Bitch Article Redux.


So I want to say thanks to Meowser and Fat Fu for the blog that responds to the recent article in Bitch Magazine about people with eating disorders not being welcome in the FA/SA movement. It’s a must-read for anyone who was thoroughly confused by that commentary. As someone who has struggled with a variety of eating disorders her entire life, Bitch sure threw me for a loop: If the premise is that dieting causes fatness, and eating disorders are a type of extraordinarily fucked up diet (although they aren’t actually about “dieting,”per se), and FA/SA is anti-diet because of the fatness it causes, shouldn’t it accept the people who have lived the ED life? It was a conundrum I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around.

Truthfully, people who have chosen recovery, which is difficult, aren’t going to lose a lot of weight (or gain a lot, in the case of people who have truly become very light in terms of anorexia). The Bitch article claimed that people who suffer from Binge-Eating Disorder, which is not yet classified as an actual disorderin the DSM-IV-TR would simply lose weight if they stopped binging. I don’t know, people. I started off as a binger. The only way I lost weight was to become a purger. I don’t binge or purge anymore, and I am not really dropping a lot of weight by attempting to eat normally, or as normally as possible, since I have issues with vegetables. So it seems that the premise that the fatties would reject people who stopped binging because they would magically become thin is rather ridiculous, because once fat, you’re probably going to stay fat,despite any attempt otherwise.

If nothing else, the Bitch article brought publicity to the FA/SA philosophies, and helped clarify talking points. That much is good. I’d be curious to know what alternative the author of the article suggests for people in FA/SA movement; if it really is that insidious, where should people with EDs go? I personally have been to Overeaters Anonymous, and I don’t jive with the notion of giving up control to god. Any of the groups that focus on EDs are also going to be couched in the philosophies of dieting and exercising for someone who looks like me — which is particularly dangerous when my mind could slip so easily into disordered thinking if I am not vigilant. Forget the damage I already did with the extreme “dieting”: ED groups will want to make sure that I lose some weight so that I am not fat, because fat is unhealthy — forgetting that that’s how I came to bulimia in the first place. And frankly, much of the therapeutic community fails to see how someone like me can even be bulimic: I recently read an article from a psychological journal, the abstract stating something along the lines that eating disorders and obesity are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Read: People who have issues with food could never be fat.

Within any movement, there will be a variety of perspectives and experiences that color and shape the group as a whole. Feminism experienced and is experiencing the same challenges. Rather than being seen as a weakness, diversity should be considered a strength, because it adds to the numbers of people who could possibly be included in our ranks.


Sunday nonsense

I didn’t post this weekend for the following reasons:

Living situation drama,

Cold weather,

I ate too many cookies,

I went to a baby shower, and I don’t really do babies,

I had to sew,

I had to finish homework,

I had to watch a documentary so I could send it back to netflix,

I found good clothes at Old Navy, finally,

And I slept far too much.

Back to my regularly scheduled posting tomorrow.

I’m excited, though, because I got a bunch of great books in the mail from Amazon, like:

Forbidden Bodies, and Fat History, and some others. I also finished up CJ Pascoe’s new book, Dude, You’re a Fag, a queer theory book that looks at the meaning of the word fag and masculinity. Turns out the epithet of fag isn’t so much about gayness as it is about perceived femininity in supposed masuline bodied folks. Check it out if you’re into gender studies.

Lastly, N made great breakfasts two time this weekend and the house still smells like bacon. And I ate spinach twice this week, a miracle seeing as I hate vegetables of all kinds. Yes, even carrots. And salad. And tomatoes, even though they are a fruit.

Oh, and totally check out Leonard Nimoy’s book. Looking at fat nudity is so empowering.

That’s all folks.

Let’s talk about eating disorders.

So, I have one, OK? Or one in remission, I guess, because I think once you have one, and your brain’s been occupied with one, it’s always hanging out there, like some dark, hidden menace. Most of the time, you don’t think about it, but sometimes, it can be a little sneaky and catch you off guard.

