At one of the parties I went to on Friday, four different people told me I looked ‘great’ and that I must be doing ‘a lot of running’. I’m not doing a lot of running lately (none, really, though I miss it enough that I might go out this afternoon), but I am thinner than I was last time I saw these people. Very few people asked me about what I’ve done lately, just said I looked good (read thinner). It’s both very flattering and rather off-putting. It would never occur to me to comment on someone’s weight to their face.

Coincidentally, I also quit dieting this month, not that I’ve been very careful over the last few, though. Occasionally, I’d input things into Sparkpeople, but my heart really wasn’t in it.

Full disclosure, I lost about 30lbs earlier this year. I was actually on Weight Watchers for a few months last winter/spring. But then, as my commitment to running/biking took off seriously, I knew that I just wasn’t getting enough fuel and that I was a grouchy mess because of it. Also, it’s expensive. Since then, I’ve put four pounds back on, and might swing back even further now that bike season is drawing to a close, but I’m still quitting.

I just read Portia de Rossi autobiography, Unbearable Lightness, which is not the kind of book to which I tend to gravitate (I mean, Oprah recommended it, for goodness sake, though, based on her interviews with the author, she really didn’t get it). But I’m a huge fan of Mrs Degeneres (as she is now known), and have been rewatching a lot of ‘Arrested Development’ lately, kind of incredulous at how brilliant she was in it, even though she was only just recovering from her darkest days then. And it’s not a scandalous celebrity biography, nor a self-help book; it’s a very difficult, candid look at someone in the throes of a very personal crisis, someone who is trying to carefully control one thing (her weight) because there are a zillion things she cannot (celebrity, sexuality, etc.).

I’ve never entirely understood anorexia, but there were some behaviours from the book that were a little bit too familiar from my trying-actively-to-lose-weight days. Like trying to figure out exactly how far I’d have to run to ‘earn’ a beer with dinner, or measuring out oatmeal to make sure the 1/2 cup I was eyeballing wasn’t closer to 2/3. I’d walk to far-flung stops to catch the bus to work so that I could pick up a non-fat latte (3 points) to have with my apple (0 points). It was exhausting, and not just physically.

I mean, that’s crazy, right? I won’t lie, I’m thrilled that I’m not creeping up on 200lbs again, but I don’t want to live like that for the rest of my life. It’s ridiculous and untenable. And, frankly, I’m fed up with the diet culture in the Western world and the pressure to look a certain way, or eat very specifically. Every person is different. It’s one the best, and worst, thing about humanity. But I think we need to shut up about people’s weight and take the pressure off society.

Obviously, I’m not advocating that people ignore their health completely. Yes, there are conditions that are linked with obesity. My highest adult weight was approximately 225lbs (I’m 5’10) around the turn of the millenium. It’s also the time when my self-esteem was at an all-time low (due to the end of my only significant romantic relationship, which collapsed/was still collapsing after five years), my acne was at a peak, and my uterine troubles were at their worst. Nonetheless, I think my poor diet and sedentary life, rather than the number on a scale, were the real culprit. I was about 97% vegetarian at the time, but didn’t really understand that cheese is not a food group, nor are potatoes, or beer. Soy milk causes me some digestive distress too, which I didn’t know at the time, and I felt like shit. All the time. It was awful.

There’s a copy of Women’s Health in the office at work. I have no idea who bought it, but I kind of want to beat them about the head with it. The cover features headlines exclusively on how to look better/thinner, but seems to contain no information on how to BE or FEEL healthier. That doesn’t sit well with me at all, for the usual feminist ‘size shouldn’t matter’ reasons, but most especially as I am fit, bike hundreds of kilometres a week, have run half-marathons, and am still a size 14, which is too fat to appear in so-called health magazines anyway. Kiss my (less fat) arse. I don’t think I could be a single digit size without some kind of bone-shaving operation, nor would I ever want to.

I actually feel best now, beer and cake suppers notwithstanding. The Weight Watchers experiment was incredibly useful too, because I actually got to feel physically hungry (which was awfully rare for a long time) and understand that I really didn’t need as much food as I thought I did during the lazy winter months.

