Category Archives: diets

learning to be my own advocate

I’m really good at speaking up for others. I’m still learning to speak up for myself. It helps to get super pissed. I was sad and upset at first, and while I still am both of those, I’m really starting to get pissed.

I had an appointment last week with a new ob/gyn. I’ve spoken before about my trepidation around going to the doctor, a concern that I’m afraid many fat people share. I really liked my primary care doc. The ob/gyn I saw? Not so much. I have so many words and emotions rolling through my head right now about how it all went down, and I’m not even sure how to adequately express just how awful it was.

In short, I went in because I’ve been feeling tired lately, and just a little off. I can’t explain it much more than that-  I just felt like something wasn’t right. A friend was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and her symptoms sounded similar to mine, so I thought I’d have that conversation with the gyn. I brought it up to her and then it all went to hell.

She didn’t treat me like a person who came to her with questions. She didn’t even treat me like a person. She just went straight into the “it’s because your FAAAAAT omgobesityFAAATZ” spiel and never looked back. I’m not looking to be besties with my doc, she doesn’t need to know my life story and all of my hopes and dreams or anything, but a question here and there, especially during a first visit, isn’t out of the question. In fact, it’s expected.

She didn’t listen to me. When I told her that I knew I’d gained weight the last few months but didn’t want to know the number because I’m trying to focus on a Healthy At Every Size approach to my life, three minutes later she pointed to my weight on the computer screen. Huh, thanks for that.  She also kept extolling the virtues of their nutrition program, pointing out that they have a great team that can help you (nutritionists in a group therapy setting – sweet jesus, no thank you. that may work for other folks, and rock on for them. not for me.).

Her: “It’s expensive but really worth it. I had a patient who lost 100 pounds on it.”
Me: “I’m not interested in losing 100 pounds. As I mentioned before, I’m more interested in keeping my health front and center, not my weight.”
Her: “You need to go on a diet.”
Me: “Diets don’t work; I’ve been dieting almost my entire life.”
Her: “But it depends upon the type of diet. What I’m talking about is healthy foods and exercise.”
Me (in my head after I left and got my bearings again): “Oh my god! You mean I should be eating healthy? Like, fruits and vegetables?? This is brand new information to me! You are CHANGING my LIFE!”
Me (in reality): “…”

It felt like she was tolerating me. Like I was an imposition and she needed to just get me over with and be on her way. Maybe she was having a bad day, but I’m not feeling that magnanimous, quite frankly.

Active listening, lady. Try it sometime. “I hear you and understand that you’re wary of dieting and all that the word implies, but what I’m talking about is …”

So then as we’re finishing up I have to remind her again that I’m interested in learning more about a PCOS diagnosis. I read that one test is a fasting glucose, so I hadn’t eaten just in case she suggested that. She did, so off I went to the lab (after having to find it myself, she didn’t even point me in the right direction), blah blah blood test, moving on.

I got the results the same day and then finally heard from her today. This is when the getting pissed off part starts to really take its shape. She writes (in short), “your blood tests are normal except for low ‘good cholesterol’ and an elevated fasting glucose, which probably means you have diabetes. See your primary care physician.” I freak out and email back, asking if this means PCOS is off the table. Her response, “you probably had PCOS as a pre-diabetic condition. You now have diabetes.” Literally. You. Now. Have. Diabetes. Now I don’t know about you, but getting that news in a one sentence email from a doctor who treated like me like total shit was not the kind of afternoon I had hoped to have.

I email my primary care physician and explain the situation, and bless her heart she responds back in under 10 minutes, saying, essentially, “um, yeah, you’re fine. Make sure to do cardio. We’ll test again in a couple months.”

??????

Ok, so the problems here are hopefully very evident. Namely, perhaps an ob/gyn shouldn’t be diagnosing someone about something that isn’t in their own field house of expertise, so to speak?

