For breakfast I ate oatmeal slopping some globs of it on my shirt which is part of my new (top) secret (until now) diet plan for 2009. The shirt is one I wore back when I weighed well over 300 pounds. For some reason after losing a lot of weight I kept this one big shirt along with one pair of enormous pants that at one time fit me perfectly. This morning I was wearing my big shirt and found myself reminiscing about the old days.
Weight loss experts (myself included) say that in order to protect us from ourselves, we are supposed to toss out our big clothes so as we lose weight moving toward perfect lives of slimdom, we aren't tempted to gain the weight we lost. Maybe these experts think that just the sight of big clothing causes a stirring, forcing us to rush back to the kitchen.
None of the fat clothes I ever wore tempted me, not even the special clothes advertised in the Lame Giant catalog. Shirts with enormous daises, holiday ornaments covered in sparkly doodads (especially around the holidays when nothing says trendsetter quite like a gigantic orange appliquéd pumpkin with glow-in-the-dark eyes stretched over the top of your sweat pants.) I bought those clothes out of desperation not because I was keen to make a fashion statement. No one on the planet (short of a Sumo) is tempted to gain that kind of weight. I never threw out my polyester/jersey bland fat-lady clothes. Like the generous soul that I am, I gave those clothes to my mother to take back to Mexico where she donates the clothing to a local charity
who uses them to clothe entire villages. (No offense, Mexico).
I like to look at my big clothes, trying them on to see what, girth-wise was once possible for me - not like big girth was something of which I was proud but wow... those were some big pants. When I hold the pants up to my body I am stunned that they once fit. And I am enormously grateful that I don't fit into them anymore.
You can get an idea of what it's like being as fat as I was at my peak by putting 35 ten pound bags of sugar in your pants (your underwear will stretch - give it a try). It's hard to move that big a load. Try it with your sugar undies. Sitting is way more comfy than moving (but then for me, sitting always is). Everything I ate encouraged (is that the correct word?) me to eat more because I was in a vicious circle of eating, feeling bad about eating, and eating in order to stop feeling bad and then feeling bad about eating, and then eating to escape feeling bad about being fat and eating and bad feelings and bad feelings and eating.
I felt people should accept and love me for who I was (a few did - mostly family) because I was not my fat body or my body fat. I was me -- the person inside of the fat that surrounded me (sort of like a troll hiding under a bridge). My perception was that even though I was really fat, I was somehow invisible. I was the size of power yet I felt powerless to do anything inside my package. I couldn't make people like me even though I was always the real me. I never got around to giving my acceptance speech on the subject because no one got close enough to listen. I was caught in a whirlpool of anger and self-righteousness and to this day I have not been able to figure out why I was so angry. I have discovered that getting caught up in the 'why' of a situation doesn't usually change the situation.
Somewhere in Mexico a village is wearing my underwear.
It was not one single moment (when you weigh as much as I did, there are many single moments woven together of panic and shame) where I hit rock bottom but a collection of circumstances that forced me out of my situation.
Part of my rock-bottoming happened while walking the hill behind my house soon after Greg died. I was by myself, walking a steep hill, slipped, landing flat on my ass, cracking my head on the ground. I hit my head so hard I remember my head bouncing back from the impact. I hurt but also laughed when I realized that I could lay in that spot forever and no one would know. Another time I fell through my rotting deck to the dirt below (distance of about 8-10') I had been warned not to go on that side of the house but for some reason I didn't pay attention -- I think that was the story of my life at that time - not paying attention. One time while crossing a busy intersection in Seattle, I tripped over a botsdot, splatting in the middle of the street. No one could even help me up because I was so big. These events were not only physically painful, but embarrassing and humiliating.
Some other inspirations on the road to Slimerville was an article in an Oprah magazine about making decisions. (You're probably thinking 'how corny can she get?') The article was clear and simple - make a decision and stick to it. No science in that. I was also reading James Frey's A Million Little Pieces about his own addictions even though much of the book was found to be a work of fiction (lies that he made up) - I could relate to what he wrote which if I recall was mostly about being an addict. I realized through reading Frey's fake memoir of addiction, I was a definitely an addict. A real one.
