Thursday, May 30, 2013

Notes on the Last Week of May

I got sandbagged by an internet fat argument in a place I did not expect to, and it sucked.  It kind of blew my brain circuits, and it definitely sapped my energy for fat thinking.  I'm working on writing it out, NEVER FEAR, internet.  It's been a bit of a rough week in general.  Dissertation blues, and the anxiety of staring down a long summer with little nutritional checking-in or supervision is there, too.  I found myself feeling a little adrift, worried that I'd suddenly gained weight or was about to gain weight, telling myself tomorrow I'd tighten up my eating, backing off the breakfast program, trying on those measurement pants more than once a day.  Oops.  So I put the pants away, in the box of shit that doesn't fit me up on the top shelf of my closet, and they're staying up there until July.

I went late to that spa bachelorette party, and had to make my way from the locker room to the party by myself, fatkini-clad and without the protective armor of friends.  I swear to God that I had more trouble getting them to tell me where the VIP room was than I would have if I'd been thin.  In their defense, they spoke more Russian than English, but I was getting a vibe but good.  (There's no way of telling, of course, and one day I'm going to write about the cognitive tax of that ambiguity, on which, blessedly, there is a solid body of research.)

A friend was all up in my grill about how well-dressed I was at the wedding on Sunday.  (In fairness, I was well-dressed.  Navy shirtdress, nude peep-toes, Ted Muehling earrings, lace necklace, a half-hour beat face.) "It's just a really nice fit on you."  That's close enough to a body comment that it pings my radar, puts me on alert (and also makes me muttery subject-changing embarrassed).  It's like when my dad says, "You've been looking great lately."  That's different than saying "You look great."  He could be talking about my recent forays into patterns and a bolder lip, but he is probably talking about my size.  Similarly, my friend could be complimenting my masterful shopping for my shape (possible because this is my closest friend who is also a fat person, but not super likely because we never talk shopping because this friend is a butch dyke who's all menswear all the time), but might also be finding a way to tell me that she has noticed that my waist is moderately smaller than it was at some time in the past.  (See above re: ambiguity.)  All of this is rendered more interpretively difficult by the mammoth wall of silence that surrounds my size in my interpersonal relationships.  I am given to understand that some people have friends who would baldly mention noticing a change of size, but since mine would never, I sometimes get backed into these kinds of interpretive swamps.  Because when something is unspeakable, it lives in intimation and innuendo, and if you can't say something, not saying it doesn't mean you're not talking about it.

In the gym, I talk to my body.  "I hear you," I say, when my thighs start to twinge while racking my deadlift.  I tried the alternate grip, and, blastoff.  Alternate grip all the way.  I blazed through five sets, and finally understood why you should be able to deadlift more than you squat.  More weight on the deadlift, coming up (it's nice that something's ready to get bumped up).  I took a read on the funny old medical scale in the locker room; it's even with my last weight at my nutritionist's, which eases my anxiety.  Weighing myself at the gym probably should not become part of my routine, but I wanted a baseline on that scale so that if I'm spinning out this summer I can have recourse to it.  I waved goodbye to the hulking desk attendant on my way out.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Did my first lifting session at the new gym this morning.  I've lost 40 pounds off my squat, which does kinda make me want to cry, but I'm mostly just charged up on the rushing endorphins of post-lift.  It stabilizes my mood, boosts my focus.

The gym is hot and a little sweat-smelling and kinda bare-bones, which suits me just fine.  The squat rack is in a back room, which is great, and that back room has a light that works on a notably insensitive motion-sensitive timer.  I like it there.  They are going to leave me alone until I'm a regular, which is exactly what I want.  Although the conversations I overhear are going to be substantially more irritating than the ones in the Bed-Stuy Y weight room.  Park Slope, why you gotta Park Slope all the time like that?

I worked in with a dude whom I think I offended because I assumed he was warming up when in fact he was doing working sets.  I kind of enjoy working in with men, just because I think there's an expectation that men and women's strength differs wildly and it's kind of nice when, actually, no, I can work at that weight.  His form was way better than mine (ass-to-grass, which was impressive just because it was good and also because many, many dudes do half-squats with an ostentatious belt and a groaning bar and pat themselves on the back for their pretend-squat "PRs," so, props, bro!  Sorry about the other thing!) and I was intimidated; I had to bite back some self-justifying faux-casual remark about how long I've been out of the gym.  But I could feel my body remember how a squat works as I worked through my sets.  Back tight, sit back sit back sit back, spread the floor, knees out, drive up, core tight.  It came back quickly, and I think the weight will come back pretty quickly, too.  I'd like to see if I could be back at least to 135 by the end of June (I was squatting 150 before the hiatus).  My vanity really enjoys loading the 45s.

