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Food /= Love. (Don't make me eat that.)

[PLEASE NOTE:  This entry was written before I accepted Health At Every SIze.  There are opinions in here that I no longer subscribe to, but I won't alter this post, because to pretend that I never had these opinions would be dishonest.  There is some inaccurate framing of fat issues, and some hurtful judging.  Be warned.]

My head is tired. By the end of the week, I'm usually pretty fried. Of course, now that I have shiny fast internets at home, you guys might start seeing Friday posts from me, so this may not be my last post this week.

Mind you, tomorrow's post will probably be nothing but pictures. Yay for the easy entry that isn't a meme.

I was minded to write about the "diet" book yesterday because I've been watching Style, TLC, and the Discovery Channels, and they all seem obsessed with fat people. In fact, everyone seems obsessed with fat people; there's Ruby, the show about a woman who at one point weighed 700 lbs, and Inside The Brookhaven Obesity Clinic on TLC about super-obese people in treatment, and a bunch of one-off shows about massively fat people, including one I wrote about called I Eat 33,000 Calories A Day.

I am a former fat person, and as such, I feel a slight (and only slight; at my heaviest I was 200lbs, not anywhere close to 700) sense of kinship to these people, yet at the same time, I want to smack them, while sympathizing completely with their self-sabotage.  I am conflicted.

If you've never been fat, you can't understand the power of food.  If you struggle with your weight, you know it all too well.  I'm taking a wild guess here, but I think most of you probably know what it means to feel like food is the devil and your closest friend all at the same time.  

I used to dream of being able just to let go - to quit dieting, and have permission to eat what I wanted, whenever I wanted, with no scolding or disapproval.  Just to be in a place where I could eat and eat and eat and get bigger and bigger, and it wouldn't matter.  It wasn't about being fat, just a desire to be free of the censure of other people every time I ate; a need to be full without shame.  A chance to really eat without being silently judged by every person in the room.

Fat people can't eat without that censure, which is why many of them become secret eaters.  You would, too, if everything you put in your mouth was watched.  We as a society have turned fat into a sin.

I get so angry at the excuses and justifications for eating that the people in these programs give, but I understand them - food is their bete noire.  They're paying thousands and thousands of dollars to be at a clinic to lose weight, and they're ordering pizza.  They've eaten so much they're bedridden, and yet they claim they don't eat that much.   How hypocritical am I, that I get angry and sympathize with them at the same time?  Yet this is what they feel like themselves.  Listening to Ruby swearing she wants to lose weight and admitting that she gets angry when she isn't given the food she wants is to hear the ultimate problem for obese people - food is the enemy, food is the only thing they want.

And, unlike alcohol or drugs, cold-turkey isn't an option. 

...Though it is an awesome sandwich, especially if you add stuffing and cranberry dressing, and put it on soft fresh Wonder Bread.

I really do understand what it's like to be hungry, and to have the need for food outweigh all rational thought.

No, my real anger is reserved for the people around the obese - the family, the friends, the enablers.  They talk like they have no choice but to feed their family member/friend - they "want to make them happy".  So they cook and order pizza and fried foods, and they make the obese person happy, and help kill them.

Here is where our society is so completely fucked up - we have an obsession with slimness, to the point that our actresses are considered fat if they're not a size 0, and at the same time, we center all of our expressions of love and companionship around food.  I am always darkly amused by the magazines on the rack at my local grocery store - the article "Get thin!  Lose 30 pounds in two days!!" is next to "Fifty fried cupcake recipes for Thanksgiving dinner!".  We are split in two - eating is considered essential to any social event, while any slight appearance of body fat is cause for horrified disapproval.

I remember being on Neurontin, when it turned on me, and I was depressed and nauseous all the time, and lost almost 15lbs because I couldn't eat, and being at a party at an acquaintance's house.  She and a couple of her friends kept trying to make me eat some baked Brie, and would not take no for an answer.  I really, really didn't want to eat, but they wouldn't stop telling me to take some Brie.  They actually got angry at me for refusing

This is what people trying to lose weight are up against all the time.  Ruby, who is too fat to fit into her friend's dining room chairs, so eats at a folding table on the sofa, is being offered more and more food, and despite the admonition of Ruby's housemate, her friend keeps coming over with more food for her ("it's half a slice of cheesecake!").  Ruby cannot get up off the sofa to get her own food, yet she is being offered way more food than she needs.  The friend then whines "I just can't say no to her!".

