Friday, November 26, 2010

Days 138 - 147

I need to do washing.

So all my feelgood clothes are smelly.

So I wore a blue silky shirt with an elasticised hem and flippy floaty cap sleeves that I generally think of as too girlie and skinny black jeans with buckled sandals.

On the way up to telephone advice I always check myself out in the reflective window next to the stairs. It’s a few metres away so I get a sense of what I look like to someone a ways away from me, I turn and walk up the stairs so I can appreciate a few angles.

I noted that with a cardi on I did not like my outfit. But I also realised that the main standard by which I seem to judge an outfit when I do this each day is it’s ability to emphasise my waist. I have a waist. I can emphasise it. This pleased me.

But today’s shirt is a bit billowy and I feel boxy.

But then walking back into the office I get a completely front on reflection from the office door. Without the cardi, I decided that I like how my hips look in these jeans even though I have not become completely accustomed to skinnies. I also decided that while I do look a tad boxy I feel that it’s a hip shouldery boxy.

Now I feel good.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Days 134 - 137

The other day, when I handed in my last assignment, I did it via a post box outside Lock and Load. This was a calculated move being that I intended to then onward into the cool, dark beer garden behind to relax and enjoy the company of K and C as a celebration of handing in my piece of shit assignment.

We ordered cocktails. For K, green and tasty (because she likes the environment). For Me, pink and tasty (because I like pink). For C, a beer (because she likes beer).

The sun is starting to go down and warm light is filtering through the canopy of the beer garden. ‘It smells like summer holidays!’ – C. The waitress is pouring our drinks. She looks like a young Sia. ‘The neighbours smoke reefer sometimes’, she states. How scandalising!

I had to do the thing where I convince myself that I don’t need an entree and a main. Because my learned behaviour at any celebration is to eat up big. This is getting easier each time. But we got a plate of chips to share. A few chips plus my chicken and cous cous was a little much and by the end I was stretched out and complaining. Next time I should be more willing to order an entree instead of a main. Or order a main in an entree size. Whichever. When this works it works because I promise myself that even though I order a small portion I am allowed to order whatever I want afterwards if I am still hungry. I reassure my body that I trust it. But I’m rarely hungry after and my body is often a warm and welcoming place to be.

On C’s iphone we read to each other from the Poetry Graveyard. How grown up and wanky we’ve become. We plan a feminist bookclub to meet moonthly on the days that our menses overlap, we’ll have it here in the beer garden. We’ll read She Comes First, first.

Maybe we start talking about how terrible commenters are on local news websites. C's favourite part of reading blogs and news sites is reading the comments below and the interactions between commenters. She is disappointed more people don’t comment. I get it though, it’s all so personal and sensitive. In commenting at all we betray so much of our own position. Mostly I don’t invite comments or even respond to them that much anymore because I want you to pretend that I don’t know you’re reading. I want to pretend you’re not reading. So I can just say what’s really there for me.

But I see the stats, I know you’re there. It’s ok. We can share these few secrets. I trust you.

A few people have messaged me and said lovely supportive things. They tell me more than I would expect them to in real life. I wrap your secrets up in banana leaves and I put them away. I probably won’t be able to find them later, but that’s ok. Now we are both members of the most exclusive club.

When I was little, maybe 10 or 12 or so, when I’d started to think about these things more, I was scared for a brief time that I was transgendered. Let’s not talk about the cultural implications of feeling like you have to be scared of a realisation like this and instead focus on why I thought this. I didn’t think I could ‘do’ feminine right. Because feminine and masculine are just pantomines – things that we ‘do’ rather than things that we ‘are’. This was all probably to do with my loudness, my Mother’s preference to cut my hair short, my height, and my fat. My idea of femininity was this impossible, willowy, ethereal, Disney Princess kind of thing and I found myself struggling to reconcile this with my ideas about myself. Freckly, mousey and thick. The daughter of a woman who only shaves her legs for weddings and funerals. I never felt sure that I was beautiful or womanly at all until I was at least 19. How odd, for all of these things to lump together, like too much pasta boiled in a small pot.