Two notes about all of this: 1., it doesn’t matter if I had the most beautiful numbers on the planet, or if my glucose levels were sky-high, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of our weight OR health. Which are, of course, two different things. And 2., I’m not denying that diet and exercise don’t have implications on our health. And as I’ve said before, I want to feel better, and I know that part of that means moving my body more and paying more attention to what foods I put in it.

Generally, I’m not the kind to share all of my medical-y business in such a public way, but I feel like these kinds of stories need to get told so that when someone else gets treated like an inconvenience, a bother, a non-person, she or he won’t need to feel like the piece of shit I felt like.

Now I’m off to write a strongly-worded email to the doctor and her supervisor.

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it’s about to get heavy

Possible triggering re: weight loss.

I’ve been feeling…off lately. Scattered. Uneasy. Skittish. I think it’s because I’m about to really get into some shit. Some heavy mental lifting, if you will. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact I’m looking forward to it. But I can tell I’ve been preparing myself because I’ve been pretty withdrawn the past couple weeks (as evidenced in part by my complete lack of presence on this here blog). Not really wanting to go out for drinks, not particularly interested in meeting new people, in fact not wanting to be around people at all. I went to my parents house last weekend when they were away and it was simply delightful (love the ‘rents, but damn I wanted some alone time!). Which is interesting, this concept of wanting some alone time. I live alone. I haven’t made tons of friends here yet. I’m gettin’ plenty of alone time. But I needed something a bit more. So off I went with my dog and two bags full of dirty laundry (seriously Sabrina? You’re 30. time to stop taking dirty laundry home to your parents house. does anyone else still do this?) for a weekend full of close to nothing. Just me and three dogs, some horses, and chickens:

I sat outside a lot, just kind of staring at the pretty trees, talking to the animals, soaking up the sun. and I started Dr. Linda Bacon’s “Healthy at Every Size” which is blowing. my. mind. I’ve had the book for quite a few months now, but for whatever reason, didn’t pick it up until I was packing to go home. And I am so glad I brought it. I’ve spoken before about HAES, so I won’t go into detail again here. And I’m not going to turn this into a book review, at least, not until I’ve read the whole thing. Suffice to say, when a friend of mine asked me what I loved about it so much, I responded, “it’s like someone telling me it’s not my fault.” So powerful. And honestly? I think maybe I wasn’t ready to read it until just now. Because it’s bringing up all sorts of stuff for me, mostly around my relationship with food.

Historically, I’ve examined my relationship with food as a bit of a passing hobby. Sure, it came up in therapy (note to self: find a therapist here), but I haven’t dedicated a whole hell of a lot of time into really examining how I interact with food.

I think I’ve been withdrawn so that I could shore up energy, if I may get super touchy feely hippie for a moment. This shit ain’t easy, and the idea of spending real focused time examining, pulling apart, and staring at my relationship with food is utterly terrifying. But the best part is it is simultaneously the clearest thing in the world to me.

***so I wrote all of that up there about 3 weeks ago and then disappeared again. And I think I know why. I had quite the solitary and meditative Sunday this past weekend, and it just sort of hit me like a ton of bricks. I want to lose weight. This may not seem like much of a statement to most of you, but let me tell you in that in the fatosphere, and for those of us who call ourselves fat activists? Them’s fighting words. Or at the very least, they’re words will get you some attention.

But let me explain myself.

“I want to lose weight.” Even saying those words out loud to myself shook me. Why? Why all of a sudden am I starting to go there? It felt like going backward. If I’m all “hooray, fat activism, I love my body!” then how can I want to change it simultaneously? This tension has been with me from the beginning of my FA journey, to be sure. It’s just starting to come up a bit more. But then, on Sunday, I REALLY sat with that statement. What do I mean? What about losing weight is appealing to me right now? And it was as clear as day: I don’t necessarily want to lose weight, I want to feel better. Those are two very different things, but historically, they have NOT been two different things to me. The answer to the question “how can I feel better” was always, without fail, 100% of the time, to lose weight. So now, when I don’t feel right in my body, the answer that comes to me right away is: lose weight. The next step in this for me was to unpack it and go from there.