I overhead-pressed the bare bar (DAMMIT—and the last set was more flex than force; that is almost all the way back to square one—though I remember when I couldn't get through a set of shoulder presses on the machine with ten-pound plates), and instead of deadlifting, rowed a rather pathetic 50 (loaded 65, did one set, not a chance—2.5 on each side!  So sad!).  My legs shook on the stairs down to the locker room.

But I feel great.  I housed a diner breakfast on my way home, including a piece of fake-buttered toast and all the home fries, and BABY I AM BACK.

I am probably going to be immobilized with soreness tomorrow, but before that, I am going to take my tough fat ass and my cute fatkini to that spa bachelorette party tonight, and I guarantee that I feel better about that post-lifting than I would if I hadn't lifted today.  It's not a "I have been to the gym, so at least I am working on it!" apologist thing.  It's just a different feeling about my body.  I don't know exactly how to articulate it.  I do look better to myself in the mirror after lifting than before, but that's not about my actual body (although I thought I could see the pump in my shoulders today?  Maybe a little?), because it can't make much if any actual difference.  It just makes me feel better.

Lifting weights makes everything feel better.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Movement I Need

I got to thinking this morning about the difficulty of cobbling together the information and ideals I need in my own process, what a pain it is to have to filter out the stuff that puts me on anxiety high alert or that I know to be false and/or problematic.  There's no perfect place for me.  The closest I think I've come is the early-on first-person version of fat acceptance stuff: Fatshionista (siiiigh) and Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby and Lesley Kinzel, all of whom wrote beautiful, challenging work that lived on the boundary of theory and personal narrative, that never sacrificed engagement with the bigger picture and the difficult questions for cheerleading or bitterness.  Even those writers, though, in all their luminosity, don't have much to offer by way of a nitty-gritty prescription for healing.  And the folks engaged with the nitty-gritty often employ knee-jerk assumptions that agitate or fail me, and frequently fail to consider the macro stuff.

So what is it that I want, in my perfect movement and my perfect movement leader?  What do I need?  Some initial thoughts:

  • Weight/size neutrality.  That means I need a critical eye turned on the faulty (read: incorrect and often disingenuous) party line about the relationship between fatness and health status.  It also means I need a critical eye turned on the way aesthetics apply to bodies, such that weight loss and/or fat loss aren't used as default goals or recommendations, or worthy of praise unto themselves.  This also means that actions can't be validated nor theories proven by virtue of the visual bodily changes to which they contribute. 
  • An open, inclusive eating ideology that doesn't lose sight of research and policy.  I don't think it's a sin to like junk food.  I also don't think it's a good idea to live on it, not least because it is specifically designed to thwart hunger/fullness signaling.  I think people eat more of it than they would were it not for corn subsidies and the lobbying of the food industry for tax loopholes and lack of oversight and regulation, and this is sub-ideal.  But we need to talk about it on a collective level, not on the level of individual choice, and when we talk about it as policy, that policy should use more salient health and wellness markers than weight or size.
  • A feminist view of the cumulative effect of the bullshit women get about weight, size, eating, lifting, body composition, and embodiment in general.  It is perhaps not overstatement to say that women, as a class, are being starved by diet ideology.  The effects of (even semi-)starvation [the Minnesota volunteers consumed 1560 calories/day] include depression, anxiety, preoccupation with food, self-mutilation, low sex drive, and cognitive dysfunction, in addition to reduced homeostatic functions and immunity.  Do these sound empowering to you?  Is that the way you feed a population the abilities of which you care about?  This fucking enrages me.  I'm enraged, right now, typing away.  It is a feminist act, and a crucial one, for women to feed themselves adequately.  It is hard for a woman raised in diet culture to understand that "adequately" is significantly more food than she is being told is acceptable for her to even want.  We need a feminist voice for this.  
  • Subsidiary to the above, an understanding of eating disorders as physiological and psychological and social phenomena.  This gets tricky in relation to fatness: not every fat person is eating-disordered, and not every fat person is non-eating disordered.  
  • Some mad science.  N=1 experimentation is all well and good, and knowing one's own body is its own kind of wisdom, but the fact remains that pathology can erase itself, physiologically.  Disease can make you resist medical treatment.  Chronic caloric restriction can AND DOES make you "feel fat," regardless of whether or not you've added fat mass, and it interrupts your hunger cuing.  (This is why loads of women, including quite active ones, will tell you they are "not hungry" on 1700 calories a day.  Well, this and the way it props up a virtuous self-concept.)  I need someone who can read and present the literature critically and effectively.  And because of the way the funding structure for research works, there are tons of questions yet unanswered—ideally, I need someone to design new research with an eye to debunking myth and creating a strong evidence-based foundation for policy and personal change. 
  • Humor and sparkle and brilliance and joy.  If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.  Although in this case, the other things are so hard to come by that I will take you with or without these characteristics, and find them elsewhere or bring them my own damn self.  

