Fat Pain

Yesterday, I spoke at a meeting of compulsive eaters. There’s something about being fat that can be just plain sad and miserable and even embarrassing. When I am in a room of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts there is often an air of laughter. Everyone has kind of funny stories about “the good old days”. Falling off bar stools, dancing on tables, causing trouble.

But truly, there are no funny binge stories. We wear our fat as a badge of shame. Before I drank, I used to envy alcoholics – their hangovers looked cool. My post-binge body looked gross to me.

Back in the 1990s, skinny, pale, dark-circled heroin chic ruled the runways. Women TRIED to look like drug addicts, because it was so cool!

No one has ever tried to look like a food addict. I’m taking that to Vegas.

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More on Fat Prejudice

Recently, I asked my friend Kate if she liked her daughter in law, Angie. She hesitated. Then she said, “yes, I like her, but…she’s really overweight.”

Some background. I have never known Kate to be anything but lovely and kind. She’s soft-spoken, thoughtful with her words and open-minded. (She’s also really smart and interesting and creative.)

Kate comes from a family of alcoholics, including her father, her grandfather, her first husband and her only child, her beloved son James.

About two years ago, James nearly died from an alcoholic binge. Kate got the call from the hospital telling that he probably wouldn’t make it.

James did make it and at the age of 33, stopped drinking for the first time. He got involved in AA and turned his life around completely. He tells his mother that he is wonderfully happy for the first time in his life.

When James nearly died of alcohol abuse, he was already seeing his now wife, Angie. Unlike his prior girlfriends, she is nurturing,loving,kind and NOT an alcoholic or drug addict. She’s also got a really cool profession, she’s a celebrity make-up artist who travels the world with a very, very famous singer.

The other day, Kate and I were talking about James’s alcoholism,and I asked her why he finally stopped drinking after so many years and multiple near death experiences. She said,

“He was afraid he’d lose Angie.” So, basically, Angie saved his life. And she’s kind and good to him. AND, he’s joyously happy.

Yet, my friend’s answer to the question about Angie – she’s overweight.

I’m happy to say that when I pointed all this out to Kate, she listened. She called me later to tell me how ashamed and horrified she was by her words and thoughts. More importantly, she called Angie and they had a lovely conversation.

Still, I find fat prejudice so hard to understand.

A Strange World

A while back, I went to a workshop about women’s health. Two (women) doctors addressed physical and mental issues that apply specifically to women.

They spoke a lot about anti-depressants, which they routinely prescribe for women just because modern life is so hard. With the responsibilities of family and work and life, women routinely find themselves depressed and anxious and turn to medication. So, these women aren’t chemically depressed and wouldn’t be depressed if life weren’t so difficult and overwhelming.

That struck me. Hey, I’ve been depressed since childhood – I lay on the couch and cried for much of my youth. Anti-depressants shifted the world for me. But if were a normal, fine person until I had to deal with life AND then I needed anti-depressants – that’s crazy.

Such an odd world we’ve created FOR OURSELVES. So much pressure. For many women it starts with pregnancy. I have a pregnant friend, a senior executive in the tech world, who routinely throws up at work. She’s sick every single day, but has no choice but to go do her job. And she has a two year old at home, who’s not sleeping well. And a husband who works long hours. My friend is beyond, beyond exhausted.

It’s only going to get harder for her. When she gives birth, she’ll have just two months to stay home with her new baby and then back she goes. Juggle, juggle, juggle. I’m exhausted even writing this – I can’t imagine how she’ll be feeling.

My friend and her husband can’t afford for her to stay home. Even if she could, it would interrupt her career. If she wanted or needed to go back at some point, she’d be way behind everyone else, especially in her field.

I read all the time about women struggling to manage work and family. Why do we make it so hard for half the people on the planet? Everyone has a mother. We need women to bear our children. Why do we penalize them for doing something so necessary. Why do we make mother’s lives so impossible that they need to be medicated?

There are so many other examples of weirdness in this world of ours – did you know there are no mandated rules for bereavement leave? If a family member dies, your company is being nice if they allow you a few days off!

Why do new doctors have to work endless, sleepless hours, particularly when they may be making life or death decisions? I have friends who, post-law school, were required to work so much they regularly slept in their corporate offices. And many of them felt pushed to take these corporate job so they could pay back huge student loans. When I worked at a top ad agency in NYC, I’d come in each morning to find the young copywriters passed out on chairs in the lobby. Who came up with this?

