Tag Archives: Weight

Leaning into the Fraudian Complex

canstockphoto17112100I’m a writer.

I speak several languages.

I am fit and active.

I love my family.

I believe love is the right choice.

But, but, but…

What about the fact that I’m none of these things consistently or expertly?

What about the fact that I don’t spend each and every day honing my writer’s craft? And that despite working on a novel, 80% of my reading is nonfiction?

What about the fact that if you ask me any question in the languages I know well on paper, I’ll have a blank look on my face?

What about the fact that I don’t look like an athlete? Or that I eat enough for four athletes…of the Sumo kind?

What about the fact that on Monday morning, I’m glad to see my family out the door?

And for all the love I purport to feel, to advocate for, why am I repeatedly calling fellow humans jackwads and dipshits while driving?

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I had the good fortune of hearing the author Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, 2009 Pulitzer Prize), give a lecture last week. She talked about the value of fiction and why it’s important to readers. She spoke about how fiction gets to the truth of characters and in turn, to the truth of ourselves. I took notes and all I could think was – as a writer, I’m a complete and utter fraud. This is a bad thought to have a week before I’m scheduled to pitch my novel to three literary agents. But it’s bad in a way I have learned to value.

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When I started tutoring English learners, one of the students asked me in front of the class what languages I spoke. Ever eager to sound like I knew something of value, I muttered “I speak a little Spanish, German, French and Russian.”

It was, to my knowledge, true – if you wanted me to count to 10, list the colors of the rainbow or ask you where the bus station was. I’m proficient in asking for another beer in German or talking about military tank positions in Russian. I can accurately describe cows or the children at the swimming pool in French. In Spanish, I have a terrific food vocabulary, because Mexican food is the bomb.

So, in the back of my head, I really felt like I was telling a lie, even if I’d get off on a technicality. Lies bother me. Especially my own. I intone Jean-Luc Picard in my head Make it real. Since starting tutoring a few months ago, I’ve been relearning or building up languages. I start off every day on DuoLingo. It takes canstockphoto993916me about 20 minutes, but in the last two months, my language skills have improved exponentially. I started enjoying it so much that I’m ramping things up a bit with workbooks and online websites in those languages. I frequently wander the house repeating nonsensical phrases, sometimes mangling all four languages in the same sentence. International incident, here I come.

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I have never in my life looked like an athlete. I’m solid, but short and round. All my life I’ve been fairly active. I look in the mirror and it never reflects back at me who I think I am. This disconnect between how I feel and how I look frustrates me to no end. Years of martial arts, running, tromping around in combat boots hauling packs, endless numbers of push-ups, weight training, and in the end, I still look like a disheveled hausfrau. This time my body is a reflection of the lie.

canstockphoto2201991I’ve only ever dealt with half the equation – exercise. The reality is that I eat like a horse. A horse who could eat its own body weight in mashed potatoes. I eat well – really, really well. From my twenties on, I’ve resisted dieting, mostly to my benefit. But as my income grew, so did my access to all the foods I loved – foods that I didn’t get growing up and foods that I generally couldn’t afford or have access to during my Army and college years. Simple foods, even some that are quite healthy, I eat in large quantity.

My truth is that if I want the outside to truly reflect how hard I work, how much training I’ve done, I have to come to terms with the mentality I have, that whatever is in front of me now might be gone tomorrow, so I better get while the gettin’s good. I went through an absolute culling of personal belongings and clothing over the winter and found the same mentality at work. If I liked something, I bought two or got all the colors, because tomorrow it might be gone.

I want the reflection in the mirror to look like how I feel inside. I want to make it real. So I’ve begun doing that most mundane of dieting tasks – tracking calories and setting a target goal that I get all my servings of fruits and veggies. I just started Week 6 of an 8 week 5K training program. I’m starting to see results. My humble brag is less about the particular goals than it is about the fact that the lie had become untenable for me to sustain. It has simply become easier to make a lie the truth, than deal with the angst of wishing it to be so.

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Elizabeth Strout said it’s the job of the writer to be bring honesty to the reader, because it helps us get in touch with our own truths. That’s been rolling around in my head the last few days. My own truth is that despite all my experiences as a human, I am not an experienced writer. I have not, like Ms. Strout and so many working writers, spent my days and nights learning the craft.

Next week, when I sit in front of my first literary agent ever, I will be out of my depth. And that is the truth.

canstockphoto6167076Somehow, even confronting that truth head on, I find it invigorating. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Because when that conference is over, when I’ve gushed out the verbal vomit that will be my pitch, I will return home knowing that I need to make it real. I’ll spend my days and nights learning what other writers already know. My path is one of retroactive truths, but truths…eventually.

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Filed under Fitness, Personal, Writing

My History of Compulsion

My life has been stripped down to bare essentials over the last year. It’s a luxury that is entirely uncomfortable. What are we without our distractions? It turns out that I am a melting pot of compulsive behaviors, twisted patterns of self-delusion and convenient rationalization. Smoking, drinking, gambling, casual sex, overeating, overexercising – I’ve run the gamut over the last 20 years and avoided looking seriously troubled, by switching compulsions so that everything just looks like a phase.

