Personal

It’s My Body and My Relationship with Food, and I’ll Feel However I Want To (and You Can’t Make Me Do Otherwise)

I am fat.

I have never been fat before, probably not since I was a baby.

I started getting “fat” around 2015. At first, it felt nice. I was “thin” before, but not a kind of “thin” I liked (I’ll get back to that).

Clothes that were too loose on me finally started to fit again (to give you an idea, my size 28 shorts needed a tight belt, but then it began to fit just right). Also, my boobs started actually filling my bras. It was a relief, considering how I’d lost weight before was not the most ideal (again, I’ll get back to that).

When I went from getting filled out to chubby to straight up “fat,” it was strange. I never imagined I would know the sensation of back fat or see wrinkles on my neck at 26 as the skin was sagging from the fat. I didn’t fully realize this transformation until I looked at old photos of myself. I had a jawline? My waist was tiny? My legs were quite slim?

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July 2014

I never really thought of myself as a “thin” girl. I knew I had curves, but they were never a problem for me. At my thinnest, I was a size small (sometimes extra small) in most stores (tops and bottoms) and I could even sometimes buy stuff from the kid’s section. I will admit, I was unaware of my privilege as a “thin” person.

I didn’t realize it until quite recently. When trying on clothes at stores, the fabric around my arms and chest would be stretched and strained. When I would put on bottoms, some would never get past up my thighs. Most of the sizes of these clothes are the largest the stores carry. And these are from affordable-ish, fast fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M. I realized, ‘Damn, being fat is expensive.’

I started noticing my weight gain around the last few months of 2015. Clothes, particularly bottoms, I bought a month before I’d have a difficult time putting on. I bought a leather miniskirt around August, but by October, I couldn’t fit in it anymore. I didn’t think too much of it. I was sure I could lose the weight at some point.

Around this time, I tried one of those meal delivery plans that give you pre-cooked, calorie-counted meals. I tried the 1,200 calories per day package. That didn’t last long, and even when I was on the meal plan, I cheated a lot.

I tried physical exercise, like…once. I went for a jog, which was more of a brisk walk.

Now, we could all chalk this up to laziness and the death of my fast metabolism as I was in my mid-20’s. But here are a few things people may or may not know:

1. I was in Manila during the second half of 2015.

For anyone who has ever lived alone in Manila, you all know how difficult it is to eat proper, healthy, and affordable meals. I could’ve done the meal plan worth more than 1,200 calories but it would’ve also cost me more money. I could’ve cooked my own food, but I was living in a dormitory that only had a microwave and a toaster. And hey, I am lazy. I couldn’t be bothered to go out and buy a decent meal when fast food delivery exists.

2. I was and still am on anti-depressants (among other things)

If you’ve been living under a rock, surprise! I’m clinically depressed! I’ve been taking several forms of medication since December 2014 and the side effects include weight gain and increase of appetite. I welcomed these side effects because if you didn’t know, depression usually kills your appetite. Before medication, I only ate to survive, if that makes any sense. Not even my favorite foods truly satisfied me or tasted as good as when I started medication. I used to only bother sating my hunger when I would start feeling woozy and even then, I didn’t eat that much (a sandwich or half a cup of rice).

3. I was a believer of, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” –Kate Moss

I didn’t have full-blown eating disorders, but I attempted crazy “diets” once in a while, usually before a beach trip or some other “special occasion.” There was a time I didn’t eat rice except on Sundays. There was a time I found it acceptable to live off instant noodles, crackers, and canned tuna (and “splurge” on a McDonald’s meal on Sundays or when hungover). There was a time I drank beer for dinner. There was a time when I was secretly grateful whenever I would throw up from too much drinking. I was still quite young, so I somehow managed to actually not die. I would eventually pay for the consequences, which leads us to…

4. I used to be physically and mentally Not Great

This was before medication and therapy. I didn’t know I was depressed. I thought I was just being a whiny, lazy little bitch who needed to suck it up.

Although my weight was pretty normal, it started decreasing mid-2013. This was the year I started my first ever full-time job and lived alone-alone (no roommates, no helper, etc–except for housemates who I never talked to). I became anemic. I knew this because I had short fainting spells and the inside of my under-eyes were pale as hell. I started taking some iron supplements and eventually it went away. Hurray, it’s over! No.

I started to have massive hair-fall. My arms got weird rashes (which turned out be from all my nervous scratching). I had bouts of insomnia. I got anxiety attacks. And yes, I started losing my appetite. I would only eat junk food because sometimes I was just too lazy to go get a decent meal or I just couldn’t afford to. Not to mention the fact I was regularly dabbling with questionable substances, which definitely worsened or possibly even triggered the physical and mental shit I was going through.

