Categories
body liberation Depression Living While Fat My Story

Self-Image

When you close your eyes, how do you see yourself? Like most properly acculturated fat people, for my entire life, when I have closed my eyes and visualized myself, I have seen a “normal girl,”* maybe a little curvy but basically thin and fit and pretty. I feel that I am a pretty typical fat person in having always thought I was “a thin person trapped in a fat body.” But you know what? I’m not. I’m fat. Fat is me. I’ve been fat my whole life–the first time I was openly called fat by others was in kindergarten–and my fatness is intimately tied up with my self identity, my life experience, and really everything about me. Isn’t it high time that my self-image matches reality?

Well, apparently, at long last and without fanfare, it does. Just about a week ago, for the first time, I happened to be thinking of myself with my eyes closed and I noticed that saw myself as I actually am. It was a surprisingly weird experience. I was confused. Who was this woman in my head? Turns out she was me. And she didn’t bother me. She didn’t offend me or gross me out or make me feel ashamed. She was just me how I was.

A couple of days later I had another related experience. I was lounging in bed in my sleep shirt and I happened to catch sight of myself in my tall mirror. And my first, instant thought before my frontal lobe kicked in was “I look cute!” I had a positive reaction to my belly!

I give credit to the fact that I have been regularly taking pictures of myself and posting them. Not only am I getting very used to looking at the shape of my body, but I am luckily getting used to positive feedback and positive, if sketchy, attention from men online. It’s actually very rare for me to get any negative responses. I realize that if I stay online long enough and get enough Instagram followers, trolling is inevitable, but in the meanwhile I have discovered that there is an entire community of fat-loving men out there and it is like a soothing bath on my skin to be admired.

I do realize that I need to be careful about such things–and to be clear, I am happily married and not looking for anything or anyone else–but the reality is that after 43 years of being embarrassed of my body and assuming no one would ever want me, this is huge. And yes I do also realize that I have been happily married for over 20 years to a man who manifestly does want me, but I always assumed that was just a fluke, that he loved me in spite of my body not because, and that he might veer off at any moment.

This business of knowing and accepting my body as me, and even enjoying how it looks and feels, and knowing and accepting my body as desirable, well, it’s a lot, in a good way. I don’t know how things will proceed from here, but it sure will be fun to find out.

*Notice the use of “girl” here, which is another whole story by itself; a story about sexism and our culture, lack of respect for myself as an adult, etc etc etc.

Categories
body liberation Living While Fat My Story

Body Image, Gender, and Sexuality

I’m learning to accept my body as it is. It’s not always easy–it comes and goes–because I am very, very fat. Somewhere on the edge between superfat and infinifat, depending who you ask. Some days I am completely at home in here, and other days I feel like a caricature of a human being.

The thing is, I have been married a very long time (20+ years) and before that I never had any serious sexual or romantic relationships. I would have told you back then that I was entirely unattractive and no one would ever want me. For the first three or five years of my relationship with my now husband, I held my breath–not knowing if he was with me in spite of me being fat, and would one day “wake up” to my hideousness and move on. Eventually it became clear that he truly loved me, but even now I don’t know whether his appreciation of my body falls into the category of a fetish.

Now that I am learning to normalize the diversity of shape in the human body, I have certainly accepted that many different body types can be attractive. I spend time on Instagram admiring selfies of all sorts of people. But am I attractive? If I were to put myself out there, would men be interested in me? If they were, would it be “real” or would it be a fetish? What does that even mean? Is it possible for a person as far out from the norm as I am to just be attractive, or must there always be a frisson of the weird and taboo about me?

A related question is that of gender identity. I am a cis woman, and always have been, but I won’t say I’ve never had trans thoughts. Being a woman in a man’s world (and my work world is even more of a man’s world than 2019 America is in general) is not easy. I am a strong, assertive, impulsive, conflict-accepting personality. Combine all that with my body image issues and consistent self-desexualization, and you have a recipe for a person who wishes they were a man. I have done so for many years. I like to lip sync to the radio, to songs with male vocalists. Sometimes, just at the peak of the song, just for a moment, I can believe his voice comes from my throat and I am truly a man. And then the image snaps and I am back to confusion.

I would have guessed that if I ever became free of my mental issues, I would become more, not less, trans. Trans is something our culture frowns on, so wouldn’t I be more willing to be openly trans if I were free?

