Food Issues & Fat Girl Confessions

Posted on August 1, 2010 in Confessions

The earliest memory I have of a messed up relationship with food is around the age of 8.  I know what you’re thinking:  what woman in Western culture doesn’t have a messed up relationship with food?  And I agree.  Hell, these days, half the men do too.  There are only a lucky few of us who don’t, which is I guess why I’m here writing about it now.  Because people can relate.  I know I have spent countless hours trolling the internet reading the thoughts and ideas of others who have gone through the same or similar issues as I have.

So yes.  8.  I’ve spent the last 24 years of my life having a messed up relationship with food.  My earliest memory of feelings of guilt and shame associated with food relate to an incident with my father.  Which is pretty perfect, really, since most food issues correlate with body image and weight issues, which also often correlate with male approval and acceptance in terms of women’s definition of self.  So I’m a walking frickin’ cliche straight out of a psych textbook.  Fantastic.

Anyway, my parents used to buy lots of prepackaged snack food for me to take to school in my lunches.  Granola bars, Wagon Wheels, Scooter Pies … yes, Scooter Pies.  I don’t even know if those are still out there anymore, but they were essentially the same thing as a Wagon Wheel.  Cookie trans-fat substance coating a synthetic-tasting, vaguely plasticky marshmallow, all covered in low-grade oil-based chocolate substance.  Obviously, 8 year old me thought they were delicious, and I was at an age where I hadn’t quite yet abandoned an innocent concept of food, where food choices and what I ate was ruled solely by whether or not what I was consuming was an experience of pleasure or not.

I see that now when I spend time with my young cousin, who is five.  Though she has been known to parrot the culture and media’s message that worrying about one’s weight, size and body shape, and derogatorily referring to oneself as “fat”, is a normal mode of behaviour for women and girls, she has not yet internalized messages about “good” foods and “bad” foods, has not yet drawn a correlation between the types of foods one eats and a sense of moral victory or failure with regard to how those food choices will affect her body, and subsequently her sense of self-worth.  Her experience with food is still a pure one, where food is strictly a sensual phenomenon and her decisions about which foods she eats and which ones she doesn’t are based solely on whether or not consuming them is a pleasurable sensation for her.  I envy her for this.  Sadly, I also know that eventually someday, such innocence will be lost and she will be just as fucked up as the rest of us.  Which is a really depressing thought for me.  It’s already genetically obvious that she is probably not going to end up being a naturally slender girl.  There are already traces of the beautiful dimpled chubby cheeks and plump arms and round hips that characterize the women in my family.

I imagine, as we are close, a time will someday come when she expresses feelings of self-doubt and disappointment or anger towards her body, and a desire to lose weight.  And I will share with her any and all wisdom I may have gained on the subject, share with her my painful experiences and difficult realizations about the road to self-acceptance that I am still walking daily.  I will tell her that the universe and Mother Nature do not wish for everyone to be carbon copy cut-outs of Barbie.  I will tell her that beauty comes in many forms, despite what Hollywood and the Man and Corporate America want her to believe.  I will tell her that she is the most beautiful girl in the world in my eyes.  But I also know that no matter how highly she regards my opinion, my words will fall on largely deaf ears.  These are lessons she will have to learn for herself growing up as a woman in the North American cult of celebrity and thin-worship.

But back to Scooter Pies for a second.  I remember distinctly that this was the snack that facilitated the birth of my food issues memories.  My parents had a box of them stashed in the snack cupboard and I wanted chocolate.  It was as simple as that.  So I took one.  Or two.  Maybe more.  I don’t really remember how many.  When my father realized I had binged on these stupid things (because what 8 year old really understands concepts of moderation or how and when certain foods are supposed to be eaten?) he came at me.  Not physically, but my dad is an intimidating presence, and when he blows his lid, you pay attention.  He yelled at me “why are you eating this crap????  Stop eating this crap!!!!!”  His face was red and his eyes were narrowed and I could feel the rage and frustration coming off him.  Being 8, it didn’t really occur to me to ask him why, if he didn’t want me eating this crap, he was bringing it into the house in the first place.  All I heard was that I had done something very wrong and made my father very angry at me by eating what I wanted to eat.  Looking back, I’m not sure whether his anger came from the fact that I binged on junk food at all or whether it came from the fact that I had inhaled all of the stuff I was supposed to be using for my school lunches in a non-school-lunch context, but I suppose that really doesn’t matter.  All I knew was that I screwed up by eating, and if I was going to eat like that again in the future, I would have to hide it and do it secretly so no one would find out.  Shortly after that, my dad placed a child lock on the snack cupboard.  Instead of talking to me about what was going on, or explaining his concerns, he just jailed me.  At least, that’s how I remember it.

