Eating chocolate

July 21, 2009

I’ve been on a diet (even when calling it a lifestyle change instead) for most of my life. My mother first put me on a diet when I was about 7 years old. And while there were months when I abandoned dieting out of sheer hopelessness even when I wasn’t actively counting my daily calories, or some variation of that, then I was actively policing my food intake and trying to restrict it.

A bar of chocolate as a morning snack has been out of the question. Laughable even. I told myself: I’m fat and fat people shouldn’t be eating chocolate. I should be trying to loose weight at all times. Because, duh, the fat. Chocolate and loosing weight is not happening. From the ages of about 12 to 16 years old my mother tried to convince me I was allergic to chocolate. I even paid lip service to the idea myself and told people “I can’t eat that because I’m allergic to chocolate”. It did help to have such a good excuse. To be fair, part of my mother’s chocolate allergy theory was that she believed it gave me acne but it was also certainly not agreeing with me in other ways too (i.e. my weight). So I didn’t eat it at all for a few years. And I mean at all. I avoided chocolate as if it would send me into anaphylaxis.

When I was in my early twenties I started to binge eat and compulsively eat. These are two different things to me but I realise some people see them as equivalent. From then until last summer I couldn’t eat a bar of chocolate by itself and stop there. It was an irresistible trigger to keep eating. Sometimes it would be the start of loosing control and I would end up pushing (literally) the food into my mouth and swallowing as fast and frantically as I could and keep eating and eating and eating whatever I could find until the pain started and then I could stop. The pain from the sheer volume of food was what snapped whatever ‘turn’ in my mind that was the core of the binge. However, sometimes when I ate a bar of chocolate it was the beginning of days of what I call compulsive eating. I wasn’t binging on huge amounts of food at a single time but instead simply nearly continuously eating. I ate at about a normal speed and I ate normal (for me), or roughly normal, things but instead of gaps or breaks between snacks and meals I had more snacks. The pattern my ED therapist recommended me to try and follow was sleep-breakfast-gap-snack-gap-lunch-gap-snack-gap-dinner-gap-snack-gap-sleep. When the continuous/compulsive eating thing appeared, and I use the passive voice intentionally because it felt like I had very little control over it, then every “gap” was replace by”‘snack”. Except I didn’t eat meals when I was alone because, duh, the fat, so it was more like sleep-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-dinner-snack-snack-snack-sleep. Another description is that it was days of low level, slowed down, continuous mini-binging. The ‘turn’ in my mind was there though not as intensely as the frank binges but the behaviour was different. I sometimes think that the behaviour that I call compulsive eating is what the general public think that all obese people do all the time and that is why they got so damn fat! Well let me tell you, you know pretty early on then something is fucking wrong when you eat like that and it looks even to the most casual and callous glance that the inside of this person’s head is a fucking unpleasant place to be. Also, try opening your eyes … most people who are categorised as obese do not have disorders (see section 2.4 for the UK government funded NICE Guideline on Eating Disorders for a review of the epidemiological research. Or try putting “prevalence eating disorder” into PubMed.)

Did I get distracted by ranting about the perception of obesity. Good god. Anyway …

Today I ate a bar of chocolate as a morning snack. A single bar of chocolate. Because I saw it in the shop and thought it looked nice. I just ate it and didn’t think about whether I was a failure as a human being. I don’t even want to eat more. Which actually feels a bit bizarre. It’s just chocolate. I can eat it whenever I want. And when I genuinely mean that and I’m not trying to con myself, persuade myself or convince myself out of it in any way it really did turn out that I didn’t devour the world. I also had to deal with the other things that drove my binging, restriction, fasting and compulsive eating but dumping the whole idea of “I can’t eat that because, duh, the fat” has been given me huge amount of breathing space from the insistent push of the eating disorder demands. That Shapely Prose article was published almost two years ago and I read it back then and very much agreed with it. It has taken me even longer than two years of thinking and mulling over this stuff , a course of psychotherapy, medication and a fair bit of time talking about it as well to get me to this point. Yep, still fat and still eating chocolate. I bet there are people who would laugh at me so hard for this and say that this is the most convulted way of lying to myself and making it okay to eat chocolate EVERZ. To them I say: it’s just chocolate and it’s my body, don’t worry, it’s not your problem.


