Monday, February 4, 2008

Food = Love

As much as some may want to deny it - with the whole "eat to live" mantra going around - food is associated in the minds of many animals (not just humans - think about dogs and cats, for example!) with love, comfort, and companionship. True story: my dog is so very polite when it comes to food that, even if she doesn't like the taste of the treat, she will take it, wait until whoever gave it to her walks away, and quietly deposit it in a corner. She knows that we, her pack/family, give her food because we love her. (If you're squeamish about the idea of animals knowing what love is, 1. get over it and 2. substitute "care for her" instead of "love her".) As such, she won't refuse it, because to her that would mean refusing our love - and dogs, like humans, are extremely social animals. (Cats are too, but that's a post for another day.) Only in the most extreme circumstances will we refuse love, i.e. food.

One of those circumstances is when we have been told that we are so loathsome that we do not deserve love i.e. food. That, my friends, is what fat bigotry, sizeism, etc., is all about - it's about starving the fatties of food/love so badly that they end up "acceptable".

It's rather cruel, when you think about it. (Okay, even if you don't think about it.) We'd call doing that to average-sized kids abuse - and yet we think that doing it to fat kids and fat adults is a-okay! Amazing what you can justify if you just blame even a tiny portion of society's ills on a particular group, even if that group has done nothing in particular to warrant it - other than being born into a body with the wrong genetic codes. (Fat people, women, the mentally ill, animals, etc.) No matter who it is, we'll find a way to punish them for being born into the wrong body.

And you want to know the really funny part? It was dieting that made me permanently (?) fat, just as it was for many other people. My mother put me on diets, starting with Weight Watchers, since I was 11 (or 12, can't remember precisely) out of worry from my medicinally-induced BED. I'll admit that she was right to be worried: it's not healthy to gain a large amount of weight in a short time - and I gained about 70-100 lbs. in six months. Still, if she wanted me to be "acceptably thin" - and if this planet were more reasonable about fat people (but wouldn't that rule out the concept of being "acceptably thin"?) - she wouldn't have put me on a diet. The diet was what made the weight gain "stick", so to speak.

But, as I've mentioned before, my mother is (covertly) eating disordered; not a day didn't go by when she saw me eating something tasty and said something along the lines of, "Ooooh, that's bad." So I grew up with the concept of "tasty" foods being "bad". (Fortunately, that's one of her neuroses that I've never really internalized. I'm a complete and utter hedonist at heart, and usually on the outside, too.) My mother has been a chronic dieter - I know, this is really starting to look like the classic eating-disordered family, isn't it? Well, my dad's not eating disordered, though he does have low self-esteem from being 30 lbs. over the recommended weight (note, not "overweight"), so you won't ever hear me talking about how men aren't affected by fat hatred at all.

Thing is, I normally didn't start diets on my own - they were a family effort and one that I usually managed to cheat (note: "cheat" as in "cheating death") by, well, sneaking money to school and buying lots of treats. It wasn't hard; at my middle school, they regularly sold pizza and foot-long hot dogs. (Which, you must admit, is a bad idea if you're trying to get a well-behaved set of students ready and willing to learn, as the additives and animal products themselves directly hinder concentration and clarity of thought - ever felt that "sedated" feeling after a meal of animal products, where you just want to sit and stare? Yeah.)

I remember, quite clearly, sneaking home some Li'l Debbie's brownies when my entire family was "supposed" to be on Atkins and gobbling them because I just could not stand it anymore. I lost a bit of weight on that, then gained it all back and more. And the really fucked up part was that I felt so guilty for it - like I was... well, cheating.

That's the essence of binge disorders, I think, and also a large factor in binge/purge cycles and disorders. It's where you feel so guilty about eating that first bite - because again, you believe that you aren't worthy of love i.e. food - that you say, "fuck it" and start binging because if you're going to be corrupt and guilty, you might as well be fully corrupt and guilty. (It's the eating disorder's equivalent of "foot in the door syndrome". Actual psychological term!) Then, if you decide to purge, it's because you either feel so sick or you feel so unworthy that you have to reject it. All of it. Purging is, in religious language, penance for your sins. Purging says, "I didn't deserve that food! I'm sorry. I wasted it on me already, but that doesn't mean I have to benefit from it." (A lot of anorectics, when they binge and then purge, purge out of fear. Exchange "benefit" for "use" and/or the entire sentence with "I don't need it, really!")

That's fucked up.

All I have left to say, really, is that we punish ourselves and our bodies in ways that we do not and that no one could ever deserve by engaging in eating disorders and eating disordered behavior - and it's because we feel we do not deserve love i.e. food if we are not "good enough". "Good enough", for a person with an eating disorder, can and will be anything - usually whatever they feel they're not "good enough" in or for will provide the immediate reason for the eating disordered behavior. And it's because we're told that, if we don't please everyone, we're not good enough.

It's so, so sad that we don't realize that we need only please ourselves and those who would be pleased by us anyways.

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