I had two incidents happen in the last 24 hours that have affected me on a deep, profound level that I would really like to talk about.
Last night I went to a friend’s house. We are beta testing a board game. Each of us is is going through some extreme life changes and we’re all trying to find ways of actually interacting with other human beings.
When I walked into his house, the heavenly aroma of fresh brownies hung in the air. His wife, who is also a friend, offered me a warm brownie and a glass of cold milk.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was offered a warm brownie. I have had warm brownies at home, but there is always this cloud of shame attached to them. They get made because someone is really in the mood for chocolate and they are furtively consumed alone.
Having another person offer me a brownie with no associated guilt or feeling of failure associated with it was an incredibly moving experience.
The second incident was on the dead, forgotten social networking platform App.net. I commented about trying to figure out how to cook. I am living on my own for the first time in my life and I never really learned how to cook. I wish I had a cooking tutorial book for people like me starting off with some simple stuff that you then build into more complex stuff like you do when you learn programming.
Most people were very encouraging and enthusiastic about this goal. Except one person, who said: “Like you eat out every day prior to this? Unhealthy.”
That sound you hear in the background is the land mine this guy just stepped on blowing him to smithereens.
You have no fucking clue how pissed off I am about this comment.
I do not know why people in the country feel like they have the right to judge other people about what they eat.
My ex-husband and my father were both on extreme diets, but their diets were in direct opposition to one another. My father followed a mostly vegetarian diet with a lot of beans, rice, and bread. My ex husband followed a low-carb Paleo-style diet. Trying to coordinate a meal between the two of them was like the most bloody Holy War imaginable. Both were incredibly passionate that their way of eating was the right one, that the other person was an irresponsible fool, and that the other one would drop dead of a heart attack at a young age due to extreme obesity.
I don’t want to live like that. I have been living like this for the last thirty-three god damned years and I am fucking tired of it.
I like potatoes. I like pie. I like cheeseburgers. I like beans.
When I was a kid one of the highlights of my year was when my mom would bring home a French Silk pie from Baker’s Square. I told myself as a child that when I was an adult I would keep one of those suckers in my refrigerator and eat it directly out of the pie plate and share it with no one. Last month after my husband moved out of the house I brought a pie home and ate it directly from the plate. It was one of the most glorious, liberating moments I have had in my life of being able to eat like a savage and absolutely giving no shits about it.
I am incredibly disturbed by the amount of judgement we have about what other people eat. I am angry that we are making overweight people feel bad for being moral failures for being fat.
My Life as a Fat Girl
I have been on both sides of the coin. I have been fat and I have been painfully thin. I am a recovering anorexic. I starved myself in high school because I hated myself and I wanted to disappear but I was too afraid to actually follow through with taking my own life. I have hated my body for being fat even though I was incredibly thin, to the point of being unhealthy and unable to retain any body heat.
I was placed on a bunch of creepy medications when I was 16 that made me gain over sixty pounds in less than two years. As I watched myself going from a skinny to a chubby to borderline obese teenaged girl, I cried from despair and self loathing. I hated all of my skinny classmates and I was pissed at myself for not realizing I was skinny when I was anorexic.
I didn’t have a boyfriend for ten years and my parents and my doctors thought I was a lesbian. I tried to talk to my doctors about what was happening, but I got a sanctimonious “Eat less and exercise more” rather than an honest disclosure that weight gain was a common side effect of the drugs they were forcing me on. Right now there is a class action lawsuit against one of the drug manufacturers for causing Type-2 diabetes in people who were on the same medication I was because it caused so much weight gain.
The second I went off of these medications I lost most of the weight. I didn’t exercise more or eat less. I just stopped taking medicine I didn’t need to begin with.
One of the worst parts about being fat was basically being invisible. I have always spent way more time with men than women and I developed crushes on a lot of my classmates. I didn’t really like any of them, I just kind of thought I was supposed to have a boyfriend and I was sad that no one was attracted to me.
I would sit next to my crushes and listen to them bitch about how the hot girls in their classes didn’t notice they existed while they were completely oblivious to the fact that I had a crush on them. I think if they had known I liked them it wouldn’t have made any difference. They would have been dismayed that the only girl who liked them was the socially awkward chubby girl with the bad personality. I don’t think they liked any of the girls they crushed on any more than I actually liked them, we all just wanted some external validation that we were okay.
When I lost all of the weight and went back down to my anorexic high school weight in 2008, I thought it would be this life changing experience. It wasn’t. I still felt bad about myself, except now I couldn’t go longer than two hours without having to take a nap, half of my hair fell out, and my face broke out and wouldn’t heal. What did make a difference to me was finally finding something I was good at and learning not to worry about the other stuff. When I started focusing inward on what I thought and felt rather than what I looked like I found peace.
