Archive for April, 2013

And then the day came where I ate all the food. I ate it to comfort myself. I ate it because I felt overwhelming sadness and also burdening stress, and those two emotions didn’t have any relationship to each other, so I was also mad that the stress existed when all I wanted to be present in was the sadness.

It started slowly, with chocolate. But then, on Friday, I gathered with my other friends of our friend who died. There were five of us who made a little group, which we called “book club” because it sounded better than “a standing date to watch TV, eat and talk.” Now there are four of us. We gathered at my house in the evening. I bought sugar/gluten/dairy free cupcakes to share, but I also got dark chocolate. Stephen got it for me, and he got a lot – in a variety of incarnations. Before anyone had even arrived, I’d eaten many pieces of dark chocolate-covered ginger. And then one friend bought a tray of warm brownies. And I ate, literally, half that tray.

They tasted so good – sweet and rich, warm and soft. They felt nurturing. I just meant to have one, but as soon as it was in my mouth, I knew I wanted more, would eat more. So I ate another one, and then another one. After the third one, I knew I was full and should stop, but I kept breaking off bites anyway. I kept eating even when it made me feel ill, possibly because it made me feel ill. But mostly because I wanted to keep that feeling of being warm and comforted and of having a rush of dopamine provide by the sugar. I wanted that good feeling, and when I couldn’t get it anymore, I wanted to at least push down the bad ones, smother them with dessert.

I wasn’t really sorry I did it, although in the end, of course, it made me feel worse. That was Friday, and I wasn’t done emotionally overeating until Sunday night. I pretty much gave myself permission to just give into it. And then Monday morning I wrested myself back, and refocused on what would actually make me feel good, the ways I could truly care for myself.

Because eating All Of The Chocolate made me feel terrible. I had a baseline of stomach pain and mild nausea for most of the weekend from all that sugar (and butter and white flour) coursing through my system. I could once eat this way with mild to no discomfort, but that was back when I filled my body with junk all the time, which made it numb to how bad it really felt. Now, I take care of my body and feed it well, so the change, when I do something different, is very clear, and I feel it.

And eventually, even through sorrow, it reminds me that the true way to care for myself is not by eating my emotions. As good as a tray of brownies tastes, it doesn’t actually feed my body and soul as they need to be fed. Real food does. It nourishes me, and that feeling – of being whole and well cared for – is also a comfort.


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Grief is palpable, a weight that I can feel as truly as a heavy bag I might shoulder. Today I fed it with chocolate. I knew it wouldn’t help; it wouldn’t satiate the grief and make it go away; it wouldn’t undue the cause of my sadness. But I ate it anyway. It was dark chocolate, and it did not make me feel better. And I did not expect it to, and I did not care.

Because grief is its own country, and it insists on the space it requires. Which feels like mountains beyond valleys and more mountains, like the desert beyond this city and more.

My charming, bright, amazing friend died, and it can’t be explained; and even if it could be, it wouldn’t bring him back. I keep waiting for the days of sorrow to be enough to earn his re-admittance to this world and then being reminded that, just as the light plays on leaves in the wind, that’s not how this world works. And the flat truth of it, of death and its finality in this life fills me with sorrow and rage and impotence. It strips away layers and empties me out.

I do not care about what I eat. I do not care about the details of my impending wedding. I do not care about getting out of bed. But I get to do all of it anyway.

I know it’s important to do it, particularly the parts about getting up and feeding myself. I know in a few days, or weeks, the light on the trees will mean more to me again. I know that what life we get, what time we have together is the great blessing, the thing to be remembered. There are nights and days – so many of them – to remember. So much joy and laughter, the blessing of that happiness and friendship, the gift it was in a time when I particularly needed it, and is now, and will always be. Today though, and probably tomorrow too, I am stuck on the part where there will be no more like them.

And the sorrow. For my friend. Who needed help, and for how I didn’t know that. For the line on my to-do list that I can never cross off now, to respond to his email. For how he cannot see today’s lovely evening light and how those who are closest to him, his partner and his family, have to look at it more alone. How empty I imagine it must feel for them because it feels emptier to me.

I would like to eat a house made of cake right now, but I know it won’t help. I would like to rage, but can’t see the point of doing so. Some days, just getting up, getting through them, working out without crying, crying after working out, going through the motions, eating half a chocolate bar, making a point to remember the beauty, the love I’ve been lucky enough to experience – sometimes, that’s the very best I can do.



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And then there was the day I discovered that my wedding dress, the one I picked and paid for back in February, was not going to work.

Last Thursday, I went in for my dress fitting, to try on my dress for the first time since it arrived at the store and have it altered to fit perfectly. Things did not go well. When I put it on, my dress was not the same as the version I had tried on the store. Oh it looked like a reasonable facsimile of it: same color, same lace, same basic shape. But it was actually cut differently. The back was two inches higher; the straps were shorter; there was an extra panel of material in the bust; the neckline was and inch higher. They were not big differences, but they were real differences; and their effect was to make my dress look dumpy on me.

The great appeal of my dress, what made it The One, was how it fit: the plunging neck and back, the straps that hung in an almost ’20s style, the fitted look that showed off my figure very well. This new version of my dress had none of those elements, and as much as the very kind seamstress tried to help, not all of them could be fixed. We couldn’t cut the dress to lower the neck and back.

