Friday, April 22, 2011

Pushing Ahead

A few posts back, I wrote about how I was ready to place myself at the mercy of a food schedule which was not of my choosing by applying for a job. There was another dimension to this as well, and that was actually having enough confidence to go to a job interview. I had the luxury of not having to get the job for financial reasons. If I was not hired, it would not be the end of the world so I could go into it with less stress about what was riding on it economically.

The job, which is only part-time and two days a week, would force me to eat in a very different pattern than I have become accustomed to, including a very long delay for dinner. In essence, I would have 14 hours between waking and my last food intake of the day. This is the challenge I wanted to face and while I could schedule things this way of my own volition, I felt that surrendering control was a very important aspect of this. It turned out that I got the job, and yesterday was my first day in this situation.

Things went smoothly, though the schedule isn't as rigid or extreme as its going to be eventually. I was very hungry by the end of the time, and there was a longer gap between a snack and dinner, but I didn't ruminate on food or feel it necessary to dive into a pile of food when I got home. In fact, though I was very hungry, I ate a reasonable portion and didn't feel compelled to dive into the refrigerator and start cramming stuff in my mouth. I set up the meal at a leisurely pace. The only "problem" was that I felt strange all night because I went to bed feeling fairy "full" (definitely well-sated) and had sleeping problems as a result. I'm accustomed to going to bed with a fairly empty stomach.

Beyond this challenge, which I don't view as over but as a first hurdle that has been cleared, this experience has highlighted something which I have noticed more and more as time goes by. That is, the lack of a response to my weight. For years, when I walked into the room, eyes lingered on my body and faces registered negative reactions. It still catches me off-guard when people see me and don't react as if the Loch Ness monster had suddenly revealed itself before their eyes. During the interview and the initial visit to the workplace, people just treated me like a normal human being. Even though I'm still fat, it's not enough to set off the "whoa, look at that freak" alarms now.

I've mentioned before that a lot of people who lose weight discount the notion that they are treated better for being smaller. They attribute it to changes in their demeanor and confidence levels. I've also said before that that's a steaming pile of crap and nothing I have experienced has dissuaded me from that opinion. The world is a far less hostile place when you're not big and an increasingly friendlier place as you approach an average or "normal" weight. The silent judging mellows out (or stops) and the reactions that are animated enough to let you know how they feel but not enough to allow you to call them on it disappear. The titters, the sotto voice comments, and the overt mockery stops once you reach a certain point.

While I am greatly relieved to be spared the emotional pain of these actions, I'm also disgusted that this is the reality of life. I'm the same person as I was before. In fact, in many ways, my eating habits are "worse" because I allow myself to eat food openly that I never ate in private before (like cake). I buy donuts for breakfast once a fortnight or so. I engage in more overt "fat person" behavior now than ever, but now I'm not regarded with disgust for it. That means that the judging was never about my actions or who I was, but only about my appearance. It was about inferring who I was based on my body, not who I actually was.

Being aware of this change in dynamic is important to me on several levels. First of all, I think it's easy to respond to this change rebelliously and believe that one should just go ahead and be as fat as one wants as a way of thumbing ones nose at the prejudice and damn the consequences. In essence, the shallowness should be met with contemptuous defiance. The other reason is that it's all too easy to be treated with greater value (that is, to have neutral rather than negative value) at a smaller size and to start to incorporate this into ones worldview. If people treat you better at a lower weight, then perhaps you, too, may embrace the notion that they are correct and that weight is indeed a reflection of a person's value. This is a trap I see people who have lost weight fall into all too often, only to regain their lost weight eventually and come out with even more intense self-loathing than ever.

At the moment, I feel quite good where I am, and am content to continue on as I have with no modifications to the way in which I'm carrying on aside from those forced on me by the work I've taken on. The challenges now are in pushing ahead into a greater range of "normal" living and to ease myself into doing the types of things "normal" people do without my old fears holding me back. My fear vanishing isn't related to the behavior of others, but rather my own ability to increasingly manage my issues psychologically. I have confidence bred from two years of re-shaping my life one small change at a time. The reactions of others only serve to confirm their judgment, not the rightness of what I do.

So far, I've crossed over quite a few goal posts in a move to being "normal". I've started to eat out at restaurants regularly (once every one or two weeks), broken out of my rigid eating scheduling and become more flexible about when and what I eat, gone on a job interview and exposed myself to new people and uncertainty. All of this occurs while still operating at a modest caloric deficit and not having a set exercise schedule, but trying to just make sure I walk everyday. In fact, due to my back injury a few months ago, I have cut back on exercise for fear of bringing on another incident. And, I'm still losing weight at an expected and moderate pace.

I don't want to diminish in any way how hard this has been. It isn't very hard now, but the road to this point has been long and tortured at times. However, I'm gratified that it has been a unique path, and that the road has gotten easier as time has gone by. One of the hardest things about this all along has been not knowing if it was going to "work" since I haven't done what most people do. Stomping down your own path with people warning you that it's a road to nowhere isn't as easy as jumping on a bandwagon.

Many people are all too fond of saying, "you will fail" because you aren't doing what they feel is "right" or of value to them. Can you succeed with temptation at every turn? Can you vanquish your psychological demons and discover that the biological ones will come to heel as a result? Can you eat like a "normal" person and still lose weight? Well, the answer for me has been, yes, I can, and I'm not smug about it nor do I believe what I have done and am doing is right for anyone but me...

But, sweet peaceful Buddha, I'm so insanely glad this is where I'm headed rather than being on the road to food-, weight- and exercise-obsessed "sainthood". I have more peace in my life now than ever and it has nothing to do with the number on the scale or what I put in my mouth. The relief I feel about this is more profound than anything and I wouldn't trade this feeling for the perfect body or for large amounts of cold hard cash. So many years of my life have been spent in a state of pure psychological torture over food and I can see that those whips and chains are close to being put away forever.