I think I've got BINGO!

I think I’ve got BINGO!

I stopped gambling at 20. I gave up smoking at 30. I traded in casual sex for a long term relationship at 32. I quit drinking at 35. I eased up on my body by quitting martial arts at 46. I quit repetitive jobs and volunteer roles at 47. I’m a lifelong learner without the community ed fees. So, at 48, I am preparing to face down the devils that have been along for the whole ride – money and food compulsions.

I started reading about compulsive behaviors in December to accompany a month-long online shopping fast. And now I’ve started to play Compulsion Whack-a-Mole. Stopping one compulsion only to have to confront another. My appetite became insatiable. I’ve kept it reined in over the years alternately through smoking or exercise or cycles of deprivation. But now I’m the monster who could eat Minneapolis.

To be clear, I have disordered eating behaviors. This is my caveat to say that this is only my situation and my perspective and this is how I choose to deal with it. There are people for whom compulsive eating disorders are a life and death issue and I would not want to conflate my situation with theirs, nor suggest that this is some personal, solo quest. I have support – a life coach, friends and family.

canstockphoto14409836The problem with any compulsion is that it is not a rational beast with which to reason. People get very high and mighty about weight loss and self-control and discipline and I’d like to drop kick their asses to the floor. Fantastic – it’s not an issue for you! Now, go away. This human has some work to do.

So I’m here – desolate, yet pragmatic and determined. Everyone has their own threshold for “hitting bottom”. If I express that I feel like I’ve hit bottom, inevitably someone will pop up and say “well, at least you haven’t blah, blah, blah…” Yes, there is always someone less fortunate, situations more serious, things more important to worry about. My head is not fully ensconced in my ass. However, this is where I’m at and the only perspective I can truly address.

Hitting bottom for me is a sense of hopelessness.  Bottom for me is discomfort in how I move and feel. Bottom for me is hitting numbers on a scale that I have not managed since being pregnant. Bottom for me is having shitty workouts because I’m too tired or breathless. Bottom for me is not being able to run as much. Bottom for me is feeling my body become an impediment rather than a functional part of my existence. Bottom is feeling out of control, with no end in sight.

And lately, bottom for me is the sense of exhaustion and exasperation about all the energy that I’ve expended in my life thinking about weight and food. I’m headed into the 3rd, possibly 4th quarter. Time is running out and I don’t want to keep wasting it.

Our stories all start somewhere and that is where I begin to untangle the stranglehold of compulsion. I’ve begun my first homework assignment, writing my history of eating and weight. It’s hard work, because it is often painful and cringe-inducing, but something else more important is emerging – a sense of compassion for this person who is me. Sometimes I sit back and think “who wouldn’t be completely messed up after that experience?”

I’m not turning this blog into some sort of self-help, weight loss journal. But I tend to write from where I’m at and this is a long-term project that I’m just starting. It’s not about food or numbers on a scale or the right workout for that roll just under my chin. It’s about addressing that gaping void that I’ve spent a lifetime trying to fill. This shit is getting real.

So, I’m going to share just a few of the notes that have emerged while writing about my history of eating and weight.

1975  There’s 4 kids now in my family. My stepfather is a construction worker and an alcoholic who works inconsistently due to the recession. We get government cheese and butter and welfare food coupons. I sneak bread at night because I’m hungry. I hope each morning, as the loaf gets smaller, that my mother won’t notice.

1986   I get flagged at an Army weigh-in. I spend the next few weeks running the flight line at Goodfellow Air Force Base and starving myself. I make weight. My platoon sergeant makes me squad leader for the “fat squad” to get everyone running more. Not the honor he imagined.

1991   I’m watching “Prince of Tides” in a movie theater in Iowa City. I have a massive panic attack during the family dinner scene. My heart is racing, I’m sweating, my stomach is turning. It occurs to me many years later that it felt like dinner with my family growing up – unpredictable, confrontational, critical, sometimes violent.

Eat me! Eat me!

Eat me! Eat me!

There is more. More that is too personal, too painful to reveal publicly, but you get the idea. Unearthing the most painful, crappy parts of one’s history is necessary work, but it makes me want to eat a house. I write about it here because part of any compulsion is secrecy and solitude. But some of you are house-eaters and maybe I just wanted to say hey – me too, friend, me too.

 

Some Resources that I’m perusing:

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS , RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA

Starting Monday: Seven Keys to a Permanent, Positive Relationship with Food by Karen Koenig

Spent: Breaking the Buying Obsession and Discover Your True Worth by Sally Palaian

Stop Eating Your Heart Out by Meryl Hershey Beck, MA, MEd, LPCC

50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food by Susan Albers, PSY.D.