So, when I started becoming “better” and gained a few pounds, I felt great. You don’t know what it’s like to love what you’re eating after over a year of just consuming garbage that seemed devoid of flavor and any life. If you do know, you also know I had to make up for all the lost time, all the lost meals.

I didn’t admonish myself as I ate more and more. One, I considered food as a reward to myself for becoming “better.” “Treat yoself!” was my mantra. Second, I kept remembering and still do remember all the times I was so physically exhausted or lacking enough money to buy a meal (listen, I’m the type who would and has used the last of her money to buy cigarettes and alcohol instead of actual food). I never ever want to go back to that time. I never want to feel that gaping, hollow emptiness in my stomach ever again. I wound up missing work so much because I was too hungry+tired+depressed. I would always be in a terrible mood. It was just not a good look, okay.

So, are these excuses for not working towards losing weight? I don’t know. Do I even want to lose weight? Sure, it would be great to fit into all my old clothes again. Am I ashamed of being “fat?” No. Not anymore.

The thing is, people either don’t understand or believe me when I say I’m not. And yes, I have experienced body-shaming and I never thought I would (#thinprivilege). At first, I didn’t mind. I even participated or initiated it!

“I’m sooo fat!” I would say out loud, while looking at the mirror.

When someone would point out my weight gain, jokingly or otherwise, I’d say, “I know, right?” And pout or make fake crying sounds.

Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact I am no longer able to magically lose weight like I did before. I’m getting old and my metabolism is pretty much non-existent. I’m now back to living with my parents, so there’s no excuse I can’t get a decent meal, three times (or more) a day. I regularly take medication whose side effects include appetite increase and weight gain. I also recently resigned myself to the fact I am not a fan of physical exercise, or at least, the ones I’ve tried out.

Anoter thing I recently I resigned myself to, and perhaps the most important one is, I should not feel bad or be made to feel bad about eating and my weight gain.

I used to never understand this concept because again, #thinprivilege.

“You’re fat, so duh, of course people are gonna say something about it.”

“People commenting on your weight just want what’s best for you.”

“I mean, maybe you could learn to control yourself a bit? Hahahaha”

These were things I’ve either simply thought of or actually said out loud.

These were things I also used to tell myself as I gained more and more weight.

I was shaming myself.

It sucked.

And it didn’t help.

Maybe, for some messed up reason, it works for some people. Kind of like reverse psychology (which, by the way, never works for me).

Since realizing I shouldn’t be made to feel bad about my body, I’ve become sensitive to fat “jokes” and body-shaming. If that is how people want to deal with their weight gain issues, then fine, you do you. What I don’t like is getting dragged into that pit of guilt and shame again, especially when I don’t ask for it.

That’s another thing I’ve noticed, a lot of the comments I get about my weight are ones I never ask for. I also get a lot of unsolicited advice.

“Go to the gym!”

“Eat this! Don’t eat that!”

“Have you tried yoga?’

My usual response is a dry, cold, “No.”

People might have “good intentions” when doling out advice, but the thing is…I didn’t ask.

What’s more, I’m not allowed to get mad when people comment or joke about my weight. I’m supposed to join in. I’m supposed to find the funny in my fatness, at my expense, for them.

On the opposite end, I’m supposed to feel guilty and awful about my fatness. There is the notion that being “fat” is equal to some sort of moral decay. Fat people are dirty and don’t care about themselves. They’re greedy and short-tempered. They will never amount to anything “good.” Apparently, we–I am dirty, greedy, and a bad person because of my weight.

Now, the #thinprivilege people will ask, “Why are you allowed to make fun of your weight, but I’m not?”

Shit, I don’t know, this might be a totally radical concept, but: it’s my body.

I just became aware of “#balikalindog,” which is apparently a hashtag people use when attempting to lose weight. “Lindog” means “beauty” and while it’s meant as a joke for some people, I just find it incredibly stupid. It clearly implies beauty is measured by weight.

I don’t know, ya’ll, it’s 2017 and I don’t think I need to explain how gross and awful that implication is.

Why must weight loss and a healthy lifestyle always revolve around the idea of shame? Why are we first supposed to bring ourselves down to start “bettering” ourselves?

“You’re gonna get lung cancer if you keep on smoking.”

“You’re gonna get liver problems if you keep drinking everyday.”

“You’re gonna get fat from eating so much.”

