The Chubby Life: On a Diet

From the time I was about three years old, I’ve been chubby. That’s just how I’ve rolled (literally). I’ve never hated my body, but I’ll admit that I’ve never felt entirely comfortable, either (but who is, right?). Growing up, I learned to embrace it. Chubbiness was more than just an exterior attribute- it became a full blown identity. I imagine that initially, at least, it was an act of self-defense; a way to protect myself from the onslaught of self-hate that surrounds us as women every day. All the,

“OMG, I hate my thighs!”  And, “Jesus, I was so BAD today, I ate a cupcake!” can be pretty oppressive after a while. But quickly my response to every comment or criticism became,

“Well, I’m chubby and I’ve never had a problem getting mine, if you know what I mean…” (AKA, I always found it easy to break off a piece of ass, or date, or both).

The reaction to the frankness (and comedy of it) was amazing. People immediately eased about ten notches in front of my eyes. Laughing (at/with me) lightened the issue for everyone. I could literally see women’s shoulders relax as they gave themselves a break for a minute. That was addictive. And it also shut them up (thank god).

Eventually, this self-defense mechanism became a part of everything I did. I was obsessed with the way that us white women (let’s be real) torture ourselves about being thin. Hearing my boss say once at work, “Oh my god, I’m 135 pounds. I have to go on a diet” threw me into a rage. I felt like it was my personal problem to take on, because if I didn’t, I’d go crazy.

As I’ve gotten a little older (oy), I’ve realized that not only is conquering this phenomenon woman by woman an impossible endeavor, but it leaves one very important person out of the equation… me. What do I want for myself, for my body? Do I need to be focusing on all of these other women just to avoid focusing on myself?

So, sitting in my doctor’s office a few months ago, I asked her if it’s true that women’s metabolisms change around thirty (people kept warning me- fucking assholes- and I was trying to get some evidence to disprove them). She lowered my medical chart and looked me dead in the eyes. “Ooooohhhhhhhh yeah.” She said. And she seemed kind of sad.

This got me thinking… is it time to deal with my body? To look into separating what I want for others (for them to shut the fuck up about how fat they are) and what I want for myself (to have the kind of life I want, to feel good about my body)? The whole thing made me feel old and boring, but I guess the answer was yes. It was time for that.

About a month and a half later I started the diet I’m on. For inquiring minds, it’s the Dr. Cohen diet. It’s based on personal blood analysis (not the blood type diet) and human growth hormone research (in conjunction with insulin and seratonin). It’s definitely restrictive, and you sign up in 12 week increments. Google it if you want more deets. So far I’ve lost more than 10% of my body weight.

I’m gonna’ go ahead and opt out of any (Feministing-esque) apology about being fat-positive AND on a diet, because A) I don’t give a fuck, and B) Who isn’t hypocritical?

But I do wonder… what will happen to that fat identity I’ve built up over all these years now that I’m doing something I used to hate? So far I don’t feel a war raging inside, but I’m not so sure about the back-lash from others yet…

While I believe that dieting and being fat-positive aren’t mutually exclusive, I know others will question me. I guess the good news is that nothing has really changed about the way I feel- I want women to feel good about their bodies without being mindlessly critical (of themselves or others).

But, change is hard, and nobody’s perfect (even this Jew, shockingly). When you’ve been one thing to people for such long a long time, it’s hard (for many) to shift and balance the change.

I guess I wish I could ask Michael Jackson. For some reason, I think he’d have some insight…

(originally posted on Shady Sadie).

Published in: on September 30, 2009 at 6:37 pm  Comments (1)  

“Creeping Unhappiness” for Women, Especially With Age?

Marcus Buckingham at HuffPo provides an overview of the research suggesting both that women’s life satisfaction has declined since second-wave feminism opened up so many more opportunities for us, and that women get unhappier as we get older, while men get happier.  Buckingham has his own theory about why, which he won’t unveil till next week (meanwhile, he pitches his own book, hinting that it contains the antidote).

The Love Goddess thinks the latter unhappiness, at least, comes because society doesn’t value older women, and because women who have been pouring out care on others all their lives know that no one is likely to do the same for them.

These are really two separate issues, so let’s take them one at a time.

As for unhappiness unexpectedly keeping pace with opportunity, if this is even true — I can’t even begin to relate to it personally — I think some tough love is called for.  Opportunity brings with it anxiety, stress, and responsibility.  It requires a kind of worldly maturity and direct exposure to rough-and-tumble that women were protected from as long as they were sequestered in the moist nursery of “women’n’children.”  And it also means you dare to want more, much more, so you are likelier to fall short of your aspirations.  That’s as it should be.  Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs (well, um, no; that’s a whole other issue for women, as I hope Sara of Shady Sadie will soon post here); to paraphrase Robert Browning, “Ah, but a woman’s reach should exceed her grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  Men have lived with this inevitable shortfall for millennia; women are just discovering it.  No, you can’t have it all!  But that’s no excuse not to try!

I still remember the first time I read Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, in my twenties. What I remember so very vividly about that novel is that the narrator, protagonist, heroine, whatever you call her, described her loving and sexually fulfilled relationship with her husband as a long sleep.  I don’t even remember how that relationship ended, but at the end of the novel, she is involved with a crazy man named Saul Green — based on Lessing’s real-life lover, radical writer Clancy Sigal — who keeps shocking her out of her desire to fall into that trance again.  As a result, through great pain, he forces her to consciousness, gives her herself.  Not exactly “happiness,” but maybe worth more.  It’s not incidental that that was the part of the story written in the golden notebook.

Now on to the aging thing.

A big part of most women’s power is our sexual attraction for men, as women briefly tried to deny during the heady early days of hairy legs and baggy overalls and “love me for my soul,” soon to rush back to “If you’ve got it, it’s masochistic not to flaunt it!”  It’s fair to say that the vast majority of women now blend their beauty and nubility and sexuality into their creative and professional power, just as men do their sexual potency.  And while men’s hydraulic potency may falter, their desire and their fertility, unlike women’s, never do.

Another big part of most women’s power is motherhood, or at least the potential for it — and even if you’re not a mother, take it from me, you’ll be seen as a mother and cast in a mothering role, because that’s such a huge part of what Woman means to men, to everybody.

It’s arguable that with all these powers, in addition to the powers of mind and spirit that we share, women have more going for them than men.  The price we pay for that abundance is that we lose two-thirds of it at menopause.  And we mourn it. Duh!  Men can substitute money and Viagra for youth without making themselves quite as ridiculous as the superannuated cougar buying herself a young companion.  Nature gives and nature takes away.

Older women still have a lot going for them.  Us.  What Margaret Mead called “post-menopausal zest” really does exist; it’s like being twelve again, with that pure passion for absorption in the world that was lost for forty years in a voluptuous haze of lust and fecundity.  On top of that, there are children and their amazing attraction to grandmother figures, which offers you a whole second (and in my case, first) wind on mothering if you want it.  Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy and others think that grandmothers greatly enhanced child survival, and that’s why we live so long past menopause; that this bond was even crucial to human evolution.  There it is for the taking, again, if you want it — little kids opening up and reaching out to you.

The unhappiness of female aging is partly legitimate fear of being alone, and awareness of shallow society’s disdain.  But it’s also partly just a narcissistic wound.  And to that part I say:  mourn it, and then get over it.