I Look Good and I Do What I Want

a journey of loving my body and myself

well, hello May 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 12:22 am

I am a girl. I am 29 years old, 5’2″, and something in the neighborhood of 215 lbs. I can’t tell you for sure how much because its been better than two months since I last weighed myself.

Those are the things that are immediately noticeable when you look at me. You might also notice that I am blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I have fair, clear skin, a round face. I look young for my age. I have a cute bob and a little round, pig nose.

If you are particularly perceptive, you might notice that for a mobidly obese woman, I am surprisingly well-proportioned. I have a balanced figure, with a waist approximately 38″ around, 49″ hips, and generous F-cups giving me a 46″ bustline. I am evenly heavy all over, with very large upper arms, thighs, and even calves. I have an increasingly-noticeable double chin, and thick ankles, wrists, and short, sturdy neck.

Its kind of funny, the parts of my body that I am self-conscious about. I hate my upper arms. I know so many heavy women with beautifully slender arms and legs. I hate my stocky figure– even when I was in high school, and not fat, I was a big girl. I have big bones, literally, not in the way people say when they really mean ‘fat.’ I have been, at my skinniest post-puberty, about 135. I was absolutely eating nothing, abusing ephedrine, and playing soccer for 2 and a half hours a day. And I still was about a size 8 on bottom and a Large on top. I never have been and never will never be what anyone calls ‘small.’

I was raised by a stepmother who loved to brag, in an astonished and horrified tone, that I weighed much more than she had weighed when pregnant with my much younger-half brother. She claimed she weighed less than 100 lbs when she gave birth, so my 120 lbs was disgusting and inexplicable. She used to taunt me for my heavy frame, my round face, and what she considered my genetic legacy– I was destined to be ‘fat and disgusting’ like my overweight paternal grandmother and aunts. She constantly blamed me for– what looking back was never more than a couple extra pounds on an otherwise healthy young girl– my fat and sloppy body. She said that I was greedy and didn’t have any self-control. She put me on the first of a never-ending succession of diets at age eight.

My own mother abandoned me, and I desired nothing so much as to please my stepmother, to make her love me and treat me like she did her own biological children. I learned to eat virtuously in front of her, but privately I learned to binge. I snuck slices of cheese off a larger block, snuck chocolate chips out of a bag meant for baking, snuck bags of raw Ramen noodles into my schoolbag and ate it, secretly, in the backyard after school. I was hungry all the time and felt guilty for everything I ate. My parents, financially strapped, would scold and ground me for “stealing” food. I remember laying awake at night, my stomach grumbling, because my new diet involved my stepmom serving my siblings and me a full plate of food, but I was required to divide each serving in half and eat only half. Me, only me– the fat one. My stepmother resented me, she told me she loved me but didn’t like me, that I was born evil and was incurably rotten.

How painfully ironic it is for me to realize that my stepmother’s years of diets and emotional beatings only pushed me into obesity, rather than away from it.

I spent my summers with my granparents. My grandmother loved me with the same intensity that my stepmother resented me. She showed her love with food. When I got up every morning, and wandered, sleepy-eyed to the table, my grandmother put any and everything I asked for in front of me. I could have peanut butter toast and hot chocolate and waffles and cereal for breakfast if I wanted. Anything she had in the house, for any meal– I could have. I know now that she felt bad for leaving me with a cold, unloving stepparent. I know that she herself had an unhealthy relationship with food. But all I knew as a child was that restricting food came from a place of punishment and hate and that free, bountiful food came from a place of love and comfort.

By the time I was 14, I had learned to never eat in front of others, if I could help it. I would hide food in my backpack and eat secretly when I was alone– in the bathroom at school, in the backyard after school, in bed at night. By 16, I had discovered ephedrine, and was purposefully crafting my own diets– I remember once I decided that all fat-free foods were okay, so for months I ate nothing but small baggies of fat-free pretzels, animal crackers and marshmallows. I achieved my lowest post-puberty weight around age 17, after years of ephedrine abuse (easily purchased at that time at any gas station) and playing on the soccer team. Every morning as I dressed I hated my soft belly, my thighs that touched, my upper arms that swelled gently from my elbows to my shoulder bone. I taped an entire wall of magazine cutouts of slender women to the inside of my bedroom closet door. One day I came home from school and they had all been removed with no explanation.

