Underneath my yellow skin

Chasing a unicorn

I’m fat. I know I’ve said this before, but it really hit home when I looked at the pictures of me from my niece’s wedding shower. Related, I looked up someone from college who I had a big crush on, and he looks fantastic. He’s two years older than I am, but he looks like he’s in his early thirties. I mean, I look younger than I am, too, but I’m still fat. Come to think of it, he’s also Asian, so maybe it’s partly our good genes. Anyway, I looked gargantuan in the pics. It’s partly because my niece is slim and gamine-like, but it’s also just that I’m fat. Have I said it often enough? I am fat.

I have spent almost thirty years battling eating disorders of one kind or another. Actually, my disordered relationship with food started ten years before that when my mother put me on my first diet with the words, “You would be so pretty if you would just lose weight.” I’ve also recounted my mother’s disordered thinking when it comes to her body and food, but I can’t emphasize how much it’s seeped into my subconsciousness. There was a stretch of time when every time we talked on the phone, she would mention her weight. She, of course, insists it’s all about health (also the excuse she gives for nagging about my weight until I put my foot down), but I realized it was bullshit because she never once voiced any concern when I was anorexic (both times). The only thing she said was, “Now your waist is skinnier than mine”, and it was in a jealous voice. The first time I deal with anorexia and bulimia, I got caught throwing up in the bathroom, and my mother was brought in to talk about it. I don’t remember how that actually came about, but I do remember my mom was not pleased and did not want to do anything about it. I’m sure it was embarrassing for her and that I brought  shame to the family. But, it also was chickens coming home to roost or however that phrase goes.

Anyway. The second bout with anorexia/bulimia included me fainting at First Ave. for a Los Lobos side project concert. Which was very disappointing because I admire Los Lobos so much. After that, I gave up on ‘dieting’ because I just could not do it in a responsible way. No matter how rationally I started (I will be honest that I wasn’t all that rational at the start of the second round, but I had at least tried not to be crazed), I spiraled out as the weeks progressed. I clearly remember how I set a goal of 150 lbs, and when I got to 155, I dropped my goal to 145. I kept doing that until I passed out.

Here’s the thing. I can’t do numbers. I don’t mean I can’t do math because of course I can. I like math. I liked everything except geometry and trig 2, and the latter was because of the teacher. I mean I can’t do numbers when I’m dieting because I lose all sense of proportion. During my first bout with anorexia/bulimia, I weighed myself twice a day. Now, this isn’t good in general, and it’s definitely not good for someone with disordered thinking. It’s not good in general because a person’s weight fluctuates on a daily basis. All the health rags say you should only weigh yourself once a week if you weigh yourself at all. It should be more about the clothing fitting better is the new train of thought, and while it’s better, it’s still too much emphasis on the actual weight loss. The second time I tried to lose weight, I tried to rely more on tape measurements than pounds, but it didn’t matter. I knew an inch was equal to five pounds, so if I didn’t lose a half inch a week, I’d be very depressed.

All of this rambling is a prelude to me saying that I need to lose weight. I will be honest and say that while yes, there are health reasons for it of course, it’s because I hate looking like a house. I don’t look at myself in the mirror on a regular basis, and I would like to be able to do so without cringing. Ideally, I’d like to lose a hundred pounds, but I doubt I’ll be able to do that. My metabolism sucks, and I’m twenty years older than the last time I tried to lose weight. I know it’ll be much harder to lose weight this time around. When I said I can’t do numbers, I meant that I can’t do the scale or even the tape measure because it ends up with me spiraling into disordered thinking and behavior. On the other hand, I don’t do well without concrete markers of improvement. ‘Clothes fitting better’ is dissatisfying, but I suppose it’s a better metric in the long run.

I also don’t want to get back into working out for hours a day under the aegis of ‘health’. The first time I was actively anorexic, I worked out for six or seven hours a day. It was in the summer before I went to college, so I had time when I wasn’t working an d preparing for college. I did 700 crunches a day, which was a lot of crunches. The second time, I decided to be more practical and ‘only’ exercise 1 1/2 hours a day. Oh, that was just cardio, and I did 45 minutes of weightlifting every other day. I also ate 1200 calories a day because that’s what my research told me that a woman of my stature could safely eat a day. What I didn’t realize, or more like, refused to acknowledge was that it was the base calories someone of my stature could intake just to survive. In other words, me sitting on a couch and not moving all day long would burn that many calories. In theory, it wasn’t a terrible number to pick, but for someone with ED issues, it was a slippery slope that led to a really dark place.

Al this history brings me to the question of how I go about losing weight without losing myself as well. I already know I can’t do the scale or the tape measure, but what *can* I do instead? I’m already making diet (lifestyle) changes that I can actually sustain for my life. It’s been two years of giving up gluten and dairy, and for the most part, I’m fine with it. Sure, there are times where I would give my right arm for a mess of dumplings, but it’s pretty rare. There are a lot of good substitutes, and I’m mostly fine with never eating cheese again. Mainly because I found an amaaaaaazing substitute–Daiya farmhouse block style cheese, mainly the jalapeno Havarti one. It’s fantastic, and I would actually eat it on its own.

I’ve written in the past about how it’s easier for me to add things than to take them away, so I’m trying to revamp my diet by making healthier choices. Oh! I did give up caffeine, which wasn’t easy at all. I drink maybe two or three cups of caffeinated tea a week, but that’s it. And whatever residual caffeine is found in chocolate. I also want to cut out the chips/snacks which I have done in the past, but I’m having a hard time doing it now. I keep buying chips or puffcorn despite my best attempts to not doing it. So, I’ve decided to utilize a makeshift medium for now–giving myself a choice. Either I can have the chips/puffcorn, or I can buy chocolate. This time, I got the puffcorn and did not buy the chocolate. Next time, who knows? Either way, only buying one will be helpful to my health.

I made my decision to add fruits and vegetables to my diet a few weeks ago. It’s been something I’ve had to consciously think about because it’s not natural for me. I used to eat an orange a day, and that was it fruits/veggies-wise. In the last few weeks, I have added (one a day) salads, peaches, and corn on the cob. I’ve also had avocado, plums, and mangoes. I’ve always liked fruits better than veggies so I’ll have to work harder on the latter. Or rather, I like veggies, but it’s easier to eat fruits because you don’t have to prep them. Oh! I did have a package of baby carrots last week. I’m trying to make them the substitute for chips.

I’m feeling ok with my food at this point, but I really think I would feel better if I got rid of the chips/puffcorn/snacks. I don’t know why I’m so resistant to the idea, especially since it wasn’t hard to do the last time I tried. That lasted years, and then it went away in a flash. I think it’s because I like to munch when I’m feeling depressed, and a salty snack is an easy thing to eat without much effort. I tried to use baby carrots as a substitute, but it just didn’t give the same satisfaction.

Exercise-wise, I’m starting to learn the Sabre Form, which is a weight-bearing exercise. Right now, I’m only doing one drill, five times, each way, but it involves a lot of swinging. As for the form, my teacher has shown me the first three movements. This is not the first time I have studied the Sabre Form, and I made it about two-thirds of the way through the first time. I don’t remember any of it, but relearning it is much easier thus far. I can work up a real sweat practicing the sabre, which isn’t saying much given that I sweat like a pig. Still. It’s a workout, and it feels like I’m actually doing something physical. I love taiji, obviously, but sometimes, it doesn’t feel as if I’m getting any immediate benefit from it. I know that’s not the case, but I can’t always convince myself otherwise.

I’m going to keep working on my diet by adding fruits and vegetables–oh, and cutting down on meat. Any weight loss will be slower this way, but probably better in the long run.

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