It's a bummer that I have yet to find a resource that meets all of these criteria.  Generally, the people on the forefront of the metabolic-health stuff are body tinkerers, people who are invested in if not thinness at least leanness, and actively advance fat loss for health and aesthetic reasons.  Generally, the HAES folk aren't focused on metabolic health because of the way that tinkering impulse can trigger chronic restricters, or on policy because of its vocabulary's tendency to ditto.  Often, the people who do ED work have a tendency to attend primarily to the clinical situations of underweight-to-"normal"-weight patients.

So until then, I'm DIYing this bitch.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Memory Flash

The summer my family rented a house in Rhode Island, a pretty house on a river, I was more miserable than I had ever been in my life.  I think I was 12.  I'd wanted to go to camp, or at the very least I'd wanted to hang around with my friends, making earrings and friendship bracelets and gossiping and listening to Cranberries and Green Day tapes, and instead I was stuck in a place where the only people I had to talk to were the members of my nuclear family.  It was an isolated house, no kids nearby.  My parents were giving the appearance of hating me, and I knew for a fact that I hated them.  I polished my nails obsessively, scraping the polish down when it wasn't perfect and starting again, two or three or four times a day.  I got nail polish on stuff, and my parents yelled at me.  I read teen magazines, looked at the pictures of beautiful girls, their long, thin, golden limbs.  I did hundreds of leg lifts late into the night.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Clothing Project I

I have a lot of clothes that don't fit me but that I can't get rid of.  The only thing I have right now that's too small is that pair of pants.  Most of my stuff is too big.  Some of it substantially, some only slightly.  I've picked up a few new things, and now fit a few things I'd had in the back of my closet.  But I'm also mourning some clothing.  My clothes are full of stories, snapshot memories of places I wore them and people I knew when I did.  And they're also all intertwined with the history of my body, how I felt about myself and how I wanted to present myself.  Here are some stories.

I got rid of a green corduroy blazer from Old Navy purchased in maybe 2005 (2x).  I loved its slightly puffy shoulder seams, and the way it nipped my waist.  I bought it in the first flush of stability, both physical and emotional, after inpatient—also in the brief shining moment during which Old Navy carried Women's Plus in stores.  I think I wore it to my job interviews just after college.

Around the same time, I also bought an artfully-distressed denim blazer from Lane Bryant (18/20—I've always been smaller on top than on the bottom, which is why this was too big for me now, even though 18/20 is my dress size).  Man, I loved that thing.  It had a seaming band at the waist and wide lapels and patches of fading, and I could pair it with a knee-length skirt and feel like I was hitting just the right balance of put-together and don't-care (my clothing goal always).  I considered wearing it for a Valentine's date when my (then) boyfriend was coming out to Portland for a Valentine's/post-emergency surgery visit, but my internet-fatshion friend Alice (who tried, bless her, to teach me to accessorize) put the kibosh on that with gentle righteousness in favor of something girlier and less structured.

I found both of these in a suitcase in my parents' garage upstate a couple months ago, and I sent them right off to the thrift store because I was in the process of moving and any object I didn't want in my new apartment had to go.  I tried them on, and they were baggy and dated.  They'd seen better days.  But I do kind of miss them.  They were a part of my college self—I like that girl I was, and I like the things that connect me to her.

I just got rid of a grey-and-navy striped sweetheart-neck Banana Republic t-shirt (XL).  It had little moth holes.  I bought it at the bottom of my last weight cycle, flush on I-can-shop-at-Banana-Republic-like-a-real-store-no-way while they were having a sale.  It had cap sleeves that did terrible things to my upper arms, but I used it as a layering piece.  Good riddance, stupid t-shirt.