Androgyny, as described by Bem, is most functional. To be both masculine and feminine and to call on these qualities as circumstances demand, to know the value intrinsic in both. But knowing this doesn’t necessarily free you from a concern that you might have failed as a man or a woman. You’re smart, you already knew this, implicitly or explicitly.

Everybody’s body looks funny naked. I never met a person who didn’t look a little strange without their clothes on. Even the most beautiful people. One time I saw a beautiful person naked and they looked funny. True story.

What am I trying to say? I don’t know, I had a cupcake for breakfast and crashed at 1030. You’re not your body. But you are wonderful and your body and mind are amazing and ordinary and full of secrets and yours. You will be ok.

Aham Brahmasmi,
I am spirit, not matter,
I am not the body, I am not the mind,
I am the eternal spirit soul,
I am only temporarily in a material body,
The body is temporary, I am eternal,
Aham Brahmasmi.

Blah blah blah. Whatever. Now for your viewing pleasure, direct from radiology: Me in a hospital gown.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Days 131 - 133

I haven’t been near a set of scales for a while. Last time I went to the clinic I had put on a kilo. I keep telling myself that this is the first time in my life that I have been disappointed by putting on one, singular, kilo in the space of 30 days.

Biggest gain in shortest amount of time? Probably 5kg in 2 weeks when I was 17 on band tour in New Zealand. I ate tinned fruit with cream for breakfast every day and every meal was all you can eat.


Another friend who had the surgery a few months after N and I had a substantial success in her weight loss in the last month. Of course, your duty as a friend is to feel happy for the other person, and proud of their achievement. But it's bittersweet because it puts in relief what you perceive as your own failings when you're both engaged in a challenge you feel so invested in. In a way, it's a selfish way to be because you end up turning something wonderful about someone else's life into a negative reflection on your own life. In doing that you simplify someone else's efforts, you deny efforts they made, and you make it all about you. The fundamental attribution error most definitely applies, specifically, the self-serving bias and you've made no effort to get around this cognitively. How do you get around these sorts of biases? How do you feel ok?

Number one, it's important to know that we all tend to do this, if we don't think too hard about the world around us - you're not an asshole. You can also look for consensus information - if the same results occur for most people in the same situation, you can safely assume that the likely cause is the situation. You can also ask yourself how you would act in the same situation. Finally, you might look for unseen, and less salient factors that can affect the outcome.

The second and the fourth strategies are fine: most people who have weight loss surgeries lose substantial amounts of weight; and I know nothing of my friend's medical history or anything to do with her eating or exercise habits. The third strategy causes me strife at the moment because I'm not doing that well right now, but of course I'm not in the same situation as my friend. I may be female, of the same age and have also have had the surgery, but our lived experiences are entirely different, as are our relationships with food, exercise and our bodies.

So really, I should just stop comparing myself to other women. Because upward social comparison can be a bitch for your self esteem if you're not careful.

Last time I went to the clinic I saw the psychologist and the dietician at the same time as a group session. It wasn’t an inquisition, I didn’t need a shower afterward. How are my serving sizes? Yeah, not a problem. Marijuana use? Nonexistent, almost nothing on my plate but study. Food choices? Could be better, could be far far far worse. But assignments meant that I didn’t exercise and at least on two occasions in the last few weeks I snacked on biscuits or chocolate while studying. So we talked about making little changes. A bit more activity etc etc.

Today I have had:
• Tub of forme yoghurt
• Small mocha, skinny, equal
• Chicken and salad sandwich, no butter
• Half an apple

This is a menu old me would have been so proud of. Now it’s just pretty run of the mill.

I just put the other half of the apple in the bin. Congratulations.

I was more assertive (aggressive? assertive) this time in asking questions. ‘Who is doing well and what are they doing?’ - They are the people who are consistent, the ones who just ‘plod’ along.

