Underneath my yellow skin

When ‘Fat’ Feels Like a Four-Letter Word

this is a meal, isn't it?
Measuring my self worth

I am fat. I’m not fluffy or padded or zaftig; I’m fat. I’m not saying this to slag on myself; I’m simply stating a fact.  I don’t like that I’m fat, but I’m at a loss what to do about it. Oh, I know the usual advice. Eat less (and more healthily) and exercise more. This is the twin mantra of anyone serious about losing weight. The problem is, I’ve dealt with eating disorders for most of my life, and any time I try to diet, I slip into disordered thinking. The two times I lost an appreciable amount of weight, I ended up being anorexic/bulimic both times. The first time, I just dove straight into anorexia with the bulimia evolving later as a chaser. The second time, I was determined to lose weight sensibly, only to find myself passed out on a the floor of First Avenue because I hadn’t eaten all day and had two drinks within half an hour of arriving. I don’t drink much which accounted for part of the problem, but the bigger issue was my refusal to eat in order for me to have those two drinks. That night, I realized if I kept going on the way I was, I would die. I had a 23-inch waist and was eating roughly 1,500 calories a day. A woman my height needs to ingest 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day just to survive. At that time, I was working out for 2 to 2 1/2 hours per day, which means I should have been eating almost twice as much as I was. True to my nature, I quit everything cold turkey. I stopped watching what I was eating and all the exercise. In those days, I didn’t do anything in half measures. If I couldn’t be OCD about losing weight, then I wasn’t going to do it at all. I’m not proud of this mentality nor am I saying it’s healthy, but I can’t deny that’s how I thought. I tend to be a person of extremes, and while I’m better at it now than I was then, I fear that if I started dieting again, I’d be back to square one.

I know, you’re saying why don’t I just make lifestyle changes instead of dieting? I am doing that, but it’s very slow-going. I’ve cut out baked goods such as muffins (which I love), chips (except Lay’s had their name the chips contest, and I had to try the final four because I’ve done it every year for the past few years), and cheese–for the most part. I’m slowly adding back fruits and vegetables. My mom used to make me and my brother eat them several times a day when we were kids, so I rebelled against them when I hit my thirties. It’s a shame because I like fruits and vegetables, so I’m making a conscious effort to put them back in my diet. I eat an orange every day, partly because my taiji teacher told me they’re good for removing lactic build up (which is why you ache after a workout), and I’m trying to eat more salads. I’m also trying to cut back on my Coke Zero consumption, but that has not been easy this summer. The minute it’s eighty out, I’m mainlining that shit. My eating habits are pretty atrocious when I’m in my overeating phase, and this current ‘phase’ has lasted almost twenty years.

Fitness-wise, I attend taiji classes three times a week. Two of the classes are an hour and a half, and the other is two hours. In addition to that, I do twenty minutes to half an hour of taiji and stretching every morning. The taiji part of my routine includes the Sword Form and a weight set (I do the latter three times a week), both of which are weight-bearing activities. Other than that, though, I’m mostly sitting on my couch, tapping away at my laptop. I would like to include more movement into my day, even if it’s not an activity per se. I know it’s not good for me to sit motionless for hours upon hours, but I don’t seem to have enough motivation to actually do something about it.

For the most part, I don’t think too much about being fat. Yes, I still avoid the mirror as I have since I was a kid. I don’t like the way I look, and, yes, much of it has to do with me thinking I’m a beached whale. Other people tell me I’m beautiful, and I politely say thank you*, but inside, I’m thinking, “How the hell can they say that when I’m so gross?” I don’t think I’m ugly any longer, and believe me, that’s not been easy to achieve, but I can’t shake the thought that my body is disgusting. Still, I don’t focus on it as I have in the past. However, my mom was just here for her yearly visit,** and she is obsessed with weight. Hers in particular, but weight in general as well. It’s partly because Taiwanese culture is even worse than American culture when it comes to fatness. In addition, she’s tiny at 5’2″, and she was eighty-five pounds when she married my father. Moving to America caused her to gain some weight, and having two kids didn’t help. I would argue she was underweight when she came to America, but that would fall on deaf ears. She put me on my first diet when I was seven, saying I would have such a pretty face if I weren’t so fat. I was, indeed, a chubby kid, and I grew into a chubby teen, but looking back, I wasn’t fat–just sturdy.

