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Themes of despair: fat

February 15, 2015

I rarely post anything here because I just don’t feel like I have that much to write about. Which is a bit odd given the constant chatter in my head, but it’s all just so, well, boring. But since nobody reads this except me, I thought I’d try using it as a platform for working through a couple of self-help books that I’m reading. I have tons of these and they never seem to lead to lasting change, but hope springs eternal.

Sometimes I feel that I have not progressed emotionally at all since I was 17 (and I just turned 40 a few months ago!). The same themes crop up again and again and again, with mind-numbing frequency and repetition. Maybe that’s a feature of depression, or maybe it’s just part of the human condition. All I really know is that I torture myself with the same harsh thoughts over and over, despite various rounds of cognitive behavioural therapy, anti-depressants, counselling, and self-help books. I often feel that I have finally moved to a place where I don’t worry so much about finding “the answer”, and then I’ll have an unexpectedly bad day which starts the cycle all over again.

The main themes that run through my head are fat, health anxiety, depression and misery, unemployment, immaturity, and clutter. Fat is the big one. Being fat has tainted my whole life. I used to think that I was somehow above being obsessed with my appearance, that only shallow and vapid women worried about their looks. But this really was just a screen, a way to cope with the fact that no matter how I dress or do my hair and makeup or whatever, I’m still fat. And fat is code for ugly and rejected.

Perhaps ironically I have never really dieted, except for a short stint in WW when I was a teen and a few years spent as a half-hearted vegetarian. I constantly fantasize about dieting down to a “normal” size but I never seem to manage even a day. Partly this is due to a fundamental realization that dieting leads to insanity, at least for me. During my time on the WW program I was the only person in the family on the diet and I felt singled out and ashamed, even though my family is generally very supportive and never taunted me for my size or anything horrible like that. It was just the feeling of being restricted, cut off, and just… different, in a bad way, that bothered me. And then there were the WW meetings themselves. As a high school student in a room full of middle-aged women I was out of my element to start with. The amount of body-shaming talk and glorification of strange, restrictive eating patterns in the meetings was unbelievable. I always felt uncomfortable, especially when my dedication was not reflected in changes on the scale and I’d be chided for cheating. Many years later I found out that I have PCOS, which in part explains why I didn’t lose much weight. But that accusation still stings, and it led me to later compulsive eating.

In one meeting a group of women who worked together described the scientific precision with which they worked out exactly how many millimetres of a fun-size Snickers bar they could each have without blowing the diet. The whole episode was like some kind of theatrical performance. A group of four or five women stood in front of the room, very animatedly detailing the postal scales, the callipers, the extra-sharp knife, and the fight over who got the end bits with the most chocolate covering on them. Everyone else in the meeting was laughing hysterically but even then I found it very unsettling. I’d probably never heard of anorexia or bulimia at that point but it struck me as very unhealthy, and I quit the program soon after.

I wish I could say that this episode was the moment that I realized my body was fine the way it was and that I merrily skipped into the sunset and into a life where I exercised because it felt good and ate when I was hungry and not when I was sad or bored or whatever. Sadly it’s never that easy. I’m far larger now than I was then. I’ve spent countless hours berating myself for my size in the harshest, cruellest terms imaginable. I have allowed my weight (and more importantly, lack of fitness) to damage my career — I’m not fit enough to properly do the job that I am best qualified for, so I avoid applying for jobs in that field. My size slowly creeps upward. I’m now at the very top end of the range of women’s clothing, and I will soon be restricted to shopping in horrible catalogues because my size will simply be unavailable in any bricks and mortar stores. I have a person in my life who I always thought of as being a step too far. I have often thought to myself “I may be big, but I’ll never be as big as them”. Yeah, well, I’m bigger than they are now.

In recent years I have been doing my best to embrace the Health at Every Size and Fat Acceptance mindsets. On a logical level they make perfect sense to me. Dieting has such an incredibly low success rate and such a high risk of encouraging the development of disordered eating and excessive weight gain that it seems foolish to start a program of deprivation and self-flagellation, knowing that it is likely to lead to even more weight gain. But I still desperately want to be thinner. Not really “thin” in a conventional sense, but I want to be a middle-of-the-road, average size (like a 16). I want to be a person who goes out hiking or does Pilates or goes dancing because I want to and I enjoy doing it, rather than someone who is obsessed with burning off X number of calories. But I avoid exercise because I am extremely self-conscious of how my body wobbles, my face gets red and sweaty and disgusting, and how I gasp and struggle for air. All of which would be improved with more exercise, I know, but I just feel so overwhelmingly ashamed that it’s hard to make myself get out there and do stuff.

This is one reason why I have avoided getting a job in my field. It involves a lot of manual labour that I’m just too weak and out of shape to do quickly and effectively. Being sweaty and puffed out distracts me from the job at hand and triggers so many destructive thoughts that I can’t think straight. The last few field jobs I had, I was hardly thinking about the actual work I was doing because my head was so full of horrendous insults and vitriol. I was often on the verge of tears because of the nasty things I was telling myself. On the last job one of my supervisors did make a comment about how slow and out of shape I was, which led me to assume that everyone else who worked with me was thinking the same thing.

Since that time my fitness has only declined further, and despite my terror of further weight gain, lack of physical fitness, imagined health problems, and so on, I seem to be simply paralyzed. At the moment I am in a limbo of self-employed/housewife hell, which means I have tons of free time. But I can’t seem to find the motivation to use this freedom to make improvements. I sit on my rear, surfing the internet, reading self-help books, constantly nibbling on whatever comes to hand, wallowing in fear and despair.


From → Fat, Mental

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