The Talent Given Us

I listened to an interview with Stacey from What Not to Wear the other day – talking about body image and wearing the right clothes for the body you have. Her interview made me like her a lot more than I used to. She seemed like she was really on our side, on the side of women, like she just wanted us all to look good, and then feel good, no matter what size we were. That part was cool. Although the part where I turned it up and played it again was when she talked about the “Fab Four” (Lindsey Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and Paris Hilton) and how they were famous for nothing more than being skinny, looking good, and lately, for losing weight. Losing weight is not a talent, she said. It’s not something you should get your picture taken for, it’s just…losing weight. It doesn’t make you special.

And then someone else wrote a blog post about gaining weight after you get married and it caused all sorts of controversy. The writer mentioned that she thought it was “false advertising” to gain weight after getting married and at first I had this big argument in my head about how marriage wasn’t a commodity, and what exactly was I advertising, and to whom? I am not for sale, after all. As Melanie Griffith stated in Working Girl, “I am not steak. You can’t just order me.”

But as I thought more about it, those thoughts started to be about something else entirely. Although of course I don’t expect anyone to believe that my weight loss makes me more or less talented, I do feel like I accomplished something, and I am proud of how my ass looks now and the fact that I can run 11 miles. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the process of losing sixty pounds, I’ve also formed an identity that is so wrapped up in my physical appearance that more often than not these days the most important thing in my life is how I look.

I’m not apologizing for feeling good that I managed to lose weight and run a half marathon, but it does get complicated when that’s where your sense of self worth comes from. Because while yes, I am proud of me, and I do feel like I look good, I swear to god seconds later, or even in the same moment, I can also feel fat and ugly and boring and stupid and wrong and like all the beautiful people are somewhere making fun of me. It’s as if there’s a light switch labeled “self esteem” in my head, and I can’t control which way the switch is flipped. And I’m wondering if maybe it’s not possible to feel good about yourself because of how you look without also feeling bad about yourself because of how you look. Like maybe how you look shouldn’t be what makes you feel good, and then it also wouldn’t be what makes you feel bad?

You know, it’s all very confusing. But here’s my conclusion. We live in a world where people tell you how you SHOULD be, all the fucking time. Women are told constantly “Love Yourselves” “You are more than your physical appearance” “Don’t be so caught up in yourself all the time” “It’s not a talent to be skinny” but the people in charge, the ones making the rules, don’t really believe ANY of that stuff. Really, they believe that thinner IS better and that what we look like on the outside IS advertising for what kind of person we are on the inside and they tell us that when they bombard us with impossible and unfair images of beauty that make us believe that if only we worked harder, we could be as “talented” as Nicole. And then after that they tell us that the reason we feel like crap is that we don’t love ourselves enough on the inside. And I’m here to tell you that no matter what I think of myself, I know I’m talented enough to call bullshit when I see it.

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Alice, Let’s Eat

I love food. I love to cook it, order it, look at pictures of it, watch tv shows about it, read about it. Although, to qualify, I’m not a food snob. Alice Waters is one of my personal heroes, but then again, so is Dairy Queen. Good food, bad food, healthy food, organic food, carnival food, I don’t care. You name it, if it tastes good, I’ll eat it. Chocolate cake at the Ritz Carleton or funnel cakes at the fair, it’s all delicious, as far as I’m concerned.

But lately, food has gotten…confusing. I’ve become torn – between counting points and weight watchers and whether it makes you eat when you’re not hungry and whether it’s really healthy, emotionally healthy even, to be on a diet of baby carrots and sugar free fat free jello or whether I should just count calories or whether I should just give up and eat delicious homemade healthy organic soup and cheese scones EVEN if the soup is full of peanut butter and the scone is full of, well, cheese. It reminds me of the saying “Never trust a skinny cook.” Surely loving and appreciating good food doesn’t automatically make you fat? Right?