Now, as an adult, I can appreciate where my dad was coming from.  He was concerned about my consumption of snack foods at home that were supposed to be meted out evenly through the week for lunches.  But I think beyond that, he understood the genetic potential of my body toward chubbiness, and knew what a terrible time I would have as I got older if I got fat.  He mentioned to me once, in passing, that he had been a fat child.  Although, looking at pictures of him from then, all I see is a happy, healthy little boy whose parents managed to nourish him well with the few resources they had available in post-WW2 England.  I don’t believe this was conscious, but I’m sure it certainly informed his reaction.  He and I were locked in this sort of struggle for many years.  Even up until the point in time when I was a teenager, if he purchased potato chips to eat while watching hockey games, he would hide them under his bed and “joke” about how he had no choice lest the gluttonous vacuum that was his daughter sucked up all his junk food before he got a chance to eat any of it.  Those weren’t the words he used, but that was what I heard.  I began to feel shame and guilt about my appetites and knew there was something very wrong with me if my own dad had to hide food from me.  But no one really explained what was wrong with me.  In a way, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The first time I can remember lying about my weight, I was in the second grade.  It was a winter carnival at my school and one of the events was to pull a team member on a sled as fast as possible.  My team decided the lightest person on the team should be on the sled, and when everyone was asked how much they weighed, I remember telling them I weight 66 pounds, 3 pounds more than the lightest girl on our team, although I weighed probably closer to 70 or 75.  I didn’t really know *why* I was lying, only that telling people you weighed less than you did was something girls were supposed to do.  I did it almost instinctively, which makes me sad for my inner child and sad for the world I was growing up in.

When I was 10, I got a book through the book club at school called Outta Sight.  It was a “young adult” book set during WW2 in Vancouver and focused on a girl named Hope, who was 15.  Hope was very sad because she was fat and had bad skin and didn’t have a boyfriend, though she longingly pined for the town hunk, Troy.  When her cousin Lila’s brother goes missing in action during the war, Lila comes to stay with Hope’s family for awhile.  Hope is shocked to see her cousin, who had once been fat but now was thin and beautiful.  She asks her cousin for help losing weight.  When the girls first start out on Hope’s plan of self-improvement, Lila measures Hope’s waist and is shocked to discover that it is a “whopping” 30 inches around (I was wearing size 30 waist jeans since I was about 14).  Anyway, long story short, Hope loses weight and does attract Troy’s attention, but discovers that Troy is an asshole on the verge of date rapist.  She ends up at the end of the book in a relationship with another guy named Ray, who cared about her all along when she was “fat” and when she was thin.  So the book was supposed to have a good message about it being what’s inside that counts, but what I couldn’t see at the time was how many poisonous cliches it employed to get that message across.

Anyway, this book profoundly affected my idea of managing my body and how my body could affect my social standing.  When Hope was fat, she was a loser and got picked on and made fun of or at the very least ignored.  When she was thin, she was attractive and popular.  And I knew which one I wanted to be.  It was around the same time when I started to feel the sensation of “fat days” or “thin days”, and when I began to feel uncomfortable in my own skin.  I declared to my parents that I was going on a diet and wanted to lose weight.  It’s funny because when I look back on pictures of myself at this time of my life, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my weight.  Sure, I wasn’t skin and bones, but I played softball and was an active kid.  We lived in a sort of rural developed subdivision where everyone knew everyone and parents let their kids run wild all day.  I was always out rollerskating or bike riding, playing on the slip and slide, or gathering weedflowers, or building tree forts and whatever else kids do at 10.  Worse, when my uncle found out about my plans, he challenged me to a “weight loss” competition.  Yep, a 40 year old man challenging an 11 year old girl to see who could lose the most weight.  I know he meant well, and saw it as a way to motivate both me and himself toward a “healthier lifestyle”, but when I look back on it, I can’t help but ask myself what the fuck he was thinking.  Or what the fuck my parents were thinking for that matter, as they did nothing to intervene.  All I think my 11 year old self wanted was for my mom and dad to tell me I was just fine the way I was and to have recognized that such an endeavour was sending a completely inappropriate message to their daughter, who was at a very sensitive age when it came to these issues.  And I *was* fine.  So why didn’t they think I was?