We’re Not Being Effective
In spite of the billions of dollars we have sunk into research about weight, we seem no closer to understanding how weight works. Don’t give me any of that crap about “calories in, calories out.” Yes, on some level it is calories in, calories out, but there are a lot of factors that affect how the calories out gets determined. Women retain more fat than men do because we need to to grow and make babies.
Guess what? No one wants to be fat. No one chooses to be fat.
Being fat is one of the last acceptable things for people to be discriminatory about. You can’t say racist things in public anymore, but it’s perfectly okay to shame someone for being fat. People are being cut open and having perfectly good organs butchered by doctors to avoid being fat. We have created a narrative in our culture where anyone who is fat is fat because they lack the willpower to stop shoveling donuts into their gaping maws. We can feel superior to them because we have enough restraint to be thin even if we aren’t actively doing anything about it. This Calvinistic belief is preventing any meaningful research from being done into how to effectively fight the obesity epidemic.
This isn’t helped by the mass media messages that we receive telling both men and women that we are not “enough” to con us into buying gym memberships to “fix” ourselves to some Photoshopped ideal.
If you are a “stereotypical” fat person who spends all day eating, you are probably depressed or have some other issue that is the actual root of your issues. The weight is just a symptom. We aren’t treating weight like a symptom. We’re treating it like a moral failing making it more difficult for people who are struggling to actually get help. That really sucks.
I am sick and tired of everyone I know feeling shame about food. I am sick of everyone I know judging other people for what they choose to eat.
I want to see more people like my friend offering warm brownies to people with no underlying shame. I like to feed people. I used to bake a lot and it gave me a lot of pleasure giving people food I made and seeing them enjoy it. Something I used to love is now a source of tremendous angst for most of the people I know. I want everyone to feel loved and accepted for who they are rather than wasting their lives feeling ashamed because they keep gaining and losing the same twenty pounds over and over again.
When I got married back in 2009 I was skinny and sick and miserable. I have gained back more of the weight than I would really have liked to. I don’t really care. I feel better than I did then. I know now that I will never look the way I think I am supposed to. I am curvy. I hate skinny jeans. They are an abomination. I can’t force my body to fit into a mold it doesn’t fit into, so fuck it.
I am going to wear shorts that show my thigh fat. I find them comfortable and I would rather be comfortable than worry about showing people that I am chubby. My mom tells me not to wear things that make me look chubby. Hey! Guess what? I AM chubby. I don’t give a fuck. I feel okay in my own skin and I am fine with who I am. I am trying to go running more because I enjoy it and it makes me feel better. If I lose weight cool. If not, then whatever.
I am drawing a line in the sand here. I am going to eat whatever I feel like eating. I will eat my food mindfully. I will think about each thing I put in my body and if I want to eat pie, I am going to eat pie. Life is too short to feel hungry all the time and to eat unsatisfying salads and to feel empty inside.
If you have enough leisure time to make your food from scratch every day, great for you. I don’t. I am out of my house close to twelve hours a day. I spend that time bashing my head against a lot of really difficult stuff that drains all of my energy. I come home and find anything I shove into my mouth before taking a bottle of wine with me to the bathtub to try and drink myself to sleep, which usually doesn’t work and I wind up waking up at 4:30 in the morning.
I want to learn how to cook. I find it rather intimidating. I lived with a guy who spent thousands of dollars on various kitchen gadgets and wanted to work his way through the Julia Child cookbook. I just want to make meatloaf and curry. I want to have a few things that I can throw together when I am brain dead and I need to feed myself. Eventually I would like to make food for other people who will enjoy eating it rather than giving me a lame excuse about how they’re on a diet and they can’t eat my food because it has butter and sugar in it.
I had tutorials to learn how to program, I don’t know why they don’t have a similar thing for adults to learn how to cook. Start simple and build various skills that can be used together to make increasingly complex foods. I don’t want some asshole online implying that I am a slovenly person because I lived off of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup after my ex moved out of the house because I was trying to keep my head above water.
I hope that this post inspires people who feel ashamed about food to go out and eat something they want to eat without feeling guilty about it. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t feel like you are immoral because you ate a brownie. Life is meant to be lived. Eat the brownie. Enjoy the brownie.
A friend of mine said something that I thought was great. He said, “I don’t know when I will die, but I do know that when I die I won’t die hungry. I will die knowing the last thing I ate was tasty and delicious.”
Words to live by.