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Thursday, July 8, 2010

#40: Anti-bridal diet update (part 2): Love thy chub

Last year I made an announcement that I would begin Operation White Bikini - a program vaguely formed in my imagination that emphasized awareness and only eating when I am hungry. Plain and simple, you see. No counting calories, gym obsession, self-hate, or deprivation. And my vow was that whatever size I was by the end of one year of this kind of mindful eating was probably my natural body weight. Therefore, I would have to learn to love every inch of me no matter how I looked in a white bikini at that time. This was the beginning of my fierce anti-bridal diet attitude.

But then I began my final year of grad school and internship; I turned to comfy carbs and those divine late night second dinners. I watched as last year's plan quickly turned into Operation Black One-Piece Miracle Suit.

Now my wedding is less than 4 weeks away and there is no way I'm toning these arms or shaving off this muffin top in time for the big day. Not unless I do a crash diet and run a few miles every day, which I say a big "HELL no!" to.

So it's back to the basics of my original plan, only this time I have some structure and inspiration to guide me through. It comes in the form of Geneen Roth's Women Food and God, which I've written about here and here.  I just finished part one of the book, which is all about the principles and the emotional/ spiritual implications of over-eating and dieting. And because some of you readers are busy working women trying to plan the biggest party of your life, I'll save you some time by giving you the highlights:

(Note: The author is a woman who had my Operation White Bikini idea nearly a decade before I was born. She has been both grossly overweight and frighteningly underweight in her lifetime, but she reports that ever since she stopped dieting 30 years ago she has maintained her natural weight. Now she leads retreats for those who struggle with eating disorders, yo-yo dieting, and obesity.)

"We think we're miserable because of what we weigh. And to the extent that our joints hurt and our knees ache and we can't walk three blocks without losing our breath, we probably are physically miserable because of extra weight. But if we've spent the last five, twenty, fifty years obsessing about the same ten or twenty pounds, something else is going on. Something that has nothing to do with weight."

"...if compulsive eating is anything, it's a way we leave ourselves when life gets hard. When we don't want to notice what is going on. Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be. I tell them that ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment. To not leave themselves. I tell them that they don't have to make a choice between losing weight and doing this. Weight loss is the easy part; anytime you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lose weight. But I also tell them that compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive."

"Sometimes people say, 'But I just like the taste of food. In fact, I love the taste! Why can't it be that simple I overeat because I like food.' But. When you like something, you pay attention to it. When you like something - love something - you take time with it. You want to be present for every second of the rapture. Overeating does not lead to rapture. It leads to burping and farting and being so sick that you can't think of anything but how full you are. That's not love; that's suffering."

"There are many ways to bolt....Distracting yourself from your pain by doing a thousand different things: thinking about something else, blaming your mother, blaming someone else, getting into a fight, comparing yourself to other people, dreaming about life in the future, recalling life in the past, never getting deeply involved. Eating."

"Dieting was like praying. It was a plaintive cry to whoever was listening: I know I am fat. I know I am ugly. I know I am undisciplined, but see how hard I try. See how violently I restrict myself, deprive myself, punish myself. Surely there must be a reward for those who know how horrible they are."

"A few years ago, I received a letter from someone who'd included a Weight Watchers ribbon on which was embossed I LOST TEN POUNDS. Underneath the gold writing, the letter writer added, "And I Still Feel Like Crap.'"

"Obsession [over weight loss] give you something to do besides having your heart shattered by heart-shattering events...Obsessions are ways we leave before we are left because we believe that the pain of staying would kill us."

"...and you have a generation of godless girls...raised largely without a fundamental sense of divinity. In fact, our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks...not the amazing miracle of mere existence." 

"Fixing ourselves is not the same as being ourselves."

"Acceptance represents the basic challenge of compulsive eating."

"Of this I am certain: something happens every time I stop fighting with the way things are."

And with that I leave you with a "fat picture" from my bridal shower:

The dress from Target that I am wearing above had an "S" on the tag. But when I look at photos of myself in it all I can see is size "H" - huge. And then up come the red flags.

