Friday, April 03, 2009

Emotional Weight Lifting

If I make it to midnight today, and there is a reasonable chance that I will, I'll have seven weeks of abstinence and a guesstimated loss of 26 pounds.

I say all this for a couple of reasons.

My home 12-step group, the meeting I exert myself most habitually to get to, has shifted personality over the years. I've heard a number of down and dirty bulimia stories since going back. There is nothing more gutter-drunk than bulimia. I respect their struggles and recovery enormously, and much prefer those stories to people who are complacent about their weight.


I don't hear anyone sharing a day count or anniversary that mentions weight loss any more. I am disturbed by this so much that I spoke about it in my three minutes last week, bawling as I did so. I don't like the lack of sisterhood in my endeavor or the lack of discussion about the particular brutalities of obesity.

So I'm sharing my weight loss. I'm also sharing it because, as you know from The Great Wattle Disaster, there is a long period when you're working your way down from big numbers that one can't see one's weight loss. A dress size might be 20 or 30 pounds, and I've been wearing pretty much the same stuff as I did 8 weeks ago. Lots of elastic sweat pants and shirts bought big to begin with. Even my corduroys are elastic waisted. There is, for some months yet, a ways to go before I'll really see it -- in the mirror, on my labels -- for myself. So the scale is not a bad thing, especially when I'm not trying to get away with anything.

You know. Too much corned beef: will it show up on the scale tomorrow??? As though when I step on the scale, instead of a number, a big red brisket will be on the dial.

That's a great phrase We rely on, isn't it? Will X show up on the scale? Wonderfully absurd in the absurd idiom of weight loss.

I mention the seven weeks, which sounds tidier and bigger than 49 days, because of something my sponsor said in regards to a painful episode. "She's in her disease."

I was a little taken aback, not because my sponsor was wrong but because who are we -- she and I -- to differentiate between someone who's eating at will and my mere seven weeks of [really pretty good] behavior? How can seven weeks make me "sober"?

I've been thinking about what I haven't eaten my way through lately. Revising Angry Fat Girls, which is a painful process because it's an acutely painful but loving book. A lot of irritation with human beings when I'm out with dogs. A lot of flack in response to the last Lab Lady posts I did for the Brooklyn Heights Blog. Working every weekend and being very tired from the cold. A flare-up with someone who tends to drop me every couple of years that has me wondering if it would be better to end the friendship which gives me some of my greatest pleasure but is entirely at the whim of my friend.

This is nothing to the daily pressures and fears I faced when I was an agent and abstinent. How did I do without klonopin, I wonder? How will I get back to a place where I don't have a nervous breakdown about going to the grocery store or to walk the dogs, let alone get myself to a movie?

Maybe I've been handed these small bumps in the road as emotional dumbbells. What I've learned about myself in these seven weeks is how emotionally fragile I am. Confrontations devastate me, even when they're the sort someone else would shrug off. I'm prone to emotional exhaustion -- the flare up with my friend cost me two days of writing.

And I am very bad at speaking up for myself unless it's in rage. I defend my dogs but not myself.

I've lucked out. It was my turn to go see my parents but my brother has a conference coming up in Las Vegas and will take my turn. A dear friend has canceled a visit in May. I won't have to drink water at the rice pudding shop in Little Italy. I even ended up wit too many dogs on my slate to go to the St. Pat's bash that is a tradition. My life will not have been interrupted through these wobbly times when food is still a real option. I'll have to face it in June and July, but not in the first four months.

I wish there was a way to exercise emotional strength and appropriateness, the way one can press iron or go to yoga. I mean, one needs the strength of weight lifting in order to, say, carry a toddler, and one can get that strength in advance of said-toddler. Why isn't there a way to do in-advance push-ups regarding, "I feel taken advantage of" or "Please listen more carefully to what I'm saying"?

Maybe prayer, meditation, medication, chi help in situations like dog rage, but I'm less certain of their efficacy when pulled out on the carpet for misbehavior or mistakes, for being dumped by a guy, fired from a job, death in the family, loss of friends, travel and all the rest of the junk that goes into being human.

The only real difference I can see between seven weeks of abstinence and being actively in pursuit of pasta is that I take more of the punch than I did two months ago.

And, of course, the scale. ;)


Anonymous said...

Patt J
As someone else who dreads confrontation, I was impressed by this bumper sticker: "Speak your mind. Even if your voice shakes."

Bea said...

I am a great confronter in my mind. I can tell off anyone if I don't have to open my mouth.

I think of my fat as a protective cloaking device. It deflects the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by making me invisible and/or absorbing the projectiles. As I lose this protective shield I am more vulnerable. Maybe this is happening to you. Cheers

Cindy said...

HAPPY SEVEN WEEKS!! That is awesome and I am glad you are speaking up about it and sharing it on here. I understand the concept of being in my decease. And being in the solution. I can see the thinning going on. 26 pounds is substantial. But putting together consecutive days of abstinence is miraculous! Thanks!!

Laura N said...

7 weeks IS substantial. Congratulations, Frances. The early stage of weight loss is so hard, when no one but you & the scale know the weight is coming off. It's so hard to delay the payoff of someone else noticing. But the payoff will come. And so will smaller sizes.

I hope you find strength in your abstinence, in surviving these life stresses without the comfort of food. The more you do something, the stronger you become. Repetitions of abstinence will bring more abstinence. And look how many reps you've already completed. Keep at it, lady.

April said...

What resonates for me in this post, in particular, is your comment about being emotionally fragile and how much it takes out of you to confront. That is me in a nutshell. Being with people can be so exhausting that being away from them, even friends, can be a relief ~ even in loneliness.

I am easily hurt and yet feign acceptance. I "settle" for what others offer me instead of seeking what I want. I don't feel deserving and yet I want... want to be cared for, want consideration, want love. I want someone to want to spend time with me as much as I want to spend time with them. I want to belong to someone... I want to matter. I go through life apologizing for my existence and I hate that about myself. I want to have value. I want to value myself and I want to see that reflected in the faces of those I care about. For me, that is the root of my fragile emotions. I am not sure I'll ever get there, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Returning to your weight loss efforts is an announcement to the world that you are re-asserting your value as a human being. You matter... and you are going to take care of your needs, starting with your health. That's what it seems to me, anyway. And I will take inspiration from that...

Frances Kuffel said...

Oh, Cindy: what an eloquent & moving list of the reasons for fragility.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Wishing you resiliance and fortitude in the days ahead. You are journeying! Congratulations on your days of abstinance and the pounds lost so far. I walk too on the path of weight and worth. C/

le w said...

She's in her disease.

I haven't stopped thinking about that sentence since first reading it. It pretty much sums me up lately. I never quite feel "out" of my addictions, even when I think I'm managing them.

Anyway, I haven't ever commented before, but I am very much a lurking, reading, appreciative fan. Thank you so much for every post, your words are as comforting as pudding for me.