half

As of last week, I weighed exactly half of what I started out weighing. I was 316 pounds at my highest; on Tuesday, I weighed 158 pounds. I am half my size; I am half my width (and as I say that, I realize that I still obviously think of being 316 as my default weight, the weight I belong at, and this weight as the new, unexpected development that is a little out of line, not in keeping with the way the world really works). I am, empirically, small. I’ve got small wrists and bony hands. I’ve got knobs on my shoulders, which are fairly narrow, and collarbones, and bumpy knees. There is skin, and fat, still hanging around my belly and my thighs; my waist has got some inches to pinch, and my butt is still more of a badonkadonk. But I am small.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I still felt small. I was still marveling at being able to feel my spine, and that under my flesh, there were ribs; when I lie down, there are my hipbones, one on each side. My tailbone is not happy that it is no longer as cushioned as it used to be, and it still clangs up my back when I sit down too quickly or too hard, and the bones vibrate. I fit on Muni seats and in airplane seats. I can get through the crowd at a coffee shop without knocking peoples’ cups over with my ass, the way I used to. I am, by any standard—compared to how I used to weigh, compared to any health standard, compared to reality, considered objectively and without any shadowing insanity, small. Except lately, I am feeling fat.

I’m not expecting pity or sympathy, here—for fuck’s sake, I’m a size
12, sometimes a 10, and that is not fat. It is also far, far smaller
than I ever expected to be. When I was a size 28, size 16 seemed
magical, far-away, impossibly tiny. At 16, a 10 seemed incredibly
small. It is like breaking into misses sizes, up here at the top of the
heap, I have looked down at all the sizes below me and thought look how
far I have to go. As if this isn’t enough, perfectly acceptable, a
place to stay instead of a resting point.

When I was 13 sizes bigger than the 4s and 2s and 0s, it seemed
laughable to compare myself to them. What was the point? Apples,
oranges. Hams, sugar-fee Jell-O pudding. That doesn’t mean I didn’t
look at tiny girls wistfully—but they all seemed tiny to me. I had no
concept of sizes, and unless they were Nicole Richie terrifying,
couldn’t even begin to guess if someone was a 14 or a 4.

It was like I was living in Romania, and they lived in Los Angeles, and
there was no point in even thinking about them, all the way across they
globe. They were off my mental radar. It wasn’t worth the effort, since
it didn’t seem possible, or even reasonable to shoot for a weight that
low. Now, it’s like I’ve been bused into the neighborhood and I’m
peering over the fence and coveting their lawns right up close.

Suddenly I feel lumbering and huge. Suddenly, this isn’t good enough.
Suddenly, I am not small enough, and I cannot believe this train of
thought is even possible. It would have been unthinkable that this
isn’t small enough. I got angry, when I was obese, that there were
women who complained about wanting to lose five pounds because
being a size six was just fat and why couldn’t they be a two like they
were in high school? That women who thought they were fat when they
gained three pounds were ridiculous and what is wrong with them? The media,
the obsession with thinness, the pursuit of size zero—how could any
woman get caught up in it? I was smug. There’s no way I could get
caught up in it.

I am less smug, now that I am caught up in it. What the fuck is wrong
with me?  With us? Why can’t I be thrilled I’m healthy and happy and I’m
fit? How did I get tangled up in this idea that it isn’t enough and it
won’t be enough? Why do I have to hate myself not only for not being
thin enough, but for the fact that it isn’t enough?

It is bullshit, it is toxic, it is wrong and I am crazy and I don’t know how to snap the fuck out of it.

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  17 comments for “half

  1. anon
    November 19, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Ok, I’m going to tread lightly here. I have always been honest with you about my own story and own issues. Once I remember someone (not a regular commenter, I don’t think) chastising me and others for sympathizing about some such issue (like, “yeah, it does suck”) and not being your personal cheerleaders.

    I’m sorry; I don’t think you want that. I think you want truth. But I don’t have my head so far up my butt to think my truth is The Truth. It is just what it is: mine. I share it for your interest, your edifiction, hell, your enjoyment if you feel like laughing at me.

    I used to weigh a lot more. A lot. Then I lost a lot of weight. I got to a “normal” size, an “average” size. And for quite a while I was perfectly content. I was not thin but I didn’t think I had a body or a genetic makeup for thin. I didn’t need thin. Because after being really, really heavy? Oh my god. It was bliss. I was happy.

