Friday, January 29, 2010

Which "one" are you?

I sometimes think my life is a great big study in contradictions.

For instance, I am a relatively emotionally intuitive person. I read a room, and the people in it, pretty well (if I do say so myself). Even when there is every appearance of contentment I can usually sense if something’s not quite right and alter my approach to the situation given the mood of the other players involved. It’s a trait that served me well in my life (and one that, as I read it back now, I suppose can either be seen as a useful instinctive gift or an indicator of sociopathic tendencies, but that’s a pretty fine line of distinction, don’t you think?) and that basic intuition helps me to see how I can best fit into the world around me.

But when it comes to judging the physical nature of that same world, it’s a totally different story. Let’s just say that if I decided to ditch my life and become a carnie that they’d better not let me man the “Guess Your Weight!” booth unless their goal was to give away big inflatable hammers, plush sponge-bob toys, and decorative mirrors etched with AC/DC album covers to just anyone who happened to pass by. I’m notoriously incapable of accurately judging things like height, or weight, or even age in other people. I can’t count how many times I’ve judged someone to be a certain size only to find that I’m WAY off in my estimation—in either direction. I find myself consistently surprised when other people reveal their weight, finding that my own estimation of that number is usually wildly off from reality. I also suffer from the delusion that everyone on earth is the same height I am, and am often amazed when I look at the person standing next to me and realize that I can clearly view the top of their head or when I see my own shoulders standing well above the crowd in photographs. It can be a little disorienting.

I’ve often said that I suffer from fat-blindness, a condition characterized by an astonishing inability to see myself as I appear to others, but as my body has changed (in both directions) over the last few years I’m getting better at seeing myself more accurately. Yet there are still times when I’m unprepared for cold hard reality.

For example, I have a friend I’ll call Jennifer (because that’s her name, and all) who is about as big as minute. She’s an adorable little pixie of a thing that stands all of about 5’2” (And you can trust me on that since I just verified that via the source—though she did try to get me to say she was 5’5”. We all want to be something we’re not, don’t we?) and I could carry her around in my pocket if I was so inclined. A few months ago, Jennifer and I were out running a few errands over our lunch hour in her sparkly little mint green Prius (which she’s named “Julep” how cute is that?). Apparently a friend of Jennifer’s told her that they’d seen her out and about that day and asked “Who was that gigantic person in the car with you?” She went on to tell me how they thought it was funny to see the contrast between Teeny-Tiny-Jenny and the Big Broad Giantess in the seat next to her. She did not tell me this to hurt my feelings, and I suspect that the contrast between us was striking to see…but I confess that it’s been rattling around in my brain like a BB ever since she told me.

Intellectually, I’m not unaware of my stature. At 5’11” in bare feet (and given my propensity for wearing heels most days) I’m already going to stand out from the crowd. Add a lifetime of being overweight and a strong personality to the mix and I can imagine that many people (and some Japanese cities) could be startled by my approach. And yet I forget that because my size is the single most identifiable thing about me that it’s naturally the first thing people notice about me, and that’s totally normal. I do the same thing, and I bet you do too. In just the last 24 hours I’ve described other people as the “tall guy in IS” and the “pretty curly red-head in legal” and that “little blond kid in your class” without hesitation. All that hooey we pass around about how we’re not defined by our bodies is more or less touchy feely BS, really. It’s just that some descriptive traits are more emotionally charged than others, being the “fat one” (or any less obvious derivative thereof) is one that—true or not—stings a little.

As I look over the last few years and why I am still committed to continuing the life-long battle against the fat, I am reminded that the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere is not the desire to someday be something that we’re not, but to finally be seen for all the things that we are. If we can take the fat out of the mix, then we just might get the chance to be the “tall one”, or the “blond one”, or the “one with the green-eyes”, or smart, or pretty, or anything but the “fat one”.

Which one are you? Which one do you want to be?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

F'ing Skinnies! (or: I love the smell of hatred in the morning...)

What the hell is with all the anorexic people in this world?

I see them sometimes when I’m out and about. I watch their frail bodies stagger uncertainly through aisles, watch them strain while pushing shopping carts that probably weigh more than they do. I see their sharp elbows poking through the sleeves of their shirts, their size zero pants hanging off of emaciated pelvises, their withered cheeks hollow and gaunt. I watch them stand in front of the frozen food cases in the supermarket, see them obsessively checking the calorie content of one low calorie item against another and I can’t help but roll my eyes and think “Yeah, like you are really going to eat either one of those, you bony freak!”

