who knew?

For the great majority of my life, I was a fat girl who didn’t see anything beautiful or positive about her body, her size, her shape, whose only purpose and goal in life was to lose every one of those excess pounds because they were the only thing holding her back from being happy, fulfilled, and loved by everyone around her. Each individual pound could be traced back to a very specific unhappiness, and as that pound vanished from her body, so too would that problem. An inch from her hips meant no more anxiety problems, and each incremental reduction in the circumference of her thighs meant boyfriend, boyfriend, girlfriend, one night stand, marriage and babies forever and ever. Losing weight was, in other words, the end all, the be all, my body and its raging, enraging imperfection was the thing on the top of my mind at all times, and I knew exactly what had to be done–I had been told over and over. To lose weight (to become happy) you had to eat less-and-better and to exercise (make an effort and suffer).

The idea of nutrition and aerobics became inextricably entwined with the idea of losing weight and getting thin. The only reason on earth anyone would eat well was to become thin; the only reason anyone in their right mind would strap on shoes and get out there in the world and sweat was to lose weight. If you were skinny, you sat around and ate cheeseburgers and the only exercise you ever got was breathing in and then breathing back out. That’s at least a couple of calories a day, and really all that can be expected of you. What is the point? There is no point in the world to any of it, except for fat people who didn’t want to be fat anymore and people who thought they were fat and it was a bad thing.

So I got weight loss surgery, and now I am skinny, and my doctor has told me I should be exercising–aerobic, anaerobic. The doctor told me I should be eating properly–lean meats, fresh vegetables, whole grains. And this entire time, the whole of the time since the moment I looked into the mirror and thought okay, I’m not fat any more. Would you look at that? I have been resisting the idea. Primarily because I am a lazy, lazy, intensely lazy human being whose fantasies of independent wealth may sometimes include hiring someone to do everything for her, up to and including putting her socks on and brushing her teeth. But also because the idea of exercise and losing weight is absolutely inextricable, in my head.

We were at Body Worlds yesterday, and here in Salt Lake it is called Body Worlds & The Story of the Heart. The story of the heart was told over a series of plaques on the wall. It talked mostly about the poetry of the human heart, its allegorical and spiritual significance. But then I came across a very flatly scientific sign–a picture of a running man, the text that said something along the lines of Your heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, lack of use will cause it to wither. A shrivelled, raisin-like heart is going to kill you, asshole.

Oh. Right, then.

I can feel my heart in my chest, now, and it feels shrunken and leathery, weak and pathetic. It could cough and sputter and die at any moment, taking me along with it, because I am so myopic. I really thought, back when I decided to get weight loss surgery, that losing weight meant I would be out of this game, finally–that somehow with the weight loss I’d also lose all those weird and wrong associations and misapprehensions and stupid ideas. That I’d become smart, savvy, wise and sane about my body and health and fitness and self-image. It is the strangest thing, how they’ve somehow managed to follow me and keep clotheslining me in the most ridiculous ways. But maybe this is how the process works–I get clotheslined, I go, oh yeah! and another myth or wrong idea orstupidness collapses in a puff of cheese doodle dust and I am that one step closer to being all-around fit, healthy, happy, sane. That’s all I can really hope for, right? The alternative is too terrible.

  10 comments for “who knew?

  1. Sal
    January 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Amazing how complete is our belief that skinny = healthy. I’m actually glad to hear that your doctor told you what’s what, as I think some of them actually subscribe to the skinny = healthy mentality.

    Additionally, doesn’t it suck to be a REALLY smart woman and discover that you’re being REALLY dense about REALLY important stuff? I do it constantly – get clotheslined by my own shortsightedness and have to sit down, stunned, to regroup.

  2. January 8, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I had a dream last night, and don’t think I”m a stalker, it’s just the prozac makes me have weird dreams, that you had posted that you were having a really hard time with life and that i knew someone who knew you personally and I told them so they could help you. weird I know.

  3. January 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I used to believe when you are working out on a regular basis, you will not be hungry anymore and you will only crave healthy food.

    I was so wrong.

  4. January 8, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    It’s funny isn’t it. One giant problems go away and the rest crawl to the surface. i got skinny, then I got a new batch of issues. I thought the same as you. I know I just starting following your blog, so I don’t know you very well, but I feel that I can wish you peace with your choices and your life.

  5. M.
    January 9, 2009 at 9:33 am

    This is fascinating. I’m not overweight, never was sans a small blip recently in grad school – which happily brought me to elastic waist – but it never registered that I *shouldn’t* be exercising or eating well. My dad is really tall, skinny, eats well, and he’s been on blood pressure and cholesterol meds ever since I was old enough to remember.

    When I was in high school, I remember thinking to myself that I knew high blood pressure and cholesterol were in my genes, and inevitably I’ll be on the same crap my dad’s on, but I decided I was going to give myself the best chance possible to avoid it. I also had a biology teacher in high school – thin, fit, ate brilliantly well – whose father died when he was 17 of a heart attack bc of high cholesterol. He had the same cholesterol issues as his dad but controlled it (meds, exercise, diet) because he didn’t want his son to experience the same tragedy.

    Maybe because it was constantly in my face at home and at school the absolute skinny = healthy never registered in my brain… Your post is so interesting. Skinny definitely increases the PROBABILITY that you’ll be healthiER, but the absolute conviction you held (until recently) was just never part of the equation. It’s always been about stacking the odds in my favor against my genetic predisposition.

  6. wilma
    January 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    case in point: skinny stars. often (but not always!) drinkers, drug users, smokers,sometimes over exercisers…but not usually all that healthy.

  7. perreys
    January 9, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    on the flipside of this psychology is this, and I just know you will like it: when you are not exercising to lose weight, you can be much more leisurely about it. Instead of a manic pre-determination that you will go a certain number of miles on the treadmill or minutes on the elliptical, and steadily push yourself harder and harder as the days or weeks go on, you can go for a thirty minute walk, a stroll really, and say, “hey, doc, I’m working on it– check THIS out!”

    When it comes to exercise, I think that once the pressure to lose goes away, and it’s just a ‘health thing,’ then a huge burden has been lifted and the self-flaggelation can stop. You can just do your thing, however and whenever you want.

  8. September 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I wanted to share my story with you guys about my puppy. The morning my puppy was born it died as a result of premature birth. It was a sad day time and well i couldnt even give her a name. Very sad day for me.

  9. April 19, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I figured out more new stuff on this weight-loss issue. One issue is a good nutrition is very vital any time dieting. A huge reduction in bad foods, sugary foods, fried foods, sweet foods, pork, and white-colored flour products could possibly be necessary. Holding wastes parasites, and harmful toxins may prevent aims for shedding fat. While certain drugs quickly solve the situation, the unpleasant side effects usually are not worth it, they usually never supply more than a short-term solution. It is just a known idea that 95% of fad diets fail. Thank you for sharing your thinking on this web site.

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