Let’s talk about fat

I’ve been at my parents’ in San Jose for about fifty hours now, and I’ve been told at least three times that I have gained a lot of weight (with accompanying hand gestures in strategic body areas) and should really lose it.

Oh, thank you for bringing this to my attention. Somehow it had escaped my notice that I am now fatter than I have ever been before. I’d never before observed that I have trouble fitting into some of my clothes, never dwelled on why I often feel tired, have trouble sleeping, or am experiencing a resurgence of my old issues with my appearance. Gee, if you hadn’t said anything, maybe I would have just gotten bigger and bigger, like a blimp, until I couldn’t fit through doors anymore! Thank you! I never would have seen that coming on my own! You’ve made me feel so much better about myself.

Yes, I’m being hurtfully sarcastic. But you know what? Comments about my looks HURT TOO. Maybe you think I’m being overly sensitive, and clearly you feel this is a problem of my own making, but I don’t need you to tell me that. Give my intellect some credit. I see you less than once a month; I see myself every day. Whatever’s obvious to you is more than blinding to me. YES, I KNOW I AM FAT. YES, I KNOW I SHOULD LOSE WEIGHT. Dammit, I’m trying, and even if I’m maybe not trying as hard as I could, that still doesn’t give you the right to say whatever you like about it.

The thing that makes me crazy about criticisms of weight gain is that, of course, they’re all based on the notion that “if you only tried harder, you wouldn’t be this fat.” Let me tell you something. We all know that weight gain has genetic and cultural components, but it does also have to do with self-control… just like when you stay up late to watch TV or go on the internet, or when you buy things you don’t need, or eat out just because it’s easier, or take out your stress on someone else who lives with you instead of dealing with it on your own. In other words, self-control problems are human. We all mess up, we all do things we know we shouldn’t, we all take it easy sometimes when life gets too exhausting. The only difference is, when you mess up on something else, you can keep it hidden. When I mess up on eating and exercise, it shows all over my body. Do I go through your household budget to point out all the times you could have saved money, like you point out every cookie I eat as evidence of how I’m not trying? It’s not fair to treat me like I’m not allowed to make mistakes, just because my mistakes are more visible than yours. Especially when I’ve trying for so long to improve. And it’s especially cruel to act as if my fatness is news to me. Haven’t I been struggling with my weight since I was ten years old? You think a week goes by that it doesn’t affect how I feel about myself?

These comments about my weight have been particularly hurtful this weekend, because I’ve been frustrated about it myself for the past two weeks. The sad truth is, I got on the scale this morning for the first time in months and I am fat, way fatter than even my last record-fat-weight, which was itself shockingly heavier than my previous record. I want to tell you the actual poundage, because I truly believe that this number is not my self-worth, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I know you’ll judge me on it; I judge myself. The number I saw on the scale this morning frightened and depressed me enough that I tacked on an extra half-hour of cardio to the strength workout I was already doing, and I’m going to try to keep up that level of exercise on a more regular basis. It scares me so much to see how fat I’m getting. I don’t want to gain more weight, and I don’t want to die early. I really thought I was doing better. What happened?

I have been mentally tallying my health changes this year and none of them point to weight gain. Since January, I have been doing at least three hours of yoga every week, and since June I’ve been exercising at least three times a week, often more. I eat out more rarely than I used to, and I bake far less often. I’m learning to stop eating when I’m no longer hungry, and I even turn down desserts sometimes. I eat more whole grains and more vegetables. There is no reason I should be fatter now than a year ago, so it’s deeply disturbing that I am. Every time I gain weight it makes me feel like I’m doomed to be fat forever, and I don’t think I can deal with that.

Since that encounter with the scale this morning, I’ve been thinking and thinking, and I think I might finally have it figured out. I’ve been saying for years now that if I really stopped eating when I should, I’d be eating quite small quantities, and it’s true. My meals are way smaller now than they ever were before. The problem with this is that it means I get hungrier between meals — often uncomfortably so — and I’m not a very mindful eater when I’m truly hungry. So I think, while my meals have gotten smaller, the snacks I’ve chosen haven’t been appropriate, and so I’ve probably been taking in more calories than before. The smaller-meals thing was such a huge triumph for me, I never stopped to consider how I was adjusting my snacking to compensate, and I think that’s what’s been causing the weight gain. It’s the only answer that makes sense, given all the other good things I’ve been doing for my health. So this week, besides exercising more, I’m also going to give some long hard thought to meal and snack planning. If all goes well, my weight should get back down by the end of the year, if not sooner.

Wish me luck.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]