Tag Archive for eating

(Fat)al: a story of growing up fat in America
… a guest post by J.C.

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Shame. It’s a heavy word.

When people ask for my story, they assume I have been hurt because of prejudice about my sexual orientation. That’s the narrative they want. The you-came-out-as-gay-in-the-South-let-me-praise-you-for-getting-through-this-hardship story. That is not the narrative I feel obligated to write.

Yes, I was ashamed of my sexual orientation when I became conscious of it at fourteen. But that shame no longer exists. Sure, the word “faggot” still gets fired at me, but that isn’t the problem anymore. My “story” is about my anxiety as a fat man, especially a fat gay man. I’ve been ashamed of my fat ever since I can remember. “Fat” is the word that has plagued my entire existence. “Fat” is the hurricane that dilutes my humanity.

My mother provided me with my earliest memory of shame. She didn’t just tell me I was fat: she showed me. Pushed into countless fitting rooms, I was unable to find clothes my size at a young age. Still, she refused to buy me jeans that fit. For three torturous years, I wore pants that would attach by Velcro, not buttons. I wanted to be vapor. I wanted my fat to instantly vanish into thin air because I felt like a burden to her. After all, what would the other parents think of her fat first-born?

Imagine a child as young as eight telling his grandparents he wasn’t hungry because he was fat. That’s what I did. Their solution was to bribe me with one dollar for every meal I attempted to eat.

At age twelve, I was too embarrassed to change my clothes for gym in front of the other boys. Refusing to do so, I received a C in the class. It was worth it.

When I started a food diary, I convinced myself SlimFast was the salve that would weaken the poison fat on my body. I drowned my stomach with that faux chocolate to the point of nausea. It replaced my breakfast and lunch. Every. Single. Day.

I got thin. But I also got weak. And I didn’t lose enough to satisfy myself despite my family complimenting my weight loss. There was a sense of Armageddon within my fat cells. My goal was a BMI of 18: I wanted to be underweight.

When one of my friends got her driver’s license, we went to Walmart, so I could buy Lipozene for the first time. The words “lose pure body fat” coaxed my brain into submission. I took my precious miracle to self-checkout only for an automated voice to say, “Please wait for assistance.” The employee told me I was too young to buy weight loss supplements and sent me home. My friend suggested eating only five hundred calories a day, and we became each other’s food coaches.

A year later, I came out as gay to my mother for the third time. Her response was to “cure” my “queer-washed mind” with anxiety medication. I launched the pill into my stomach every morning, and, as a result, my mouth got sore and eventually bled. I could only ingest a small portion, but I savored the metallic liquid, hoping it would sustain my body for one more day despite the excruciating pain.

In college, I had a health professor who wondered how fat people had sex because “their parts don’t fit.” I felt like the other students were staring at me as if I were the only overweight person in the course, as if I was the target of her words. I felt even more ashamed and thus began a diet of SlimFast and Special K. My roommate and I would run at the gym until I felt like I would collapse. Once, when I ate a cookie, he posted unsolicited advice to my Twitter page: “Go throw up.”

I could have died from that shame.

The treatment I got because of my fat made me feel as wretched as Frankenstein’s monster and as twisted as Mr. Hyde. That’s when I realized I needed to change before I ended up eradicating myself with diet rituals. What I learned is that fat people don’t need to feel shame. I’ve ended up gaining eighty pounds back in college, but I feel healthy and positive now. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and surround myself with people who encourage me to love my body. I have the right to exist and won’t let anyone water me down. I am not a problem, nor am I a before and after dichotomy.

I am a credible, intelligible fat human.

—J.C.

She works hard for her money…
but lets her health go a little bit too

I’ve had a challenging few days…

…this weekend I put the “labor” back in Labor Day, reading almost fifty short stories, reading and writing a review of a dense novel for the local paper, reading half of another novel I’m teaching this week, and prepping for all of my classes. All that was on top of regular life stuff like laundry and cooking and grocery shopping.

This meant my resolve to be healthy slipped a little bit.

I still worked out at least 45 minutes a day (barely making it to that minimum), but I also got less sleep than I should almost every night and ate two meals in front of the TV over the course of the holiday weekend (because it felt like the only time I could watch TV) and ate more than I should when I did eat in front of the TV.

(Incidentally, the latter told tell me that giving up eating in front of screens—which I did a few months ago—was one of the smartest things I could do for my body, and that I must stick to it even if it means giving up TV completely for days at a time when I’m overwhelmed with work.)