I cannot bear to get rid of a black-and-white floral surplice-front sundress, from Blue Plate via alight (2x).  I liked this dress so much I bought it twice.  No lie.  I tore it when the floaty printed top layer got caught on a LIRR armrest on the way back from my second cousin's wedding shower in 2009 (an event I did not even want to BE at, and for which I was totally unwilling to sacrifice a favorite dress).  So I tracked this dress down on eBay and bought a replacement, which also tore (the floaty overlayer strikes again), just last summer.  This dress was a longtime size-indicator for me: when the banded empire waist was tight when I sat down, I was at the top of my comfortable range.  A year ago, it was really too tight to wear, which made me feel gross when I flicked past it in my closet and knew I couldn't wear it (should have boxed it up and put it away).  Now it's a hair too big to be flattering, but it would work just fine with a sweater over the top, except that it's torn.

Some longer-lost things:
the red Anthropologie dress that I bought for my college graduation (XL, I think? Very, very stretchy).  It had stopped being a dressing-up dress, because it too had seen better days, and I was afraid of it not fitting at the top of my range, so I haven't worn it in forever, but where did it go?  Somehow, I think it is in the basement of my old house in Jersey.  Maybe I will go look for it.
—the Torrid sundress (24) and cardigan (2x?) that I wore to go dancing with the man who became my first serious boyfriend, right when I was back from Berlin, right before treatment.  A dear friend from college, a person who weighs maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, had bundled me into her car and driven me to a Torrid at some suburban-PDX mall, intent on showing me that I could wear real clothes like a real person (I am still so grateful, and still remind her of that gratitude).  It was pre-pink Torrid, and the salesgirls were a delight.  My friend strong-armed me into trying on stuff I would never have considered, including this pinstriped dress with a burnout flower laser-cut into the left side of the hemline, and insisted that I emerge from the dressing room to receive feedback.  The salesgirls gathered around.  I'm sure, in retrospect, that they got the dynamic instantly.  I felt embarrassed and delighted and shy and flabbergasted, being the center of a little clutch of women who all seemed to think that I could shop just like a regular girl.  I spent like $300, which was even more then (I was living on like $1000/month, all-inclusive, which was mostly totally fine because it was Portland ten years ago) than it would be now.  This shopping trip was a totally watershed moment for me.  It is not an exaggeration to say it changed my life.  And it meant, too, that I had something to wear when this man I liked and thought I'd never have a chance with turned out to be coming to my best friend's birthday dancing.  (It turned out I did have a chance.)

And the original: a green faux-fur pea coat that was the first item of clothing that made me feel like I could have style.  I wore this all through the eighth grade.  Eighth grade was after a round of Weight Watchers with my mom, so I must have had more clothing options (I remember a burnt-sienna chenille Calvin Klein turtleneck entering my life about then, too).  I don't remember the brand or the size, but I think it came from the then-brand new Burlington Coat Factory on 6th Avenue.  I was taking a youth class at the Gotham Writers' Workshop, and I used to walk down Central Park West in the autumn evening crispness afterward, feeling rad in my awesome coat (and probably my platform Skechers, too, because it was 1997).  This coat got lost (!!!) not too long into its tenure.  I left it, somehow, on a coat rack at a gala I was working for an internship I had.  As a result, it is a creature of legend, and if I came across a green fake-fur pea coat tomorrow, I would buy it instantly, and wear the shit out of it.  Trust.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An Example, With Numbers

Did a weight & body composition scan today at my nutritionist's, our last appointment before her long (to me!) summer maternity leave.  (I won't see her until October, which, eek.)  Anyway, here's the point: my body fat is a bit below 45%.  Here's what that means, and you can reverse-engineer the numbers if you feel like it; I don't care: it means that I am just north of 140 pounds of lean mass (this is a lot for a lady!  It could be a somewhat faulty measurement, because bioelectrical impedance has some flaws, but none of the variables there apply to me).  That means that the imaginary number I used to think I should weigh back in high school, 125, would require losing a substantial chunk of muscle even if I had single-digit bodyfat (which...healthy women don't).  What else does it mean? It means that if I never put on another pound of lean mass (which, uh, I intend to do, because 140 pounds of lean mass might not be enough to squat 315 pounds of iron for reps, and I want to do that before I die), a bodyfat level of 25% ("on the low end of what's average for most women") would put me at a weight that would make me clinically obese (BMI 31.4).  I would (still) pay radically higher premiums for private health insurance (if I were granted health insurance at all), be eligible for punitive fees in workplace wellness programs, be ineligible for certain benefits, and be one of the people that pundits are talking about when they talk about "the obesity epidemic."

Just saying.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cool Story, Bro

The Park Slope Y is...adequate.  It has one squat rack, one bench.  The problem is that the weight room as a whole is small, which means it will be tricky to find the extra space to set up something like a deadlift or a row.  I missed the Bed-Stuy Y's little squat nook, with the rack and Smith machine back-to-back off the main room.  It created a kind of zone of privacy that I wouldn't have at this Y.  I did have a totally lovely conversation with Abby, who showed me around and was endearingly SHOCKED that I wanted to see the weight room ("do you have any health goals?" she asked, and I made up a pretty arbitrary goal for bench presses, very conscious of the "lose weight" expectation), but the Y is very nearly as expensive (like, $2/month, though there's a little difference in the set-up costs too) as Body Reserve, and farther from my favorite Slope coffee shop and the Co-op, so...unless they give me shit about being a fat woman who wants to lift, or ring my fatphobia bell in general, Body Reserve is probably where I'm going to end up.  Visiting tomorrow.


Ermahgerd, internet, I think I might buy myself a fatkini for reals.  Realistically, this is barely more skin than a one-piece, but my current swimsuit (a vaguely retro aqua ruched one-piece purchased at a Wal-Mart in Alabama or possibly Arkansas three years ago) doesn't hold my rack up quite where one would hope and I have beach weekends with friends coming up in East Hampton and also down the (Jersey) shore and a pool-based bachelorette party to boot.  And, okay, swimsuits make me vaguely uncomfortable because of internalized fatphobia, but saying the word FATKINI a lot will probably help.  It might increase the discomfort in a very minor way (see: barely more skin than a one-piece) but will also mitigate it with the glee of doing something consciously transgressive (best kind of glee).

Okay, I talked myself into it.  Fatkini ordered.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Do I Even Lift?

Yesterday I doubled up my shift at the Park Slope Food Co-op, to make up for missing the last one because of a short-notice meeting reschedule.  I was still weighing out bags of dried mango slices when the new shift started to filter in, including a woman about my age who looked vaguely familiar.  I looked familiar to her too, but we never found the connection.

In trying, though, we made a new one.  When she mentioned her gym, I asked her where she went—because her knee socks were screaming "Crossfit!" to me.  All the hardcore Crossfit chicks wear those knee socks—it's half style (they're cute) and half function (they protect your calves from scrapes when you're snatching, cleaning, and deadlifting).  And indeed, my guess was right.  I've been thinking about Crossfit, and told her so.  She recommended her gym, Crossfit South Brooklyn, over Crossfit 718 (which is closer to my apartment), and talked about a recent media kerfuffle they'd had and her experience there as a woman.  She was friendly and felt immediately like-minded, and I found myself just sort of coming out with my actual questions about joining a box: my confidence about the weights but concern about the cardio, my reservations about the risks of body and eating talk in a group fitness setting.  (I have concerns, too, about giving up my solitary time with the barbell, my meditative/electric experience of my own embodiment.)  It was awesome to find someone who could actually address those questions.

We were chatting and working next to another woman, a pretty blonde who turned out to be a linguistics professor—she entered the conversation when my new friend and I were commiserating about doctors using size/BMI as a proxy for health status, rolling our eyes about "chronic cardio": "Wait, I can still run, right?" she said.  It felt weird to have her look at me as if I could decide what her training should look like, and I assured her she can do whatever she likes and changed the subject.  Shortly afterwards, I mentioned the story about lady lifters' funding struggles.  She remembered reading about Holley Mangold.

