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[personal profile] catvalente

So as not to bury the lede, and so that if you find this sort of thing triggery or simply boring, you can skip right along, let me cut to the title card: I have lost 90 pounds (about 41 kg) over the last 18 months. I’ve gone from a size 18, creeping up on 20 to a size 6 creeping down on 4, if the black alchemical demonology of American women’s clothes sizing is a thing you can parse.

It’s weird. It’s surreal. It still seems impossible, even though I was, obviously, there the whole time and I did it on purpose. I’m gonna talk about it. With gusto.

This is going to be a series of not-short posts (it’s a pretty major thing in my life, I feel like I can take some space to ruminate like a boss) concerning how and why I did it, what the effects on my health and my life have been, and my thoughts on what it all means, both to me personally and in the funky social primateworld at large. I intend to be quite forthright and open about my own history, habits, body, psyche, and numbers–all things not spoken of in company. Because everyone can judge you for your body, but no one wants to hear what you go through on account of it. I’m doing this because I think it’s important, if I’m going to talk about this thing at all (and I’m going to try super hard not to call it a “journey” or a “transformation” or any of that diet blog jazz), to be plain and unashamed of either my former self or my current one, and none of it embarrasses me–we all own a body. It’s useful for me to write out all this stuff for myself, but obviously I’m doing it online because I want to discuss it with other, not myself, people. So to further that discussion I’m not going to be coy.

That said, I am exquisitely, painfully aware that this is not a value-neutral topic. I have done my own time reading blog posts by my friends detailing their fitness or weight loss or even just the cute clothes they bought and feeling deep shame, self-hatred, and a weird melange of envy, resignation, a frantic marshaling of resources to still feel like I was ok, and a renewed conviction that I was the ugliest beast to walk the earth.

I do not want to make anyone feel this way by talking about my journey my transformation how I spent my summer vacation. I am acutely, personally aware of not only the privilege of body conforming but, to my mind even more pervasive an pernicious, the privilege of pretty. IT IS SOME COMPLEX SHIT YOU GUYS. I’ve been thinking about it for, like, half my life. And even more pressingly in the years since I turned into a person who gets their photograph taken on the frequent, whose face is public property and represents not just me but my work.

I’m going to talk about all of that. It is not separable from the story of how anyone changes their body in the current cultural climate. This isn’t a thinspiration rally. It’s a stock-taking of where I am and where I want to be, where I’ve been and how I got from there to here, with here being a constantly-fluctating state. It’s not about success or a victory lap or spitting on the body I had before. On the other hand, I am glad and proud that I did what I did. Dude, it was hard. COMPLEX. WARNING: XXX HARDCORE PSYCHO-CONFESSIONAL ACTION INCOMING.

So given all that, we gotta have some ground rules going in.

1. If you find these kinds of posts upsetting and damaging, for whatever reason, please, please just don’t read it. 

You have the power to just click away and not feel bad or spend the afternoon having tea with self-loathing. It won’t hurt my feelings and hell, there may not even be anything new or useful in here. That’s the risk of any personal blogging. I didn’t post about the process over the last 18 months for precisely the reason that body stuff is so fraught and so hard and so triggery for so many people. So you fully have my permission to just carry on as though I never posted about it–and if you have a history of eating disorders, maybe you should. It’s cool, I swear. Nobody else’s body should have the power to harm the way you see your own. If you have trouble with that, and fuck, I know I do, don’t give me that power. Keep it for yourself.

2. When I get to the part about how I lost weight, there is a giant flashing neon sign over every word and that sign says: These Things Worked for Me But They May Not Work For You, Some May Even Be Terrible Ideas For You, Because Everyone Is Different And If This Crap Were Universal or Easy How Would An Entire Industry Revolve Around Making Us Feel Bad About It?

