I have disclosed a great deal of myself through this journal, ranging from sexual incompetence to cleaning addictions. What I have worked diligently to avoid though is one of the most personal and embarrassing struggles that has plagued me for, well as long as I can remember. I believe I have avoided such a topic simply because I did not want pity. I did not want to become yet another statistic because quite frankly I do not think I am special. Not when it comes to this war.
I am no different than the millions of women who deal with the issue of weight, whether loss or gain. The battle of finding a healthy balance of food intake and energy expelled is an ongoing challenge for nearly every woman (and man) on this planet. We all work through our own relationships with food and my journey, although filled with a few extra land mines, resembles that of many others. The difference, one could point out though, is that the weapons are one sided, leaving me relatively helpless in fighting back.
I do not recall a time when I had a healthy relationship with food. It was both seducer and villain, even when just a child. Unlike my other siblings I was chubby by the time I was 3 months old. Although I was born of average weight, 6 lbs, 11 ounces, it did not take long for my body to hold onto the calories and fat, leaving me with a round tummy, thick thighs and chubby arms. With the exception of the formula I was given (I was allergic to my mother’s breast milk) I ate what my brother and sisters ate which consisted predominately of vegetables and grains. I was not a fan of meat, so my mother tells me and avoided protein at all costs, leaving most of my calories to come from fruits, nuts, vegetables and oats. I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere which means I spent most of my time playing outdoors. I ran through fields, hiked up hills, swam nearly every day in the summer and spent my winters trudging through thigh deep snow just to go sledding. In a nutshell I was an active kid, spending very little time in front of the television (which consisted of two channels: hockey and snow or news and snow). Regardless of how physical I was my body grasped each pound I gained, holding it hostage against my frame. I had to work twice as hard to maintain a healthy weight and when exercise and the reduction of calories did not work I found myself wandering into the disgusting world of binging, purging and laxative abuse. Even at the age of 6 I would hide food from my plate, placing it in a napkin so that my parents thought I had consumed my meals.
I grew up thinking I was fat. I grew up constantly being told I was fat. Regardless of what the scale read, in my mind, in my reflection I was obese. I remember being in grade 9, 14 years of age and hearing the boys call me “fatty fatty 2X4 can’t get through the kitchen door”. At 5’3 I weighed 110lbs and I was called the fat girl. Compared to my friends I was since they were still all under the 100lb mark. Now, depending on what chart you are reading and bone structure one has, a 14 year old girl who is 152.4cm tall is at a healthy BMI when weighing anywhere from 89.2 lbs to 132.7 lbs. According to all physicians I have been examined by I range somewhere between small and medium boned so yes I should come in on the lower end of that scale and at 110 lbs I believe I did. I had full breasts and hips and had started my period by the age of 8. I was developing rapidly and my body was adapting to those changes. Regardless though of what any chart read, I was the fat girl. I was “huge” according to all the names I was called and as diligent as I was, nothing I did seemed to bring my numbers down. Granted my efforts did stop the numbers from rising but regardless of how hard I worked it seemed near impossible for the weight to come off.
Somewhere during my 18th year, my mother was hospitalized with a severe case of hypothyroidism. Her condition was so extreme she was placed in intensive care and there was a period of a week where we thought we might lose her. Fortunately the doctors were able to provide her with the proper medication and 22 years later she is living a full life. This one near fatal experience caused my doctor to look into my heath and test my own thyroid for any malfunctions. With a simple blood test, my results showed my thyroid was barely working, a result which caused an immediate intake of thyroxin, a prescription I have been on ever since. Both my GP and my Endocrinologist believed my thyroid was the culprit for my fluctuating weight gain and loss and were confident the medication would restore my metabolism.
Unlike the majority of those affected by an under active thyroid, my body did not respond well to the medication. At first I did not mind the side effects as I was loosing weight at a rapid rate. I went from 110 lbs to 87 lbs within a month. I thrived at how thin my body was, running my fingers over my near visible skeleton. I went from digesting 700 calories a day to eating as many as 1100, something I had never done in my life. Unfortunately my high did not last long for three months after taking my new found miracle drug my body shut down, my thyroid malfunctioning even more, causing my metabolism to nearly stop. In the following two months I went from 87 lbs to 130lbs, the result of which caused me to experience a rather ugly depression. My sadness was not only a result due to the weight gain itself but due to the lack of hormones in my body. Due to the rather unexpected and rapid decrease then increase of weight I was put on a stronger dose of thyroxin as well as returning to a strict diet combined with exercise and after a few months I went down to about 120 lbs.