So the two biggest women on the shift talked lifting gloves and women's bar vs. standard bar and deadlift grips (she suggested I try an alternate grip—that is, one hand under the bar and one hand over) and why it is that women rarely push ourselves to failure (I've never failed a rep on anything but the bench press, and I should have—the fact that I haven't means I don't push as hard as I could for strength gains).  Suddenly it seemed like the whole shift was talking about the Cheryl Haworth documentary and faulty expectations of what an "athlete" looks like.  The shift leader told me about the weights work he'd been doing to target his shoulder flexors so he can hold his frame better in his own hobby, competitive ballroom dance, and when he did it sounded like he wanted my approval.  I approve of you, dude!  I am sort of shocked that you are not disapproving of me!  I approve of you for that alone!  "It's so cool that we have two women who lift weights," he said.  I didn't even mind that he also told us about how high the dried mango slices are in sugar.

It was kind of incredible.

...and so, after several MONTHS away, today (not shamed, mind you, but re-enthused) I finally checked out the weight room at the rec center across the street from my apartment.  And it's totally inadequate.  It's tiny and crowded and open to the bustling ping-pong room, and most importantly, there's no squat rack. up, we check out the Park Slope YMCA.  Then Body Reserve on 5th, which I pass all the time and which looks endearing, although also like it's going to be more expensive than ideal.  O Bed-Stuy Y weight room, why are you so far away?

(What I want in a perfect world is for someone to buy me a membership to the South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club, which I've been ogling for almost a full year now, even though hilariously they are featured in the Times today.  It is perfect.  But SO expensive.)

Anyway, this conversation was energizing, and enjoyable, and surprising, and it was just what I needed.  And maybe if I make some good progress at the Park Slope YMCA, assuming it's adequate, I'll save for a few sessions at the SBWC during this fall or winter.

Monday, May 13, 2013

(note to self)

Have been reading old fat acceptance stuff from back when the fatosphere was bustling, interconnected, vital, and urgently new.  Have vague sense of nostalgia, obviously.  Heidi's guest post on WLS on Shapely Prose, and the comments discussion, and trying to think about how I work to reconcile my body politics and my own embodiment.  Here is my thought: that maybe what I want to do is put a wedge between "how to change what you feel" (hard) and "how to change how you deal with those feelings and how much time you spend with them" (also hard, but I think substantively LESS hard).  This is the difference between a goal of "stop hating upper arms" and "stop letting hatred of upper arms dictate how you spend your time."  I think it is possible that work on the latter might result in some movement on the former.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Reality Check

The way something works is the way it actually works, not the way it is supposed to work.  This is true of diets (they make more people fatter than thinner) as much as it is true of Mary Kay Cosmetics (their customer is their "sales agent," not the person to whom that "sales agent" may or may not ever sell the lipsticks she's already purchased from the company) or rebates (breakage).  Objective facts, friends.  Reality-based community.
If I ever run any kind of workshop for body image and diet recovery and body acceptance and all that kind of stuff, it will include, as one treatment track, a STRICT REGIMEN of getting smashed and going dancing with one's lady friends on weeknights.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Be Your Own Lloyd Dobler

Lloyd Dobler is the man.  You can keep your popular-yet-sensitive Jake Ryan.  Lloyd is the best: an eloquent, straight-talking, fiercely loyal weirdo with the courage of his convictions.  It is true that he does some things that while endearing on film might verge on stalkery in real life—but, luckily, he is on film at the time so they are safely awesome.  And he has his priorities straight.

So I'm thinking that given how how kind and how direct Lloyd is, if I told him I were sitting around worrying about what I ate yesterday or what I'm going to weigh tomorrow at my nutrition appointment, he would say something like this:

Sometimes it is true.  Sometimes you are all agitated, and your agitation is destructive.  It will result in you crashing your Firebird and smashing your head in, or it will result in you worrying yourself stupid to no productive end.  Getting to the root of things is great and all, but sometimes you simply must chill.  YOU MUST CHILL.  Do something else instead.  Like watching YouTube clips of Say Anything.

And actually, asking yourself to treat you like Lloyd Dobler would treat you is, I think, a pretty good principle.  Because he doesn't bullshit you, Lloyd, but he doesn't beat up on you either.  He is your full-on bud.