Shortly after all of this, the school board redrew district lines due to overcrowding and I was moved to a new school for the sixth grade, which was hard because I had gone to school since kindergarten with the classmates from my old school.  The transition was not smooth for me.  The girls at the new school were very cliquey and had all known each other since they were 5 or 6 years old.  They had this little sect called “The Group”, and I was not a part of it.  However, they invited two of my best friends from my subdivision who had also switched schools into The Group, and since they of course wanted to be popular, they stopped hanging around with me at school and started hanging around with the bitches who didn’t like me.  There was a group of popular boys, the male equivalent of The Group.  One of them took to mooing at me every time I would walk by him in the hallway.  Obviously, I was a fat cow, which was why he was mooing at me.  Ironically, years later in high school, this guy who was friends with the guy I was in love with started doing the same thing.  Mooing at me as I walked by in the hallway.  I often stop to wonder whether these guys had any idea what kind of damage they were doing with their stupid bullshit.  Sure, kids are cruel, bullies exist, jealousy, blah blah blah.  It still hurt.  To this day I can remember those moments with crystal clarity.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t have food issues or body image problems if none of this had ever happened with my dad and my uncle and so forth.  I went through plenty of guilting, shaming and pain in the years since at the hands of people who weren’t my family — classmates, strangers, even lovers.  But I think these experiences growing up shaped something fundamental in my psyche such that in adulthood, these issues informed a great deal of the decisions I made and the way I have felt about myself as a woman and a sexual being.

As I transitioned into adolescence, the madness grew.  My appetite for the well-rounded meals my parents brought to the family dinner table was healthy and strong, but my secret eating was escalating, I think in part as a rebellion response to my dad.  If he was going to hide food from me and ban me from access to certain types of foods he was bringing into the house and consuming himself, I would have my revenge.  I would sneak out of bed in the middle of the night to eat when my parents couldn’t observe me.  I would take a few dollars in change from my dad’s pockets where he kept his coffee money every morning so that I could buy chocolate, candy and slurpees on the way home from school and consume them before my parents got home from work (I was a latchkey kid by the age of 11 and took care of my younger brother after school when my mom went back to work full time).  I think I ate more unhealthy foods during this time than I otherwise would have were I doing it out in the open because of the secret nature of it.  I binged quickly to get it all down and hide the evidence.  I remember one time crawling out of bed at 2 in the morning with a terrible cold, chowing down on a donut I couldn’t even taste, just so I could get at it before anyone else did.  It was like doing drugs.  I was a sugar junkie.  By the time I was 14 and in 8th grade, looking through some photographs of myself from a family vacation, I realized that I was not the slender, beautiful Lolita I wanted to be and that most of my peers were, but instead was a pillowy padded young woman with too much flesh on her arms, her belly, her thighs.  I was fat.  Maybe not proper fat, but my parents were concerned.  At least my dad was.  He rarely said anything overtly, but I could tell the way he would watch my plate at family functions, keeping an eye on what I was eating and how much of it.

Being an academic overachiever didn’t help.  It’s pretty standard for the smart kids to get teased in junior high school, but there were a couple of boys in my grade who tormented me relentlessly.  One of them was the neighbour of a girl I was quite good friends with then.  He taught her younger brother all about how I was L’s “fat friend” and I remember one time going over to her house to have her brother insult my weight and yell something about “you and your fat friend” behind me as we walked down the street.  The irony is that when I looked this neighbour guy up on Facebook recently, he has some pretty sizable weight problems of his own.  Karma, maybe.  But that is neither here nor there.

