Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'm an endangered species (Eating Disorder Awareness Week)

From all my life experiences, observations of those around me, taking in the messages from the media, talking to neighbors and loved ones, I have finally come to this conclusion:

I am a member of an endangered species.

What species you ask? "Fat woman who is not trying to become less fat." And I don't just mean that I'm "between diets" or just not trying to lose weight right NOW. I mean I honestly don't care about losing weight anymore, ever. I don't own a scale. I don't weigh myself. I eat what I like. I exercise and play cause I love it. If I don't like it or it makes me feel icky, I don't do it.

I've spent my time being on the other species, actually several other species. Let me paint a picture of the different species I have been a member of, in chronological order, although this is a VERY truncated version. Believe me, there are millions of women in each of these species. (Please note I'm using the phrase "fat girl" throughout, even though I am a woman, not a girl, but this started when I was a girl. And "fat" is not a value judgment, it is just a trait, like short or tall. I don't use this phrase as an insult, so please don't take it in that way.)

Thriving Species
Average girl who thinks she's fat.
Average girl who eats emotionally and becomes actually fat.
Fat girl who is actually, physically addicted to sugar and comfort eating.
Fat girl who knows that being fat is completely unacceptable.
Fat girl who decides she won't be a fat girl anymore
Fat girl dieting.
Fat girl losing weight.
Fat girl failing.
Fat girl binging.
Fat girl deciding (again) it's not okay to be a fat girl.
Fat girl dieting.
Fat girl losing weight
Fat girl falling off the wagon (again).
Fat girl binging and becoming even more fat than when she started (the "yo-yo-ing up the scale" phenomenon)
Fat girl eating ANYTHING sweet just to get a fix, without knowing if she even likes the food that much.
Fat girl deciding it's not okay to be a fat girl.
Fat girl tired of not being loved, of not being desired, of not being "ok" cause she's fat. Being fat is not okay.
Fat girl giving up sugar entirely.
Fat girl detoxing from sugar.
Fat girl losing a LOT of weight.
Fat girl is now average girl.
Average girl missing out on food with family and friends.
Average girl exhausted from undernourishment and overexercise.
Average girl still not happy
Average girl reaching out to friends and making treats for a party.
Average girl falling off the wagon BIG TIME and eating all the leftover treats from the party.
Average girl gaining weight and continuing a 3-year-long binge "last supper" while still off the wagon. (Cause she knows she'll have to get back on the wagon soon, so she has to eat the stuff she loves NOW while she still can.)
Fat girl sick and tired of this cycle that has been repeated more times than she can count.
Fat girl wishing she was still the "fat girl" of a couple decades ago, when she was actually just average, instead of approaching morbid obesity. Why couldn't she just have been happy with that? She'd kill to be that "fat girl" again now. 

By the way... all that ^^ is not just a "normal" cycle.  It's very disordered.  Dieting is disordered eating, and contributes to actual eating disorders.  I have had an eating disorder for most of my life.  Yes, with an actual diagnosis by actual professionals.  Dieting mentalities contribute to eating disorders.

Here's where we begin to get into an evolutionary tangent that does not have as many women in it, and I have become more and more endangered, as I know precious few people who join me where I'm at.

Endangered Species
Fat girl starting to think: do I really want to count calories for the rest of my life? Do I actually LIKE jogging and doing exercise videos? (The answer is no.) Do I actually want to lose weight so I can appeal to the men and other people who I currently feel are shallow for ignoring me the way I am now? Why would I want to be associated with people that are shallow? Why do I even care about their opinion? Whenever I go to the doctor and get lots of tests and stuff, they always find that I am perfectly healthy, to my surprise since I'm so big. Can someone actually be fat AND fit at the same time? Am I actually okay the way I am? Can I go ahead and accept myself as-is, and stop punishing myself physically and mentally? How much stuff could I get done if I didn't spend so much time obsessing about food, calories in, calories burned, exercise, weight, dating, my looks, etc.? How much more attractive and happy would I actually be, just by becoming confident and content with myself?

This kind of thinking has eventually landed me in my current species:  Fat girl NOT trying to become less fat.

This revolution has taken a couple years. It began with a dedication to STOP dieting, and STOP weighing myself. I've been successful with that and am committed to it. My brain and body are still adjusting. I have gained a little more weight and then come to a stopping point since then. I'm no longer yo-yo-ing my way up the scale, I'm just stable where I am. I still eat a lot of foods I love, cause no food is off-limits.  But I don't eat junk just to get some calories or some sweetness out of desparation, I actually eat things I like.  I no longer hoard and hide food and eat thousands of calories in one sitting, in secret, cause it's so shameful to eat foods you like.  I eat out in the open and no longer try to hide.  I no longer binge.  And I do physical things I actually like- biking, swimming, playing with my kids, hiking.  I even tried snowshoeing recently which was a blast.  I do NOT jog or do exercise videos.

My brain and body are learning to trust the fact that food will always be there. I won't make it forbidden ever again. So there are still cravings there, and I do still believe there is a bit of a physical dependence on sugar (that's a whole different topic for another day if anyone is interested).  But I also LOVE a variety of foods, and nothing is "good" or "bad", it's just food, some of which makes me feel great and some doesn't make me feel that great so I cut back on or avoid those that don't feel good to my body.

This revolution for me though, is really about self-acceptance and changing my paradigm about body image, society, etc.  It's okay to be any size, just like it's okay to be any color.  If you use things like race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status in place of "fat", it really makes it clear what JERKS we are all being to ourselves and each other.

Fat girl decides it's not okay to be a fat girl.
Black woman decides it's not okay to be a black woman.
Gay man decides it's not okay to be a gay man.
Hispanic teenager decides it's not okay to be a hispanic teenager.

Do you see my point?

I see people all around me in various stages of that Thriving Species list.  Friends, colleagues, loved ones, going to extreme measures.  Exercising 10 times per week, tracking and counting every single bit of food they eat, having nothing but crackers for lunch, eating a total of 800 calories per day, making certain foods that they really love "forbidden", and so forth.  (For an explanation of why low-calorie diets are BAD for your body and your metabolism, you can see this post I did.)

I just wish these great people would realize how detrimental it is to be there, and instead join me here in my species.  Cause it's not just a species of NOT trying to lose weight.  It's the species of loving yourself, no matter what, and appreciating the GIFT that your body is, no matter what.  It's not about being unhealthy, or being fat, or "giving up" on something.  It's about loving yourself.  Respecting yourself.  Taking good care of yourself.

Change your evolutionary trajectory, it's not up to chance, it's your choice.  Choose to love yourself and see your body as a gift.  Use it as a tool to do all the AWESOME you have going on in your life.  Make your body your friend and ally.  To do that you have to stop treating it like the enemy.  Cause we're all friends here.

As my friend Lisa D'Alessio just beautifully said: