Thursday, October 22, 2009
When did food become the (my) enemy? "I just want to be healthy!" is that a lie?
Is this little girl a butterball?
Several things that have recently occurred prompted this post, which sat in my drafts because I was too chicken to post it. But, apparently I just had to write about it, because it’s still a thing that keeps people doing things and thinking things in secret, and its also something talked and talked and talked and talked about (and not always honestly or in a realistic way), but is it ever really understood?
I just read “The Wife’s Tale” (Lori Lansens, release date Feb 2010), which centers around an “obeast” (the character’s word for obese) character; I saw on the news where here in North Carolina state workers who are overweight (and/or smoke) may have to pay higher health insurance; as I write Secret Graces, I notice how my character Virginia Kate loves to eat, but her friend Jade fights food, and that facinates me: which one is me or is both me? I just had that thought just now! huhn....I never made that connection, but I wonder now if I'm writing about my own food struggles between these two characters. On Dr. Oz the other day, his guest was a woman who secretly binges; then as I’m walking out of the gym, there is Jennifer Love Hewitt on the front cover of this month’s Shape Magazine with a caption that reads, “I don’t care about my dress size, I work out to be healthy and feel good about my self—”
Okay, Ms. Hewitt, I bet I know what you are really thinking, deep inside yourself. I know because I’ve said the same thing—I just want to be healthy, that’s why I work out, that’s why I watch what I eat (and by watch what I eat, I mean be vigilant, don’t I Kathryn? Oh yes…let’s be honest here); who cares what my jean’s size is?, I say. But, Ms. Hewitt and I both know, deep inside ourselves, that if we went up a couple dress sizes and still were healthy and fit, we’d be working our asses off (literally) to get back down to the smaller dress size. We’d be panicked. We’d be going, “Oh oh oh oh shit oh shit, I’m gaining weight – oh oh oh no, what to do, stop eating stop eating stop eating ALERT ALERT DANGER DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON!”
Oh yes, we would—that’s the big lie we tell everyone: we just want to be healthy. On the flip side of the magazine, shown here, is another cover photo of the beautiful Ms. Hewitt in a bikini—she looks lovely and is not emaciated as many “entertainers” have become, but, still, she is shapely and lovely and thin—yet, she just wants to be “healthy” right? And she doesn't feel any poke to be what hollyweird and her peers and her ‘fan’s’ and whomever else her voices are say is “beautiful and sexy?” Huh? What do you think?
On the Dr. Oz show, when the secret binging wife said, “I’ve gained 60 pounds since we’ve been married, but he hasn’t said a thing…” And, the husband says, “I don’t care if she weighs 600 pounds, I just want her to be healthy.” Oh really? Do we believe him? I believe he loves his wife and wants her to be healthy and that he believes what he says to be true, I really really do. However, how many times have we seen “make over” shows or weight loss shows where the wife walks onto the stage all spiffied up and pounds lighter and the husband’s eyes light up and he’s all over her, “Ooohhh boy! She looks great, sexxx-yyyyy….wow! wooowee!” *beat* “Um, but I’m just glad she’s healthy.” How many times have we lost a few pounds and everyone says, “Oh, hey, you’ve lost weight, wow, you look great…” *beat* - “Um, you looked great before, but, yeah…!”
I am here to tell you right now, in all my honest honesty that I lie about food and weight and how I feel about the two all the gawd-damned exhausting time. I don’t always do it consciously; I mean, I usually mean it when I say it. And when I was a personal trainer and gave advice, I meant it—I truly did. But, did I always follow my own good advice about being fit and healthy versus being “thin?” Nope, nuh uh, not always.
This woman thought she looked a bit chunky in this photo, so she decided she best not eat any "bad" foods for a while...and thus lost a few of those horrid nasty pounds . . . she hates the photo; should she?
I have been fighting the enemy food for years and years. Since I was a young girl. Since the time someone first called me “butterball” and yes, I STILL recall that day—I was maybe in first or second grade and it was school photo time and the photographer said, “Okay, little butterball, hold still….” I still remember how I felt—at that young an age! Back then, in the 60’s, there weren’t as many overweight children, or overweight people in general, as there are now, so if you were even just a little bit chubby, or had a round face as I did, then, well, Butterball!
Is this little girl a chunky chubs?
I have battled Enemy Food since the time my brothers got snickers or other gooey treats and I got a peppermint patty, since the time someone looked at me and called me fat or or chunky or chubs, since the time a friend was tall and willowy and I was shorter and rounder—full hipped and full breasted at too young an age to be full hipped and full breasted.