In 9th grade, I got a new pair of jeans for the beginning of the new school year and my dad teased me by saying I had gotten so big he could fit into my jeans.  Then he actually squeezed himself into them just to prove it.  Things came to a head between me and my dad on this issue in the summer between ninth and tenth grade, when I was getting ready to start high school.  One evening he said that he was taking my brother to McDonald’s for dinner and what did I want them to bring back for me.  I told them I wanted my usual quarter pounder with cheese meal, and a chocolate ice cream sundae.  My father flatly refused to bring the sundae for me, saying I didn’t need any ice cream because of how big I was getting.  Meanwhile, my brother had no such restrictions placed on him.  After they left, my mother came home to find me sobbing on the couch about what my dad had said to me.  I don’t think she was impressed, but I don’t know if the issue was ever addressed between them.  I don’t remember having any more clear memories of arguments between us on this issue after that.  All I knew was that I felt like shit about myself and I couldn’t even get away from the body shaming in my own home, and there was something wrong with me because I wanted ice cream.

By this point, I was well into reading all the magazines for teenage girls likeSeventeen and YM, which were full of weight/body propaganda and cautionary tales about eating disorders.  That summer was the first and only time I attempted to make myself throw up.  I ate a chocolate donut from Tim Horton’s and then stuck my finger down my throat to get it out of me, just to see if it worked the way the magazines said it did.  It was an unpleasant experience that I have never repeated, but I can’t even count how many times I wished I had the willpower to become anorexic so I could lose weight and be skinny.  I figured if I could get skinny, all of my problems would be solved.  Boys would stop picking on me and start wanting me to be their girlfriend.  The popular girls who got in my face would think I was cool finally.  The fact that I could never prevent myself from giving in to my hunger or desire to eat only proved that I was weak and powerless over food, just like my dad always said I was.

High school was a little bit better for me.  I auditioned for Drama Club in grade 10 and was cast in a production where I got to play a vampy Mae West type of character, the “sexy” character.  And I thought maybe, just maybe, the drama club advisor saw something beautiful about me to put me in this role, that maybe the idea of me being pretty or sexy could actually be believable with enough makeup and the right costume.  I remember seeing a photo of myself from show night, decked out in my big old fashioned fancy yellow dress with a cool old-fashioned hat, and thinking to myself “my god!  I don’t look fat in this picture!”  It was a great moment.  Drama Club became my lifeline.  The following year, when I auditioned again for the fall production, the role I really wanted was that of an academic overachiever who obsessed about her weight.  I could play this role in my sleep.  But when they had us read roles during the audition, they did not read me for this role, although I was read for another lead.  When the cast list was posted, I was not cast in one of the two leads, but instead was cast as a supporting character, one of the lead role’s mothers.  I remember going home that night and writing in my diary that I knew I didn’t get the main role because I was fat.  And that sort of became my mantra for everything.  If I didn’t land the Drama Club role I wanted, it was because I was fat.  If the guy I liked didn’t like me back, it was because I was fat.  Even getting cast as a high school student who had been voted the school “fox” in the second semester production didn’t make a difference, because I knew the only reason my teachers gave me that role was because my thin, pretty, blonde friend dropped out of the play before rehearsals started and I was the only one left with enough attitude to carry off the role of this girl whose feminist sensibilities were offended by being voted the school fox.  The guy I was in love with enjoyed the attention and validation I gave him, and encouraged it, but still I wasn’t good enough for him.  Because I was fat.

During this time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to starve myself all day at school and then come home and eat dinner, and then go to bed.  Even though I wasn’t eating a lot, my metabolism crashed hard from this and still I couldn’t manage to lose weight.  I made some very good friends during this time through Drama Club, friends who made me feel cool and accepted and part of something real, but while all of them were dating each other and having fun with flirting, I was the one on the sidelines, the one nobody wanted to date or kiss or be more than friends with.  Because I was fat.  Whenever my guy friends in this group would talk about the crushes they had on my other girlfriends, or which ones in the group were the most attractive, I can’t tell how much it hurt me to think I was some “other”, some entity that couldn’t be considered because I was different.  I was fat.  I have a picture of myself with my 3 best girlfriends from that show and I remember crying and crying and crying my eyes out when I saw it because I thought I was so fat.  Looking at that picture now, I see 4 friends who were young and happy, but I constantly compared myself to my other girlfriends and always came up short in my own eyes.  Despite the fact that personality-wise, I was a dynamo in that group, a leader, a crucial component, I never really managed to let go of my desire not only to be accepted and liked by these friends, but also for the boys in the group to see me the way they saw some of the other girls.  I had one boyfriend in high school who I didn’t actually officially date for very long, but who dumped me and told me it was because his friend thought this other girl who also liked him at the same time was “the hottest girl he had ever seen”, and clearly I couldn’t measure up to that.  Of course, they broke up almost right away and he told me all about how the whole thing had been a big mistake, but the damage was done.  Once again, I was less-than.