    And, yes, smug. I’d never get caught up in that silliness, that quest for thinness. I too rolled my eyes at the “I have to lose ten pounds” crowd. Get a grip, people. I had to lose a lot more than that! Be happy with what you have!

    I stayed “average” and happy about it for years. I then went on and lost more weight. I got thin (not skinny, not dangerously medically too thin, but definitely thin). Why did I suddenly do this, after years of contentment? I don’t know. I think the farther away I got from my earlier fatness, and the farther away I got from that early gleeful weight loss pleasure (“look! collarbones! wow! hipbones!”), the more I felt I needed to lose more. Suddenly average wasn’t enough for me.

    And, yeah, I lost more weight and, I hate to tell you but this is the truth, I LOVED IT. It put me in a whole different category. Everything changed (again. because of course it had also changed during the first big round of transformation).

    But you know what, and here’s the ugly truth. Now I’m obssessed. Unlike before. And I struggle to maintain a lower weight, which I didn’t when I first lost weight. It has beoome unhealthy, not physically but mentally. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve fallen prey to it. That average isn’t good enough for me anymore. Now it would be more accurate to say that I feel really and truly good about myself only when I am at a thin weight.

    And that’s sad. I’m a bright educated woman. I’m too smart for this. And, Anne, I don’t want you to become like this. I WANT to go back to the mindset I had when I first lost weight, when I was so fucking thrilled with average, but now the bar is set too high (er, low) and when I regain a few pounds I feel fat and awful.

    This is no way to be. I wish sometimes I could go back to my obsese body now and then, just for a day, for a little perspective.

    I hate putting this all out there. It makes me feel bad about myself to admit this. I’m too intelligent for this. You are too. My worth doesn’t come from this. Neither does yours. Fight it.

  2. anon
    November 19, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Do I win some type of longest comment ever? I hardly call that treading lightly; I don’t know what I was thinking!

    I also don’t know what the hell I meant by “edifiction”–obviously my fingers typed faster than my brain could spell “edification.” Although perhaps you’ll adapt the above in your fiction writing amd together we will have birthed a new literary genre….
    ;)

  3. anon
    November 19, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    sigh. obsessed, not obssessed.
    obese, not obsese. it drives me crazy when i make stupid typing errors. it offends the former editor/proofreader in me, i guess.
    but please see past my typos to my content.

  4. Bobette
    November 19, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    I think that’s why it’s so great to see things like the adipositivity project and be reminded of the diversity in women’s bodies. You’re not as fat as them, but maybe one of your body parts will remind you of someone in a picture. And you will be normal, and healthy, and good.

    Keep self-talk kind and positive and realistic. Tell yourself: “This is great” when you look in the mirror, even if you don’t believe it. Any voice in you that says different is WRONG.

    Anyway, what you’re talking about is easy enough to fall into. And I think that’s why size acceptance folk talk about loving your body at ANY size, because if you don’t love it now, you probably won’t like it later–after all, you can always, always find flaws. But there are always great things that don’t get nearly enough credit.

  5. November 19, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    I once tried explaining the enormity of losing over 100 pounds in about a year to a friend, and the closest analogy I could come up with was for her to imagine waking up one morning as a man. For the majority of my life the word ‘fat’ was the predominant physical characteristic that I most identified myself by, and so to (fairly) suddenly not be fat- the complete opposite of how I was before- is hard to wrap your head around. I still operate thinking that I am huge. I still think that I need to lose weight. But then, think something for 26 years and your brain isn’t going to change overnight. It won’t change after 2 years, either.

    I have skinny days and I have fat days. Fat days get me anxious, fat days get me thinking that people look at me and think I’m chubby. Fat days make me want to staple an old picture of myself to my forehead so people can see that I’m actually Amazing Weight-Loss Girl. Fat days make me want to call bullshit on people who gush about how losing weight made them sooooooo happy and complete and wonderful and it solved every one of their problems. Fat days make it seem like the Old Fat Girl is right around the corner, waiting to lure me back in with a trail of Twizzlers. And sometimes I think it’d be OK to be back there again, because at least every time I looked in the mirror I knew what to expect. But then I have a skinny day where I am FAB-U-LOUS and tiny and I forget that crazy-ass shit that rolls around in my head.