Maybe a little step forward

July 20, 2009

After my last rant here, which was a fairly straggly summary of the inside of my head, I think I may have made a little progress on how I feel about my body. I’m still at the stage in fat acceptance of believing that it makes perfect sense for everyone else that there is nothing wrong with being fat – and I do not mean that in a damning-with-faint-praise kind of “nothing wrong” instead that there genuinely isn’t anything bad, lazy, unhealthy or in any way intrinsically negative about being fat – except for me. Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s where self-hatred meets narcissism. And about as rational as thinking that buzzing noise is bees trapped in the wall.

But today I was thinking that if another person never had to see or touch me again then I’m okay with my body the way it is just now. Really, just now. All 17-ish stone (240-ish pounds) of me. There’s been a few times when I’ve changed my mind about things (previously accepted Set In Granite Facts) that have been prompted about thinking about my pets’ bodies. One of my old girls had an operation on Friday and thinking about the changes in her body as she ages made me think about how well I’ve done by my own. My bladder works and I can pee whenever I want. That is damn convenient in the society I live in. Same for bowels. I can walk and get around the ubiquitous steps (seriously, until it was pointed out to me I never noticed, what is with all the fucking steps everywhere?) with relative ease. This isn’t a case of “well I’m fat, but at least I’m not physically disabled!” Putting down a group of people to raise my own status is just frankly stupid because it’s based on untrue assumptions about people who have physical disabilities and therefore undermines me when I am trying to be rational. Also basing your own self-esteem on being ‘one-up’ or ‘better than’ someone else is just going to teach you the hard way that people really are equal. No, what I mean is that my new interest in seeing the things my body has done for me made me feel a little gratitude towards my body. Rather than focusing on its/my defects and weaknesses I suddenly did see that it/me has some good points.

As someone who has the down the cliched eating disorder exercise of “list the things you like about your body” and only come up with “I have okay eyelashes” then I think I’m getting somewhere.

ETA: The clumsy use of pronouns when talking about my body is actually kind of intentional. I have problems in that area and will post about it as soon as I can drag myself out of the existential mud.

Feeling divided and tempted

July 18, 2009

I have an eating disorder. Or at least I have an ‘official’ diagnosis of bulima though currently binge eating disorder fits me better. When I say “I have an eating disorder” I feel like a fake and that, any second now, someone will point out how ridiculous such a claim is and then go on to emphatically point out how much I am insulting and cheapening people’s experience of genuine eating disorders. Then there is more pointing and laughing …This flashes though my mind every single fucking time I say or imply in any way that I have an eating disorder. I know where some of it comes from but I still don’t know what to do about it or even whether I should do anything. I am almost entirely anonymous on this blog but I still don’t want to associate the words bulima and binge with me. If I ever let myself think about having an eating disorder, I feel such intense shame.

I have been told directly by a psychologist that I trusted and had confided in that I shouldn’t diet. I have an obese BMI. Her reasoning was that dieting would be an almost inevitable trigger for my binge eating and restriction/fasting cycle (also called bulima but see above) and that my eating disorder does me more harm than my fat. Not specific to me but the same diet-and-you’ll-binge message  is repeated in eating disorder self-help books and on fat acceptance blogs. Both seem to be reliable sources of information as have evidence to back themselves up including the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

On the other hand, I have what seems to be everyone telling me that I should diet. From my GP to my family to my friends to the clothes shops to my bank balance to my new ladder. Yes, my new ladder. It has a weight limit and I’m over it. It cost me £44 and it isn’t strong enough to hold me safely. I have done the yo-yo diet thing which I personally find more humilating than being shamed for being fat. I have a lot of triggers just now. And I am so tired of it all. This fight in my head feels very similar to the fight I used to have when trying to resist a binge. In the end, I just wanted the fight to stop and since it seemed the fight wouldn’t stop until I binged so I would binge. Futile in the end because it just prolonged the cycle so I’d have the same thing to deal with in the near future but in the end, I just wanted some peace. This current fight seems to be the same thing: just diet, just do it, the shame and humiliation will stop, the laughing or sneering stares and comments will stop, at least I will be doing something … I can’t get away from the message to be thinner but I can get away from the message that fat is okay. I can abandon that, never visit those sites again and laugh at those sentiments along with everyone else and only I’d know my traitorous thoughts. It would be so easy to slot right back into dieting and weight loss.

And maybe I would find some peace in dieting and feel better about myself with weight loss. Is it really inevitable that I would binge? Would I really regain all the weight again? Perhaps there is a chance that it would all work out beautifully but the other outcomes look pretty grim. I can’t stand this uncertainty and feeling so lost.