For the last few months, I haven’t been paying attention to my body when it comes to feeding it. It’s sort of been all processed, all the time.  As I have made abundantly clear in this space before, I am not interested in labeling foods as good or bad. Before we came in to fuck everything up, food didn’t have moral value. It was. just. food. Anyway, the food I’ve been eating lately hasn’t been the most, shall we say, whole and natural. (disclaimer: I don’t give two shits what anyone else eats. Eat Taco Bell and Cheetos every single day for every single meal if you want, I will not judge you for it, this I promise) Instead, my diet has consisted of foods on the more processed side of the spectrum. And it doesn’t make me feel good. Sure, it may make me feel good in that moment, but I’ve been feeling off for a while and it’s due, in part, to my dissociation from my body and my diet.

I joke that my diet (as in, the food I eat, not “DIET” in the way most of us use the word) only works in extremes. I’m either throwing back frozen pizza and no veggies or I’m cooking gourmet, locally-sourced, free-range whatever. There isn’t much in between for me. The time has come to head toward the more whole foods side of things (foods that are whole, not the store). I’ve been focusing on this for the last few days and it’s incredible how much better I feel already. I should also note how appreciative I am that I can make this choice. Cheaper food isn’t necessarily the food with the most nutrients, and there are millions of folks every day who don’t have the opportunity to choose the more expensive/more nutrient rich option.

I’m not saying this was the magic bullet and now all of my problems will go out the window. But it’s been such a glorious relief to recognize the difference between “I want to lose weight” and “I want to feel better.” And besides being a relief? It feels powerful. And I like it very much.

the big visit to my new doctor

Yesterday I had my first doctor’s appointment since diving into the big fatty awesome world of FA. I’ve written before about my nervousness/concern/sheer and total panic about going to a doctor because I know what much of the medical community thinks of fat people.

I made an appointment because I’ve been having some serious pain in both knees for the last week or so. As in, it’s difficult for me to get up and down stairs without being a whiny whinerson. As someone who has been an active person her whole life, and played varsity sports, and never broken a bone, I gotta say this is not good for my poor little soul. I want to recognize that I am still very able-bodied and that I in don’t want to seem ungrateful for the mobility that I do have. However, for me this is some hard-ass shit. I held off on making the appointment for a few days because I thought it would go away, and frankly because I didn’t want to pay someone to take one look at me and tell me to hit the treadmill, tubbo. But it got bad enough, so off I went. I should say, without this FA community, this experience most likely would have been eleventy squillion times worse. In comments to my last post about the doctor, someone directed me to this oh so fabulous resource and I ended up choosing a doctor on the list.

When I followed the nurse to get my vitals taken, I turned around when getting weighed so as to not look at the number, explaining that I didn’t want to know my weight because it can be triggering. The nurse just could not have cared less. “Sure! I love your scarf, where did you get it?” Wait, what? I’m not going to get read the riot act for refusing to participate fully in what almost every single person who goes to the doctor does? Huh, ok. I can work with this. It was actually kind of weird to purposefully not find out my weight. As anyone who has dieted (so…99.9991 percent of the population?) will tell you, when on a diet, the scale becomes a part of your routine (daily, weekly, whatever). Weight Watchers? Shit, the damn meetings START with a weigh in! Curves fitness? Weigh in AND body measurements every month (also an anti-choice organization, but that’s not the immediate point). I have lived with a scale in my bathroom for most of my life. I learned when I would weigh less in the day, what days of the week I would weigh less, which specific reading on the compass to turn and face to weigh less (ok, not that last one, but you get the point). That number was burned into my retinas until the next time I weighed in, crossing my fingers, saying little prayers (to whom exactly, I don’t know, as I’m an atheist…but what do they say? There are no atheists in foxholes. Or on scales, apparently.), already making excuses to whomever was weighing me (“these shoes are heavy.” “I just had a big lunch”) or talking shit to myself (“seriously? You couldn’t lay off that burrito? Lardass. You have SO far to go.”), making promises to be “better this week” and to really focus on harnessing my willpower. Christ, I get tired now just thinking about it.

