Perceptions

Food Objects 0017I’ve lost another dress size in the last week or so. I’m a typical women and very pleased with it despite the method by which it occurred. In my experience, English culture isn’t nearly as obsessed about weight and dress size as most, something I’m very thankful for, but like everywhere else in there world, the majority rule applies. According to the NHS, 99% of people are overweight because of poor lifestyle choices, i.e. eating and drinking more than they should and lack of activity. I’ve never gained weight for either of those reasons. I have lost weight gained as a result of medication like steroids with dieting on occasion, but mostly weight loss isn’t a sensible choice for me either, in fact, it’s rarely something I attempt on a concious level. Despite this fact, whenever I have gained weight, perception has always been that it must be because I’m lazy and overly indulgent and when I’ve lost weight, the perception is that I’ve been dieting and exercising and should be praised for the effort. I.e. weight gain = bad =  met with disapproval whilst weight loss = good = met with approval.

I’ve never cared about looks. I still rarely wear any make-up other than lip gloss (does that even count?), I don’t style my hair, prefer boots over high-heels and wear jeans and tank-tops in the summer and T-shirts with big woolly jumpers in the winter. I am generally hopeful that my lack of fashion sense make the point that I don’t care. It annoys me that weight, something over which I generally have little control, matters more than clothes, something over which I generally have a lot of control. It further annoys me when I notice the difference in people’s attitudes when I gain or loose a few pounds. But mostly, it annoys me that it matters so much to me. I weigh a 140 pounds, have a BMI of 23, which is technically fine. My current weight is even listed on my medical records as my ideal weight. And yet, I’m giddy at the prospect of loosing another couple of dress sizes before autumn hits because my daily calorie intake is a fifth of the recommended figure on most days, if that. It’s not that I care what I will look like when size 10 jeans fit again, it’s more that when you’re sick, thin is comfortable and convenient. You can pull your knees up, there’s less strain on joints, the wheelchair is easier to manoeuvre, Chris can pick me up and carry me off to bed, all useful things.

“You can’t live on strawberries and coffee”, Chris says. “Why not?”, is generally my response. Or “I had a few bites of chicken and rice a few days ago” or “I had a yogurt for breakfast yesterday” or “I’ll have carrot and apple juice for dinner if you make it for me”. I don’t have an eating disorder. Mostly, I have migraines that come with nausea, vomiting and no appetite. Suddenly thin isn’t all that pretty any more. I diligently drink the nutrition shakes, take the electrolyte supplements, try to eat healthy when I do eat and as my day isn’t exactly packed with thrilling activities, 400 calories are plenty. Or so I tell myself.

Food isn’t something I worry or care about. I like things like chocolate and crisps as much as the next person, well probably not quite as much, but I do like snacks and treats. It’s just that food and weight have very little in common and even when I do worry about weight, I rarely connect that to food as such. As associations go, weight and self-esteem are not linked in my head either. It’s nice to feel pretty and attractive sometimes and the smaller your clothes the easier that is to achieve, but it’s nicer to feel wanted and liked and needed and loved and appreciated; qualities that are rarely linked to the size of anything physical. I sometimes catch myself thinking that I’d be happier if I’d just get around to loosing those 20-odd pounds, but I know I wouldn’t be. I’d be just as happy. I do think my joints would appreciate it and so I’m not trying too hard to eat when I don’t feel like it which is most of the time. Despite getting more exercise even on very sedentary days than the average person commits to, my drug regime has frozen my metabolism and the rest of my day is very sedentary so that I gain weight at half the recommended daily calorie intake. I don’t mind as much as I possibly should, but how much I weigh have absolutely nothing to do with who I am. And yet, it still matters.

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