    My tailbone hurts all the time, too. Plus, I’m always cold.

  6. November 19, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    I think we all have our own ideas of what perfection is, and that we are all pushing ourselves to that limit. While what we have now is “good enough” wouldn’t it be better to be ten pounds lighter, or 20, or 30 etc… I feel the same way too. But I think it’s important to find a weight that is comfortable for yourself mentally and physically. A point where you can relax, and not be stressed that you are size 4, not a 0. I am one of those annoying size 4-6 girls who bitch and moan about not being small enough, and it makes me sick that I bitch and moan about it. Why am I not good enough? I think it all boils down to that question. Being perfect will never make you good enough ebcause you are fine the way you aren. Perfect doesn’t exist- it’s ideal that exists in our minds, not reality. Be happy with who you are now, not who you would be when you weigh less…
    I guess I should practice what I preach, huh?

  7. November 19, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I want to say so much, yet i’m not sure what to say or even if you’ll care what I have to say because I’m not really sure that you even have an inkling of who the hell I am. Well I am lauren. And I weight about 296 lbs. Down from 375 or so being my highest weight. Still losing, still changing my life. I’m in OA and doing it is hard and I hate the way I feel about my body some days. because some days I feel amazing and some days I feel like a giant whale and I’m so sad reading your post and being afraid that I’ll never feel good about my body no matter what size I am. Because if that’s the truth, why not just continue to enjoy binging on cake. sorry. Just a little brain vomit there.

  8. November 19, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I want to say so much, yet i’m not sure what to say or even if you’ll care what I have to say because I’m not really sure that you even have an inkling of who the hell I am. Well I am lauren. And I weight about 296 lbs. Down from 375 or so being my highest weight. Still losing, still changing my life. I’m in OA and doing it is hard and I hate the way I feel about my body some days. because some days I feel amazing and some days I feel like a giant whale and I’m so sad reading your post and being afraid that I’ll never feel good about my body no matter what size I am. Because if that’s the truth, why not just continue to enjoy binging on cake. sorry. Just a little brain vomit there.

  9. November 19, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I want to say so much, yet i’m not sure what to say or even if you’ll care what I have to say because I’m not really sure that you even have an inkling of who the hell I am. Well I am lauren. And I weight about 296 lbs. Down from 375 or so being my highest weight. Still losing, still changing my life. I’m in OA and doing it is hard and I hate the way I feel about my body some days. because some days I feel amazing and some days I feel like a giant whale and I’m so sad reading your post and being afraid that I’ll never feel good about my body no matter what size I am. Because if that’s the truth, why not just continue to enjoy binging on cake. sorry. Just a little brain vomit there.

  10. November 19, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Your comment about your tailbone hurting and being cold all the time was right on target for me too. I can’t take hot soaking baths anymore because my tail bone kills me and I walk around the house in sweaters all the time, but I don’t mind, really.

    I am still at about a 14 E (Elastic) yet. I am down from 272 to about 170, planning to hit 150 as my goal, but the closer I get the more I start thinking, well, maybe 130? That’s the trap. I am going to try to keep an eye on my own mental state and try not to let myself keep thinking I need to keep reducing until I am tiny.

    Having said that, I was pretty happy with my shape until I got some size 12 pants and now I am very impatient waiting to fit into them.

    My size perspective is all screwed up, I know that. I don’t expect that I will ever see myself as I really am.

  11. November 19, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    There is a theory of subjective well bieng called “adaptation level phenomena”. That is that we compare ourselves to what is a neutral point. This weight is a neutral point for you now, so you compare to it. And that continues ad infinitum until something becomes a non issue.
    hmm..i really sound like a grad student!

  12. Jen
    November 19, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    I hear ya here girl. I too have lost 80 some odd pounds and am now wearing a size 8. I too feel like a failure most days because I want to be smaller. I’m a shrimp as far as height goes (5ft w/shoes on) and I currently weigh 150. It eats at me everyday that I get on the scale when I have lost nothing. Lately my fat days are more frequent than my look out world I’m HOT days. I have a lot of loose skin around my middle that is the culprit of my madness. Some days when I’m bloated, it puffs out and muffins over my pant tops. Why can’t I be happy with losing so much weight and getting into a size 8? Geesh!

