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Today’s Special: Virtue with a Heaping Spoonful of Self-loathing March 29, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Fat, Jobz.
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So our healthy lunch program has begun, and it is…awkward. I decided that since I couldn’t stop the program, I would just personally avoid it, but that’s pretty much impossible to do because there are always questions from coworkers about who tried the food and who didn’t, who liked it and who didn’t, and the slightly judgmental why that comes along with taking no part in it.

Truthfully, I’m not finding it that hard to deal with, but a year or two ago I would have found it excruciating. I have never been good with eating in public; in fact there was a time when I could barely manage it. I feared, as I suspect many eating-disordered people do, that I was being judged for what I ate, that people were looking at my plate and tallying calories to decide if I was virtuous or a total pig. And in some way this is true; I don’t know a single soul who hasn’t had someone, sometimes a friend, sometimes a relative, other times a total stranger, comment on what they were eating.

For me, these comments definitely left their mark. When I was in high school I went on a field trip with my English class; a couple of my traveling companions were guys I had known for a couple of years. As we sat in the grass in the park enjoying our lunch, one boy, who I was starting to fall for, remarked that my turkey sandwich was the first thing he had ever seen me eat. I (sadly) how proud I felt in that moment (even though they in no way expressed admiration for my food-avoiding skills). They noticed how little I seemed to need food! I was a worthy girl-type human being! I can also remember comment that came from my grandfather, the sweetest man to ever live. He remarked that I seemed to be eating more at dinner one night and I stopped fork in midair and didn’t eat another bite. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad I made him feel. My grandfather believed in food; happiness for him was taking people out to dinner. Here he was, happy to see me eating, and there I was paralyzed by the voice in my head screaming “PIG!!!!”

Even though I’m a hundred miles away from those moments, I doubt I’ll ever forget them or the feelings they inspired. So having the girl who sits across the room want to know why I didn’t eat a pasty plate of pasta with cardboardy meatballs can be extra unpleasant for me; I still feel a little like I’m being accused of something.

But the more I hear the questions, the more I realize that they aren’t really questioning me; they are questioning themselves. Just the other day we were sitting down to lunch when one of my coworkers passed by on her way to the gym, lamenting the fact that she had to go to the gym instead of eating lunch. It wasn’t that she wanted us all to drop what we were doing and join her on the treadmill, but that she wanted to drop what she was doing and have some diet chicken salad, but she wasn’t allowed. She had no choice (in her mind) but to spend her thirty-minute lunch running at the gym. Now, if she had been psyched about working out during lunch, there wouldn’t even be a need for discussion; she would have been doing what she wanted to. However, the longing look she gave us as she ran out the door told anyone watching exactly how much she wanted to go to the gym.

And it’s this same kind if thinking that fuels questions and comments about food choices. My coworker doesn’t really want to know why I think I’m too good for a diet lunch –she wants to know why she isn’t good enough for a real one. I only wish I knew how to tell her that she is, but somehow I doubt she would believe me.


Acceptable. February 28, 2008

Posted by Jae in Aimless Conversation, Body Image.
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This morning I weighed myself and found that I was three pounds above what I thought my set point would be.  I didn’t freak out.  I didn’t skip breakfast.  I didn’t run myself ragged on the treadmill.  But I did feel just a little disappointed.

And I hate that I did.  I want to be okay with the number on the scale.  I want to be so okay with it that I don’t even bother to check it.  The problem is that I still can’t shake the idea that there is a certain point where, for me, weight gain will cease to be acceptable.  At my highest weight, I wasn’t treating my body well.  I ate mostly junk food, and since I was always about to start another diet, I often binged because I believed every time I did it would truly be the last time.  And I never exercised.  When I decided to give up my dieting and disordered eating, I knew I would probably gain some weight and I accepted that.  Now though…now I’m only 25 pounds away from my highest weight and I’m afraid that I might end up back there, and as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t want to.

I don’t have very many good memories from that time in my life; I was anxious, unsure, and I hated myself.  I know in reality that those things were not caused by my weight, on some level I think I knew that back then, but it was so much easier to blame my fat hips than to face my real problems.  And even though I’ve grown so much since then, somehow, looking at the scale, I feel as though I’m just 25 pounds away from being that same scared, self-loathing, little girl.