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Filed under Fitness, Personal

The Green Study: Have We Met?

canstockphoto8155142This past week, I’ve been ruminating about this exhortation as a writer to “find my voice”. I’ve read so much on and offline lately – voices that are passionate, opinionated, hysterically funny, heartbreaking. There are writers with unique voices who have learned how to get out of their own way. I see myself coming towards the Publish button and I promptly lay down in the road.

I’ve rationalized my moderate ramblings as being thoughtful and respectful, but I have serious doubt about whether I’m being fearful rather than respectful.  I’ve decided to spit out the topics that seem to enrage people all in one post. I apologize for the length of the post. It’s longer than my usual fare. Time to rip off the bandage.

Politics

I’m an American leftie and a fiscal conservative, but not the kind of fiscal conservative that believes that social issues should be tied to fiscal policy. I don’t want the state monitoring my calls or my uterus. I don’t think compromise is a dirty word. I loathe that classic misdirect of picking on poor people, while ignoring the military industrial complex and corporate coddling.

I believe strongly that many problems in Congress would be solved by term limits and campaign finance reform that doesn’t get gutted. Seriously, how many more mummified, befuddled congressional representatives do we have to listen to? Apparently they’ve got a really good health plan, because they seem to live a long, long time.

Religion

I am skeptical of organized religion – especially those with religious doctrines that still relegate women to chattel and second class citizens. I don’t know ANY answers about the existence of a higher being and I don’t think any other humans do, either. Some humans just like being more right about what they don’t know.

I think, too, belief systems get used to justify really horrible behavior – by nearly every organized religion. I am curious and interested in all belief systems, but I am rarely willing to talk about it, because I’m not sure that I can retain a tone of civility and respect when we start talking about theological rationalization for brutality and judgment by other humans.

Guns and Mental Health

Background checks. No loopholes. Serious regulation of high capacity weaponry. Those weapons are for one thing only – killing a lot of people quickly. For those with home arsenals in anticipation of the zombie apocalypse or less likely, a totalitarian regime (seriously, the government can’t even run websites, much less a takeover of your yahoo asses), see your local mental health experts.

Elevate mental health problems to the level of a physical illness. Give it the funding, resources, media blitz. Make options available, accessible and affordable to families and institutions when someone goes off the rails. Right now a majority of our mental healthcare system resides in the form of law enforcement and a lucrative prison system.

Gender and Race Wars

I have never made life decisions based on traditional gender roles. I’ve done what I wanted to do. I’ve mocked those that think because of my gender, they can suss me out. I’m raising a daughter who is strong and confident and doesn’t give a toss if you think she should dress like a girl. I resent inequality for chromosomes of either ilk. I think boys have a tough uphill battle fighting stereotypes and societal expectation as well.

As for racial disparities, I can read and try to understand, but I’m not going to pretend I have any true knowledge. All I can do is ask questions and listen to what those in the know have to say.

My personal experiences have informed me that being a decent human or a complete jackass have nothing to do with gender or skin color. Here’s the bottom line, though – there’s history and residual resentment and stale attitudes and some systemic shit that needs to be fixed. There is work to be done.

Whether you need to call yourself something or not, we should all be proponents of not judging other people’s intelligence, strength, abilities or worthiness based on their gender or skin color.

Sex

I apparently have the basics down, but I don’t find it that interesting of a subject to write about or discuss – enough other people are doing that. The cultural obsession with it in marketing and entertainment has made it all a bit artificial and tiresome and whatever meaningful enjoyment it has, well, there doesn’t need to be that much talking, lighting, costumes and choreography. Unless, of course, that’s your thing.

I think civil unions should be available regardless of sexual preference. I hate the phrase “the sanctity of marriage”, especially coming out of people’s mouths who have just had their married hands on a staffer’s butt. Keep religious laws in the church and out of the state’s legal protections for committed couples.

Fashion and Beauty

I am baffled by the current Western beauty culture. High heels? I don’t understand footwear in which you can’t run.

Weight. Bored with this paragraph already. I’ve struggled to meet life insurance table requirements my whole life. I’ve been in the middle of a thousand conversations with other women about bad/good foods, working out, diets – it’s incredibly tiresome. And so much of it is informed by bad nutritional information, fads, and corporate marketing gimmicks. How do I feel? Do I feel strong, nourished, energetic? I will only get there by feeding myself well, making my body move and confronting body image dissatisfaction with common sense and kindness.

I am an average looking woman and that’s all I’ll ever be. To try to meet cultural standards would kill me – it would take away time I could spend doing things I like to do, it would require chemicals and injections and spackle, possibly some duct tape. It would require money that I could otherwise spend on books and traveling and experiences. It would require me to stare in the mirror, coldly and cruelly, assessing what work should be done next. When I look you in the eye, what you should see is a smart, intuitive, generous and funny human being. If not, I’m still strong enough to knock you on your ass.

Well, I think that about covers everything that could alienate readers. I don’t expect people to agree. I have friends with entirely different opinions and beliefs and we still like each other. That’s the kind of world I’d like to live in – where divisiveness and trolls don’t rule the day, where you and I can disagree and still be friends. There. Now that feels authentic.

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