Sigh. Where to start.

So, I was a fat kid, right? I got put on a diet pretty young, and I think this made me a little crazy. I always was a little crazy — hence the bipolar/manic depressive links on the side bar over there — and my family’s a little crazy too. So I started off with a pattern of disordered eating. The dieting caused me to start binging as a kid. I started hating vegetables, and then all sorts of power-and-control issues occurred around food, which generally ended up with me sitting at the table until bedtime, or me trying to feed my ornery cocker spaniel food I didn’t want, and apparently he didn’t want either — as he smashed it into the carpet — resulting in a punishment for me.

Subsequently, I got fat, and fatter, and I never knew whether I was hungry or full or coming or going. In high school, I just accepted I was fat and was fine with it. I stopped eating vegetables altogether because all the power-and-control issues caused me to physically gag when they entered my mouth. During my childhood and teenage years, my parents engaged in name-calling and fat fear about health issues, which did not help my emotional well-being any.

 Then I was taken to a Diet Center.

This occurred just prior to my senior year of high school. My parents told me we were going somewhere else. When we all got in the car, they told me they were taking me to a weight loss center, as it was time to get my weight under control, as I would not be able to do any of the things I wanted to do in life while fat. These things included: have a boyfriend, get through college, get a good job, and get married. Clearly, thinness was the only appropriate body in which I could master these tasks, and it was assumed these were tasks I wanted to master.

At the diet center I was weighed. I can’t remember what I weighed, but it was either 268 pounds, or 286 pounds. I do remember I was wearing clothes larger than the size I wear now. It was high, although not too far from what I weigh now. I would have to follow a strict eating plan. I would be allowed more food at the start because I would be “melting fat,” since I was shocking my system into losing weight.

I cried hysterically.

The first week, I followed the plan half-heartedly. I ate what I was supposed to, except for the vegetables. I lost 1/2 pound. The diet center people asked if I had followed the plan. I reassured them I had. They said not to worry, it was only the first week. But the pressure at home was immense.

And so I decided to follow my own plan. It went like this.

I would not eat breakfast. I would eat a granola bar for lunch. I would eat a small dinner. I would drink lots of diet soda, as I had been reassured it had no fat or calories, so it was a “safe” food.

I lost 7 pounds at the next weigh-in. I received lots of praise. For the entire school year, this was my diet. I reached a few plateaus, and the diet counselors reduced my food plan more. I cried hysterically, because I knew that I was hardly eating anything, so how could I possibly eat less? On some days, I skipped lunch to make up for it. On weigh in days, I just wouldn’t eat at all. I added exercise to the mix to help break through plateaus.

At the end, a year later, I weighed 186 pounds. Fat, but not as fat.

I had also developed sharp pains in my stomach. It felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife in the center of my rib cage. The pain was intense, preventing me from breathing. My mom laughed at me, telling me I was dramatic.

The following year I went to college. I continued skipping breakfast and lunch. I started smoking and dropped an additional 12 pounds. Smoking, I found, was an excellent appetite suppressant, as well. Fat, but less fat.

By the end of my freshman year, I had gained some weight. I don’t really know how. I probably ate breakfast here and there. I had a few late night pizzas here and there. I didn’t drink, so that couldn’t have done it. What I do know is that despite the 12 pounds I lost, I ended the year fatter than I started it.

Completely freaked out, I started exercising in bizarre ways. I climbed flights of stairs over and over in my 10-story dorm and then weighed myself to see if I had immediately lost weight. I worked out as much as I could.

My weight did not change.

It, in fact, went up.

And the stomach pains continued.

I met another woman in the dorm who had found something to help suppress her appetite. It was Ma Huang, a natural form of ephedrine. I started taking it daily. It worked quite well, aside from the diarrhea, stomach cramping, heart palpitations, excessive sweating, and irritability. I took it off and on for a few years, and then regularly for another five. At first I was able to lose some weight. Then, I was able to simply maintain weight. But later, it did nothing for me, and I continued gaining weight, and just took it for fear that if I did not, I would be out of control. Everything would be wrong if I was not doing something to control my weight, my appetite, my body.

