Emotional Eating

I don’t find emotional eating problematic. Boredom eating, yes. But not emotional eating, not always. Sometimes when I’m having a terrible, terrible day and all I can do is cry, ice cream is a damn good consolation. I could read a book or play a video game or watch TV, but TV and books (and even sometimes games) can make things worse. Feeling miserable for some character is just more misery. Playing video games can make me angry if I die, it’s also hard for me to do something less passive than reading. I sure don’t want to leave the house, ’cause the days where I feel like crap, I’m also inclined to look like crap (not shower/brush my hair/find clean clothes/etc.) and I certainly don’t want to risk running into other people. I’m not much of an artist, writing doesn’t make me feel better and there are only so many other by-myself activities that I can think of to do. Nothing that can make me feel better.

So I honestly don’t see what’s so wrong with attacking a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when these moods hit.

To me, my physical health means nothing if my mental health isn’t passable. If it helps, then it shouldn’t matter. I mean, yes, I do notice my mental health is tied in with my physical health. However, I’m more likely to go crazy if lack food or sleep, and while exercise and eating healthy help improve my mood, I don’t feel like unhealthy eating detracts. No exercise might, but I only start to notice it if I haven’t left the house for a few days. To me, being skinny and unhappy is not an improvement on fat and happy.

It also happens rarely enough that even if I did cut it out, I might or might not lose some weight. So I don’t feel guilty. If I felt guilty, then I’d have no reason to partake in emotional eating, and then I’d just be miserable for longer. I think this attitude is one of my few healthy ones.

February 28, 2010. Tags: . Reflection. Leave a comment.

By the way. . .

Once upon a time, not too long ago*, my flatmate had a birthday and invitations included those of us who lived in said apartment, as well as some people we didn’t know. We went to a restaurant. I wasn’t enchanted with the menu and ended up ordering an appetiser for dinner. I do that a lot, I’m pickier than I’d like to admit, but that’s okay. I also had water to drink. I wish I were one of those people who were concerned about her weight and drinks soda, but I’m not, so I have nothing so simple to cut out.

The birthday girl and her out-of-town friends split a giant appetiser platter four ways plus one more appetiser. They also ordered a main course. I have no issue with any of this. Instead of getting dessert there, we went to Cold Stone.

At Cold Stone I decided that, you know what, I’m going to go for a small with one mix-in and a dipped waffle bowl ’cause I never do the waffle bowl (and when I do, I remember that it’s because I need to do a mix-in OR a waffle bowl or it’s too much). Other, non-birthday flatmate decided to down like, six lactaids** and get a medium signature. Two of the out-of-town friends split a small with one mix-in.

Now, I know probably no one cares exactly what I or anyone else ate that night, but this is where it starts to matter. One of the skinny, out of town, ice cream-splitting friends comes over to me and other flatmate and says something like “Wow,you guys are so brave, I could never eat that much ice cream.” But everything but the words themselves said “No wonder you guys are so fat.” I want to make it clear that other flatmate has a really good shape, but still the kind a bitchy, very slim person can feel smug about not being.

Other flatmate laughed it off and said something like “I figured if I was going to take a lactaide anyway I might as well make it worth it.” I don’t know if she heard the translation. I think she must have, but I hope she didn’t. And she handled it without blinking. I, on the other hand smiled fakely and said in the same tone of voice “Well, it’s not like I do this often.” As a retort it wasn’t much, but I didn’t want to offend birthday flatmate and I wanted skinny, out of town, ice cream splitting girl to know, yes, I heard what she said.