I even see them on TV, crying to Oprah or Dr. Phil about how hard their lives are. Some of them even say they have a disease that makes them starve themselves, and I want to scream at the screen “Here, I’ve got a cure for your ‘disease’, it’s called a SANDWICH. Try one, you skeleton-headed witch!” They sit there and talk about how hard it is for them to eat, how they think they’re fat, when the truth is that they’re just stupid. Everyone knows if you actually EAT food, you don’t end up weighing 88 pounds and dying of malnutrition. I mean, they KNOW they should eat, and yet they don’t do it. It’s not that hard, moron. Open your mouth, insert food, chew, swallow. For Christ’s sake, babies and farm animals can do it without being taught. I, for one, have never had any problem eating food so I don’t see why they can’t do it like everyone else.

I think they should round up all the people with this so called “disease” and put them on an island where they’re all chained to a 24 hour buffet so then maybe they’d be forced to eat something for a change. Then we wouldn’t have to look at their disgusting wasted bodies or listen to how we should feel sorry for them because they can’t seem to get their shit together already. Why don’t you quit your whining, get your head out of your non-existent asses, and GAIN SOME WEIGHT, you skinny freaks!

(Cue the angry mob with the torches and pitchforks.)

Ridiculous, right?  Who in their right mind would ever say that and think it was appropriate?  Anorexia is a serious, debilitating, life altering eating disorder.  Rewrite it to rail against obesity, though, and that's A-OK.

(I know, I know. Understated, I’m not. But I’ve never claimed subtlety as a strong point.)

I was doing a bit of research early this morning for the blog entry I meant to write today, when I happened upon a web page that’s been burned into my retinas ever since. I hesitated at first to even post the link, but in the end I decided that when you have the choice between ignoring hate and looking it in the face, it’s always better to know your enemy than not. There are some very angry people out there, and I'm pretty sure they’re just the tip of the iceberg. These are just the folks who took the time to put fingers to their keyboards and post their deep thoughts for the world to see, and for every one of them there are thousands of others who are thinking exactly what these people said out loud. I bet that there are more sites out there (like, say, hundreds) that are full of exactly the same kind of sentiment.

At least I assume there are, but the truth is that I just couldn’t bring myself to actively search for them. I didn’t read every entry on that page. I didn’t even read a tenth of them, but I suspect I didn’t really need to. Despite my general stance that I am rubber and they are glue, the hate behind the words (atrocious grammar and spelling aside) clings to my skin with a sticky familiarity, and as hard as I’ve been trying to brush it off all day I just can’t.

I’ve been fat my whole life. I have also been smart my whole life, too. I am not ignorant of how the world sees obesity any more than I’m unaware of the conventional formula of “eat less + move more = smaller ass” for weight loss. But since fat is my reality, and one that I’ve been both fighting against and examining closely over the last few years, it’s hard for me to fathom how a world that has found so much compassion and understanding for nearly every other behavior-related affliction on earth can still muster up the kind of CAPS LOCK HATRED that sites like that one encourage.

Obesity threatens people in a way that few things in this world do. Our extra bulk reminds people of their darkest fear that self control is tenuous at best, and that we are what happens when weakness of character is allowed to run rampant. Believing that the fat is a simple foe that strong people can keep at bay helps to remind the people who hate us that, whatever else they might be, at least they’re not fat. It must be a comforting thought.

I believe that my obesity is complex in nature—and that for every logical and simple factor that contributes to it there is something that defies easy explanation at play as well. I also believe that, for the time being, they world at large doesn’t believe that…yet. So I won’t let those people be the only voices that break the silence surrounding obesity. Will you?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Victory, Victory, that's our cry....

Last year, in a fit of self-help pique, I gave my email address to a company that specializes in workplace professional development literature publications. On purpose. In exchange for this information, they agreed to send me a daily email (and they were seriously about the “daily” part, like EVERY freakin’ day. No holiday, weekend, or international tragedy is going to keep them from depositing a little electronic sunshine in my inbox, lemme tell ya.) that begins with an inspirational quotation which, miraculously, always segues perfectly into a sales pitch about their featured pamphlet du jour that’s just a click away from being mine-all-mine. I don’t look forward to this daily bit of wisdom with the same leap of joy that fills my heart when my favorite weekly excel newsletter pops up in my unread items, but I’ve come expect a little nugget of wisdom waiting for me every morning.