And I’m going to get into my own history pretty seriously before I start telling you what app I used and all that. Because I could just say I tried a whole bunch of diets in the past but none really worked til now but then I’d just sound like a diet infomercial and there is an actual place in actual hell where you just have to watch those on a loop for all eternity. I said I was taking stock. That means opening up boxes in the back room and seeing what’s there. THIS IS ME WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW IT’S GONNA GET ALL INTIMATE UP IN HERE.

3. This is not, and I will not let it become, about fat-shaming.

I say that because in telling you how I thought of myself through most of my adult life, I’m going to say some gross stuff. The world is SUPER EFFECTIVE at making fat people, particularly fat women, feel like utter slime about their bodies and I internalized a fire hose stream of that liquid crap over the course of my life. I’m slowly getting better about how I treat myself–it takes longer than losing weight to right that, actually. But there is a world of difference between I felt deep shame because I was fat and being fat is shameful. Mainly, the first one is a true fact and the second one is bullshit. So when I talk about my broken brain, it’s to say: my brain was broken, and if you feel like this sometimes, well, reading that someone else does too doesn’t make you right, but maybe it makes you feel less alone.

To wit:

4. There will be no nonsense in the comments on the subjects of how terrible fat people are and how superior not-fat people are.

Pretty simple. I will kill that noise with an axe.

Ok. For those of you still here, let’s get this thing off the ground already. Imma tell it like a story, because that’s what I do. And that means AWKWARD FRONTLOADED EXPOSITION, YO.

A Brief History of My Human Suit

NEWS AT 11 YOUNG WOMAN HAS SOME ISSUES WITH HER BODY AND FOOD.

Let me try to arrange them for you in a tasteful bouquet.

I was a thin child in a family of athletic people who became a thin (but not athletic because apparently where I have the bookish nerd gene all my siblings have the awesomely competent at sports gene) teenager. I wouldn’t say I had the worst upbringing ever in terms of food. My stepmother (who has never been anything but a tiny, tiny woman; even her handwriting is thin and small) was always strictly Americana–not a lot of fresh or fancy stuff, but canned and frozen veggies everywhere, balanced meals, packed lunches, lots of casseroles and baked chicken and an unfortunate taste for Butter Buds and margarine and other artificially stuff but seriously no worse than anyone ever had growing up in the 80s. I was, however, brought up Christian Scientist, and boy howdy will that do a number on your ideas about your body. CS teaches that you don’t have one, see. Matter is mortal error–we are all perfect mind and this world is an illusion so no doctors because anything that’s wrong can be fixed with your mind because that’s all you are. (Step 3 is definitely profit. I seriously challenge you to have anything to do with that faith and come out with a normal relationship to either food or sex.)

My mother swung the other way. If she were a worse person she’d be a total food hipster–she was all organic and local and natural as mud before it was cool or even particularly easy to do that. There was a lot of carob, is what I’m saying, and I will go to my grave insisting that carob tastes not of chocolate or treats but a fallen world and your parents’ lies.

My brother John and I took over the household cooking when I was 13 and he was 8, as Mom was deep in her PhD program and we were interested and it beat almost any other chore we might get stuck with instead. We taught each other how to cook through trial and error and about a million cookbooks. (This was the Pre-Internet Universe) I still remember that our toaster broke at some point and we couldn’t afford a new one, so we adapted. I think our adaptation says a lot about who John and I are as people and our relationship to food: our afterschool snack became whatever spelt or quinoa or unicorn-pelt bagels we had on hand, split in half and pan-fried, with caramelized onions on top.

John is now quite a successful chef.

The point is, I love food, always have, always will. I am not a professional chef, clearly, but I am a damn fine cook and I pride myself on my ability to make more or less anything fantastically. I don’t think that’s boasting. The only thing I’ve been doing as long as I’ve been making overly-complicated meals is writing. You get pretty ok at things you do for a decade and a half.

Bear with me, I promise this is important.

So my attitude toward eating has always been, and remains, the opposite of the food is fuel meme that so many people espouse to my eternal bafflement. Food is pleasure and social interaction and caretaking and not a little bit of magic. In college I used to throw Stone Soup parties to feed my friends who lived on pizza and Coke: everyone bring an ingredient and I will mother you for the night. We have to eat to live, why not make it a joy and an art and an experience?

