Monday, January 19, 2009

The fat girl in my head

As much as I don't want to admit it, I have been having body issues lately. That is, issues with my perception of my own body. I guess if you had to put a name to it, you would say it is body dysmorphia?
The reason I hate to admit this is that you are admitting that you have lost touch with a certain segment of reality, and I like to think that I am a realistic person. The great disconnect comes when I look in the mirror or down at my legs and instantly criticize myself for being fat, and then put on smaller and smaller clothes, which fit.
Someone reading this who is currently struggling with their weight may indeed take offense to this problem, saying - oh, yeah, big deal - you poor poor skinny girl. But it was not always this way.
YOu see, I have battled the scale ever since puberty. I was not a skinny kid, by any means. Once I turned 10 (yes, puberty hit me early) my weight kind of shot up to a hefty amount. I remember weighing 100 pounds at 10, 110 at 11, 120 at 12, 130 and 13 and so on and so on until 18 years old. I am a tall person, so I carried it relatively well - but anyone who has ever been to high school knows that if you are not one of the 110lb Barbie clones, you are pretty much a loser.
I had friends, but they were those that were on the fringe of coolness - never in, not really out, just sort of straddled the fence between being cool and being a loser. Oh how I wanted to be one of the cool kids.
The year I finished high school, at age 18, I worked the entire summer for a house cleaning company. And when I say worked, I mean WORKED. I rarely, if ever, took a break, and did anything put before me. I believe it was then that my perfectionism took over. I became obsessed with doing my job perfectly and quickly, which demanded a lot from my body.
Over the course of the hot hot summer, I slimmed down to an attractive 140 - and when I went back to school for commencement in the fall, no one recognized me. I barely recognized me - now 40 pounds lighter than when I left 4 months before. Suddenly, I was cool. Suddenly, those I had only known by name wanted to talk to me. THis is when I equated being thin enough with being good enough.
Skip forward 3 years to when I was pregnant with my son. I went from 135 to 211 pounds in 9 months. OUCH. Yes, the day I delivered I weighed over 210 pounds. I have never felt so miserable and disgusted with myself in all my life. Try as I did, I just could not lose the baby weight, hovering at about 180, and eventually when my son was 2 told myself that I would always be the "fat girl". My husband and I went through some serious marital issues, and eventually we seperated, later divorcing. Alone again, I turned to the only thing I knew to do - obsessively work myself to the bone.
I would clean my home for hours every day, after having worked a full day, and all the while taking care of my 3 year old son. Once the cleaning was done, I would work out (this was the Tae-Bo generation) until I fell in a heap and slept for 4 hours, only to wake up and do it all over again.
Once again, I whittled down to a svelte 130. And once again, I became popular. Once again, I was good enough - and so I did everything possible to stay that way. This is where the bad stuff comes in. I starved myself, only allowing one bagel a day, or 2 apples or some strange combo like that. I kept up on my exercise regimen and was praised for my muscle tone and strength. I smoked rather than eat, and every weekend that I did not have my son I would go clubbing - not so much for the social aspect, but for the physical exertion. I joined the Mountian Biking Team at work and would ride and ride and ride, all on about 800 calories a day. The thing is, no one ever said that I was TOO SKINNY - instead, people would tell me how great I looked, how they envied my stamina, how they wished they could have as much determination. They all reaffirmed I was good long as I kept up with it.
But any rational person could see that there is no way I could continue on that trend forever, and I did eventually burn myself out. Having failed, and now considering myself again not good enough, I turned to drinking. This boosted my self esteem while I was drunk, but I then plummetted to depths of self loathing when sober. I tried and tried to get back on track with my life but just could not seem to find a balance.
In walks my second hubby, the love of my life. He really and truly didn't care if I was skinny enough, or worked out enough, or whatever enough, as long as I loved him - which I did, and still do. He helped get me into rehab, quit drinking and then saw me through 2 more pregnancies (both with massive weight gains, though not nearly as much as my first child) and the ups and downs my weight has taken. He loves me not despite of my stretch marks, but because of them - telling me that they represent 2 children I have given him. You can see why this man is one of the best things that has ever happened to me!
SO having that history, I will bring you to the last year or so. I have been on a low (more like no) carb diet since the birth of my daughter 4 years ago. I did go on hiatus while pregnant with my son, but the day he was born I was back on the carb-free thing. This worked great for me, and the pounds just melted off. But it became an obsession. Like previous periods in my life, I could not go at this halfway - it had to be all or nothing. And so I became (and still am) obsessive at counting carb grams as well as adding concerns about calories and fat to that.
I had seriously thought that I had beaten the whole disordered eating thing. But if I look honestly at myself I know in my heart of hearts that I have not. I can't look at myself and be happy - its like, ' oh, once I get down to 135 I will be happy' or, 'If I can get to a size 4 I will be happy', but now I am 135 and a size 4 and I am still not satisfied. If its not the weight or the size, it's some critique about muscle tone or loose skin (and trust me, I have plenty) or stretch marks or wrinkles or whatever and so on and so on.
So where do I go from here? I really don't know. Sometimes it helps to see pictures of myself, but only candid shots where I am not posing, because if I am posing, then I look at the photo with all the memories of what I was thinking when it was taken, and the critique starts all over again. I guess this just goes to show that no matter how far I have come, I still have so far to go. And no, I still don't consider myself cool, or good enough, just a fat girl in a thin body.

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