Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Brunch: Good in Bed

I'm a writer, but I'm also a reader, so periodically I'd like to share some of the books I've been reading. It's been a long time since I worked in a bookstore, but the thing I really miss is introducing people to new authors they haven't tried before, then having them come back to share their impressions of it. Or, huddling together to squee over a particularly fantastic book we'd both read already. So, if you're out there, feel free to jump in and share with me about your favorites. I'm always looking for something new and wonderful!

The first book in my Sunday Brunch series is Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner.

Good in Bed was not the first Jennifer Weiner book that I read. I actually read In Her Shoes first, the one that was later made into a not-bad/not-great movie. (And yes it pretty much pissed me off that they cast skinny little Toni Collette as the "fat" sister - not that I have a problem with Toni Collette herself or that she’s a thin person. But the character was supposed to be FAT. It was central to her character development and Toni is so...not that.)

But I digress! I liked Good in Bed much better than In her Shoes. After these two, though, the author delved ever further into exploring motherhood lit rather than fat chick lit and I wasn't as interested. However, she writes a darn good book, so if you're into the whole having babies thing, the rest of her books are probably perfectly swell.

So, there's chick lit - The Devil Wears Prada, and that sort of thing - but for the rest of us there's fat chick lit, too. Jennifer Weiner is definitely one of the better voices in fat chick lit and I really recommend Good in Bed. It was funny and sad and very touching. JW definitely understands how it feels to be a large woman trying to find acceptance and love. Maybe her heroines are a bit too "Friends" for my tastes, sometimes... in other words, nobody I know really lives that kind of life, and, even if the heroine is a fat chick, she's one that "passes" for attractive.

The first bit that really, really sucked me in was JW's hook (as it should!) which was the heroine, Cannie, reading an article in a magazine that just happened to be written by her ex-boyfriend... about her... about why he loved a fat woman. About why he couldn't be with her any more. This excerpt is from the first chapter, the entirety of which can be found online at JW's website:

Her shoulders were as broad as mine, her hands were almost as big, and from her breasts to her belly, from her hips down the slope of her thighs, she was all sweet curves and warm welcome. Holding her felt like a safe haven. It felt like coming home... But I know that if it were possible — if all the slouching and slumping and shapeless black jumpers — could have erased her from the physical world, she would have gone in an instant. She took no pleasure from the very things I loved, from her size, her amplitude, her luscious, zaftig heft.

As many times as I told her she was beautiful, I know that she never believed me. As many times as I said it didn’t matter, I knew that to her it did, and it always would. I was just one voice, and the world’s voice was louder. I could feel her shame like a palpable thing, walking beside us on the street, crouched down between us in a movie theater, coiled up and waiting for someone to say what to her was the dirtiest word in the world: fat.
And I knew it wasn’t paranoia. You hear, over and over, how fat is the last acceptable prejudice, that fat people are the only safe targets in our politically correct world. Date a queen-sized woman and you’ll find out how true it is. You’ll see the way people look at her, and look at you for being with her. You’ll try to buy her lingerie for Valentine’s Day and realize the sizes stop before she starts. Every time you go out to eat you’ll watch her agonize, weighing what she wants against what she’ll let herself have, what she’ll let herself have against what she’ll be seen eating in public.And what she’ll let herself say...

Loving a larger woman is an act of courage in this world, and maybe it’s even an act of futility. Because, in loving C., I knew I was loving someone who didn’t believe that she herself was worthy of anyone’s love. "

Time for tissue in the fat chick camp...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Caturday: The Salvador Dali Edition

Because, really, the blog can't be all emo all the time... Or can it?

From (duh!)

Just Like Starting Over

Just under a year ago I finally decided – or rather, was encouraged by some family members – to talk to my primary care provider about about eating and about depression. She recommended a (wonderful!) therapist, and I've been having regular visits with her since the end of May 2011.

I have to admit, I was very worried at first and didn't know what to expect. Like I told my PCP at the time, I don't remember a whole lot about my childhood and I didn't really want to. But, my therapist made me feel comfortable and safe, and we take things at a pace that I can handle. I'm not saying that it isn't painful sometimes, but she always guides me back to a safe place and helps me work my way through it. Maybe therapy isn't for everyone, but so far I'm happy that I chose to do it. My world has changed so much – and so have I.

Obviously, there were a number of things to consider before choosing a therapist. Mine had to be female. I needed someone who specialized in eating disorders, NOT weight loss. I needed someone that I could be comfortable talking with. I needed to feel that she wasn't disgusted by my fatness. (Some medical professionals just aren't comfortable with obesity. They understand anorexia and bulimia, but maybe not just plain bingeing. Since I didn't have a “skinny ED,” could they still work with me properly?) I should have had preliminary interviews with a few local therapists before I chose one, but I didn't – I got lucky. She had my PCP's recommendation, I liked her right away after speaking to her on the phone, and I was too frightened to call anyone else.

