Thursday, December 27, 2007

Buying into "The Fantasy of Being Thin"

Over at Shapely Prose, the lovely Kate Harding has a fan-fucking-tastic post called “The Fantasy of Being Thin.” Some excerpts:

Overcoming The Fantasy of Being Thin might be the hardest part of making it all the way into fat acceptance-land. And that might just be why I’d pushed that part of the process out of my memory: it fucking sucked. Because I didn’t just have to accept the size of my thighs; I had to accept who I am, rather than continuing to wait until I magically became the person I’d always imagined being. Ouch.
. . .

But when I was invested in The Fantasy of Being Thin, I really believed that changing this one “simple” (ha!) thing would unlock a whole new identity — this totally fabulous, free-spirited, try-anything-once kind of chick who was effortlessly a magnet for interesting people and experiences. And of course, the dark side of that is that being fat then became an excuse not to do much of anything, because it wouldn’t be the real me doing it, so what was the point? If I wouldn’t find the right guy until I was thin, why bother dating? If I wouldn’t have a breakthrough on the novel until I was thin, why bother writing? If I wouldn’t be the life of the party until I was thin, why bother trying to make new friends? If I wouldn’t feel like climbing a mountain until I was thin, why bother traveling at all?

I was thinking about this and about the idea that our weight is directly tied to our emotions: fears, resentments, happy events, whatever. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for me, there is another layer to the Fantasy: what happens if (when) I lose all that weight and discover that there is no Fantasy-Thin person in there? What if I’m still me?

Obviously I KNOW that intellectually. And yet, if I dig deep, I find myself with this crippling fear: if I lost 20 pounds or 30 pounds or even 5 or 10, and I still didn’t have what I thought I would have by default (because you know, I’m THIN now, right?), then I would have nothing left to blame. If I don’t book an acting job, I can’t say, “It’s because I’m too fat.” (Not the best example, maybe – in acting, you might not be cast because they don’t like your HAIR COLOR or because you’re an inch taller than the leading man, but those are not my preferred methods of deflecting blame – ha!) But if I feel unattractive to men, I can blame being fat. If I don’t get up and exercise, I can say it’s because I’m so fat, so why bother? There are a lot of “why bother”s: why bother eating well? Why bother exercising? Why bother examining my emotions or taking steps forward in my career or my relationships or anything else?

I joke sometimes that I’m afraid of both succeeding AND failing, and I’m not entirely kidding (although I’m trying to stop saying that, since I know my brain believes everything it hears). But as I look at the post above, I know that I’m not really afraid of both: I’m just afraid of failure. I hate feeling like a failure now, but what I’m REALLY afraid of, and why the Fantasy is so insidious is: what if I have everything I ever thought I need to be successful (which of course really means: what if I lost all this weight) – and I still fail? If I have nothing to blame for my failure, then (in my head) that means that I am INHERENTLY a failure. And THAT is a tough fear to face.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

Some time ago, I was presented with this idea:
“There is a voice in your head that we all have: the voice that tells us we’re not doing things right, that we’re too young/old/fat/thin/smart/stupid, the voice that is afraid of being embarrassed in front of others. That voice is not you.

But if we are “hearing” that voice, then what are we hearing it with? What is the part of us that quietly listens to everything that 1st voice has to say? THAT is us. That is the Spirit, the Energy, the Universal Consciousness, whatever you want to call it: that is the “still, small voice within.”

In Religious Science terms, the first voice is the Ego, and the second presence (for it can’t really be called a voice) is the part of us that is God. RS believes that we are manifestations of God (not children of God), and that all unhappiness is borne out of the misguided belief that we are separate from God (or whatever you want to call it).

The Ego is the part that lives according to everyday, human laws and illusions. It is the part that believes we are never enough. (Historically, many churches have incorporated this voice into their doctrines, believing that we are unworthy of the love of God, when nothing could be further from the truth, according to RS: we are God loving itself so much that we are made manifest out of pure love.)

I feel like I have to say all this, because I’ve been trying not to just stuff my emotions back into my body with food. (See previous post.) The result of that is that emotional issues start to rise up out of my unconscious, and I have to deal with them and let them go. I’ve been crying for 3 straight days. (I’m going to look GREAT on Christmas. :P) The really tough part is that I don’t even always know why I’m crying – in fact, I usually don’t have any idea where the hell it’s coming from. I feel like I’m grieving, but I don’t know what I’m missing.