Interestingly, this is not quite as lame as it sounds. Sure, there have been (many) days when the quote seems a little trite, or peculiar, and once even totally inscrutable (it was in what I assume to be Mandarin, with no translation beneath it. I shit you not.), but every once in a while I find myself nodding after reading it, and maybe even right-click copy/pasting it into a file I keep on my desktop for just such material. So when the familiar address appeared in my inbox this morning, I double clicked and read this:

“Consider keeping a Victory Journal. Just like a photo album, your Victory Journal can become a great collection of snapshots of positive experiences and a living reminder of your power to achieve. And with such a clear record of all your daily wins, successes, triumphs, and achievements, you’ll slowly build a strong sense of self-worth and a foundation for expecting success.”     --Pat Croce

Naturally, my first thought was: LAME. Like I’m going to sit down and write all about my goals and what I’m doing to achieve them, or reflect on what’s gone well in my life, on the little “victories” that I’ve claimed, or what I’ve learned from my failures, or how I can apply those lessons to what comes next. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? What are we supposed to do then, huh? Type it all up, post it on the internet, and let everyone we know (and everyone we DON’T know for that matter) read it and tell us what they think of it so we can go and read their war stories and…umm…wait a second…

Well color me lame.

I’m not saying that this blog is exactly a “victory journal” (mostly because I don’t know if that phrase is copyrighted and I don’t have the bank at present to fend off an infringement lawsuit, and partly because I think “victory” might be overstating the nature and quaility of the content most of the time) but I suppose it is a record of the wins I’ve earned in my battle with the fat. It’s also a record of the losses, and even of the draws. And writing about my journey has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, a way to break the deafening silence that surrounds obesity. Even when it isn’t pretty, writing it all down seems like a victory all it’s own.

So just for today, I’m letting my lame flag fly and declaring that for January 25, 2010, this blog is officially my Victory Journal, and I claim the following victories in that spirit:

Today, I didn’t lick out the inside of my yogurt cup to make sure I got every damn calorie I accounted for out of that container.

Today, I admitted that what I’d been telling myself was a teaspoon of powdered coffee creamer was more like 3 of them. Or 5, even. I logged the extra calories and got on with my life.

Today, I stopped being a wuss and didn’t reach for the slacks that are getting embarrassingly too large just so I wouldn’t have to find out for sure if the smaller slacks fit me yet (FYI, they do!).

Today, I remembered that celebrating even the smallest of victories leaves a better taste in my mouth than wallowing in my defeats ever has. Yum.

So how about it, folks? What victories are yours to claim for today?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

*please don't look up, PLEASE don't look up....*

Have you ever been out and about, minding your own damn business, when out of nowhere—walking directly towards you—is someone you haven’t seen in a while? Someone you might have been avoiding at one point but it had been so long since you’d bumped into them that you were pretty sure that you never would so your guard was down and you didn’t even consider that maybe this day (of all days), when you hadn’t even bothered to put on mascara or make sure your sweatpants du jour weren’t the one’s with the hole in the crotch that was only noticeable when you were taking purposeful strides across the room kind of like you are right now, and your brain is all silently screaming “PLEASE don’t look up and notice me” and then (probably because you just wished they wouldn’t, because the universe is a bitch that way) they totally look RIGHT AT YOU and you try too look all surprised while you greet each other with forced cheeriness and exchange excited “Oh my God, it’s been so long! How ARE you?” greetings that lapse into an awkward silence that lingers on for a minute while neither one of you can figure out exactly what to say next?

This is totally like that.

I’ve been away for a while. I’ve got reasons (some of them really good ones and some of them like pages out of a “Mad Libs: The Excuses Edition!” activity book), but for the moment I won’t bore you with them (because hey, a girl’s gotta keep a little something back for future material, right?).

I will tell you, though, that I’ve tried going this fight alone. I’ve tried keeping my silence under the auspices of keeping my head, tried holding my thoughts and while I held my breath…and it doesn’t work for me.

I’ve started this entry about 30 times only to wuss out and walk away from the keyboard because at a time when I wasn’t really sure of anything what I DID know was this: If I was going to come back, then I was REALLY going to come back. I wasn’t going to say I was coming back only to crawl back under the covers and go back to sleep again. I wasn’t going to pull out my six-guns and aim them at the fat girl staring back at me from the mirror unless I was prepared to pull the trigger. I wasn’t going to do this all half-assed until I could be sure that I was ready to get off my whole ass and get back to work.

It took a long time, but I’m back.

Internet! I haven’t seen you in so long. How ARE you?