Why? Because this photo was taken during one of the most meaningful and happy moments of the entire day -- when all of the women made a circle around me and listened to my future in-laws as they welcomed me into their family. This is a snapshot of me feeling so utterly loved and grateful. So I'll be damned if I look at this photo and tell myself that I look disgusting, that I am chubby because I am lazy and undisciplined, and that I deserve to be unhappy because I didn't put in the work. Doing so would put a rain cloud of judgment over a perfect moment in my life. What a waste. What a tragedy.

My goal is to look at those chubby arms and thick mid-section and be grateful for my body and for my life. But I also want to see the fat not as something to hate or to judge, but merely as evidence of my attitude toward life and it's challenges: that if I eat this chocolate bar while I'm feeling angry, it will take the edge off. That if I devour the entire over-sized plate at a restaurant, this wonderful evening out with my friends will last longer and feel more fun. That if I snack on these leftovers while I finish this paper, the torture will be a little more bearable. Paying attention to this kind of warped thinking is the first step toward change.

So arms and waist, I love you. Why, look how much you've grown! You are bigger than you were last summer, and right now I am going to think about why.  I will sit with my difficult feelings and realize that I can feel them without being destroyed. I can sit with them and NOT numb myself with food. And after many months and years of practicing this kind of awareness and compassion toward myself, I will arrive at a new place -- a place where I will feel (and where you will look) different. I will be whole and present. You will be full and healthy.


  1. I love your idea! I have been working very hard this year to not diet, not personally train, to just be present and mindful, to enjoy food and enjoy being active. It does become difficult when I am around women talking endlessly of crunches and going tanning and not eating or drinking anything, complaining of the half inch of skin they can pinch on their concave abs. And I succumb to this after a while and doubt myself, and I don't even have a wedding and all of the societal pressures around me!
    We. Are. Beautiful. Exactly the way we are. Diversity is good, healthy is better. And that book looks amazing! Thanks for your bravery. :)

  2. my name is liz, and i eat my emotions.

    i wasn't thrilled with the results of my wedding photos- flab here, paunch there. but after the first few weeks following the wedding, i came to grips with the fact that that's what i looked like when josh fell in love with me.

  3. @ Jolynn - High five! It's actually difficult to resist the urge to diet. It's sort of the easier way out of feeling chubby. Only it's not *really* a way out. Right now one of my biggest challenges is being staying active. My intention was to go on a nice long walk every day. But I'm doing much more intending than I am walking.

    @ Liz - Yeah, I like the idea of looking at a wedding photo and fondly remembering who we once were. My Mom is a tiny bird of a thing but in her wedding photos she's got more meat on her bones (still a healthy weight, though). I told her she looked adorable, healthy, and fresh; all she saw was a fatty. I want my wedding photos to make me smile (and maybe laugh) one day, not make me feel terrible!

  4. I'm not quite sure what to say about this post or your picture except to say- thanks. You are brave to write the way you do.

    It's funny because this morning I did some research on the lemonade diet and I seriously considered it. But then I'd feel like I was cutting off myself, my life, and my freedom. Not that "I love food and I need to eat!" but I would only be doing that damn diet out of guilt and pressure- not because I wanted to change for me.

    So again.... thanks, Kim! :)

    p.s. You are beautiful! And your eyes are stunning!

  5. Kim, you look terrific!

    Anna wrote some really great stuff about this issue on her blog too, I can't remember exactly where but probably about this time last year. If I find the right entry I'll email you.

    In any case, it's been a big year for you and it's winding up with you marrying Brian. That's HUGE (not you), babe!

  6. It's funny how differently you view yourself than what others do. When I saw the bridal shower pics I thought to myself-" Wow Kim looks radiant and beautiful." You having chubby arms never came to mind. Sometimes we are way harder on ourselves than others are. We see things that no one else ever sees. I thought and probably everyone else thought that you looked happy and beautiful.... while you picked out the flaws- Stop that! :)

  7. Hugs to you!

    First off, your picture above is basically how I look all the time (I can't post a photo here but if I could, I would) label wouldn't say "S" but I suspect you have a far more petite bone structure than I do (I don't know your background but I'm Polish/Armenian, so I have the big-boned, peasant-woman, push-that-plow, Slavic Grandma build that will be there no matter how much weight I lose).

