Spring decluttering, and body issues - The Lyorn's Den
Mon Mar. 22nd, 2010
01:06 am - Spring decluttering, and body issues
Yesterday I went clothes shopping, and today I went through my wardrobe, doing the usual spring decluttering: Removing everything that does not fit, that is too damaged to wear it even in the house, that I'm tired of, or that I just don't wear anymore.
Both went well. I got everything I was looking for: Green jeans, a light summer jacket, and a red top for the choir. I also bought a role playing game sourcebook, some chocolate Easter eggs, a jean waistcoat, and three bras to fit my new shape. Decluttering produced three boxes full of clothes that do not fit me anymore, and that need to be given to charity, or to people who will like them.
Three boxes. All my smart trousers? Drop when I am not holding them up with both hands. The wide summer shirts? Fall off my shoulders. The woollen winter coat that I rarely wear? Large enough for two of me. Most of the jeans, fortunately, still fit, thanks to the habit of buying them so tight that I can just barely squeeze in, and the fact that I found a belt in the back of the wardrobe that will do as soon as I punch two new holes in it. The linen trousers from last year have drawstrings. Most of the tops are now really loose, but it looks like it's intended that way.
I do not feel three sizes thinner (though not "thin", not even the prescriptive "average"). I feel just the same, only, I'm not. Being fat had become a part of my identity, a part that I didn't especially like, but trained myself out of the habit to freak out about. It was just The Way Things Were. And now they aren't.
People notice. They noticed at my party, they notice in the choir. I cannot lie convincingly anymore and claim that it's an illusion, a good day, a trick of memory, well-fitting clothes, or heels. Everytime someone says, "wow, you've lost weight" I want to swamp them with my self-doubt and issues, but I always remember my manners in time, and only say, "yes", or "yes, I've been doing a lot of strength training last year".
So I'll swamp my LJ instead. Maybe it will declutter my brain.
Talking of clutter, let's start with Old History.
For the last twenty years, I did not really think much about my weight. Yes, I was fat, I hated my body, I disliked looking in the mirror, I dreaded buying clothes, I hated it when people took pictures of me, I wore long trousers and at least half-long sleeves on the hottest days of summer. Yet, I didn't really care much. I disliked my pasty face, and my small myopic eyes, my speech disorder and my immune system's indifference about dealing with the common cold, but all these were facts of life, the hand I was dealt, stable, unchangeable, and all in all my body image was probably not worse than most women's, and might have been better than that of most women wearing size 50. And far, far better than it had been in my teens.
Because in my teenage years, food was The Problem and fat was The Enemy, and I was OMG FAT!!!elventy-one!1!. So, we were dieting. For six damn years. In which I gained, going by the occasional despairing exclamation in my diaries, about 30 kilos. And during all that, I developed the firm belief that all which was wrong with my life would instantly be fixed if only I were thin(ner). I'd be pretty and cool and athletic and not clumsy anymore and cleverer and more witty, have a better voice, and then my life would really begin.
I was never skinny. I was the kid who carried her friends' bicycles up the cellar stairs because someone had to, and she could. I was the kid who would swim four kilometres and then bicycle ten kilometres home and still have energy to spare. I was the teen who could lift her skinny girl scout troop leader overhead. I was also the kid who delighted her friends' mothers by being able to enthusiastically munch her way through a buffet of home-made cakes.
I was admonished not to get fat for as long as I can remember, because being fat was the source of all misery. I knew how to calculate a diet plan when I was six.
Just after my 13th birthday I was 170cm (5'7") tall and had just passed the 60 kilo (130 lbs) mark. (Looking a lot like this, actually.) I was also getting into puberty, and angsting about it. My body changed and felt strange, I needed a bra, and I did not like any of it. So I whined to my mother. Which might, in retrospect, have been one of the stupidest things I did in my entire life. Because my mother had issues. And those issues are contagious. Same old, same old, you've heard it all before. Having a quarter of a sandwich for lunch on a day of activity. Considering a cup of broth a full dinner. Making deals and swearing most solemn oaths that you'll exercise so much that you'll end up in the negative calories for the day. Betting, begging, crying, praying, cursing, cutting, burning, banging into walls in despair.
I might be stupid, but I have also always been incredibly lucky. I did not develop an eating disorder, though not for lack of trying. I lived on chocolate and opportunities to stuff myself. There were days when I would have killed for a sandwich, but it's hard so smuggle sandwiches under your clothes, so I tore into the third bar of chocolate for the day instead. (When I left home, I didn't eat chocolate for a year. I was so tired of it.)
I stopped doing sports. Those were the eighties, and aerobics were all the rage. With a C cup and no sports bra, I could do it for all of two minutes. Then I needed to relax the muscles which kept my chest from bouncing too much, and use them for breathing instead. Long-distance-running gave me exercise-induced asthma, which became chronic and was, if noticed at all, ascribed to me being a short-of-breath fatty who needed to exercise more.
When I was 14 years old and weighed 68 kilos, my mother suggested Weight Watchers. Being naturally averse to spending money, I felt that there were enough places where I could get harassed about my weight for free, so I flat-out refused.