The first thing she recommended to me was to start a journal, for my eyes only, where I could explore my thoughts and feelings. At first it was extremely uncomfortable. It felt unnatural and silly and pointless. But then.... well, I'm on my third notebook now. Somehow it became my primary lifeline and the best way to work out just about everything. One of the things I want to do here at Recovering Grace is to share some of my journal entries, to share the journey I've been on and take a look back at where I was, where I am now, and where I'm going. Because of course I'm not finished, I'm still recovering every day. But... I want to retrace the path from the start, explore the scenery from out here, and see how it works to go from self-hate, to indifference, to acceptance, to love (or, at least, wherever I am on that spectrum).

I also want to find out how to go from unhealthy to healthy, even if I'm still fat. I am currently exploring the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, but I'm just not confident in it yet. Right now I am fat, but I am not healthy. So many blogs and websites talk about the “being healthy” part, but I haven't seen much about how to get from “not healthy” to “being healthy.” I know that's a different path for every body, but I want to explore how – and if – it will happen for me.

After all, the only thing I can say about eating disorders is from my own experience. I only know binge eating, and I only know how it manifests for me. I only know what works for me – and what doesn't. I can't tell anyone else how to start, where to go, who to talk to, what to do, and what will happen. All I can do is share my own path and hope it helps someone take a first step. Start SOMEwhere, talk to SOMEone. I encourage you to share the burden; it's awfully tough to keep doing this thing alone.

If my journey sounds familiar to you and if you’d like to reach out, there are a number of resources available to you. First, of course, talk to your primary care provider (if you have one and if you can trust them - if you can’t trust them when it comes to your weight...well that’s a different article entirely). Next, check out the National Eating Disorder Association’s website for a massive variety of information for you, your family and friends, your doctor, and including great information on where to find a therapist and how to interview them to be sure they are the right fit for you. There’s also To Write Love on Her Arms, a group that serves as “a bridge to help” - it has a certain “cool” factor that I find attractive and exciting. They provide a list of hotlines and counseling services here.

If you are interested in the Health at Every Size idea, please check out Dr. Linda Bacon’s website and her very interesting book. She’s the originator of the HAES movement and her site has a great list of blogs and organizations that advocate HAES and promote positive body image. If you are new to the HAES concept, you might also want to take a look at this article from Body Love Wellness: How to Get Started With Health at Every Size.

Be well.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Big Enough to Absorb the Pain

I have an eating disorder.

I’m a binger. I do not purge, or exercise it off, or take laxatives; I do not simply overeat. I binge.

I've been on diets, I've been on all of them, even the one you're just waiting to recommend to me. I’ve done the blood type diet, the menstrual cycle diet, the one where you drink shakes, the one where you eat carrots and celery and cottage cheese, I’ve done low-fat, low-carb, low-cal, low flavor. I did the Atkins diet when it was still just the Meat Diet. I have been on “not-diets” - the “healthy lifestyle” that would break me free from the dieting life forever. I know the lingo, I know what I'm supposed to say, and do, and feel. This time, I can do it! This time, it's about being healthy!

Diets do not work, at least not for me. I have dieted for over 30 years. I have lost and lost and lost many pounds, over and over; and in between, I binge.

I binge when I'm depressed, no surprise. I binge in order to not feel the things that I ought not to feel: sadness, anger, humiliation. But.... I also binge in order to not feel the things that I don't DESERVE to feel: joy, love, pride. I don't need anyone to tell me that I am embarrassing and ugly, that I should not be seen in public, that I don't deserve respect or love, and that everyone is allowed to hate me because I'm disgusting. I am unattractive. I am unfuckable. I know that. I believe it my very soul. (So shut the hell up already.)

I binge so that I don't have to feel... anything. Neither the humiliation that I deserve or the pride that I do not. Neither your hate or my own.

Food is a brilliant master, really, bringing both the pleasure and the pain. I can withhold it, be “good” and stick to the diet – but then I start to feel good about myself, maybe a little pride? Happiness? Oh no, I am still fat and unworthy, and damned if I won't prove it. Or maybe I'm just angry, maybe some jerk called me a fatty at the grocery store even after I've just lost 25 pounds and been to the gym three days already this week, or maybe life just sucks. But I don't have to feel that crap anyway. Not any of it.

Oh, and I know that I'm going to do it, I walk into it willingly, because at first it's so good, so soothing, so tasty and satisfying. I know that the guilt and the shame are ahead, and that's okay too, because at least I deserve that. Even when I hit that first level of fullness, I know I'm going to keep going, because a little guilt and shame is nothing at all and I deserve so much more, I deserve all the pain I can get. So I eat until I'm really full, and it's uncomfortable, and I'm humiliated, but that's good too. Just keep going. Finally I get so full that it actually does hurt, a little, and I'm stunned and disgusted with myself, and there I am, finished at last. But it isn't finished, because half an hour later the pain really hits and I'm sick and I want to throw up but I can't and I won't because this, this, this is what I wanted when I started because now I feel NOTHING. The physical pain kills it all and I'm riding high on a numb bubble and for now, just for a while, maybe an hour or so, I don't feel hate or shame or disgust or sadness or joy because there's only room for pain. And that I can handle.

I have become as large as I need to be to hold all of the pain inside.

What happens when I don't want to hold on to it anymore?