I fully admit that this isn’t an attitude that will universally lead to rock-hard abs and catwalks. That in particular never bothered me–but it’s easy to not get bothered when you’re sixteen, 100 pounds with clothes on, and blissfully unaware of the calorie content of anything you choose to eat. It is, however, among all the assumptions and beliefs and needs I was willing to alter or give up to lose weight, one I utterly refused to abandon.

Some of this is hard to write and to fess up to. I’m going to try to keep this personal rather than general–no generic “you”s, because good lord, I don’t know your life. But I suspect I am not alone in that I had a lot of ways of thinking about my weight that involved it not being about food per se, that involved it not being entirely my fault. Or my fault at all. Some of them were even true. For example–I first gained a significant amount of weight around age 17 when I went on Depo-Provera. (That’s a birth control shot, in case it just looks like medical word salad.)

Up until then I had been a pretty, bone-thin girl, an active dancer and actress. The picture of an ingenue. I didn’t have an eating disorder and I didn’t hate my body beyond having no breasts at all and shorter than everyone else in my family. I was a giant poetry-scribbling barefoot long-haired theatre dork with a feminist mother who taught me not to care what other people thought of my body. So far so good.

I really don’t know if Depo has been refined at all since but back then everyone I knew who got on it had terrible health issues. I had to sign a waiver saying I understood that I might gain some weight (the form said 5-10 pounds) before they would even prescribe it! I figured I could stand to gain ten pounds. Instead, I gained 40 in about three months. I had blood-red stretch marks all over my body, and having never been anything but tiny, I honestly thought I was dying. I went to the doctor for stretch marks because I was convinced they were a fatal disease.

So that sucked. And shortly after that, I moved in with my then-boyfriend, future-husband and his parents, and all those body issues I didn’t have came crashing down in the form of those parents’ opinions on the decline of my physique. At 5’4 I now weighed 140 pounds and that was apparently sufficient to trigger deep concern, fad diets that “we’d all go on together” (Oh Herbalife, how I hate you) and lectures on my health and attractiveness. Weight Watchers Points Are Your God Now. My ex-husband had his own crippling self-image problems and fully admitted years later that he’d been waiting through our whole relationship for me to go back to the way I was when we met. When I was 15. My high school sweetheart, who turned out not to be such a sweetheart when we broke up, smugly quipped, when he saw me post weight gain, that “now her outsides match her inside.” This is but a small sampling of the cargo of judgment that came sailing my way in the Good Ship We Just Want You to Be Healthy.

I got the message. 140 pounds was unforgivably obese. Not only obese, but that number contained some coded information about who I was as a person, and if I wasn’t at a good weight, I simply wasn’t a good person. I seized on the image of myself at 15 as the True Image of Me. That was what I looked like. That was who I was. A good girl. A happy girl. A thin girl. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you may remember my posting not a few times about that cognitive dissonance.

Some people might have had the mental wherewithal to turn that into the mysterious magical OHHHH YEEEEAAAAH fruit punch called “motivation” but I am not those people. For all my ignorance of body-hatred, my fairy-tale level broken childhood left me with no defenses at all when it came (and comes) to love offered and withheld. Eventually I went off Depo, but I ate my feels FOREVER, abandoning even the pretense of food as joy and art and just eating Jack in the Box because it made me feel better and I was broke anyway so that’s what I could afford.

And for a long time I just blamed it all on birth control. I lost some weight when I switched to the pill, but the pill ain’t so hot for your body either and I was, as previously reported, eating for two: me and my sadness.