This see-saw experience continued throughout my 20′s and 30′s and now my 40′s, leaving me in a constant state of uncertainty and frustration. The harder I worked, the more exercise I did, the less food I ate, the more my body fought against my efforts. I would lose then gain, then gain and gain then lose and lose. The war an endless battle with no victory in sight. Even to this day my body fights itself. Currently I am down to 500 calories a day (or less) with a 60 minute workout 5 days a week. I am finding though the exercise is getting harder as I am lacking in energy. I have kept a food diary for the past year and whenever Master reviews it, he shakes his head all while asking me where I get any energy to do anything. There are many days when all one will read is:
Breakfast: One apple, one glass of water = 116 calories
Lunch: One egg, one glass of water = 72 calories
Dinner: Ten slices of cucumber, 11 cashew nuts, one glass of water. = 8 + 49 = 57 calories
Total caloric intake for the day: 245 calories
60 minutes of cardio speed walking: 349 calories burned.
Of course my days vary, sometimes I eat more and yes other times I will eat less. My relationship with food has deteriorated to the point I do not want to eat at all. In fact I experience anger when I have to put something in my mouth, when I have to feed the body I feel betrayed by. I have literally spent a life time working towards a healthier, stronger self and regardless of my efforts I continue to fail. It is a constant fight and I confess I am not sure I have the energy to try to win it. Even when, last year, three tumours were located on my thyroid I found myself not caring about what those tumours meant simply because I felt such hate for my body, such anger for an instrument that refused to play properly.
Each day I wake telling myself I have to try. Every day I force myself to put a carrot or piece of tuna or even a handful of almonds into my mouth. I can not recall a single day since I was just a child where I did not think of my weight, of my food intake, of the exercise I need to do. I have spent nearly 40 years trying to understand my body, learning how it works and how to manipulate it so it does what I need it to do. Although the thyroid is small, it sincerely dominates a persons body, dictating not only one’s metabolism but also internal thermostat, hormonal balance, libido, hair productivity and general organ maintenance. It is the centre of the body and when it does not work, when it fails, the rest of the body follows.
To say I am tired is an understatement. Physically I am weak. After a 60 minute walk I am breathless, my heart having to pump a little harder, my blood pressure lower than the average person, my pulse much lower. I waste energy trying to warm my body, my internal temperature generally averaging at 35.8 (taken by ear). In the winter I am so cold I ache, every inch of my frame in a constant state of pain. In the summer my body fights to cool down, often overheating simply because my body does not know how to find a balance.
I want to find the weapons to win this war. I want to feel alive instead of merely living. I wish not to fear food. I long to no longer find handfuls of my hair throughout my home, a constant trail of failure reminding me of what is broken. I ache in desperation to experience my sexuality once more. To be connected with lust and passion, to be filled with those sensations of arousal and desire. I am the sum of my parts and I believe I am entitled to enjoy them all. I feel like a robot. I exist purely because my body still functions on some level but I am not thriving. I am not experiencing joy or even sadness. I am numb and angry and exhausted and that fucking pisses me off.
I want to enjoy a piece of chocolate. To allow the rich darkness to melt on my mouth and take pleasure from the taste. I want to kiss my Master and relish in the vibrations of his touch. I want to swim, welcoming the strength of my body. I want it all and I do not think I am asking for too much. I have spent my entire life working on my body and now it owes me. It owes me to fix itself or to help me find a way to fix it.
If only I knew how. Although part of me wants to give up I know I won’t. I will continue to seek help. I will continue to see my specialists, to try new drugs, to change my foods and exercise. I will do everything, I will do nearly anything, this I know. I guess I’m just angry I have to. I am angry that I see no positive results from my efforts, that no matter what I do my body laughs at me, poking fun at my turmoil. I want to surrender but I won’t. I never will.
These are my demons and I will overcome them. Even if it takes an entire lifetime.