Well fuck it. I’m tired. Assignments are over. I’m not going to enrol in Summer Semester. I’ll write papers and when they are more or less done I’ll enrol and submit them and that can be that. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes because it’s not like I need a Masters degree to get a job. I already have a job I love and enough money to live on. I don’t think I need to kill myself to do this and I don’t want to.

I’m talking with both sides of my mouth at the moment though. On the one hand I don’t want to have to knuckle down to finish off the (admittedly nonessential) Masters degree because I want to ‘have a life’ and ‘be happy’, but on the other hand I am here dreaming of duromine and boiled eggs and 5:30am starts to go to the gym and exercise myself into oblivion. I’m dreaming of nothing but protein and going to sleep hungry. Is that ‘having a life’ or ‘being happy’? Is it? I don’t know. I’ll be happy with my weight.

I forget how it came up. I think I showed Br a pro-ana blog I’d seen ages ago where the author had posted in September 2009 saying that everything in her life was falling apart but at least she was losing weight. That was her last post. Br made me promise that if it came down to keeping things together or being thin, that I would just be fat and ok.

We went out and I wore a new dress. I drank. I think at least 3 boys approached me. None of them was particularly charming or interesting or said anything aside from complimenting me on my tits so I had no interest in engaging with them. I danced with a boy who then propositioned me - ‘No thanks, I have an S’, I reply. He goes on to say that we don’t have to have sex, we can just hang out, it’s not like that. ‘No thanks', I reiterate, 'thanks for the dance, not interested’. This joker approaches me at least 3 times on the dance floor and then another 3 times off the dance floor.

This is fine, I just tell him no each time.

Br finishes work behind the bar and we go to have a slice of pizza and feed $2 into the little machine that tells you just how drunk you are. Another boy, unrelated, comes up to me and rests his hand on my arm comfortingly and earnestly tells me that he doesn’t think I’m a bitch, and I look good in my dress and I looked good out there dancing. (ok?). I chirpily thank him for keeping me up to date on the shit strangers are willing to say about me when I’m out of earshot and bid him adieu.

Later I cry and Br drives me home.

The thing that shits me off is that the whole thing is so fucking dehumanising. I end up being nothing but tits and a vagina hiding under a skirt on a dance floor. This guy knows nothing about me. So unfortunately he doesn’t understand that I don’t like to have sex with people who wear hats at night. So it just makes it all the more easy to slag me off and call me a fat, slut, bitch.

Which brings me to my next point:

(click image to view)
I should start by pointing out that I know the original poster to be a certified ‘nice guy’. Not the type who tells you in a pub that he’s a nice guy and then fucks you around, like an actual Nice. Guy. We can see here that Old Mate starts by reassuring Nice Guy that he’s not actually mean because he is only being judgmental of the part of this woman that is killing herself. So we can see a separation of person and problem which is heartening but we end up with the same result which is judging her and naming her, ‘Trollop’. I manage here to humanise myself despite my fatness and we can see him change from taking a fat shaming stance to taking a stance of reassurance. So we can probably conclude that he’s not a total cunt. And I have friends in common with him, so says facebook, which I hope would tend to indicate that he’s not the worst person on earth. But I don't want to pull that whole thing apart. I just wanted to demonstrate that fat shaming isn't something that happens in far off universes where everyone is a bastard. People I know, who know me, do it. People who are nice do it.

I make plans to eat nothing of substance. I make plans to go to the gym every day, walk to work and home AND go to zumba classes. In my mind all of these things become rational and doable. Then I am disappointed by reality and the failings of my body. Whatever. I feel desperate today.

Desperate to never drive past a sushi shop, a kebab shop, an Indian takeaway, a McDonalds, a Subway. I dream of a world with delicious, ethereal, insubstantial salads on wings, bobbing above my head. I chase them around fields of flowers and butterflies and when they reach out with uncurled, unfurled tongues and taste the salty sweat on my brow they know that I have burnt the exact number of kilojoules they will provide to me when they flutter down, touch my nose gently with their opening and closing wings and whimper quietly in ecstasy as I eat them.

