I’m in a good place in lots of areas of my life. I have achieved a lot recently and I have a lot of exciting plans. But the same old problem continues to plague me.
I don’t write about it a lot these days, but food and my own body are still my greatest enemies. They say men think about sex one second out of every six, and that seems fairly accurate, but I think about my weight at least twice as often as that. It’s sometimes hard to have actual thoughts, because I just keep obsessing about my size. I am constantly conscious of where my sweat is dripping, of what proportion of my ass is hanging off the chair I’m on, of how bad I smell, of how wobbly my chin is. I find it really hard to take fat people seriously. The world has taught me that the fat are moral failures, failing in our duty to treat our bodies responsibly, we are weak and wilfully doing the wrong thing and we are making the wrong choices. Fat people pollute the visual environment of the world. I work on teacher training courses and can never sleep the night before the courses start, lying awake thinking how on earth can the students on the course take someone who looks like me seriously. I dread meeting old friends, or even anyone who hasn’t seen me in a few months because all I can think of is how they’ll have to hide their disgust at how fat I’ve become. Every time I’m introduced to someone new, there’s a voice in the back of my mind telling me that I should apologise to this person for being so gross. I’ve thought these thoughts since I was eleven years old, and they’ve got worse every year since then. I avoid being photographed and I avoid mirrors, but I fight that avoidance, and when I’m feeling brave I have an actual photo of me as my Facebook profile picture, but sometimes I don’t feel that brave and put up a teddy bear or a photo of Tony Danza or Zayn Malik instead, because I’m literally scared of my own face.
And as I had my gentleman caller kissing me and doing a lot more to me last week, I wasn’t really in the moment. I mean, obviously, sometimes I was in the moment, but sometimes I wasn’t. A lot of the time I was thinking about what was wrong with him, what made him attracted to fat men, what had gone wrong in his sexual development. He gleefully called me chubby, wobbling my many wobbly bits, clearly delighted with my flab, telling me joyously that I was the fattest man he’d ever had. But this wasn’t making me love my flab. This was just making me reflect on my lover’s perversion.
Of course these thoughts about my own body are unhealthy.
And it’s not just my body thoughts that are unhealthy. My relationship with food is cray-cray. I binge. I binge pretty much every evening. When I’m eating I often feel panicky – panicky that I can’t eat forever. Literally. I’m an intelligent person. I’ve got a PhD, for god’s sake. But I can’t eat dinner without feeling a terror about the end of the meal. It’s as if I genuinely don’t know that there will be more meals in my future. And so, most nights end with me doubled over, barely able to stand up straight to turn off the lights because I’m so full of food. And most mornings start with a food hangover – and I literally can’t eat breakfast or lunch because my innards feel like the Russian army is tramping through them and the whole vicious circle starts again because by the time evening comes I binge again. Of course if I have to be around people a lot, I can control my meals, but I’m usually thinking about all the food I’ll eat when they’re gone, and as a result I often eat another meal either immediately before or immediately after I meet someone for a meal.
And I’ve gained a lot of weight again recently. Or at least I think I have.
It affects everything. I can work, but I can’t do much else. Not only is standing for long periods uncomfortable, I’ve now begun to get pains from sitting – my lower back and hips can’t cope with the weight while I sit, so I just have to lie down most of the time. I spend at least 12 of every 24 hours lying down most days. My flat here doesn’t have a chair with a big enough seat for me to catch my feet, so I’ve been wearing velcro sandals for the last three weeks because I can’t put on socks or tie shoe laces. Keeping myself clean is hard. And the shaft of my penis has literally become buried in a pad of fat that’s causing all kinds of problems. No wonder I want to live alone in the middle of nowhere. I’m not fit for human consumption.
I have been trying to walk and practise for my epic Dublin-to-Cork walk. And I pretend the walking is easy. Because it is easy in comparison to running. But a long walk is hard for me. Sweat gets everywhere. A 20-minute walk is enough to start my arse bleeding from the friction. So I have to use Sudocrem and Baby Powder in my underpants because basically I get nappy rash. At the age of 34.
So the obvious answer is to medicalise the problem. I meet all the criteria for binge overeating disorder. I meet most of the criteria for bulimia. The internet has told me this many, many times. The internet features this hilariously realistic and pathetic shot.
I don’t have any faith in doctors for this. GPs tell me to lose weight immediately. As a matter of urgency. Because I’m in danger of sudden death. Even at my age. They tell me to go on a diet. To exercise. To join WeightWatchers (which I’m totally open to, but the last 5 times I joined I gained weight). To just make small changes. To count calories. To watch Operation Transformation. To change my lifestyle (that’s a code for go on a diet, just a slower one). To go to Nutron or Motivation Clinics (been there, in both cases; spent a lot of money, in both cases). My current GP is overweight herself, so I can’t even imagine talking to her about it.
Sometimes they refer me to psychiatrists and counsellors. Their advice? Stop worrying about it. Don’t bother losing weight. Be happy with who you are. Just relax and live your life. If you must lose weight, go to WeightWatchers. Write food diaries. Have scheduled binge days. Have more sex. Get a new job. Have more fun. Write. Do breathing exercises. The one time I was treated by an actual eating disorder specialist, she clearly thought I was a timewaster, telling me I should meet her anorexic clients and that they were the ones who had problems with food.
It’s OK though, because I don’t think I need to medicalise this. Labelling myself, saying I have a condition, gives me something to blame, but it doesn’t give me any solutions. If anything, it just makes me feel more helpless.
And I’m not writing this post because I feel hopeless. I actually feel happy with my life and the direction it’s going in. But I have this challenge to face.
And it must be faced. A friend of mine put his graduation photo on Facebook today, and it got me to thinking about my graduation this November. It will be my third graduation. I gained a lot of weight before my bachelor’s graduation. I also gained a lot of weight before my Masters graduation. And now I have a third graduation and I’ll have a third photo I can’t bring myself to look at.
I’ll deal with this problem. I will. I have to. Plan coming soon. 🙂