Apparently not. The further I go in this body liberation dive, the less trans I am. I guess it’s not really odd. I’ve never been so at home in my own body. In all its plush, padded, feminine soft glory. I’ve started wearing makeup, jewelry, skirts and dresses. Even perfume sometimes. I primp before going out. I love being a girl, and I identify with women. I crave friendship with women. I read feminist writing and watch feminist works. Maleness has become so foreign to me that the idea of wanting to be a man is pretty much horrifying.

I no longer fantasize about being a man but instead think about smashing the patriarchy so that no one ever has to wish they were a man for purely political/social reasons ever again. So that true gender identity and expression, as well as sexual identity and expression, can win free and be based on what’s inside, not on the outside. And so that all bodies, no matter how far from the “normal” look, are free to be fully themselves, fully sexual, fully loved.

Categories
Eating Disorders My Story

ARFID

As I have written about before, I have binge eating disorder. I have been working hard on this, on staying in tune with my body so I don’t fully check out and eat more than I mean to, on letting myself not finish food that I have obtained, and on knowing that food will be there later if I leave it now. This is working. I haven’t had what I would describe as a true binge in a number of months. I am still partially checking out. I am not eating often enough and therefore eating too much in each eating episode. I am still eating highly dense and heavy foods which I don’t even want to be eating but which seem like a good idea at the time. However, my binge eating disorder is a much less serious complaint than it was six months ago.

I am losing weight. I am not weighing myself regularly, but I did weigh myself about two weeks ago and I found that I had lost about 15 or 20 pounds from where I was in late summer. This is to be expected as I am not bingeing nearly as much. The theory is, as one gets closer and closer to eating as one’s body truly wants, one’s body will naturally approach the weight that it wants to be at–an internal set point.

Problem is, I also have ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, about which the DSM V says this:

  • An eating or feeding disturbance (e.g., apparent lack of interest in eating or food; avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food; concern about aversive consequences of eating) as manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one (or more) of the following:
    • Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children).
    • Significant nutritional deficiency.
    • Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements.
    • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning.
  • The disturbance is not better explained by lack of available food or by an associated culturally sanctioned practice.
  • The eating disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and there is no evidence of a disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced.
  • The eating disturbance is not attributable to a concurrent medical condition or not better explained by another mental disorder. When the eating disturbance occurs in the context of another condition or disorder, the severity of the eating disturbance exceeds that routinely associated with the condition or disorder and warrants additional clinical attention.

ARFID means I am picky to the point of disruption in my nutritional health. In my case I am unwilling to eat virtually any fruit. My nutritionist says this is fairly normal for ARFID sufferers, as fruit is very delicate and unpredictable–sometimes it is amazing and other times gross, and you can’t always tell before you bite in. I have an unnatural level of anxiety about whether I will bite into a mealy apple or a soft blueberry, and so I don’t bite into fruit at all. Veggies are a bit better, but have similar issues.

My eating habits are extremely texture- and smell-driven and focus on high calorie density foods, because every eating episode is an anxious and stressful experience for me. So I eat as much as I can in each one so as to avoid eating for as long as possible; I eat the simplest, mildest foods possible because I want to minimize the stress of the eating episode itself.

It would seem that the binge eating disorder is actually a coping mechanism–to ensure that I get enough food, I overeat when I do eat. Now that the binges have eased off a bit, I am starting to get to the root of the matter, which is that I routinely (as in at least once a day) find myself avoiding eating, even though I am hungry and aware that I am hungry, because I am too stressed out by figuring out what I am willing to eat, how to get it, etc. Hence, weight loss.

Any sane person would probably be pretty sanguine about a superfat losing weight, but to me it is a mixed blessing. Yes, I have health effects from my weight. Yes, I have social and career impacts. But I have spent the past year learning to love myself as I am and to accept that dieting is a cruelty imposed on us by a sexist, racist, cishetnormative culture. So now I am not sure if I am allowed to feel happy about losing weight. Worse, I am afraid that feeling happy about losing weight will let loose the diet culture in me all over again.

My nutritionist in fact fears that I have anorexic tendencies as well, typified by not wanting to eat because of the joy of controlling myself and the sense of cleanliness and lightness that not eating brings. Diet culture and weight loss honoring are triggers for that.

I have no answers right now. I am working to figure out what I can and will eat that is a bit more nutritious than my usuals without becoming judge-y and diet-y. But it’s a hard road so far and I’ve taken maybe 8 inches of steps along it.