From time to time, I post about my struggles with eating. While the roots of my problem preceded my coming out, the obsession with body beautiful in gay culture didn’t help matters. I share this story knowing that male experiences with anorexia continue to be underreported.
I’m at it again. Feeling fat. Obsessing over it. Annoyed that I’m bothered once more.
I’m aware enough to know my weight issues are highly exaggerated. I’d be laughed out of Weight Watchers. Pummeled with fat-free cookies. Banned for life.
I’m not talking about a hundred pounds or fifty or twenty. It’s four. That’s enough for me to see a belly bubble. My ribs don’t show. And that terrifies me.
If you’re still reading—spitting on your laptop may cause damage—let me explain. I have battled to control my weight as a means of controlling my life for forty years. At eighteen, I was anorexic but it was never diagnosed. I also have a lifelong phobia of doctors so I never sought help. I was under a great deal of stress in university and my only sense of control came in the way I deprived myself of food, relying on sating myself with Tab cola until my one binge-meal of the day. My weight loss frightened my friends and they held an intervention. My face was too gaunt. My baggy clothes which weirdly made me feel larger failed to hide my dwindling body. I still thought I was fat but they said enough to scare me. Something about doctors.
I’ve only had two other periods of extreme weight loss since then but calories, fat grams, carbs and sugar are on my mind with every sip and bite I take. Every. Single. Day. I read every label of every item that goes in my grocery basket and I can recite the fat content of each food item in my home. If I stray from my regimented diet—and I do a couple of times a month—I commit myself to more exercise. More abs, a longer jog, extra laps in the pool. I already work out six days a week and I’m relentless with my routines. I wish I could stop. I’d love to lighten up. I can’t. My weight is healthier but I’m still a mess.
I haven’t weighed myself in years. If I gain half a pound, a sense of panic grows. I can’t confirm I’ve gained four pounds. I just know it. I’m frustrated that I let it get to this point. Work in January impacted both diet and exercise. I try not to freak out when I look down and see a loose ripple in my shirt. It’s the fabric, not my stomach. Still, I don’t like it.
It’s hard for a normal person to relate to my so-called problem. It’s hard to put in perspective. They say each year of a dog’s life is like seven human years. Well, each pound I gain is like 5-10 pounds on a regular person. How horrified I feel depends on the day or even the time of day. So, yes, it feels like I’m forty pounds overweight.
I know enough not to allow myself to go to extremes. I could lose the weight by the end of the week by going into major calorie deprivation. The problem is I gain satisfaction over this rapid loss and then I want to extend it. I don’t trust myself to know when to stop. I hate being this way but I’ve lived like this for forty years. It’s all I know. I don’t understand how my best friend (who appears to have a normal weight) can talk rhapsodically over pecan pie or how he can go to a buffet for Christmas. (He always invites me; I always decline.) I feel that letting go will result in letting myself go. I see my brother’s pics on Facebook. I know what comes with our genes.
It feels great that my stomach is growling as I type. Dinner times nears and I’m losing energy. I’ve gotten by on two bananas today. The drain from my 3K swim is setting in. (It should have be 4-5K, but I had a dental appointment.) If I’m tempted to eat, I’ll force myself to nap to extend the mini fast. I’m giving myself a month to be sufficiently slim again. I can do this in 2-3 weeks tops. It’s good to set goals; even better knowing they can be beaten. When I feel my ribs again as I try to sleep, I know I’m where I need to be.
Hopefully then I’ll feel more settled. Normal. Or normal as defined by my warped mind. That’s as good as it gets.