Since a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed that I’ve definitively gained weight. Some of my clothes fit less well and I’m noticing that I feel more bulky and awkward as I move.
Since realising I had definitively gained weight, it took me a while longer to decide how I wanted to respond to this. I’ve been working on fat positivity for a long time, and don’t believe that fat automatically makes someone less attractive. I believe that losing weight is a personal choice, and I was very unclear about whether I wanted it for myself.
One big issue for me is that, though I now am not consciously or overtly fat-phobic, I am still unconsciously or covertly fat-phobic. Just deciding that you aren’t going to oppress someone (or yourself) for something doesn’t reverse years of social conditioning.
So it was hard for me to really tell what my own feelings were about my own fat. Did I feel bad about my fat because I had good reasons not to want it, or did I feel bad about my fat because society had trained me to think fat is ugly?
I pondered this question aloud on my personal Facebook page, read what my friends thought in reply, and sort of left it there. But my subconscious mind was chewing on the question, and after a couple of days my feelings became clear. I did want to lose weight.
As I wrote in a new Facebook post, there were two main reasons for this:
One is that I want to feel like my body is lighter and fitter, more like an expression of my spirit and less like something I have to work against.
Two is that I prefer my facial features when I’m less fat, they seem to have more “definition”. A bit of fat seems to affect my face a lot.
How to go about losing weight? Well, I’ve tried to lose weight several times in the past and failed. Looking back, though, I seemed to be very much using coercive self-motivation to do so, creating cycles of violence (harsh dieting) and resistance (self destructive eating) in my own self. I didn’t seem to care much about myself when I was on a diet, and I didn’t seem to care much about myself when I was off it.
Nowadays, I feel like I am better able to treat myself in a kind way. This time, I certainly don’t intend to do anything unsustainably difficult, and I certainly don’t plan to crash when that fails and beat myself up about it. In fact, at the moment my gender transition still takes up a huge amount of my internal resources, so that also means I actually have no choice but to do something relatively easy. Pushing myself beyond my current limits would probably cause another nervous meltdown. Well, I’ve already made an agreement with myself that if whatever I can do with my limited resources is not enough, I will be okay with it.
Actually, I’m not even sure that “dieting” really makes sense. It was my eating habits that got me to where I am in the first place, right? If I diet, then go off the diet and do the same as before, I will gain weight again. Perhaps, then, it makes sense to forget about dieting and just change my habits. I figure that even if I lose weight very slowly, I’ll get there eventually, and this path of action would surely be much kinder to myself.
The initial plan I wrote up on Facebook was twofold:
1. To eat more fruit and vegetables, chiefly by having them lying around where I can see them, and by taking dates with me when I’m going out for more than a couple of hours so as not to have to eat potato chips just to avoid getting dizzy.
2. To do regular exercise.
I have been following this plan for two days now. To start with, I noticed that despite my minimalist plan I still fell unconsciously into “diet mode”, and stopped eating enough. I even noticed I felt slightly depressed in the morning of the first day after making my decision, a sure sign that I was pushing my already beleaguered stress levels too far. As soon as I noticed what I was doing, I had to make an effort to stop this “diet mode” and to eat enough to have good and constant energy levels.
Now it seems like perhaps I won’t stick ONLY to my two principles of exercise and fruit, even if that is to be the cornerstone of what I am doing. In order to concede a little to my diet zeal without actually giving into “diet mode”, I’d like to do a couple more things:
1. Try to always eat reasonable amounts of reasonable things; I never had any good reason to overstuff myself or make an entire meal of cake. It seems like these were just signs of a lack of regard for myself, just as “diet mode” was.
2. Eat more of things I think help to lose weight: nuts and beans in particular. Bean stews are great and easy to make, so why not.
3. I’m going to get a set of scales and use them to just make sure that what I’m doing is taking me in the right direction, no matter how slowly.
These seem like sustainable things, and not unsustainable dieting practices. Hopefully with time they can become easy habits and not add significantly at all to my stress levels.
Starting The Experiment
I went for my first run in a while the day before yesterday. Instead of overpushing myself, I ran for as long as my body wanted to, then stopped. I walked for a bit, and ran more when my body wanted to again. I ran for three spurts this way.
This felt good, and I suspect it’s the only way I can get more fit. If I run till it hurts, I’m sure I will just burn out. And why would I want it to hurt, anyway?
I also went and bought a large amount of fruit and three cucumbers. I left it on my work table, so this stuff was really easy to access and I started munching on it almost without thinking. Once I managed to stop feeling dizzy from undereating on non-fruit items, I noticed I felt pretty good from this, getting a bit of that euphoria which is what so attracted me to raw foods once upon a time. The 100% raw food diet was unsustainable for me, but eating a lot of fruit alongside other foods probably won’t be.
My body seemed to adjust quickly to this, and now I seem to be actively craving more fruit and feeling less attracted to junkier foods. I also find myself drinking more water just because my body is asking for it.
I also noticed that last night I felt the impulse to do some stretches before bed. It has been a looong time since I’ve done stretches impulsively. It felt good.
So it seems that doing exercise and healthy eating moderately, without using coercive self motivation or going to extremes but instead being kind to myself, feels good. Who would have thought?
I just will have to see how it goes. Any adjustment to eating habits can have unexpected effects, and my body is rather sensitive sometimes, so it’s possible I’d have to abort. If I do end up having to do that, I’ll be kind to myself about it. With luck, this will work out.
I wrote this yesterday but didn’t publish it yet. Today, I feel I have a few things to add.
One is that I woke up this morning feeling depressed, and I’m certain it’s because of the various changes I’ve been making in my life. I’ve managed to put too much stress on myself, going past my limit and causing a crash.
What I seem to be noticing is that when I’m not paying attention, “diet mode” – in other words, coercive self motivation regarding food – reinstates itself. I haven’t eaten quite enough recently, and also my excessive focus on what I’m eating is draining my energy.
I feel now is the time to end an inner war. I intend from now on to eat in a way that is genuinely kind to myself, rather than cycling between indulgence and fierce control of what I eat.
By deciding I wanted to lose weight, the balance swung automatically to the “fierce control of what I eat” side. But now, wherever the balance lies, I can be aware of how I’m acting unkindly towards myself, and choose to act differently.
I think perhaps that coercive self motivation for me is much stronger in the realm of food than it ever was with cleaning or working. It has an almost visceral intensity. At some point in my younger life, I came to the subconscious understanding that the realm of food was where I needed to spend most time being cruel to myself, whipping myself and beating myself up.
Now, I intend to do what I’ve done with other aspects of coercive self motivation: simply feel into the energies involved and identify this feeling of a negative force behind me pushing me to do this or that. Releasing that, I will instead imagine my desired outcomes before me, enjoying this vision and waiting until its positive energy moves me to a sort of action that feels effortless. (Read: What Coercive And Non Coercive Self Motivation Feel Like). I will imagine taking care of myself with food, eating to feel good in the moment, later on in the day, and for future weight loss or weight maintenance.
As well as this, I will try to cultivate enjoyment of food. Funnily enough, despite how big a role food and cooking plays in my life personally, I tend not to spend much time savouring it. I suspect that if I could learn to be kind to myself rather than controlling myself or rebelling against control, I would enjoy food more. Otherwise food becomes nothing but an internal battleground.
So my work starts. I shall start meditating in this way when I eat or I think about food. I will report back the results later on.