FoodHealth

Tales of the Fat and Tired

I am fat again. I mean, technically, I’m just still fat. Not all of a sudden fat again. But there is my just-a-smidge-fat weight and my ugh-this-is really-fat weight. Both are technically fat but only one causes me to cue the spiral of shame and self-hatred.

I’m fat but mostly I’m just tired. Because I’ve done this way too many times before. When you’ve been dieting since the age of 12, dieting starts to feel like the movie Groundhog Day. I’ve even had a baby and bounced back. Twice. Ok, the first time I kind of had to fight my way back, but I did it. And I don’t want to do it again. I’m too tired. I’m becoming the tired old fat mom that no one wants to be.

At my recent physical, my doctor handed me a piece of paper and delicately said, “so here is a little explanation of BMI.” I found myself snapping at her, “Oh, I know all about BMI. ALL. ABOUT. IT.” Because I do. From the handout I learned that I should eat more fruits, veggies and whole grains. Well, thank you. All this time I thought maybe I should be living on red wine and cronuts. Suddenly the world is new again!

photo by flickr user Duncan Hull

photo by flickr user Duncan Hull

I’m 39 years old. How much of my life have I spent thinking about calories, carbohydrates and the pounds on the scale? And yet I simply can’t bear to have that moment where I embrace myself no matter what my size.  I don’t want to embrace myself. Actually, that’s the thing. I don’t want think about my outer self at all.

I don’t want to count calories. I don’t want to weigh myself obsessively. I don’t want to think about which clothes might hide my multitude of flaws in a way that doesn’t scream fat, tired and old. I don’t want to replace the joy and pleasure I get from cooking whatever inspires me with the soulless and tedious experience of cooking healthy meals. I don’t want to do any of it.

How much time do most men spend on this sort of thing anyway?

Don’t worry. I know that I’m being melodramatic. I know there are healthy recipes that are quite excellent. I’ve made plenty of them, and I will make plenty more. I know that it’s a privilege just to be alive, and it’s ridiculous to be complaining about any of this. That’s why I dutifully punish myself for all of this melodrama by taking masochistic gym classes led by a teacher who likes to yell — WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT GIVE UP. Well, all right. I won’t give up. I’m just tired.

featured image by flickr user Alan Cleaver.

Previous post

Weekend Reads: IWD, Disney and Autism, Baby Name Visuals, the F Word, Etc

Next post

Irish Education: Sex, lies and sticky tape

Jenny Splitter

Jenny Splitter

Jenny Splitter is a writer, storyteller and over-scheduled mom of two living in Washington, DC. She spends her glamorous days trying to write whatever she can, counting 1-2-3 in a slow yet threatening manner to her children, playing with gluten and working to eradicate dog hair from the planet (or at least her home). Find her on Twitter , Google+ and Facebook

25 Comments

  1. March 10, 2014 at 11:01 am —

    I can SO relate to all of this. I too would love to know if someone has ever broken down the average amount of life spent worrying about this stuff as a woman vs. as a man. I bet the answer is really depressing.

    • March 10, 2014 at 12:55 pm —

      I’m sure it would be so depressing! I once heard Margaret Cho talking about how she just kind of decided one day that life was too short to be wasting time hating your appearance. It really hit home for me, although I’m clearly still a work in progress.

  2. March 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm —

    Ugh, me too. I’m definitely in the same fat boat, I hate it. And you know what else I hate? I like to enjoy a soda with my lunch, but if I drink a regular soda, I’m drinking a ton of sugar. But if I drink a diet soda, then all those studies tell me I’ll gain more weight. I just want to enjoy my damn soda now and then!

    • March 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm —

      I have somehow been blessed with the ability to turn down soda. Coffee and wine are necessities, but I can say no to soda. That’s about all I have in terms of superpowers though.

  3. March 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm —

    Oh, you’re me?
    I’ve been fat for about half of my life. Funny thing, it feels like ALL of my life.
    And my GP also always tells me about healthy eating and having light meals and such. She’s been my GP for 30 years and she’s always been the same bony person who never had any overweight problems.
    Oh and the tips I get: That I could cook some rice and steam some veggies in the time a pizza is ready!
    Yeah, because when you’re home after what’s a 14 hours day, you’re really looking forward to steamed veggies and cooked rice. I like veggies and rice, really. With a bit of time to prepare them and a bit of chicken or something like they that can be a tasty meal. Just not the meal you want to cook at 9pm.
    When food becomes a burden, something you dread, something that makes you want to cry because, well, because, it becomes unhealthy, no matter what you actually eat.