When I was 15, and 75 kilos, I wrote in my diary that half of my problems would be solved if I weren't fat, and the other half could only be borne with lots of chocolate. Part of the other half was that we would all die quite horribly quite soon, which was my second major source of despair.
When I was 16, and 82 kilos, my mother took me to a doctor. I denied being tired all the time, I didn't mention headaches or a chronic cough that kept me awake some nights. I didn't say anything when he said that I needed to exercise more, because, duh, of course I needed to exercise more! If I did not have this cough, and if I did not spend two hours every day bicycling to school and back, and then into town and back, and if I were not constantly hungry, then, yes, I might have the capability and leisure to exercise, and then I would be thin.
I felt that I should weigh 50 kilos. I had weighed 50 on my eleventh birthday.
The dieting anecdotes would fill a book. Fortunately I forgot many. I remember the time we were expected to live on lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. The time I awoke in the hospital after an accident and found that my mother had arranged for me to be put on a 500 calorie diet. The time my mother dug through my friends' bags on the suspicion that they might smuggle in sweets. The times I tried to make myself vomit because I had read that some girls could do that. (I couldn't. I already said that I'm naturally lucky.) Being promised a large amount of money for losing 25 kilos. Not being allowed to visit my uncle because inflicting my fat self on him was obscene, Being yelled at for suggesting I wear less than full-length trousers on a burning hot day. Reading so many cookbooks that, when I left home I knew how to cook without ever having done it.
When I was 18, and 90 kilos, I left home. I decided that all this had to stop. And I stopped it. I told my friends that I could not swim, I wore long and baggy clothes, I dreaded clothes shopping and visits home. I put my cooking skills to use, kept an well-stocked pantry, fed everyone who came to visit and told myself every day that there would be food tomorrow, even though my reptile brain remained unconvinced. I shoved the whole can of worms to the back of my mental cupboard and ignored it as hard as I could. Occasionally, someone hit my sore spots and I was miserable for a day, but that was it.
In October 2008, I decided to get some respectable clothes to go with my still new-ish job, and as I would not shrink any time soon, I could just go to a nice store where the salespeople would not look down their skinny noses at me, and get clothes that did not make me feel like I was impersonating either a middle manager or a working student.
And it was...
... OK, I guess.
I was over it.
Until about a year ago.
In March 2009 I had it up to here with spraining my back constantly, which, apart from being painful and stupid and limiting my mobility was causing loss of sensation in my left leg. I went to the physiotherapist in the gym and asked her to give me a training program so that my back would stop acting up.
I quickly found that keeping up with the program was a very, very good idea. Back pain stopped, range of movement returned, as did most of the sensation in my leg. So I kept going to the gym about two or three times a week. And as half an hour of back exercises isn't worth changing clothes for, I did 45 minutes of strength training with it, every time, and for good measure put in some training towards my completely unrealistic goal of being able to jog a whole kilometre some day -- an ability I had lost when I was 13.
This stuff adds up. Would have added up even if I had continued with the oh-so-convenient "bowl of crisps for a snack, bar of chocolate for dinner". But being the obsessive type I am, I looked up some strength training sites on the internet and found that they recommended eating a lot more protein than I suspected I did. So I made a mental note to eat at least one protein-rich meal a day, and as I do not breakfast and eat sandwiches for lunch, there went the convenient chocolate dinners. The sites also warned against eating too little, and knowing my history, and my tendency to overdo everything, I started to keep track of calories as to not go below 1600 one day, become a menace to the public (my friends say I'm insufferable when I'm hungry) and raid the chocolate box the next day. I median around 1850, and occasionally splurge at 2500 just to remind my body that there's no famine going on out there, and because you are meant to indulge at parties.
And now it all comes back. I worry about all kinds of stuff. About it stopping. About it not stopping. About the centimetres returning with a bunch of friends. About having to buy new clothes. About buying new clothes and then filling out again. About my mother re-starting the Food Wars. About losing the weight only because of some hidden illness. I tried ask a doctor about that possibility. He said that it was strange that I didn't have too high blood pressure, that I should think about taking statins for my cholesterol, and eat less fatty meat. I didn't say anything. (But just FYI, if I ever want to turn my brain to mush I'll use single malt Scotch, not some pills.)
Sometimes I worry whether being thinner is worth the time, attention and money it takes, and then I remind myself that I put the time, attention and money into not having back pains, into being stronger, and into eating food I like, and that I can afford it.
I worry about leaving the chubby club, which most of my friends belong to and which always fed and treated me well. About being, or being considered, vain, or a victim of fashion, ideology, or women's magazines. I worry about enforcing bad memes. About being insufficiently feminist. About change. About being back to the size I started with this time next year and feeling very silly about having made this stupid post.
I might not be fat (right now), but this doesn't make me pretty or cool or athletic, nor less clumsy, not cleverer nor more witty, it didn't better my voice, and my life has been going on for about 40 years. Not being fat does not do anything but make clothes shopping -- an activity that I consider of dubious moral value, as it leads to vanity, waste, and consumerism -- more fun.
Which is a pretty weird realisation.