ANYWAY, I digress. Not knowing my weight – it’s weird. How else am I going to know how much love I deserve, how happy I get to be? Seriously though, we put an incredible amount of emphasis on that number. We memorize it. We lie about it. Hell, I won’t state right here what I think I weigh, and I think I’ve come a damn long way. But maybe I haven’t? Makes me feel like a FA failure (a FAilure?) That’s another post.

So the doctor comes in and I’m pretty nervous. Do I go straight into the whole “I know I’m fat, you don’t have to point it out. I believe we can be healthy at every size. I want to make sure that we’re doing this together and that you’re not making rampant assumptions…” or do I just sit back and see where it goes? I opted for the second. Perhaps out of sheer wussy-ness. Perhaps because I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it doesn’t matter. She listened to me respectfully. I told her I started running a few months ago and did a 5K, and then got sick about a month ago and pretty much stopped running, hell, stopped moving because I was tired as fuck all the time and felt like hammered dog shit (not in those exact words, but I think she got my point). She then proceeded to basically say “look, you were moving around a lot. Then you stopped. Your body essentially experienced a light trauma and your knees are now all ‘what the fuck?’ and so they’ve gone a little haywire.” (again, not in those exact words, but I got her point) Along with everything else she said, she mentioned “and you have weight pressing down on these joints, and on your hips…” and you know? it absolutely did not feel like she was telling me my weight was the problem. She didn’t say “you have your HUGE ASS weight” or “your overweight body” or anything. She said “your weight.” As in, I have weight! Imagine that. Basically, I’m supposed to take it easy, do a little walking, the recumbent bike when i can, and take ibuprofen. It’s still very frustrating, because I feel like some of my agency has been taken away. I’m now at the mercy of these damn knees and I am all stoked to do the Bay to Breakers in SF in a few weeks and now that’s up in the air. I’m just super pissed and frustrated. Le sigh. But! The doctor’s appointment went well, and for that I am very, very happy.

I’d love to hear your happy doctor stories! The last post I focused on things that make me tired, and while it was extremely important to go there (and to read everyone’s thought provoking and awesome comments!), I’m feeling the need for some positivity. Adipositivity, perhaps? (NSFW! for those not familiar with her work!)

old habits die very very hard

**possible triggering re: disordered eating

The other day I bought pita chips and hummus to bring to a potluck. The cashier was friendly enough, making comments about my purchases in that sort of non-confrontational, pleasant way. Things like, “mmm, pita chips, yum. hummus with pine nuts, looks healthy.” Without batting an eye, I said “yeah, it’s a potluck so there is always a crap shoot with the kinds of food there.” I kind of trailed off but it was very clear to me what I had just done. i justified my food purchase to a total stranger, hoping that she would “get” how healthy I was being. “look! even though i’m fat I eat ‘good’ foods!” I haven’t done this in a while and it completely caught me off guard. It’s not a mystery where this behavior comes from, most likely for any of us who have a history of disordered eating. Talking about food with other people, or eating around other people…it becomes this bizarre ritual wherein you try and tamp down any craving you have and ignore your body and what its trying to tell you. Instead, you eat “appropriate” foods in “appropriate” amounts. And it’s a constant game, this eating thing. You have to make sure at all times that you’re making it very clear that you’re a “good fatty.” Sure, you’re fat, but you’re not taking up more than your fair share of the world’s food, you’re exercising every day, you’re appreciative when someone tells you “but you have such a pretty face,” you’re apologizing for taking up too much space, and on and on.

Working to better my relationship with food (read: refusing to apologize for being hungry, eating what I want when I feel like eating it, paying attention to what my body is telling me it wants, enjoying food and not giving it moral value like “good” and “bad,” etc) has been one of the most difficult things for me in this FA journey, and I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to combat 20 years of a shitty relationship so it’s no wonder i go into apologizing mode. I just haven’t done that in a while and it kicked me in the gut a bit.