It's not about saying no, it's about not offering the food in the first place, isn't it?  But offering - no, forcing - food on one's guests is seen as good hospitality.  I used to dread parties when i was on my major diet, because I couldn't just go for the company, I had to dodge and field food constantly, and I was considered rude if I said no.  If I said I was on a diet, people would say "oh, just this bit won't hurt you!".

Where am I going with this?  Forgive my rambling, I did have a point:

This holiday season, when food is everywhere, and those of us with food issues are struggling to stay on track, please take no for an answer if you offer someone food.  They're not slighting you, your hospitality, or the quality of your food, they just don't want to eat.  Respect people's wishes.  Don't get mad, don't keep pushing, and above all, swear you won't say "just a little bit won't hurt you!".

Because it will, dammit.  It will.
 

Comments

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lifeofglamour
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I want to print this and give it to all the food-pushers out there.

I used to dream of being able just to let go

I used to have the most vivid, delicious dreams about food and eating vast quantities of it (mostly pancakes) when I was on the strict, medically monitored diet the first time. I would always wake up in a cold sweat, terrified that I'd cheated on the diet...
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)
I would have eating dreams like that. It's the weirdest thing, but it was disturbing, because like you, I'd wake up thinking I'd eaten massively, and killed my diet.

Diet psychosis, or something. :)

The food pushing used to kill me - saying no just doesn't seem an option. Though a friend of mine dealt with it rather well once - my father tried to make her eat the last of something in a picnic, and she said "I can't". In a silly voice, my father said "oh, there's no such thing as can't". My friend paused for a second, then said "All right then, I won't".
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asim
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you for saying this.

On one hand, I emphasize, as best as I can, with those who have a size. Being Tall isn't quite the same, but with the belly dancer buttocks, well...but no, it sucks to be seen a Fat, and there's no doubt that some more understanding, and acceptance, is needed in this area. As a man who likes a curvy woman, I'm frustrated by their treatment in this culture to no end.

OTOH...*sigh* Dealing with people who piss-posh my size, because them them, a 6'4" 300+ lbs guy isn't "fat", fails to understand the point. I'm not trying to diet to "look good" (although that's part of it, of course!). I'm trying to diet because it helps me build my muscles back so I can kick-ass as a dancer, again. I think they forget how hard it is to move muscles when weighed down in this manner. And they sure as hell don't know how much that's a part of my internal makeup, and how much I miss it. Building muscle w/o trimming food intake can work, but very often just leads to unfortunate results.

If there was more emphasis on "muscle tone" over "weight" in our society, I think many of these issues would be lessened.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
I hear you on the muscle tone - I am gaining weight on the Lyrica (side effect), and while my friends are saying "you're not fat!" I am aware of this layer surrounding me that needs to be dealt with, and the muscle building is the best way to handle it.

That, and staying faithfully on the gluten-free diet. :)
patrikia
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
A few months after I had my gastric bypass surgery, I was visiting my mother's house. She has been on me about my weight my entire life. She actually was getting mad at me because I would not eat my step-father's streudel, saying that I would hurt his feelings if I didn't eat it. Even telling her, in graphic detail, what would happen if I ate any sugar (I still get very sick when I eat it, 2 1/2 years out from my surgery) did not stop the guilt trip. Argh.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
Isn't it insane? The same people that harangue you about your weight then turn around and try and make you eat.

Insane.
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copper_oxide
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
I wonder if the preponderance of food gift packages has something to do with the downturned economy? I sell my art/craft and at a recent marketing workshop the leaders stressed that "functional" crafts were the only ones that were selling now. It wouldn't take a big leap to guess that people are considering food as the most "practical" of the functional crafts.
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pirategirleee
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
My family had that weird sense of humor thing too. Mom always cooked for an army and we had to clean our plates. I was their "fat" kid so if there was a bit of something left over they didn't want to store I was told to finish it off. But then, of course, I would get reamed for being fat. If I had a dollar for every time my dad told me at the dinner table (usually before I'd even eaten anything) that they were going to get me a circus tent for a dress...I'd have my student loans paid off.

