A simple word can hurt so much.
A little boy called me fat and that shut me up through dinner and dessert. I’ve been fuming, and now these belly rolls, which have accumulated during the past extremely stressful half-year, feel so obtuse, jammed between my sagging breasts and rotund thighs. I have been hoping that I could get fit and feel sleek but what with all the super duper stress from graduating an insanely difficult college, getting emotionally wrecked by a terrible internship in Pittsburgh, and then verbally abused by a monster and her consort in Saitama, Japan, well I’ve simply just eaten my goddamn feelings.
And all I’ve got to show for it are some fond memories of crunchy fried foods or handmade noodles doused with olive oil and pancetta. Those sorts of memories tend to display themselves out in the open, in the form of extra millimeters, then centimeters, then inches, of fat and flesh.
I’ve got an extremist’s love-hate relationship with food. My mouth doesn’t have a solid grasp of taste, so textures are my lovers: the crispness of fried foods make me want to hole up in a blanket somewhere with a good book and stuff my face, oil dripping onto each page, slimy foods make my brain ask never-ending questions, and I’m flat-out addicted to salt. Sugary things are nice, and chocolate will always be addictive, but nothing beats a freshly pounded round of glutinous mochi, sticking to the fingers.
Let’s just come out and admit it– I’ve been completely obsessed with my appearance and weight since senior year of highschool. Let’s see- how long has it been now? What, 6 years? Detestable. Fortunately, this obsession attacks in waves, and I’ve grown to have a healthier relationship with it as of late. Sometimes I go months without worrying much about it. Sometimes, it gets real bad. Unfortunately, I share this tendency to worry about consumption with a large chunk of the rest of the world.
It soon got to the point that I believed that disinterested men would suddenly become enamoured with me, if only I were to lose a massive amount of weight and become lethally thin. Ha. Ridiculous thought.
Can you tell I feel very sour and remorseless right now?
When you’ve been obsessed about weight for as long as I have been, then you’ll understand.
And it doesn’t goddamn help that all the islanders are far shorter and smaller and leaner than I. I can’t help being outrageously tall and “big-boned” (which I’ve been dubbed since I was as young as 9 years old) and curvy.
All truth be told, I am definitely the heaviest I’ve been in a long time. I do not feel right in my body. This is not MY sack of skin, guts, fat, and bones. Where did it go? While my previous self wandered off into some distant horizon, my current self bumps into drawers, jams fingers in doors, knocks toes harshly against corners, and constantly drops things.
Where are you, body of mine?
Where did you go?
Anybody and everybody knows that what’s inside counts. But strangely enough, I’m forced to draw from cliché in order to express this inner turmoil that has drawn on for so long- it’s like a vicious cycle where I’ve unconsciously consumed all the garbage spewed about, in advertising and marketing, even fables and mama’s stories:
“Ironically: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,”
“Eat Kellogg’s cereal bars for a week and lose pounds,”
“Eat footlong Subway sandwiches and shrink so much that you could fit two people in your jeans,”
“Limit your carb intake,”
“Run 30 minutes a day, everyday, forever,”
“Oh, and don’t forget! Log your caloric intake on Livestrong.com and desperately scour the internet for sage morsels of advice you’ve never encountered before. Suddenly, all this effort will super-speed the course of your rapidly careening weight and lift your hot new bod into Victoria Secret super model diet status!”
I know it’s a mind game. Unless a person becomes healthy, happy, or loses a massive amount of weight, generally people DON’T CARE. In many cases, the only person who cares is the person who is obsessed. Sometimes, the obsession grows to a point where it begins to negatively impact interpersonal relationships.
I know this is true for myself. The more I obsess, the more I will indulge. And I’m still bent up, twisted around this little obsession of mine as if I were clinging to a life raft in the middle of the Pacific. I’m throwing my feelings onto the fire, creating more online content with which to crowd the internet. Little bits of ash rebound from the flames, and burn little holes onto my psyche. I’m not the only one with countless little scars peppering my spirit. So many people in this world writhe with pain about the things they put into their mouths. There are trillions of idiotic public blog entries detailing some miserable wretch’s failing food count, before and after pics, and unachievable (or achievable) aspirations.
In a way, complaining about weight is ritualistic and comforting.