Logic tells me that I’m wrong, that those things had nothing to do with my body.  At my heaviest I imagined that a size 14 would be all I would need to be totally content with myself and with my life, but the truth was that I hated myself just as much once I got there.  I never enjoyed that size 14 body; I called it hideous and disgusting on an hourly basis.  If anything, I’m happier with myself and my life now at a size 18, than I’ve ever been in my life.  But somehow it still feels unacceptable to go back.

I know that this is all part of the struggle and that I will eventually get to a place where I feel secure enough to know that all the things I love won’t slip away if I have to go up a jeans size, but until then?  How do you trust in something you can’t even imagine?

No Free Lunch. February 13, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Jobz.
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In the past few months I’ve read a lot of horror stories about people whose offices joined the cult of Weight Watchers or started their own version of The Biggest Loser, and I’ve silently thanked God that my office was too disinterested in group activities to ever launch such a thing.  I can only imagine that the pressure to join would be enormous, and it probably makes work a very unpleasant place to be for those who have openly snubbed the idea.  I was never sure how I would handle that kind of thing.

Then yesterday my boss announced that he was considering signing us up with a service that would provide us with a healthy lunch every day.  From a company whose primary function is to produce meals for dieters. 

On the surface, this might seem like a kind gesture, and I suppose in a way it is.  We’re a small company and the perks are not what they would be if we worked in a larger firm, so it’s nice that we’re trying to do something for the employees, however the origin of the meals makes me wonder what exactly we are trying to do.

For you see, without giving away too much about the company, I work for a publisher that works heavily with diet and fitness books.  Thankfully, this isn’t my area (I work in an off-shoot company dealing with other matters), so I don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis, but the idea that we should live by the rules of our products kind of hovers in the background; in fact, as my boss made this annoucement he espoused the virtues of dieting.  So while you could look at this offer of a free lunch as nothing more than a kind gesture, given our parentage and the fact that the healthy meal came with a sticker attached boasting that it only contained 250 calories…it seems that this grilled chicken with lemon sauce and spinach comes with a heaping, cold, dish of morality.

Because if you choose to bring or buy your own lunch, you are saying that, in some way, what is provided is not enough for you.  And while for some people I’m sure that might not be a big deal, for me the implications are tremendous.  Coming off a lifetime of not trusting my body to tell me what it needs, a thing like this looks like another little message that we are all wrong.  Personally, I can not survive on a 250 calorie lunch; I’ve tried that for most of my life and it left me tired and cranky.  But this nicely packaged little box tells me that, in fact, this is really all I need and holds up my participating coworkers as proof, and this sends a message, no matter how subtle, that if you aren’t satisfied with this prepared “healthy” meal, than you are doing something unhealthy.  And my boss already feels it is part of his job to promote the health of his employees…aren’t we on a slippery slope to even more involvement in our personal lives?  Today our lunches, tomorrow our choice of birth control?

It’s probably not going to be that serious, at least I hope it isn’t, but things like this always get me to thinking.  I’m big on personal freedom.  I get nervous when I feel like parts of it are being taken away, and this is often how it begins; give someone a little say in how you live your life, and chances are they are only going to want more.  And in today’s work climate, where employers are given the impression that they have the right to manipulate their employees lives for their benefit and employees are often told they should deal because they are lucky to have a job, giving even an inch seems like a mile.

Overheard in New York October 18, 2007

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Jerks.
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(Note: This should have been posted several days ago, but I have been lazy for reasons which I hope to blog about soon.)

The other night as I was leaving a concert I happened to overhear the conversation of two men behind me. At first they were talking about nothing especially interesting, the concert, a story about their friends, etc. But a suddenly one of them pipes up:

“Dude, that’s the girl I’m talking about right there…that girl needs to lose like ten pounds.”

The girl he was talking about was about 5’7″ and weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 120lbs. I had already noticed her, probably because I was a little jealous; she was beautiful.

The man making the comment was an idiot, and probably jealous himself as she was walking arm and arm with her boyfriend, but my heart still sank. What kind of world are we living in? Perhaps I’m naive for never having noticed this before, but I always assumed that these kinds of criticisms were exclusive to me aka The Only Person Who Deserved It. I never imagined that even a tall, thin, blond in a sparkly silver top was not immune from the judgment of these jerks.

