My pal Kelli recently wrote a post about her summer-induced weight gain. A yearly cycle, she figures it's the beer, the hot dogs and the fro-yo that adds a few pounds to her frame, and in the winter she takes it off with a more rigorous workout schedule. It should be noted that Kelli fluctuates between "bony" and "svelte" in her annual gain/loss rollercoaster, and she looks great, fit and toned, no matter how much she moans about her ice cream consumption and the effect it has on her ass.
I'm the opposite. Usually I'm more active in the summer months, when biking and walking and sweating and not wanting to eat anything except ice pops and watercress melts (ha!) off the pounds . My body type is curvier than hers - even at my skinniest, I probably weigh in a few classes above her. But now, unemployed, post-surgery, and without a defined workout schedule, I'm getting...fat.
Oh, boo. I know it's not kosher for women to say they're fat. We've all been socialized to refer to our overweight friends as "a little heavy" or tell each other, "she's a big girl" and do that thing where we hold our arms away from our bodies and sort of shake them a little - I guess to convey all their glorious jiggliness . But rarely do we break down and actually verbalize the words "fat" or "overweight" or "obese." It seems too harsh for the people we care about, so we tiptoe around the words and use those ridiculous jiggly arms.
Let's be clear: I am not what you might call "sane" when it comes to weight and body issues. I've spent upwards of a decade struggling with eating disorders and the auxiliary body image issues it creates. Sometimes, when I look at my body, I feel humiliated and betrayed. Later that day, I might feel strong and sexy. It's a crapshoot. Certain things trigger the bad-body-moods more reliably than others: if I weigh myself, it's almost guaranteed to bother and annoy me for at least a few days, and to make me hyperaware of my physical flaws. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with the idea that I can gain some weight without wanting to throw myself under a streetcar; it's taking even longer to figure out how to get to a healthy size without going crazy in the process.
But. The numbers don't lie, and I've gained. The Body Mass Index calculations, while flawed, does give you a rough estimation of where you should be, weight-wise. My sister is adamantly opposed to it; since it fails to take into account extreme muscle mass (which would be an indicator of fitness, not obesity), it's apparently flawed and untrustworthy. I use the BMI system, mostly because it affords me more wiggle room than the height/weight ratio system. But no matter what system you use to calculate where you are and where you should be when that scale stops spinning, nobody can deny that there's magic in those numbers. And when they creep up and up, it causes a certain mindset (hello!) to freak right the fuck out.
One of the main issues with eating disorders is that they reward the sufferer with endorphins, those fun-ass brain chemicals that make us feel better. Learning how to eat and exercise without the benefit of the euphoria is...sort of a drag. In the sense that exercise is hard and annoying and makes you sweaty, and alternative methods take, like, ten minutes. They also lead to a next-level spectrum of bodily impairment, which exercise, unless you're doing it wrong, won't do. And they make you crazy. So don't do it. Eat your food, keep it down.
So I'm trying something new: acceptance. Oh, I'm still not really pleased with the way I look. But I'm trying to focus on the positive. I have great hair. My ass seems to have some admirers. I'm not deranged. When I feel crappy, I'll go for a run. And since I'm feeling pretty crappy about my bod these days, and the numbers on the scale, and how tight my pants have gotten, I bet I'll be going for a lot of runs. Nice, sane, healthy, non-crazy runs. Wish me luck.