Weighty Thoughts

I've just returned a pair of size 8 pants because I couldn't pull them up past my hips.

This is a very new experience to me. In the past, I've hovered around size 4 or 6 (with temporary excursions into size 8 the two times I quit smoking) and aside from the myriad variations of what constitutes women's sizes - aforementioned size 8 pants stopped exactly at the same point on my hips that my size 6 jeans do - I'm finding that my body has changed. The last two years of being on Humira has not only rendered my blood work normal, but also added weight to my body, changing its shape, likely helped along a bit by middle-age spread.

And you know what? I welcome it. Because in the summer of 2006, I looked like this

Photo by Janne/TinkMama

Which is why for several years, there were no photos of me on this blog.

I've always tended towards the slender and muscles atrophied from decades of non-use contributed to that, but when I started Enbrel, the weight started melting off me. Even after I figured out that I needed to eat for two - me and the Enbrel - what I ate only kept me going, but didn't add weight. Most women, even the very thin ones, usually have a bit of bellyfat, because that's the way we’re built, but I didn't. My skin was loose, the kind of loose that normally means you're anorexic, yet I ate like a teenage boy. Although Enbrel suppressed my RA, I just didn't feel healthy and once I made the switch to Humira and started gaining weight again, I started feeling better, too. I no longer have to eat like a teenage boy - I eat the way I always have, every 3-4 hours, but less than I did before - the weight is staying and I love my rounder body. My curves are back - hell, I have new curves - my hipbones are no longer so sharp they could impale someone (not that I’m currently having the opportunity to test that assertion, but theoretically, y’unnerstand) and I feel more solid. Less fragile. Healthier. As long as I can fit in my wheelchair - because I don't have $20K it would take to buy a bigger one - I don't care about the bit of pudge factor.

I also don't care about the cellulite, I don't care that I'm having trouble figuring out what size pants I am now or that many stores apparently don't have a size to fit me because they cater exclusively to anorexic giraffes, I don't care that when I look down, I have more stomach to look at than I’ve ever had before and I don't care that I am probably 100lbs for the first time in my life. And I may never care again. In fact, two years after I started retaining what I ate, I’m still so thrilled that I’m giddy with it. Having had no body fat at all will do that to you. Put things in perspective.

I know women who hate their body and several of them have the kind of looks other women dream about. I have a friend who was thoroughly depressed and when I asked why, she told me she'd gained 3.8 pounds. It used to be that women held themselves up to the impossible "ideal" of models who tend to be something like 25% underweight for their height, but these days, we don't just look at models, we look at female movie and TV stars, who have gone through a period of several years of being so thin, you can count their ribs and their arms look like twigs. Marcia Cross from Desperate Housewives has been quoted as saying "they pay me not to eat" and when the remake of 90210 started, there was a bit of an uproar about how thin the girls were and all of a sudden, an article appeared quoting the producers saying how concerned they were, except who hired them? Who required them to be that thin in order to get the job in the first place? And I read somewhere the girls in grade 3 want to lose weight because they grow up with pervasive images that to be a woman = dieting as they see the women around them endlessly watch what they eat and express guilt if they nibble on a piece of chocolate.

And aside from railing against women being required yet again to modify themselves in one particular way or another, it makes me wonder what we could do if we weren't obsessed about losing 5lbs? What would happen if you take all the time women put into finding nothing but flaws with their physique, counting calories (and decimal points of weight gain), feeling guilty about not maintaining a weight that's less than what their body requires to be healthy and energetic and spend it doing something that mattered? Like reading a book, laughing with a friend, playing with the kids, painting a mural on the side of the house and kicking arse at work. For instance.

I've been aware of this issue in a fairly theoretical sense for a long time - what woman hasn’t? - but it wasn't until I got dangerously thin and no matter what I did, I couldn't gain weight, felt it on my own body that I got my head on straight. If you look in the mirror and see only flaws, you come to hate your body. And your body is you, so you hate yourself. This obsession with being thin is not just unhealthy, not just making women more tired than they have to be (because not getting enough fuel makes you tired), it breeds self-hatred. And I look at the little girls I know and want more than anything to teach them to love themselves, regardless of their shape.

And now if you'll excuse me, there's a cookie calling my name.


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