Thursday, August 30, 2007

"...are you going to get bigger?"

Backstory:
I grew up with a mother who was a model before she met my dad. She has always kept her weight low, and she has a very ectomorphic body type, in addition to being 3-4 inches taller than me.

The pursuit of thinness has always been paramount to her, and got foisted onto me as I grew up. It didn't matter that I'm built differently than she is (I'm shorter, and I put on muscle really easily, and my fat is distributed in a curvy hips-ass-boobs pattern), she was still as obsessed with my weight as she was with hers. She truly believes — and always told me so — that "the boys will line up to date you if you just lose some weight."

Meaning, my weight makes me unlovable. And I've always believed that, partly because it seemed to be true — no one ever wanted to date me. (When I was a teenager, I didn't understand the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, and how believing something can *make* it true.) So I've always considered my weight to be something much more than just excess fat and flesh; if it made me so damned unloveable, then it must be something horrible and disgusting.

I've been dating my boyfriend for over a year now, and we've been seriously considering moving in together. In fact, our recent vacation was somewhat of a test to see if we could tolerate each other in close quarters for an extended period of time.

I really can't over-emphasize what a good relationship this is. He is truly the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known. He's never careless with my feelings. I feel totally safe with him.

Currentstory:
My boyfriend and I talked last night about the prospect of moving in together, now that the vacation "experiment" is over. We talked about still having some fears, but that for the most part we want to do it.

And then my boyfriend said, "Okay, here comes a major question...." And he paused, and then asked, "....are you going to get bigger?"

For a split second, I just wanted to die.

You know, people can't help who they're attracted to, or what physical attributes they find attractive/unattractive. But I had just been assuming that my weight wasn't an issue with him, because he regularly demonstrates that he is *very* attracted to me. I mean, I *thought* so. You can't fake sexual arousal; or, at least, I can't fathom why anyone would fake it that frequently for such a long period of time.

So, if I go with the assumption that he *is* currently attracted to me, his question still makes me think only one thing: that there is a point — a weight — at which I would be unattractive and disgusting to him.

Just like my mom said.

I'm really thrown for such a loop right now. After he asked me that question, every old fear and old ugly belief came rushing back, and crushed any semblance of body acceptance I had developed. I cried and cried and cried and could hardly even talk, for at least an hour. Finally I calmed down a little, and we talked through it. I explained all the old shit with my mom, and my old ugly fears. He told me that he *is* attracted to me. However, he didn't address the issue of whether or not he'd find me unattractive if I gained any more weight. And I certainly wasn't going to press the issue.

He has always been so careful with my feelings, and I know that he didn't ask that question to hurt me. But I also don't know how he thought it would do anything *but* hurt.

I feel like shit right now. I feel disgusting and ugly and worthless. I woke up this morning with my head full of plans to exercise 7 days a week and go back to Weight Watchers. That's not the answer, I realize that. Accepting my body is the answer, I guess. But all I can think at this particular moment is: does it matter if *I* accept my body, when the man I love *doesn't*?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vacation and Exercise

I was on vacation last week, in gorgeous northern California. It was the first trip that my boyfriend and I took together, and we were both privately wondering if this would sound the death knell for the relationship. (I am, without question, difficult to travel with; The Boy thinks that *he* is difficult to travel with. The result, of course, is that we got on like peas in a pod, and had an excellent time.)

These days, I don't exercise as much as I used to, due to the ever-present time crunch (and, okay, laziness). In an "active" week, I walk on the treadmill 2 or 3 times, and do yoga 1 or 2 times. I'm trying to do yoga more frequently, because I am astonishingly inflexible. Some days I feel like I'm made of stone.

I'd like to get back to walking on the treadmill (or around the neighborhood) 4 or 5 times a week. Not because I think it'll make me lose weight, but because that's always been the level of activity that makes my body feel the best — I feel alert and energized all day, and I sleep well at night, and everything just seems to function better.

But even though I get less exercise than I used to, I'm not sedentary. Walking around a city and sightseeing isn't a daunting task for me. Granted, northern California is all hills, and I cheerfully loathe walking uphill — but I have no problem doing it. Yes, walking up a big hill makes me breathe harder, but that's the point — it's *supposed* to be harder than just walking on level ground.

While we were on vacation, we returned the rental car once we got to San Francisco, preferring public transportation to the hell of trying to park in San Francisco. After we dropped off the rental car, we had to walk back to where we were staying, maybe a mile or so. Not a difficult walk.