Fat, race, religion and everything to do with gender and sex mean nothing, everything is beautiful and I have nothing to post on facebook but links to youtube clips of kittens riding robotic vacuum cleaners and I never compose deconstructions on culture and fat.

N was telling me how when we were in uni, I just never seemed to care, that I was so confident. I still cared, I cared a whole bunch. I'm just not scared that being honest about it makes me weak anymore. Don't be scared that falling apart means you've failed. Each day pushes relentlessly into the next. You'll have so many more chances.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Days 123 - 130

Today C completed the last exam of her LLB. So we had mexican.

I have learned that I cannot:
• Order main sized meals anymore. Stop fucking kidding yourself and have the entree tostada instead of the enchilada.
• Write more than 2500 words in one night. I'm not 19 anymore, writing for 12 hours straight is no longer an option.
• Live on less than 7 or 8 hours sleep per night. Especially if I want to drink wine with dinner.

We search for stable and enduring properties in individuals and situations in an effort to construct causal theories allowing for behavioural prediction. In doing so, we tend to distinguish between personal and environmental factors.

We run into traps when it comes to the behaviour of others - internal causes of behaviour such as intentions are hidden and we tend only infer them where there are no clear external causes. Nonetheless, we also tend to display a bias toward preferring internal rather than external attributions even where there is clear evidence of external causality. It is possible that we prefer to attribute behaviour to stable underlying attributes because this renders behaviour more predictable, increasing our sense of control over our world.

It is true though, that positive illusions may be adaptive for mental health – depressed subjects tend to be less likely than non-depressed subjects to overestimate the degree to which they control chance events. Depressed subjects are also less likely to display unrealistic optimism in making projections about the future.

As an extension of these principles, we tend to cling to an illusion of control and believe in a just world. Deserts theory in legal scholarship is premised on the same assumptions - bad things happen to ‘bad people’ and good things happen to ‘good people’ – people have an ability to meaningfully exercise choice and have control over the course of their lives. This pattern of attribution allows us to view the world as a controllable and secure place in which we can determine our own destiny.

Deserts theory also allows for these general patterns of attribution to lead us to conclude that victims are responsible for their misfortune – unemployed people are out of work because they are not trying hard enough, rape victims were asking for it, Indigenous Australians are responsible for their disadvantage and should stop expecting handouts.

Fat people are lazy, greedy, undisciplined slobs.

In the fall out of tragic life events, victims of trauma and violence may experience a strong and debilitating sense that the world is no longer stable, meaningful, just or predictable. One way to restore meaning is to take responsibility for the event and self blame.

GM Vaughan and MA Hogg, Introduction to Social Psycology, (Pearson, 4th ed, 2002).
W Weiten, Psychology: Themes and Variations, (Wadsworth, 5th ed, 2002).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 122

Stupid shit I have considered doing to lose weight:
• Illegally importing diet drugs
• Taking ecstasy and dancing all weekend
• Getting myself lost in the bush for a few days (just kidding)(sort of)

Whenever I need to study, in the spirit of procrastination, I respond by wanting to do one of three things: sleep, fuck or eat. How very primal. Not particularly constructive though.

I have weight watchers jelly fruit cups and sugar free red bull. They have 12 and 8 calories respectively. It’s comforting to think about just how many fruit cups I could eat in a day and still lose. This makes me feel very safe. Also it’s fruit. Fruit has vitamins. Vitamins are good.

I was reminded today of a conversation I had with Dr. Douchebag, a guy that K dated once or twice. He knew about the surgery and in the course of discussion he explained how the body is very efficient at turning energy to fat, but incredibly inefficient at converting fat to energy. I was reminded of this conversation when I read the following response to a reader comment posted on fiercefatties.

