Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Journals: A Slippery Slope, or a Path to Self-Acceptance?

As I mentioned in my last post, I've started food journaling again, something I swore a couple of years ago I'd NEVER do. Because when I did it before, it was all about calorie counts, fat grams, and points, and it made me psychotic. It made me exercise for hours on end in order to "earn the right" to eat more. I was CONSTANTLY thinking about food: How much can I eat? When can I eat again? Can I have that mochachino and coffee cake at Starbucks after I finish this workout? (I usually did, regardless.)
One of the big hurdles for me, when trying to eat intuitively, is paying attention. To how I'm feeling emotionally, how hungry/satisfied I am, and what or even IF I really want to eat.
I know I'm an emotional eater, and have been for almost as long as I can remember. I also know I use food as a reward. I'm also the type who has trouble just sitting and eating and not doing anything else. I LOVE to read while I eat! A lot of this comes from my days as a New Yorker, when I'd eat alone most of the time because my schedule was so different from any of my friends'. They had 9-5 jobs, while I worked nights so my days could be free, on the off chance I should actually have an audition. So I would always have a book with me. Still do. I LOVE to read! I don't do big shopping excursions, I'm not a Lady Who Lunches, and I don't take many vacations. So reading is my Me Time. And I really, REALLY do not want to give up reading while eating!
I recently came across a book I bought about a year or so ago, called "The Eating Well Diet." "Eating Well" is a GREAT food magazine, and it's published out of Vermont (one of my favorite states) which is ALSO the home of VTrim, and this book combines the two. MizFit blogged about them recently. They are a group of physicians and dieticians who created an online weight loss program after performing a study at the University of Vermont. The program consists of behavioral changes that have helped many people lose weight and keep it off. I LIKE programs like this, because they work on understanding WHY we overeat, without the what, how, or when to eat. There are no forbidden foods, food combinations, pills, shakes, etc.
But what IS a big part of it is journaling. Including calorie counts, both for food eaten and calories burned off during exercise. Which raises a HUGE red flag for me. Because while I understand the reasoning behind it, it can be triggering for those of us with a history of disordered eating and exercising. They also recommend regular weigh-ins. Yikes! Also triggering.
However, I have decided to give it a try. Not the weighing part, yet. (I weighed myself 2 weeks ago and haven't gotten the courage up yet to step back up on the scale.) But the journaling. And I'm adding in how I feel when I eat, and how hungry I am before and after. Because that is very helpful for me. I'm only on day 3, but I feel much more aware of what, how much, and WHY I eat. The one drawback is that I can feel myself falling into the "If I exercise this much I can eat that much" mentality. But at least I'm recognizing it, and can hopefully put a stop to it.
Something else that has convinced me to return to journaling is reading "The Amazing Adventires of Dietgirl" by Shauna Reid. She lost 175 pounds over the course of 7 years, and kept a journal. It's a great read, and is about so much more than weight loss.
I'm also working my way, S-L-O-W-L-Y, through "The Appetite Awareness Workbook." Also very helpful, and includes a journal.
And all this navel contemplation, while making me seem self-centered, has led me to a light bulb moment; my old pal Guilt has not only paid me a visit, but he's camped out on the couch, taken possession of the remote, and seems to have no plans to leave. Or pay rent. So I've no choice but to kick him to the curb again.
What, you may ask (if you haven't fallen asleep yet) am I feeling guilty about NOW?!?!?! Well, lots of things, but the main one is this; wanting to lose weight.
I know, bizarre. After all, most people in this country, particularly women, want to lose weight, so why am I agonizing over it? Because of my belief in the Fat Acceptance movement. I truly believe that our bodies are our own, and no one else has the right to make snide, snarky comments, or to try to force someone into weith loss surgery, or deny them health care. I also believe that the objectification of the "perfect" body is doing horrible damage to us. We are driving women AND men ito eating disorders, multiple plastic surgeries, disordered exercise. We are also objectifying women to the point where 14 year-old boys are raping 12 year-old girls in staircases at school, while classes are in session! And 14 year-old girls are being gang-raped outside of homecoming dances.
It HAS to stop! (And if it doesn't, I think I just may grab a knife and start castrating the rapists myself.)
We are told, on one hand, that we are not worthy unless we have that perfect body. On the other hand, it is dangerous to be attractive, because then we are "asking" to be attacked. So the FA movement, among others, tells us we can truly love ourselves the way we are. And I BELIEVE that! I believe we MUST love ourselves as we are! But a part of me then thinks, well, if I love myself the way I am, why should I want to change anything? And if I can accept others, regardless of their size, why can't I accept myself?
Hence the guilt.
Until I realized that, hey, this acceptance thing goes both ways! If I can accept someone at their size, then they can accept the fact that I want to lose weight. I can accept that I want to lose weight! Specifically, the 30 pounds I've put on in the last 4 years. My family has a history of heart problems, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Why SHOULDN'T I do everything possible to keep myself healthy? If losing weight is going to help me lower my (borderline high) cholesterol, why SHOULDN'T I do it? If I can accept that a heavy person is not necessarily unhealthy and that thin does NOT automatically equal healthy, why shouldn't I pay attention to my own risk factors? I want to be around for my kids! And, yes, I want to like how I look. And I don't particularly like the way I look right now.
After all, IT'S MY BODY!!!!!!
As long as I'm not abusing it, it's no one else's business!
And just as I have the right to my own body, I also have the right to my emotions, WHATEVER they are. So, enough stuffing them down with food, or ignoring them, or pretending everything is hunky-dory when it isn't, or not being deliriously happy when it is. Enough of stifling my own opinions just to keep the peace. Enough of being told how to feel and what to think. And enough of being bullied! I have lived so much of my life in fear! And you know what? That's just bullshit! I'm THROUGH with being a second-class citizen. As a woman, and a mother, I'm supposed to sacrifice EVERYTHING?!?!?! Screw that! I'm not gonna be that kins of role model for my kids! I'm not going to raise my kids to believe that girls are less important than boys, or that children should be seen and not heard, or that just because they are "different" they are any less deserving. The world can be a harsh place. But we are ALL worthy of our place in it!
Including ME, dammit!


Charlotte said...

First - I have the exact same existential guilt about weight loss! Although I'd never quite put it into words as well as you just did. So thank you!

Second - good luck with VTrim! I'm excited to see how it works for you. You have all my sympathy with the food journalling. But remember, you are in a totally different place now than you were when you were ED'd so I have confidence that you will be the master of your journal this time and not the other way around:)

azusmom said...

You are SO right! I hadn't even thought of it that way. Thank YOU!!!!!