My life has been full of stories like this.  There was a man I really cared for and had a serious thing for since I was 17.  When I finally slept with him at 21, he told his friends (who were also my friends) how embarrassed he was about it — I guess because he didn’t think being attracted to me was good for his image.  I got yelled at once in a pub while I was playing “Name That Tune” and dancing by this ugly bald guy with a beer belly:  “Look at the fat chick dance!!!  Go, fat chick!!!”  He just kept yelling it, over and over and over, until finally I broke down in tears and my cousin and my other friend J told him he was a piece of shit for making me cry and that they would be happy to kick his ass unless he stopped belittling me in public.

When I was 22 I went camping with a boyfriend and some of his family and their friends.  I remember this so clearly.  He had just cooked a hot dog and was about to eat it when a couple of the other guys there invited him to go toss the football around.  He declined, saying he had just finished cooking a hot dog.  “Give it to your girlfriend,” the other guy replied.  “She’ll eat it.”  I didn’t even know this person, but this incident was the last straw.  We got home from that trip and I bawled in my boyfriend’s arms.  He reassured me that he thought I was wonderful and beautiful and perfect, but that if I wanted to “do something” about my weight, he would support me.  So I went on a diet.  A starvation diet.  For the next three months, I ate less than 1000 calories a day.  For breakfast, I had a diet jello cup — the 7 calorie ones with aspartame.  For lunch, I had lettuce and turkey breast with lo-cal dressing.  For dinner, the same.  Occasionally, I would allow myself to eat a ham sandwich and tomato soup or a McDonald’s kid’s hamburger for dinner.  And at least 4 or 5 diet sodas a day, for whenever I got hungry for food I couldn’t have, I would drink diet soda.  And sure enough, the weight fell off.  I dropped 30 pounds in three months.  My best friend told me on my birthday that year that she was worried about me because of how extreme the change was and how quickly it happened.  I waved her off, laughing, saying that all I had ever wanted in my life was to be thin and now I was, and I was happy.  People kept telling me how great I looked.

And for a year, I guess I sort of was happy.  I had a ball buying pretty clothes and bikinis and things I never felt I could wear before.  I went to Mexico with my girlfriend and we had a blast frolicking on the beach wearing next to nothing.  I have a photograph of the two of us with a couple of other girls from the Toronto area we met there in our bikinis, and I can still say that even though I don’t look quite as good as the other 3 do, I still look pretty damn good.

Shortly after the Mexico trip, me and P broke up, and being single again in my new body was a whole ‘nother world for me.  I was ready for a little revenge sex because I was hurt by the break-up, and I wanted to go out there and live the life I never had when I was fat.  Prior to P, most of the romantic type of relationships I had that were very emotionally invested for me were of the online variety.  Some of those men I met in person eventually and some of them I never did, but there were several significant ones.  That, however, is a whole other piece of prose that I will get around to some other time.  After I discovered text-based chat rooms, I think I gravitated toward making emotional connections (whether or not they were ever truly reciprocated — some of them were, some of them weren’t, I reckon) online because it freed me in a way from my body image prison.  When I first got started on the talkers, people exchanged pictures with other users they connected with via snail mail.  Hardly anyone had scanners.  I remember when my best friend got a scanner, we were so excited to scan our very favourite (and thinnest-looking) pictures of ourselves and send them to our internet boyfriends.  Most of the men who saw my pictures seemed to respond favourably.  It was a place where I really did not feel judged by stupid assholes who were too brainwashed by Maxim magazine to give me the time of day.