Why did we make our whole world so difficult? Why is everything so expensive and life so hard? Is this really what we want – a world where we need medication even if we’re perfectly fine?

Food Hoarding

Lately, I’ve noticed I’ve got a ridiculous amount of food in my small-ish refrigerator. I am one woman, living alone, but my fridge could feed a family – or two. There’s steak, salmon, shrimp, tuna salad, pasta, salad, veggies, eggs, quiche, and three different soups.

Then, on my way home last night, I thought, ‘I know, I’ll get some chicken!’. Where I planned to put it, I’m not sure, considering my fridge IS small and my freezer only fits ice trays…

What’s going on? I’m a pretty moderate eater. Why do I feel the need to have all this food around? I certainly don’t eat it all.

Could it be that for years I only kept diet coke, white wine and condiments in the refrigerator? (If you’ve never been anorexic, you probably don’t understand about making a meal out of mustard, ketchup and balsamic vinegar. But if you have been, you may well know what I mean.)

There is something soothing about having all this food around – I will never be without something I want to eat, when I’m hungry, of course. I’m not overeating or obsessing or anything – I just seem to like all the options.

There are schools of thought that suggest that the way to break free of compulsively eating “binge foods” is to ALWAYS have ALL the foods you love around you. The premise is that dieting and restricting are what lead to bingeing. If we legalize all food, and learn to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full, we will be fine. And if we eat EXACTLY what we want when we’re hungry(so, don’t eat celery when we really long for mashed potatoes), we will be satisfied and we’ll stop with a comfortable portion. All foods are equal – none is sexier than another. A carrot is the same as cheesecake.

Still, I am spending way too much money keeping my refrigerator fabulously stocked. And I do waste a lot, which is sinful. Time to slim the fridge.

Holidays, Food, Etc,

Confession time. At the risk of sounding anti-social(and maybe I am?), I really enjoy spending holidays alone. And yes, some of it probably has to do with food, but definitely not all.

Today, Easter, I slept late (ahhhh), drank a lot of yummy coffee, ran errands and then bought a book with a gift certificate. A FREE BOOK – already the day is perfect!

Now, I am tidying up the apartment, followed by a bubble bath and the new book. I might meet up with a few friends later, but if I don’t, I get to stay home with my book and Rebecca, my beloved cat. 🙂

It was a busy week (including yesterday)and next week is going to be even busier, after work and on the weekend. So, today feels like a true gift.

Re; food. I can truly go anywhere and be okay with food. I do it all the time. If I am at a big food holiday, I show up with grace and have a nice time. However, if you ask me my preference – it’s not my favorite. So much emphasis on food and eating can become dreary. If i have a choice, I’d rather not.

I’ve come to peace with this. The important part for me is that I can and will go. I will engage with the company, enjoy myself and eat comfortably. As long as I am willing when asked, I’m okay with my preference.

So, for right now, I’m off to make a salad. I think I’ll take my book and lunch outside and sit in the sun. Or, I might stay inside, because Rebecca is being soo cute an snuggley.

I love holidays!!!!

How to Make an Anorexic; the Care and Feeding of an Eating Disorder

This morning, I was listening to a radio show where the hosts were discussing Tori Spelling and her six kids. (If you don’t know who Tori Spelling is, good for you. She’s a reality tv personality.)

One of the hosts commented that all her kids looked overweight, and she surmised that they must be stressed out and their cortisol levels are high, leading to heavy junk food intake. (Ms. Spelling has, indeed, had a tumultuous few years. She is a reality tv star, after all.)

But there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with her children. They’re not skinny kids, but they look pretty normal. Maybe they’re about to have a growth spurt? Maybe it doesn’t matter!

It’s so hard to be the “right” weight at any age and particularly with kids. We love a chubby baby, but not a chubby 8 year old. We tell a plump teen to lose weight, but then when she loses “too much” weight, we freak out and tell her to eat.

For some reason, I’m reminded of Tracey Gold, who some may remember from the tv show, Growing Pains from the 1980s? As a pre-teen actress in movies and made-for-tv movies, Gold struggled with anorexia. She found a way out and returned to a healthy weight by her mid-teens.