‘Evolutionarily speaking, our bodies have adapted to gain (or maintain), not lose, weight. If you’re a hunter gatherer and you’re losing weight, your body interprets this as a famine and begins protecting its stored energy (fat). It does this by turning down your metabolism, turning up the hormones that encourage you to seek food (hunger and appetite), and resetting your homeostatic system to protect you from starvation.

Your modern body cannot tell the difference between famine and caloric restriction. If you drop from a 2,500 calorie-per-day diet to a 1,800 calorie-per-day diet (or less), your body switches into famine mode and does everything it can to undermine your weight loss efforts.

The longer you diet, the greater response your body has. Eventually, dieters exhibit what is known as semi-starvation neurosis, which basically means you think about food constantly. You become obsessed with every meal, every morsel, and every image, utterance or imagining of food around you. When it gets bad enough, you break your diet and begin binging (which is what your famine-brain wants you do to) until you’ve essentially undone all your work.

Now, you say that starving yourself doesn’t work, but exercise is an incredibly inefficient means of losing weight. It is much easier to restrict your caloric intake than to burn it off through exercise (although exercise does increase lean muscle mass which, in turn, turns up your metabolism, but each person’s individual metabolic range is genetically determined).

So, the most effective way to lose weight is caloric restriction, but this leads to famine-mode and semi-starvation neurosis and your body and mind sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

Older studies have shown that 95% of those who lose weight will regain all the weight they’ve lost (and possibly more) after five years. Critics say Stunkard’s research was old and inadequate, but even the NIH has admitted that long-term weight loss is nearly impossible.

And you’ll notice that there are virtually zero studies of the long-term success of any particular weight loss method. The exception being this JAMA study which compares various weight loss strategies, including Atkins, Zone, Ornish and LEARN (LEARN being Kelly Brownell’s “slow and steady” method of lifestyle change).’

I was devastated. Oh cruel fate, am I destined to sweaty summers and plus sized fashions?

It took me a day or two and some encouraging words from C to realise that even lovable, huggable fat appreciators have their own agendas.

The majority of people do not succeed at weight loss long term. This much is true. For a plethora of reasons. Some within and others outside the scope of their control. And fat acceptance is a movement that is absolutely fantastic for those who would prefer to be fat and happy than to live a life of miserable struggle. There is nothing wrong with this. Embrace every delicious moment! There is nothing wrong with a focus on health at every size. But of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are stuck with our lot. In the majority of cases though we could realise a higher level of happiness by adjusting our expectations. Happiness of course simply being a function of the differential between desire and reality. This I can agree with and live by.

The moral of course is that just because some fat, fabulous person put a well researched smackdown on some random via the internet does not mean that I am going to exceed 100 kilograms for the rest of my life, or even the rest of this quarter. I mean I’ve had a fucking weight loss surgery for fuckssake. If I had a band I would probably not struggle with the same doubts about the efficacy of the device, but being that this is a trial sometimes I just freak the fuck out. Basically.

Also, I should probably just let go of the fear that the whole international fat acceptance movement are going to rock up on my doorstep with torches and pitchforks just because I chose to have a spot of weight loss surgery. It’s clear that I think fat is just another type of beautiful amongst many others, but I’m still not sure how my desire to be a bit less fat slots in with their world view. Either way, I’ve finally moved into an apartment with a back door as well as a front so if they do arrive with a thirst for vengeance and blood I can just head out through the back.

In an effort to increase positive self-efficacy beliefs I have taken two steps in tandem:
1. Joined calorieking again. The site makes it really easy to see where you are making poor food choices (e.g. piece of cold kfc for breakfast, sunday morning); and
2. Started consulting and inputing my calories consumed, recorded via calorieking. Their calorie calculator will project weight loss or gain over time based on your stats.

I am using the power of the internet to assure myself that loss is inevitable. So really, I should just give myself a fucking break.

Yours sincerely,

Broken Record