I Love my Doctor

March 14, 2008

I’ve been seeing the same primary-care doctor for 15 years, since I graduated from college. He is truly outstanding. He’s very thorough, very attentive, extremely funny — and never blames my fat for causing illnesses. In the 15 years I’ve been going to him, I’ve probably gained 50 pounds, and yet he never brings up the topic of losing weight. About 5 years ago, my blood pressure was — for the first time in my life — consistently high. And *I* brought up my weight, asking if I should try to lose weight to lower my blood pressure.

Do you know what he said? “It might help, but it might not; there are a lot of skinny people with hypertension, and a lot of fat people without it.”

I could have kissed him. (And, eventually, after taking blood pressure meds for a couple of years, my blood pressure went back to normal, so I could stop taking the drugs. That was despite the fact that I *gained,* not lost, weight. So my kick-ass doctor was right!)

Anyway, I saw him today, because I’m fairly sure I have an ulcer, and after the appointment was over and I was driving back to work, it occurred to me how utterly fucking lucky I am to have such a good doctor who truly feels like he’s working *with* me, who never ever falls for the “But don’t you know FAT IS UNHEALTHY?!?” trap.

I wish everyone could have a doctor like him. We all deserve it.


"You’re losing weight!" — and — "Good Enough" Fat Activism?

March 12, 2008

Yesterday, one of my co-workers said to me, “I just wanted to let you know — I can really tell that you’re losing weight!” And she gestured towards her jawline, and then her general abdomen area. “Here, and here.”

And I agree with her; I’m pretty sure that I have lost some weight recently. After spraining the same ankle twice — in November and again at the end of December — my ability to exercise was extremely curtailed. But at the end of January, my ankle had healed enough that I could get back to the gym.

After 3 months of virtually no exercise, apparently the past 10 weeks of exercise (moderate though it is) has moved my body back in the direction of the shape it’s in when I regularly work out. Set point? Equilibrium? Whatever you want to call it, there’s a shape/size/weight my body settles at when I feed it well and move it frequently. Not being able to exercise for 3 months, quite understandably, skewed my size upwards. And now it’s skewing back down.

The reason I’ve gone back to the gym is NOT to lose weight; it’s because my ankle is healed enough to handle working out. I like the endorphin buzz. I like feeling — being — strong. I like watching the kids’ basketball games in the gym that the walking track overlooks.

It just happens that, because of the period of inactivity before I went back to the gym, I *am* losing some weight as my body settles where it wants to, based on how much I move it and what I feed it.

So when my co-worker said “I can tell you’re losing weight!” my reaction was, “Yeah, I think I am.” Because I didn’t realize at first that she was couching her statement as praise. So when I affirmed that there was less of me, she said, “Good job! Keep up the good work!”

And for the first time in my life, I didn’t react by being self-effacing (“Oh, well, it’s hard, but I’m trying!”) or self-hating (“Well, if I just lose 50/75/100 more pounds, then I’ll be happy!”). What I said, when she told me to keep up the good work, was, “Actually, I’m not *trying* to lose weight; I’m just exercising more than I had been able to do since before Thanksgiving.”

Her response to that? “Well, you *are* losing weight, and that’s GREAT!”

Honestly, it was almost 5:00, and I had no desire to start a long, drawn-out thing, so what I said back was, “Like I said, I’m not trying to lose weight; I’m just enjoying being able to exercise regularly again. It feels good.”

Should I have said more? Maybe. But I’m still so new to fat activism, and I’m still feeling the boundaries of how much education to offer people in different settings. I’d say much more to a friend or some family members, but at work, I don’t feel that it’s my place to sit someone down for a long discussion with charts and graphs and Web links.

Does that make me a “bad” fat activist? I don’t think so. Others might, and that’s their prerogative.

I also have to confess that there’s still part of me — the part that went to WW, the part that exercised compulsively in college, the part that was always told that I have “such a pretty face; the boys will line up for dates” if only I lost weight — that *did* feel a momentary thrill at my co-worker’s recognition. I’m *not* trying to lose weight; that never was the reason I started back at the gym. But over 20 years of wanting to lose weight, trying to lose weight, believing I should lose weight, believing I *can* lose weight if only I “try harder” — it installed a lot of bad beliefs that I’m having a hard time erasing. One of those is the desire for recognition of my “accomplishment.”

Does THAT make me a bad fat activist? I’ve read some fatosphere blogs recently where the sentiment has been expressed that anyone who wants to lose weight can’t really be a fat activist. I believe it was expressed something like “I don’t want you accepting my fat if you can’t accept your own.” Well, does that also include people who are pleased that someone noticed their weight loss, even if they hadn’t been trying to lose weight? Despite that contradiction, can *they* (and here I mean *me*) not be fat activists? I don’t think that attitude takes into account the reality that fat acceptance is a process, and not even a one-way process.

