with everybody, not just fat people.[5]
-My body is not a symbol of a public health crisis. I am not Typhoid Fatty (tm), and obesity is not a public health crisis.
-I don't have to feel guilty for not having the inclination to treat my body like a part-time job. I'm a tax clerk for fuck's sake.
-I will not focus on the numbers (except in weightlifting, where keeping track of work is how you keep from hurting yourself). Instead, I will focus on feelings.

It's not a complete list of principles to live by, but it's a start.

**Do you want to talk about your stab at therapy?**

Not right now.

[1] ". . .  it’s wicked hard to process a feeling when you’re simultaneously beating yourself up for having the feeling in the first place."
[2]Flipping between mature and immature parts of the psyche. I know that's not the proper use of the term. Sue me, I don't know a better word for suddenly turning into a sniveling preschooler.
[3]The little stuffed octopus who lives in my cube. I got him on a work outing to the Dallas Aquarium. Named for his huge sad blue eyes.
[5] Death of the Endless, the Sandman books. I love the idea of Death as a little Goth chicklette, wise as the ages yet whimsical and caring.