Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Days 203 - 208

I am in my apartment. My lamp throws soft shadows from the floor to the ceiling. There is a party next door. The animated chatter of voices, the splash of bodies in the pool, music.

I am in bed. My body is cool, smooth, quiet. My mind is quiet.

After my first session of hypnotherapy a few weeks ago, I asked Br to throw out my scales for me. They were a set I bought on the internet a year or two ago because they would measure your body fat percentage. The personal trainer I had at the time preferred me to track my body fat percentage rather than my weight. I set up the scales as the instructions directed, entering my information to allow them to accurately report my body fat percentage. When I stepped on I received an error message. Further reading of the instructions revealed that the scales would only produce readings up to 47%. A healthy body fat percentage for a woman my age is 21-33%, 33-39% is overweight and over 39% is obese. Slightly higher percentages are recommended for older women – the bottom end of the obese category for women 61-79 years begins at 42%. So I guess what the scales were telling me was that, in their opinion, once they had determined I was obese it was no longer useful for me to know how my body fat percentage had altered unless it was to tell me that I was nearing the bottom of the obese bracket. Fuck you scales. My ideal weight is just beyond the cusp of obesity. I think I look amazing at this weight. I feel amazing at this weight. Fuck you B.M.I.

Whatever. It’s my body. I do what I want.

When I run my hands over my side I feel slimmer. I could be wrong. Who knows? Br threw out the scales just like I asked, so I won’t know until my next appointment.

I feel calmer since I started hypno again. Previously, where I perceived that I’d had a bad day I would refuse to count my calories and just feel hopeless. In the past few weeks I’ve just been counting them anyway and I’ve made a startling discovery – even when I think I’ve eaten too much or eaten lots of crap I’m not consuming that many calories.

How odd. Calorie counting has become something that brings me comfort and reassurance rather than being something that feels oppressive or punitive. Counting my calories after each meal lets me know that I am headed in the right direction.

I went to a barbecue today. I ate barbecue food. I used to fucking dread barbecues – the combination of fatty meats and booze just killed me. Today, after meat, potato salad and sugar free cruisers I was still within my calorie limit.

What does this mean? I don’t want to go getting ahead of myself, but it could possibly mean that I can trust my body.

I’ve increased my exercise. Biting the bullet, I've taken up a second gym membership because I simply do not enjoy going to my current gym. Rather than waiting until the end of my current membership, I've joined another gym where I know I enjoy going despite it being a little further from home. I’ve been going most days. At the rate I’ve been attending I’ll actually have engaged in 25% more exercise than the psychologist asked me to this month.

Exercise is something that has brought me a lot of anxiety in the past. Like wearing form fitting clothing the simple act of engaging in activity has, in the past, felt as if it invites the judgment of strangers. I’ve had concerns about my fitness before – ‘if I can’t spend at least 15 minutes on this machine people will know that I am fat and unfit’. I once had a panic attack in a spin class, trapped on an uncomfortable bike in a dark room full of strangers cycling to oppressively loud dance beats. I felt like I couldn’t go on, like I’d run out of puff for that particularly intense class but how could I bring myself to get off the bike and admit to all the people around me that I had so neglected my health and fitness that I couldn’t simply ride a bike for 45 minutes straight? My throat flattened, tears on my face and I was so sure I would die, or at least pass out. In the dark no one knew. I had regained my composure by the time the class ended.

I’ve made another startlng discovery – I’m not unfit.

I’ve been getting through classes without a problem and then even doing some extra cardio on top. I’ve certainly been spending more time at the gym than the 30 minutes per visit the psychologist asked me to commit to.

I can trust my body.

Time to go to sleep.

You can ask me anything.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Days 195 - 202

N and I forgo yoga for mall walking. We eat dinner in the food court. I've been thinking about sushi and that’s not such a bad thing. I am in line and I have only $6 whereas I thought I had $15. This is only enough for 2 sushi rolls and I was thinking about being terrible and having 3. Panic rises in my throat. What am I going to do? Do I leave the line and go and get more money and come back to buy 3? This seems like extreme action just for a third sushi roll when I am not even that hungry. I promise myself that if I am hungry after I eat two I can buy a third. Calm settles over me again and I realise how odd this moment that I have just had with myself is.