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Unreliable Indicators of Relative Size (On Which List, For the Record, "Daily Scale Weight" Would Be First If I Owned a Scale, Which, Absolutely Not)
—the perceived puffiness or sleekness of my face.  Some days I wake up with cheekbones, some days I wake up without.  Jawline, ditto.  Hydration helps, but my control over the situation is pretty limited.  Bummer when I wake up with no cheekbones on the day I have to go to a black-tie wedding (that day is today).
—whether or not I feel pretty.
—the perceived prominence of my knuckles (especially those in my right hand, which are always more visible than those in my left hand for reasons best left unexplored, though it is worth noting that my left calf and foot are also perceptibly larger than my right, because bodies are weird, man).  Like my face, my hands puff for lots of reasons, including in response to my menstrual cycle and when I eat salty things (and I love salty things).
—how winded or not I am when I've climbed the three and a half flights to the door of my apartment.  I have yet to figure out much of a pattern to this except that obviously when I am carrying more than say, 25 pounds of stuff (bag, groceries, laundry, etc.) it is more difficult: some days I feel slightly out of breath, some days I feel totally fine.

More Reliable Indicators of Relative Size (To Which Skepticism Can Still Be Applied and Which Should Not Be Overly Depended-Upon in General, But Still)
—feet.  Can I see the flexy action of toes other than my big toes in the tops of my feet?  Can I see the elevation of the bluish veins?  Then I probably have not suddenly gained ten pounds and should chill out.  (I should also chill out if I had suddenly gained ten pounds, but these are immediate coping mechanisms, not long-term strategies.)
—the way those pants fit.  If my face is puffy and I am ready to throw a fit about it, trying on those pants and noting that, indeed, they still button is a good solid reminder that my perceptions are not the be-all, end-all, and that I can and should apply skepticism to my feeling that I have been eating entirely too much and should tighten things up immediately.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Really Hungry

My therapist and I were working on the whole breakfast anxiety thing.  Realistically, I was mostly just pitching a little bit of a hissy fit about it.  "I'm going to keep doing it," I kept assuring her, where "it" is making prefab breakfasts in batches and eating them early in the day.  "I just also hate it.  I don't get really hungry until later in the morning.  So I'm never going to be really hungry for breakfast if I eat it earlier on, and it just makes me really anxious to eat something when I'm not all the way hungry."

This is when I remembered the things my parents used to say at the dinner table when I took seconds, or too much of something, or the wrong thing.  An extra spoonful of grated cheese.  The fat that curled in a delicious juicy, charred teardrop at the bottom of my lamb chop.  "Are you sure you're really hungry?"  "Do you really need that?"

This was well-intentioned.  Obviously.  They weren't suggesting I not eat when I was hungry.  Though why they thought I was eating it if I wasn't hungry for it does sort of elude me.

This is also a splitting point.  It's a passing-along of Cartesian dualism—the idea that you are a mind and a body and they are separate, the consciousness and the physical world.  I was sure I was really hungry, until hunger became a thing that needed justification, interrogation, a thing that needed intellectual investigation and confirmation.  A thing that became subject to conscious control.  A bodily thing in need of regulation.

And there is a connection here too to the idea of decision fatigue, and my own sense that what I want is to restore to eating a kind of predecisive status, which is to say not the "constant vigilance" "healthy choices" "willpower" stuff, because I have got other things to do with that part of my energy, but the status of instinct.  I want to make eating food into a thing that isn't an ongoing conscious activity.

But it's been a long and irritating day and I've not got the energy to explore those connections.  Later.  For now I will just observe that it's a little bit bizarre to realize that I have been saying to myself for twenty years exactly what my parents said to me when I was a child.  That it's only okay to eat if you're really hungry—that is, both verifiably hungry and extremely hungry.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Riding Them Out

I left my apartment yesterday feeling just fine, returned to it after a full workday on campus feeling self-conscious about the way my sweater fit me, and woke up this morning in a state of absolute certainty that it is only a matter of time until I'm fifty pounds heavier again.  Leaving my kitchen with my iced coffee, the word WEIGHT jumped out at me disorientingly until I realized it was from the baby announcement on my little magnet board and I wasn't just hallucinating.  I am feeling a little bit sorry for myself.  I don't know where all these feelings come from.

But it's not my job to know where they come from.  It's my job to ride them out.  They're feelings.  I have them, they're a thing, and kind of a big thing at that, but they're not predictions.  My feelings are not Cassandra.  I do not know the future.  I do not even know the present: the fact that I feel "fatter" yesterday evening than I did yesterday morning does not correlate to a change in size.  It just correlates to a change in mood, or to a reaction to something else that I'm shifting onto my body.  What I do know is that I am having some feelings.  I will have them for awhile while I drink my coffee, read about baseball for a few minutes, and then I will try to put them aside when I get down to work for the day.  They don't change what I know to be best for myself (what is best for myself includes breakfast).