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Archive for the ‘Eating Disorders’ Category

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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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

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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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 Good morning Fatosphere and body acceptance friends!   See… there is a picture of me and some lovely morning sunlight in the background –  this is me coming alive and starting to feel again.  Whooo hoooo! 

I didn’t realize it, but over the last year (and probably longer)  my emotions were slowly and steadily leaking away from me… and with them my inspiration for writing anything.  Initially I thought it was happiness and healthiness that was causing the block, but I’ve felt happy recently and I can still write.  In hindsight, I realize I was on meds that were so not right for me.  I didn’t realize it until I came off them for reasons that had nothing to do with emotional numbness; I just couldn’t sleep properly anymore. 

Will I be able to blog consistently now that Prozac and Zoloft are out of my life?  I really don’t know.  I am wary to make promises that I am not sure that I will be able to keep.   What I know for sure is that I feel this awakening sense of a need for connection and a desire to write again and I hope that I will be able to be more consistent again.  Wish me luck, friends. 

Waking up from a deadening of emotion since I started Zoloft (about a year… maybe even more, since the Prozac I was on pre-Zoloft also numbed me, just not as dramatically) is no fun.  The muscles I had built up for emotional coping are a bit atrophied and I feel like I’ve lost some ground.  But, there is some difficult to articulate benefit…  I appreciate emotion more.  Before this experience, I wished to be something like a machine* and not having to deal with the constant tempest that lives inside me.  I didn’t realize the good things the tempest gives me – creativity, empathy, compassion, motivation, inspiration and so many other things that I can’t think of right now.  I’m waking up to realize I am horribly lonely from alienating some of the few friends I had and losing touch with this lovely blog.  It is a large, painful loneliness I was even beginning to feel on the medication that stole most of the rest of my feelings.  I feel like I’m living with a yawning void inside of me at the same time as the sparkly parts of me are also coming back to life. 

Waking up from emotional numbness has also left me vulnerable to negative body image.  I’ve searched the web and reread the basics and it has helped, but, you know… lost ground and all that.  I’m remembering to look at my body as a partner, but also as a tool for living – a tool that I have to respect and take care of, if I’m going to be able to live life.  I am relearning that my body is not clay that my morality is stamped on and where fatness and other imperfections are not evidence of my being “less than,” bad, or even evil and definitely worthy of abuse and punishment.  Yes, I know “evil” is a strong word, but with the poor small emotional coping muscles I have at the moment “evil” is truthfully where my mind goes a lot of the time.  It is very interesting that after a year or so of being nearly impervious to body negativity that this is where my mind goes.  It seems like the world is so full of body hate that without my emotional coping muscle to take up space in my mind that I very quickly became filled with the self-loathing the world pours out by the stadium full everywhere I look. 

 Which brings me to the joy of water…

My behavior with water has travelled a pendulum’s stroke.  When I was in my early 20’s, diet obsessed and riddled with an eating disorder that I didn’t know I had, I read too many articles about how drinking lots of water helps one be thin.  So, I drank water – lots and lots of water.  I felt sloshy most of the time.  (You know, that feeling when you’re so full of water that you can hear it sloshing around inside you and your entire being feels diluted.)  I was a slave to my bladder, felt so cold all the time and something else I can only describe as water sick. 

When I was hungry, I drank large glasses of water.  Of course, this only works for so long (if at all depending on how diet fatigued your body is) before it backfires on someone so gullible and self-loathing as to try this and, of course, eventually it did for me too.  My reaction was to dehydrate myself for many years.  The thought of feeling sloshy again horrified me, so I overcompensated, which wasn’t an extremely helpful reaction either really… but at least it got me to where I am now.  I am drinking water.  I am drinking lots of water, but only according to the wishes of my body.  I am learning that it is possible to be hydrated without overdoing it to the point of feeling unwell and I’m realizing that it feels really good in the happy middle ground of water drinking.  I just feel better… more energy, less stomach trouble and all that.  It also feels so lovely to be doing something good for my body just for the respect and good maintenance of my body, as opposed to the old fantasy of being thin motivations of water drinking past. 

In fact, I am finding a new appreciation of food in general.  I am, in fact, one of those fatties who doesn’t really like food.  Ironically this not liking food has caused overeating rather than prevented it.  Listen well “fatties love food more than anything else” trolls.  I was often force-fed as a child and it has left me a very picky eater.  Often the mere thought of eating left me feeling nausea and violated, so I left off eating as long as possible to avoid the icky emotions attached to it until my body’s self-preservation switched on and made sure I overate to compensate for the constant mini-famines.  Something about having the break from major emotion and coming back to life now seems to have left me room to appreciate food again.  I am able to eat mindfully (instead of in the normal zombie-state required to avoid feelings of being violated by food for me anyway) and stop when I’m full and before the nausea of overfullness (and feeling even more violated by being overfull) sets in.  I can see food as fuel for this lovely body as opposed of just another torture devised by old abusers.  I have also been able to recreationally and mindfully enjoy food.  Yup, humans do eat for more reasons than just to fuel the body.  This is normal and healthy; the sugar cookies I made for Christmas were delicious! 

