ETA, September 17th: Comments are off for this post for the foreseeable future.
Trigger warning for eating disorders, diet culture, child abuse, emetophobia, and fatphobia.
I don’t know how to start this post, aside from the trigger warning. I know it will need it; I’m talking about things that are hard for me to even think about, let alone speak about. But I don’t know where to begin.
Do I begin at the beginning (for me) — when I was 2 and encountered severe trauma related to food? When I was screamed at for getting dessert on Christmas, when I was so upset I threw up all my food?
That is where it started for me, my rocky relationship with food. Imagine, being told by your loving mother you can have a fancy eclair because you ate enough of your Christmas dinner and it is, after all, bloody Christmas, and then having the other parent in your life unleash a torrent of his abuse on you both until your little body can’t take the stress and you just lose it, everywhere.
That wasn’t the only time my biological sire made me vomit with his anger, either (or his reckless driving). To this day, strong negative emotions and, especially, angry men make me sick to my stomach.
I suppose it’s strange I never developed bulimia, not really. There was a period of time when I was vomiting after every meal, like clockwork, and sometimes it was induced, but it wasn’t bulimia. It was me feeling physically sick all the time, and needing some relief. As suddenly as it appeared in my life, it disappeared.
No, instead, I developed binge eating disorder and, much later, anorexia.
My father didn’t stop when I was two, you see. He continued to abuse me in many ways throughout my childhood and adolescence, including at the dinner table, in restaurants — really, anywhere food was involved, he made sure to give me a complex about eating.
His excuse? I was being spoiled rotten by my mom and Oma, he said. Or I was getting too fat, or eating too much sugar. Or any other reason he could come up with to abuse me for daring to want food.
Abusers always find it easy to justify their actions. It’s for your own good. Always for your own good. It was for my own good when he took me to get a treat at Dairy Queen, said I could order whatever I wanted, and then took that food away from me when I had it and ate it in front of me, saying I couldn’t have it because I was ‘getting fat.’ It was for my own good when he screamed at me at the dinner table because I was ‘too fat’, making me cry and feel too sick to my stomach to eat — which he then yelled at me some more about, because I was a wimp who was crying and why wasn’t I eating? He’d slaved over the stove to make that food so I better eat it or he’d give me something to cry about.
It was for my own good when he made me sit at the dinner table until I finished my food, even though I told him I didn’t like squash, not at all, not a little bit, I had to eat it because it was good for me. And when my step-siblings came in from their after-dinner swim at the pool and saw me sitting there — I was determined to sit there all night, and hoped I peed on the chair, hoped for that small revenge — they told me to take the food and just throw it in the compost, and lie about eating it! I said no — he’d know, he always knew, nothing was safe — but they took it and did it for my anyway, and then dad came back into the room and pulled out squash covered in coffee grinds and other organic waste and force fed it to me, holding my mouth shut until I swallowed it.
It was for my own good when he force-fed me salmon and called me a wimp and weakling for not liking it. To this day, the smell of salmon makes me want to vomit and cry.
He was convinced that every time he put another landmine in my brain with his actions, he was doing it for my own good. He swore up and down that someday, I’d thank him.
Well, he was wrong about most things, so add that to the list.
The for your own good narrative doesn’t stop with my father, though. It continues on every day I am forced to interact with people who have bought into the propaganda of our fat hating culture. Shaming me for my food choices is for my own good. Constantly talking about diets is for my own good. Maybe, if they make me feel enough shame, I will magically lose weight. That’s the belief, so it’s easy to justify with for your own good.
This is all true, and it’s probably important background for this tale. But is that where I start? Is this the best place to begin for this particular story?
Let’s start again, maybe.
Google+ has a function that shows you things from people you haven’t circled. Other people you have circled click the plus button on shares, and those things might show up in your feed. You can’t turn this off, to my knowledge, though I have posted asking people for help finding out if you can.
Today is a signal boost for two very deserving projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They’ve both made their goals, but with more help they can make their stretch goals and make an ever bigger difference in the world.
The first is Fattitude, a documentary by Lindsey Averill, exposing fat hatred and offering an alternative means of thinking.
WHY WE ARE MAKING THIS FILM?
We feel that most people are ill informed when it comes to fatness. We want to offer a counter argument to the current popular notions that condemn fatness in all forms, an argument that overturns notions of fat hatred in favor of body acceptance.