I suspect that there is a balance in there, but my brain is really bad at balancing. My brain is a confused, muddley brain, where ideas float to the surface and then drift away. I would love to be a normal person who can eat healthy nutty soup even if it is filled with fat and who wouldn’t put the chemicals in fat free jello in her body but to me being a normal person means being fat. Maybe the thing that scares me is that the only thing that’s ever worked for me is either not eating at all or counting points. Or being fat. Don’t forget that.

I think I’m just tired. When you first go on a diet – even though you’re not supposed to call it a diet – everyone tells you to get over the fact that it’s not fair. I’m over it. Trust me, I don’t expect things to be fair. I don’t expect to be able to eat snickers bars every day and I am very happy that I have become a runner and I do like my life more now. I am a happier person, but I would just sometimes love to not think about fat and calories and pants sizes and peanut butter and being hungry EVERY MINUTE of the day. I don’t know how to do that. And I am afraid to try.

Fool Me Once, Shame On Me. Fool Me Twice…Uh…You Can’t Get Fooled Again

Last weekend I spent a horrifyingly long amount of time looking for shoes online. By a long time, I mean A LOOOOOOONG TIME. Like, all weekend, for hours, staring at the little pictures on nordstrom.com. And I could feel myself descending into this irreversible pit of crazy, you know, I could tell that I’d gone so far that Mr. E thought I was a complete freak and was sort of ACTUALLY disturbed by it, and that it was damaging how he thought of me, and that every time I wore these fucking shoes or someone said they were cute I’d have to hear about how craaaaaaaazy I am and I could feel myself going to this place of “not a normal amount of time to spend on the internet looking at shoes and agonizing over what pair to buy” and still I COULD NOT STOP MYSELF.

I couldn’t stop. I had to find the perfect pair of shoes.

Later on, waiting in the drive through at McDonald’s for a diet Coke (we live large here in Nebraska), I tried to explain it to Mr. E. Told him about how it feels like one day you’re a cute sassy slip of a girl in cut offs and high tops and the next minute you’re a fat tired suburban loser with bad skin and a crappy job who wears sweat pants and her husbands XL Gap sweaters to work and how maybe a hot pair of sneakers feels like protection from the sad state you once let yourself get into now that you’ve crawled out of it. But I don’t know that he got it. At first I thought maybe it was because he’s never been fat, he’s never had to wear sweatshirts larger than he should have to, he doesn’t really KNOW. But then I thought maybe it’s because really, I never was that sassy girl, and in fact I haven’t crawled out of anything. What I should have been explaining was not that I felt like at any moment my cute veneer could slip away and $85 Diesel sneakers seemed like a way to keep it from happening. What I should have been explaining was that in fact I’ve never felt cute. I’ve never been a slip of a girl. And sometimes when someone’s selling cute packaged in a pair of sneakers you feel like it just might work, like just maybe you can buy the magic and wear it on your feet. Because the truth is I’ve felt too fat, too large, and too ugly, for my entire life.

Oh, sure, I’ve had moments. The right pair of heels, the right black dress, the right cocktail in my hand, sometimes it all adds up to a fleeting moment of gorgeous, a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. The possibility of beauty. I can shake my booty with the best of them to the right song on the radio, and sometimes, on a warm day, wearing a certain skirt, sometimes I do feel pretty. And when I was 17, and I was so anorexic you could see my bones through my skin, I had this pair of daisy dukes covered with stars and when I wore those shorts I felt like I could rule the world.

But it’s not the moments where I’ve had it that haunt me. The moments that haunt me are the moments where I thought I had it, but I didn’t.

A few years ago we went to New York to visit all of our friends and some of our not friends and I had a new pink cell phone and I packed my nicest clothes and I wore lipstick and I won’t lie, I felt cute. I felt really cute.

I was wrong. I wasn’t cute. I saw pictures afterwards of the fat, redfaced awkward girl I was, sitting at a sweaty table behind a pile of beer cans with my dorky hair and my mom cardigan and a sad little shy smile and I think, for fucks sake, I might have been wearing pearls. I was NOT cute. No wonder no one would talk to me.