Maybe I needed to have this experience with Zoloft to learn these much needed lessons – the appreciation of emotions and my body.  I’m starting to feel a little grateful for it…   🙂  This feels like the beginning of a new adventure and hopefully one that will bring me more in tune with my body, a more positive body image and a brighter, more fulfilled life.

 –AngryGrayRainbows

 *Okay, I still want to be a machine a lot of the time, but the appreciation for emotion that I have learned has made a huge difference in my life and I wouldn’t give up my feelings right now if I had the choice to.  Oh right, I do have the choice to… I could take more Zoloft and that is so not happening sleep issues or not.  😛

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The prodigal returns… or something like that.  I’ll save my ramblings on possibly Zoloft induced writer’s block for another post and keep this one on its intended purpose to ask the questions:  Why do I assume that most people are thin?  Is thin also the default in the minds of others (it sure seems to me to be)?  When 63.1% of Americans are obese or overweight, why do I make this assumption? 

I realize that in many ways I am an outlier and this may contribute to why my mind defaults to thinness being the overwhelming norm and feeling like there are really no fat people on the planet, except for the random headless fatties that are all too common in news “health” reports.  I am a loner for the most part and am probably more exposed to thin-obsessed media than the average bear due to the nature of my job and my unholy love of television.  Lately I’ve also been playing some fun role-playing videogames where, of course, the game world’s are filled with mainly thin representations of people with the random fattie thrown in here or there often portrayed as someone who is corrupt/weak morals and all that.  Even tho when I play these games, watch television and reshelve gossip rags covered in thin starlets at work I constantly remind myself that these are not realistic body shapes or sizes for most people, some part of my brain doesn’t get the message, because I have caught myself several times in the last few weeks struggling with thinking that everyone is thin – but me. 

I think the important lesson in this for me is that even someone who firmly believes in body acceptance, is in an advanced level of eating disorder recovery and spends a lot of time pointing out to myself and others how unrealistic media portrayals of the human body are can be knocked for a loop, because simple exposure to the media thin obsession matters and it can really hurt.  No matter the conscious efforts I may make to debunk for myself American thin-worship, the simple fact is that I am not in control of all my brain.  Perhaps my subconscious is paying more attention to these things than I think or perhaps my defenses against the constant barrage of thin-celebration (and fat hate – the other side of the thin-celebrating coin) after becoming somewhat vulcan-like and losing big chunks of emotional range in my psychiatrist’s last campaign to treat my depression. 

Whatever the reason and however alone I may feel with this, I know I am not alone.  Here I am reminding myself that I am not alone, even if I have felt oh so very alone with my feelings of being different and not in a good way.  And, for those of you out there who would like to be reminded, I am reminding you as well that you are not alone. 

For myself, I think it is time I get back to reading books that help empower me and remind me of feminist and body-acceptance basics.  It’s been a while and apparently I could use some shoring up. 

But what to do about the television?  There are some shows that I really really like, but I feel something  like physical pain that there are only very thin women in a lot of these shows and when average or fat women do show up they are portrayed as “less-than” in terms of intelligence, discipline or morals.  I have seen “Mike and Molly” and “Drop Dead Diva” and didn’t really like them that much.  I really tried to like “Drop Dead Diva,” but it’s just not my cup of tea.  I do like to see fat people (or evern just average would be great!  oh wait, but fat is the average – see stat in first paragraph) on TV, but the content matters and the content just didn’t grab me for the most part.  Generally I watch a lot of Star Trek TGN reruns, a few network standards (House, Lie to Me, The Good Wife) and mostly movies that I DVR off the myriad of Encore channels my cable subscription affords me.   The thought is constantly running through my mind, “Yet another super-thin woman… would it KILL them for there to be some other kind of woman in at least ONE of the shows I watch??!!”  I do like Dr. Cuddy and Dr. Troi as interesting and fun characters, but it feels like a slap in the face when shows that break ground in other ways seem as slavish as any other outlet to the worship of thin or at the very least the idea that super-thin is the norm.   I can even remember as a really young girl, feeling punched in the gut when I realized another new show that I was growing to really like had no realistic portrayals of women in it.  It felt like an attack on me personally and I realize it still does feel that way.  It is amazing to me how at the same time I can realize the media all around me doesn’t portray women realistically and some other part of me swallows it all in one gullible gulp so that I feel like I am a freak for not being super-thin.  The complexity of the human mind and all that… 

I wonder if it is time to start seeing the TV as I see the abusive relatives that I have cut-off contact from:  Sure, they have their fun times, but the abuse, shame and pain is so not worth it.  Perhaps…

–AngryGrayRainbows

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