    • March 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm —

      I love cooking so much, and I hate for it to become monotonous and tedious. Some healthy substitutions are easy — I already make brown rice pasta instead of white pasta, and I eat whole grain wraps — but baking healthy desserts all of the time is so depressing. I also refuse to go carb free because bad things happen when I go to that place. Steamed veggies? Uh, no. I’d rather eat them raw. Roasted veggies are yummy though!

    • March 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm —

      “That I could cook some rice and steam some veggies in the time a pizza is ready!”

      LOL, my brother has said EXACTLY that to me several times. My brother, who has a bohemian lifestyle, no kids, and is both an actor and a yoga instructor (and so has tons of professional pressure to keep himself fit and trim.)

      I know so many working parents who have simply given up on cooking period. And I don’t blame them.

      • March 11, 2014 at 2:59 am —

        I have a stock of quick and easy meals and they vary a lot in terms of “healthy”. Pasta with tomato-Veggetable sauce is probably very high on the “healthy” scale, the little versions of the Alsacian “Flammekuech” (something similar to pizza, but with creme fraiche and bacon and onions) the kids love, well, not much. But there’s always pizza in the freezer and a few cans of soup or ravioli because some days that’s all I can manage. And it’s not because I can’t cook. I can cook a six course meal if I have two days of time.

        • March 11, 2014 at 11:22 am —

          If something with creme fraiche, bacon and onions is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  4. March 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm —

    45 year fat dad here. This is very much my experience also. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs etc but I’m constantly and painfully aware that my “personal vice/weakness” is out there for all to see and judge.

    • March 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm —

      Do you listen to Marc Maron’s podcast at all? He was just talking to Tom Arnold about struggling with weight loss versus drug/alcohol addiction. You can quit drinking or doing drugs but you can’t stop eating. And people are always pushing food. The older I get, the more I feel like it’s near impossible to have a “normal” relationship with food. And I grew up in a pretty healthy family!

      • March 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm —

        I haven’t listened to that podcast unfortunately but this is also very familiar – I’m very much an all or nothing person. When I decided to give up alcohol (more than 20 years ago) I just stopped, never had another drop, never even particularly felt like it. It was the same for me with cigarettes (18ish years ago) I actually quit half way through a smoke – never touched them again. Many of my friends/colleagues drink/smoke/etc and it really doesn’t bother me.

        But food? Might as well try to give up breathing.

        Moderation is hard, very very hard.

        I’ve found Paleo to suit my tastes but so do doughnuts…

        I agree about the lack of/need for a normal relationship with food – I feel utterly unprepared, evolutionarily speaking, for a [western] world of abundant calories.

        • March 10, 2014 at 10:59 pm —

          I’m all or nothing too. It’s so tough. I really want to conquer this shit though. I mean, I want to make peace with it. I think feeling angst about dieting might take up more mental energy than the actual diet.

  5. March 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm —

    I’d like to chime in as an exercise teacher. I’m well educated in the whole calorie in / calorie out weight loss strategy and honestly? It works in controlled studies. But you aren’t a subject being monitored for five months. Real life is messy. What I see in my clients is that when they are tired, stressed out from work (or not having it), under terrible family pressures, and so on, it’s really hard to manage weight. And just that word manage makes my skin crawl. We come in different shapes, with different metabolisms, and horrifyingly different amounts of free time to invest in “health”. The incredible pressures of social judgement and punishment / reward for appearance are real, but they stink and they have nothing to do with health. Being miserable every day to monitor every morsel and spending hours on exercise you don’t enjoy is not health. If, as a society, Americans cared about health we’d try policies to reduce economic insecurity, increase employment and job satisfaction, reduce discrimination including for weight and age, and so on ad nauseum. A happier population is more likely to be a population that is able to pursue healthier lifestyles. Instead we browbeat individuals from elementary school on. Yes, your work (if you’re lucky enough to have it) is insecure and unpleasant, and the family (that you don’t get to see much of because you need to work these extra hours) is stressed and miserable, and no you can’t have vacation or time off for a doctor’s appointment, but keep track of every calorie, give up foods that give you pleasure, and go exercise when you are exhausted and would really just like to see your family. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it because (why?)