I remember one time several years ago I was on vacation. It was my first trip after having lost a good bit of weight due to starvation and dieting. I was walking back to my room after having spent an hour in the hotel fitness center, and I passed a couple of kids in the hallway. After I was out of sight, but not out of ear shot, one of the boys said: “Wow, that’s the fattest girl I’ve ever seen.” This destroyed me. I remember scribbling notes in my journal, crying, begging God to tell me when it would be enough. I had lost fifty pounds and it still wasn’t enough to protect me from these hateful morons.

Now it just makes me angry. Who was this man to act like this beautiful girl was worthless because she didn’t meet his own personal height/weight requirements? I only wish I possessed the courage to turn around and ask him that instead of just blogging about it.

I guess I can take some small solace in the response of his friend who said, “I don’t know about that; she’s pretty thin as it is.”

It wasn’t exactly the same as saying “Shut the hell up you jackass,” but it’ll have to do, for now anyway.

Nightmares October 6, 2007

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Dreams, Me, myself, and I, The Cast.
Tags: ,

I intended for this next entry to be about clothes, but I had the most disturbing dream this morning that I just had to share it.

It was Thanksgiving and I was moving into a new apartment that looked like my aunt’s house before it was remodeled. Because of this, I couldn’t go (to my aunt’s house) with my family for Thanksgiving dinner; my uncle called me on the phone to tell me that he missed me, but he was excited for my new apartment.

Then…I was out, shopping I think. I remember coming out of the subway. I had a choice of two different exits: one was closer street-wise to where I wanted to go, but I would have had to walk across town, and the other would have left me on the right side of town, but twenty streets away. I opted for having to walk across town.

The next thing I know I was sitting somewhere on a large, indoor, balcony. It is sort of dark, but I didn’t seem to be bothered by this. I was doing something, writing, reading…I couldn’t tell. And there are people behind me who I am talking to, but not really looking at. At first, I don’t think I knew them, but when I do finally turn one of them is my sister. She asks me to demonstrate some dance move that looks something like belly dancing; I do this (while still sitting down) and she and the others laugh; when I turn away from her, I hear a picture being snapped. I jerk my head back around just in time to see her trying to hide a tiny camera from me.

“What are you doing?” I ask. “Are you trying to take pictures of me because I’m fat?!”



“It’s funny…can you blame me?”

The next thing I know, I am in my parents living room with my sister and three of her friends, only one of whom I recognized; in real life, she hasn’t been really been friends with this girl for some time. I am yelling at them, screaming at them, asking them what makes them think they can do this to me. I yell right in my sister’s friend’s face, but I get no answers from anyone. I follow my sister into my parents kitchen and scream at her and she won’t even look at me; she is paying attention to something she is knitting, and though I can’t tell what it is, I can see that it’s brown.

My mother comes in, because of all the yelling, and I try to tell her that my sister has done something horrible and won’t answer me, but she brushes off my concerns.

And then, I woke up.

I have no idea what this means, or where any of this comes from. I think I’m going to need to think about it some now, even if it’s the last thing I want to do.

The Weight October 3, 2007

Posted by Jae in Body Image.
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I got rid of the scale today.

I didn’t throw it out, but I did store it up on a shelf in my closet. I can still get to it, and probably will, but at least it’s not staring at me from the bathroom floor anymore, begging me to hop on.

Consequently, all I did today was think about how much I weighed; the way I craved certain foods when I dieted, is the way I’m craving the scale now. Even when I was distracted, the thought was in the back of my mind. The funny part of that is, I didn’t weigh myself every day, but I guess it was somehow comforting knowing that I could do it whenever I wanted.

But the scale is trouble for me, there’s no doubt about that; it was a big part of my disordered eating behaviors. When my anorexic behaviors reappeared in college, I weighed myself every time I passed my scale. Morning on the way to the shower: get weighed. After the shower: get weighed. After I came home from class: get weighed. After I ate: get weighed. After I worked out: get weighed. Before I went to sleep: get weighed. When it went up, I knew that I was doing something “wrong,” and when it went down…when it went down I was on top of the world. Later, when my behavior stabilized a bit, I weighed myself every, single, morning, and recorded the weight in my food journal.

For years good days were ones when the scale displayed a smaller number than it had the morning before. I would walk out of the house feeling better about myself. Now it’s hard to know how I should feel. It saddens me how much my worth has depended upon the size of my thighs; I’ve wasted a whole lot of life worrying about that, and I’m never going to get it back.

Though I guess in a way I’m lucky too because I have the chance to escape from this, to find a self-worth that is not tied to my weight, and that’s a chance that some people will never get.