Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reality Bites

Truth be told, I have never looked in the mirror and really seen my body. I, like so many other women, look and see what I think it looks like. It’s not true that I never had a weight problem. I never had an overweight problem. I had have a “body image problem”, an underweight problem, a…okay I have an eating disorder.

I never binge and then throw up food, nor do I think that every morsel of food that goes into my mouth is going to make me fat. I’ve only recently had it described to me as a form of OCD. My thing, that I didn’t even realize I did until last year in therapy, is that in times of stress when everything in my life seems to be going out of control, I stop eating. The only thing I can maintain any control over is what is going in to my body, so I stop putting anything into it. How fucked up is that?

For a number of months before I met Monkey Boy, I was so proud of myself for getting through each day on a glass of fruit juice and a toasted muffin with jam and cream. That was it. Oh, and the cigarettes that I chain smoked in order to conquer my appetite. I was 5’8” (173cm) and weighed 8 ¾ stone (58kg). My hip bones stuck out, my ribs were clearly visible. I fit into size 8 clothing. SIZE 8. (For you Time of Charlemagne types, this is the smallest adult dress size). I looked in the mirror and was not horrified by the skeleton before me; I saw large thighs that could use a few inches off them and a butt that was no longer pert.

I did gain weight once I was in a safe relationship. I went back to my normal size 12 and you could no longer count my ribs from across the room, but the disorder was still there. Much to my horror it remained even after I realized it existed. Apparently, knowledge of the existence of a problem doesn’t just make it go away. What’s THAT about? I was so sure that since I knew what the issue was and what the triggers for my hunger-strike were, I would just be able to recognize when I was doing it and stop.

Hmph. Seems it doesn’t work that way. Why not? is what I’d like to know. [Sidebar: yes, I have now accepted my status as a total control freak since I was angry I couldn’t control the eating disorder that manifests when I don’t have control. Help.me.]

Let’s face it; having a new baby is probably the situation in which one is going to feel the least in control, but not even breastfeeding and needing to increase my caloric intake made me able to stop. I couldn’t even make myself eat properly for the Spud. I really scratch my head and wonder why I can’t choose to exert control over this disorder with as much willpower as I clearly have to control my food intake.

When I look in the mirror at 3 months post-partum I REALLY don’t recognize the body I see. Not only have I retained 6 kilos of pregnancy weight (that’d be the ├ęclairs) but the belly is all saggy baggy and definitely NOT about to be shown off in skimpy little midriff tops like it was when I was 30 weeks pregnant. Nor are my thighs ever going to see the light of day again. Actually, I’d prefer it if they never even saw the dark of day again: it’s just too horrendo. I think I’ll stay fully clothed at all times. I’m at the high end of the proper weight range for my height. It just seems like all that weight has now deposited itself between my navel and knees. I dislike the way my body looks now more than I’ve ever disliked it before, and I worry that not even upping the dose of Prozac [excellent OCD meds] will stop the hunger-strike returning.

Consequently, there was a moment of serendipity today when I came across a blog called Shape Of A Mother, where women can post pictures of their pregnant and post-pregnancy bellies and their stories of how their bodies changed after childbirth. If “mommy blogs” are all about telling the truth about motherhood, about “keeping it real”, then this is the ultimate in reality checks. Saggy bits, stretch marks from hell, its all there. It was a relief, a real relief to see my body in the photos posted by other women and knowing that they all look in the mirror and don’t recognize themselves either. So it’s not just me. We all look like this. This is what pregnancy does. This is what childbirth does. This is what breastfeeding does. This is the price you pay for becoming a fully-realized mammal.

I’m guessing that the price you pay for being a mother is relinquishing control.

I’m also guessing Spudly is going to teach me more than I’m going to teach him.

15 comments:

  1. That was a brave one Panda. I have the opposite problem that you do... when things go out of control I put IT ALL in my mouth. It's so effed up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was a pretty powerful post Ms. Panda...
    And Spud id one lucky kid to have a mom who is so bang on!

    ReplyDelete
  3. cherice8:11 pm

    Wow Panda. You just gave me the courage to admit I'm an emotional scoffer. Happy = eat, sad = eat, bored = eat, depressed - yep eat.

    I wonder if the bombardment of advertising and cooking shows has anything at all to do with our food obsession? Apparently the french women eat just the right amount and only 11% of the French pop. are overweight. I wonder how many Macca's and KFC's, etc, etc they have over there?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow... Panda. What a tough post this must have been to write... and like Cherice... I have the exact opposite relationship with food... life gets out of control?? Eat. Depressed? Eat.

