Vandalized

*Trigger warning: this post contains assault*

As I have said, it took 24 years for me to come to a “tipping point” that allowed me to take 70lbs of fat off my body. It seemed like, over the years, the more I dieted, the more I gained. Not surprisingly, research backs that very notion up. Yoyo diets don’t work.

When I was around 15, a friend of the family who was jacked about fitness and thinness came to visit. She preached to me, unsolicited (as so many people did), her magic weight loss formula. She said that when she was a teen, she was also unhappy with her weight (uh, I don’t remember telling anyone I was unhappy with my weight- insert automatic assumption), and so she stopped eating carbs, and in a month, wha la, the weight had shed and she was hot, and got a boyfriend etc. etc. etc. So OF COURSE, she decided that I should also remove carbohydrates from my diet, since CARBS MUST BE THE ONLY REASON I WAS FAT. She called it the “Adkins diet,” and I can remember being skeptical, since I’d heard the Adkins guy himself died in some strange falling on ice incident (maybe he was weak from not eating carbs??).  None the less, she was not the sort of person to argue with, since she obviously knew everything about me and my weight problems (didn’t everyone??). I stopped eating carbs, but instead ate bowlfuls of Caesar salad, frozen whipped cream, meats and Adkins candy. I binged in other ways, since, carbs or no carbs, my over-eating was really at the heart of the matter.

I saw some results. In about 4 weeks, I had probably gone down a size or a size and a half, and I was getting so much external praise it was almost frightening. KEEP IT UP ASHLEY! OMG ASHLEY, YOU LOOK AMAZING!! OMG KEEP GOING!!! [Insert pressure mounting ticking time bomb here.]  About a month and a half into this Adkins thing, I went on a week-long cruise. What everyone who goes on cruises knows that Adkins Ashley did not know before setting sail, is that cruises are as much about unlimited eating as they are floating on a sea. I lasted about three hours before the all you can eat everything totally took over, and, fuck you Mr. Adkins, I was making starchy love to c-a-r-b-o-h-y-d-r-a-t-e-s once again. Almost immediately, the waves of sickness and shame and panic kicked in. I realized that any willpower I had mustered in the month and a half before had walked the plank and drown somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. I couldn’t stop eating. I couldn’t manage my cravings. Portion control? I’m not sure I understood the concept. I gained the weight all back. FAST. Humiliation. Shame. Resentment. The cycle continued.

Diet pills. Ever heard of those? Somewhere around 16 or 17, some friends introduced me to Xenydrine, the panic attack inducing caplets that suppressed hunger while increasing insanity. I tried to starve, and then I would binge, like someone holding their breath for too long and instinctively gasping for air. I would love myself when I was hungry, and hate myself when I crashed. Power and control. Weakness and impulsivity. What a fucked up dance it was.  I got results, I lost results. Yoyo, yoyo,yuck.

And around this time, I had my first pseudo-sexual encounters. I was a boy-a-holic. I would crave and yearn and secretly beg for SOMEONE to pay special attention to me. For someone to love me, despite my fat. To accept me for this sorry excuse of a girl that I was. I “fell in love” when I was 14 through a Yahoo chatroom with a boy two years older than me who went to a nearby school. We spent the summer voice chatting every night. He called me “baby,” and I can remember how my stomach would dip at the syllables. ME? Someone’s BABY? I had sent him a pixelated photo of my face, and he had sent one similar, and I printed his out and cut it in a heart shape. I would look at it every day and my heart would practically explode with excitement. UNTIL. Until I remembered that I was fat. Until I remembered that there was NO WAY he would actually like me when he met me, and that I would be friend zoned again. I tried to ignore the paranoid beliefs that I would no longer be his baby when we met face to face, because no one wants a fat baby. Sure enough, one night we were talking and he said, “you know what I hate?” and I replied, “what?” and he said, “fat people.” And I’m pretty sure I blacked out or died temporarily because my fears had come to fruition. I didn’t fess up, I was too humiliated. I convinced myself that, maybe, just maybe when we met, he would allow me to be the exception to his fat hate. Or perhaps, he wouldn’t notice it at all. A few weeks later we met at a mall. He had terrible teeth and looked like a character out of the movie Chicken Run, but I was totally in love anyway. We exchanged short spurts of nervous small talk, and I never heard from him again. I went home, got in bed, and cried for days.  I was fat. Fat was unlovable.