Thinking back on that moment and what a fool I was can make me sick to this day.

And it’s this moment that makes me hate myself, hate life, hate our friends, hate self confidence. I’d rather hate everything about myself than think I look good, only to realize later that I don’t. I’d rather ANYTHING in the world than be proven a fool. Honestly, it scares the shit out of me that life can do this to me. That I can get it so wrong. Nothing in the world scares me more.

We’re going back to New York in a few weeks.

And I can’t look back on this trip and realize I wore the wrong shoes.

all her power is in her beard

Everyone always thinks THEIR dog is the coolest, cutest, smartest, funniest and most wonderfullest. Which is of course how it should be. So whatever, I’m not going to get into that here and tell you how my dog has a beard (she does) and how strangers stop us and tell us how cute she is even though she isn’t even a puppy anymore (true) and how her ears are soft like petals (they are) and how when she was eight weeks old she climbed onto a rottweilers head (he didn’t mind, but seemed surprised) and how she is the most energetic and friendly dog in the world (true) and how she can jump over six feet high (true) and how even though this IS a small town it is pretty cool that people talk about her and know her and recognize her just for her bounce (also true) and that she loves to play more than any other dog I’ve ever seen (also true). Instead, I’ll just say this:

Last night Belle tried to get the ROOMBA to play with her. Yes, the ROOMBA. She taunted it with her chew bone, dropping it in front of the Roomba, and then snatching it back up when it came close, and then shaking it in Roomba’s face. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen. Words cannot describe how hard I laughed when I realized my dog was trying to get a robotic vacuum cleaner to chase her.

The Love I’ve Got

I will tell ya’ll one thing I know for certain. I am not grateful enough for the love I’ve got.

I hear all the time about these guys. Husbands who slyly mention that their wife might like to put down the sour cream and onion chips, or women whose husbands tell them not so slyly, straight out, that they’re chunkers, or women whose partners tell them that they’re more attracted to them now that they’ve lost weight. I know a woman who got a divorce after months of marriage counseling didn’t work because at the end her husband admitted to her that he just wasn’t attracted to her because she was too fat.

One of the reasons it was so easy for me to gain weight after I moved in with Mr. E is because he didn’t give a shit how much I weighed. Even though I complain about being groped while trying to cook dinner, let’s be fair and say he gropes me now and he groped me then, sixty pounds heavier. He’s ALWAYS loved me. Well, I mean, not that one time I went postal in downtown Chicago, but he’s never ever put me down for being big or small or said anything to me that made me feel fat. And it’s not because he’s a smart man and he keeps his mouth shut. It’s because he doesn’t love me for the size of my ass or the number on my pants. He loves me for who I am.

Before Mr. E, I used to look at my arms, at the pale inside of my arm, where I have these little freckles, and think, I want someone to love me so much that they notice all these tiny things about me like my little arm freckles and then I want them to tell me how much they love those little things about me that no one else notices like my arm freckles. It never occurred to me that maybe I’d be better off with someone who wouldn’t know my arm freckles from the next girls but who loves me for something more than what any chump on the street can see, on the outside.

I once asked Mr. E what he thought when I gained weight and after thinking about it for a little while he said, “Honestly? I never even noticed.”

That’s a love I just stumbled on, people. At the time I met Mr. E I didn’t know just how amazing that kind of acceptance was. I never wanted to gain and lose sixty pounds but sometimes I think it might have been worth it to come out the other side and see that I somehow, despite the fact that I’m a complete pain in the ass, I found a love that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever known. True absolute accepting total love. For ME.

I really am the luckiest girl in the world.