For me, it was a HUGE step forward that the reason I went back to the gym was NOT because I wanted to lose weight, but ONLY because I wanted to move my body. I missed working out, missed the endorphin buzz, missed the feeling of physical exertion.

That’s one step. Maybe the next step is not feeling that momentary flush of accomplishment if anyone remarks that I seem to have lost weight. But I obviously haven’t hit that step, and what I’m wondering is: where do I have to be in the fat acceptance process before my fat activism is legitimate to others in the fatosphere?

I’m not perfect. I’m deeply flawed. I thrill to *any* acknowledgment of my accomplishments — good grades in school, a promotion at work, having my writing published — so, yes, over 20 years of trying to lose weight instilled in me the desire to have weight loss acknowledged. And even now, when I *am* able to look at it and see that weight loss isn’t an “accomplishment” any more than weight gain is a “failure,” my old, ingrained reactions still kick in, even if it’s only for a moment.

I want to get past that. And I believe that I *am* getting past that. Is it good enough for the fat acceptance movement that I’m on the continuum, even if I’m not as far along as others?

I figure, as utterly ridiculous and damaging as hating myself for my weight is, it’s just as ridiculous to consider myself a “bad” fat activist for not being at the same stage of fat acceptance as others. Why trade one form of self-hatred for another? I won’t do that.

Where I am is where I am. *I* recognize that it’s a much healthier frame of mind than I’ve ever had, even if it still has contradictions in it. And I intend to keep moving forward, to get past those contradictions.

That’s good enough for me. It HAS to be.

Listening to My Body

March 5, 2008

I mentioned in my previous post that I sprained my left ankle — badly — twice in the span of 5 weeks. Sprain #2 happened on Christmas Eve, and since sprain #1 hadn’t even totally healed at that point (I was wearing a [crappy] ankle brace when I re-sprained my ankle, as a matter of fact), it’s taken a good 8 weeks for me to feel like my ankle is well on the road to recovery. I still wear a brace (a much better one than the one I was wearing for sprain #2) when I work out, but for the most part it feels pretty good.

Because of my ankle’s self-destructive streak, from early November through the end of January, I didn’t exercise at all. So when I got back to the gym at the end of January, I wasn’t able to do very much at first, partly because my ankle couldn’t tolerate much exercise, and partly because 10+ weeks of inactivity left me extremely out of shape. It almost felt like I was starting a “fitness regime” from scratch. And, I guess, in a way I was.

At first, all I could do was walk around the track for 10 minutes, at a fairly slow pace, before my ankle screamed in protest. I limited that to twice a week in the beginning. And then as my ankle got stronger, allowing me to increase the time and pace and frequency of workouts, the rest of my body screamed in protest. My body at rest wanted to stay at rest.

I’m up to 3 times a week, 30 minutes of walking or stationary biking at a time, and I feel pretty good about that. I mean to say — my body feels good with that level of activity. I love the endorphin buzz I get when it’s all over, and I love that I’m starting to feel stronger and more energetic.

Adding more activity is making me hungrier on a daily basis, which makes sense. And I’m doing pretty well at not berating myself for needing more food to fuel my activity, which is a nice mental change.

However, adding more activity is also leading to muscle fatigue when I increase the amount of time or intensity of my workout. This also makes sense. And yet, when I decided to skip my workout yesterday because my legs were sore and trembling, I felt like I had just committed a HUGE sin. Like the equivalent of eating a puppy. A cute puppy.

But here’s the thing: despite the guilt, I still listened to my body and actually gave it what it needed. I didn’t try to push through the fatigue and get in a workout because I “was supposed” to. I went home, pulled out my MegaYoga book, and did some yoga poses for about 20 minutes to try to alleviate the soreness in my legs. And then I ate a good dinner because I was hungry, watched some TV with the boyfriend, and got a good night’s sleep.

Today, I don’t feel one bit of guilt about not going to the gym. And it’s weird, but I can feel my body thanking me.

It’s Been a While

February 27, 2008

Hi, y’all.

Truly, I didn’t intend to abandon my blog — or fat acceptance — after my last entry. The issue (my boyfriend asking me if I was “going to get bigger”) did spin my head, in a lot of ways. It brought up a LOT of old, ugly feelings from my childhood, and let me tell you, old shit is so much harder to deal with than new shit. So there was that.

Also, when I recounted the “Are you going to get bigger?” story to a close friend, instead of sympathy, what I got was this reply: “You’re fooling yourself if you think you’re healthy.” Followed by “I’m only saying this because I love you and don’t want to see you hurting yourself.”