But I actually did lose a goodly amount of the weight at one point. My self-loathing reached a peak when I started college at UC San Diego, Home of the Perfect Blond California Co-Ed and State of the Art Fitness Facility In Lieu of Adequate Student Housing. I went to a dance class and weighed myself in the locker room (I’d started avoiding scales) and saw that I’d hit 202 pounds. It was crushing, that number. Keep it in mind for later. I was 21. Over the course of about 10 months I lost 47 pounds and at 155 was a size 8 and pretty damned happy there. The rush of success and the constant praise of anyone who saw me losing weight temporarily bounced me back into the innocence of my Pre-Body-Loathing Adamic Garden.

How did I do it then? Well, it was the year 2000/2001. Cast back your mind. Taking all bets!

LOOK HERE, LADIES AND GENTS, WE HAVE A WINNER! THE WHEEL OF POOR LIFE CHOICES LANDS ON ATKINS AND PSEUDO-EPHEDRINE!

Oh, yeah. Those were the days! And this was before Atkins became so popular that you could get low-carb stuff anywhere you looked. I didn’t even know it was called Atkins at first. I actually took a damn number off of one of those 30 Pounds In 30 Days! fliers stapled to a telephone pole on campus. First of all, I know those things look sketchy, but DUDE THEY ARE SUPER SKETCHY. I was given directions to a guy’s condo. I took my ex-boyfriend/husband/boyband for backup. I was given a list of low-glycemic foods, a brochure about how Carbs Are Satan and Have Poisoned the Soul of Civilization With Evil, instructions to call a number and report my stats every three days on account of how they were conducting Srs Bsns Klinikal Trialz, and a 30-day supply of “supplements.” At the end of 30 days I could come back and get more.

Well, I was 21 and I hated myself and I’d had to sit through worse from Herbalife salesmen, who also would like you to take a range of horse pills with dubious ingredients.  Plus fancy science words! Seemed legit!

Well, it worked. At the time I was like IT WORKS BECAUSE OF MAH DISCIPLINE AND AWESOMENESS. And I did stick religiously to the no-carb thing, even when it meant literally sitting at an empty cafeteria table crying because there was nothing I could eat. But mainly, mainly, I think it probably worked because those pills were pseudo-ephedrine/stone cold speed. I say this because since the FDA got all party pooper on that particular “herbal” supplement, I have not been able to lose a significant amount of weight on low-carb diets. More on that anon.

So what happened? What usually happens when you lose weight through a fad diet and pills. I moved to Scotland and ate all the fried things and gained it all back. Whatever role the birth control had in Original Recipe Weight Gain, the second one was all on me. I leveled up my cooking and I lived with a guy who said food is fuel with his mouth and McDonalds tastes like love with his soul and I didn’t pay attention or own a scale because I figured I had Lost the Weight and therefore I Was Done. Results: predictable.

For the rest of my twenties and into my thirties, I went through the So-Classic-It-Wears-A-Toga cycle of “I am a pig and it’ll never change and I’m worthless anyway so why bother trying” through to “I’m going to do X crash diet and that’ll fix it and this time I won’t fill my soul with meat pies and I’ll be True Me again.”

Essentially, if you can think of a LOSE WEIGHT NOW diet that seems both scientifically and morally dubious, I’ve done it. Those “Hollywood” juice fasts that taste like passionfruit, aspartame, and nihilism? So many times. Master Cleanse (the “cleanse” means poop)? Sure, only it’s so gross I only made it two days. Blood Type? Mostly Yogurt? Everything Has Acai In It Because Reasons? South Beach? Warrior Diet? All Fruit? Pay Per View Lose Weight By Breathing Fast for 10 Minutes a Day? OH YES SIR SEND ME THOSE TAPES 2 EZ PAYMENTS.

And because it’s how I’d done it before and there was so much blather about how carbs are an invention of the Uggo-Industrial Establishment and THEY ARE COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN I kept coming back to Atkins and its fell sisters. But it made me so miserable. Just cranky and angry all the time, and exhausted, and unsatisfied. And not even really losing much weight. Turns out sparklejitter pseudo-ephedrine REALLY HELPS OUT with losing weight fast and set me up to think I’d always be making significant progress every three days. And I wasn’t. So I’d give up. All those diets were so restrictive that I would just break down crying after a few weeks and give up. I mean, the breathing one was cool. But not what you call “effective” or “not a hilarious scam.”

