|This is the best damn cheesecake I have ever made. I win.|
Note: potential eating disorder triggers below.
I've never had an eating disorder. If anything, I've let myself go the opposite direction. I'm overweight by something like 60 lbs, by my reckoning, though if you were to ask a physician based solely on BMI, they'd likely say something closer to 80 lbs. I have scoliosis and my ankles are prone to giving me hell, and in recent years I've heard a mysterious crackling sound in one knee. I also have high blood pressure, currently controlled through medication, and a history of heart disease and stroke in my family. I really need to lose some goddamn weight, as Patton Oswalt would say.
My aunt, on the other hand, did have an eating disorder. She was 10 years older than I was at the time I remember figuring out something was wrong, which puts her in high school while I was in grade school. She would eat almost nothing, and it was typically a fight to get anything into her, and then in a bit she'd throw it back up. But she was so skinny and so beautiful, and I wanted to be like her more than just about anything... except in that way. That I knew, without a doubt, I did not want.
I have slowly gained weight over the years -- I got fat as a teenager starting the year I was 12, finally lost it around 17, but never felt skinny -- never as skinny as my mom, never as skinny as my aunt. I'd diet on and off and try to get smaller, but a size 12/13 was the smallest I ever got, clotheswise. Of course, looking back now at pictures... lord, I was thin. I wasn't model thin, but I had cheekbones and a face shape, and it was all good. I wish I could have recognized it sooner, but at least I can see it now.
Now I'm doing Weight Watchers -- the weight inching up thing happened while I was studying for my exams, and I hit the limit of what I was willing to let happen. My activity's gone up and I'm eating better, and their online tools are spiffy and easy to use. I hit my first 5 lb mark today, a month in, so now I'm about back down to where I was before the last time I started dieting, and that's with a con and a vacation and visiting my parents during that period of time. Not too shabby. I've finally managed to give up sodas, much to my regret, and I'm learning to like iced tea and lemonade now and again instead, as well as water with lime slices, which is a long-time favorite.
One of the weird things I have continually noted about me and dieting, however, is how hard I have to work to take an interest in food. It's as though I have to make an effort to find interesting and tasty stuff to eat (much easier these days thanks to my amazing husband) or else stop noticing food altogether. And while it might sound like an optimal sort of problem to have while dieting, it's really not.
You see, when I stop noticing food, no food looks good to me. And then I stop wanting to eat. And then I start getting crashy all the time, because duh, not eating. It becomes far too easy to measure my success at whatever by how far I've managed to game the scale this time, and to measure my self-worth by how much willpower I can exert to avoid this whole food business. When I start to look for skinny, not healthy, though -- that's bad. I think of my aunt and how easy it feels to use food and denial as a form of control for stress. Even if I can't handle anything else, it seems like, I can do this. I can control this much of my life. It starts to feel good to do that, to find some tangible evidence that I am not out of control and that I do have a say over my body. And then I think of my aunt (who is happy and healthy and not struggling with an eating disorder any more, thank heavens). And I think... no.
So yes. I plan treats. I try to stay invested in planning meals and finding desserts and small cheats that will be within my points but keep my brain and tastebuds from just shutting off. Thank heavens Matt loves to cook and is so good at it, and is watching points with me, as it keeps me balanced as well -- it was really bad when I was just cooking for me after my divorce and trying to diet, which is largely why I gave it up as a bad plan seeing that down that path lay me just not cooking anything ever.
One of the things that feels different this time though, in addition to Matt's cooking, is that I'm not doing this because of my partner. I'm not doing it because I'm worried about how I should look. I used to be -- there were things I wanted to wear and people I wanted to look like, and attention I wanted to get by being skinny and more feminine and thinking that losing weight would make me look like the people on TV and magazines... but I'm in my 40s now. Many of those ships have sailed, and even the ones that haven't, I've largely outgrown.
I have a partner who thinks I'm attractive just the way I am, and I believe him when he tells me that. I kinda like my body, at least some of the time, in the shape and configuration it's in now, even if I am one of the rare small-breasted fat women in the world. I feel pretty good, and I love going on wine trips and eating amazing food and sharing that with my husband. On top of it all, I've become a pretty darn good baker and pastry chef -- my grandmother would be proud, I think. I'm not willing to give all that up. And the amazing thing is that now, in my 40s, I don't feel like I have to. My worth as a woman is not conversely proportional to my dress size. As long as I manage to keep the urge for control at bay. As long as I remember and think of my aunt and her journey. As long as I keep pushing to stay interested. As long as I remind myself, as I have now, that being present and grounded is not simply a win condition, it's the end game.