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.  

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