I didn’t do the thing where you just drink passionhorror juice and not exercise, either. Though, looking back, I really, really seem to have had a problem with late night television, impulse control, and OUR REVOLUTIONARY SYSTEM WILL TURN YOUR LIFE AROUND tapes. When I recall mistily Exercise Regimens I Have Known, I see VHS tapes. VHS tapes everywhere. Tae Bo, Abs of Steel, the Goddess Workout, Jane Fonda On a Trampoline, Pilates At Home, Ab Roller…ah, my old friends! Wii Fit, I haven’t forgotten you!

I did, while living in Japan, manage to turn it around a little. I was 24 and alone more or less all the time as boyband (now full-fledged husband) was at sea for the vast majority of our time there, and at some point I was all I have nothing but time. I should just flip out and do whatever one of the million and four Designed For Dudes, By Dudes workout books in his office tells me and then when he gets back I’ll be pretty again and Everything Will Be Fixed.

And by Everything I meant not just my body but my whole life because they were the same in my head. Indivisible, with humiliation and vicious cycles for all.

The book in question was Body for Life. It remains one of the worst-written diet/lifestyle/exercise books I’ve ever read. It’s very meathead hoo-rah beefcaaaaake. It promised, as they all do, 12 weeks from obesity to rippled muscle deity, and while, to my credit, I knew that was crap, I did think the severity of the system would deliver–and it did. I only lost about 12 pounds over 12 weeks, but I put on a lot of muscle and lost something like 20 inches total and I was considerably stronger. Went from a size 16 to a 12–pretty respectable. Plus I felt all badass with my weight lifting. While I went through my workout every day I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs for the first time and I’m not gonna pretend like I didn’t get cheerful when considering whether I could take on a vampire.

There was no chance I was going to stick with the diet after 12 weeks, though, no matter how many times the book said it was a “lifestyle change” and not a diet and should become a Way of Life. A Way of Life that involved buying a bimonthly truck full of their supplements and meal replacement bars and shakes which tasted like powdered ovaltine DEATH. And on top of that, it was the epitome of “food is fuel.” There was absolutely no concern for how anything tasted–dry spices were allowed, but no salt, no oil, no condiments but mustard. You’re gonna eat undressed steaks and plain baked potatoes (I don’t even like baked potatoes) veggies with ONE of your six daily meals (for moral fiber, I guess) and an infinite number of egg whites. To add insult to injury, it intended to make up for that by encouraging you to use margarine, salt substitutes, fat free and sugar free products of dubious space origin, all manner of artificial substances that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike food. Everything tasted terrible all the time. I felt good because I was strong and much healthier, but I was deeply unhappy because I felt like I’d excised an entire sense from my life and replaced it with dust and shadows. (On the other hand, I could have as much dust as I liked.)

So Body for Life was pretty much destined to be Body for As Long As I Can Stand It for me, and it was. I came back to America and got a divorce and got together with Dmitri and I was happy, so much happier than I had been, and he didn’t judge me or think I was anything less than beautiful, he wasn’t waiting for me to be “willowy” again, and I let myself relax, really relax about it for a few years. I sort of just accepted that I was fat, but still had a pretty enough face and that was just how it was. Maybe I had a slow metabolism. Nothing was wrong with my thyroid and I had low blood pressure and no health issues, so this was just my body and I would live in it. I’d been struggling with it for so long it just didn’t seem possible that anything would really change and I just had to look on the bright side. I had a great rack (finally!) and awesome hair and nice eyes. I was loved, and my career was going well. I was cooking like a fiend because I was happy and I was making a new home. Writing is, of course, a solidly Sitting Down lifestyle, and my particular brand of Getting Books Done involves just not noticing that I have a body for several weeks and putting anything it wants in it to keep going. So I slalomed between homecooking domestic Strega Nona and a high-performance ice cream-to-literature conversion engine. And yet, it was a peaceful time in the part of my head that controls berating myself.