And of course, every time something comes up, as I start to deal with it, I move a little closer to releasing it; to becoming enlightened (for lack of a better word). As that happens though, I start having to deal with TWO sets of issues: the emotional issue at hand, and the fact that the Ego doesn’t know the difference between transformation and annihilation. So the Ego fights for its life. Those voices of lack, limitation and doubt just get louder and more insistent, until there is a constant agitation in my soul. I feel it at the top of my spine, as though the muscles there are twitching constantly. I just want to crawl into a hole, sleep, eat, drink, ANYTHING to make the restlessness stop.

It helps if I can remember to think of the agitation as an old belief or thought-pattern that is afraid of being destroyed. If I can hold on to that concept, then when the voices are screaming through my head like energetic vampires, I can find that still part of me: that part that listens to the voices, and I can remember that THAT is the real me, and that this unbearable screaming restless agitation is the death throes of an old, hurting, fearful part of me. If I can hang on to that, if I can speak to the scared and hurting part of my soul with compassion and understanding, telling it that I know this is scary, but that it will pass: that it too, shall be transformed and not annihilated – then I can ride out the storm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Begin at the beginning

So I was looking at that last post, contemplating what it would mean if all my weight problems (over-, under-, obsessions, compulsions, etc.) were entirely due to emotional issues and fears and beliefs. I started thinking about being a little kid who was fat . . . and then I realized . . . I’ve seen pictures of myself. I was not a fat kid. I wasn’t even a fat teenager (so I can’t blame puberty, LOL). I was an UNACCEPTED child, I was a kid who didn’t fit in even with the nerds, and that did its own sort of emotional damage – but I was not a fat kid.

So I asked myself, when did I start gaining weight? I started in college, I thought, my first year away from home. But the more I thought about that, the more I realized that although that’s when I started gaining weight, it wasn’t really the beginning. If I’m honest I would have started gaining while I was in junior college, but I was so physically active that I burned off everything I ate (which, ahem, wasn’t much).

I started college when I was 14. That probably saved me from far worse emotional damage, so starting college wasn’t the problem. In fact, college in itself wasn’t a problem at all. But when I started, I’d never been liked by my peers in primary education. I’d never been anything but reviled by them, actually, and I wasn't sure college would be any different. As it turned out, school was big enough that no one cared what I wore, who I talked to, what I ate for lunch. I didn't get harrassed, but I also didn't really make any friends. So after a year of invisibility (which is better than being hated, but not much), I decided I wanted to be popular. I was a dance major at first, and the dance majors were a small group of people who were always together, and fresh out of high school themselves.

Here’s the thing, and I think, the beginning: the person I was, wasn’t going to be popular. So I sat back and watched the popular girls during the fall semester that I was 15 (I’d already been there, invisible, for a year). I sat close enough to hear what they talked about, I knew what the alliances were and where the power lay in the group. I learned everything I possibly could learn by just being nearby. And during the Spring semester, I befriended one of the girls who was lower on the totem pole. I talked about the “right” things, laughed at the “right” jokes, etc, etc. Anyone who’s ever been to high school knows the drill. And I got what I wanted. I spent the next year and a half at the top of the food chain, having become genuinely good friends with the “pack leader,” so to speak. Yay. :P

But what I learned from all of that was that I was not enough. By myself, I was not interesting, attractive, smart (despite being in college at 14), funny, witty, etc. I could PRETEND to be those things, but I wasn’t really those things naturally. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would pretend throughout my college “career:” through 7 years and 3 colleges, I would always be someone else, because I never wanted to be “me” again. Eventually the pretending would become a compulsion to lie, about anything and everything, and I would be several years out of college before I was able to break that behavior pattern.

The interesting thing (at least to me) about my weight is that I gain weight primarily in my stomach: from the bottom of my rib cage, down through the bottom of my belly. (My upper ribs remain tiny all the time. It’s a little weird.) But that area corresponds to the 2nd and 3rd chakras. The 2nd chakra represents the power dynamic of our interpersonal relationships and how we relate to money, sex and power. The 3rd chakra represents our self-esteem: whether we take care of ourselves, honor ourselves, honor our commitments to ourselves.