I discovered the release of bingeing and purging in high school, too. I never did it much before college because in high school I was much more concerned about hiding and restricting. However, I immediately gained 30 lbs upon entering college, when I was unceremoniously cut off by my stepmother and dumped into a situation where I was unable to eat alone exclusively. I gained and gained and gained and vacillated wildly between 135 and 185. I eventually graduated at a weight very close to the 190’s, even though I went through long many-month stretches of bingeing and purging up to 5 or 6 times a day. No matter how hard I tried, I only gained.

I tried traditional diets in college, too. I ate only fat-free and low-fat foods for a while. I counted calories. I tried my hand at Atkins. I signed up for Weight Watchers. I even spent exactly one year as a vegetarian. I gained, gained, gained.

After college I had was hired (!!) and paid the kind of money that gave me the freedom to try more diets. I joined gyms, signed up for personal trainers, joined and re-joined and re-upped over and over at Weight Watchers. I tried South Beach, Jenny Craig, and a “cleanse” that involved gag-inducing lemonade laced with cayenne. I approached every new attempt with hope and spreadsheets and military-like precision. I learned about basal metabolic rates and the calories burned doing different activities (by weight!) and the caloric deficit required to rid myself of one pound of body fat.

I failed, failed, failed. I reach 229 lbs at my highest weight. I hated myself. I cried in frustration on the scale every morning. I had small successes, though. I lost exactly 29 lbs on Weight Watchers on my most successful attempt– bringing me to 190. My elation at that moment is almost painful to recall. I was going to break into the 180’s for the first time in years!

I started to gain again just after that. I never saw those 180’s.

Another triumph was joining a running group. I never thought of myself as a runner, I never thought it was something I could do– slender people were runners. Fat people did safe things like walk their dogs and do aqua-aerobics. But I joined, and I ran longer distances than I ever thought possible– up to 12 miles. The confidence that gave me is still with me.

But still, I couldn’t break below 200 again. I hovered in the low 200’s before being sidelined by a sprained ankle. I met A Boy– destined to be The Boy– and my life became the kind that is less accomodating to total self-absorption. Over a year and a half, I crept back into the 220’s. I cried, I hated myself, I despaired.

And then I made what has turned out to be a colossal mistake of astonishing proportions– I spent $10,000 on a lap-band. It was a painful surgery, a painful recovery. Two weeks after the surgery, my boy– The Boy– proposed and I happily accepted. We planned a short engagement of only six months but I was sure I could drop 40 or 50 lbs to be wedding-dress ready. I dutifully went to my follow-up fill appointments. I eventually reached maximum fill without experiencing the true “restriction” that makes the lap band work.

I never lost any weight.

The surgery was nearly 10 months ago, now. I cannot exaggerate the depths of my despair at discovering myself to be in the minority of lap-banders that don’t lose weight. I obeyed the rules! I was smart, conscientious, committed! I was young and physically active! It wasn’t fair!

In the weeks leading up to the wedding I weighed myself every morning and cried every morning. A few weeks before the wedding, I wrote:

Oh god. And I hate, hate, hate myself for every pound I wanted to lose before the wedding (26 days away) and didn’t. I hate myself for the money I foolishly spent on another weightloss pipe dream. I loathe myself for how much I raised my own hopes. I hate myself for keeping the lap band such a secret, and, bizarrely, for the people that I did tell who must look at me and think, “What the holy hell could possibly be wrong with her if she had something as drastic as weight loss surgery she’s still fat???”

