It’s late, I’m at work, let’s get’er done. I’m taking a few days off at the end of the week for what constitutes as my only holiday this year. Because we’re criminally understaffed, a holiday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A holiday means a select number of days I don’t have to be in the office. It has no bearing on the amount of work I need to do. By the time I leave, I still have to complete all the work I would’ve done for those days had I never left, but on those days preceding my vacation. In short, I have a ton more to get through. In a normal day I’d have five logs to fill. I did 14 today. This kind of quantity makes the work tiring and repetitive, but hey, podcasts still exist. I’m not losing my mind, instead I’m focusing on people who are smarter and funnier than me saying insightful and witty things while I politely chuckle (read: openly guffaw. To the disgust and annoyance of the rest of my open plan office floor, I’m sure). So what’ve I been listening to?
The most recent This American Life really struck a chord with me. It’s probably one of the best personal accounts of what being fat does to your psyche. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve dealt with weight issues for most of my life. I was a fat kid and it made me miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I had a pretty good childhood, but being taught by society to hate myself wasn’t my favourite part of it. I lost weight over time by a combination of physical exercise, dieting and increased nutritional awareness.
At 15 my mum brought me to the gym at 5.30am before school three times per week. After some time I took my exercise into my own hands and kept up with it. I tried boxing and regular gym sessions. I did crossfit consistently (up to 6 times a week by the end of it) for a few years. I saw my base weight drop every few years and my goal weight shift with it. From 95kg to 90kg. 87kg, 83kg. A drastic dietary change brought me down to 78kg. An extended period of extreme caloric cutting (1400 kcal per day with 6 hours of exercise a week) got me to 74kg until I eventually settled around 76kg. You know what my goal weight was? 70kg. Do you know what I’d have to do to lose six kilos at this point in my life? I’d probably have to kill a guy, engage in a Faustian bargain or, like, stop drinking for a year. This wasn’t some quick fix, it was a total overhaul of lifestyle that brought with them incremental changes. Going from 95kg to 76kg took about ten years altogether and it was a struggle the whole way.
One thing “Tell Me I’m Fat”, the This American Life brought back to me was the change in the way I was treated. As one of the episode’s guests mentions, people look at you differently. It wasn’t until I found people smiling back at me on the street or in customer service interactions that I realised it was a new experience. Women would actually look at me, which was a world away from how I’d always lived. It was a double edged sword. On one hand, the validation was amazing, the respect, even. On the other, I mourned for all those years of feeling less sub-human, knowing that in part the sentiment came from a place of truth. I felt pretty disposable, as if who I was mattered less than what I looked like. Even now, trusting people’s good intentions can be a nebulous thing. It’s still hard to believe that partners even want me, and if anything rocky comes up in the relationship I assume it’s because they no longer do. Would they really give a shit about me if I was carrying another 20kg? They didn’t before. It’s not rational, it’s an instinctive emotional response based on outdated information. If only that stopped it happening.
I still find the forgiveness in self-acceptance to be elusive, and I wish it were any other way. I wish I could look in the mirror and see the amazing things my body does, not the ghost of what I wish it was. Maybe one day. Until then though, I’ll be searching old tomes for demons to resurrect.