I am ok.

I am 5, 6, 7, 8. My mother hoards plants too I guess. The little house is wrapped in dark greenery and the moon is full and high and I can see it, beyond the canopy. The driveway is made of little river stones that crunch when the car moves over them, my feet are soft and walking over is a clumsy dance. Warm domestic light spills out the kitchen window, geckos sing and this is my childhood and I am safe and unsafe and loved as best as is possible given circumstances. This is everything I know and I don’t know something different yet. Steak for dinner, the fatty rinds on a plate, for the cat. Her name is Sweetpea. I put some of the cooked fat out for her and I am pushing the rest in my mouth. I feel such a strong need. I am swallowing as quickly as I can and I am evening my breath so I can return in a timely and unsuspicious manner. I am a small child and I have already learnt that my hunger is shameful and punishable.

I grow to hate this place.

When I leave it is the end of summer and I am 20 kilos lighter by the start of spring.

Tonight I am a hundred kilometres and years away in my apartment. I can eat anything or nothing. I will never be hungry and I don’t need to be scared anymore.

You can ask me anything.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What do you think stops you from sticking to a diet and staying away from alcohol or drugs?

"Many people assume that weight is mostly a matter of willpower - that we can learn both to exercise and to avoid muffins and Gatorade. A few of us can, but evolution did not build us to do this for very long. In 2000 the journal Psychological Bulletin published a paper by psychologists Mark Muraven and Roy Baumeister in which they observed that self-control is like a muscle: it weakens each day after you use it. If you force yourself to jog for an hour, your self-regulatory capacity is proportionately enfeebled. Rather than lunching on a salad, you'll be more likely to opt for pizza."

You can ask me anything

Have you tried hypnotherapy or something that will help with your willpower?

I tried hypnotherapy around 3 or 4 years ago. I found very effective for anxiety at the time. I actually feel like it gave me a skill set to deal with anxiety on a long term basis as well, it's not as if it just took away the symptoms at the time just for them to return later. I'm still not great at dealing with anxiety when I've got a lot of stress in my life, but hey, that seems pretty normal to me. But it's not something that follows me around every day like it used to.

I went back to the same hypnotherapist assuming that it would be just as effective for weight loss. At that time I think I just had so little insight into why I was having problems getting to the weight I wanted to be at, or even maintaining a consistent weight that the hypnotherapy was bound to be of little use.

I had concluded at the time that I was just genetically predisposed to having a low metabolism and having a big appetite. I now drawn different conclusions about why these two things might be true. I've started seeing another hypnotherapist again and I'm enthusiastic about the process. I think the last time I went I really did view it as a 'quick fix' - I would go to a session or two and then I wouldn't be so hungry anymore. And then I would lose weight.

So that was a little naive.

I'm committed at this point to go to sessions regularly for as long as it takes. What I consider to be excess weight on my body, I think at this time, is really just symptomatic of a whole range of other issues. There's a lot to sort out - as evidenced by this blog. To say that I became overweight or that I have remained overweight due to a lack of willpower would be a gross oversimplification. Unfortunately, to assume that a person is heavier than they might like to be simply as a result of being weak willed is a quite understandable and common misconception. I wouldn't hold it against you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

have you ever considered just giving up and living with whatever weight you are ?

Not until recently. I'd been dieting for so long, and felt like I gained so quickly every time I let go of the reins. I took it as a sign that I would just gain and gain if I were ever to lose vigilance.

It's interesting that you use the words 'give up' and not 'acceptance' or something similar. I think this is telling of the tension that might exist between ideas of fat acceptance and ideas about the value of self improvement. Fat acceptance as a movement certainly has a lot to say about the idea that one should strive to achieve an ideal or near to ideal weight.

Either way, I'm not ready to quit yet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where is that tattoo again?

Sounds like you already know

Days 191 - 194

There are no fat animals in the wild.

Instinct drives you. You feel famine, winter, natural disaster around the corner and you eat everything you find. Warm, soft, secure, blubber. Insurance. Your fat between you and death.

S and I in the Netherlands, outside our tent. Finally dark after 10. A hedgehog skirts the edge of the bushes. S tells me how when you are young, you find the hoglets asleep in the winter and you gently steal them and keep the at home in a box until spring. No, he tells me, you can’t wake them up to play with them or they might get sick or die. They don’t have enough fat for the winter unless they are asleep.