After Frey's book, I became obsessed, reading books about alcoholics, overeaters and crazed family situations; memoirs about people that I described as out of control around alcohol and/or food or their family situation was a huge load of crap. The most profound of these books was Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. I cannot recommend this book enough. I was on a diet of sorts - a diet of books about people I could relate to, and looked like, people in crisis, unhappy, unhealthy people. (Not the kind of diet where I slop food down my shirt -- that diet tip is new this year.)
I haven't cured myself though I've lost over a hundred pounds. I sometimes still eat compulsively. There are times when I can't get food out of the cupboard fast enough, (not quite admitting a binge though it's still a binge) sometimes too much food or at the wrong time (right before going to bed). When I eat like that, as if I can't wait to shovel the food in, I know there's something emotional behind the urge. If I go with the emotion - I can't even label it -- things happen so fast in those moment like sliding down a mountain on my ass, I go numb and eat. But if I stop myself, I realize I am not even hungry.
I have been introspective, attempting to isolate a list of emotions behind the urge to eat. Happiness, sadness, disappointment, depression, angry, guilt, anxiety, sneezy, sleepy, dopey, happy, bashful, grumpy ... anxiety around loneliness tops my list. My current out-of-control book club of the month selection is all about emotional eating. I realize I can eat for almost any reason though rarely do I eat out of any real hunger. I am working toward developing real hunger. Is there a class or some sort of training for real hunger?
Why did I develop this food eating coping mechanism? I have tried to analyze my past though I know from research that analysis can sometimes keep us stagnant, sort of whirling in the same space rather than forcing a change. Sometimes you have to change first and then you discover why things are the way they are.
After careful, thorough analysis of my life including my sister's input, I wrote a short story we like to tell people so they'll feel sorry for us when they hear about where some of our frenzied eating behaviors started. (Let me know if it works on you?)
How'd We Get So Fat, Huh?
When we were younger, our
wicked, lovely mother locked food up. She might say she locked food away because with five bratty, screaming wonderful children to feed, we cost too much money and money was tight back then. Although she'd be saying that from behind the bathroom door where she'd lock herself so she could get some peace and quiet. away from us awful kids.
There was a rumor that mom once made tuna on toast out of real canned tuna cat food, the implication was that this would save money. I'm not lying - this really was was a rumor. But I know my mom would not have eaten tuna cat food. So much for developing a sophisticated palate. One time she made us eat liver and onions while she ate a hamburger patty. When I asked her about later, she said "Liver is supposed to be good for you." She thought she was doing the right thing - making us healthier through forcing us to eat animal organs.
Mom would sometimes buy treats though she'd lock them up, usually the off-brands. Lardy-type biscuit cookies, loaded-with-sugar, artificial colorings and flavors with that small, decadent frosting-filled hole in the middle where as a child you would stick your finger inside to 'model' those cookies like Judy Garland in Easter Parade. The cookies didn't even taste that great though that never stopped us from doing just about anything to get to them. Mom would leave the house
to find some peace and quiet, leaving us to fend for ourselves, (huge mistake) clawing at each other, ravenous from not having eaten in days, we'd head straight for the screwdriver, like screwdriver-toting wolves to sheep, removing cupboard doors from cabinets to get at those cookies. We'd line the cookies up on our fingers prior to shoving them in our mouths, scoring the ultimate five-finger discount. Then of course, when our wicked wonderful mother returned, the cupboard doors would be back to their original state and we five kids would rely on her Days of Wine and Roses verses Valley of the Dolls memory to figure out how many cookies had gone missing.
It would have been way better if mom locked up our brothers instead of food. My sister and I wouldn't have had to share as much though we could never convince mom.
Finally, my sister wanted you know that "We never had raisins. We only got raisin."
That's the way we remember it anyway.
This picture is the absolute WORST picture ever taken of me -- unless you have other suggestions.
Working on a food addiction will be a life-long process. I have already lived more life than I have left to live. I'll never be skinny -- don't really want that (and that's a lie almost bigger than my butt). Maybe I need larger-than-life lymphedema legs to hold up the best parts of me, my personality, my brain, my good looks, all of which need substantial support, and who better than I? I try to maintain awareness of my addictive behaviors, sometimes by the hour, sometimes by the moment depending on what kind of cake lurks around the corner. I discovered along with a uterine cancer diagnosis that my fatter self put me at a much greater risk of developing cancer. I'm not about to give cancer another chance. I wish I had known then what I know now. And maybe that's why I'm telling you.