Filed under: autobiography, Binge Eating, body image, cognitive theraphy, doubt, Emotional Eating, emotions, fear, love, self-help, Weight Gain, Weight Issues, Weight Loss, writing | Tags: College, life, Stress, Weight Gain, wieght loss
In my previous installments: “The Younger Years” and “Losing Weight the Wrong Way,” I shared how I had become a plus sized child and teenager before abruptly losing ~120lbs. within the span of 4 months via eating an extremely restrictive diet while over-exercising. Over the next couple years, I would attempt to get a handle on my disordered eating before ultimately failing.
After my friend had pointed out that I was showing signs of anorexia and non-purging bulimia, I tried to rectify my habits. After a few weeks of continuing my food journal, I still had a reluctance to eat more than 1,000 calories a day. Even if I didn’t write calorie amounts down, I was still doing estimations in my head. I concluded that I needed to stop keeping it. Instead, I focused on reasonable portion sizes, while still working out at least 6 hours a week. This strategy worked very well, and I managed to maintain a weight of roughly 145lbs. for roughly one year.
I have to admit, that year was pretty great. Even though I still wasn’t totally happy with my appearance, I felt empowered. I did a lot of things I had previously been scared to do. I joined my high school’s Speech and One Act teams as well as participating in Quiz Bowl. I wore attention-getting clothes that my old self would have never worn.
I was still getting used to all the appreciative attention for my looks from the opposite sex, and often reacted to it badly. Example: While exiting a music store, some guy whistled at me. As it was unexpected, I laughed loudly and closed the door after me. Only after I left did I realize how mean that must have seemed.
Since that guy was obviously not quite a charmer, let me give another example: In my junior year, I was approached by the little sister of one of the few boys who had been nice to me all through grade school despite my weight. He had sent her to ask if I would go to a dance with him. Dumbstruck, I just kind of stood there blinking. She made a knowing face and said, “Ok.” Then she left, and I slowly parsed together what had happened. Although I certainly would have gone, I was too shy to say anything to either them after that.
Then, half way through my Senior year, I started dating a goth boy who fancied himself a romantic. He regularly took me to dinner, bought me little gifts, made me photo collages, and (this is the cincher) talked to my mom even though she’s so brain damaged she mostly only said no. (Unfortunatelymy mom’s condition hasn’t improved since then.) While I had dated previously, I think half of my motivation was just to be able to tell people I had a boyfriend. I never did really let my guard down around the guys I was seeing. However, the goth boy’s patient devotion and acceptance allowed me to let him into the tangled web of emotion I usually kept between myself and word document. He was the first to get my crazy. I still feel sorry for him.
One thing he did for me was help me embrace my body despite it’s imperfections. For the first time ever, I felt comfortable in a swimming suit.
While we dated, I gained 15lbs. We spent all of our spare time with each other, and although we went on long walks and got –ahem- other forms of exercise, all of the dining out went to my waist line. I went up a size, but I wasn’t too worried about it. My ideas of small portions steadily grew.
After graduation, I moved an hour andhalf away for college. Goth boy and I had made plans to get an apartment near campus, but those plans fell through after he failed to save enough money. As a result, I was poorly matched with my roommates. There were two girls from a private, Catholic high school, and a cheery former cheerleader. They all kept everything super-tidy in a specific way, loved reality tv, and country and pop music. I was in hell.
Aside from a few bright spots and a wicked wardrobe, my first year in college wasn’t much fun. I was an outsider in my own home, I didn’t really have any friends going to the same school, and I got to see my boyfriend 3 times a month if I was lucky.Although I did get out occasionally with the help of a few area friends or my twin aunts who lived in the same city, it wasn’t frequently. I coped by immersing myself in class, books, cartoons and junk food. Some days I would forgo meals entirely in favor of junk food. Other days, I would I sit down with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon, eat it all, and then purge. The change in eating habits didn’tshow, probably more due to the fact that walking was my primary mode of transportation (I had elected to leave my car at home to cut costs and the bus frightened me)than my burgeoning bulimia.
In my second year in college (I was 19), things had evened out a bit emotionally. I lost the boyfriend, brought my car from Dad’s place, got a work-study job in the library archives, had friends on campus, and had cool roommates whom I got along with reasonably well. Although I began smoking cigarettes and drinking occasionally around this time, I was generally more well-balanced, and as a result I mostly didn’t binge-eat. Between my work, school, social life, and romance, I didn’t have time to. Once again, dating led to poor food choices like fast food or sit down restaurants with enormous portions, but I managed to stay around 160 lbs.with an intermediate amount of exercise.
Things didn’t really start to go downhill until I was living alone for the first time in my third year of college, but the decline didn’t take long. I shared a story about my childhood clepto-mania with a party cohort I had idealized as a buddy flick-like friend. Long story short: After activating the bad influence, I carried on by myself, landed myself in legal hot water, lost my job, was sentenced to jail time, and moved (while still going to school) rather than deal with it. The resultant stress led me to binge everything: food, alcohol, cigarettes, basically anything enjoyable I could get my hands on.
I am not sure exactly how long I was “on the lamb,” but it was only a few months. By the time I weighed in when I went to jail, I was something near 180lbs. (I was pretty stressed out, so I don’t remember an exact number.)