When I was 17-18 years old, I took the weight loss too far. It didn't start that way. But, I remember I began to lose weight. People began to comment on it. Huhn. Okay, I thought, maybe there is something to this. And I lost a little more. People commented more – oh, don’t you look gooooood. And a little more. Wow! Look at you! And a little more. Boy, look at Kat, she’s so sexxxyyyyy and thinnnnnn! Soon, every time I stepped on the scales, I NEEDED to be lighter or I was a failure. The last time I weighed, and yes, the year 1975 and I actually remember stepping on the scales and watching it go down and down and actually remember the day I was 92 pounds—and I know I lost more after that. Did anyone tell me, “Oh my god Kat, you are getting too thin! Eat something! You are losing too much weight!” Nope.
Fast forward a year and a half later. I guess I was hungry—imagine that? I began gaining weight—I was so hungry, so very hungry! I couldn’t get enough to eat. All that year and a half of starving myself took its toll. I needed food. Food was good. Starving, hungry, hungry hungry. I was the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. Not “obeast” by any means, but overweight for my height of 5’2”. What do you think happened? I bet you guessed it. I was called a “fat hog,” I was told, “Boy you sure are getting fat!” I was told, “You need to lose weight, eyeww…” you get the idea—people were disgusted by my weight gain and told me how I used to be “sexy and pretty, but now you are just fat.” Huhn.
It was okay to be starving, eating practically nothing and living on alcohol and bites here and there of—what a lettuce leaf or two? But, it was not okay to gain weight, even if I was healthier at some point in the higher weight than I was at the lower. Oh believe me, I shed that weight and became even more vigilent: Not paying attention and relaxing means gaining weight. Must be vigilent.
When I turned thirty-five, I relaxed because I'd been the same weight for a while, and I put on about eight or nine pounds. My gawd! You'd have thought I'd committed a mortal sin, at least in some people's eyes. I weighed just over 130 pounds. Not overweight by any means, but, people couldn't stop discussing my weight gain. Geez. And I didn't find out that until I'd lost the weight, then it was, "Oh yeah, boy, you look so much better. I thought you were going to explode out of your clothes!" "Oh geez, I bet you feel better now!" "Oh, dear, we didn't want to say anything, but you were getting, um, healthy..." *sigh*
So, food is the enemy. . . Can't relax . . . Relaxing means weight gain, weight gain means people turn their judging eyes on my body . . . and I play games with food just as someone who has an enemy does. I love it and I hate it. I want it and crave it and then detest that I want and crave it.
I playfully tell friends, “Oh boy, I can’t wait to eat a big ass piece of cheesecake after I have French fries and (insert something ‘fattening’ here)” – but, when it’s time to do that, to have those foods, I can feel the stress in my innards—the feeling of, “Oh no…if I eat this, I’ll be fat. If I eat this, it means I’m out of control. If I eat this, bad things will happen.” And, when I do eat it, there is that stress in the background, hovering there—taunting me. There is seldom a time when I completely enjoy myself with food, and that’s a damned shame. Now, sure, there are times I eat something unhealthy and gooey and fattening and deee-lish and don’t obsess (liar) and then the next day I just get back to my healthy eating (obsess over what I ate and try to atone for it). Entering menopause has caused a tug-o-war with myself. On the one hand, I am more accepting of myself—my body image. On the other hand I just told a lie.
Instead of “Do these jeans make me look fat?” I should be asking, “Do those inner voices make me look fat?” Whose voices are they? Who set the seeds inside a young girl who would grow up afraid of food? Why, many things and many people! Was it the photographer who first put the seed? Someone else? No one at all but only me? Did I receive mixed messages: Eat all the food on your plate because there are starving people somewhere- - don't eat that because you'll gain weight. . . Or . . . Just be healthy . . . but if you gain weight we'll judge you. . . Or . . . Looks do not matter -- oh my god, did you see how so and so Let Herself GO?
And what of you? Is food the enemy? Or, is food your best friend? The comforter—where food is your friend and lover and soothes and heals and is a balm for your wounds.
Surely there are people in between us. Normal people in between those of us afraid of food and those for whom food is their salvation and friend?
Who are you?
(I'll be back with more on Baton Rouge and the Book Fest - but, I'm posting this before I chicken out - because today at the gym, I got on the scales and said, "OMG! I gained almost 2 pounds while in Louisiana! oh oh!....*sigh* oh dear. Let's not go there, Kat....)