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Finding My HAES

I’ve spent years learning to listen to my body and eat in a way that is satisfying to me and fuels my life.  It’s been a slow progression for me, though I’ve felt in a rut with it for a good long while, but I’ve had a breakthrough that I think is worth sharing:

Finding a physical activity that I really love has made eating well really easy all of a sudden, because I want to have the feel good enough and have the stamina to bike.  Maybe I had it backwards before.  I was waiting to feel better (meaning less under siege from IBS symptoms) to add some more physical activity in my life.  I would try and try and I just couldn’t get there.  Perhaps it is just hard to do nice things for yourself (like eat well) when you’re frustrated from not really living life.

What do I mean by eating well?  I simply mean eating in a way that is healthy for me, is satisfying and doesn’t trigger the IBS monster.  It has meant no longer force-feeding myself the vegetables that make me sick and eating more fruit that doesn’t make me sick.  It has meant not being afraid to drink a 7-Up, if my tummy is acting up, even if the old eating disordered troll in my head wants to complain about the calories (“You eat so much sweet stuff already!  Do you really have to drink this stuff that doesn’t taste that great to you yet still has calories, but will make you feel hugely better when you’re having a nauseous day?!?”).  It means I eat cookies when I want to, but it is intuitive not to go overboard on them, because I won’t be able to go out and play if I do, because I’ll be too sick.  This morning it meant carrot cake and tea for breakfast.  I am finding more ways to get protein in my diet (I am mostly vegetarian and married to a man allergic to soy/nuts, so this gets complicated).

My digestive system approves.  My IBS has flared up a little here and there, but not nearly as often as it has in the last five years – about once week now compared to three or four times a week before.  I feel so much better and I’m having fun.  Yay HAES and Fatosphere for helping to make this possible.

 

–AngryGrayRainbows

Like many women and even men, for my whole adult life, I have been afraid to wear a bathing suit.  Approx two years ago, I tried to challenge this and, in a lot of ways, I succeeded.

But, on one day, I was feeling particularly vulnerable.  I went to swim at the gym (as usual) and all went well.  It was in the locker room that it happened.  This woman looked me up and down and looked at me with such disgust.  She actually sneered.  I have never forgotten her face and every time I wanted to swim, I literally became nauseas with the memory of her face and her disgust.

This summer, the husband and I went on vacation.  The lake cottage was hot and there was no AC.  I had a bathing suit packed, as always, just in case I worked up the courage to swim… and I decided to take the bull by the horns.

It was terrifying.  That woman’s face was swimming around in my head.  I couldn’t breathe.  I became sure that my husband would divorce me once he saw how horrific I looked in a bathing suit.  I started to remember an old relationship that ended in large part because I got treatment for my eating disorder and dared to gain weight.  I was sure there would be a replay of that experience with my marriage.

I swam anyway.  Every single day we were there.  Oh yeah, it was awesome.

Even after I had swam twice, the fear of being divorced for wearing a bathing suit (yes, I know now and knew then how ridiculous that sounds) became so bad that I had to tell the hubby about it.  He was so supportive, understanding and knew just how to laugh at my fears so as to validate that they were unfounded fears, but not make me feel like an idiot.

That woman and her sneer is still in my head, but she’s not ruling me any longer.  Her sneer was about her and not me and it is wonderful to fully understand this after a long time of being owned by the memory, even if it still makes me queasy every time I think of it.

I’ve been out.  I’ve been having fun.  I’ve been riding my bike, even though some jerk yelled something about my ass the very first time I took my bike out last year and that memory too haunted me and prevented me from biking very much until now.  The very day he yelled at me, I considered that he actually meant it as a compliment (it is unclear), but the possibility that he didn’t gripped me so tightly that it was hard to go out an exercise in the daylight for fear of more commentary.

You know what?  Fuck their comments.

This is my life and it is mine to life.  My body is no one’s business by my own.  I am enjoying myself and having so much fun going out and biking (and this winter, I will probably join a gym for more swimming too!) and I’m not letting prejudice get in the way of that.

I have also been repeating to myself over and over “function – not form” to remind myself how wonderful it is to be physically capable and stronger and just feel better from exercise.