But it crept back up. All of it, eventually. I never escaped the poisonous idea that that image of myself at 15 was the Right One and I was failing by being so immensely Other Than That. I loathed having my picture taken or seeing any photos of any part of me (thanks, Facebook tags!). I got married and even on my wedding day I spent half the time internally beating myself up about how big I was. I was ashamed to go home and see my family, none of whom ever seemed to struggle with more than a spare 10 pounds or so. (And some of my family never said a word, and some did say words.) Shopping for clothes was agony. I avoided full length mirrors; I tried to ignore the fact that I existed from the neck down. I felt embarrassed every time someone met me who I’d only known online, or anyone who had read my books but never seen me. I was always convinced they were disappointed. That they secretly thought less of me. That is not a good mindset for an up and coming author, I tell you what. Conventions were often torture. There was no article of clothing I could buy that didn’t make me feel like an ogre. Just the shame I felt at being seen in public looking the way I did was a constant pain. And oh, that lovely Wiscon-past when that woman took secret pictures of all of us fatties and posted them to 4chan with color commentary! GOOD TIMES.

I was still loved. My career was still going well. But to be perfectly honest, 70% of my brain processes were pretty much taken up with feeling like shit because of how I looked. That’s how bad it was in my insides. Comparing myself to others. Promising myself that I’d change. Losing hope that I ever could. That constant voice that whispers in your ear that no one really likes you or could ever be attracted to you, they just feel sorry for you because you’re ugly. It was exhausting. The bandwidth it took up in my head was staggering. (This is not meant to be a valentine box where you can tell me I was always beautiful in the comments. I realize that my self-image was seriously bent. That’s kind of the thing about body-image issues. You can’t see yourself, you can only hear your worst thoughts.)

I’d go through phases of trying to piece together something from my two successes–work out all the time but screw that Eat This Margarinotato And Love It diet. Try to run–hated running with a fiery, all-consuming passion. More low-carb attempts. Didn’t really help and I couldn’t stick with it anyway due to getting the meat-sads after a week. But it turns out that if you don’t change your diet you’ll just get strong underneath the fat–and I know that’s a good thing, but it didn’t help me to not cringe every time I saw myself in the mirror. If I ever did manage to make progress, I’d then go on tour or hit the convention season hard or have another book to power through and it would all unravel.

And I do live on the internet. I read all the blogs that talked about accepting your body at any size and I believed (and still do) every word of it–but not for myself. Other people are beautiful at any size. Other people should embrace their bodies and feel no shame and to hell with anyone who says different. Other people are gorgeous and happy and fat at the same time and other people are awesome.

But not me. I hated every inch of my body and I could fully hold the conflicting ideas in my head that a. being fat isn’t a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful and if you’re healthy that’s all that matters and b. I am disgusting because I am fat and I deserve nothing ever goodnight.

That’s some ugly shit to say. There’s a certain acceptable narrative of weight loss that goes: I just wanted to get healthy, it wasn’t about conforming to beauty ideals, I loved my body then and I love it now, I only did it for my health or to build strength and no other reason. It’s not about how you look, it’s never about how you look. No, no, no, of course not. People who care about that sort of thing are shallow, even though how you look is literally the battleground on which a very specific cultural war is being constantly fought. I always thought, with a bitter frown: Buddy and/or Lady, if it wasn’t about how you looked, why did you post before and after pictures?