Somewhere in your life a switch was flicked and it was never turned back off. Your primal mind, perceptive beyond your understanding, foreshadowed disaster.

Protected for 9 months and held warmly, lovingly, within the dense darkness of your Mother’s body. You exit helpless, immobile, and the world is so strange and indecipherable. I mean, fuck, aren’t you still trying to figure it out now? You cry. You are held. You are fed.

Food becomes your security. Pavlov’s dogs at your heels. Endless, bottomless, inexplicable hunger betrays a soft gentle undercurrent of fear, cool waves lapping.

You leave a continent after famine, you hoard food in tins, in a cupboard.

I don’t know why my Mother hoards food. Or anything else. But I do think it lends her a sense of control over her universe.

At intake, when I disclosed physical abuse, the psychologist subtly indicated to me that this was essentially a ubiquitous disclosure amongst trial candidates.

Your world is as safe now as it ever will be. Time to switch off.

You can ask me anything.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Did I see you at Dr L's office today by any chance?

Not yesterday, no :)

What's your bra size?

Psssssh, what are we? 16?

Big enough for you to wear as a hat.

Seriously, what's up with bra size? Is it so you can head down to Kmart and be like 'Aah yes, this is the space those breasts would take up, yes, I see...'

Breasts don't need to be academic. They're breasts.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Days 189 - 190

I bought a corset, almost 30kg ago, to wear to metal shows and I never wore it because I thought it made me look thick.

This is a cautionary tale.

You can ask me anything.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Days 185 - 188

“Fat people are often supported in hating their bodies, in starving themselves, in engaging in unsafe exercise and in seeking out weight loss by any means necessary. A thin person who does these things is considered mentally ill. A fat person who does these things is redeemed by them. This is why our culture has no concept of a fat person who also has an eating disorder. If you’re fat, it’s not an ED — it’s a lifestyle change.”
Lesley Kinzel

Only up 900g over Christmas. Confirmed that I had halved drinking in the last month and that I had exercised at least 3 times per week, though no exercise over Christmas week.

The psychologist tells me that he does not say this to many people, this is not what he recommends for many people – other people can have an amount of flexibility in how they approach this – he thinks that the best way forward for me is All Or Nothing.

I already knew All Or Nothing works for me. But I didn’t want to have to do it forever. I thought it would send me crazy. That’s why I had the surgery.

Then again, I’m relatively confident that once the weight was off it would be far easier to maintain the loss.

I bought a magazine I’d picked up in line at the supermarket. Some former athlete had shed 26kg of baby weight in three months. I wanted desperately to know what her secret was (of course there's no fucking secret). I sat at home and read – a highly restrictive diet and treating exercise like a full time job. Possible slight exaggeration.

3 months.

If I lost 26 kilos I would be exactly where I wanted to be.

3 months.

All Or Nothing. Exercise 4 times per week for 45 minutes optimally, at least 30. Be sweaty. No alcohol. No weed. No takeaway.

Then it occurs to me that my entire social life involves either drinking or smoking. I have no hobbies. Fuck.

What do people do? Go to the movies?


I ask if it’s easier for people a bit older, or people with families. The answer is yes, essentially. Their lifestyles are more stable. And my weight loss keeps being interrupted - holidays, study, Christmas.

What will I do with my time?

Do I like gardening, the dietitian asks. Oh lord, no, um, of course not? She is young, fit, pretty. Does she like gardening? Really?

I should just stop being a bitch.

An entire change of lifestyle.

The end of your life as you know it.

I don’t think I ever really thought about what that meant.

Are you happier now with things the way they are, with the failings you’re familiar with? Or do you break out, to see how the grass on the other side tastes? The thing you have to understand is that I really do like what comes with a social life that is so thoroughly anchored on booze and weed. I know that might sound empty. But I don’t really feel like it is.

I look at job ads in hospitality.

If I start work at the office at 7:30 in the morning I can finish by 3:30. I can be at a hospo job by 5. I can work weekends. I can make a meagre amount of money and save it for holidays. I can get 5 hours or so of exercise per shift. I won’t have the option of going out drinking and I’ll always have an excuse to turn down invites to dinner or drinks. I could probably be down 15 kilos within 3 months.

