Sunday, April 27

a healthy weight debate

Because the story of trying to gain weight is grossly under told in society, I will tell it. Some people wish that they had this problem, which is rather naive, and many mistakenly believe I eat delicate amounts which is why I look small. Others think that putting on weight is nowhere near as challenging as losing it, and a growing number like to speak about 'skinny ones' with lashings of the judgement they hate being applied to their larger bodies.

An acquaintance coming to terms with her curves on social media wrote, “Let’s stop comparing ourselves to stick thin models, there is nothing sexy or attractive about skin and bone.”

Let’s stop judging other body types while we strive to care for our own bodies. Reverse sizeism is no solution at all.

Because of the terribly over-discussed nature of weight in our society, particularly for women, I have to fight to think of weight only in terms of health.  

I was slim before I got sick, but the year that I got sick my size diminished. That was the very least of my problems, so I didn’t even register it – apart from finding that my only formal dress needed to be pegged at the back for Year 12 photos, and two doctors wanting to treat me for Anorexia Nervosa instead of Myalgic Encephalomyeltis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. One doctor believed me when I showed him my fine bones and told him about my fast-metabolism family. The other doctor was unrelentingly suspicious about my petite frame, while I tried to explain that the only way I could function while feeling this ill was to eat ravenously all day. I ate, incessantly – and every drop of food was burned at a ferocious rate. I spent my teenage years eating far more than my same aged peers and looking far smaller. I forgot to mention to the doctor that when I was in the womb the doctors wondered if I was developing correctly because I was tiny-framed. I also forgot to mention that if he talked about weight instead of fatigue, I would leave the practice. Which I soon did.

It was about this time that I began to intensely dislike the obsession with BMI’s and numbers on the scales. Surely the medical profession had discovered diversity, and could move on from ‘you’re too skinny,’ to ‘you have a serious illness, let’s focus on the big stuff.’ A few years earlier I had decided that being told I was ‘skinny’ was akin to being told one was ‘fat’. If fat is outlawed terminology, skinny ought to be too. – and I have thought of myself as slim ever since. And yes, I do have curves, not as pronounced as some but undeniably feminine. While we’re here, no I am not ‘Asian sized’. I am actually Caucasian sized. Caucasians come in a range of sizes, and yes you should stock size 6, and below, because we like to wear garments too. You really should stock extra of ours because we need more garments to keep warm.  

Last year I was feeling particularly demoralised by the frequency and duration of viruses I had, making winter a hellish time. I realised that going off fructose had only one down-side: losing more weight. Low weight is associated with a weak immune system.

How do you gain weight when you burn it like kindling, feel most well off fructose, dairy and gluten, and have to exercise to manage your POTS?

First of all, you ignore all the fat-is-bad-for-you messages you ever heard. And then you begin eating all things healthy which are also solid, stodgy, fatty, oily and wonderful. For me, the biggest change had to be lunch time, as I can’t fit in much more at breakfast, dinner and dessert time – I have introduced potatoes, brown rice, olive oil, eggs, coconut cream {by the can}, lentils, meat and so on. As wonderful as this sounds, I struggle with the energy to make this food at lunch time, and if I find myself hungry {and exhausted} at 3 o’clock, I barely have the motivation to make more stodge. Always being full is a full time job if your body works like mine. A simple rice cracker or nut binge does not do the trick.

At first I felt like I was wasting money and time because for all I ate there was no gain. Then I got a virus and lost even more. I was not interested in making this much food if my body was just going to burn it all.
More recently there have been results, and I now sit two kilograms heavier. I am elated to see gain for the first time in years! The initial goal is to reach my pre-illness weight, but perhaps I will splash out and get myself some snugly winter insulation. Because I don’t want to become fixated on numbers, I weigh myself once a fortnight. I have no idea how calories work, and prefer the antiquated method of eating more of certain things.

While my face lights up when I step on the gym scales to see my progress, there are more conflicted feelings when I go home. Although I could gain 10 kilograms and hit an average BMI, I catch stray thoughts of fear. I don’t know anyone who is trying to put on weight, and I wonder if the extra padding is attractive if everyone else is getting rid of it and ogling pictures of thin women? My stomach used to look ‘ideal’ and I feel conflicted about growing out of jeans. Is all the hate about skinny bodies envy, or is it true that I look unwomanly?

And then slap, I remember that this has nothing to do with what strangers or friends think about how I look. I would rather look enormous and feel well than look enviably thin and feel wasted. This is about my health, about helping to fuel my body so it is in the prime place to fight cold days, viruses, and stressful times. Why does weight have to be all about looks? I am a strong proponent of aesthetics, but practicalities must trump on this one.  