So in my case, I have problems around my 2nd and 3rd chakras – not just weight, but back problems, stomach issues, etc. And the reason I have those problems (according to energetic medicine) is that I’m violating those two areas: the 2nd, because I’m not being honest with others, and I’m lying in order to gain power. The 3rd, because I’m denying my essential self, and denying that who I am is “good enough.” Even though I'm not lying anymore, and not pretending, I still don't think I'm "good enough," and I still haven't really let go of the NEED to pretend: just the practice of pretending (most of the time).

So now I have to work on healing that time in my life. (I’m hoping I can deal with my issues chronologically, because God knows I’ve tried just dealing with the emotional issues as they come up, and it’s been pretty hit-and-miss.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stuffing, Starving and Sleeping

I either stuff, starve or sleep. That’s how I have always dealt with emotions that make me uncomfortable. I stuff myself with junk food until the serotonin rush kicks in and I feel better, or I starve myself until the hunger gives way to euphoria and I can just float through life OR I just go to bed for hours at a time and hope that I will be able to handle my life when I wake up (note to self: more on sleep as transformation in another post).

I’ve been reading a lot of other posts lately on various blogs talking about your body’s natural set point for weight: about how it REALLY IS POSSIBLE to feed two people the same average calorie intake and they can still maintain wildly different weights. There was at least one study done that found people who dieted down to “normal” weights from “obese” weights did NOT subsequently have the same chemical makeup as “normal” people: they had the chemical makeup of people who were starving, even though their weight was normal. (I’ll see if I can find the link; if so, I’ll post it here.)

A lot of that makes sense to me. I know for a couple of years I gained weight eating 800 calories a day, and exercising for an hour, 5 days a week. Today, I eat a lot more than 800 calories, hardly ever exercise (although I’m trying to get back into the habit, because I just feel better when I do), and weigh about 30 pounds less than I did then. (And I haven’t started taking thyroid meds, or had weight-loss surgery or any of that stuff.) Even a slowed-down, starvation-style metabolism can’t account for a weight GAIN during the 800-calorie period. But the total embrace of a “set-point” doesn’t account for the fact that after several years at the same weight, and without really trying, I dropped 30 pounds, have kept it off for several MORE years, and that recently I have started dropping weight again without really trying.

I’ve done a lot of reading on energetics and all that woo-woo stuff, though (which I totally believe in, so I’m allowed to use the term “woo-woo”), and one of the things I’ve read over and over regarding weight is that our weight (whether over- or under-) corresponds directly to the things in our lives and psyches that we don’t want to deal with.

Yeah, yeah, I know: DUH.

But it’s not really a “duh,” because in the energetic world, it’s not a GENERAL correlation (like, “When I’m stressed, I eat and that’s why I gain weight”) – it’s a specific one (like, “My parents were unloving, so I unconsciously padded myself to keep from breaking”). There’s a reason we call it “emotional baggage:” we literally are carrying it on our bodies, and the more “baggage” we have around a certain event, the more weight we lose when we resolve that event. I have to admit that I’ve found any sustained weight-loss for me correlates directly with dealing with emotional issues that I had buried for years: anger at individuals, fears about my life, etc. When I’ve resolved those – and I mean REALLY resolved them, not just intellectually understood them – the weight just falls off, until I hit the next plateau and have new (old) issues to resolve.

So I’m thinking/wondering if/almost convinced that our “set points” aren’t really about calories or genetics* or the food we eat. Our set points are determined by how much of our life we’re hurt by and how much of that hurt we haven’t let go of. It’s inheritable because we internalize our families’ fears and beliefs (even when we think we’ve “gotten over” them, we usually haven’t – sometimes we have, but not always).

I think it’s an interesting proposition. I know that in the past, it’s been true for me. And I also know that sometimes finding what issue it is that I’m holding on to is incredibly hard: sometimes because I don’t want to deal with it, and sometimes just because there are SO MANY issues that it’s hard to pin one down, LOL. But I’ve noticed that when I make peace with stuff, I drop weight. When I re-own things, I gain weight. And what I’m putting in my mouth (or not, as the case may be) seems to have very little to do with it.