When I was studying in Florence, some of the other students, from Sarah Lawrence, would constantly rely on weight and diet as a conversational topic: “I threw up sooo much the other night,” “I threw up like five times in a row,” “Ugh I ate too much last night,” “There are amazing salads at the cafe across the street.” They were sweet girls, but raised on a sour crop. So many Americans have been acculterated to think thin. Weightism is one of the easiest ~isms to indulge in. America has made billions of dollars selling different diet fads, and it isn’t going to change anytime soon.
And let’s not forget:
Weight is a privilege, and being overweight is necessarily owning excess.
In some cases, members of the working class accrue their rewards as flesh on their bodies, for they can only afford cake and pastries, while the bourgeoisie pamper themselves with vacations abroad and fitness classes.
When I submitted an art piece I made in high-school on the subject to a grassroots zine, a fellow rather elegantly remarked on how it depicted “working class bodies as disposable materials for the gears of capital”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I could have been spending so much time enlightening myself about bigger and better things, or actually making a difference in this vast, troubled, world. But no, I was content with simply reprocessing the same thoughts in my head, seeking advice from so-called diet gurus on the internet, and obsessing about it to no end.
Most importantly, weightism is GENDERED.
Far more often than men, girls are expected to be thin. Yeah, maybe men feel pressured to pop muscles here, there, and everywhere, but it is fundamentally wrong for women’s bodies to be forced into one mold. In middle school, there was this old-school style faded poster of all these different looking women, different races and different body types, only clad in white underwear. The poster hung at the periphery of my vision, so while my health teacher enthusiastically shoved slides at us, and when I wasn’t distracted by the gross booger on my boyfriend’s green sweater, I was quietly wondering about that poster. I kept on wondering for 9 more years, until the moment that I started to actually see people. Really looked at them: first I looked at a poster of a model posing for some clothing line, and then at everyone on the street. At first, I was struck by all the different types of noses out there in the world. Then I drew a full-body contour in my mind and tried to paste it onto different strangers’ bodies. It never fit, not once.
So, if I’ve learned, then why obsess? Well…if I don’t have much to stress about, I can bother myself with this. I can find ways to alter my daily physical regime and thus improve other parts of myself, if not the source of the actual problem. If I’m overly stressed, I can add this bag of shit right on top, like a conquistador’s brightly waving flag on the soil of new and yet unsoiled land.
If I bother about this, this problem inside of me, then I can avoid bigger problems. I can stall, I can put away that newspaper with the alarming headlines, ignore the cries of Syrian refugees, and willingly forget how I have the drive and resources to come to their aid. I can just suck myself into myself and indulge my darkest parts. This obsession is necessarily selfish. It poses an obstacle to emotional maturity, spiritual enlightenment, and the ability to rise out of self in order to figure out how I can be of use to the world.
Maybe it’s just the Xanax talking.
But if it were the Xanax, wouldn’t I be calm and drowsy by now, not furiously jamming my fingertips against the keyboard, wishing furiously that the whole world could read this and know who I truly am; not the façade I’ve erected: not some courageous, artsy bitch snorkelling on a distant Japanese island but a self-obsessed and unrelentingly judgemental asshole.
I’m being an asshole to myself by writing this. I’m being an asshole to my reader by making them confused. Are you confused yet? Because I sure am.
Maybe it’s just because I’m young and inexperienced.
Maybe this is just a long, drawn out phase. Maybe we can blame overeating on overabundance of junk “food,” and societal expectations of beauty on the hypersexualised female body in media. But I’ve decided to wage this silent war against myself. I could choose the happy-go-lucky-hippy route and just accept myself for who I am, everything included. Why demean myself, and thus demean all the other curvaceous women out there? Well… because I don’t FEEL GOOD. I’ve found, through snorkelling, rock climbing, and capoeira, that I love to move, and the more I move, the less fitfully I sleep, and thus the more I am awake and aware.
But if my body is laden, and my ass and feet are married to the ground, then my soul can’t lift upwards.
Do you get what I mean? If my body doesn’t fit my self, then necessarily we can’t get along, the two of us. There’s got to be harmony somewhere. I’d love to be as strung as a taut rope, as lean as a jaguar, and sleek like an otter but I’ve found myself to have taken the shape and composure of a round Italian parmesan cheese.
The argument comes full circle, and the essay ends only a little better than where it began. A true Ouroboros.