Now, normally I’d be mildly off-put about something like this because bitch, you can’t tell me why I’m fat just from one ice cream outing. And no selective evidence by ignoring what I ate at dinner. And I wonder why I usually don’t eat in front of people I barely know. But this bothered me for a whole lot more reasons. First of all, other flatmate. She’s awesome and she doesn’t have a body worth fat shaming. Genetics also dealt her a terrible hand; if anyone can say “back off, you don’t know what you’re talking about” it’s her. Secondly, birthday flatmate. Birthday flatmate also struggles with her weight. Now, there’s been psych (anthro?) studies that say groups of friends have a very narrow range of attractiveness. I feel like this sometimes applies to weight as well and in my head I call it “fat flocking”. But I feel like skinny-bitch’s remarks was based on at least one of the following 1. She couldn’t put down birthday flatmate because it being her birthday 2. She was indirectly putting down birthday flatmate by calling us, her friends, fat overeaters or 3. She is so insecure about her own (slim and pretty) body that she needs to assert she’s in fact better than someone. It could have been all three. I have a hard time accepting meanness as a cover for insecurity though, without any other signs. Mean is easy and mean can be powerful. I know mean is not always a cover.

So basically, I’m retroactively saying “Bitch, shut up and mind your own business.” I’m also saying that simple comments like that aren’t always simple. They stick. And it hurts. Not just the judgement but the fact that she’s probably forgotten by now and I will carry it with me for a long time.

*It took a lot of will power not to bust out into “99 Problems”
**I have no idea how to spell the lactose-intolerant helper pills.

February 23, 2010. Tags: , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

I Spy. . .

People who have weight issues play lots of games. The calorie game. The eating in public game. The game of space called Can I Fit?. The most interesting game is Fattest Person in the Room.

This is one thing that I feel the need to acknowledge but not necessarily deprogram. It’s important for my sanity.

How to play:

First, one must be in a room or gathering with a limited amount of people. Generally, social interaction must be expected between the people, but this is not always the case.

Then there’s a flow-chart. Mine is probably different than someone who is heavier, or male, or thinner, or shaped differently. My flowchart goes like this.

Am I the fattest person in the room? If yes, end, if no, continue.
Am I the fattest female in the room? If yes end, if no, continue.
How many other women are fatter than me?

This game is important because I need to identify my “position”. Fat shaming happens. If physical activities are involved, I need to know when I’m likely to get picked for a team, or if I have to work extra hard to prove myself, or if I should just give up. If there’s discussion involved I need to analyse everything directed at me or said about me, especially jokes. When given roles I need to know if my weight is going to be the determining factor. Even if I’m not the fattest person in the room, I need to know my relationship to said fattest person. Are we friends? Because that means more judgement, fats flocking and all. Am I going to get lumped in with him/her no matter what? The lumped part is the worst. His or her incompetence becomes mine as well, no matter what. And I feel just as guilty because mine becomes theirs.

This game also helps let me know when to relax. If someone is fatter than me by a large margin, then I can consider myself mostly safe. If the person who is larger than me, even only slightly, is popular or friends with the rest of the group, or has some position of authority, it means that fat shaming will be less likely or less overt.

I feel like I should stop playing, but it’s become so automatic, I’m not sure if I could. And I’m not sure if I would even if I had that option. Part of having social skills is being socially aware. I know that there are reasons that I should stop. I know that this is judging other people and judging myself the way I don’t want to be judged. I know that if I ever do lose the weight I want to, this kind of game could become very toxic.

February 19, 2010. Tags: . Reflection. Leave a comment.

BMI

I’ve been eating more, two to three meals a day, or you know, one big massive one like today. Not that I did anything deserving of food. I read somewhere that it takes 500 calories just for your brain to work properly, and I assume who ever said that meant per day. If so, I had been stunting my brain again, not by eating fewer than 500 calories (though that was true for one or two days I’m sure) but by eating fewer than 1000. Because if 500 gets devoted to your brain imagine what it takes for the heart, the lungs (well, the diaphragm), everything. I’ve been gaining weight again since I started eating. It makes eating distressing, but I know that if I can eat regularly and healthfully I can convince my body I’m not starving, and it will stop hoarding calories. I realise this isn’t about BMI yet but I think I should reflect on the moment as well as the whole.

As for the issue of BMI, well, I think it’s terrible. First of all, there’s that disclaimer that it’s not meant for measuring health or fat, but everyone does it anyway. Companies, colleges, doctors, individuals — everyone passes judgement on people based on this number. I’ll admit, I’ve spent most of my post-pubescent life inside the 25-29.9 range. Though only a few months ago I was flirting with 30 being two or three pounds away from that threshold number when I weighed myself every day. I was also at the highest weight I had ever weighed myself at. I had passed my magic number and all my pants were tight and I’ll admit I was probably at my least healthy point. I had been exercising less and caring less about what I ate. To an extent, I think it’s was probably healthier for me to not care so much about my diet. It was certainly liberating until I started weighing myself daily.