Contrary to popular opinion, I found it quite easy to lose weight in jail. The food was disgusting. I didn’t care how hungry I was, I found most of it inedible. I lost 15 pounds during my 28 day stay, but that weight came right back when I moved back to Dad’s house for the summer. Dad was understandably frustrated with me, as I had hidden the entire ordeal from him until I was physically in jail. I internalized ever little thing he said in anger. I felt worthless.
With the help of my generous Aunt Corrine, I returned to college in the Fall and proceeded to make a huge mess of everything about six months later.
Next Installment: Coming Soon
Filed under: autobiography, cognitive theraphy, emotions, self-help, Weight Issues, Weight Loss | Tags: Fat, high school, wieght loss
In the last installment, A History of Fatness: The Younger Years, I cut to the root of my emotional relationship with junk food. I shared how I spent the latter half of my childhood in the plus-sized section, and how I began to lose weight.
At first, my methods of weight loss were pretty sane. I began losing sometime in March, and at the beginning of May my average rate of weight-loss was a manageable and healthy 15lbs per month or about 2 pounds per week. I kept a food journal, I walked between 2 and 4 miles each day, and I did body weight resistance exercises 3 times a week.
Then, with the help of weight-loss books, I calculated my frame-size (medium framed at 5′ 6”) which based on bone positioning and created a goal of weighing 130 pounds (the lighter end of healthy for my frame size)… by my birthday. At the time, I weighed 220 lbs. I wanted to lose 90lbs in 2½ months.
After school was out for the summer, it was crunch time in more ways than one. I made weight loss my main goal. In addition to the body weight resistance exercises, I began weight lifting and walking longer distances. I began calorie counting. I ate 1,200 calories each day, about 500 less than was recommended for weight-loss according to my books. I was obsessed with creating calorie deficits. I wasn’t satisfied in the morning unless I weighed at least a pound less than I had the previous day.
By the end of May, I weighed about 180 pounds, 50 pounds less than I did at the beginning of the month. The women’s size 16 jeans I previously would lay on the bed to squeeze into fit perfectly. Some were even baggy. My friends and family were impressed. No one worried that the weight was coming off too fast. They made every effort to encourage me. I, however, had hit something of a weight-loss plateau and was still 50 pounds from my goal-weight of 130 lbs and a month andhalf from my goal-date of my 16th birthday.
I made my diet more restrictive. I cut my daily consumption down to 800 calories with two, 1,000-calorie “cheat” days. I would spend somewhere around 4 hours each day walking ( I covered an average of 17 miles) in addition to an hour-long anaerobic work out. I would go to sleep exhausted and hungry.
On my birthday I was 10 pounds shy of my goal-weight. Although I was glad to no longer shop in the women’s plus-size section, I was wearing the largest size most store’s junior’s sections carried at the time- a size 13.
It is worth mentioning that my perception of my size at the time was skewed in part to the arbitrary sizing in womens‘ and teen girls’ clothing and my own refusal to admit to being any bigger than a size 16 when I was younger. At 250 lbs I was squeezing into size 16 pants when I probably should have been wearing a size 22. When I weighed 140, I wore a women’s size 10 or 12, but that translated to a junior’s 13..so basically I perceived a loss of 10 dress sizes as a loss of 3. Also, since I was wearing the largest junior’s size in most stores, I must still be fat.
Because of this thinking, it seemed like my aunt Corrine was almost more excited about my smaller body than I was. She bought me a new wardrobe that summer, marveling over how cute and tiny everything was. Even though I weighed 110 pounds less than I did in May, I still wasn’t happy with my body. I still hated how I looked in swimming suits. My belly was still lumpy, my arms were still flabby.I cut my calories further.
When school started, I imagined kids would whisper that I’d gotten liposuction. That didn’t happen. There were (almost) none of the mean comments I’d grown accustomed to. For the most part, the boys didn’t treat me much differently, but I wasn’t prepared for how differently the girls would treat me.
Even among friends, I was suddenly part of the group; I was invited on shopping excursions to neighboring cities, to water parks. Girls who had previously snubbed me treated me with respect. The older girl I mentioned in the previous post who bullied me, despite being a year behind in math class, decided I had become her mortal enemy. However, the most threatening things in her arsenal were telling me I dressed like “a hippy” and that I would marry for love and be poor while she would be a gold-digger. As usual, my biggest obstacle was internal.
In general I felt more confident about my body, but I couldn’t stop comparing it to other, thinner girls. Unable to obsessively exercise, I cut my calories to 500 or less a day. This behavior continued for a little longer than a month. I only managed to lose 15 pounds, and squeeze into a junior’s size 9.
Finally, one of my friends who had been quietly observing my altered eating habits at lunch talked to me. She said that she had also been exhibiting anorexic and non-purging bulimic behavior, and that her mother had pointed it out to her.
“You are skinny, Claire,” she said. “You have to eat.”
I managed to keep the weight off for several years in varying degrees of health. However, I never was really happy with myself. Eventually, my body began to reflect it.
Next installment: The Weight Crept Back and Brought Friends!