I let myself circle a particularly beautiful garden on the bike path that is often filled with butterflies as many times as I want, no matter what anyone thinks about this silly woman going round and found breathing in the scents.  Maybe I can inspire someone else to have that courage to enjoy them self as well.  That would be worth enduring a few looks and comments.

I often think about my history of a complete focus on form over function of too many years of my life that included my eating disordered years.  I wouldn’t have cared if someone completely scooped out my insides – all my muscles, thoughts, feelings and anything that made me who I was – if I could have a perfect exterior that everyone would approve of and worship.  I giggle to myself at the memories while riding my bike, because in the light of so much fun and feeling good the idea of the form obsession becomes utterly ridiculous.

I’m not posting a picture of myself in a bathing suit.  I’m not ready for that yet.  I’m also not sure that if I was confident enough to do it that I’d even do it then.  If I ever get to that level, we shall see.  Instead, I give you a picture of my smiling face flush after a day of really living life and having some serious fun.

–AngryGrayRainbows

I have worked as a barista in a cafe setting for two years now.  We sell all kinds of delicious and high-fat pastries.

I am fat and well into plus-sizes.  Because of this I was timid, at first, to say anything of a body acceptance nature as a fat woman.  I feared judgement that I was just trying to make thin women like me** or that I was just trying to justify my fatness*** or something along those lines.   It has been a good long time (over a year at the very least) since I made the decision to speak out when I felt like it and I am happy to say that it has all gone very well.

 

My worry surfaced again when I hired onto a cafe in a more thin-obsessed atmosphere, but again it has worked out okay.  In fact, women face with the smothering atmosphere of thin-focused fatness (my cafe is in a famous department store) they seem very much ready to have their body-hate challenge.  Sometimes they even seem to give me large tips for it.****  I sure didn’t expect that given the height of fat-hating panic in this country.  I suspect that most women already think some of the ideas that the fatosphere promotes in the back of their minds, but are afraid to let it surface in the face of all the fat-hate and body-hate in our worlds.  But, hearing someone say it, even if it is fat me, seems to help them let go a bit.

 

I wish more people could speak-up so that more people might let go…  But, thank you to those of you who do fearlessly speak-up.  You are awesome.

 

–AngryGrayRainbows

 

 

*For those of you who aren’t familiar with the “advice animals” meme (ie: the picture heading this post), this is Courage Wolf.  He wants you to love yourself.

**I don’t think I can make thin people fat anymore than I think I can make fat people thin.  Weight has high genetic correlation.

***I just like to spread the body-love message.

****The women who do get into conversation with me after I have challenge some body-hating or diet statement tend to give me the nicest tips.

 

 

 

 

 

IBS

That picture pretty much sums it up.  That is me pretty much all the time.  Nearly every day. 

Since I was in junior high, I have had all sorts of tests to find out what the heck is wrong with me.  (Heart tests, swallowing scopes to explore my digestive system TWICE, upper GI tests, blood tests, etc.)  Since I was a pre-teen, I have been told that there is nothing wrong with me (except depression).  Every few years, I get frustrated enough to go to yet another doctor and try some new tests.  In recent years, they have started to suggest IBS to me.  The diagnosis of exclusion. 

It is likely enough.  Depression, chronic anxiety and chronic fatigue (all of which I have) are highly correlated with IBS.  But, I have ignored all suggestions of this diagnosis for years now.  Perhaps it is time I attend to reality…

But, I had my reasons.  Everything I’ve ever seen on IBS management is mostly diet based and it’s a diet that I cannot imagine following:

  • No/Low Caffeine
  • No/Low Alcohol
  • No/Low Chocolate
  • No/Low Sugar
  • No/Low Dairy

Well, WTF… that is just about everything I eat. 

I am a vegetarian, because I love animals.  I will eat a minimal amount of fish, so I’m not “pure” vegetarian, but there it is.  I avoid meat and only eat fish a few times a month at most.  I only eat what little fish that I do eat for the sake of my health.  I feel a lot better if I eat it.   

Many (well, most) fruits and vegetables make me sick.  Yup, they actually trigger my IBS symptoms.  I can handle some vegetables if they are boiled beyond recognition, but I am no cook and have had a lot of trouble finding places that will serve me this kind of food.   Anyway, it is generally better to avoid fiber all together as I suffer from daily diarrhea that only gets better or worse and never ever truly goes away.  I could live on cheese and my digestive system still behaves as if I’m abusing laxatives (I’ve never taken a laxative in my life!).