The media and other cultural sources say that people need to lose weight – that obesity is a deadly epidemic, but there is scientific research that shows that weight loss and health are not linked like we think they are. For example, according to ASDAH, “Weight and BMI are poor predictors of disease and longevity. The bulk of epidemiological evidence suggests that five pounds “underweight” is more dangerous than 75 pounds “overweight.”
Lindsey has been attacked by fat-hating trolls and had herself, her husband, and her supporters dox’d just for daring to campaign for people to treat fat people like human beings. (Doxxing is when someone’s home address and phone number are posted publicly, online, with the express purpose of sending harassment that person’s way.) Having trolls attack en masse like that is terrifying, but Lindsey has stayed strong and now her campaign has been funded.
I still think it deserves more backers, so if you’re inclined, you can fund it here. (You have the option to put yourself as anonymous when you back it so you can’t be dox’d.)
The second is Make Me a Radical Dietitian by Michelle Allison, aka The Fat Nutritionist. Reading Michelle’s blog, in the early days of my coming to Fat Acceptance, helped me on the road to recovery with my eating disorders. She — more than anyone — let me know that it was safe to eat, that I was not a bad person for eating or not eating, that food was not a moral choice. Her blog told me I could make my own decisions about my food and I would not be wrong, because it’s my body and I know it best. I learned about intuitive eating from her and attempting to put it into practice is what has helped me start to recover from my disorders.
I say attempting because I’m not perfect, and recovery is a journey, not a destination. I mess up, have slip ups, fall backwards. But I pick myself up and continue onwards. I am committed to my recovery.
If Michelle does this dietitian internship, she can help even more people like me. She will be given a bigger platform to do the good she does in the world. I think that’s worth supporting.
I myself plan on supporting both campaigns, assuming I get some money in the door in the next few days (and assuming I can decide on what perk I want; there are so many cool ones). If you feel the urge and you can, you should too. Signal boosting is also an awesome thing to do.
Campaigns like this, when successful, will help to make the world a safer place for people like me. This is why it’s so important to me that these campaigns reach their stretch goals. I want to someday live in a world where I am not on guard all the time, where I am not constantly fighting against fathatred, food shaming, people triggering my eating disorders. I want the world to be safe for me and for the next Katje who’s growing up, hating herself for eating, hating herself for not eating, and not receiving any support from the world around her.
PS: Fat-hating comments will not be approved and the IPs will be blocked. Concern trolling comments will not be approved and the IPs will be blocked. Comments of “But but but SCIENCE!” or “You’re LYING about having eating disorders!” will not be approved and the IPs will be blocked. This is not a public forum; it’s my blog. I am not required to give fat hating trolls a voice here. If you really need to show the world how much you hate fat people there are plenty of places on the net where you can do so without consequence. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA). Funnily enough I wasn’t aware of this, though I have spoken openly about my eating disorders before on this blog, and I am pro-awareness about them. It showed up in my Google+ feed as I was scrolling last night, and I clicked through to read more about it.
NEDA is pretty good. It acknowledges that eating disorders affect people of all races, ages, genders, and sizes. This is really important. There’s a belief in our society that “eating disorder” is synonymous with “thin, young white woman”. It’s not. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, and you can’t look at someone and assume they have one or not based on their appearance.
If you don’t know much about eating disorders, you can read this page and it will give you a good overview. In particular, pay attention to the list of what you should or should not do if trying to help someone with an eating disorder. I’ve had everything on the Don’t list done to me by well meaning people (and some not so well meaning) and I can tell you: it all drove me further into the arms of my disordered eating.
The best thing you can do for someone who suffers from an eating disorder is reaffirm their personal agency and bodily autonomy. Many of us develop eating disorders because of a feeling of loss of control; even if that’s not the cause, having our agency and autonomy denied can definitely worsen the problem.
You probably love someone who suffers from eating disorders. Please read up the info on the NEDA site and learn how to deal with us. Good intentions will not make up for a lack of skill in talking about this sort of thing, nor will they un-trigger someone who’s triggered.
I have depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD. On any given day you might think I’m doing just fine by looking at my outside — but inside, I’m telling myself it’s okay, I deserve to eat food. I’m telling myself I’m worthy of love. I’m trying to calm the rising storm of panic, at least long enough so I can get to my closet to hide. I’m screaming against the noise of my illness, trying to be as loud as the ocean, trying to drown the voices once and for all.