Walk the Line

I weigh myself every Friday. When you do Weight Watchers Online, you have a weigh in day once a week and you enter your weight every week on the day you pick and everything revolves around that. I’m supposed to log my weight every week, but I never do unless it goes down, so I haven’t logged anything since December 23rd. For the past three months I’ve gained and lost the same two pounds over and over again. I just can’t seem to put together a string of “good” weeks for long enough to lose five pounds and get to my goal weight. I can do it, just not for four weeks at a time.

To be honest the first 60 pounds or so that I took off I could be a lot more careless than I can now. I could bullshit a lot of what I ate. In a way that’s the nice part of weight watchers…you don’t have to learn it all in one day. You learn to eat right because you don’t have to do everything all at once and you’ll still lose weight. Those careless days are gone now.

The point is that I really really really don’t want to weigh in tomorrow because I know what the scale is going to say. It’s going to say 123 or 122 if I’m lucky, and then I’ll be really pissed off and work really hard for two weeks and then the scale will say 120 and then I’ll be so sick of eating nothing but carrots and sugar free fat free jello and of cooking dinner EVERY freaking night and counting every point that I’ll fuck it up again and I’ll gain two pounds back.

I don’t know how to stop this cycle. A friend of mine recently pointed out that there’s not a lot of incentive to lose the final five or ten pounds. It won’t show to anyone but me. It probably won’t even change the size of the clothes I wear. It’s just something I want for no other reason than to reach a goal I set myself, to prove to myself that I can do this. But it’s so hard to be hungry, to plan plan plan, to not go out to eat, to not eat what’s convenient and fast and cheap, to never have treats, to never indulge cravings. It’s so hard that to make it through all that takes stronger motivation than I have right now.

The other thing I’ve been worrying about is that being on a really strict reduced calorie diet and running a lot MAKES me binge. I’m not a binger, normally, and this weekend something just snapped in me and I couldn’t shove the crap in my face fast enough. And it freaks me out to no end when that happens because it feels like a short, very slippery slope back to whence I came…telling myself I’m just not meant to be skinny because I’m older now and cooking with butter is healthy and French women eat chocolate all the time and so on. Right now I’m in a mindset where I feel like I can do anything. I can challenge myself and count all the points and follow all the rules and I will lose weight. But other times, like this past weekend, I lose that mind set and I don’t know how to get it back. I don’t know how to regain that control when I lose it. I really don’t. And I don’t know why sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not.

It’s very hard to walk that middle ground between crazy in control girl and crazy out of control girl. I really don’t want to be the type of person who weighs fat free sugar free cool whip. Hell, I don’t want to EAT fat free sugar free cool whip, much less weigh it. On the other hand, I know myself, and I know that inside me is a fat girl who loves butter and hates running, and she’s always in there, whispering that I look fine NOW and she’s tired and she hates planning and she wants to eat some mint chocolate chip ice cream like everyone else because what will it matter. And that inner fat girl needs a tight rein.

The only thing that makes any sense to me anymore is that it’s really important to me that I reach my goal weight. It matters a lot, to me. It’s something I set myself to do and I’m not willing to give that up. So I’m going to try to do whatever it takes to be at 115 by April 1st, for no other reason than because I refuse to fail. I want to prove to myself that I can do this. I CAN DO THIS. And I will.

A New Groove

I was all set to post something about how I have a big ass in a small ass world and how depressing that is and blah blah blah hating myself ville. Because honestly I know I’m not fat, but I also know that I’m not exactly toned and I certainly don’t have that stick bony look that you get when you get skinny and not just thinner, that bony look that I would love to get even though I know it’s unhealthy and not for me. BUT it’s a beautiful day out and I went for a little walk to the library and as I was walking I caught a glimpse of my reflection and I thought “damn, look at those legs!” and all of a sudden I just love my calf muscles. So I thought I’d try to focus on that, at least for today.

It’s so rare that I actually like anything about how I look that I’m going to try to use that feeling as practice. I need to wear a new groove in my brain – a love yourself groove, instead of a criticize and improve yourself groove.