Thanks to lifelong depression, I am a pretty low energy person.  Caffeine is crucial.  While my ADHD meds help both my fatigue and my ADHD symptoms, it is not enough on its own.  I need my caffeine.  I am not sure how I would achieve anything without it, even though I admit it very much triggers my IBS symptoms.

Sometimes sugar is just about all my stomach can handle.  Sometimes anything else in my stomach makes me feel like my stomach is never going to empty and I end up spending a day or two nauseas and wishing I could just vomit.  It is far more productive to just eat the sugar (candy, pastries, whatever) and deal with the sugar crashes and feelings of malnourishment than to spend a full day or two trying to push through nausea and the extra fatigue that comes with feeling that sick. 

While I am lactose intolerant, I can tolerate some small amounts of dairy and those small amounts are crucial considering how limited my diet already is. 

In previous years, I have been too diet fatigued and not strong enough in my eating disorder recovery to mess around with food journals and the like, but I am feeling like I might be able to do this now.  Maybe… but I’m not sure that it’s worth it.  I fear working with a professional to help me limit triggers might just take away the few things that help me right now.  My frustration over all this is enough to throw me into tears any time I think about it seriously.

I can normally handle a fat-hating doctor pretty well, but add to the scenario my already very emotional frustration with this (likely) IBS and I’m not sure I’ll have the fortitude to fight for myself the way I need to. 

So.  F*ing.  Frustrating. 

I don’t know what to do, but I feel the need to do something.  Maybe I will just try food journaling on my own for bit.  But, just about everything makes me sick, so I don’t really see the point.  Gah. 

So here you go fat-hating trolls.  Here is a fat person who doesn’t like eating.  I don’t ever remember really liking eating.  If I could get all the nourishment I needed in a pill, I would take it and avoid all this digestive drama.  I am so sick of being sick.

I think I’ll go cry now.

–AngryGrayRainbows

Stronger

I’ve decided it is time for another random post.  Surprisingly, people were actually still commenting on my poor neglected blog (your comments have now been approved).  Thank you to all who still lurk. 

I am still practicing and growing with HAES.  I am no paragon, but I am growing stronger every day and my latest challenge inspired me to come back to AGR to post. 

I have a new job.  The place where I used to tend cafe and make lattes has gone out of business and I was lucky enough to find a very similar job before the final day of my old job.  So, here I am again, a barista in a small corner of a retail store. 

Had I known what I was getting into I probably wouldn’t have taken the job.  In terms of body acceptance, I am now working in a very toxic environment.  There are a myriad of other problems most of them cartoonish in their ridiculousness, but I will stick to the body hate for the purposes of this post. 

My supervisor is a happy member of the food police and the store where I work is generally full of women on diets and who want to talk about their diets all the time.  At first (I started end of April) I was very intimidated and angry.  I feared that I would be dragged back into diet hell… or even worse: eating disorder hell.  I was very angry and very defensive.

But, I have overcome and I was stronger than I realized. 

I have seen women get upset that their favorite food item had 10 calories more than a food item they didn’t really like, but buy the less favored item anyway for the sake of 10 freakin’ calories.  I have seen my supervisor who admits that an extremely important goal right now is to build sales at our cafe barely restrain herself from chastising teenagers who dared to buy both a sugary drink with a chocolate chip cookie (“DON’T YOU KNOW HOW UNHEALTHY THAT IS???!!!”)  I have several coworkers (and I generally see more than one of them every day I work) who are dieting right now and are deep in the obsession of weight loss, food rules and self-hate… and, boy, do they like to talk about it too.  One of these dieting people makes sure never to work on Wednesday nights so she can watch (and obsess over) “The Biggest Loser” (a ridiculous body-hating monstrosity of a show). 

But, I am doing okay. 

I am able to more calmly challenge (when I choose to) my food policing supervisor.  I have learned that I am able to just mentally roll my eyes and move on with life when I hear more diet tripe.  I’m not fighting every possible battle.  It is too exhausting and isn’t going to win any wars for me anyway, but I am not keeping quiet either.  I am learning balance in my resistance. 