    FWIW you look great in that photo - I didn't see a chubby girl, I saw a happy girl. And any bride, no matter her size, if she wears a flattering dress and beams from ear to ear is going to look great on her wedding day. I know it's a little trite to say that: even as I type it I go a little "Yeah, but..." - but it's not an idea to be dismissed lightly.

  8. @ Angie - You are too sweet! And yeah, that lemonade diet sounds awful. P.S. - You are totally a cutie yourself. My lesbian blogger crush? Possibly.

    @ Moz - Thanks, girl. You always make me smile. :) I'll check out that post by Anna soon.

    @ Laura - You're probably right. I guess we're all guilty of being our own worst critic. And yes, my goal this year (with the help of aforementioned book) is to "stop that"! ;)

    @ Jenna - Lol to your bone structure description!! I'm Filipino which means I'm short. (5'0" to be exact.) So any bit of pudge really shows on me. I'm very happy to have my Mom's wide hips, but I'm less thrilled about getting my Dad's family's linebacker shoulders. I think I could push that plow with you and yo' Slavic Grandma self!

    And about the pics of my shower, I do notice chub but I'm a lot more compassionate about it than I used to be. I think this book I'm reading is changing me from the inside out. Holla!

  9. Pinoy? Mabuhay! I love the Philippines. Been there twice. (First time to Manila and Palawan, second to Cebu and the Camotes).

  10. Mabuhay, Jenna! :)

    Although you're probably more Filipino than I am; I've only been to the Phil once, when I was an itty bitty brown baby. And I don't speak (and barely understand) Tagalog. :( Disgrace to my race!

  11. Stephanie let me borrow the book you are referring too and I STRUGGLE to get through it mostly because it does hit a lot of emotional issues for me. The extra weight I carry is definitly something deeper then no self control. Its the loss and gain of love, the realization that life doesnt just fall into place, the fact that my college degree amounted to nothing and that I cant be "still" with myself while sitting at a computer. Issues I clearly need to work out. I think you look wonderful in that dress at your shower however I was just saying 5 minutes ago that I look HUGE in my engagement pictures - kettle meet pot. haha Anyway its inspiring to know we all struggle with this. I intend to fully devour that book and be at peace with myself sometime soon... i hope it works and I can learn to love my body again.

  12. Thanks for sharing, Holly. Girl, it ain't easy.

    I'm glad that you were able to get your hands on that book. It's changing me ever so slowly, from the inside out - and I hope it does the same for you. :)

    But. I'll tell you right now that if you're dieting and mustering some sudden (and temporary?) discipline to work out, it will be very easy to let the words on the pages travel right through you and evaporate, like they were never read at all. So if you don't mind my 2 cents (because I'm unemployed and that's all I've got at the moment), I'd suggest finishing the book before starting on any kind of bridal diet. Then decide afterward how you'd like to approach your health. :)

  13. Hey, Kim! I started poking around on here after the posts and comments on Practical Wedding. I just found this post and dear god. Amazing. Really, really amazing. Your last paragraphs paired with the quotes from the book.... Just, YES.

    My weight has fluctuated a TON over the past few years, varying between three sizes. I've never, ever dieted in my life, and I never intend to. But the idea of consciousness about what we're eating and why... It's important.

    I'm a lucky bride in that my dress has a corset back and definitely allows me the peace of mind that a pound here or there won't make a huge difference in how I look on my wedding day. My approach to my body and the wedding has been very laid back. I've wanted to tone (the dress accents my arms, so I've been doing exercises to target that), but the biggest thing is just being healthy. I don't like exercise that much, and hopping on a treadmill five times a week sounds like a nightmare, but I've found other things (Zumba classes!) that get me moving.

    It's all about finding out what is healthy for us. What makes us feel good and BE good. And then our bodies will be what they're supposed to be-- happy, healthy, and whole.

    Thanks, Kim-- great post. :)


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