As long as I’ve known that it’s socially important to have a “fit” body, I’ve been doing everything I can to maintain a certain shape. It started at eleven years old? Twelve? Maybe the first time I took my clothes off for a boy? Was it before that, when I realized that my mother fret over her own weight and referred to her own body in this undeniably self-deprecating way? Maybe it was after, when I moved to Moraga and met girls from the upper-middle class whose parents had enough time, energy and money to worry about thinness. The truth is that I’m not quite sure how far back the
desire soul crushing need to be thin dates. As long as I remember seeing myself in a mirror, the soul crushing need to have a socially desirable body has overwhelmed my rational decision making processes.
When I was in high school, I vacillated between eating Dulcolax (what my homegirls and I lovingly referred to as “little pink pills”), vomiting, and starving myself. I ate so many pink pills that my ability to form solid stool wasn’t functional. When the urge to defecate would arise, it required immediate action: There was no delaying in ridding my insides of that disgusting food that would certainly make me fat. I was obsessed with weighing exactly 110lbs. No clue where that number came from, but I hated that I weighed 118lbs. Those final 8 pounds made me hideous.
In college, I gave up the little pink pills and focused more on starving myself. I survived on Starbucks’ pre-made vanilla frappuccinos and Snickers bars, both of which I bought with the funds delegated to me through the San Diego State University meal plan. Occasionally I bought Hostess Coconut mini donuts, which I didn’t realize were coconut flavored until recently. I couldn’t taste much – I was smoking upwards of 1.5 packs of Parliaments a day, along with 1/8th of weed, often rolled in a grape blunt wrap or split Swisher Sweets Peach Cigarillo. My taste buds worked just about as well as my digestive tract. I still couldn’t get down to 110lbs. I hovered at 120. It killed me.
When I discovered cocaine, I stopped caring about my weight. Of course, this is because I only cared about cocaine. I cared about cocaine so much that it didn’t leave room to care for anything else. My roommate – the wonderfully sweet girl who had been my roommate until I started caring more about cocaine than our friendship – took me aside one day and forced me to get on the scale. She was concerned about my tremendous weight loss. I weighed 89lbs. But I looked in the mirror and saw 120lbs. In fact, I saw 122lbs. Eyes and brains can stop working too when you’re sick like that.
I said goodbye to cocaine and hello to food and tried to gain weight for the first time in my life. I blasted up to 150lbs. Derek Hays, my agent, suggested that I lose a little weight because my body, and the image of Penny Flame that had sold so easily, had been around 120lbs. So I tried to lose weight again. But it was always by substituting cigarettes for food, occasionally throwing up, eating only when it was an absolute necessity. I never got into fad diets and didn’t see the purpose of eating “healthy.” I decided to stay away from the scale. I thought my body should maintain it’s youthful resiliency no matter what I ate, as I long as I stayed under a certain caloric intake each day, this body “thing” should look glorious. It’s only recently that I see how flawed my logic has been.
It’s only now that I can witness my past behavior as a form of punishment.
I wasn’t perfect naturally, so I didn’t deserve to eat.
We can be so hard on ourselves. I would never tell someone else that they don’t deserve to eat.
Recently I started getting on the scale again. Not as inspiration to reach a perfect number but instead to see if I fall in the healthy weight range for my height. At five foot three and a half, I fluctuate between 137 and 142 pounds each month. It was on the higher side for the last few years, the cookies and late nights spent eating in Graduate School aided in that swing toward 142lbs. Sometimes 145lbs. But now, nearly finished with the awkward and unpredictable scheduling, I get to make decisions for my body that I haven’t been able to make before this. I have that emotional space, and a healthy distance from old thinking.
I’m buying more vegetables, eating less pre-packaged food. I’ve cut out fast food entirely. Eating small meals throughout the day. Exercising for fun, because it feels good to make my heart work – not because I feel like I’m bad if I don’t. Managing weight has been a struggle throughout my life, mostly because I haven’t been able to manage my life. Now I’m settling into this healthy new outlook, and feeling more ownership of and options around the decisions I make for this body I inhabit. I’ll never be 110lbs.
But that’s okay. I’m okay with that.