It turned out to be an issue of size. I had tried on the dress in a 14, and it fit great, except where it pulled across my stomach too tight, showing more contours of stomach fat that could ever be considered a good idea. My trainer claimed I would easily lose 10 pounds and that would fix it; my dear friend JV suggested that I should buy my dress to fit the size I actually was, and if I did lose 10 pounds, I could alter it, but if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be a disaster. I have cried over enough clothing disasters to know to listen to JV. So I ordered the dress in a 14W. The sales associate told me that it would be the same, just slightly bigger, creating more room in the stomach, which then could be taken in.

It was not the same. As it turns out, the difference between a 14 and 14W is the difference between the store’s regular clothing sizes and their plus sizes. And the plus sizes are made differently. Which would have been an important detail to share. My best friend (and Lady of Honor), who was with me the day I bought the dress, was concerned about me not being able to try on the size I was ordering in advance; I shared this concern. My sales associate told me it was not a big deal; the dress was the same, just a little bigger.

It was not the same. And it was a big deal.

Standing in my dress last Thursday, fully pinned for alteration, and seeing that it still looked dumpy on me, I thought about bolting. I did not like this dress – my wedding dress. I felt awkward and unattractive; I looked like I’d fashioned my own clothes out of a fancy curtain, and not nearly as successfully as Scarlett O’Hara had. The alterations would be expensive. I thought perhaps I should just cut my losses, take my useless, expensive dress and run. I could use the alteration money to buy a dress at a department store that was at least flattering.

This is when the store manager showed up and asked what was wrong. I told her I didn’t like my wedding dress. It was a strange thing to say and also liberating. Because it was true. She told me I could exchange it for another dress in the store. I believe my exact response was, “Really? Great. Fuck this dress.” And so I went wedding dress shopping. Again. One month out from my wedding.

This time, I took my time and tried on as many dresses as another dear friend and I could stand to go through. I felt pressure to decide, but this time, I did not give in to that pressure. And when I finally did decide the next day on a new dress, this time, I did not pick the one that I thought was best because that’s what all the people I love told me; I picked the one I liked best. Of the three favorites, it was all my bridesmaids’ least favorite (smart phones make opinion polling so easy!). But it was my favorite. So I got it.

And then I felt a weight I hadn’t even known I was carrying lift. I had been shouldering anxiety about my dress since I bought it. Because I was worried about it not fitting well and looking good. There was that pull in the stomach. If I were thinner, the dress would look better. I had spent the two months since purchasing my dress worrying constantly about getting thinner, working at it, and breaking down when it didn’t happen.

The truth is, if I had lost the weight, the problem probably would have gone away. I could have traded my size 14W for a 14 and had the dress I had envisioned. But I had not lost the weight, despite all my effort, and the size 14 was still too tight in my gut. I could have beaten myself up about this. I could have looked at it as a failure. I decided instead to let go.

Because really, it’s a fucking dress. And I am more, much more than a dress. As I was trying on new dresses, I had a moment of resentment at my situation. My fiance is also not perfectly fit. He has also been eating better but has not lost weight. He got to go to a suit store, try on a suit, find the one that fit, and rent it for under $200. No one talked to him about how he could improve himself to look better in it; no one judged him. And that’s how it should be.

I never, ever wanted to be one of those women who became obsessed about changing my figure for the purpose of a dress and a day. I have never been able to lose weight for external reasons anyway (I get resentful and gain weight spitefully instead). And I didn’t want my wedding day to be another reason to judge myself and feel bad about my body.

Because that’s bullshit. And honestly, a way to oppress myself, to push down everything in my that is joyful, amazing, substantial and worthwhile just as I am. I do not become more as my body shrinks. I become more when I grow as a person. But it’s easy to forget that when all the messages society feeds me say the opposite. I forgot for a couple of months. But luckily, I was given the opportunity to remember.

I found a new dress that I look bangin’ in, right this minute exactly as I am. And when I woke up the next day after choosing it, I felt so much lighter. I was not going to spend the weeks leading up to my wedding worrying about if I could look good enough, thin enough, or be enough. I already am enough. And a dress has nothing to do with that.

Still not my wedding dress, or even my former wedding dress, but it is another dress that was too tight in the middle. I've tried on a lot of dresses in the past seven months.

Still not my wedding dress, or even my former wedding dress, but it is another dress that was too tight in the middle. I’ve tried on a lot of dresses in the past seven months.

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While understanding my core value and worth is clearly the most important work I can do, in my journey to go health and in everything else, on a more superficial note… there’s nothing like trying on old clothes to feel better about an endless plateau and small weight gain.

I hit the event horizon in my ability to deal with my messy closet and on a whim started dragging all my clothes out to sort into keep and give away piles. Of course, I had to try many things on to see if they still fit. And what a joy to be seeing if they were too big on me now (instead of the old days when I had to get rid of things because they had become too small).

It was an even bigger joy to try on things that were way too big, with inches and inches of extra fabric, pants just falling back off. It was good, physical evidence of how much I’ve changed. It was an important perspective to be reminded of.

I found and put on my old jeans, my biggest pair of jeans, which were too small for me to wear comfortably before I started working with my trainer. They are so huge on my now that I have to hold them on. So of course, I took a picture:

Hell yes!

Hell yes!

The photo doesn’t even do justice to just how much extra room there was in these pants. So much room. I folded these pants and put them back in the drawer. I’m keeping them because this is a good reminder to have. It’s important to remember where I came from, because even though I’m not yet where I want to be, I can see clearly just how far I have come.

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