In 1988 at age 19,while starring on Growing Pains, Gold gained some weight over the series hiatus. That season, the show’s scripts called for her to be the brunt of fat jokes from her television brothers for many episodes in a row.

Beginning in October 1988, Gold dieted from 133 pounds to about 110 pounds on a medically supervised 500-calorie-a-day diet, but still occasionally the scripts included fat jokes at her expense. In her autobiography, she says that between 1989 and 1991, she became increasingly obsessed with food and her weight and continued to slowly and steadily lose weight. In 1990 Gold began group therapy in an eating disorder program, but only learned more ways to lose weight. That season, her problem with weight loss was touched upon slightly on her television series, when Gold is seen looking at her body in a carnival mirror, and describes to another character the distorted image in her head. In 1991, she started starving herself more than ever and vomiting, and lost a massive amount of weight, to the point that she was admitted to a hospital in early 1992. Her lowest weight is estimated to have been near 80 pounds. She was suspended from the show for her skeletal appearance. Photos of Gold’s emaciated body were plastered all over tabloid magazines, and she was one of the first celebrities ever to be formally outed for anorexia. She last appeared in the 1991 episode, “Menage a Luke” after missing the two prior episodes where her problem is very obvious in some scenes, and did not return until the last two shows of the series in the late spring of 1992, although she was not nearly recovered at this point.

What a nightmare on so many levels. A healthy young Tracey Gold had gained a few pounds and so the producers decided to make her THE BUTT OF FAT JOKES! That’s heinous to begin with, but knowing her history of anorexic, it’s truly criminal. Then, to put her on a 500 calorie a day diet – that’s starvation and particularly dangerous for an anorexic. And of course, as one would expect, she’s triggered to keep going and keep losing more weight. And then she’s punished.

I relate to much of her story, even and including learning to throw up from fellow group therapy members.

Going back to Tori Spelling and her kids. Over the years, Tori Spelling, herself, has tended to lose scarey amounts of weight. She’s often been considered anorexic. Let’s not start on her kids. Let’s leave them alone.

My Continuing Journey up the Scale

I work with a number of anorexic and bulimic women and hope that this post isn’t troubling to them, because it’s about me and my weight gain.

For the anorexic, eating is terrifying and weight gain seems worse. During my anorexic and bulimic years, my life goal was to not eat. I’d weigh myself all day to see if the scale shifted. If the number went up too far after I’d eaten anything, I’d cry. Then, I’d spend a lot of time trying to get myself to pee and poop, hoping that would lower the number.

A very sad way to live. What a joy not to live that way.

Yesterday, my so-called ‘fat’ pants were too tight. It’s not always perfectly easy accepting the weight gain. Sometimes, my old instincts flare up – “Melissa, if you didn’t eat that or drink that…” But I don’t want to live that way

If you’re reading this, and you’re worried that if you eat, you’ll gain excess weight, remember these are my choices. If I made different ones, I probably wouldn’t gain. I just can’t be bothered. Being thin often seems not worth it, if it doesn’t come naturally.

I’ve written about the following before, but it keeps running through my head, so I’ll write about it again:

When I see anything on the Food Network or Top Chef, I wonder how the heck those judges eat everything and stay thin. Giada Di Laurentis is smaller than my thumb.

I recently wrote about Padma Lakshmi, co-host, of Top Chef. I mentioned the concoction she says she drinks. It’s her Cranberry Drano Cleanse, a combination of Lakewood brand 100 percent cranberry juice, Tazo green tea, a sachet of Emergen-C (which contains vitamins and electrolytes) and a fiber powder such as Metamucil,” She downs a glass of this stuff three or four times a day while filming the show, and once a day otherwise. She says it “helps keeps her pipes clean”.

I’m sorry – that sounds like laxative abuse to me.

Then, she goes on a 12-week detox to lose 15 pounds after she’s done shooting a season of Top Chef. That means no red meat, or wheat, fried foods, sugar, alcohol or most dairy products.

I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t want to deprive myself (this doesn’t mean I binge or eat compulsively) to look a certain way.

The other day, I found myself in the basement of Macy’s, where they have the bathrooms. As I strolled through the plus-sized section (YES, that’s where they put it – in the basement), I felt kind of at home. I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before – I truly don’t think I’m meant to be thin.)

And so we’ll see where this journey leads me. As long as I have a healthy relationship with food, I’m down.