Diets: A life story

Folks have been discussing elseblog about giving up the diet-binge cycle and embracing intuitive eating.  I have a lot to say about that topic, but it’s not my blog and maybe a broadly fitness-focused blog isn’t the best place for a fat woman to proclaim that her eating is “uncontrolled”?  That’s a minefield I’d rather not walk into!  Anyway, I can talk about it here… (Warning, much diet talk follows.)

This is more or less a life story, told through diets, weird eating, and weight loss-gain cycles.  I’ve been fat almost my whole life, and was on some diet most of my life, but I never had any lasting success– I never achieved that thin dream, no matter how I tried.  I did gain more and more weight after each cycle of dieting, and might have screwed up my metabolism.  (Hard to tell.)

When I was very young I wasn’t fat– actually I was a pretty skinny kid.  When I was about 9 or 10 my body started packing on pounds as it prepared for puberty.  My mom panicked and took me to the doctor, who put me on my very first diet.  To be fair, it was a sensible enough diet, and the doctor’s goal was to let me “grow into” my weight.

Now, I come from a family of people who diet.  My mom’s family are all heavy folks.  My mom’s mother follows fad diets, living off vats of cabbage soup and eating salt and vinegar potato chips because she heard the vinegar counteracts the calories of the chips.  My mom’s also been on and off diets her whole life, none of which have worked long-term as she’s gradually gained weight.  My dad– well, everyone tells me he “struggled with his weight” when he was young, but he’s always been thin to me.  (Hearing my dad occasionally fat-shame my mom was soul-destroying.)

My First Diet didn’t work; not only did I continue to be chubby but over the years I also started sneaking food and eating it in my room and trying to hide the wrappers. Despite trying in earnest to follow this diet I was really hungry– I didn’t dare to ask for more food and risk disapproval from my parents, so I shamefully snuck what I could get my hands on.  This habit of eating food in private so no one could see stuck with me for a long time.

Looking back at pictures I see just a round-faced and awkward girl, but I was convinced I was monstrous.  I hated myself. Clothes shopping was a nightmare; clothes never “felt right” and I could try things on for hours and find nothing but rage and tears.  My mom begged other relatives to take me to the store.

I kept on dieting in various forms through high school, skipping meals and fasting intermittently. If I didn’t eat anything for a whole day, I felt pure and in control.  After a particularly crash-y diet of oranges and not much else before senior prom, my weight dropped to a low of about 180.  That was as good as I could do and it didn’t last anyway.

I went to to college and moved into a dorm.  My roommate– blonde, thin, pretty and painfully shy– joined a sorority and started to lose weight for spring break.  I dieted along with her, because we were friends and ate meals together and I felt awful eating while she didn’t (not out of sympathy, but from shame).  She slowly became sunken and her hair started to fall out and I worried about her, but my own body didn’t change much.  I gained more weight through college– too many long nights in the project lab, too much eating out, not enough sleep.

I graduated and moved halfway across the country for grad school,  and nearly failed out my first semester.  I finally got treatment for my bipolar disorder, including medication with a side effect of weight loss (among other effects, none as nice).  I shed weight like crazy.  After I graduated, I was dumped from my school’s mental health services onto another doctor who changed my prescriptions (“You like being manic, don’t you?”) and I gained all the weight back again, plus more.

Then I moved again to start my first Real Job.  About 3 years ago, in a fit of self-hatred and motivation, I started my last diet, which lasted for a few months of logging everything I ate on the internet. I lost about 10 pounds, and then gained it back again, plus more– again.

At that point, 31 years old and the fattest I’d ever been but with some new skills in self-examination, I looked at my life history.  I looked at the histories of my family members.  None of us had ever had any significant, long-term weight loss; no one had grasped that golden ring of thinness and realized the dream of letting their “inner thin person” out.  In fact, all we’d done is gotten ever fatter as years passed.So, I decided to let go of that dream of thinness.  And instead of waiting for that magical thin moment when my life would be perfect, I decided to work towards having the kind of life I wanted at the size I was right now.

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7 Responses to Diets: A life story

  1. Kristina says:

    “This habit of eating food in private so no one could see stuck with me for a long time.” This is interesting to me, because you still tend to put your hands in front of your mouth when you chew a lot. It’s one of your own personal weird ticks. Sometimes you use fingers to obstruct the view of your mouth when you’re putting food into it. Sorry, I’m just weirdly observant sometimes and I look at your face while we talk. x.x

    For the rest of it: *hugs* You’re awesome. Dieting is stupid.

    • G says:

      It’s funny that you’d notice that! It’s something I do it if it’s a big mouthful (oversized sushi rolls, I’m looking at you) or if I’m trying to carry on a conversation while I eat (often the case when I’m hanging out with you) :) I want to keep up with the chatter but I don’t want to talk with my mouth full!

      Thanks hon. I appreciate it <3

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  3. kava says:

    With a few minor details changed (my problem is ADHD, not bipolar, and I’ve always been active enough that I’ve never been obese, just always end up right back on that upper overweight border) I almost could have written this…down to the meds first quarter of grad school and the impulse that still remains to hide food or that I’ve eaten. I mean…it’s uncanny.

    Keep looking out for yourself. I’ll try too.

    • G says:

      I get the feeling this story is pretty common (which is kind of a depressing thought, because there was a lot of misery in there…)

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