I don't know if I looked like I was about to collapse, or if I was sweaty and red-faced, or if I was just muttering too loudly about being lazy and wanting to take a cab, but whatever the reason, after we finished our walk, my boyfriend told me, "I'm proud of you for walking back and sticking with it." I said, "It really *wasn't* difficult; I was serious about just being lazy." My boyfriend said, "Still, I'm proud of you."

And it made me think, oh my god — is that how he sees me? As a Jabba-the-Hutt-esque blob who can barely move? I mean, he was *proud* of me for walking A MILE? That isn't exactly Olympics-level. Which then (of course) launches me into all kinds of related panicky thoughts: Is he disgusted by my body? Is he embarassed by my weight? Does he want me to lose weight but just doesn't know how to say so? Was that a hint?

And then, of course, I get angry with myself for even thinking those things, and for caring about whether he thinks I'm too fat, when I should be focusing on accepting my body the way it is, and giving it the exercise it needs.

Arrrgh.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When 12 Pounds Might as Well be 100 Pounds

Dr. Stacy, of Every Woman Has An Eating Disorder, mentioned in a recent post that she's gained some weight. Twelve pounds, to be exact, which she confirmed by stepping on a scale.

Most women I know would react to the confirmation of a 12-pound weight gain by (1) massive self-hatred, (2) excessive exercise, (3) renewed zeal to consume only lettuce and water, and (4) even more self-hatred.

I'll be honest with you: *I* would probably react that way. The excessive exercise and lettuce-and-water diet would probably last for only one day, but the extra helping of self-hatred would stick around for a long, LONG time. I'm trying to get past that mindset, but I'm *so* not there yet.

The eminently sensible Dr. Stacy, however, reacted like so:

I did nothing. I went about my shower, getting dressed, and returned to work. My exercise and eating habits didn't change a bit, and I really wasn't distressed at all. Would I like to have seen less of a weight-gain, or not one at all? Sure. I'd be lying if I said I didn't, especially because some of my favorite wardrobe items have been neglected as of late. But, I've bought some new stuff, bringing the mountain to Mohammed, and I'm really not sweating the 12 pounds at all. Because in the scope of what I do and who I am and the world I live in, 12 pounds of extra flesh amount to absolutely nothing.


DAMN. I want to be able to react that way — with perspective and balance.

Not all of Dr. Stacy's commenters felt that her reaction was sensible, however. (Interestingly, only the *anonymous* commenters thought her weight gain and subsequent reaction was bad. Seriously.)

One commenter said:

BUT....12 pounds is not a small amount of weight to gain in six months. The reasons ARE important. Because if you continue to do the same thing you're doing to gain that weight, then eventually, one should be concerned about what health effects it would have.


And by "one should be concerned," she means "I know what's healthiest for your body, even though I've never met you or looked at your medical history, and I'm not a doctor either, but listen to my anti-fat rhetoric disguised as concern, anyway!" I mean, really. Dr. Stacy is an adult. I trust that a blogger who I've never met is going to be a mature enough person to note the point at which her health is affected (IF it's affected).

Or, you know, maybe she WON'T notice it. And the thing is, SHE'S AN ADULT. She has every right to not be concerned about her health, even if she has an alien baby growing out of the back of her head. That's what being an adult human being with self-determination MEANS — you have the right to do stupid shit. (I don't think that gaining weight is "stupid shit," but even if it were, it's still up to the individual to keep on gaining, or not.)

Unless, of course, you've had the temerity to gain weight recently. Then "one should be concerned."

Another anonymous commenter said:

But it CAN amount to something- stress on your joints, increased blood pressure... 12 lbs is not "nothing". 3 lbs is nothing.


So, this is either a doctor who's concealing her medical degree, or some sort of omniscient being who KNOWS — again, even though she's never met Dr. Stacy — exactly how much extra weight is bad for her body. (Or possibly it's my mom.) But really. A stranger on the other end of the Interpipe has no idea what 3, 5, or 12 pounds means on Dr. Stacy's frame, or with her medical history. But still Anonymous #2 feels compelled to comment on it, because surely Dr. Stacy doesn't pay attention to something as silly as joint pain!

And my favorite anonymous commenter (also a crack mathematician) said:

I mean, if you gained 12lbs. in the past 6 months, that means you could potentially gain 24 in one year...48 in two years...100 in four years...


That's really the gist of the "concern," isn't it? Dear god, the fat person has just let herself go completely, and unless she's stopped, she'll gain 100 pounds! We can't have THAT!!! Gaining 12 pounds is suddenly conflated with gaining 100 pounds. Again, completely discounting Dr. Stacy's own intelligence (do you think that maybe, just MAYBE, she would notice if she gained 100 pounds???) and self-determination, AND ignoring the fact that if she DID gain 100 pounds, so the fuck WHAT??? It's Dr. Stacy's own body. Not yours, Anonymous #1, #2, and #3. Take the concern trolling elsewhere.