Racist man at the bus stop

July 13, 2009

Today I saw overt racism at a bus stop outside a supermarket. I live in an okay area in a large Scottish city. The majority of people are from a white background and that is what I am from too. There are several ethnic minority groups including people from mixed race, Asian, African and Afro-Carribean backgrounds.

I had come out of the supermarket behind a black 30-40 year old woman and a teenage black girl (I got the feeling this was her daughter from the way they acted together) and wandered behind them to the same bus stop. I was standing loss in my own thoughts and noticed that the adult woman was talking to another black woman of about the same age who was just in front of her inside the bus stop. I didn’t overhear what they were talking about as I was standing outside the bus stop.

I was lost in my own thoughts again for a few minutes until I heard “… go back to your own fucking country” from a white man who was about 40-50 years old and had the local accent. I was so shocked. One of the two older black woman said something short to him and then both stared ahead. They were between the white man and the young black girl who was staring at the ground. He kept on speaking and said “you’re fucking parasites, that’s what you are” and repeated that a few times. He also said the British government were “arseholes” to let “you people” emigrate to this country – I can’t remember his exact words here except those phrases. He also said other things and again I can’t remember the words exactly but that it was very aggressive and racist. I got the impression that he had been drinking from the way he moved. The two adult black women continued to stare straight ahead and ignore him. There was another white woman standing next to him and she was staring at him and moved away from him nearer to me. I caught her eye for a second as I was staring at him too.

I said that when I had noticed what this white  man had said that I was shocked but I was also sort of stunned as well. I was thinking “I have got to do something!” and “I have go to stand up for these women!” but I was afraid of this man. I was thinking that if I challenged him that he would start on me and that maybe nobody would stand up for me either. So all I did was glare at this man and I am so ashamed of that.

Then the bus came and the black women quickly picked up their bags and moved towards the bus. The white man kind of followed them and I thought he was going into this bus too and I thought “I have to tell the driver – make the driver not let this white man on”. I moved round the bus stop and got onto the bus stop behind the black woman who had already been at the bus stop when I arrived. I said “I am so sorry …” I didn’t know what to say but I wasn’t going to let myself chicken out again and say nothing. Surely saying nothing was worse. She said something “no, it’s alright, people say these things to us all the time, don’t worry” and I thought this is fucking appalling what has happened here. I then went up inside the bus and sat down. A white woman who was coming onto the bus after me was shouting at the white man and I didn’t hear what she said at first but it ended with “he’s a fucking idiot” and I was grateful to her that she said something. The black woman who was on her own sat next to the driver and the other black woman and her daughter sat near the front too. I wonder if that was for safety? To be near the driver and with lots of other people rather than at the back where there was more space. I’ve never had to think like that here when getting on a bus … that would be white priviledge. The racist white man didn’t get on the bus.

As I was sitting on the bus waiting for my stop to get off I couldn’t believe I hadn’t said anything to the racist white man. I had thought before that if something like that happened in front of me I would step up but it turned out I was too afraid for myself. As my stop got nearer I got up and stood near the door (that’s what everybody does in this particular city – it’s the convention for indicating to the driver that this is your stop) and so I was standing next to the black woman who was on her own. I glanced at her and looked away and then stepped up. I said to her, “I am sorry I didn’t stand up for you” and that said he had no right to say such things. She said again “don’t worry, he is entitled to say what he thinks” and I said “no, he isn’t entitled to say that”. She said something back that I can’t remember the exact words of but that meant that this is the way things are and I said “I’m sorry” again then thanked the driver and got off the bus.

I was crying as I got walked up the stairs to my flat. Partly out of anger and frustration and partly out of shame for my lack of action. It wasn’t even about me. What must it have been like for the teenage girl as she went home? After hearing such things from a random stranger. And most likely not for the first time. What was it like for her mother? Was she afraid for herself and her daughter? Is she forced to teach her daughter about racism and physical safety and a whole load of other issues that I can’t even imagine? What was it like for the other woman? Did my little spiel to her make the situation worse for her? I really hope not. Is this really something you can get used to? Should a person even have to get used to such things? I don’t know what it is like to experience overt racism like that and while I can imagine a little I have to respect that I can’t fully understand. I can be sure of the pretty general statement that what happened was not fucking on and should not happen.