    It's so horrible how we women so often use food as such a symbolic... what... I don't even know what to call it... symbolic device?? So often to our detriment.

    Love you, kiddo.

    ReplyDelete
  5. So THIS is what you were talking abt, I must have seen it here then. I knew I'd forgotten where I'd seen it but this is too daft even for my present self. *sigh*

    Lovely post dahling, really.

    ReplyDelete
  6. All right, more time now and also more brain cells. What I thought the 1st time I read this was how much it resonated. I have put on 5 Kg and while it is not a lot - it most definitely is bcs I am now outside my comfort zone, and cannot wear my favourite clothes. It truly is undermining how I see myself (psoriasis all clear now w summer, imagine if not) not only bcs I am indeed fatter (mostly arse of course) but also bcs this means I am getting older, bcs I don't bounce back to my usual weight anymore. It is not siomply a matter of getting old, it's a matter of laziness. See, now I truly will be forced to do something abt it, and I cannot begin to tell you how often I0've tried to exercise in some way only to have the next exam - and no discipline + panic means no exercise.

    But the funny thing is, bodies truly are different. I am exactly as tall as you and used to weigh 58-60 but that wasn't too thin for me (ass still big), just the way my body was built. Now I oscillate btwn 63-64 and am miserable. Am feeling schizo now bcs you are pinging me, tally ho!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am right there with you. OCD food issues. Big time. You are kick-ass for posting about this. There are probably sooooo many people who have these kinds of problems.


    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Panda, I havn't visited in a while. I love your honest posts. I checked out the website of pregnant and post preg bellies and I thought it was amazing. I was aghast that my belly (which has never been pregnant) looks similar to some of those post preg bellies!
    I found this post of your food issues really interesting. You are a woman who really knows yourself.
    Lucky Spudly.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love your honesty, Panda...

    I long for the days when our intellect over-rides our "need" to appear a certain way (the "peacock syndrome" as I call it - our feathers must always look perfect for reproductive drives). These bodies of ours' are mere vehicles while we're here in this existence and we give them far too much credit that they're actually ours', or that the body is actually us. They're really nothing but shells.

    A few years back I almost died from a genetic disease that I have that I never knew I had. I was one of the lucky ones, I survived.
    But not without physical deformities that left me feeling visually inadequate. I've learned to deal with them and to continually work at evolving to a higher form of spirituality because of it...and in spite of it.

    I hope that this makes you feel not so alone in a struggle of accepting ourselves, but more so to realize what is really us and what's not.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great POST! You are VERY brave for writing your TRUE feelings! I now feel like I am NOT alone in the eating issue and stretchy skin after baby issue!

    I have seen that site also.. my best friend posted and is trying to get me too as well.. I WILL NOT! I know that most preggo/new moms have issues with their new shaped tummy.. but i can not seem to get over the fact that I will NEVER be able to wear a bikini again! My first few months post-baby.. i refused to do anything about it.. I was just depressed over my FATNESS! Now I am trying to eat right and work out! WE SHALL SEE!
    LOVE YOUR BLOG!

    ReplyDelete
  11. [You did not! You met him?? Oh I am so jealous, so very jealous, so jealous I am imploding! Was it worth it, is he as fabulous as on the telly? Oh lucky you!]

    ReplyDelete
  12. [You did not! You met him?? Oh I am so jealous, so very jealous, so jealous I am imploding! Was it worth it, is he as fabulous as on the telly? Oh lucky you!]

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am right there with you. OCD food issues. Big time. You are kick-ass for posting about this. There are probably sooooo many people who have these kinds of problems.


    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  14. All right, more time now and also more brain cells. What I thought the 1st time I read this was how much it resonated. I have put on 5 Kg and while it is not a lot - it most definitely is bcs I am now outside my comfort zone, and cannot wear my favourite clothes. It truly is undermining how I see myself (psoriasis all clear now w summer, imagine if not) not only bcs I am indeed fatter (mostly arse of course) but also bcs this means I am getting older, bcs I don't bounce back to my usual weight anymore. It is not siomply a matter of getting old, it's a matter of laziness. See, now I truly will be forced to do something abt it, and I cannot begin to tell you how often I0've tried to exercise in some way only to have the next exam - and no discipline + panic means no exercise.

    But the funny thing is, bodies truly are different. I am exactly as tall as you and used to weigh 58-60 but that wasn't too thin for me (ass still big), just the way my body was built. Now I oscillate btwn 63-64 and am miserable. Am feeling schizo now bcs you are pinging me, tally ho!

    ReplyDelete
  15. That was a brave one Panda. I have the opposite problem that you do... when things go out of control I put IT ALL in my mouth. It's so effed up.

    ReplyDelete

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