The curious stomach pains were horrendous, and eventually, I got properly diagnosed. It seems that rapid weight loss, according to the doctor I saw, can sometimes cause gall stones. This is what happened to me. I had to have emergency surgery to have my gall bladder removed. I was warned that I would have lifelong digestive problems as a result of the surgery. I did. I do.

I also have them because of my long-term abuse of Ma Huang.

I went to a therapist, who referred me to someone who specialized in eating disorders. In truth, I had no concept that what I was doing was disordered. I simply believed I was dieting. I mean, they sold the Ma Huang pills at GNC, and I was taking half of the recommended daily dose, so I was being safe, right? Nevermind how they made me felt. Fat was unhealthy, so I was being “good” by trying to control my weight, and since I kept gaining despite my better attempts not to, which included exercising regularly and eating sporadically, or reductively, or sometimes not at all, or in some sort of binge-and-compensatory manner, I was being healthy, right? Fat would kill me eventually, so wouldn’t it be better to get it off of my body in some way, any way, even if that meant I was hungry all the time, was irritable all the time, was shamed all the time, was tired all the time? Fat was bad, and I was working at getting rid of it, so that meant I was good, right? 

At the eating disorders therapist, I described what I was doing. By this point, I had developed a nice system for myself. I drank only diet soda, because a diet soda, along with a cigarette, often replaced a meal for me. I was usually drinking a case a day and smoking a pack a day. I talked about how I would eat a small breakfast, skip lunch, eat a small dinner — during the week. I would exercise, during the week. During the week, I kept my calorie intake low. On the weekends, I was allowed more freedom, so I could eat more. As much as I wanted, actually.

She looked at me, and said: You have bulimia.

I cried. Bulimia? How was that possible? They binge and purge — as in, throwing up, as in, eating 10,000 calories in a sitting and then running to the bathroom. I was not bulimic. I was dieting. I was Being Good. And I was fat. Fat people don’t have eating disorders. I had even accepted that I was always going to be fat, I just wanted to be less fat, a size 16 or 18 fat, not a size 20 or 22 fat.

No. Apparently, fat people do have eating disorders — even the ones that are thought to only exist in the thin, pretty upper middle class white girls. I was one of them.

As I did when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was floored by the label, and I was determined to make some significant changes. I went home and threw out all the Ma Huang, which was terrifying. Who would I be if I wasn’t controlling my body? What would happen if I didn’t reign it in? Would it run amok? Would it gain so much weight I would be the 400-pound spectre the media throws out as the reason for the health care crisis in this country? Since I had been a child, I had had no concept of what it was like to simply eat things I wanted or liked when I was just hungry. I didn’t even know what it was like to feel hungry and then go eat as a result of that physical cue. That was a radical concept to me.

That was five years ago. It has been a long, rocky road.

I have been working on cutting sugars out of my diet, not to lose weight, but because I have a real issue with IBS and migraines. An acupuncturist told me that many times, my body may be craving sugar but what it needs is protein. So I’ve been trying it out for about a month now, and my migraines have reduced, and my belly feels a whole lot better.

Last night, I got a craving for Reese’s Pieces. Just some random craving. I’m big on honoring cravings. It’s been a part of the work I’ve done in bulimia recovery. Giving in to one craving is a lot better than eating 20 pounds of “healthy” food. But I struggled. What would happen if I ate so much sugar? It’s a “bad” food now. Just saying that brought me back to a place of body loathing and cyclical destructive thinking about weight and body image. I ended up getting the candy, the need to be true to the work I did regarding my body image trumping the work I am doing regarding my body’s pain.

The candy didn’t taste good, and it ended up making me hurt. It did teach me, though, how much my values have changed and not changed, around food. Which is to say, I guess I have come a long way, without really travelling that far.

My Very First Troll.

Oh My.

I didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

But it has.