My mom has a habit of commenting on other people’s weight, mostly women. She went to visit her sisters in Philadelphia during her trip back to America, and when she returned here, she told me how chubby they were. She also likes to get her little digs in, which is why I told her several years ago that my weight was off-limits for her. She knows about my eating disorders, but she’s never talked about them with me–probably because they hit too close to home. It’s not because she doesn’t know about eating disorders–she’s a psychologist with a Psy.D,*** so I believe she just doesn’t want to face her own issues.

stay out!
Go away. Nobody is home.

It all came to a head the night before she was flying back to Taiwan. She wanted to talk to me about something, and she prefaced it with, “I know you probably don’t want to hear this.” Now, as you all know, if someone has to say that, she probably should just STFU and not say what she’s about to say. However, my mom felt compelled, and she said, “I’m concerned about your weight.” Immediately, my inner wall slammed down. I said I didn’t want to talk about it and reminded her that I had made talk of my weight verboten. She remembered, but apparently, she didn’t care. I should have gotten up and walked away, but, stupidly, I stayed. She said some stuff, but I wasn’t really listening. My ire was growing, and I was trying to keep a lid on it. She was hammering on one of my sorest points, though, and she wouldn’t stop talking. Basically, she was offering me money to lose weight. When I figured out what she was up to, I exploded.  That’s like offering a recovering addict money for her drug of choice, and I couldn’t believe she would do that. Like I said, she’s a psychologist, and she should have known that what she was doing was ill-advised. I told her how offensive and harmful what she was doing was to me, and she went into martyr mode.

“You don’t trust that I want what’s best for you,” she said in a mournful tone. I was too angry to say it at the time, but that’s not actually true. Oddly enough, I do believe she wants what’s best for me. The problem is, what she thinks is best for me is wrapped up in her own skewed views on weight, dieting, and health. She’s pre-diabetic, and her doctor in Taiwan asks her about her weight every time she goes in. Therefore, she feels justified to be obsessed with the five pounds she always thinks she needs to lose, but it’s a rationalization. She’s been like this for as long as I remember, but now she can point to her doctor and say, “It’s not me–it’s him/her.” She’s so steeped in her belief that it’s about health, I can’t shake it. I pointed out that I have low blood pressure and that my cholesterol is fine, and she countered with she was fine until she hit menopause. I’m in pre-menopause right now, so she feels comfortable saying that’s the reason she’s mentioning her concerns now.

Her denial is like quicksand. Every step I take, I sink further into her delusions. When I reminded her of the time that I was anorexic and how she didn’t say anything except, “Now you’re skinnier than I am” in an envious tone,**** she said it’s because she wasn’t menopausal then and wasn’t concerned about weight.  The problem is, her doctor and society in general (Taiwanese and American) support her bullshit. It’s acceptable to concern troll people about their weight under the guise of being concerned about their health. It’s always bullshit because it’s not like the person who’s being concerned trolled doesn’t know she’s fat or the millions of ways she can instantly lose a gazillion pounds. The bottom line is, the fat person makes the other person uncomfortable because of her fatness, and every fat person knows it. I know that I’m unacceptable in the eyes of many because I’m not a size 0. Yes, there’s a size 0 for women, which is pretty sad if you think about it. We’ve made strides in our society in not hating on fat people, but we still have so much further to go.

Back to my mom. Once I calmed down, I felt sheepish for blowing up. I know this is her issue, and I know she’s not likely to change. I shouldn’t have allowed her to bait me into a fight, but to be fair to myself, she wouldn’t back down, either. However, as I’m the more aware person in this case, the onus was on me to take several slow, smooth breaths and walk away. It’s also on me that if she brings it up again, I need to gently, but firmly tell her I don’t want to talk about it. Then, I have to keep saying it until she gets the point.

Meanwhile, I still have to figure out what I want to do about my weight in a non-disordered way. I don’t like the way I look, and I feel better when I’m thinner. However, I stop feeling sexual when I’m too thin, so I need to be careful about going too far. I know I can’t count calories or set up a regime that I rigidly follow every day because I’ll slip back into my old way of thinking. In my heart, I know the right thing to do is to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Cut out the junk items one by one, add back vegetables and fruit, and get moving. It’s boring and dull, but it’s the reliable way to change habits and not just be on a perpetual diet. I want to think I can do better this time, but I’m skeptical because my main motivation remains looks and not health. Still, the fact that I’m aware of my shortcomings means I have a fighting chance of doing things better this time. At least I can hope.



*I’ve learned how to take a compliment graciously, even if I don’t believe it.

**Which lasts four to six weeks.

***Psychology doctorate.

****My point was that if she was truly concern about my health and not weight, she would have said something then. Also, the fact that she literally said she was worried about my weight at the start of this conversation proves my point.

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