  13. Wilma
    November 20, 2007 at 9:38 am

    well…I think that regardless of weight or weight loss, these are the issues that almost all (at least Western, probably more) deal with daily. I’ve never lost more than maybe 5-10 lbs, I’ve never been overweight, I’ve never even been at the upper end of my healthy BMI, yet I still feel exactly the same way as you. Prodding my stomach, sucking it in, wishing I were a bit thinner, comparing myself to impossibly tiny girls (I’m 5’10”, and not at a model’s weight) and wishing I could be smaller. Self esteem all wrapped up in looks and weight, even though I’m a successful women with a great boyfriend and fabulous friends and family. Life sometimes really sucks. What I try to do is focus on goals about what my body can do, rather than how it looks. It helps, but there are still many days…of feeling like crap. Good luck!!!

  14. Wilma
    November 20, 2007 at 9:40 am

    whoops…missed the word “women” after the first set of parentheses…

  15. November 20, 2007 at 9:46 am

    First, I know how you feel (felt) about the size. I picked up a pair of jeans to fold them the other day and was like “wow, E has gotten so skinny!” (my husband who’s lost 40-odd pounds recently), then realized that they were my size 18s. And then realized that I am so deluded and confused about size that an 18 looks small to me, and that when I went to the WLS seminar last night, I kept thinking “really? I’m really that fat?”, because wrapping my head around it is just so hard, and I forget.
    Second, I can absolutely understand how you feel right now. When you’re that far off from the “norm”, from the girls who get to wear regular clothes, they are not even something you worry about. They are they and you are this other thing, this fat and totally different creature. You are jealous, sure, but not in a way that matters, because you could never become One of Them.
    But the closer you come to them, the more they become something to compare yourself to, something you can strive for, something to be jealous of in a real, tangible way; the harder it is to stop yourself from wanting to be that one bit better, thinner, prettier, smaller. It’s so hard to say “I’m okay the way I am”, even if you do feel like it IS pretty much okay, because there’s that nagging voice saying “Pssst… hey, you know what? You could be even better! You could be prettier and thinner!” because, really, we’re never enough for ourselves. We’re never good enough.

  16. November 20, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Thank you all for this perspective. Nearing the end of my journey, I’m flip-flopping between “I need to lose 30 more pounds” and “Wouldn’t 50 be better”?

    Thank you all for putting yourselves out there.

  17. Entangled
    November 20, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    To be honest, I think this is a part of losing weight. A really destructive part.

    A couple of years ago, I was, maybe, 5-10 pounds overweight for the first time in my life. Went off anti-depressants, ordered less takeout, ate slightly smaller portions, took up running. I thought it would be nice to get back to my old size, whatever that was. I’ve never been a big diet and scale type, but thanks to a doctor’s visit knew I was in the low 140’s on a 5’2″ frame.

    I never set a goal, really. I bought a scale, figured I’d want to get into the “normal” BMI range. Slowly (my body CLINGS and refuses to gain or lose without serious effort), I did. Then I lost more, fit into a size 6.

    As I lost weight, despite the fact that it wasn’t a diet, that it wasn’t drastic or quick, I found myself less and less happy with myself as I was. More and more terrified of gaining the weight back, plus a whole lot more. The size six pants were getting loose and yet I had this image of myself as needing to lose weight as being ridiculed behind my back.

    At some point I realized that my stomach will ALWAYS be imperfect, it will always bloat up after meals (or even a seltzer water). My waist will always be a bit higher than I’d like and I’ll always be short. I can hate my faults or I can love them, but I only get one body and this is it.

    It hasn’t been a perfect journey. I ended up with some pretty disordered eating and am only now, three months or so after “the switch” starting to eat without guilt more often than not.

    But I guess what it comes down to is it’s easier than not to hate your body in our society. If I were a size two, or zero, or double zero, I would find something to hate. Or I could just do what makes me *feel* healthy and realize that I am the only one who can accept himself.

    I guess that’s what I’m saying. Losing weight can be a treadmill like that, but there is no finish line until we decide for ourselves that it’s time to stop.

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