Probably due to all the press coverage of the Fat-o-Sphere, I’ve garnered a bit of attention, too.

And so, Daniel has kindly pointed out to me, several key items about fatness. He politely suggests the following:

Umm… I don’t mean to be offensive, but honestly, the fact that the large numbers of massively overweight people around you are trying to deal with their obesity by denying that it’s a problem doesn’t change the key issues:
1) being obese, by itself, is extremely bad for your health (diabetes, heart problems, etc)
2) being obese is usually accompanied by being fairly inactive physically, which also has some very bad side-effects
3) obese people often don’t feed themselves right (YES!… sugar is not enough), don’t eat enough fresh, vitamin-full vegetables, which is also really bad for your health

Hmm. All good points, Daniel. Anything that starts off with, “I don’t mean to be offensive,” generally isn’t offensive, at all. I mean, why would you preface anything with such a comment in the first place?

Of course, Daniel, I don’t want to be offensive either, but let me take the time to point out some flaws in your logic. First, being “obese,” in and of itself, is actually not unhealthy. Diabetes, heart disease, and of those other diseases, which may or may not be complications related to weight and lifestyle, are secondary. So therefore, “obesity” is not, in and of itself, unhealthy. Thin people can eat a ton of sugar, eat no vegetables, smoke a lot, and never exercise, and they’ll up their risks of diabetes and heart disease just as much as a fat person who engages in the same behaviors. And that’s what those things are: behaviors. Fat and thin: those are body types, not behaviors. We shouldn’t judge people for body type, skin color, race, class, etc., etc. Truthfully, we shouldn’t judge people for behaviors, either, because when it comes right down to it, it’s actually none of our business what other people do with their own bodies.

It’s amazing how many blogs written by fat people have the same delusional theme: “ooh, I’m not fat because everyone else is fat around me” or “I’m ok with being fat, really I am” or “I’m happy with my 400 pounds of fat, if you’re not happy that’s your problem”. Wake up folks! The problem with being fat is not the way you feel – it’s the way it destroys your body.

The way you feel about your fatness has NOTHING to do with it. If your body fat percentage is in the “obese” norm, you are FAT. And you are getting all the health issues associated with it.

Ah, Daniel. I see now we are devolving into your true hatred of fat people. Your logic has gotten worse, and you have referred to my favorite argument of the thin-community about the horrors of fatness: the spectre of the 400 pound fat person.

First, I am not sure that anybody in the fat community is denying they are fat. Um, that seems to be a consensus among us all: Yep, we are a bunch of fatty fat fatties, even if we don’t agree with the way the health care industry classifies our fatness in terms of BMI and other scales of fatness. But all of us here? Fat we are.

I won’t bother addressing in full your hysteria about the health problems you insist each of us is marching toward collectively due to our fatness. I don’t know. It seems to me we are individuals. There’s a bunch of links on my page that will address those, if you enjoy reading. I don’t know. It seems to me people are individuals, with individual propensities towards diseases, based on genes, lifestyle, environmental factors, among other complex considerations. Saying All Fat People Will Get Diabetes is like saying All White People Will Get Cancer, or All Gay Men Will Get AIDS.

And let’s even go with the argument that Fat Is A Risk For Diabetes. Ok, well Smoking Is A Risk For Lung Cancer. Guess what? Not all smokers get lung cancer. Using that argument, you can see that the notion that All Fat People Will Get X Disease is false.

I wonder why, Daniel, you are so bothered by fat people being happy with their body shapes? What about that is so threatening to you? I am not sure that you are genuinely concerned for the health of fat people, as you are concerned that fat people being OK with themselves makes you less OK with yourself. Could it be that a group of people you detest finding peace with their collective body image despite the hatred you spew forth somehow disempowers you?

Getting thinner isn’t hard. Forget about all the fad diets. There are only 3 key, proven vital behaviours to losing weight:
1) weigh yourself every day (including body fat %)
2) have a way of exercising at home
3) eat breakfast every day

Do this from now on (not for a limited period, for the rest of your life) and you can lose weight. When you find you’re not losing weight, eat less or exercise more. Easy.