Old habit number two: I’ve been sick for the past week and a half or so. It started out as a cold or something, and turned quickly into a nasty cough and laryngitis. I sounded like death warmed over at first, but I think now I’ve cultivated the sexy phone operator voice. Anyway, I’ve been really really tired and this past week, while on vacation up in Seattle, I’ve been sleeping like it’s my job. As in, one day I didn’t get out of bed until noon. I have never slept until noon before and I gotta say, it’s not awful! And even when i sleep in that late, I need a nap after a few hours. I’ve been having real trouble not beating myself up about sleeping so much. Thoughts like “god, lazy slob” and “if you weren’t fat you’d likely be able to beat this cold by now” are constantly creeping in around the edges of my brain, and I have to beat them back with a very stiff “get the fuck out! you have no business here! also, you’re wrong!” every couple of hours. It’s actually exhausting and making me more tired – see how much unhealthier we are when we’re mean to ourselves? Hey, maybe that whole “shaming fat people into losing weight” thing doesn’t actually work! (end sarcasm)

So anyway, I want to make sure I’m not only documenting the a-ha and “I’m awesome” moments on this here space of mine. It’s important to get into the uncomfortable and ugly stuff. Old habits die hard, this is true. And they come swirling back into your world when you’re not expecting them.

Other habits that are hard to break? Lemme hear ’em! Maybe if we put them out into the universe, they’ll stay away forever?

quick hit: self-compassion in the NYT

Tara Parker-Pope posted an article on the New York Times website yesterday called “Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges.” I don’t read her stuff that often, but a co-worker alerted me to this post and I gotta say, I like it! It’s not new information to those of us in the FA movement, but it’s always awesome when mainstream media and press get it right. Or, mostly right.

Essentially, research shows that when we are nicer to ourselves, we enjoy less stress in our lives and pay more attention to what our bodies actually want in terms of food. What I don’t like is that the researchers Ms. Parker-Pope speaks with frame the narrative using weight-loss as the ultimate goal.

“Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,” said Jean Fain, a psychotherapist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School who wrote the new book “The Self-Compassion Diet” (Sounds True publishing). “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that it seems to ignore the fact that self-compassion is important regardless of dieting, weight loss goals, etc. (though of course one has to frame it that way if one is hoping to sell a diet book). The ultimate goal need not be weight-loss, the ultimate goal should simply be loving yourself more. Of course, Ms. Fain is right in part. Self-compassion doesn’t currently exist in any diet plan that I’m aware of, but to me that’s not the point. Still, though, good to know folks recognize that diets fail for a variety of reasons, most notably (to me, anyway) because they are rooted in self-criticism and a call to “just have more willpower.”

an update on my “diet”

Back in November I decided to go on a “diet.” I know, even the word is incredibly triggering for a lot of us. But have no fear! This diet has nothing to do with food! I decided to stop buying shitty weekly glossy mags. those that know me know that these were my weakness. i shudder to think of the hundreds (eek, thousands??) of dollars i have spent on them. turns out? all they do is reinforce the negative stereotypes of fat people, glorify a very certain body type, and make you feel like shit about yourself – all without you even realizing it until it’s almost too late.

So, here I am, three full months later (whoa, to the date, spooky!), having not purchased one. single. gossipy. magazine. i’m very proud of myself. What i want to share is this: on my flight back from the east coast yesterday, i bought a couple magazines, Food and Wine and the now quarterly People Style Watch. I love the former, because, hello, food and wine. And I dig the second because they have pictures of sparkly jewelry and shoes and handbags and fun makeup in them! harmless, right? NO.

As a fun little experiment, I’ve jotted down most of the body-shaming, body-policing statements in the advertisements and copy of the magazine. I say most because I’m sure I missed some – those little suckers hide EVERYwhere. So, for your viewing…annoyment? displeasure?