It was around this time as well when I got involved with the alternative club scene.  I was in college and I dyed my hair pink for awhile and pierced my labret and started wearing really outrageous shit I would buy at thrift stores, and genuine Canadian military parade boots with steel toes.  I had a few encounters with a few guys at the clubs, but none of them really went anywhere and the one guy I actually really did like ended up giving me a herpes scare and then dumped me for a taller, skinny blonde chick.  So it goes.

P and I actually did meet online as well, although it was a completely random occurrence that we lived in the same area and an even more random one that we hit it off the way we did.  Again, however, that is another story.  By the time it ended and I was thin, I was ready for my second chance, to hit the clubs and the dating websites with my new body and unveil the new me.  Unfortunately, I never really got rid of the obsession.  I just transferred it.  Instead of obsessing about how fat I was and how being thin would solve all my problems and feeling guilty about what I ate, I obsessed about becoming fat again and when a somewhat more normal and balanced caloric intake would inevitably catch up with me, and feeling guilty about what I ate.  And I never really lost the craving for the validation I never got from the men in my life growing up, or the reliance on their attraction to me as evidence that finally I was acceptable to the world.  Anyway, my foray into casual sex didn’t last very long.  As it turned out, although there were more men who would randomly approach me, who seemed interested in me, I also encountered a lot of assholes who were into fucking and chucking.  I thought I could handle it, that I was strong enough in my belief in myself to go out and get mine and not give a damn how it ended up, to not want more and want them to want me for more.  But I was wrong.  The whole thing ended up making me feel crappy about myself for many reasons, and in the end it just wasn’t me.

The weight did start creeping back on, but by then I was in a relationship with a guy who was pretty into working out and healthy eating.  I quit smoking and started exercising quite a bit, and even though I was always still very anxious about the number on the scale, I began to really like the way I looked in photos and enjoy cooking with him and enjoying food for food’s sake for the first time in a long time.  He encouraged me to enjoy my food.  I remember once, B and I were on our way to a club on Whyte and this drunk idiot wanders by and yells “dude, your girlfriend’s hot!”  Part of me was pissed, because this is such a rude and disrespectful thing to do, but part of me, the part inside that I get mad at a lot, couldn’t help being pleased.  B always made me feel like he was proud that I was on his arm and that he thought I was crazy hot and fuck whatever anyone else thought.  But at the same time, I had deep-seeded issues on this front, and I know they frustrated him at times.  My mood was very dependent on the scale.  We once had a terrible fight because I weighed myself right before getting dressed to go out with him and some of my friends, and I had gained 4 pounds over the previous weigh-in, and was just angry and hostile towards him, myself, the evening, everything.  I’d tried on about 10 different outfits before leaving the house, finding something to criticize about the way I looked in all of them.  I was hysterical.  Looking back, I can understand how confused and frustrated he must have felt trying to deal with me in that state, being pretty irrational and ruining what he had hoped would be a nice mellow evening of cocktails, but at the time I just hated him for a split second in that moment for not GETTING IT.

The parts of my body that I obsessed over moved around.  They still do.  Some days I hate my plump, fleshy upper arms.  I have always longed for those perfect, slender, graceful little arms like sapling trees that skinny women have.  Other days, I hate the way my belly hangs over my jeans when I sit down.  Other days it’s the cellulite on my ass and thighs, which is quite prominent on my mom’s side of the family.  Other days it’s the flesh under my chin or the chubby cheeks.  And on yet other days, I have loved each and every part of my body as well.  The obsession and the anxiety morph around.