Hmm Daniel. As a recovering bulimic, I can say that weighing ones’ self every day sounds a little bit … disordered. As for the last part of your wonderful advice, just one question: Is the goal to lose weight forever? So that a person wastes into nothingness?

Because, quite frankly, what if I don’t want to lose weight? What if I don’t want to be nothing?

What would that mean to you, Daniel?

I imagine the prospect of a fat woman who isn’t trying to get thin perpetually is a rather frightening one indeed.

Fat!?!? You’re not . . . FAT!

Ah Yes. Over at Feed Me, Harriet wrote a nice post about how people try to cheer us up about our relative fatness. Since many of us have people in our lives who embark on the quest for the Holy Grail of thinness, and since this quest involves a lot of self-negating talk about I’m Fat/You’re not fat, even around those of us who actually are fat, I’d like to expound on this topic further.

I remember sitting at a bar with some friends not all that long ago, and the topic of bodies came up. One woman, who had been quite thin not all that long ago, and who was not interested in dieting, began talking about her body. She is striving to get used to it, although she admits that she has been walking around in this new body for some time now, but simply hasn’t identified with it, and still identifies with her old, thin body.

She said something along the lines of, I’m not used to being fat.

Someone at our table chimed in, immediately: You’re not FAT!

I, of, course responded with: Fat? Who cares? Half the people in this room are considered fat by today’s standards. And I ranted on. The people at the table were shocked as I continued on my little platform about fatness.

This woman is considerably smaller than me. What is interesting to me, is that at this current size I inhabit, I have also said: I’m fat! and people have said: Fat? You’re not fat!

Um, yes I am. I wear a Size 20-22-24. I weigh 263.8 pounds. I most certainly am fat.

But I know what they mean. What they mean is, you don’t act fat. You don’t smell fat. You don’t do fat. Because fat isn’t just a physical characteristic, it’s a moral one.

This is particularly poignant for me.

A number of years ago, I was cleaning out the massive mess in my now-ex-husband’s apartment. I was moving in, and I needed space for my stuff. He had a suitcase full of mail, and I was annoyedly sorting through it. Who keeps a suitcase full of mail?

In this suitcase were a bunch of composition notebooks. In my haste of tossing out stacks and stacks of mail, I started flipping through these notebooks. And they were journals. I perused a few entries, which were fairly boring, actually, so I didn’t pour over them too much. This is true. I am nosy, and so I might be tempted to actually read every notebook, front to back. But they were … boring. So I didn’t.

However, flipping through one notebook, one phrase caught my eye: “large women.”

There was no way I could let that pass.

The entry detailed how he was not attracted to large women. Period. It was in the context of several large women being attracted to him. It was a few years prior to my meeting him. I was floored. I was a “large woman.”

A few days later, I asked him, in a circuitous fashion, about fatness and what that meant to him, in terms of relationships. He said this:

“You carry yourself so well, though.”

I guess that meant I walk, and don’t roll.

Which is similar to: You’re not fat!

My first boyfriend was unsure if we would have sex, pointing to my belly as the reason why, while we were both naked and rolling around in the sheets.

Later, after we consummated our relationship, he claimed:

“But you don’t act fat!”

Which is the same as: “You’re not fat!”

What people really mean when they say: “You’re not fat,” or any of the variations thereof, is the following: “You’re not fat. Because if you were, that would mean I would have to admit I was hanging out with, sleeping with, marrying, living with, fucking, eating dinner with, working with, dating, and generally occupying the same space as a real-honest-to-god fat person, and that idea is the most disgusting thing I can think of, so I am convincing myself that You Are Not Fat, and don’t tell me otherwise, Ok?”

I reject that. I don’t want to be reassured about my body, whether I am secure or insecure in it at any given moment, in order to assuage other people’s feelings of shame about being seen with me. I don’t want to be relegated to a position of reflected guilt. That’s not for me. Not anymore.

« Older entries Newer entries »