“small by design, gorgeous…even under stress, how to look great and shop smart!, discover instant smooth perfection, magically blurs pores and lines, velvety soft perfection, because you’re worth it, tame frizz, defend against humidity, 100% poreless skin, baby-smooth perfection, perfectly perky and impossibly fresh, control your hair, amp up your lashes, get the right size, work the feminine angle, smoother-looking skin, dedicated to perfection, perfect harmony requires infinite attention to every detail, edgy cool, sexy glam, perfect pairs, unflattering top-heavy effect, makes your outfit look oversize, make your legs look longer, get your perfect fit!, it’s time to turn heads, healthy makes it happen, guilt-free shopping, shrink your pores, lighten dark under-eye circles, get rid of blemishes overnight, fade fine lines, it’s the end of dull and flat, smooth skin, for skin that’s smooth and taut, curling! separating! eye brightening! lengthening! voluminizing!, perfectly straight hair, perfectly pulled-together!, get hair shiny, flatter almost everyone!, slim and refined, beautiful and effortless, it’s easy to give your complexion a fresh, radiant look, be glamorous.”

I kind of gave up looking really hard for these messages halfway through, so there’s a good chance there are tons more. The takeaways:

don’t be big, look great at all times, even while stressed. be smooth, perfect, and velvety soft. don’t have frizzy hair. don’t have pores. have the skin of an infant. be “fresh” even though they tell you it’s IMPOSSIBLE – try anyway!, don’t forget to be perfect!, also smooth!, things that are acceptable when large = eyelashes and lips only. sometimes hair. but it better be smooth and shiny. and straight. have long legs. and be perfect.

Ragen, over on Dances with Fat, did an absolutely wonderful (and heart-breakingly sad and depressing) experiment of cataloging all of the messages she got about her body in a 24 hour period. The final tally? 1,058 negative messages in one day telling her she’s too fat, unhealthy, a drain on the healthcare system, and on and on.

And we wonder why body image issues start so young?

putting myself first – growing pains

*possible triggering re food restriction*

Recently, I got a comment on one of my earlier posts that I decided not to approve, for a variety of reasons. The commenter mentioned that she only eats one meal a day in order to try and lose weight because she feels that’s what her doctor wants her to do.

This is the first comment that I haven’t approved and it’s been sitting, quite uncomfortably, with me for a few days. I reached out to the ever so fabulous Fat Heffalump for some advice, as I don’t currently have these conversations with the people in my every day not-virtual life (sidebar – this is one of my favorite things about choosing to blog about FA, it has introduced me to some awesome people that i get to have amazing, nuanced, and challenging discussions with!). I think I have figured out what didn’t sit well with me about the comment.

Well, I think it’s two things. First, the comment was a bit triggering for me. I haven’t actually ever restricted my food to one meal a day, but I’ve certainly counted calories, food journaled, and obsessed over every little thing I put into my body (followed by mind-numbing guilt and telling myself some pretty horrible, awful, mean things that I would never say out loud).

And second, this work I do has been one of the first things (only things?) i’ve done JUST for me. I get to set the stage, I get to set boundaries, and I get to focus first and foremost on how I feel about things. I’m not saying I was some total saint who ONLY thought about others around her (yeah, how awful for me. i’m just TOO amazing a friend. /sarcasm). What I’m saying is that when it came to my body, my size, my health, I let every one else be the expert/steer the ship. Doctors will tell me if I’m unhealthy (and because I’m fat, I must be unhealthy), my friends will discuss their dieting habits even though it makes me uncomfortable but I say nothing because who wants to be THAT person who wants the conversation to go according to HER beliefs?, and on and on.

This though? This work? In this work, I get to make the decisions. And while it may sound like I’m totally on board with that idea, sometimes it’s really hard. Because I do things like disapprove of someone’s opinions or thoughts and I mostly hate the idea that someone has to abide by my strict rules to play. But I’m hating that idea less and less, which I think is good because this work is hard – it’s energy-sapping sometimes, and the only way that I can sustain it and maintain my health (mental or otherwise) is to set some ground rules that ensure this stays my happy place (not “happy” happy all the time, b/c there’s certainly some sad shit going on here, but you know what I mean). Other bloggers have “no diet/weight loss talk” caveats on their blogs and I may follow suit. We’ll see. If anyone has good examples of those caveats, send ’em my way!