Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why This Fatty Quit Going to Your Gym: An Open Letter to Fitness Professionals

An Open Letter to Fitness Professionals

[Please note that this is my personal experience, and I can’t really presume to speak for all overweight people. I’m not an athlete, not even a “fat athlete,” though I understand that some people are. I currently participate in Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating, but right now, today, I am Not Healthy. I am choosing to address that, but first...]

A few years back I used to go to the gym at my University, and I really liked it. Despite my weight, nearly 300 pounds, people left me alone and let me do my own thing. Within about a year there, I had lost over 50 pounds and had gone from barely being able to do 30 minutes on the treadmill to doing 30 minutes on three different machines plus a mile walk for warmup and cool down. But then I graduated and had to find a new gym.

I wasn’t worried about that. I had gotten used to the workouts and was ready for a change, a challenge. No one messed with me or picked on me, and I didn’t anticipate that a new place would be that much different. After all, we were all there to get healthy and were far too busy doing what we needed to do to worry about someone else’s workout.

What I hadn’t counted on were the trainers. Yes, my university had trainers too, but they were students in the fitness courses and I guess there just wasn’t a ton of money to worry about with amateur trainers, or maybe they were doing it for class credit. Either way, I just didn’t see much of them, and they never bothered me.

But out in the real world, things were different. Out in the real world, I met You.

I was ready to increase my workout. I was still doing my own workout three days a week and then I joined Zumba for a fourth, just for fun. I thought that starting to learn weight training would be a good idea. Even better, I got three free sessions with a trainer for signing up and to learn the equipment. Good enough, that sounded like a great idea.

It could have been the best thing that ever happened to my workouts, enriched my gym experience, and set me on a new path for achieving health. Except for You.

You don't get it both ways, you know.

You took one look at me and apparently You knew my whole story. Surely I was a lazy and stupid fatty, joining the gym in January like all of the other fatties (I graduated in December), and had never ever set foot in a gym before. In fact, You knew me so well that You didn’t even need to bother to hear me when I tried to tell You about what I already did, what I was already capable of. What You did do was hand me a print-out of Your special, guaranteed to burn the fat right off workout plan. It didn’t matter that I had existing health problems - that’s why I was trying to get fit and lose weight in the first place - and that despite losing 50 pounds that I still have chronic bronchitis and have trouble breathing well during a workout.

You didn’t care about what I needed from a workout or from a trainer. What You cared about was shoving Your special, soon-to-be-famous program down my throat, whether it was good or safe for me. At any time when I tried to mention my own capabilities and limits, You let me know in no uncertain terms that what I had being doing was completely useless. If I wasn’t working out Your way, at Your suggested intensity, then I was wasting my time (and perhaps, by extension, Your time).

And I tried it. You were the expert, after all. So what if the past year of “wasting my time” had netted me a 50 pound loss? So what if it had worked and had kept me coming back? You had the training, the education, and the experience.

But I was miserable. I hated every workout, and every time You would pass by in the gym I would shrink, worried that I wasn’t doing it right. An entire year of healthy living and 50 pounds gone and suddenly it just wasn’t good enough anymore. *I* wasn’t good enough anymore. Within a couple of weeks I started skipping gym days because I hated it. I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious and worried the entire time during my workouts. Not long after that I just quit going altogether. Exercise was no longer fun, it was just hard and humiliating.

You convinced me that I wasn’t good enough. In truth, that part is my fault, because I let You do it. You reminded me that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I worked, no matter how much weight I lost, that I was still just a lazy, stupid fatty to people like You. I was still an object to be ridiculed and hated. And why should I bother to take care of something worthless?

A person will only stick with something they hate for so long, even if they are doing it for a good reason.

So after all this time, after I gave up on myself and haven’t been back to Your gym, to any gym, for years now, here’s the question I have for You and all the other Trainers and Fitness Experts and Gym Rats and Life Coaches... what’s actually better: The exercise that’s done perfectly or the exercise that I will actually do?

Dear Fitness Professionals, please please just listen and pay attention to me, the “disgusting” fatty (don’t think that I don’t know what you think of me). I can tell you what I am capable of today - it might be even more than You expect. I have a history. I got this way for a reason. It could be that I really *am* lazy and uninformed and spend all day stuffing my face with cake and cheese puffs. But it’s actually more complicated than that. Maybe I’m sick, maybe I got hurt, maybe I’m just broken. Or maybe, it’s just the way my body was made, maybe I’ve been fat since the day I was born, and trying to diet has just made me fatter and fatter.

I am unhealthy today, but I didn’t really plan it that way; I didn’t mean it. But at least now I’m here, in front of You at YOUR gym. Find out why. Find out what went wrong and what I need to fix it. And keep in mind that not every body needs the same thing fixed, nor do they need it fixed in the same way. Maybe I don’t need fixed at all, and I just came to you for advice or for a new challenge. But, for the love of crunches and cheese puffs, don’t assume that You know all about me by looking at the outside - find out what I NEED, and help me get that.

Image from

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Brain Freeze

I had a strange moment yesterday.