I ended up blogging about this on my profile at Google+ — it’s public, so anyone can read it. I figured I’d quote a bit from it, and if you want you can read the whole thing.
Note: this is written based on my own personal experience with relatives, friends, loved ones, and my eating disorders. Other people may have different eating disorders and different experiences, and my post is in now way trying to speak for them. It’s just me venting about stuff that I go through every day.
My eating disorders are, for clarity, binge/emotional eating and anorexia. Eating is a complete MINEFIELD for me before we even factor in other people’s comments, reactions, etc, because I am constantly fighting a battle with myself about what food I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. If I binge eat because I’m upset, I then spend several days starving myself because I’m full of self-loathing. But as I know stopping myself from eating is bad, I then force myself to eat, and feel horrible about it.
So here are the things that are said/done, quite often, either to or around me that DON’T HELP AT ALL.
[content warning: mention of disordered eating and fatphobia]
This past weekend was the BC Day long weekend (I believe the first Monday in August is the long weekend across Canada, with Province-specific holidays; I know it was Alberta Heritage Day as well as BC Day, f’ex), so I got to spend four days at the Ogre’s house instead of just 3. (We’re currently searching for a place to move in to together, but in the meantime it’s week-at-my-house, weekend-at-his.)
His mom had to head down to Washington this weekend to visit a friend. She asked us to come with because she’d not been feeling well all weekend and felt safer having an escort. Also, she said, one of the things she was picking up was my birthday gift — so there was some incentive for me!
First thing we did as soon as we got across the border was find a Jack in the Box. Jack in the Box is by far our favourite fast food place and we will always make time to visit one when we head into the Western States. (It doesn’t exist out east. I don’t even think it exists too far east of the West Coast.) And by “we” I mean “Amoeba Cat and Ogre”. OgreMom has a lot of food sensitivities, so eating at fast food while on a road trip is sort of a really terrible idea (especially when she’d not been feeling well for a few days before).
My normal meal at Jack in the Box is the Ultimate Cheeseburger, which is basically just meat and cheese and bread, but this time they had a new one — with bacon. So it was meat and cheese and bread and meat. I was in heaven. Even if we went at the wrong time of year and couldn’t get specialty shakes. (You know what this means? We need to go on more road trips to Washington, preferably around specialty-shake times.)
Something else new about JitB: they now have calories listed on their menus.
I guess this is something that helps folks, and I suppose some people like knowing their caloric intake upfront. I’m also guessing it’s common across US fast food places (it’s not in Canada), to help combat the “obesity epidemic”. (Because obese people are the enemy, folks. We’re the new communists, donchaknow.)
Personally, I found it incredibly upsetting, and were I in a worse state of mind that evening I probably would have been triggered. When I noticed the calories on the menu, I felt like I was being publicly shamed for choosing a meal that was so high in caloric intake. I felt like everyone was watching me, looking at the thing I was choosing and how BIG that number was beside it and judging me for it. And, as I feel every time I look at the calories on a piece of food, I started to feel the slippery slide into my eating disorders.
I had to force myself to look away and not think about it, though I managed to snap a picture as we were leaving. I repeated a mantra over and over in my head that Ogre loves me and doesn’t judge me for the food I eat. He never tells me to eat less; he doesn’t try to control my food input. Which is quite magical, considering, well, every other guy I’ve dated and lots of other people in my life that I’ve not been romantically involved with. Oh, yeah, and society at large. (Har, a pun.)
Anyway. I’m digressing. I may spend time later to go into this in greater depth on another post, to give it the time and attention it deserves. For now I’m just going to talk some more about my road trip.
Something that made me about as excited as JitB? This:
If you don’t get the reference, I feel sad for you — because you are not watching Bob’s Burgers, and you are missing out on laughing so hard you cry and pee yourself. Get thee to a Netflix and watch. You will not regret it. (If you do regret it…well, it’s safe to say you probably don’t share my sense of humor. Which is sad. I am sad now.)
True story: it’s my heart’s dream that someday the Ogre and I are Bob and Linda and our kids are Louise, Gene, and Tina. Also, I may or may not be obsessed with the show because I basically am a combination of the three kids.
