Boy do I ever have daddy drama. That could be a blog in and of itself. Mostly because he is the biggest influence, I’d have to say, in developing the horrible relationship I have with food.
See, in a family unit, where there is one over-eater, there is usually a bunch. Not just because of mimicry, but because of some base instinct, I think, to get as much ingested before it is all gobbled up by whoever the biggest eater is. That’s how it felt in my family. If you wanted more than one piece of pie, you better take a chunk worth two the first round, because it wasn’t going to survive dad’s appetite to see tomorrow. If you wanted to be able to enjoy a bag of chips, or cracks, or cookies, or anything else, you either had to hide it really well, or over eat it when you had the chance. Anything my father finds was and still is, to a lesser extent, inhaled.
In his defense, he didn’t have an easy childhood. Both of his parents were abusive, and he grew up very poor, which meant, considering he was born in 1941, that he also grew up on a diet of Spam and like government cheese or something. During school breaks, his mother would kick him out of the house and lock the door behind him, and only let him back in come nightfall.
Well, at least the way he tells it. I believe him though. The few times I actually got to spend with the only living grandparent I ever knew was miserable. She didn’t bake, didn’t sit down with me to do arts or crafts, she didn’t teach me anything like how to ride a horse. Basically, the only reason why I spent any time with her was because she wanted me to go to church. So Saturday nights I went to her place. She would plot me down in front of the TV and do whatever she pleased, push me off to bed early, get me up early, cart me off to listen to a Baptist sermon, then right after the punch and cookies that were served up after the service, she’d dump me back home.
Needless to say, there is probably a reason why I am more “spiritual” than “religious.”
She was a rail thin woman with a harsh face. I don’t know about my dad’s dad. He died before I was ever born.
My dad suffered a lot, and didn’t really ever talk about it. He ended up serving in the Army during Vietnam, where he suffered more, and didn’t really talk about it. He smoked, and he over ate, and he drank about two galleons of Gatorade a day while working for the post office. And he continued to suffer and never talk about it. I am sure there are plenty of people that would rather say he lacked self control and was a horrible glutton and sloth, because we live in a society that HAS to demonize the fat by reducing any problems we happen to have with food to a lack of self control and stupidity.
As if most people honestly don’t know that eating too much causes you to become fat. I swear, those who talk about calories and dieting tips like it’s some kind of arcane knowledge piss me off… mostly because, duh, everybody knows. Eating a lot = fat. But since nobody likes fat people, eating too much has become a massive taboo in our society. Even those times when over eating is talked about in terms of a mental health issue, as opposed to flat-out gluttony, it is still reduced to a joke.
Seriously though. Like you don’t remember this:
I pretty much lost all my respect for Mike Myers when he did that crap. I somewhat regained it though after Shrek. After all, Shrek’s fat, green, disgusting, and still a sexy beast. As is Fiona. In some ways, they are the ultimate fat activist couple. No matter what they do, what they eat, how gross they are, or how much the quarter-quel sucks, everybody continues to love Shrek and Fiona.
I’ve said more than once that I consider most of my problems to be mental health problems. And I really believe that. I wasn’t born fat, although I have plenty fat ancestors to suggest that I have fat “genes” (or, at the very least, my mother was heavy when she had me, and if you believe new research, the diet that she maintained while I was in the womb may have affected my ability to be the svelte little thing that all women are supposed to be). I wasn’t born unhappy either. No, these two states sort of came upon me slowly as I progressed through grade school. I was bullied, shunned, and found that my home environment wasn’t really conducive to being able to manage being bullied, as my father was distant, my brother Richard 9 years older than me and thus never around, and my mom spent most of my childhood suffering from a cyst that formed in the membrane between her skull and her brain.
I was left on my own a lot grown up. I was bored, I ate.
I have compulsion issues on top of that. The reason why the idea of lacking self control is such a massive trigger for me, and probably will be for a long time since so many hold it against me, is because I literally CAN’T help myself. Problems with compulsive behavior is recognized as a mental disorder. You can be an addict, with chemical dependency and impulse control problems. You can have OCD, which is pretty much what I’ve got, where your head just buzzes with these spinning thoughts and you just have to do X to… I don’t know, relieve the pressure. It’s hard to describe. The stuff I don’t isn’t inherently enjoyable. I don’t know that eating is always “enjoyable.” But it’s a relief.