I have crushing amounts of anxiety about the wedding so instead of thinking about the wedding, I spend all day thinking about how stupid I will look. How I am a fat hoss cramming myself into a wedding dress, pretending like I am going to look nice in it. Pretending like getting my hair and makeup done will make some kind of magical difference and somehow I’ll like how I look in my wedding day photographs.

I’ve already cancelled the professional hair-and-makeupping (cost issue) and gone with the cheapest photographer I can find (amateur friend) because part of me doesn’t want to ever see pictures of myself, see myself trying to look good.

I have so much anxiety about how fat and terrible I will look that I have been telling my fiancee about it. Whining, nearly incessantly, about my lack of weight loss and my self-loathing. One of my only, only relationship rules– learned over many, many years of failed ones– is when it comes to body image, “fake it until you make it” [which for me may be never]. How is he supposed to look at me and find me attractive if I am constantly telling him that I am fat and disgusting? So up until recently, I have tried hard not to vocalize my self-image issues to him. I have girlfriends (and the internet!) for that.

But now I also hate myself for that: for letting those insecurities spill out of my mouth, like my rule never existed, like I don’t know how damaging that is.

I am afraid I will cry on my wedding day, not from happiness but from embarassment and self-loathing. I know how it goes at weddings: everyone, especially people who don’t know me well (e.g. Fiancee’s extended family) will basically say something along the lines of “you make a beautiful bride!” over and over again. And I am expected to smile, accept the compliment, be gracious. Except inside I will be screaming, “LIES, WHY DO YOU LIE TO MY FACE?!” and seriously contemplating crying. I am afraid I may cry. I am afraid I will hate the day. I am afraid that every stranger I am forced to talk to will be like being stabbed a little.”

A kind, kind stranger wrote comforting words to me in response. She recommended some blogs of women who had struggled like I was struggling. She recommended a book, Intuitive Eating. I bought it, and read it. It was a lifeline, because my real problem is not an excess of weight, but a lack of self-love and self-esteem and self-acceptance.

I am not a brand-new person because of it, but I am working on changing my thinking. I am trying to be, first and foremost, a woman who loves herself and her body. I am starting from the very first square on this journey. I hope that I end up somewhere that is happier and healthier.

I stole “I look good and I do what I want!” from another blog. Its her own personal motto, and one that I have been repeating to myself, hoping that one day I will believe it. I think what I need more than anything else is to hear kind things from myself.


4 Responses to “well, hello”

  1. Juliet Says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I believe I may have been in your shoes had I ever had WLS. I believe that even if I’d lost weight initially, it would all have come back, or worse, I’d have developed anorexia because a sick and twisted part of my brain wanted very badly to be anorexic long ago… and what better than medically induced anorexia to validate that voice?

    Like you, I’ve come to realize that the fat is not what is my enemy. It’s the self-loathing, the hatred.

    I found your site from The Rotund, and actually from a Google Alert. I’m going to link to you from my blog, if you don’t mind. I love what you’re working towards.

  2. Mae Says:

    I know there are some lapbanders that have crept into what can only be described as medically-induced anorexia. There are places on the internet where they gather to brag about eating two to three tablespoons of food per meal.

    I myself had to lie about my years and years of bulimia in order to be approved for the surgery. I was asked if I had an active diagnosis (I’ve never been treated for it and have never been officially diagnosed) of anorexia or bulimia and said I didn’t, and that was that. The box was checked, and they approved me.

    Thank you for reading and commenting. It makes me feel less alone.

  3. Bri Says:

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could be there to photograph your wedding for you. I am sure you will look beautiful no matter what you weigh.

  4. Mae Says:

    Bri, thanks for your kind words. My wedding was about 6 weeks ago. I made it through the day but I haven’t been able to look at the photographs yet. They make me feel extremely bad about myself. I admit to occasional fantasies since, where I imagine myself to have lost “all the weight” (whatever that is) through the magic of Intuitive Eating/HAES, and get my wedding dress rel-altered for another photo shoot, in which I look like I should have looked 6 weeks ago.

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