This is my own rant; it's not meant to fight Dr. Stacy's battles for her. She does that just fine all on her own, anyway, and more power to her.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Fruits (or Cookies) of Demand Feeding

I just keep on blogging about demand feeding, don't I? I do actually have other things on my mind that I intend to blog about, such as the hairy, scary beast called Exercise, but right now I'm going to talk about demand feeding and my rejection of wafer cookies.

Remember wafer cookies?

They came in packages of vanilla, chocolate, and pink (which I think were strawberry). I loved them as a kid, though in truth, I loved just about anything made out of sugar.

Since I started paying closer attention to what my body wants to eat — and then actually eating the food my body requests — I've been slowly wending my way through the foods that I wasn't allowed to eat as a kid. What I'm finding is that, after I eat a moderate-to-large amount of whatever the food is (c.f., Little Debbie Creme pies), it doesn't actually taste that good to me.

My memory of the food is, it seems, not very accurate. Or, possibly, it IS accurate, but my taste buds have matured past the age at which snacky cakes and wafer cookies were forbidden. After all, when I was 8, if I had known about sushi, I would have run screaming from anyone who tried to get me to eat unagi, but NOW — well, I don't exaggerate when I say that I could probably eat sushi every night and not get sick of it.

So my 36-year-old taste buds are not impressed with the foods that my 8-year-old self was banned from eating. This shouldn't be as surprising as it is, particularly when I remember the Great Cereal Rebellion that took place in my first post-college apartment. The only cereal that I ate for about 6 months during that first heady rush of "My own place! My own place!" was Frankenberry. Because, of course, I wasn't allowed to eat it as a kid.

The thing was, I got tired of Frankenberry after those 6 months, and, in fact, am not terribly fond of super-sugary breakfast cereals now. I guess I was actually engaging in demand feeding back then, without knowing it had a name or a purpose. (Of course, all other forbidden foods were still forbidden.)

And that's what I'm seeing now — I don't want the wafer cookies (they have a weird bitterness under all the sugar), and the oatmeal creme pies left my tongue with a waxy coating.

I wonder what I'll discover I actually *enjoy* eating, as this process continues? Other than sushi, of course; my love for that continues unabated.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Cult of Right Fit jeans

Oh. My. God.

You know what recently released product lives up to its hype, and more? It's not the iPhone (okay, I don't have one, so I can't say that for sure, but come on — nothing could live up to the hype the iPhone got pre-release, not even if it baked muffins). It's not Spider-Man 3 (God, no).

Lane Bryant's Right Fit jeans. Remember what it was like when jeans started being made with just a tiny bit of *stretch* fabric? How, even if they fit in your hips but were tight in the waist, the tightness wasn't *quite* as bad as it was when jeans were made of 100% non-stretchy denim (plus, as I suspect, just a hint of steel)? How jeans with some stretch were a godsend? (And they SO were, compared to what came before.)

Right Fit jeans are like that, only lightyears better. They are the fucking HOLY GRAIL of jeans. Not only are they made with stretch, and not only are they actually cut for large women's bodies (versus other stores' "plus-size" clothing that's just regular-size but made bigger all over, instead of made bigger specifically where plus-sized bodies are bigger) — they're available in 3 different shapes, based on the waist-to-hip ratio. So women with a small ratio (i.e., waist and hips just a few inches different in size) get a straighter jean, that doesn't bag and sag in weird places, and women with a large ratio (i.e., with hips that are 10 inches larger than their waist; yes, that would be ME) get a jean that's cut for those curves, so that both the waist and the hips actually fit.

Let me repeat myself: Oh. My. GOD. I had to try on a few different sizes and styles to see what would work best with my big ol' peasant hips, but when I buttoned the winning pair, I actually yelled (in the dressing room) "Oh my God! I LOVE THESE!!!" They just....FIT. All over. My waist, my hips, my ass, my thighs — everything fits the way it should.

I would have cried out of sheer joy, except I was grinning like a deranged chimpanzee and clapping my hands. The sales associate was grinning, too — it must be fantastic to be able to help women find clothing that makes them yell (in excitement) in the dressing room.

An article in St. Louis Today describes how these marvels of clothing came about:

Albert Charpentier is still amazed at the difference he made. In the before pictures, he says, none of the women looked that great. In the afters, they looked so much better he could hardly believe they were the same people: Had they lost weight or something?