I seethed for about a month, avoided the friend, and then sat him down and told him exactly what a load of crap he was dealing. In response, he was…patronizing, let’s say. So there’s been some fallout from that.

Also, I did, in fact, move in with my boyfriend at the beginning of December, and while actually living together is great, relationship-wise, the logistics have consumed all my extra energy. We combined 2 households into his tiny (900 square feet) house that has only 2 closets (one in each bedroom, and that’s it), and the upshot is that we’re STILL unpacking, 3 months after the move date.

All of that, plus the rest of real life (work, holidays, family) has just kept me from blogging. I’ve been reading the fatosphere, but I haven’t had the time or energy to actually write, myself.

I want to get back to it, though, because this is important to me. This is important, period.

And because I’m back in a mindset that I don’t like. Here’s the sitch: back in mid-November, I sprained my ankle pretty badly, but it was recovering nicely after about a month. On Christmas Eve — 5 weeks after the sprain — I re-sprained the same ankle, horribly. So it’s been about 8 weeks since Sprain II, and (with the help of a really good brace), I’ve been going back to the gym. I need to walk so that my ankle stays flexible and gets stronger. Plus, I don’t like the way I feel when I’m sedentary — I feel sluggish, and I sleep poorly, and, well, I miss the endorphin buzz.

So I’ve been gradually increasing my walking time, as well as using the stationary bike at the gym, and I am loving that feeling I have when I’m finished — all warm and limp-dishrag-y yet energized and content. It’s good.

Except, of course, for the mindset that I’ve slid back into. That’s the mindset, of course, that kicks in the moment I do any vigorous physical activity: “Hey, I just worked out! I’ll probably start losing weight any minute now, right? Right? I mean, I just burned calories! Why am I not losing weight? Why? WHYYYYYYYY?”

I’m not doing this to lose weight; I’m doing it for ankle rehab and because I love the endorphin buzz. Except, apparently, some part of me DOES think I’m doing this to lose weight, and now I’m getting buggy and obsessive about it — like, if I don’t get to the gym 3 times in a week, I castigate myself for being “lazy” and tell myself I’ll NEVER make any progress, now.

I definitely DON’T want to think that way. I’m trying so hard not to, but I can’t eradicate it totally. I wish I knew how.

Anyway, hi again, y’all. I’m back.

Radio Silence (or Internet Silence, I Guess)

October 8, 2007

After my last post, I had a lot of discussions with my boyfriend. And I’ve been AWOL from posting here — even from reading other fatosphere blogs — because I feel like the only acceptable reaction I could have had to him asking me (re: the future) “Are you going to get bigger?” would have been to triumphantly return and proclaim that, for my own good AND the good of fat activists everywhere, I dumped his ass!!!

But I didn’t.

And, see, while I appreciate all the thoughtful comments on my last post — MORE than any of you will EVER know — I still feel like any attempts I make to explain our relationship, the length, depth, and breadth of it, all the nooks and crannies of it, will just be seen as excuses. That, because of one question, one literally unprecedented hurtful action, I should have kicked him to the curb and strode away powerfully in my Right Fit jeans. That there could be NO EXCUSE for staying with a boyfriend who asked such a question of me (even though it was, as I said, literally the first hurtful thing he had done in the course of our relationship).

Anything I say right now sounds like an excuse, and in the face of the comments urging me to ditch him and look for someone who is truly accepting, I don’t think there IS any way to explain my decision to stay together, and have it not sound like a pathetic excuse. It’s NOT a pathetic excuse, and it certainly wasn’t a decision I made without a lot of thought.

Don’t get me wrong — his question left me upset, angry, pissed, emotionally bruised, stunned, bewildered — you pick the adjective. I didn’t take his question lightly (obviously, if you read my previous post). I didn’t take his attitude behind it lightly. We talked. A hell of a lot. And then more. And still more.

Ultimately, we are who we are, he and I. Either you believe me or you don’t when I say that this one incident — severe though it was, and not without repercussions — isn’t indicative of our relationship. How we dealt with it, however, IS.

"…are you going to get bigger?"

August 30, 2007

I grew up with a mother who was a model before she met my dad. She has always kept her weight low, and she has a very ectomorphic body type, in addition to being 3-4 inches taller than me.

The pursuit of thinness has always been paramount to her, and got foisted onto me as I grew up. It didn’t matter that I’m built differently than she is (I’m shorter, and I put on muscle really easily, and my fat is distributed in a curvy hips-ass-boobs pattern), she was still as obsessed with my weight as she was with hers. She truly believes — and always told me so — that “the boys will line up to date you if you just lose some weight.”