During these months I read an article about how a university had a BMI requirement for graduation. While it was true that anyone who didn’t have the right numbers would just have to take a PE class, it still wasn’t something that sat well with me. Especially since I was on the verge of facing that requirement (matriculation aside) and was normally only somewhere around eight to ten pounds away from obese even when eating healthy and exercising regularly. As I’ve mentioned before I’m short so while I may be only ten pounds away from the dreaded diagnosis of obese my BMI is two points away from obese and three from “normal”*.

In a fit of rage after reading that article I cruelly asked my friend to guess my BMI. She said 25.6 when I was 29.4 and 3 pounds away from 30.0. Now, even if this friend deducted a point or even two points in the name of friendship, she was very, very off. Even with these extra two points she was still lower than my BMI when I considered myself healthy. Today, an study showed that 3 in 10 teens didn’t know they were overweight with males mistaken twice as often as females. Is this really a surprise to anyone?

Even after BMI gets discounted as a measurement of health, I regret to say, I will still use it. I’ve already been indoctrinated even though I fight tooth and nail every time someone else uses it. I still have a BMI calculator as one of my tabs. I will still sit there and go “Well, what if I’m this weight? What if I lose 5 more pounds? What if I were an inch taller?”. My personal ideal weight, the weight I want to be and think I have a chance of reaching is has a BMI of 24.7. I know when I get there, I’ll see that if I gain two pounds I’ll be over weight again and try and lose another five. That’s a start of a slippery slope. I hope if I ever get there, I won’t go too far.

Still, something that always is nice to see is the BMI Project.

*Approximately.

February 10, 2010. Tags: , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

Apology #2

Dear high school French teacher,

Thank you for being you. You were the most fantastic French teacher I’ve ever had, and maybe spoiled me a bit for future French professors who did not live up to your level of education or excellence.

This is a small apology since I still consider you one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met, and pretty much always have. The reason I’m apologising is that I couldn’t help but think “She’s so beautiful, why doesn’t she dress like it?”. It sounds like a silly thing to apologise for, but I was, like every American female, having trouble finding clothes to fit my own “less than ideal” frame at the time, and I don’t know what possessed me to think that your less socially acceptable body would be able to find clothes to match your own good looks.

You’re one of the first women who was not thinner than me (to my own perspective) that I considered beautiful. That category is still sadly small, but knowing you has made me realise that one doesn’t have to be thin to be pretty. Also, I learned a heck of a lot of French.

Merci, Madame.

February 6, 2010. Tags: , . Apologies. Leave a comment.

Doctors

Last year, over the summer, I went to the doctor because my throat was doing things it wasn’t supposed to, like swelling and hurting. I had recently switched GPs so I had to go through the questionnaire. For those who don’t know it it goes like this “Do you smoke?” “How often do you drink?” “List your physical activities.” etc.

At this point in my life I attended fencing eight hours a week during the school year and ran a half an hour every day other day over the summer. I took vitamins almost every day. I only drank caffeinated beverages on occasion; I didn’t drink; I didn’t smoke. As the doctor read over these notes that the nurse had made on the computer she was clearly impressed with my lifestyle. Then she said “But you could stand to lose a few pounds you know.”

I did know, and I wasn’t there to get that reaffirmed. I was there to make sure I didn’t have mono (I didn’t) and maybe get some medication. My BMI was 28ish and I had not weighed more than or less than three pounds of where I was that day at any doctor’s visit she would have on record going back four years.

Now, I mumbled something like “I’m trying” because I was, and what else was I supposed to say? I have to say I was probably at one of my peak physical conditions. I was probably on a diet. Maybe I should have asked her “How?” because I’m still not sure.