Add to that the fact that the way the chemistry of food effects brain chemistry (read a blog post I did for my boyfriend’s fitness site about the subject here: http://internalforcefitness.com/weight-dont-watchers-how-weightloss-ads-reinforce-fat-stereotypes/), and you can see why I am the way I am. Not that those who literally hate the fat so much that they want to see it banished forever care. The fat stereotype is that people over eat, and do so because they are sad. The bad part about this stereotype is that it looks like the truth on the face of it, but only if you don’t understand the way such a condition is created.
In my case, partially through biology, partially through environment, and partially through upbringing. I am sure that I wouldn’t have eaten so much to fill the emptiness of my home life, when I was home alone, had I not been so alone. I am sure that I wouldn’t have started associating food with comfort if it wasn’t done by multiple members of my family. And I’m sure that it wouldn’t have become the brain chemistry issue it literally is for me, if I hadn’t found myself living for most of my life with untreated depression and compulsion problems. Do I eat because I am sad? Am I the cliche? So many want me to believe that, because then they can “blame” me for just not “dealing with it” in a healthy fashion. If you accept that eating because you are sad is a fully controllable behavior for everyone who does it, then suddenly those of us who do it are shameful people, and a burden on everyone around us.
Yes, I say a burden, because that is the basis of fat shaming. We’re a burden. Our fat either costs others money through higher insurance premiums or loss of work days. Our fat is a burden because we’re unattractive and yet we thrust our existence into the world with all the consideration of bread mold. We smell bad. We’re stupid. We’re… well, do I need to go on? If you’ve been fat shamed then you know exactly what I am going to say. Hell, I’ve been down this road so many times that I literally have been told that I should never wear corduroys because god forbid I be the cause of any wild fires.
You know, from thigh friction. >.> I wish I had decked that guy. So much of my lack of mental well-being probably would have been solved if I wasn’t a naturally sweet kid. Had I not been naturally sweet, I probably would have decked the first person who bullied me, and the rest would have left me alone. And I would have left school felling much more in control of my life. I potentially would have been an athlete or at least “normal” sized, instead of the token fat kid.
I guess the first thing that I and so many like me have to reject is the idea that eating is bad. We overeat. Yeah, so do skinny people. Or if they don’t over eat, they smoke, or drink too much, or rack up massive debt on their credit cards. They buy too many gadgets or shoes, or own too many items of clothing, or cars. Gluttony, at its base, is overindulgence. Name me one American (aside from the Amish) that doesn’t overindulge in SOMETHING, and I may die of a heart attack right off. The basis of our culture is over indulgence, to the point where our economy is in the crapper because of the massive over-indulgence encouraged by the sub-prime loan racket. It doesn’t matter if “home ownership” is important. The idea that people can legitimately buy a house out of their price range, and its a good thing, just proves that “over indulgence” is the norm in our society.
So it’s pretty ironic that when its over indulgence in food, as opposed to accumulating debt, it’s disdained so heartily. Probably because such disdain can lead to more eating, instead of less eating.
Or as the ladies behind Beauty Redefined like to say:
“Shame is a cruel and powerful demotivator, especially with regard to health and happiness. It fuels overeating, poor nutrition choices, sedentary lifestyles, cosmetic surgery, isolation and pain. Shame is also a cruel and powerful motivator with regard to self-harm. It fuels disordered eating like bingeing, purging and starvation, as well as exercise bulimia, cutting, isolation and pain.” — Lindsay and Lexie Kite.
The reason why we should reject the notion that over eating is, in and of itself, a “bad” thing is because, if we accept that notion, than every time we over eat, we are “bad” people. If you’re bad, then any trace of depression you have might kick itself into gear, pulling you into a downward spiral. Or, as fine jerks at WebMD suggest, overeating can “cause” depression because you feel “guilty” (http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-and-weight-connection).
I love it when researchers decide on what is the chicken and what is the egg when deal with co-occurring issues. I’m pretty sure that depression is actually the egg for many, and that the only reason why we feel “guilt” over over-eating is because its drilled into us that we SHOULD. Why? Who says? Are they important enough to listen to? Who gives shit?
We do, because we’ve been told to. And that is what needs to change.
The last time I lost a massive deal of weight, I wasn’t trying to. I wasn’t trying to because I had other things on my mind. I’d gone overseas to obtain my master’s degree in Creative Writing, and my mind was focused on my studies and on hot English boys, who seemed to have a more liberal attitude to what constituted “beautiful.”