The screwy thing is that when I look back the pictures of me while growning up....I don't see me as being fat. Not slender of course but definitely not fat.

Edited at 2008-11-20 02:50 pm (UTC)
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the_gersemi
Nov. 20th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
Food pushers are annoying, no matter what size one is. I get fits of "OMG, I want to throttle her!" when we're visiting the In-laws, I have just finished my second slice of cake, and she's urging me to have another. Or some biscuits? Have some more cream with your cake!
Gaaah. Shuddup.
elizabethnmafia
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
I always appreciate your posts on weight and food issues. It's really motivating to me to hear and read about the journey and thoughts of someone who's made it to where I want to be: healthy.

You are right. Our society is obsessed with food. We even equate what you eat even with the type of person you are. But if you are one of the millions of people with a weight problem society would have you believe that there's something wrong with you. It's awful. We are obsessed with slim figures and "health" but we make it incredibly hard to acutally get healthy.

I didn't used to think I had any real issues with food other than making bad choices and not excercising enough to make up for them. But since getting back to Weight Watchers in August I have begun to realize that I'm an emotional eater. I don't know why I couldn't see it before but I do now and it's been especially hammered home recently. I have used some of the tricks we talked about and they have really helped. It has also helped to take a bit of a break before asking myself if what I think I want is really what I want.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
So I want one cupcake? Or a whole plateful? :)
evil_fionn
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
Its not about the food.
No, really, it isn't about the food.
It's about the "C" word... control.
And not self control, either.
A good 65% people I've met with food issues, and this includes myself (Formerly 217 lbs at 5'5"), tend to have some very controling, domineering people around them, be it friends or family.
My controling person was my mom. She grew up very poor, so leaving any food on your plate, no matter how full you were, was a mortal sin. (You never knew when you'd get your next meal.) Having food equaled security for her.
She really didn't allow me to not eat if I didn't want to. So I grew heavy. (And I was an active child, too, so it wasn't t.v. or videogames.) Then she decided I needed to go on a diet. And then I resented her for singleing me out, and I rebelled by sneaking food. So I grew even more heavy, but sneaking food gave me some power over what she was making me do.
The funny thing was, when I began to lose weight without her help, she panicked and would lecture me and force me to eat. She couldn't really understand how I was managing to do it without her help. (Oh, and we're fine now, BTW. Don't think she was an evil Joan Crawford type. She was just reacting the only way she knew how.)
ANYWAY, the point is this:
People don't take refusal to eat as a choice. The minute you say "No", it then becomes a power struggle.
In the same way, someone who is 700 pounds and can't get off the couch is using food as power... "I'm a victim, you have to do this for me."
And the person who is bringing the food can stay wrapped up in the moral superiority and power of, "Oh, I can't say no to her... but isn't it disgusting what she's doing TO HERSELF." Two people, both trying to gain power by being the "victim". There is actually a lot of power in being a make believe victim.
And I know, because I did it, and had to make myself stop.
Sorry for the rambling. This just hit a nerve as I try to get myself back on the fitness and g.f. track myself.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Its not about the food.
Yup. It is *all* about control. Who is dominant, who is submissive.

The things is to subvert the paradigm and wrestle control back. Scream if you have to - at the very least, you'll be the talk of the party. *evil grin*
Re: Its not about the food. - evil_fionn - Nov. 20th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
ladyhelwynn
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
My Dad actually pulled the food pusher thing on me last weekend. He was fixing sandwiches for lunch before hitting the road to drive home. I wasnt' hungry and told him so.
Then he comes back with, "Well, you should probably eat *something*, you've got a long drive."
No, no, I don't have to eat *something*. I'm not hungry. I don't need food right now.
I think he then realized he was being a food pusher and stopped.
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attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
You should snag the rights to that show - make some money. :)

But you're right about that, too - it's voyeurism, the sense of being superior to whatever freak is paraded before you.
(no subject) - snailstichr - Nov. 20th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
pirategirleee
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Omigod I've seen the "Inside The Brookhaven Obesity Clinic," program. It made me feel sick. I wanted to throw a pillow at the tv and scream at the people who cried they wanted to be thin but then were sneaking a sub sandwhich a few moments later. It's a vicous cycle. They in reality don't want to be thin...they want' acceptance and to be comfortable. The way they think they will get it is by being what everyone expects from them...being thin. But being thin is hard when you way 600 pounds and so they get depressed and seek comfort in food. It's maddening.