Meaning, my weight makes me unlovable. And I’ve always believed that, partly because it seemed to be true — no one ever wanted to date me. (When I was a teenager, I didn’t understand the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, and how believing something can *make* it true.) So I’ve always considered my weight to be something much more than just excess fat and flesh; if it made me so damned unloveable, then it must be something horrible and disgusting.

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for over a year now, and we’ve been seriously considering moving in together. In fact, our recent vacation was somewhat of a test to see if we could tolerate each other in close quarters for an extended period of time.

I really can’t over-emphasize what a good relationship this is. He is truly the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known. He’s never careless with my feelings. I feel totally safe with him.

My boyfriend and I talked last night about the prospect of moving in together, now that the vacation “experiment” is over. We talked about still having some fears, but that for the most part we want to do it.

And then my boyfriend said, “Okay, here comes a major question….” And he paused, and then asked, “….are you going to get bigger?”

For a split second, I just wanted to die.

You know, people can’t help who they’re attracted to, or what physical attributes they find attractive/unattractive. But I had just been assuming that my weight wasn’t an issue with him, because he regularly demonstrates that he is *very* attracted to me. I mean, I *thought* so. You can’t fake sexual arousal; or, at least, I can’t fathom why anyone would fake it that frequently for such a long period of time.

So, if I go with the assumption that he *is* currently attracted to me, his question still makes me think only one thing: that there is a point — a weight — at which I would be unattractive and disgusting to him.

Just like my mom said.

I’m really thrown for such a loop right now. After he asked me that question, every old fear and old ugly belief came rushing back, and crushed any semblance of body acceptance I had developed. I cried and cried and cried and could hardly even talk, for at least an hour. Finally I calmed down a little, and we talked through it. I explained all the old shit with my mom, and my old ugly fears. He told me that he *is* attracted to me. However, he didn’t address the issue of whether or not he’d find me unattractive if I gained any more weight. And I certainly wasn’t going to press the issue.

He has always been so careful with my feelings, and I know that he didn’t ask that question to hurt me. But I also don’t know how he thought it would do anything *but* hurt.

I feel like shit right now. I feel disgusting and ugly and worthless. I woke up this morning with my head full of plans to exercise 7 days a week and go back to Weight Watchers. That’s not the answer, I realize that. Accepting my body is the answer, I guess. But all I can think at this particular moment is: does it matter if *I* accept my body, when the man I love *doesn’t*?

Vacation and Exercise

August 29, 2007

I was on vacation last week, in gorgeous northern California. It was the first trip that my boyfriend and I took together, and we were both privately wondering if this would sound the death knell for the relationship. (I am, without question, difficult to travel with; The Boy thinks that *he* is difficult to travel with. The result, of course, is that we got on like peas in a pod, and had an excellent time.)

These days, I don’t exercise as much as I used to, due to the ever-present time crunch (and, okay, laziness). In an “active” week, I walk on the treadmill 2 or 3 times, and do yoga 1 or 2 times. I’m trying to do yoga more frequently, because I am astonishingly inflexible. Some days I feel like I’m made of stone.

I’d like to get back to walking on the treadmill (or around the neighborhood) 4 or 5 times a week. Not because I think it’ll make me lose weight, but because that’s always been the level of activity that makes my body feel the best — I feel alert and energized all day, and I sleep well at night, and everything just seems to function better.

But even though I get less exercise than I used to, I’m not sedentary. Walking around a city and sightseeing isn’t a daunting task for me. Granted, northern California is all hills, and I cheerfully loathe walking uphill — but I have no problem doing it. Yes, walking up a big hill makes me breathe harder, but that’s the point — it’s *supposed* to be harder than just walking on level ground.

While we were on vacation, we returned the rental car once we got to San Francisco, preferring public transportation to the hell of trying to park in San Francisco. After we dropped off the rental car, we had to walk back to where we were staying, maybe a mile or so. Not a difficult walk.

I don’t know if I looked like I was about to collapse, or if I was sweaty and red-faced, or if I was just muttering too loudly about being lazy and wanting to take a cab, but whatever the reason, after we finished our walk, my boyfriend told me, “I’m proud of you for walking back and sticking with it.” I said, “It really *wasn’t* difficult; I was serious about just being lazy.” My boyfriend said, “Still, I’m proud of you.”

And it made me think, oh my god — is that how he sees me? As a Jabba-the-Hutt-esque blob who can barely move? I mean, he was *proud* of me for walking A MILE? That isn’t exactly Olympics-level. Which then (of course) launches me into all kinds of related panicky thoughts: Is he disgusted by my body? Is he embarassed by my weight? Does he want me to lose weight but just doesn’t know how to say so? Was that a hint?

And then, of course, I get angry with myself for even thinking those things, and for caring about whether he thinks I’m too fat, when I should be focusing on accepting my body the way it is, and giving it the exercise it needs.