    • March 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm —

      Thank you so much for posting that. It’s all so true. I’m very lucky to have time to workout and cook healthy meals, but even for me it becomes difficult when I’m working on a show or a few projects. It’s incredibly difficult to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regimen unless you are dedicated. If I didn’t have kids it would be easier of course.

  6. March 10, 2014 at 8:58 pm —

    I’d also throw in that while probably more women tend to care more about this stuff than men, lots of men agonize over it, too. My husband mentions the 15-20 pounds he’d like to lose as much as I mention the pounds I’d like to drop. And over the holidays I watched him randomly turn down some of his favorite desserts because he’s “trying to be good.” Most of my men friends are self conscious about their hair loss and growing guts as they age. I wonder if men worry about this stuff almost as much as women, but are just socialized not to talk about it as much as women do.

    • March 10, 2014 at 11:15 pm —

      I think more and more men are self-conscious about their appearance these days, but I don’t think we’re talking equal numbers yet. Not that I think we should share equally in this madness. It would be better if we could all spend less time agonizing over our appearances, though I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

  7. March 11, 2014 at 2:37 am —

    Agreed!

  8. March 11, 2014 at 2:54 am —

    Oh, and the exercise part?
    I’d love to exercise! I know I’m much happier with exercise. I remember that when I was in Ireland and far away from my friends, family and love, with lots of free time and the University gym next door I exercised the hell out of it. I also went everywhere by bike. God I loved that body. Or picking up archery again! That wasn’t the most sweat breaking exercise, but damn, it really built muscles in my back and neck, ideal to counter the effects of long days at a desk and very relaxing. But really, unless somebody finds me Hermione’s time thingy I’m fucked. Two kids and a household all for myself during the week, a college degree to get, a job to hold onto…
    I probaly value sleep too much

    • March 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm —

      You’re probably running around a lot though, right? Also, it if makes you feel better, someone once told me diet is 80% of weight loss. Ok, maybe that won’t make you feel better, lol! But when I found that out it at least helped me stop looking at exercise as a chore.

      • March 12, 2014 at 3:32 am —

        I generally move a lot around, damn, housework IS exercise and I usually walk a lot because the university carpark is at some distance from the campus. But at the moment I’m sitting around a lot because I’ve broken my foot. And it makes me aware of every additional pound I have. And it’s double damn hard at the moment when eating is one of the few things I can still enjoy.
        But at least I know that many of the bad medical consequences of being overweight are more tied to not getting much exercise, so I’m at least feeling better about that. I know that many of those things therefore don’t apply to me and I’m fucking annoyed when medical professionals insist on taking my blood pressure three times because they just can’t believe that it’s totally normal.
        But back to the exercise thing: I would love to exercise more. Simply for the joy of movement. Because it makes me feel better. Not because I think I’m losing weight, or doing something healthy, but simply because, yeah, hormones.

  9. March 11, 2014 at 4:02 am —

    Yes, Cerys Gruffyydd, exactly – it’s unfair to make weight the sole perogative of an individual when our choices are shaped by the society in which we live. If we really want to make a difference then apples must cost less than doughnuts (my first memory of shopping in the States), and the amount of salt per slice of bread be less than the recommended amount for a toddler (my bugbear for today), with time for kids to cook with parents rather than do 2+ hours of homework a day at age 6, etc etc.

  10. March 11, 2014 at 9:58 am —

    Agreed, agreed, agreed and agreed. Plus I live with a person who has remained the same weight for the last 15 years despite the fact that his main food sources are ice-cream, milk shake and chocolate.

  11. March 11, 2014 at 6:01 pm —

    31 year old fat dad to be: I think mine is tied to my depression in a few ways. When I’m feeling down, I eat, and when I’m on my anti-depressant, I think it causes weight gain. I’m going to get to go get frowned at by my GP again soon, which won’t be fun, but what can I do? I do what I have to to survive and be functional, and that apparently doesn’t include losing weight.

    • March 11, 2014 at 6:42 pm —

      Yeah, it’s also tough to exercise when you’re depressed. Generally it helps my anxiety though so at least there’s that.

Leave a reply