I've had the issues with food at parties too. My situation is a little bit different. Since I've been diagnosed with Crohn's disease there are certain foods I cannot eat anymore. Tomato sauces and most spicy things are right out. I also can no longer have alcohol at all. I've already had more than a few difficult situations where I've attended a social gathering or went out to eat but nearly couldn't eat anything because of my restrictions. People sometimes assume I'm being "difficult," or looking for attention. In reality I'm looking to not have stomach cramps and a flare up.

dream_wind
Nov. 21st, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
I can sympathise on the Crohn's Disease. My big problem foods are fatty meats and sugary, creamy desserts (plus too much gluten and lactose).

I've actually had relatives get really offended and bawl me out at Christmas parties because I haven't eaten any of the food they've "gone to so much trouble to prepare." And one one occasion, this was AFTER I'd spent a 1/2 hour in the toilet.

I've found the best way to deal with the attention thing, if it gets too annoying, is to invitte the individual into the toilet after eating problem food :).
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grian_ruadh
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
I stopped eating sugar and all starchy things almost seven years ago now. I dropped 90 pounds as a result. I have told my mother at least twenty times in the intervening years about what I no longer eat. Every holiday season, she still sends me baked goods or candy. After bringing this up to her on more than one occasion, her response is always "but it's the holidays! Surely you can unbend just a little bit for the holidays!" Now, I just throw the stuff away or give it to someone who does eat sugar. I certainly have meals on rare and special occasions at which I eat all the things I have willingly given up (because diabetes is an incredibly sucky way to day, and I'd like to just avoid that route all together), but those are meals of my choice and my timing. No one else makes that call for me, least of all my mother. The really aggravating thing about the whole situation is that my father has already been diagnosed with diabetes... and she still puts fried pies and Hostess cupcakes in his lunchbox because "Well, you know how your dad likes his sweets." Augh! Talk about an enabler! She is, I will note, one of those people with a hyperactive thyroid who has never been fat (or been able to be fat) a day in her life, and she has absolutely no empathy for other people's dietary or food-related health issues. She's going to end up killing my father with food. I'm just really glad I live 2000 miles away from her.
lilybeee
Nov. 20th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
One day in the 1970s, my aunt forced her daughter in law's car off the road with her pickup, pulled her out of the car, and told her she was going to kill her if she didn't stop feeding her diabetic husband cakes and pies.

I'm basically non-violent, but this story made me howl, plus it worked -- my cousin Kenny still has all his limbs and both kidneys.
(no subject) - grian_ruadh - Nov. 20th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
luciab
Nov. 20th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
People who keep offering food after you've said "No, thank you" make me want to say, "Why are you insisting that I eat? I don't want it. Do you really WANT me to throw up on you?" Gah.
snailstichr
Nov. 20th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
Ah - pregnancy. It was the most wonderful way to hide a cookie or two, a pint of Ben and Jerry (I needed the calcium, you know?), half a pie (doesn't cherry pie count as a fruit/). I have no clue how I didn't get gestational diabetes.
Years later a co worker and I had the blinding realization that we really shouldn't blame our extra weight on pregnancy when our children were almost as tall as we were. Sigh.
On the other hand, now that I am on a carb restricted diet, my Mother is the good kind of enabler. The last time I visited, she found a gourmet semi vegetarian (they do fish) restaurant that even had some raw food dishes.
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etinterrapax
Nov. 20th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
I just had to tell you: I'm at Codman House, where I guide part- time, and what do I see on an obscure third-floor bookcase but a 1914 edition of Eat And Grow Thin. Isn't that random? I would never have noticed it otherwise.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
Ha! :)
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