Not to provide TMI (though really, what else do I do here?), but I noticed that many of my panties are just getting too large on me - the ones I've bought most recently and in a larger size. A couple of pair of pants are too large as well, but that's what belts are for. And I found myself wondering if I should take them in a bit (they are in quite good shape) or just put them away for "when I get big again."

For just a second, my brain froze as something astounding occurred to me...

I am not on a diet.

Image via

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pieces of Me

So I found this thing, this letter I wrote to myself in my journal just about a year ago, March 2012. Early in that month I had an episode of Bell's Palsy and was still dealing with a droopy face, pain, and all kinds of trouble with simple stupid things like eating and talking.

This one is kind of special. It isn't really about being fat. It's actually about just being. Maybe even about just being enough.

Here goes...

Can you imagine the things I've been saying to myself? Freak, gimp, ugly, monstrous? The self-hate and self-pity are pretty much back full force. I have let the pity party go on for a couple of days now, but I think I'm getting tired of it.

But those thoughts stick with me. I went to bed and had a good long cry. I just let myself feel my feelings(!). Pity, yes, but also anger, and fear, and sadness, and shame. I have depleted myself; I am sick, as sick as I've ever been, broken and stressed out and just finished. I make myself smaller to make other people feel bigger. I have spent my whole life chipping off pieces of myself to shape into something acceptable to someone else. I don't think that there are many more pieces left. I'm a shell. I am afraid that I am too sick to ever get well again.

I am sad for the little girl inside who is so lost and alone among these little statues of me that I keep creating. I'm ashamed that I found her too unworthy to just let her be.

So I'm angry. I'm angry at me for doing this to myself, angry at everyone else for letting me do it. I'm angry that people need me to be something for them. I'm angry that they need me to be "less than." I'm angry that different people need me to be different things; I'm angry that the same people sometimes need me to be conflicting things. I can't be pretty, and perfect, and normal and also broken enough to not be scary.

Because I would be scary. I AM scary, if I were to let these people see all of me at once. A lot of it is luck or hard work, but I'm actually kind of awesome. I'm smart, I'm talented, I'm nice, I have a great life, a great partner, a great job. I have enough. I have the things I need to get by and I have a few really great people who I have chosen to be in my life. I'm stronger than I let on and I'm better at a lot of things than I seem to be. But I compartmentalize those things because I want everyone to feel bigger than me. All of me at once is too much.

Yes, I am big. I am huge. I am more than meets the eye. I have hated this body for so long, not realizing how it has served me, protected me, and even housed all those beautiful little statues that I trade in and out as needed: Perfect Daughter, Perfect Sister, Perfect Wife, Perfect Diet Girl. I am just as big as I've needed to be to hold all those pieces of all that amazing stuff that is me. I have earned every fat cell, every wrinkle, every grey hair, every scab, every scar, every damage, every bit of broken heart. I have done all of this to myself in order to survive. I am a museum of wonderful and horrible things.

I can no longer be everything to everyone, but I am everything I need to be and that's going to have to be enough for all of them. Because I'm done tearing myself down and building smaller, more acceptable versions of myself. Any future building to be done will be done in order to support me, sustain me, and heal me.

Now on Adios Barbie!

Happy news! Earlier this year I took a chance and applied for an internship at an online magazine called Adios Barbie, one that I had been following on Facebook for a while. They have been one of my favorite sources for body-positive information and uplifting articles. Well, I did get the internship and I am writing at least one article a month for them now.

My first article went up on the site this week and I am so proud that I could pop! Now, those of you who have been reading this blog all along (thank you, thank you!!) will have already seen most of the content of this article. I drew large portions of it from my very first blog post, by way of a kind of introduction of myself and Binge Eating Disorder to the Adios Barbie readers.

So, here's a link to the Adios Barbie version. Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sticks and Stones

There's a site I like a lot, I get updates from them on Facebook, called Upworthy. They've gotten quite popular on FB and Twitter, so maybe you already know about them. Anyway, this video has been going around for a couple of days. I finally watched it today and... it is very powerful. And painful. And wonderful.

It's a spoken word poem performed by the author and illustrated by many. Please watch

Also, here's more information on the poet and poem via his website and Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sometimes a Dress is Just a Dress

I think I binged last week...

You know how I always write: "Recovery is cyclical, not linear." Well, yeah, thanks for the reminder!

It wasn't quite as bad as "the good old days," but it definitely had the character, the hallmarks of a binge. Afterward I felt full and sick and full of regret, but I never got to pain or numbness and even the overfull feeling passed quickly, within an hour, instead of keeping me awake all night. Partially I can blame it on getting wrapped up in something that was playing on TV in the restaurant - they were showing the NAACP Image Awards, no volume, but the captioning was on and I just get caught up in reading whenever you stick text in front of my face. But the lack of attention, the lack of being in the moment was not all of it.

I've been dealing a bit with self-image again. It seems that it's one thing to deal with my body unchallenged, when I am surrounded by my wonderful and supportive network and filling my days with positive thoughts and people and images. It's another thing altogether when the dress I've been drooling over for months finally arrives and is SO not the size I thought it would be. (Apparently a 3x is not a 3x is not a 3x. Who knew?) I thought at worst it would be a size too small and I could work it out, get it altered somehow. However, the difference between a 3x = 28 and 3x = 18 is, shall we say, insurmountable. (And hey look, it's also an algebra problem!)