And yeah, getting healthier was a thing for me. But I also reached a breaking point of cognitive dissonance and self-flagellation and that was a thing, too. I don’t feel like I can be honest about it if I don’t say that you know what? I was spending all day every day running a constant background program of iamtheabsoluteworst.exe and that wasn’t about my inability to run a 9 minute mile, that was about how I looked. Which feeling is absolutely informed by my whole history and everything anyone ever said to me about my weight and the whole of our culture that says a woman looks this way and if you don’t you are invisible and had best act like it also no fatties lol. I tried to not give a shit how I looked. I was and am smart and capable and funny and I know stuff about stuff and I had a partner who loved me and it shouldn’t matter and I tried to brute-force it into not mattering for years. I succeeded for whole days at a time. But I am steeped in my culture and you guys it is stupid hard not to give a shit how you look when so much is predicated upon it around here.

These are bad things to think. Let me be straight about that. It ain’t right. This is how culture talks when it’s so deep in your head you mistake it for your own, authentic voice. We’ve had some cowboys in here. It’s taken a lot of time and talking to even get my head on as straight as it is about it now. I lay it all out because the only way to purge this stuff personally and at large is to talk about it and every post I ever read where someone lost a lot of weight made it sound like everything was awesome then and it’s awesome now and we always lived in awesometown all the awesometime with our awesomepuppies being awesome together. It just made me feel worse because really, if the rule was you had to love yourself before you can make a change? I was never going to make that change. I wasn’t the kind of mentally balanced, self-accepting, devil may care diva that achieved total body transformation and then said they never cared what anyone thought like an Oscar winner saying it’s not about the accolades. That river of awfulness was the internal monologue I had on infinite repeat and it was absolute acid to my psyche. I got to a point where I simply couldn’t hear anything else and apply it to me personally. Acceptance was for other people. Better people. Literally anyone else I know. I would look at my friends who were plus size, some bigger than me, and I thought they were hot and amazing and I’d bash my heart in for not being more like them. I wish I had been a better person and not just constantly chewed my soul to bits over it, but I wasn’t. I just wasn’t. I’d read the Fat Nutritionist and think: yeah, but she weighs less than me. Look how pretty she is. It’s all fine for her but I’m still scum. AWESOME. SLOW CLAP FOR CAT’S BRAIN.

And that brings us up to 18 months ago. And the funny thing is, it’s not even that I hated myself into a frenzy and flipped out and took ahold of my fate and full speed ahead. I was relatively at peace with it for once–at peace for me, which meant that I figured I’d just always be fat and obviously that meant I was lesser and bad and fundamentally unlovable, but I’ll just have to keep on being lesser and bad and fundamentally unlovable so yay I guess. A couple of months before I started this particular journey transformation slouching toward Bethlehem I even went through my closet and threw out all (minus two or three items which I thought I might cut up and make into something else) the stuff I’d been holding onto on the assumption that some day it would fit. It wouldn’t, and GOD I was just being a gross cliche by keeping them.

August, 2011 and I’d hit 250 pounds, though I didn’t know it yet, because I had made the decision years back not to own a scale, as numbers just made me feel like dirt and I’d know by clothes not fitting right or fitting better how things were going. (Oh, Rocky, that trick never works.) So far beyond the 202 that had crushed me so much in college. So far from the 140 at which I was first told my body was completely unacceptable I couldn’t see it with a time-traveling telescope. And I had absolutely zero faith or hope that I was actually going to be able to do anything meaningful this time at bat, either.

It was the Wrongness Cherry on top of the giant sundae of all the things I’d been Wrong About.

To Be Continued…

Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

Thank You

Date: 2013-06-06 11:47 pm (UTC)
eredien: Dancing Dragon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eredien
I have been feeling that cognitive dissonance for years now and it's wonderful to see someone addressing such a loaded and important topic so honestly. I'm trying to lose weight, again; I've been overweight for my entire adult life. I'm unhappy about it because even though I want to do it and need to do it for me to be myself, I feel encouraged to do it for all the wrong little cultural voices inside (and outside) of my head. I actually don't want people to praise me for losing weight, which I know they will do (and already are doing), because I think getting praise for being viewed by others as slim is the reverse of fat-shaming, and that neither is healthy. Your writing about those little cultural voices is refreshing; please keep it up.