I remember being a prepubescent kid and dreading my yearly check up because I knew I gained ten pounds. Ignoring the fact that I had also grown. My paediatricians didn’t seem to disapprove of that weight, until I got my period, and then it wasn’t okay any more. I would love to lose those pounds to be back where I was in middle school, to be pushing the “normal” BMI even though I was still being told by my family, peers and doctors that I needed to lose weight. I realise now that my body wasn’t done changing. Even though I may have been done growing up, fast forward a year or two and my weight had completely redistributed itself.

But ever since that doctor’s visit, I don’t care how healthy I feel or how good I look, I can say to myself or others “But my doctor said I needed to lose weight.”

February 3, 2010. Tags: , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

Choices

I’ve never been good at decisions. I get overwhelmed and then take the easy way out. Often, when put in a new situation food is a huge part of what makes me overwhelmed, and the easy way out is not eating. I did it when I was 13 and at summer camp, and I did it when I first went to college with dining halls. I’m doing it again now that I’m spending time abroad.

The first time I did it, I didn’t notice any immediate side effects and maybe there weren’t any because it was a week. But when I had reduced my eating significantly for longer, I would notice myself walking into the dining hall and looking at all the food. Just looking at it and seeing what I was able to deny myself, walking out with only a glass of water. After returning home and gaining back the weight I had lost, my second semester had a better meal schedule, where I would actually eat something. However, that semester was probably the worst of my life. The hours and hours of extra sleep I had needed the first semester (probably from lack of energy coming from food) was replaced with hours of me sitting on my bed playing mindless games on my computer, trying not to think of anything, unable to motivate myself to do anything else. I don’t remember much from that semester, but it was the worst semester of my life.

Later, I would decide that my depression was either caused by or catalysed by my eating habits of the semester before. So now that I’m doing it again, I’m trying to be very careful. I find myself sleepier than I usually am and I know that’s a sign. The problem is that I was overwhelmed again and again the easiest thing to do was to forgo food so I wouldn’t embarrass myself by my ignorance of the language or the etiquette. But I do know that the easy way out is not the easiest in the long term.

However, even after only three weeks of intermittent food I find I’m disgusted with myself if I dare eat three meals a day. I found that in my last place of living there was a scale and I would weigh myself religiously once or twice a day. Now there is no scale and I find myself rationalizing the purchase of one. I won’t buy it because I know that’s another step in the wrong direction but I really want one. I find myself walking out of sandwich shops telling myself they didn’t have the right sandwich or there were too many people. I try and tell myself that losing ten pounds in two weeks (I didn’t seem to lose any more after the third week hit) is a bad thing. But I know I’m pleased, I know I’m ecstatic that the pants that fit me when I was at a fairly low weight when I bought them, were too tight only a month ago, are now falling off even though they don’t look as flattering when the waistband is hovering around my crotch (thank goodness for all the long shirts I own).

There’s such a disconnect between what I know and what I feel; this is becoming quite the struggle, but I’m glad the struggle is there at all. Fighting this has to be healthier than giving in.

These aren’t the only times I’ve made myself eat as little as I could but these are the times that seemed to have an external influence on why I was doing so.

February 1, 2010. Reflection. Leave a comment.

Apology #1

Dear Girl Who Brought Over 100 Cookies to the Holiday Party,

Even though you didn’t say it, I bet you were thinking and you’re right, I thought “Wow, no wonder she’s fat.” when you brought those cookies. Yes, I judged you in a way I wouldn’t have judged a skinny girl for saying that baking was her stress reliever. I judged you for one of the things I’m always afraid people will judge me for. Just because you’re fat and you brought lots of cookies doesn’t mean you eat too much. In fact, it means you’re really nice because those cookies were delicious.

I’m always afraid to eat in public or bake or give people food (especially the home made kind) for this reason, but I usually do those three things anyway. None of those things are bad, eating in public is an accepted way of being social, baking is an accepted hobby and giving people food is very welcome. However, once these things are done by someone who is deemed to have an “unhealthy” weight, we are at risk of being judged. And even though I feared the judgement, I’ll admit I am a hypocrite.

I’m sorry, and I hope you keep baking.

February 1, 2010. Tags: . Apologies. Leave a comment.