Nope. They were exactly the same women — professional models hired by Lane Bryant to test modifications to its sizing system. In the first set of photos, the models were wearing clothes made the old-fashioned way: from patterns graded up and down from a sample size by adding so much to the waist, so much to the hips, etc. In the second set of photos, the same models were wearing the same styles — only produced from patterns developed from the actual measurements of real Lane Bryant customers.

The clothes made to fit the real measurements of real women fit so much better, and the models looked so much better in them, that Charpentier could barely believe his eyes.


. . . .

The publicity photo for Right Fit shows three gorgeous women — but which is which? I couldn't tell which was "straight," which "moderately curvy" and which "curvy." None of them looked "hippy" or out of proportion. They all looked fine — and I think there's a lesson there. Looking good isn't just a question of how ideal your body is; it's also about how well your clothes fit the body you have.


What's revolutionary here is the fact that fat women are finally able to get clothes that DO, in fact, fit the bodies that we have. It's almost like we deserve to be treated like real human beings, or something.

Amazing.

(I'm a Blue 4 Petite — dig that, a *petite,* even! — stretch bootcut, by the way.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Holy crap! Women order real food on dates! The apocalypse must be nigh.

An article in today's New York Times, "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye," is about how it's apparently socially acceptable for women to order beef on a date, as opposed to Ye Olden Times, when a gal had to eat at home before a date so that she wouldn't perish of starvation when she ordered the chopped salad and water.

No, really:

Salad, it seems, is out. Gusto, medium rare, is in.

Restaurateurs and veterans of the dating scene say that for many women, meat is no longer murder. Instead, meat is strategy. “I’ve been shocked at the number of women actually ordering steak,” said Michael Stillman, vice president of concept development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, which opened the restaurant Quality Meats in April 2006 on West 58th Street. He said Quality Meats’ contemporary design and menu, including extensive seafood offerings, were designed to attract more women than a traditional steakhouse. “But the meat is appealing to them, much more than what I saw two or three years ago at our other restaurants,” Mr. Stillman said. “They are going for our bone-in sirloin and our cowboy-cut rib steak.”

In an earlier era, conventional dating wisdom for women was to eat something at home alone before a date, and then in company order a light dinner to portray oneself as dainty and ladylike.


Translated: holy crap! Women have the audacity to eat whatever the hell they want....in front of a man!!!

Apprently, the article says, this gusto for the cow-flesh impresses the modern menfolk:

Saehee Hwang, 30, a production director at Artnet.com, found herself out with friends at DuMont restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when she started feeling attracted to a new guy in the group. She said she had wanted to order a burger, but started having second thoughts. “I didn’t want to appear too much of a carnivore,” she said. “It might be off-putting.”

But then she decided she should not change her order to fit a preconceived idea of what a man might want. She ordered the house specialty, a half-pound of beef on a toasted brioche bun with Gruy√®re cheese. “We started dating afterward,” Ms. Hwang said. “And he told me he liked the fact that I ordered the burger.”


Holy crap! You mean a man might actually like me if I act like a real human being, with actual physiological needs as well as the right and self-determination to eat whatever the hell I want? Say it ain't so!

Well...maybe not. You see, the article ALSO mentions — twice — that ordering meat on a date is much more acceptable if you're a thin woman:

Red meat sent a message that she was “unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic,” she said, “that I’m not obsessed with my weight even though I’m thin, and I don’t have any food issues.”

and:

But others, especially those who are thin, say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness.

Well, shit. What if you're a fat woman? Will your date scream and flee into the night, emerging much later on the internet to tell the tale of My Date Ordered A Whole Cow To Pad Her Already-Ample Rump? I guess I'm back to ordering lettuce and water with lemon when I want to impress the menfolk.

Oh, wait — my boyfriend doesn't give a shit what I eat (and because he's a vegetarian, I know he won't steal my burger, which is a bonus).

Thank god! Garcon, bring on the seared cow-flesh!!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Demand Feeding in Real Life

My last post, which contained many references to Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies, actually created a craving for them. So on the way home from work Friday, I stopped at the grocery store and got sushi (supermarket sushi isn't the best sushi ever, obviously, but it's fresh and tasty and convenient), along with a quart of sherbet and a pint of Ben & Jerry's Vermonty Python (it's been in the mid-90s here all week, and ice cream just sounded SO good), and 2 boxes of Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies.

It's Sunday afternoon, and the oatmeal cream pies are GONE. Both boxes. All 24 pies. And...I feel a little sick (physically, that is; as in nauseated). And annoyed with myself — NOT because I ate them all, but because it takes eating enough to make myself nauseated to get it through my brain that maybe, just *maybe*, snarfing them all down isn't what I want. I don't *like* feeling nauseated and sort of sugar-hungover.