After JitB we pretty much headed straight to the person we were visiting, with a few stops for gas and bathrooms on the way. (Man, gas is cheap in Washington. No, the exchange rate doesn’t make it a “no real difference” sort of deal; Washington is paying around 3.50 a gallon and Vancouver is paying around 5.20 a gallon. 5.20 Canadian is about 4.90 US, not 3.50.)
The visit purpose was two-fold: visit the kittens, and pick up OgreMom’s stuff. Including my birthday present. Which is awesome. You will see this in a minute. First, however: KITTENS.
This was the kitty we were going to look at, so OgreMom could take pictures of him to send to a friend who’s a vet to get a bit of a consult. The kitty has some sort of hip problem, so his legs just sort of spread-eagle no matter what. He wasn’t in much, if any, pain, and he was cool with being held and cuddled. His legs just splay like crazy, but it really doesn’t stop him from crawling all over the place and dragging them behind him. Because of this I think he should be named Troy, but no one appreciates my constant references to Community. (And yes, I realize y’all can’t exactly tell by the picture, but the kitten is fine with being held like that and it was only long enough for me to snap a picture, anyway. Don’t worry, Ogre may look big and scary but he actually knows how to handle cats. His mom only fostered a million kittens while he was growing up.)
So, anyway, here are some more pictures of kittens:
After kitten-cuddle-time we took a look at OgreMom’s packages, including…(drumroll please)…my birthday present!
You see, a few months ago I shared a t-shirt on Facebook that I desperately wanted and couldn’t buy, along with my size and a note to my friends that if they wanted to get it for me I would love them for a very long time. I didn’t actually think anyone would get it for me, as the sale was short-lived and times are tough, but…
Now, if you don’t get the reference, I actually kind of wonder where you’ve been for the past three decades. Reading Rainbow ran for 23 years on PBS. It encouraged children to read and exercise their imaginations, and — this is the best part — it was produced and hosted by LeVar Burton.
As far as TV shows go, I was raised on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow. At first, I wondered why Geordi was without his visor, but then the concept of actors vs. characters was explained to me, and I adjusted.
The show helped foster a love of literature in me. Despite my eventual voraciousness regarding books and my high levels of reading comprehension, for a while mom was afraid I wouldn’t actually learn to read, period. It never came easy to me, and even now I am an extremely slow reader. I have to be awake and alert if I want to read books and comprehend them, and it takes me a while.
For someone with those difficulties, fostering a love of the literary world could be difficult. But on the TV, I had Geordi — Geordi, my friend from Star Trek, one of my favourite characters from that show, the guy who seemed safe to me. And here he was, showing me that reading could take me anywhere, and help me be anything. I could go twice as high.
So you can see why I’m overjoyed with this shirt. It proclaims my love for Reading Rainbow without being billboardesque, and its appeal to the imagination harkens back to the theme of the show. Definitely up there among some of the best birthday gifts ever.
After our visit, we headed home — and to a Wal-Mart. Whenever Ogre is in the States he picks up underwear from Wal-Mart (or wherever else has the same-priced underwear, but often it’s Wal-Mart because of the odd hours he keeps — they’ve usually got a 24hr-open store). Canada doesn’t have the underwear he likes in his size, so we must go to the States and buy underwear made in the face of the looming problem of fatties within the nation’s borders. Oh no! Hide the children!
I mean, I find it sort of fucking ridiculous that he can’t find underwear that fits him up here. You would think that regardless the moral panic surrounding the very existence of fatties in whatever country they would at least supply us some fucking underwear. I mean, seeing as it’s such a problem when we show the slightest amount of skin.
I, too, have trouble finding underwear that a) fits, b) is the style I like, c) is comfortable, d) well-made, and e) in my budget. By “I have trouble,” I mean “I usually wear underwear until it just disintegrates so I don’t have to go through the horror of shopping for more for as long as possible.”
I digress again. Apparently the Amoeba Cat is grumpy today.
So, we went in search of some underwear, as all his current pairs are approaching sainthood. (‘Cause they’re holey…get it?) While we were there we decided to see if there was any junk food that we couldn’t easily get in Canada. Also, I took a picture of some booze I saw that I wanted to remember at a later time — as it was 2:30 am when we were shopping and my brain was unlikely to remember the details without some help.
Kinky Liqueur isn’t something I’ve seen up here in Canada, though that doesn’t mean it’s not around. I don’t actually go booze shopping very often. At any rate, whenever I get a chance I’m going to pick some up and see if I like it.