This weekend I’ve been reading some articles about racism starting with Guest Post: The Fantasty of Being White on Shapely Prose and then the articles linked on Required Reading on The Angry Black Woman (link courtesy of SweetMachine via that Shapely Prose post). So I’ve read enough to know it isn’t up to the White Lady to rescue The Poor Black People but also that racism flourishes when it is unopposed. Perhaps I would have made the whole situation much worse if I had challenged the racist white man and escalated the verbal abuse to physical violence but I don’t think so. It was mid-afternoon in front of a lot of people and there was CCTV outside the supermarket. My instincts told me there was danger and that is what I obeyed but now I think I over-estimated it. I should have spoken up. I wish I had spoken up to him. Even if I had only said “no, you are wrong”. I wish I had shown support to those black women and my contempt of that white man.

Quote – Osho

July 13, 2009

“When sadness comes, just sit by the side and look at it and say, “I am the watcher, I am not sadness”, and see the difference.” Osho

First of all, what’s the correct way of using quotes within a quote? Nested quotes, if you will.

More to the point: this quote describes an interesting idea. Emotions are tricky to describe and the language that we use, at least in English, is often in the first person. For example, “I am sad” or “I feel sad”. When there is a more extended description, like “this sadness is overwhelming and feels like I am being sucked down under the surface”, there is still a fundamental assumption that the person is the emotion and the emotion is an integral part of the person.

Maybe that’s not completely accurate? Or at least, maybe that’s not the only way to think about it?

If I try to describe an emotion without using this first person way then it seems to change the meaning I’m trying to get across, at least with my clumsy words. So if I try to say “I am sad” without using the first person I end up with “the sadness came into my head”. I am sure other people would say it differently.

Also, writing this reminds me of some reading I did a few years ago about the difference between emotions and feelings. I couldn’t get my head round it then and I think it would derail this idea to try and incorporate that here. But it might be relevant.

To be Captain Obvious for a second: the words change the meaning. Our conventional way of describing emotions isn’t the only way of describing them and when using another way the emotions themselves may feel different. In this quote, there is a description of separately yourself from your emotion. As someone who feels very intensely at times and perhaps over-identifies (goddamn, the NHS has paid thousands for me to use words like this …) with her emotions this sounds good to me.

There are many times I feel like I am a slave to my emotions. If I am having an episode, whether that is depressive, manic or mixed, then my emotions rule. Some separation from these emotions would be very welcome and even everyday ‘normal’ emotions can cause me trouble. However, as someone who has a lot of problems with dissociative symptoms like depersonalization then I know full well that too much separation from emotions is not helpful and just turns you into a human who despite walking around and talking isn’t really living. Not that I am saying that this idea of simply being aware of your emotions and sitting with them rather than diving in is the same thing as depersonalization because it isn’t. There needs to be balance. Maybe I’m just showing my age but balance and calm acceptance is exactly what I want.

Quote – George Bernard Shaw

July 10, 2009

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw

I like the idea that I’m not already fully formed and that I might actually have the power to change myself. I was told in my early twenties that I lack a sense of agency about myself and at the time I didn’t really understand what that meant and furthermore didn’t think it sounded very important either. If only I’d paid more attention.

In some ways, I’m very passive especially when it concerns my mental illness. The depression comes, the depression goes, the mania comes, the mania goes … and it seems to have fuck all to do with me. I didn’t used to think this way or at least, not to this extreme. For my age and the length of time I have had my illness I had more episodes that the majority. And of course, almost all the people I know do not have episodes at all. I don’t think there can ever be a convenient time to get ill but my illness certainly seemed to come at particularly inconvenient times to me and in the end that cost me my degree, career and any thought of banking on the future. That timing and my inability to ward off or attenuate the onslaught of my episodes made me give up trying to affect them. And somewhere along the time I gave up trying to affect my future at all. For someone who thinks fate is just patronising construct to try and lessen the blows of random happenings and essentially a way for people to opt out of making decisions for themselves I seem to have made my own little construct that does exactly the same thing.

The “finding yourself” meme does nothing for me. I’m right here already. To be less facetious, “finding yourself” and “creating yourself” are essentially the same idea: knowing more, experiencing more and living more. The way to go about that is different and that, to me, is the heart of this quotation. The idea that I have the power to change myself is new to me and frankly I’ve not done much with it. There is comfort in the idea of fate and trusting that necessary changes will occur regardless but finally I can also see the comfort in the idea that I have some choices too.

Quote – Mark Victor Hansen

July 1, 2009

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.Mark Victor Hansen