My inner 10-year-old wanted to know she could have all the oatmeal cream pies. So she did. Unfortunately, my physical 36-year-old is paying the consequences.

It's like I have to *prove* to my inner 10-year-old, or my stomach, or something, that (1) there's always more food, (2) I can have whatever I want, and as much of it as I want, and (3) nothing bad will happen if I *do* have 2 boxes of oatmeal cream pies (other than the nausea).

But then again — and it's an extreme way to learn, I grant you that — if it takes making myself nauseated to realize that I can have snacky cakes whenever I want, and I don't have to eat them all just in case they get taken away, then I can live with the nausea.

The 2 cartons of ice cream? Untouched. (By my lips, that is; the boyfriend dug into the Ben & Jerry's with true glee. One of the many reasons I love him so.)

And today I'm eating scrambled eggs over cooked bulgur, and it tastes fantastic. I don't even want anything sugary.

I'd like to hit a balance in my eating and in what I'm hungry for, although I know it takes time. Possibly a lot of time. And I'm okay with that. I just hope it happens before I cause the stock prices of Little Debbie Inc. to shoot through the roof.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Demand Feeding

I've been reading When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, on the recommendation of Good with Cheese. I can only read a little bit at a time, because the issues it brings up are such powerful ones for me, and they either make me put the book down to think things through, or they make me put the book down because I'm so shaken, emotionally, by what I've just read.

One of the main topics of the book is demand feeding, where you eat what you want when you're hungry for it, and eat as much of it as you want, and stop when you're full. Legalizing all foods and responding to your stomach hunger is supposed to lead to the increased ability to really listen to what your body wants/needs to eat AND reduces frantic binges of "forbidden" foods, because nothing is forbidden. If you can have whatever you want, then you're not viewing food from a position of deprivation, and the previously forbidden foods will eventually lose their power over you, because you know you can have them any time you want. It's actually pretty fucking revolutionary of an idea in the face of Atkins and South Beach and Weight Watchers and the Zone and Eat Right For Your Blood Type and Sugar Busters and countless other diets that tell you what you can eat, how much of it you can eat, when you can eat it, and what you cannot, ever, eat, lest you flip out and eat your weight in Chips Ahoy cookies.

My initial response to demand feeding is, "Eat what I want? But I don't KNOW what I want!" That's the twisted beauty of a diet like Weight Watchers (although their schtick is "there are no forbidden foods!") or Atkins — they tell you what you're allowed to eat. You have a list of choices, and you have to pick from the list. It doesn't matter what you want; what matters is sticking to the list. On a diet, I know what I'm *allowed* to have, but I don't know what I actually *want.*

Then when I think about what I want, it's all foods that have been forbidden in the past (because although Weight Watchers says that there are no forbidden foods, you can't actually eat half a bag of Doritos and still be following the POINTS plan). Cheetos, Doritos, cookie-dough ice cream, Oreos, those wafer cookies that have the cream in the middle that come in brown (chocolate), tan (vanilla), and pink (I have no idea what flavor they were supposed to be). McDonald's hash browns and a sausage and egg mcmuffin (my love of which dates back to a high-school job at McDonad's). Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (did you know there's a double-decker version? sweet sugary mother of god, it's snack food nirvana).

So I bought Doritos, and I ate them when I wanted them. And now I don't have the urge for Doritos. I got the McDonald's breakfast last weekend, and it was as full of fatty, tasty goodness as I remembered. And now I don't have the urge for it. (Well, I don't have the urge for a McMuffin. I *always* want hash browns.)

I've always had this fear, which has been encouraged and strengthened by the many diets I've been on, that if I ate what I actually wanted, then I would devour the WORLD. Well, I already wrote about this. But to really embrace demand feeding, I have to face that fear. I know, intellectually, that my fear is unfounded. I cannot possibly eat my own weight in Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. I *know* it, but I still don't *believe* it.

I haven't gained weight, despite eating Doritos and McDonald's. I think it's possible that I've merely adjusted the rest of my food intake around the addition of the previously forbidden foods. And I don't mean adjusted in the sense of "Oh, since I ate this McMuffin, I'll have to fast on celery juice for the next 2 days!" I mean adjusted in the sense that eating what I wanted actually filled me up (imagine that — eating fat does what fat is supposed to do — satiate your hunger!), and so I didn't get hungry again as soon as I normally do. If that makes sense.

I'm still afraid that I'll devour the whole WORLD, but I'm going to stick with demand feeding for now, and really try to listen to what my body wants and needs.