Date: 2013-06-06 11:48 pm (UTC)
kass: white cat; "kass" (Default)
From: [personal profile] kass
I just want to say: mad props to you for not only doing the things you have done, but also being willing/able to write about it so that those of us who are reading here can nod and wince and feel various flashes of recognition. That's a real gift to us, as I hope you know.

Date: 2013-06-07 05:24 am (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
I've been aware of some of your struggles with body image, but wow, that brain of yours which is so smart and has produced some beautiful monsters has also engaged in some really ugly self-talk. I know a little of this, I've got (had?) a mean nasty brain that tells me I'm horrible and ugly and unlovable at times.

I'm not trying to lose weight, and I'm working on avoided disordered eating practices (which means I'm deliberately not thinking about calories but I'm also trying to avoid binging). And it is really nice, and ony possible because my depression is under control and I live in the place I love most. But even so, I have some really bad days.

One thought, which you may have had, but maybe not: it sounds a little like the depo might have kicked your adolescent but not yet fully developed body into hormonal overdrive. I know that I developed hips and boobs early, like at 11, but they were never very big until I was about 17-20, and and even though I had a growth spurt between 11 and 12 which meant I started high school at 5'3" I didn't reach my full height of 5' 7" until I was 21.

Date: 2013-06-10 01:19 pm (UTC)
crystalpyramid: crystal pyramid suspended in dimensional abnormality (Default)
From: [personal profile] crystalpyramid
Thanks for writing this. It's one more facet of that awful story about how much we manage to screw everyone up about their bodies and about food. My brain is still sort of "wait, even [personal profile] catvalente struggles with this? But [personal profile] catvalente is the epitome of awesome. ::cognitive dissonance::" So it sort of means a lot, in a weird way, because of how tremendously much I respect you.

I hate that whole narrative of "never good enough" that seems to stalk through your life the way it stalks through mine. For me it's remembering being eighteen and athletic (and in hindsight gorgeous at a bit under 200 lbs) and fantasizing about how I was going to go off to college and lose weight and come back and show everyone. Or twenty-five, working out constantly and starving myself, and letting the pantyhose chart tell me I was so close to being thin enough. And then I got bored, because I still hadn't won yet, and stopped doing all that, and moved and got the kind of job where there's no time in the margins for anything, and now I'm freaking out because for the first time I am fat and out of shape and all my rationalizations about how my body and I have a strong, healthy relationship anyway are broken now.

Your paragraph about acceptable narratives of weight loss was really familiar (and made me laugh, in that painful recognition way). I just wanted to get healthy, it wasn’t about conforming to beauty ideals, I loved my body then and I love it now, I only did it for my health or to build strength and no other reason. The lies we tell ourselves and our friends, trying to avoid trampling anyone else, trying to keep our own demons at bay. Trying not to obsess over how we look in this society that is so obsessed with it. Balancing the acceptance narratives with the truth that these are our bodies and we own them and we should be able to make them do what we want them to.

Thanks for articulating this, with your eloquence and vulnerability and snark. And good luck to you. And please, keep writing this. (-:

(I am trying to suppress my brain's hope that you will reveal ALL THE SECRETS OF WEIGHT LOSS, with mixed success. But I am definitely curious.)

Date: 2013-06-11 08:24 pm (UTC)
amazon_syren: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amazon_syren
I've missed the Intimacy Blogging, I have to admit. :-) It's nice to see you again, albeit in text form. ;-)

I can relate to the "It's totally awesome for other people to love their bodies, but not so much for me" feeling. I spent about a year and a half doing some fairly disordered eating and it was a bit of a mess how my head was working at the time.

Getting strong under the fat sounds pretty good to me but, at the same time, I also have Body Image Feeeeeeeelings around my lack of washboard abs and similar. Eugh. Brain.

Thanks for writing this, and I look forward to the rest of your journey Storytelling With Cat sessions. :-)


TTFN,
Amazon.
Edited Date: 2013-06-11 08:24 pm (UTC)

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