No shit.

In some cases, a rude wake up call is needed. But, in my opinion, these rude wake up calls never have to happen when someone is working towards “bettering” themselves out of positivity and optimism instead of guilt and shame.

Guilt and shame make me hide my hoard of junk food in my room. Gult and shame make me eat at 12 midnight when no one is awake and watching. Guilt and shame make me keep buying more packs of cigarettes. Guilt and shame made me conjure up excuses for my old, almost daily drinking habit, which went from social to solo drinking. Guilt and shame made me take a long time to finally ask for some help.

I became aware I was acting out of guilt and shame when I saw this tweet from Great British Bake Off‘s winner of 2013, Ruby Tandoh promoting her cookbook, Flavour:

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I was shocked? I didn’t know you could actually enjoy food? Like, really, really enjoy it and not secretly hope you get a stomach flu so you can get rid of that giant slice of chocolate cake you had?

I read more and more of her tweets and shit, Ms. Tandoh is right. The food industry and society in general have pronounced nearly all forms of food consumption as “naughty” and “guilty pleasures.”

As someone who has both experienced near starvation+poor nutrition and binge eating, I know, for me, they all came from places of guilt and shame.

You want the thing you can’t have. You want it the more people tell you that you can’t have it. You only get to have it when no one else is looking.

There is only temporary joy in binge eating, based on my experience. There is less in “crash diets.”

I’ve always believed in, “Everything in moderation.” However, the term “moderation” is relative and had become even more vague as my guilt and shame about food consumption grew.

When I decided to accept my “fatness” and guilt and shame, it was only then that I decided to start doing something about it. And I didn’t get a gym membership or dip my toes into eating disorders again. I just decided to eat “better.”

And it’s not to lose weight. It’s because I want to eat without feeling like shit, mentally and physically. I just want to balance out the “garbage” with stuff that my body can benefit from.

Yes, certainly my weight gain and poor eating habits along with several other factors have got my body feeling several types of ways: aches, pains, digestion problems, and more.

I decided to cut off process foods, eat brown rice, actually eat breakfast (a protein-heavy one), and substitute my snack craving for healthier “options” (granola bars, oatmeal cookies, fruit).

I also decided that, at the same time, I would still allow myself to eat dessert. I would still allow myself an extra scoop of ice cream and the bigger slice of cake. I would still allow myself to eat pizza when I have the opportunity. I would still eat a bag of potato chips if it’s in front of me.

But, that’s the thing, I decided to actively stop seeking out “guilty pleasures.” They’ll come when they’re there, and when they do or when I decide to actively seek them out, I will stop calling them “guilty pleasures.” When I “stray” from my healthy eating habits, I will not call it “cheating.” When people witness me eating “trash” or eating “too much,” I will not feel embarrassed or ashamed.

(Note that was all in past tense, because I “slipped” recently. I could list my excuses, but all you need to know is I’m trying to get back on track again. I bought two huge bags of Cheetos the other day. I almost hid them in my room. I did not. But I ate less food during dinner so I could binge on Cheetos later at night.)

Last year, I stopped smoking for 80 days straight. I didn’t tell anyone until a month in and I didn’t make a big announcement of it. I was scared the guilt and shame would come back once public pressure would enter. The fear of failure–public failure made me decide to go about it quietly. Clearly, it worked. Only up to a certain point. But it worked.

I  can’t compare quitting smoking to eating “better,” since the former is tied to a whole bunch of other neurological and chemical issues. But it opened my eyes to this approach at “bettering” myself.

Public pressure may work for some, but not for me. Because it is for me. Well, was, since I’m back to smoking now (went back the night after Trump’s inauguration because nothing seemed to matter anymore then).

It’s still a process. I assume one’s relationship with food has no mythical “end,” the same way one gets no mythical “end” to one’s depression and mental illness. There is no “cure,” just ways to deal and process and keep moving forward.

So, what now that you know all of this, why I’m fat and how I’m dealing with it? Will I stop receiving unsolicited advice? Will the body-shaming and fat “jokes” stop? Did I really need to explain myself to earn your empathy? I don’t know, but I just wish basic human decency doesn’t need to be earned.

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Note: I am new to this “fat” life and the loss of my #thinprivilege. For anybody who has had more experience with fatphobia, body-shaming, eating disorders, or health problems related to weight gain, let me know if I’ve said anything out of turn. I’m ready and open to learning more. Also, I’m aware this entire rant has been thoroughly middle-class and privileged. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have the same issues when you have less access to money, food options, and education.

 

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