I really wanted these pants, but alas. So instead we found junk food to help me keep said amazing ass. (This was Ogre’s comment. I laughed.)
There wasn’t much in the junk food section that we couldn’t get at home (where it would be better, too; sorry, USians, but your Oreos taste like crap), but we did find two really cool things: pop made in Mexico, meaning it was made with actual freaking sugar and not HFCS, and one of those Nutella snack things they sell in Europe, sans the chocolate milk portion.
The Mexican-made pop (no pictures, sorry) came in a 24-bottle case. In glass bottles, no less. 12 Cokes, 6 Sprite, 6 Orange Fanta. Out of the three of them the Fanta has the worst ingredients, but still — no HFCS.
And they all taste so much better than Canadian- or US-made pop.
Overall, a really fun and productive trip (I got an hour of work done, if you can believe it). We stumbled back into our home at 3:30am; Ogre and I didn’t fall asleep till 7:30 or so.
Next time we road trip to the States we will hopefully have more notice before leaving and the trip itself will be a bit longer. I’d really like to make trips to Washington a more regular part of my life again, even if it’s considerably harder to do so now; my trips to Seattle with Mom are some of my fondest childhood memories.
And on that note, I’m signing off. I’ve been up for far too long because my sleep schedule is all screwy again, so I’m in need of some slumber.
I suppose I’m continuing in a somewhat depressive vein, here, but it needs to be said.
I’m a fat-positive activist, and I believe in HAES — Health At Every Size. Fat people are still people and should be treated like human beings, instead of like second class citizens or monsters who live in catacombs below the opera house. Which, yeah, is how we are treated.
There are also different levels of fat, and if you’ve never been above 200 pounds you have no idea what it’s like to be 330 pounds (just like I have no idea what it’s like to be above 400). There’s a different set of oppressions for each level: under 200 pounds can be seen as socially acceptable fat, whereas the higher you get, the more you get slotted into “deathfatty” and seen as an animal. There are very few clothing options the higher up on the scale you are. If you’re a size 14 and you’ve never been higher than a size 18, you may be considered fat by society, but you still have no idea what it’s like to be a size 26, 28, 30, 40.
Now that that’s all said.
I am fat as fuck and hot as hell. And I’m okay with that. But my health is suffering. Because I don’t eat as well as I should, and exercising is painful. Part of this is related to health problems that have nothing to do with my obesity (chronic back pain, for one). But losing extra adipose tissue would also help these health problems get resolved. At least to a point where I’m not in pain every single minute of every single day (is there such a state of existence?). This is not true for every fat person; it’s true for me — so I’m not going tell you that losing weight will help you get healthy, because fat is not an indicator of general well-being and I’m not a fucking doctor. (Pro-tip: all you people who are so concerned about my, and other fat people’s, health, aren’t doctors either. So stop lying to us; we’re fat, not stupid.)
So I want to lose fat and gain muscle. I also want to eat healthy and exercise.
But I keep on running into road blocks.
Last summer I tried to do this. I tried to count calories, and exercise. Almost immediately I fell into a death spiral of anorexia nervosa and binge eating. As soon as I start counting calories, I go from eating a healthy amount of food to eating almost nothing each day. I looked at my measures of calories per day and realized what was happening — I’ve gone through anorexia before, and it was much worse than it was last summer. Fat anorexics do exist, and I’m sick of hearing “anorexic” as a synonym for “thin” because it erases us.
First, please note that when I say “diet” I do not mean “calorie counting fascism designed to make you feel terrible about yourself and trigger all your eating disorders”. I mean, quite specifically, all the food that one ingests — one’s diet.
Next, I do not speak for all writers here. I am only talking about me — the food that I ingest in my writerly life. And when I say “writerly life”, I mean my life, because I’m never not a writer.
Wheee double negatives in English!
The Writing Schedule
Different schedules create different diets in my life. The first one I’m going to delve into here is when I’m writing all day, everyday. I wake up in the morning (roughly). I make a pot of tea and sit down in front of the laptop. I pound out words until my tea pot is empty or my bladder full (or both). I refill or empty as needed, and continue writing.
This pattern repeats all day, when I finally decide that I’m done writing and I need to get some actual food in my body before it rebels and kills something small and furry in a display of animal primalness.
At which point I will gorge on something meaty and then collapse into bed.
That schedule is my favourite, but it doesn’t pay the rent (yet).