Sunday, April 20

just do something

A few weeks ago, my jaw seized up and it has been locked ever since. I’ve had pain on opening it for a few years now, but this is a brand new level of dysfunction, which my body specialises in. I suspect that the orthodontists who played with my jaw in an attempt to create the ‘perfect profile’ were the ones who started my trouble, and I have zero inclination to let man fiddle with such a crucial joint ever again. Aside from the pain and inconvenience of such a small mouth opening, I was initially terrified that I would have to get it treated. I felt so trapped: my jaw is not working and I probably have a long life ahead of me, but I dare not get it manipulated again.

If you know me at all, you will know that I google everything. My google history mortifies me. I was reading a forum of others with TMJ, and I read this comment:

“Some people find that they can live with TMJ, while others try various treatment options.”

I felt a flush of peace – there are people everywhere living with physical/emotional/mental pain. It’s isn’t rare to be living with these burdens, and it is okay.   

Every year I seem to view my illness a little differently. The current stage is this: that full healing or wellness may or may not come, but it is not essential for a worthwhile life. Life on planet earth seems to be filled with a myriad of pain and mess, and while we are right to do all we can to reverse these things, we also have to carry on amidst them. Sometimes I feel so bogged down in all the challenges in my life and my friend’s and families’, and discouraged by the lack of quick solutions. It’s as though real living were only possible when things are running smoothly, and because things aren’t yet, I must keep waiting for the point when they are.

I have waited, and cried, and prayed, and tried for five years, and I am not well. But I am more well, and now I know how to manage the health that I do have. It’s possible that there will not be full solutions for me in this life. This thought which once had me crying sits in me peacefully. My mindset is starting to shift from waiting to get well, to considering how I want to live if this is as well as I am going to be. If this is it, what should I do with it?

If I had not strived for solutions in last five years, I don’t think I would be as well as I am today. I needed to stop and radically change many things. But if I keep striving for solutions, I fear that I will look back and wish that at some point I had stopped waiting around for them to come before I did such and such.  

I’ve been reading this book by Kevin DeYoung called, “Just Do Something – how to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky e.t.c.”

I have been going through a not-quite-quarter-century crisis: I’ve been at home for several years and I’m feeling restless, I’m coming towards my mid twenties, I have no qualifications, I might not make a full recovery – what on earth do I do with what I have been given? I was so fearful that I wouldn’t make a perfect decision, even though there is no such thing. But from insights in the book, I have arrived at this feeling of calm: Don’t wait around for things to fall perfectly into place. It’s called life: things aren’t perfect. Take a well thought out step with all the unknowns it brings, and then live faithfully one day at a time.

At this point in my story, I want to make some decisions which stretch me, rather than lie in bed waiting for the elusive cure.

One small sized decision: Should we travel to New Zealand, even though we don’t know how I will cope with such a trip? We eventually decided yes. We have booked our flights, and in a few months we head off to the snow – good health or nasty setback, I am glad we’re stepping out of our home to explore.  


Tuesday, April 15

happy days {and machine makes}

I have been happy with the joy and relief that only comes from the removal of pain.

It's ten days since my last virus. Because of my tres dodgy immune system, I find myself living my days as if each were my last before another virus - because, there's a high chance. Without viruses, I seem to be at a high level of functioning at the moment and because I'm over my fear of jinxing myself, I can write that fearlessly.

I have been sitting in front of my sewing machine instead of lying on the couch and here are my makes:

Scout Tee from Grainline Studio - My sewing disaster day. I kept predicting that I would have a disaster soon, and it came right on cue, that is, on my favourite peice of fabric. I printed the PDF pattern, cut the fabric given to me by my sister...and then realised that the peices looked very small. I was sure I was meant to be a size 0 in American Sizing. I wonder if people smaller than me are -2? It's kind of rude. Anyway, it turns out I hadn't checked that the PDF had printed to the correct scale, and my pattern was a lot smaller than it ought to have been. It was size 0 minus a few. If I hadn't been using such precious fabric I would have given up - instead I carried on, literally moaning in despair and wondering if I could salvage my top.
One stressful day later, I have a cropped tee which I absolutely love with my highwasted clothes. It's far from perfect, but strangely one of my favourite items.

Amerson Undies - I made these because Wolfgang is an underwear eating hound. I don't scream all that often, but when I catch him in the act, I am a mad woman. High pitched. Sometimes I worry I will yell at my future babies, but they won't eat undies so I'll be ok. Although I was happy with the results, they were a bit too fiddly. Basically, I wanted faster gratification.

DIY Tunic - I dream of drafting my own patterns but six weeks into my sewing challenge was possibly too soon. The sleeves were the terrifying bit, but through some fluke they kind of worked. This 'dress' is more of a sack/tent featuring shape-free fit and vanishing curves technology. I think I will wear my shabby creation.

Ensis Tee - a second one, using the leftover fabrics. I love these solid warm tops, particularly how they are simple enough to sew up in a day.

Next up: Saiph Tunic. I'm going to make this with my sister, and it will be my first dress attempt.