*I’m also of the opinion that we sometimes inherit family issues on an energetic level, not just a learned level, and that our genetic makeup is related to our soul-genetics, so to speak. In other words, if you believe something strongly enough, it will affect your body, up to and including your DNA, which you then pass on to your kids (along with the belief/fear). If the kid resolves the belief/fear, the DNA may or may not re-alter, but either way their odds of getting sick from it are pretty much nil.
I told you I was weird. You were warned. ;)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Circles and circles and circles and . . . you get the idea.

Last night was a bad scene. I’d been feeling restless in my head – that feeling when there are things trying to surface out of my unconscious, but they haven’t quite surfaced yet. So I feel vaguely stressed and unsettled, but I don’t have a reason for it yet. Plus I know whatever’s coming up is something that I don’t want to deal with: that’s the reason it’s been BURIED, for cryin’ out loud.

So. I called my mom and talked to her about it. I felt much better after I got off the phone, and so – big mistake – I let my guard down. I got into the tub with a glass of wine, but I left the bottle within reach. Bad idea. I finished the bottle (except for the half-glass I ended up throwing out), along with most of a bag of chips with dip, and a bunch of those French Fried Onions. Oh, and 4 cookies. ::::sigh::::

So this morning I feel really gross and bloated. But at the same time, I feel calmer. That’s the addict’s high, right there: I’ve stuffed whatever was trying to come out back into the little black hole it was trying to come out of. ::::sigh:::: This is tough to deal with around the holidays. Most of the year I just don’t keep “trigger foods” in the house. Then, when I want to binge, I flat-out can’t, because there isn’t anything in the house to binge on, except fruits and veggies, which aren’t exactly “binge-friendly” foods, LOL. But during the holidays, I entertain. A lot. So I ALWAYS have food on hand for entertaining, which includes things like cookies in the freezer and chips in the cupboard.

It’s funny: I was talking to my mom the other day about how I get so good about packing nutritious lunches and breakfasts, and then I wonder why I can’t drop weight. But the problem isn’t really what I eat at WORK: it’s what I eat when I get HOME. I’ve got the whole thing backwards. I could probably not worry too much about what I eat at work, if I’d plan out my home meals better. :P
Aaaanyway. I had weird dreams all night. I dreamed I was being chased by a giant macaw: I’m talking GIANT, like old-1950s-movie-giant. And it was going to eat me alive, swallow me whole, that kind of thing. So I was hiding up in the trees, and then I was hiding in my dead grandmother’s house, except she was alive! And then she wasn’t. And I was crying because I missed her so much, and then I woke up. ::::sigh:::: And I had a HUGE glass of water and went back to bed. When I woke up this morning, I just felt sad and tired, but still with that weird calmness that comes from avoiding conscious introspection. :P I did start writing down in my calendar which days I felt restless and stressed, and then that I binged last night. I’m wondering if there’s a predictable pattern: 4 days calm, 4 days stressed and a binge on the 9th day, or something like that. If there is, I can at least see it coming and maybe head it off a little better. The downside of that is that I have to go through the cycle a couple of times, and I’ve been trying NOT to go through the cycle. Actually, last night was the first night I’ve had like that in a long time. So we’ll see what happens. I think I’m going to hide out in bed with a journal this weekend and see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New stuff

I think I have to preface this: I totally believe in a lot of things people think are completely bizarre. I’m just giving you an FYI, so that if you think I’m nuts, you won’t bother trying to tell me so. I think a lot of things are true that are outside the mainstream, but I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of research, and I’m comfortable with my conclusions. So there you go.

I’ve gained a lot of weight. Well, not a WHOLE lot – after I was sick, I only weighed about 155, and now I’m back up to 173. Before I was sick, I was about 169, so overall that’s only a 4 pound weight gain, right? ::::sigh:::: Except that I kept the rest of it off until Christmas last year. And then I maintained at 161/162 until April, when my grandma died. And then it just all went to hell in a handbasket. So even from my “maintain,” I’ve gained more than 10 pounds. Geez.

