Manifolds

November 23, 2009

New BMI = 26.72, “Your RealAge is 38.6!” and the ugly fact about perception of obesity

Today, on my 44th birthday, I reached another milestone.  165 lbs off.

The next milestones coming up are pretty cool:

  • in 0.7 lbs I will drop into the 160s.  Which is where I was in COLLEGE.  (And briefly in grad school after I lost 100+ lbs the first time.)
  • in 2.8 lbs I will literally be HALF the woman I once was, by weight.
  • in 11.1 lbs I will be out of “overweight” and into “normal” according to BMI.  I’m not sure I EVER really believed I might get there.  😯 Hoped, yes.  Believed?  I dunno.  But now I’m sure I can.

DDOORN on Spark People has an amusing tradition. Each year on his birthday he goes to realage.com to calculate how much YOUNGER he’s getting, biologically, due to the improvements he’s made in his health and fitness.

This is a fun idea, and I’ve adopted it this year.

I went there and filled out the information for approximately what I did, ate, and weighed last year (around 330) and got the answer that I was 46.1 (3 years older than my calendar age). I can tell you, I FELT a lot older than that. I was already having trouble with my arthritic knee going up and down the stairs in my house and was starting to wonder how I was going to cope as I aged further.

Things happened (you can see my Spark Page for details) and I started losing weight again in early December. I had lost 40 lbs by the time I was introduced to SparkPeople in March.

Now, 160 lbs lighter than my maximum recorded weight and approximately 150 lbs lighter than last year, my supposed biological age is 38 and a half. It feels like less than that – I haven’t felt this healthy or strong since I was in my 20s. Of course, I don’t actually KNOW what it feels like to be biologically 38, because I was over 300 lbs for approximately the last 15 years…

Some other thoughts about the changes since my last birthday, some of which may be uncomfortable to read:

While talking with Lisa on the phone this morning we discussed how the world is different for me now. One of the things that came up is how it felt to be super morbidly obese and how people treat others who are obese.

I felt kind-of cushioned and “safe” in my “fat suit.” My parents were very strict and physical disciplinarians. As a child I never considered myself to be “abused,” as there was always a “reason” for hitting me – with the metal end of the belt, with a heavy hairbrush, etc.

One incident that sticks out in my mind is the day around 8 years old when I went to school in shorts and a classmate asked why there were giant, father-sized handprint-shaped welts on my thighs. I explained that I’d done something I wasn’t supposed to the previous evening, and had been spanked. She was horrified and offered to tell her parents for me (her father was on the city council). I declined, and after that wore long pants to school. Looking back on it, this strikes me as the behavior of a child who might be experiencing a degree of physical abuse.

My mom wasn’t the most nurturing person in the world, either. She was extremely tightly wound, insecure, and unhappy as a homemaker. Just about the only time I felt loved and accepted was when I was being fed. I came home for lunch in elementary school. She’d make me lunch and we’d watch Split Second and Password on TV, shouting suggestions to the contestants. I remember when I was 8 or so one of my favorite lunches was Kraft macaroni and cheese. I could have as much as I wanted. It was common for me to eat THE ENTIRE POT. I still love boxed macaroni and cheese, and for this reason studiously avoid it.

Don’t get me wrong – you could do a lot worse for parents; they pushed me to excel in school, provided more than adequate food, shelter, and clothing, taught me how to read at 4, bought a 1972 World Book encyclopedia and put it in my bedroom, brought me on trips (Boston in 1970, San Diego in 1975, all around the US in 1976, England in 1977), taught me how to garden and fish, encouraged me in music and scouting, brought me camping every summer, etc. They were just from a different generation where kids were brought up strictly and a fat baby was a healthy baby (he was born in 1910; she, in 1921).

Anyhow, the result was that I associated food (quantity rather than quality) with emotional comfort and felt the need to protect myself physically from the world.

Fast forward to a year ago. Although I was physically uncomfortable, the fat suit made me feel safe. There was a physical buffer between myself and the rest of the world. And it also helped keep away people who didn’t genuinely like me for my mind and my personality.

What I didn’t factor in is that the fat suit also attracted people who saw me (rightfully) as emotionally vulnerable and used that information to get things from me by stroking my ego. I didn’t factor in the fact that the fat suit, while acting as a physical buffer, also weighed me down and made me slower and weaker physically.

And here’s the part that may be uncomfortable to read. Wearing a fat suit was blatant advertising that something was wrong with me, mentally and/or emotionally. It’s not just that it made me physically less able. It broadcast to the world that I had serious problems that were interfering with taking care of myself.

I am not talking about the fat that constitutes “overweight,” or even necessarily “obese.” These conditions are the new “normal” in the US, and can sometimes be caused by medical problems. But when you get into “morbid obesity” and “super morbid obesity” (which is where I was a year ago), it’s like wearing a big sign that says “I’m a mess. I may be high-functioning and in denial about it, but scratch below that veneer, and you’ll find a messy unresolved issue.”

This is the ugly fact that Lisa pointed out, and I have to say I agree with her. No wonder people often give other Very Large People a wide berth. It isn’t necessarily right or fair or kind, but it does make sense.

150 lbs of fat less, and “8” biological years younger, where does that leave me now? I still have a bunch of the issues that I had a year ago. With years of counseling and drugs they haven’t disappeared; losing over 100 lbs isn’t going to make them go away fast, either. But at least I’m no longer advertising them to the world or letting them get in the way of taking care of myself physically. And that’s something.

If I have to be vulnerable (and it seems that I do, since that’s basically the human condition) I might as well be in good physical shape to face it.

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3 Comments »

  1. Incredibly honest, and brave to put yourself out there like that.

    Congratulations on your milestones; physically, mentally, emotionally.

    Comment by Kathie — November 25, 2009 @ 9:58 pm | Reply

  2. Hey, Anja! That’s an incredible piece of soul searching you’ve shared with us! Very reassuring to read, too. Lucid, honest but not at all brutal. Not a hint of self-loathing to be found. Impressed. I feel proud to have been, perhaps, an instigator in your self-examination. Congratulations on your progress and keep up the good work, my friend.

    Comment by Lisa — December 7, 2009 @ 5:19 pm | Reply


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