Now that I’m back on top of my workload, I’ll be able to avoid these bad habits and tow the healthy line more fully.

But I’m still frustrated.

I’m frustrated because I wonder if there will ever be a time when I don’t give into bad habits when I get busy. Will I ever maintain my resolve to live healthy when the going gets tough?

Sometimes I think that if I can’t do this—if I can’t be healthy when it’s hard to be healthy—that I’ll never be as happy as I could be.

So it is with renewed resolve that I go to bed tonight, ready to fight tomorrow for the discipline to be healthy all the time—even when I don’t have the time or energy to be.

Eat . . . Pray . . . Eat . . . Love . . . Eat

I’ve had a problem this week . . . I’ve been insatiable.

It’s a feeling that hits me about once a month, and when it does, I am overwhelmed by my desire for food. Over the past few years, I’ve become one of those people who gets full pretty quickly (even though I was never like that when I was younger), but when a bout of what I call “The Insatiables” hits, I can never seem to feel satisfied, not to mention full.

The result is that it feels like I eat all day long and simply cannot stop eating.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a binge eater. I don’t sit down and eat a whole pint of ice cream or a bag of chips. Or both. But during these monthly bouts of insatiability, I can slowly make my way through all of the food groups in one day. More than once.

This last round of insatiability started early on Monday and lasted through Tuesday night (thank God it’s finally over), and I spent the first half of the week trying to figure out why I could no longer control my eating.

Was I upset about something? Was I falling back on the old feeding-my-emotions trick?

Those questions didn’t lead me to an answer, but something else did . . . over the weekend (a time when I usually indulge), I had tried to make healthier choices. We ate light on Friday because we were going to the movies that night and didn’t want to miss any of the film for bathroom breaks, and when we went out to dinner on Saturday, I intentionally ordered the lowest calorie item on the menu.

I think that’s where things went off the rails because even after we finished dinner I still felt unsatisfied. Yes, I was full, but I wasn’t sated.

The next day we went out for drinks with friends, and the beer made me too bloated to eat a real meal that night. Translation: I still didn’t feel like I’d had much to eat that weekend.

Monday was when the sh*t hit the fan.

We were both struggling with our writing projects and, in order to cope, decided to indulge in some much needed comfort food: Skyline chili.

If you don’t know, Skyline chili is served over pasta. Yes, pasta. With cheese. A single entree doesn’t get much more decadent than that. Well, unless you add sour cream, which I have seen people do when they make it at home.

For some reason, every time I eat Skyline chili, I lose control of myself. It is so good that I feel I must go back for seconds and can’t wait until I go to sleep that night so I can eat the leftovers the next day.

So this is how Monday and Tuesday went—eat some Skyline, have some more Skyline, and have even more Skyline on top of that.

It was like I was in a chili-eating contest.

And I was winning.

As cliched as it sounds, it was an unmitigated disaster, facilitated by the fact that Dave and I usually make enough food for four people, so we can eat it for two days (and thus avoid cooking two days in a row).

Thank God we ran out of Skyline on Tuesday night because, I swear on my mother-in-law’s life, if there was Skyline in the house right now, I might not be able to stop myself from eating it.

So part of the problem was the Skyline.

But I believe the bigger problem was my meal on Saturday.

Dave and I try to eat out only once a week, and when we did that last weekend, I picked something that was healthy rather than indulgent, which is where I think I went wrong.

I always talk about how one of the reasons dieting doesn’t work is because whenever we are denied something we want, we end up wanting it even more. (Remember how appealing beer was before you were twenty-one?) But sometimes I forget that even small changes in your diet can leave you craving the things you’re trying to avoid.

That’s what I believe happened to me this week—instead of having a greasy pizza or a nice fat juicy cheeseburger during my one meal out on Saturday night, I had vegetables and shrimp in a curry sauce.

Sure, it was delicious, but it was also light.

I’ve known for years that we NEED to indulge ourselves sometimes, so it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that even I still make the mistake of denying myself that indulgence. I guess it makes me human if I have to remind myself not to take the healthy living thing too far sometimes.

The funny thing is that I know for sure that if I’d ordered the same meal last Saturday because I wanted it (rather than because it was healthy), I would have never had the problem I did after it was all over. I would have never had a raging case of The Insatiables.

As it turns out, my need to feel satisfied was simply psychological.

And now that I’ve figured that out, I just need to figure out what I can do the next time the psychological desire to eat chili for two days straight takes over every cell of my being.

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