I’ve tried various diets, but since I eat emotionally, they don’t always (::::cough, cough:::: EVER) work. So I’ve just been trying to pay attention to they way I feel when I eat, when I’m hungry, when I’m bored, etc., etc., etc. When I was sick, I got the chance to work on a lot of emotional issues that related to the illness – that was part of the reason I was able to keep the weight off for so long: I was literally getting rid of old entrenched thought patterns. But I must not have gotten rid of them as thoroughly as I thought. ::::rolls eyes:::: I don’t know why I can’t spend 3 weeks unlearning everything that’s been festering in my brain for the last 30 years – that just doesn’t seem fair. Ha!

In the 12-step world, they use the acronym HALT for anytime you want to drink, use, eat, have sex (whatever your addiction happens to be). It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. You’re supposed to ask yourself if you are any of those things when you feel like “slipping.” “Tired” always fit me, but “Angry” and “Lonely” never really did. And it makes sense to eat when you’re tired: not from a nutritional standpoint, but from the standpoint of a body that has to run on SOMETHING, and it’ll take a blood-sugar spike as a substitute for sleep if it has to.

But recently I found a different list. The principle was the same, but it was phrased a little differently, and geared toward food specifically. Here’s the list to the best of my recollection (because of course I can’t remember where I found it now).

Are you hungry? If not:
What are you stuffing?
What are you burying?
What are you not saying?
What are you trying to keep from saying? [That’s different from “not saying,” btw.]
What are you trying to keep from feeling?
What are you hiding from?

Wherever I found it, the woman (why is it always women who go through this horseshit? – Don’t answer. I already know) was talking about how she wasn’t really changing her eating habits consciously. She was just running down that list every time she ate something and wasn’t hungry. She had a really funny bit about downing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s while thinking about what she was burying. But just the fact of thinking about it caused her to slowly decrease how much she was eating for stress relief. She found that by thinking about the issue itself, EVEN IF SHE BINGED WHILE SHE DID IT, she felt less of a need for the food. It was really interesting.

Since I’m an emotional eater, I figured I’d give it a shot. It seems to be working; I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I feel vaguely unsettled and I want to do/eat things I haven’t wanted since I was a kid. My emotional issues are all centered around childhood and the fear of being an adult and taking care of myself (even though I’ve BEEN an adult for a while, LOL), so it makes a weird sort of sense that I’d want to do little kid things. I’ve been craving hot chocolate and last night I watched Disney’s Cinderella for the first time in more than 10 years. And I’m tired all the time: that’s another sign for me that things are stirring in my unconscious, because I also hide from things by sleeping.

The thing I keep coming back to, when I’m standing there with a cookie, telling myself sternly, “you can only eat this if you figure out WHY you want it, and ‘because it tastes good’ is NOT a reason,” is that I want to be taken care of. I want someone to feed me milk and cookies and tuck me in and check under my bed for monsters before the light goes out. ::::sigh:::: The funny thing is, I don’t really want the kind of life that would entail. I could theoretically put myself in a SAHM situation. But I don’t want that, either. I wouldn’t want my mother’s life – especially the part about staying home with the kids! I like working, I like my independence, I like all that stuff.

But those two desires cannot exist in the same mind without making you a little nuts: I want my independence, but I want someone to take care of me. Nope, can’t have both. One of them has to die. But I’ve been ignoring my own paradox, and literally stuffing the voice that says, “This thought pattern isn’t possible.” I’ve been eating myself into a stupor so that I don’t have to face the fact that it’s time to let some old fears go. (And in the past, when I’ve dieted, I’ve just used alcohol instead of food to get to the same stupor.) It’s time to let go of the fear that I can’t support myself. It’s time to let go of the fear that I can’t take care of myself emotionally.

Actually, writing all this out helps tremendously. I’m thinking that instead of asking myself that list of questions every time I reach for a cookie or a piece of pizza or a glass of wine, I’m just going to say, “I can take care of myself.” And then, if I still want whatever it is, I’ll still have to run through the list to figure out exactly WHY. Something tells me that this will be a long process – and I’m an instant-gratification girl, so that’s why I usually don’t make it through long-process solutions – but I have to remember that I’ve got 30 years of thought-patterns to overcome. Those fears have already worn deep grooves in my brain, and before I can even change them, I have to haul them up out of those grooves. I didn’t get here overnight, and I won’t get out overnight – but with some self-awareness, it doesn’t have to take 30 more years, either.