I’ve had some problems in general with OCD spectrum behaviour and depression.  My first major episode was when I was 16.  And my food issues feed into this something fierce.  I’ve had 2 major depressive episodes in the last 5 years.  During the first one, I developed chronic back pain.  It got so bad that I couldn’t work anymore, and I didn’t work for close to a year.  The worse the pain got, the worse the depression got, the worse the pain got, and through all kinds of tests and doctors and chiropractors and physiotherapists, it just kept hurting, and no one could figure out why.  I realized eventually that part of the pain was an emotional stress response to the depression and certain events that were causing me anxiety, and I found ways to cope.  But during this time, I became more obsessive about my weight again.  I had stopped exercising because of how much pain I was in, even though as it turned out when I eventually went back to the gym, it did actually help the pain.  But the place I was in emotionally left me vulnerable and I started smoking again.  I gained a little weight, about five pounds, but for me it was the end of the world.  I called my mom one day crying about how I was getting fat and I was in so much pain and etc etc etc.  She came over and she kept telling me “you’re not fat” over and over but that wasn’t what I wanted her to say.  I don’t know what I wanted her to say, but I wasn’t fishing for the obligatory “you’re not fat”, even though that wasn’t how she intended it.  It was a very painful time, and when I finally came out of it, I was just in a very different place mentally and emotionally.

During this time and the period leading up to it, I became quite involved with learning about theoretical and academic feminism, and in feminist blogging.  I began to think more critically about my experience with food issues and body image problems, and about how tied my sense of self was to the notion of men’s attraction to me.  I began to actively deconstruct what I saw in the media more often.  I began to fight more with myself internally about some of these ingrained impulses vs. the new sense of empowerment and insight I had gained through applied feminism.

This continues to be a struggle.  Battling through my second major depressive episode in the last five years currently, I’ve been battling a lot of the old familiar demons.  I still struggle with chronic soft tissue pain that doesn’t have a distinct physical cause.  The second depressive episode, which was worse than the first one, required more aggressive medication than before, and as a consequence I am constantly battling sugar cravings and have experienced some substantial weight gain since being medicated.  I struggle with the motivation to exercise.  In the period leading up to some major recent life changes, things reached a pretty low point.  I had serious shit going down in my family, I had just been royally fucked over by yet another Internet boyfriend, things at work were very tense, and there were many days when it was all I could do to grab take-out on the way home after a gruelling commute, crawl into bed at 5:30 and not get out again for the rest of the night so I could somehow manage to make it to work in the morning to do it all over again.

Truthfully, I have never really entirely abandoned the secret eating.  When I was living with my brother and his girlfriend, I would often wait until they went to bed before I would take to the kitchen.  I didn’t like them seeing my snacks because deep inside there was a secret fear there that they were judging me, and even though they probably didn’t give a fuck, it was my own bullshit, old patterns die hard.  Sometimes when I enter a convenience store to buy “bad food”, I get very anxious.  It is very important to me to get in and out of there as quickly as possible and to be seen by as few people as possible.  I constantly worry about what the clerks think about my purchases, even though I’m sure they don’t give a fuck either.

I would never eat the way I do at home sometimes on bad nights in front of anyone else.  I enjoy dining out and I enjoy consuming food with friends and family, but at the same time I constantly feel this pathological need to justify what I’m eating even though no one gives a fuck (at least not anymore).  “Oh, I ordered this because I haven’t eaten very much else today!”  “Oh, I haven’t had cheesecake in SO LONG.”  If you’re still with me, you probably know the drill.  It’s messed up.  And I also get anxious about how messed up it is.

I find it difficult to pose for photographs without whether or not I’m going to look chubby being a concern.  I’m acutely aware of what angles I look best from and of sucking in and standing tall and so on and so on.  I scrutinize photos of myself painstakingly.  I hate it when people take my photo by surprise and I don’t have time to prepare.

After not having weighed myself for quite awhile, recently I abruptly went off medication basically solely because of the weight gain.  I felt I was doing better and I could try things away from the meds if it might help things get back on track there.  As of this writing, I weigh the most I have in probably 15 years.  After 3 weeks, it was clear that the lethargy and the lack of motivation was creeping back in again, and in the end, going off meds made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the scale.  Turning 30 fucked me.  Metabolism-wise, it has all been downhill from there.

I wish desperately for a day when food can just be food again and I don’t obsess about everything I eat and what it means to who I am as a person.  I long for a day when stupid assholes I have encountered over the years who said stupid, thoughtless, selfish things to me and about me will not occupy space in my mind.  I long for a day when I can be really, truly above how angry the way our society views women and women’s bodies makes me, and just have peace, nourishment and peace, inside my head when I look at myself in the mirror, or when I look at a delicious piece of cake on a plate in front of me.  And so it goes …