The first guy I fell in love with thought I was beautiful. But in an “unusual” and purely platonic way. I wasn’t beautiful in the sort of way that he could love. There was no “chemistry” he said. Yet, strangely enough, he treated me like there was chemistry, and romantic love brewing. He paid attention to me like no American guy ever had. I thought it was pretty damn awesome and liberating to be in a world where I was no longer “that fat ugly broad” but Christine, an actual living, breathing, desirable person.
Sure, he was an abusive bastard who gave me a nervous breakdown before he finally broke ties with me completely, saying that he couldn’t be my friend because he would “never be good for me,” but at the beginning, it was very refreshing.
I didn’t give up. Partially I think because I had the idea in my mind that maybe I could make him jealous. If I could find one other guy who wanted to date me, then the one I really wanted would find me more desirable. That’s one of those immutable laws of romantic comedies that women pick up: You are always hotter to the guy you want when you are totally unavailable to them. I think I picked that up from, what, My Best Friend’s Wedding or something?
Anyway, he and I went out a lot. We would walk everywhere, go round the pub a great deal, play pool. We and our group of friends would do karaoke. I would sight see, or just go out shopping for food. I’d walk everywhere, and my mind was filled with the joys and trials of living as a stranger in a strange land (I won’t say foreigner because the English’s attitudes towards Yank are a bit different than proper “foreigners”… It’s like they think if they just work on us long enough, then the last few hundred years and that whole Declaration of Independence thing will be forgotten, we’ll dig the remains of the tea up from the bay, to brew it up, and thus become properly English again, toad in the hole and all).
My environment was utterly different, people treated me differently, I was more active because I had friends who wanted to go out and DO things, and the weather was nice enough, usually, to do them. Or even if it wasn’t, even if it was pissing rain, we still went out anyway! I had fun, I was happy, and the pounds fell off of me, literally like a 50 pound weight.
Not because of counting calories, or obsessing over how fat and ugly I was. But, and I think this is the kicker, because, for the first time, I didn’t have to think of myself as fat first and a person second. I was just a person. Food was just food. My friends were just friends, and there was no shame or pressure to change.
I’m not a fat activist because I believe we should all stay in some permanent state of fatness. I am a fat activist because I want people to be able to release the burden that society has placed upon us, and to begin to feel like human beings again. Then, and only then, our bodies will begin to reshape themselves into whatever shape it is that our bodies truly want. For some I know, without a shadow of a doubt, it will be exactly the same shape.
For others, like me, it’ll be about 100 pounds lighter. And that’s as perfectly okay as being a hundred pounds more: Self-love can never and will never be measured by a scale.
So yeah, I have a problem with food. But strangely enough, when I am really, truly happy, that problem begins to fade. The monster that lives in my head telling me to eat is drowned out with life. And that’s the way it should be.
Now that I know that, I spend more of my time working toward shutting the voice up than I do worrying about my weight. If my weight is actually a symptom of a disease (and that is the only relationship to disease I will ever give it… fat itself is NOT an illness regardless of what the AMA has decided), then the disease is an eating disorder, a mental health issue.
People who treat it like it is a dietary issue are not just missing the point, but exacerbating the problem for me and for so many others who are like me. Not all fat people are like me, but I can name a few. My father, for instance, whose continuing example leaves me still worried that if I don’t eat up the whatever, regardless of whether I am actually hungry or not, it is going to disappear before I have any at all.
I know that I can’t change him. He will never admit or seek help for the problem he has with food. But my oldest brother, Greg has. And I myself already know the means by which I can conquer this mental health issue, although I admit that it will probably take the help of a good shrink to see me through. I’m hoping to find a permanent one, at a reasonable price, as soon as I find myself settling down with my boyfriend in England.
But until then I have this post, and the underlying beliefs that lead me to write this post. It doesn’t apply to all fat people across the board because, honestly, being fat does NOT inherently make a person depressed or even unhappy, regardless of what that WebMD article says. Being fat is like being white or black, or having red hair or freckles. It is what it is. Your body is your body. Our identities are our identities. Being fat has made me the person I am today. Regardless of how much I weigh, I will always be fat. I will always be a woman who is getting over a bad relationship with food. I will always be sort of in recovery, or remission, from my depression and compulsion problems. But what I can change, and am trying to change, right this very second, is the shame I feel over that.
… what she said.