Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Control

Betrayal, duplicity, loss, jealousy, insecurity. Those adjectives are just a handful I use to describe the many shades of complexities between my body and me. I do have some affection for it, but it is largely unrequited. I'm pretty sure my body hates me.  It's like everything that's been assembled to make my body functional is just one giant lie.  It's a classic story of betrayal and the most dysfunctional relationship I've ever experienced. My body tricked me into thinking that it's on my side yet over and over again it attacks me - destroying my trust in it to do anything remotely beneficial.

So how do I wrangle it back to my side? Work with me instead of against me? Magically re-route messages from my brain to every part of my body away from all of the "road closed" signs it encounters? God, I wish I knew...

I remember reading a few years back about how some people who have food addictions and then successfully lose weight via gastric bypass or similar procedures find other ways to realize their compulsions: drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping. It's all up for grabs, until you can get to the root of whatever issue driving you to fill whatever hole food used to fill.

It some ways, I have a very similar struggle. I am looking for control over something I've all but surrendered to, try to "accept the things I cannot change" blah blah blah. But apparently that's not enough.

I was a fat kid. And a fat adult. That is no news flash. When I say this to friends, the general response is, "well, I never saw it". How someone could not see it baffled me. My wedding dress was a size 16, after all. Here's  picture of my husband and I four months before we were married:

So, through various attempts over the years with varying degrees of success, I've lost a total of 55 lbs. Impressive? Sure. But I still feel the same. I feel the heft - my arms look huge to me, my thighs seem to have retained their shape and I swear can feel my tummy wiggle and wobble with every step I take. Weight loss does not solve body image issues. Is the picture below what I see when I look in the mirror (at 123)?

In short: no. In fact I see quite the opposite. Last year I went on an autoimmune Paleo bender in an effort to "heal my leaky gut" and rid my body of all of the things that were causing it to fight against itself . That protocol is even more strict than the "normal" Paleo protocol. I sank down to 118 and was told by my doctor to stop losing weight. I had no control over it, it just fell right off. Friends and family were telling me I was too thin, their remarks tinged with concern. I didn't take those comments with any gravity. Honestly I reveled in it. The number on the scale was a giant middle finger to my body. You think you can control me?! Look at what I did, all on my own! I loved it. I was hopelessly thin and felt triumphant. It was as though I had finally reached some summit I failed to scale time and time again. Others told me I looked great - lean, fit. Those compliments quickly took precedence over the other comments.

This didn't last. How could it? A girl needs to eat. I proceeded to fall into an easy obsession with numbers. I chose to settle on a range of 120-125. Anything above the latter is now cause for panic. 126 = protein, veg and fruit only. No carbs (even gluten free ones as per my 2009 dietary revision), no alcohol, no sugar, no fun. 

Let's factor in a few more things.  I'm half Italian.  Growing up, every event - success or failure, was celebrated/acknowledged with food. I still feel the urge to console or congratulate myself at every spectrum of an "event" throughout my day to day happenings: a cocktail here, some chocolate there, you name it.  I have zero willpower and my husband can vouch that I'll make my way through a bag of potato chips in record time. Then I feel disgusting; it's a solid lost/lose situation.

How do I gracefully settle into a number on the scale in the face of the harsh realities and losses I've endured over the years?  I fully accept that this is bordering on eating disorder territory. But I don't starve myself - I eat! A lot! I can't/won't ever become bulimic. The thought of throwing up what I just ate grosses me out. My husband has loved me at every size so it's not about that; I don't love myself at every size. I have confidence. I don't think I'm terribly unattractive. At 37 I've finally waded through all of the guilt of my religious upbringing and fully embraced my sexuality as a woman and a wife. There's another level of acceptance here that is obviously somewhere too deep for me to dig my way to.

Then there are these handy mottos:

"Life's too short."

"Everything in moderation."

Oh yeah, those are great sayings. They should totally apply to me. I just can't do it.  They are laced with catches and caveats. But I will take any magic pills or suggestions that might help me start to feel okay about my body sometime soon. Hating it so violently and for so long can't be a good thing.

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