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Spiral Slides are Thrilling Rides, Until You Reach the Bottom

Posted Sep 12 2008 10:38am
So, here I am. Feeling fat. Thinking that all eyes are focused on me, well, on my chest and butt and belly, anyway. I tense my muscles as tight as I can when I walk to stop the jiggling. The last thing I want is for anyone to see my breasts bounce in time to my step.

A session with my therapist hasn’t miraculously cured me, again. In fact, my sessions are beginning to feel like a waste of time. “You need to let your body settle at its setpoint. You can’t restrict.” Blah. Blah. Blah.

I asked my therapist, “Well, what happens if my body’s setpoint isn’t where I am comfortable?”
“Well, then, we have to work on your acceptance of your body.”

That’s helpful. If I had been thinking fast on my feet, I would’ve asked, “Well, how do you propose we accomplish that? I’ve never been able to accept the body I’ve been in and I’ve been in it for over thirty years!”

It’s been the pattern of my life – feel fat, restrict and exercise until I can’t handle the cravings anymore, and then splurge. High school was a cycle. Restrict all school year, then let myself go over the summer.

Food was plentiful in my parents’ house and I could eat it whenever I wanted. Usually in August, I would go on a “diet” – usually, lots of fruit and cereal. I would also devise an exercise program, nothing formal necessarily, just that I would jump rope everyday or, when I got older, go for a run or bike ride. Of course, I realize now that it was my way of dealing with the stress of starting a new grade in school, with new classes and teachers and, potentially, a new group of kids. The unknown of it all.

That’s the crux of it for me. The unknown frightens me. Always has and, probably always will.
So, what is my way to cope with not knowing everything? By seizing onto what I do know and can know. I am able to track and plot everything I put into my body. Control is frequently said in conjunction with eating disorders as a reason, an underlying cause. It’s more than that though. Much more. At least, for me.

For me, it’s about knowing. When I restrict, it really isn’t about lowering the number of calories, it’s about knowing exactly what I can eat and when. I think that is what infuriated me most about the nutritionist that I saw. She didn’t give me a mealplan. That should have been a complement. I should have been proud of myself because I had been eating the right kinds of things, just not enough of them.

But I wasn’t pleased.

I was frustrated and angry.

Deep down, I had wanted a mealplan. I wanted someone to tell me, “Jeanne, this is what you need to eat today” and hand me a sheet. I wanted guidane at the very least, multiple choice questionaire to fill out for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Question 1: Breakfast
a) Protein: Choose one of the following each day:
a. 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
b. 2 eggs, cooked anyway you’d like
c. 2 slices of bacon
d. 1 sausage link

b) Carbohydrates: Choose one of the following each day:
a. 2 slices of whole grain bread
b. 1 english muffin
c. 1 mini-bagel
d. 2 pancakes
e. 1 waffle
etc.

My nutritionist didn’t comply. She basically gave me free reign with the caveat that I needed 2500 calories a day to gain weight.

Uh, exsqueeze me? Do you slip and say “gain” weight?

Yup, she slipped.

One of the worst things you can tell a normal weight anorexic is that something will help her gain weight. One shouldn’t even imply it.

The minute I heard that, everything else she said was labelled “complete bunk.” This was confirmed when she told me to add potato chips to my sandwich at lunch. I understood that I needed to add fat to my diet, but potato chips? Come on. Let’s get real. For someone attempting to eat “healthfully” and, in the process, help her husband and son do the same, hearing the words “potato chips” come from a registered dietician is on par with the pope saying, “you can have a little sex before marriage.” It just didn’t make sense.

Her theory, of course, is that food is neither “good” nor “bad.” All food is fuel and, in moderation, anything can be enjoyed.

A nice theory. Very French. Too bad we’re in America, Lady.

I suppose I could have demanded a mealplan, but then, there is the voice inside that stamps her foot and declares, “I’m an adult. An intelligent one at that. I don’t need help. I can do this on my own.”

So, I continue to plan my own meals. Everynight, I sit down and decide what I’m going to eat when. And Edie is there to cut out the superfluous items. Edie is very strict about following the FDA’s recommendations as presented in the Food Pyramid. Of course, she conveniently leaves out the top triangle of fats, oils, and sugars.

There was one point in my life where I just didn’t care if I gained weight or not. It was a conscious decision. I distinctly remember sitting in Applebee’s with my then-boyfriend/now-husband and I gazed at the salads. I was about to order my usual, low-fat blackened chicken salad with the low-fat honey mustard dressing on the side, when I saw “chicken finger salad” listed. I mulled for a moment. The fat! The calories!

And then, I thought, Oh hell! I only live once, right?

So, from then on, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. And I steadily gained about thirty pounds over the course of about five years. Of course, what I wanted was fried chicken fingers, french fries, brownie sundaes, chocolate cake, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…

Things only got more intense when I was pregnant. I would have cereal for breakfast. I would carefully pack a lunch of carrots and a sandwich (peanut butter and jelly or salami or ham) and some other snacks. I would get to work and be ravenous. My meticulous lunch would be gone by ten. By noon, I was hungry again. Off to Arby’s or Wendy’s or the local pizza joint with my friends. I was eating for two, right? I suppose it was more of shock that my blood pressure remained steady until the end of my seventh month than when it spiked. One week away from the sodium-laden fast food orgies was all my body needed.

Then I gave birth to my beautiful boy. After my six week postpardum physical, I gave away all the clothes that didn’t fit. I was 165 pounds and I could have cared less. I had a healthy infant who was dependent on me and my milk. I didn’t have time to think about me as a separate entity.

But babies grow up, become independent toddlers, (well, more independent anyway.) Jack didn’t need me as much. Couple that with the likely possibility that whoever bought the company for which I worked may not need a librarian and one has the makings of trouble. Now throw in a frustrated husband mix with a growing mountain of debt and one gets the recipe for a perfect storm of stressors.
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