Friday, February 7, 2014

That Which Weighs Me Down

One of my proudest accomplishments is losing 50 pounds in 2010.

One of my most tragic humiliations is gaining 20 of it back.

I haven't wanted to write about it because that would mean acknowledging it as true.

But I must write about it, because a culture of secrecy is what feeds these things that eat away at us - addiction, affliction, abuse, binging, purging. My mother was a secret eater. Last I knew, she was over 200 pounds at only 5'1".

I don't know what happened to me. I was at a peak low weight in September 2012 after spending another month in Joshua Tree. I was in shape, eating healthy, drinking less, and feeling good. I'd been so successful for over two years. I'd shared my story with everybody. It became part of who I am.

But something derailed me.

My birthday was not tragic in 2012. Not that year.

For some reason, by Halloween, I was already feeling fat again, not happy with the photos of myself in my "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" / "Material Girl" pink gown with the giant bow. I wasn't hiking every day like I had been in Joshua Tree. I wasn't working, and had no regular schedule, no routine upon which to rely.

In November 2012, I'd probably gained ten of those pounds back already. I was so stir-crazy and broke that I took a job at the mall, which made me more active with eight consecutive hours of standing and running between racks and dressing rooms, but more inactive on my off days, feet hurting, lower back aching, brain fried, tired of talking. Without reliable lunch breaks and rest periods, I rewarded myself with post-shift happy hours and martinis and dinners, spending most of my paycheck and piling on the calories.

I was very hard on myself back then, ten pounds heavier than my lowest weight, only about three pounds over a healthy weight range for my height.

It feels like I've been torturing myself about my weight forever. I don't know how to stop. I wasn't even happy at my lowest, because it literally only lasted a day, and I couldn't get back to it, no matter how hard I tried.

I wish I'd been happy with myself back then. I wish I could be happy with myself now.

Things actually got worse when I resigned from my mall job, despite having freelance work (in my actual career) to occupy me. In the months that followed, I lost two guy friends - both of whom were treasured confidantes - because of complications associated with their "taken" status. I had a one night stand with a stupid drunk Silverlake hipster who told me I reminded him of a Botticelli painting, at which point I knew it was time to leave. Around the same time, I finally relented and accepted the advances of one of the few age-appropriate single men in my life, only to discover that he was - at best - a chubby chaser who wanted to bury himself in my rolls of fat. I was only a little overweight at that point, and he treated me like an all-you-can-eat buffet. He called me his "big girl" and wanted me to say things like, "I'm your big girl."

I wasn't even that big back then.

I tried complying, but I was traumatized. Worst of all, he was putting his own pleasures and desires above my general mental health and body image. It didn't matter how much my perceived rotundness turned him on, I couldn't feel good about it. There is a giant leap between "I love you just the way you are" and "Your stomach is huge! I love it!" It pains me to even type the words and have my eyes read them back to me.

Although a situation like that might make most people want to never eat again, it sent me snacking and drinking, making worse the very thing I hated, that which I'd tried so hard to get away from.

In June 2013, I rejoined Weight Watchers, having fallen off the wagon and skipped meetings for a year and a half. I spent six months feeling like I was starving myself, and never losing more than six pounds, eventually gaining it all back - and then some - by the end of the year.

During Christmas break back in Syracuse, I was like a heroin addict getting reintroduced to smack. I consumed Christmas cookies for every meal, with no pause in between. I didn't want to eat anything else, and I couldn't stop. I hadn't been home for an entire year - didn't I deserve a little treat?

But it wasn't one little treat. It was a constant flow of sugar and fat and chocolate and peanut butter down my throat, barely pausing to chew or even roll the deliciousness around my tongue.

Around New Year's 2014, four years after first joining Weight Watchers, I was too sick to get back on the wagon, bed-ridden and forsaken by the one person in LA I thought I could count on. That entire month, my weight kept going up, every week.

I started a new job on January 15, generating a professional stress-level I had not experienced for six months. As my weight continued to go up, I considered switching from Weight Watchers to some other diet plan. I considered appetite suppressant powders and pills. I wished I could develop an eating disorder.

Instead of drinking and eating my sorrows away, I started leaving the office early enough to go hiking before sundown, and on some nights, hiking in the dark (which everyone knows I hate doing). I started booking aerobics and dance classes, taking my sweaty ass home afterwards instead of going out, and feeling good about it. I've been bringing my lunch every day, avoiding the free snacks in the kitchen and the daily lunch delivery orders made by all of my coworkers. I'm trying to eat half what I was eating before, and drinking even less. I'm trying to cut back on Diet Coke. I'm trying coffee without sweetener.

After a week of not cutting corners and playing by the rules instead of trying to cheat the system, I lost 4.6 pounds, making my meeting leader's eyes bulge when she weighed me in. I just nodded and cast my eyes downward, saying, "I know. I had to."

I don't know what it was, but something clicked. I don't want to be dependent on anyone or anything, much less sugar, caffeine, and fatty, crunchy, doughy, cheesy things. I want to feel better because life is better, not because I'm acting out or breaking the rules or self-medicating.

I don't care if I ever eat again, but unfortunately, I have to. I can't go cold turkey like an alcoholic. I can't avoid kitchens and grocery stores. There's no methadone for pizza and doughnuts.

I don't care if anyone else ever sees me naked. I want to look in the mirror and smile.

I want to see my cheekbones.

I want to find my bellybutton.

I want my clothes to fit, my beautiful new wardrobe to which I finally committed (after months of wearing clothes too big) because I thought I would be able to stay at that weight.

I want to sleep well.

I want to get out of bed in the morning without limping. I want to do everything without pain.

But I also don't want to live life with limitations, wondering what to order and when I can eat again, passing on offered options because they're not on plan or they'll trigger me. Turning anything down is torture for me. I want to try everything, taste everything.

So what do I do? As I round out my second week of being back on track - really on track - I'm curious to watch the scale when I weigh in on Monday. I used to skip breakfast, wear skimpy clothing, and remove all my jewelry and shoes when I weighed in, hoping for any tenth-of-a-pound difference it might make. Now I at least eat a small bowl of cereal and just wear jeans or whatever I'm wearing to work when I get on the scale. It's not a competition. I'll either get back there or I won't. There aren't any tricks to it.

Either I can do it again, or I can't.

I guess I'll find out.

Related Posts:
Hello to the Old Me
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
That Which Haunts Me