Maybe this situation has made me stronger, but I think that mostly it has just revealed to me that I was already a lot stronger than I knew.  It feels really good.  I’m starting to more intuitively understand the connection between challenges and personal growth and am starting to appreciate challenges a lot more (I always understood this rationally, but could never quite convince myself of the logic regardless…).  Life just feels better and I feel more secure in my body-acceptance in this world full of body-hate and diet-talk.  It feels pretty darn good. 

It will be interesting to see how these work relationships turn out with all my agitating for body-acceptance.  Perhaps they will be the inspiration of more blog posts, but I’m sure those posts will be spaced out in time kind of randomly.  ;)

And yeah, I know the mermaid picture* doesn’t really jive with the topic of my post.  I just love the picture… and so there she is.  Enjoy!

–AngryGrayRainbows

*Link to awesome mermaid picture:  http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=§ion=&q=fat+acceptance#/dt8hpu

”I think he’s actually a very big cat, but most of him is invisible and in his head.” – Says hubby regarding how our little Grayson (the love-noceraus), all of 7lbs, manages to take over half of a queen-sized bed leaving his owners squished and sore fighting over what little part of the bed he left for us…

–AngryGrayRainbows

I work in a cafe with lots of high fat/sugar and super-delicious pastry type foods, so I also get to hear a lot of customers tell me about their self-hate and diets.  I’ve seen a 60 or 70-something year old nun consistently come in and worry about the calories in her hot chocolate.  I’ve had a very thin/tall man regular customer keep babbling on and on about the diet he is on and obsessing about even after I told him several times that I am not interested in the subject (What is it about diets that people seem to lose all sense of boundaries in regard to them?).  I have seen a woman who could easily be someone’s grandma talk about the “sin” of putting whipped cream on her mocha and the even worse “sin” of buying a cookie to eat with that mocha.  I have also been thanked by a few women for challenging their body-hating talk and my pointing out that food is just food – not a “sin” and not a moral issue.  One customer has told me flat out that she feels a lot safer ordering her favorite blended coffee drink when I am around, because she knows I won’t participate in any body-hating dialogue.  It is sad that food rhetoric has become so vitriolic that a person of normal weight (as this customer is) doesn’t feel safe ordering a blended coffee drink…

I wonder what people would be capable of achieving if they put their energy into goals that were actually achievable rather than the infinite black-hole of making the next diet work and finally becoming thin.  I wonder what people would be like if their idea of morality wasn’t sunk into thinness and instead, ya know, had something to do with not shaming or abusing others for a start.  I wonder what unproductive and even cruel behavior some people allow themselves to get away with because they are pursuing the “ultimate” virtue of thinness or are trying to maintain the thinness they have so painstakingly achieved. 

These questions bring back memories of myself.  I was thin obsessed and willing to sacrificed just about anything to achieve that goal.  I went from being a person who cared more about the feelings of others to a person who was unfailingly rude to the barista at Starbucks and any poor customer service worker I came across.  But, that didn’t matter.  Thin was what mattered.  I think we all probably know someone like this… that person who is so lost in their diet schemes that their other values get put on the shelf and what is left is a very unpleasant person sacrificing too much on the altar of thinness.  There are too many of these people out there, so many that it is sad and somewhat disheartening to contemplate.   

Yesterday a customer thanked me for making a snarky comment in response to her “cookie as sin” talk.  I mentioned something along the lines JennyRose originally said to me about real bad behavior being abusive or cruel rather than it being daring to eat a *gasp* cookie or being the fat person you were born (or dieted yourself) to be.  I asked the customer if she had abused a child or shoved any little old ladies down stairs.  Had she kicked a puppy?  Because that sounds a lot more like “sin” to me than eating a friggin’ cookie.  Seriously.  Cookie sin… I can’t stop rolling my eyes at the idea.  There are way bigger problems in this world than cookies and, yes, even overeating.  Imagine though what a comforting (unrealistic) world those people who think fat or cookies live in.  You’d need no complex answers to things like racism, poverty, sex trafficking, war and child abuse.  All you need is to keep chasing that FOBT* and everything is peachy.  I can understand the allure, but couldn’t live with myself for living that lie and wish I could be more compassionate with those who do, because I am sure that shaming them isn’t going to help them change anymore than shaming fat people makes them thin. 

–AngryGrayRainbows

*Fantasy of being thin

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