Can I keep up that sort of momentum without duromine, they ask me?

All Or Nothing. You going to give me the script? I didn’t think so.

You know what, I honestly do think it would be easier for me to do that, then to stay at home. Maybe I’ll take up knitting.

I mean, you can go out for coffee but then there’s the calories in the coffee to account for. The temptation of tiny cakes. The tunnel vision I feel like I get when I’m over-caffeinated and the creeping sense that my hair is eating me, left overs from days when anxiety picked at the corners of everything with ragged little nails.

UQ ping pong club.

Yes, I know how terrible this all sounds. Boohoo. B won’t be able to get wasted every weekend.

Rachael Oakes-Ash discusses in Good Girls Do Swallow the pressure you might put on yourself to have a full dance card. I’m fat, but I’m a big fat party animal. I’m fat, but I’m smart. I’m fat, but I’m funny. I’m fat, but I’m interesting. Clearly. Look how many people want to drink or smoke with me. If you wish, if it helps, take out the word fat and replace it with your favourite insecurity.

So here’s the sequence:
1) Stop doing all the things that you think make you interesting. Or your life interesting. Whatever. The things that simultaneously maintain your current weight.
2) Feel boring.
3) Lose weight.
4) Feel less pressure to be interesting.
5) Profit???

(There’s possibly a step before step 1 where I stop being so fucking bitter and accept that I just need to choose which of these things is most important).

Fat is assigned meaning socially. It says something about you to people before you even speak – you eat too much, you don’t exercise enough.

Maybe you come to accept over time that if you are not at the weight you feel you should be, that the reason is that you have failed to maintain a reasonable and healthy lifestyle.

Well fuck it, I did the exercise they told me to do and I abstained from the drinks they asked me to abstain from and they certainly expected that I would lose weight as a result. They seemed surprised that I didn't. So on a level that is comforting. What I’m drawing from this whole turn of events is that weight is hard for me to lose. It wasn’t that I was just eating shit, or being slovenly or that I lacked commitment. It might just be my body. It might just be how my body is.

Maybe that’s just how my body is because I’ve dieted myself into a corner. Or maybe it was always going to be that way.

Christmas with my family was lovely. Lots of women with bodies that I could see my own reflected in. The loveliness of how much you make sense to yourself when you realise there are people who are just like you in so many ways.

I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically negative. So I’m going and seeing someone on Tuesday. I feel commitment requires faith. Faith requires positivity. So hopefully this person can help me to get that positivity back.

I need to work on making this work, I am told. Because after this there are no other options. I call bullshit. What about bypass? What about just being fat and happy? I feel resentful when I sometimes perceive that I’m being made to flog a dead horse just to improve someone else’s stats.

I can flog a dead horse. Hell, I could have flogged that horse from day 1 but they were telling me to take it slow. Be easy on myself. Because this time is different. Because this time is forever.

All Or Nothing.

You can ask me anything.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Days 165 - 184

In an sms from my Dad today he mentioned that he was proud I have maintained a regular exercise regime.

There are times in both the recent and distant past where people around me have lost weight. There is, on occasion, talk of pride. Someone is proud of you that you lost weight.

I want you to know that there are so many other things about you that make you wonderful.

You don't need to lose weight for me to be proud of you.

I wish no one would notice if I lost weight or not.

I don't want to talk about how angry I have felt that things are different when I'm thin again. I'm weary today. Don't worry, it's just hangover blues.

You know what’s really terrible? When you don’t lose weight and then someone asks you if you have. What do you say? Do you ruin the illusion by telling them the truth? I find myself saying ‘I hope so’. How disgustingly glib. It’s like I can accept your compliment and reveal a small, delicious portion of my neurosis to you all in one go. Then I’m trying to figure out what the fuck it is that I’ve managed to do on that particular day to create the illusion that I’m thinner than before.

I hate this idea that people around me would be proud or not proud of the outcome of my relationship with my body.

Isn’t that the whole point of losing weight where there is weight to be lost? So that your body can (in theory) become invisible to the judgment of others.

Swapping food for privilege.

Happy New Year.

You can ask me anything.