It’s actually helped me go a bit more de Rossi, not in that I’ve gone vegan, but in that I’m not going to restrict myself. She talks about intuitive eating, actually listening to what your body wants/craves rather than what your brain is telling you to have. I’m not going to say ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly have that, it’ll go straight to my hips’.  I am trying not to just eat out of boredom (which I do at work, a lot), nor habit (sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of whatever junk food my scrawny brother has purchased recently), nor emotional upheaval (in the end, a cupcake doesn’t usually solve your problems).

So far, this has led to my eating too much Dairy Milk, not wanting dinner, then having a giant blood sugar crash, though, so I have some learnin’ to do, obviously. I’m curious to see what will happen. Maybe vanity or my inner hypocrite will take over if my weight creeps up again and my pinchiest jeans will not zip up out of the dryer. But, for now, and hopefully forever, I’m done.

9 thoughts on “Eating.

  1. elsewise

    That book stuck with me, too. I had trouble with her intuitive eating vegan happy ending, though. I don’t think it’s nearly as easy as she made it out to be.

    “Healthy” should included attitudes and behaviors toward food, and the “Lalala I can eat whatever I want now” in the book seemed a bit suspect. There’s certainly a healthy place between obsessing over measured servings and not thinking at all about what we’re putting into our bodies.

  2. megan

    Oh, of course. I wish the book had explained a bit more about that, including emphasizing that it took YEARS to figure out what her body needed. But I do believe it’s possible.

    Edited to add: I’m just starting out, but I do find that (Dairy Milks notwithstanding) that I don’t specifically junkfood about 90% of the time. The internal monologue is more like’Do I want this leftover stew, or to get a sandwich from the bakery? Oh, hummus on toast…and olives.’

  3. femmecorsair

    I agree with the absurdity of Women’s Health not having articles on how to feel and be healthy. With my crazy schedule I’ve realized that if I don’t pack my lunch, I often will not eat or I will eat crap and then, appropriately, feel like crap.

    Weight comments are also off-putting, no matter what the direction on the scale. After my knee injury, the ridiculous process going on in my body made me lose about 10 lbs in 2 week, most likely all muscle. The number of comments I received (and still receive) is astounding. But instead of “looking great” I get comments of “are you eating?” and “you look too thin.” This is a problem I have NEVER had before and a side of things I have not experienced and I find it odd. If you gain weight, no one will say a thing. If you lose weight (whether for good or bad) people feel as if they can comment on it. I think I will stick to the old adage–If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.

    • megan

      Ugh, my tiny cousin (actually tiny – 4’11 and quite slim) was praised by her father after she lost 10lbs after a bout with flu. She was down to 85lbs or something and looked/felt absolutely terrible.

      That did help her realise that her mother was right about her father being a dickhead, though, so there’s kind of a happy ending?

  4. Kellyu

    When I was in the throes of moving, I was eating out of the freezer. My habit was to cook more than I needed, freeze the remaining in single portions and then when I didn’t want to cook I would just eat out of the freezer instead.

    I had homemade (inadvertently) vegetarian pasta sauce in there, so I nuked that and cooked pasta, but I did it about 4 nights running. On the fifth night, when I had the internal monologue about what to eat, my body said STEAK!

  5. Jackie

    That’s one of the things I never quite got comfortable with. Of course I was happy I looked better when I lost weight. Who wouldn’t be? It was a nice side effect. It was easier to find clothing that fit right. But there are people in my life who couldn’t see past that, praising me lavishly on my improved appearance and ONLY that. They didn’t seem to care that I’d actually found decreasing my sugar intake to have a positive, levelling effect on my mood, and that the running and winter cycling made me feel invincible instead of my usual winter mood of wanting to hibernate the entire season or, on a bad year, to jump off a bridge. They weren’t interested in the fact that I could bend over to tie my shoes without getting winded, or that my back and knees didn’t ache as much, or that I was sleeping better, or that I felt more mentally focused.

    Because I LOOKED so GOOD, Megan. I should be SO PROUD of that. Um. Barf.

    I sometimes wonder if I fell off the wagon (I’m up about the same amount as you are) because I’m sick and tired of smiling at these people and saying “Oh, thanks,” and wishing to god we could talk about anything other than what I look like.

    • megan

      One of the examples brought up by someone who didn’t want to comment here was a clueless person who told someone they looked ‘so good’ (meaning thinner) and that they must be doing well, when actually they were having troubles with their anti-anxiety meds being switched up, which caused some weight fluctuation.

      Hearing about this also helped lead to yesterday’s addendum.

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