Lately I’ve been feeling that I have a social obligation to dress a certain way. Namely in a way that would be less comfortable, but look more slick and fashionable. I’ve also been having bouts of some serious body-hate going on. Ironically, these feelings almost always come right when I’m being the most active and losing weight because if it.
I think the reasons are two-fold. On the one hand, the more active I am, the more active I know I could be if I was in better shape. On the other hand, people commenting on my weight loss always makes me intensely uncomfortable, and I’m not entirely sure why. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia, my mother and grandmother still suffer from disordered eating and probably always will. My radical views on body image and self-love go completely over their heads and I think they always will.
Losing weight changes the shape of me, and I think part of the despair comes from the fact that I worked to love every inch, and now all those inches are in a different arrangement. Maybe I’m too attached to loving my fat body and not attached enough to loving my body no matter what it looks like.
With my mother and grandmother’s irrational attachment to thinness, I came to view their goal as a nightmare. It’s a terrible kind of sickness to be so dedicated to lightness and smallness that any level of physical or mental damage is acceptable for this unrealistic goal. If you eat nothing but raw ginger root in water for 15 days, you’re going to slim down. Who cares if you’ve destroyed your digestive system, and who cares if you’re just going to gain that weight back plus 5 lbs. as soon as you start eating regular food again? For one brief moment, you were achieving weight loss, which is the only worthwhile thing any female can accomplish. No matter what.
So any noticeable weight loss on my part is usually followed by some combination of me stopping exercise, eating a shit ton of junk food I don’t even like, getting sick, or being afraid of getting sick. Because I don’t weigh myself, it’s hard to say what kind of effect this cycle has on my actual weight. But since I seem to have stayed generally the same size for the last 3 years, I’m going to say that I keep gaining back what I take off, which isn’t a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. My weight never mattered to me. What counts in my eyes is the activity level, and even though I have slips and I go through phases with it, my level of activity drops less and for less time on each cycle of weight loss and stagnation. The weight loss may still be influencing me, but I’m slowly but surely making it about my physical health, not what I look like or what size I am.
It’s difficult when it seems like the whole world wants me to become completely obsessed with the material effects of healthy activity, and pay no attention to the physical aspects I that I enjoy: increased energy, stamina, strength, mood stabilization, better sleep, the list goes on. Yeah, I worked really hard to love my fat body and not be disgusted by myself. And I’m going to work equally hard to nourish and take care of that body, but this isn’t a race. The way I see it, I have the rest of my life to get this stuff down. As long as I’m getting consistently better rather than worse, I consider myself on the right track.
Do you get weight loss anxiety? I sometimes wonder if I’m crazy for reacting like this. Even if I’m a proud fat woman, it’s just a couple of pounds. There’s plenty for me to lose and still be fat as hell, so I don’t know why it worries me.
ADDENDUM: I was talking to Ben in the shower about it this morning, and I think that part of the reason I have such an issue with losing weight is because I never got any formal treatment for my eating disorder. I just started eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and in whatever quantities I wanted. In part, I think that my vegetarianism helped me get the feeling of control, without the side effect of weight loss, which would cause me distress. The reasons I feel anxious when people ask me if I’ve lost weight are the same reasons that we can’t have a scale in the house, and that I will wait until the very last moment to throw up if I’m sick, even if I know it will make me feel instantly better. I associate these things with the elation of disordered eating, of weight loss, and obsessive weight monitoring. I’m so afraid of the despair of that time that I’ve shut it out, and no amount of reason can help me to feel okay with it right now.
I used to think that I would never be able to look forward to exercise, that I would never be able to think about caloric contents when picking food, for years I didn’t even know my clothing size I was so freaked out about applying any numbers to my body. Little by little, my lifestyle is changing in ways that can be maintained over the long run. I was raised to hate myself, and to punish my body for being disgusting. It’s how my mother, and her mother, and her mother before her were raised. It’s a radical thing to think that I could love this body enough to nourish it and keep it healthy and strong.