When I was 16, some friends of mine had met a group of guys at a local beach. They came to my house one night while my parents were working, and I sat in one of the guy’s cars with him in my driveway, while my other friends “took a walk” with the guys they had paired with. He was from some country in the Middle East, and if I really tried, I could convince myself he was cute. Well, he was giving me attention, so of course he was cute. We talked for about an hour, sitting in our separate chairs, then my parents got home, freaked out to find such a sight, and the lot of them left. Giddy and innocent and wounded, I decided I would go for THAT GUY! The first one to give me special attention. He was older, maybe early 20’s? My friends at the time (also 16 or 17) went gaga over the guys they had met, who were all somehow related, and we met up with them again on an afternoon one day after school at one of their apartments. I remember being SO NERVOUS about what was going to happen… maybe I would get my first kiss?! I was wearing an orange and yellow striped sundress from Target, that dipped in a low V cut in the chest, and I was not wearing a bra (don’t slut-shame me). The guy sat next to me on the couch, while my other friends were in another room. I remember I was so nervous I was playing the game “snake” on the oldschool Nokia cell phone I had at the time. He sat very close to me and I’m pretty sure he could hear my hear thudding from his distance… I was SO NERVOUS. I was SO INSECURE. I was waiting for him to realize how gross I was and leave. Instead, he began groping my chest and stomach, and I pushed his hands away, but the quickly returned. He grabbed under my dress and I began to yell “no!” and push him off. I was horrified. He was touching my breasts and trying to get under my dress, and I didn’t even KNOW this fucking guy. A friend overheard my struggle, and she came in and interrupted. She told him to come with her, where she too, also overweight and totally starved for attention, took him into a room where she too was assaulted. It was a fucking mess. It was traumatizing and I thought I deserved it because I was fat, and he had settled for me, at least he was interested. I can’t remember all of the details, but I do remember it all ending in a cloud of pepper spray my friend had sprayed at one of them and all of us running out. I went immediately home and stared at my wall for maybe 3 days straight. I wouldn’t talk. I was in shock. My parents asked my friends what was wrong, but no one would talk. And my friends and I… we never really talked about it again. We didn’t have the language.

My body. This fat, disgusting, hateful thing… vandalized. A doormat. A disposable piece of trash.

This was not the last time my body was assaulted. This was not the last time I rationalized abuse for attention.

I was a prisoner in my own prison. And all I ever wanted was to grasp the key.

More about love and pain, heartbreak and triumph to come.

But for now… keep sweating!

What a long, strange trip it’s been…(the beginning)

Where to start?

It has been almost 5 years since I stood on the scale in the middle of a workday and almost lost it. I can remember looking down at the digital face and seeing 220 pop up. No… no, this couldn’t be right. This couldn’t be me, could it? Gravity must have been pushing down a little more than regular today… a solar eclipse? It had to be a reason outside of myself that caused these numbers to shine.

I went back into my office, closed and locked the door, and wept. I had avoided scales throughout my entire life. I would starve myself the week before any scheduled doctor’s office visits to make sure the number was somewhere lower than the week before… hoping I could somehow escape the inevitable body-shaming lecture the woman in white would always give. I hated going for medical care because of the scale. The weight and the guilt and the shame… legitimized by the “authority” of the stethoscope that hung around her neck. My weight, my burden, my failure, my guilt my shame.

In my office, I wrote a letter to myself, begging and pleading that this time would be different. That I would really lose the weight this time, that I could somehow muster the will power. Enough was enough, right?

With what felt like a caged bird in my chest, I carried out the rest of my work day, depressed and full of self-hatred for what I believed I had caused and what I believed I could not undo.

And this was how it had gone… so many times before. Since early childhood, I was aware that I was overweight. Family members and children at school made it blatantly clear that I was different because I was fat, and that fat was something worth being ashamed of. That I would never get a husband (told to me by a relative around age 5), that I was lazy, that I was ugly, unattractive, inferior.

Body-checking started early on too. I was so self-conscious about my fat… I would think about it all the time. By elementary school I had learned that I was physically inferior, so I compensated with wit and intellect. I was quick to draw swords on those around me to protect the precious ego that was so, so ashamed.

My obesity tormented me throughout my life. My beliefs about myself, unsolicited from the culture around me, created a web of anxiety and a wall of protection. More about this later. So, so much more.

And so, that week in June, when the scale tipped to the tippy tops, I broke down, like I had so many times before… but this time…. something changed… and that something led to the sustained loss of 70 lbs… no tricks, no gimmicks, no starvation, no pills, no bullshit. I changed my beliefs about myself…

Until next time, keep sweating 🙂