Now, rationally, I know that it was just a mistake, I should have paid more attention to the sizing chart. But of course, that's not what the voice in my head understood. It cranked up the old voice track, crackling and popping with disuse, but still there all the same: Stupid to hope. That's what you get for thinking you'll be pretty, for wanting something cute. Stupid...ugly...FATASS.

So, I reacted on instinct for a few days, depression, a binge, tearing myself to pieces. Going back to the old coping mechanism is still so damned easy. And here I was, thinking it was all over, that I had been "fixed." Sort of.


Now I know. Now I'm stronger. Now I know that even if I fall into this damned hole again, I have the tools to get out of it. A week ago I could SAY that I had the tools, now I'm sure that I do. I let that fucking dress hang in my closet for exactly two days. Then I said goodbye to it (and to that voice), packed it, taped it, and it's ready to go back for my refund. I leaned on my beloved and treated myself kindly, reminded myself that I am okay, I'm splendid, thank you very much, cute dress or no cute dress.

Monday, January 21, 2013

May Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Maybe it’s the “auld lang syne” of January talking, but I have been reminiscing quite a lot in therapy lately. It seems that I’m a million miles away from the woman who first walked into that room, my safe place. I've been happy, I don’t call myself mean names anymore, and I’m making more and more choices for health all the time. Am I perfect now? Oh, gods no! I’m still having some issues around my father’s death and this week I have been kind of overeating at dinner due to... stuff.

But that’s okay, it’s a process.

So all of this looking back has made me extremely grateful that I started journaling and then blogging. It’s reassuring to go back to those old entries and remember what I was thinking and feeling, reminding me that I don’t ever have to feel that way again. I know I've said it before, but here is the real beauty of keeping a journal: there it is in black and white, written on solid paper, every horrible thing you think of yourself, there where you can look at it outside of yourself for the first time and notice.... it’s a bunch of bullshit. This stuff that I wrote, it sounded so much more reasonable and sane inside my head - “useless” “ugly” “lazy.” In the harsh light of the outside world we can see these thoughts for what they are.

For example, here’s a journal entry from June 2011. By this time the positive affirmations were beginning to do their thing and I was moving on from hate to our other lying bastard of a friend, guilt. Because, back then, it wasn't just that I thought I was “useless-ugly-lazy” but that I was also undeserving of success, or luck, or love. Basically, sometimes I would binge because something GOOD had happened. I felt guilty. I didn't deserve it.

Journal Entry #27:

We [that is, me and the nutritionist] also talked a bit about eating to avoid happiness. What about the possibility that being happy makes me feel guilty, so I start out celebrating but then end up punishing myself instead? I know that I do often find myself avoiding talking about happy stuff or success to others because I don’t want them to feel bad (or jealous? or hate me?).

Positive Affirmations:

I don’t deserve to feel guilty about my successes.
I am not responsible for other someone else’s feelings.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Play That Funky Music

Today's Get Up Offa That Thang playlist:

  • Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry, 1976
  • She's a Bad Mama Jama - Carl Carlton, 1981
  • Le Freak - Chic, 1978
  • September - Earth, Wind & Fire, 1978
  • Kung Fu Fighting - Carl Douglas, 1972
  • Super Freak - Rick James, 1981
  • It's Your Thing - Isley Brothers, 1969

As K.C. once said: "Get down, get down, get down, get down toNIGHT baybee!"
That's right, I get up and dance like a dork, and all the cats ran to hide!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Things That Make Me Inordinately Happy In Comparison to the Effort Expended, In No Particular Order

First, happy 2013! For me, 2012 was a big year for learning and growing. I don't make resolutions, exactly, but I want to bring more focus on joy and fulfillment for this brand new year.

Therefore, in no particular order, here is a list of things that make me ridiculously happy.

  • Tiny turtles poking their heads out of a lake.
  • The first sip of the first cup of coffee every morning.
  • Especially if that sip can be done sitting on a porch on a cool morning with a nice view of nature.
  • Getting my hair washed and a scalp massage at the salon.
  • When my little cat, D, curls up inside the crook of my arm at night.
  • Also, when she plays with a toy and yowls at it like she's having the best orgasm ever.
  • When my bigger cat, S, head butts me to get some attention.
  • When my still bigger cat, B, sleeps hanging out from under the curtain, sprawled on his back and limbs go everywhere.
  • When my biggest cat, M, curls up next to my hubby on the couch covers his eyes with his paw.
  • The first 10 minutes after a shower, when I'm perfectly clean and my skin doesn't itch.
  • The last chapter of a really, really good book. 
  • Reading in a truly oversized armchair.
  • Crawling back into bed for a snuggle with my beloved.
  • Taking off the bra at the end of the day.
  • Looking at photographs from good times gone by.

Certain there's more, but you get the idea. For a change I want to look for good things instead of only looking for the bad things, because if that's all you look for, that's all you will ever see.