FieldNotes In/On Transition #30
Romancing The Scale (aka Sex, Lies and Overeating)
This blog post started out days ago, being about sex, and the uneasiness I have always had around it, being a trans person stuck in the closet of being kinda out, kinda not. What writing and thinking about this issue brought me to what was/is my other big issue: overeating. Sorry for the lack of sex. :p
(I'm including very recent pictures, of some new tops I got, to help reinforce that maybe a lot of my body image issues are worse in my mind than they should be. I look pretty good in these, I think)
Now that I’m living as much as a woman as I can be (training wheels still on) it’s likely a little more okay to state the obvious: I have an eating disorder: I am an overeater.
Overeating itself is the fat un-talked about brother of the more glamorous Anorexia and Bulimia. I’m sure there is a more medical sounding word like those two which in fact are “not eating” and “vomiting.” When it comes down to it. But all three (and whatever other conditions exist without me googling to find all gazillion variations of eating disorders we’ve as a culture inflicted upon ourselves) are symptoms of the downside of the age/culture we live in more than maybe anything.
As a man I just had a “big appetite” the polite might have said, the more blunt, would have said, “put down that donut ad do a few laps already.” But would they have said, “Joe, maybe you have a food addiction?” Maybe some people did, but I never heard them. I definitely had people be concerned for me those times when I ballooned up to near 300 lbs. (despite growing up metric, I still think of weight in pounds, can’t make that switch, distance, volume, temperature, sure, but weight, nope)
It’s far more rare to counsel a fat man that he has a disorder around his eating, than it is a woman. I think there is some pretty obvious gender stereotyping/sexism going on there. Men don’t have “disorders.” They do things, or don’t do things. Especially around things like how you present yourself. It’s supposedly not such a bad thing to be a fat guy. It’s only recently in our culture than men have started to have some of the same body issue problems that have plagued women for most of the last century and a bit.
But rather than restate things you already know, let me get back to me and my own struggle with food. As you may know, in the last 5 years or so I have lost nearly 100lbs (45kg or thereabouts) and managed to keep it off for once. I’ve already detailed my high blood pressure incident, but I don’t know if I talked about how the fear of dying finally caught up to me after being hospitalized for 5 days because of my hypertension. I immediately slashed my huge intake of food down to a far more actual human need level.
In those days (and once in a while now even) I was a Hoover vacuum of calories. Before 2008 I ate a huge double sized bowl of cereal every morning, or a massive bacon and eggs kind of meal, toast, so much toast, 2 giant sandwiches for lunch (and a bunch of fruit to be “healthy”), after work I would make a huge often mostly processed food dinner or go out and consume unhealthy fast food, and then the part that was always in retrospect the killer for me, evening snacks. I would often have a giant bag of chips, or, a whole or, partial bag of cookies, maybe 2 or 3 PB&J sandwiches, and lots of soda pop or in later years “juice” which is more fake healthiness, as most juices contain as much sugar as a can of coke.
All this consumption was a real blindness and a crutch, I see now. I ate in a blind fury, very much in a reaction to the agony I felt being trapped in who I was: a man, and not just a man, but a giant fat nerd man with a deep voice and a hairy back. I would never be the lithe sexy woman that I knew in my heart I was “meant to be”. Just writing this makes my stomach/brain yearn for Doritos.
We often I think in our consumer first culture substitute one addiction for another, and my addiction to trying to be a woman rang true to the whole binge/purge quality of any addiction. My gorging wasn’t so much a binge purge, as it was a constant security blanket. As a big fatso, I could never in my still adolescent stereotypical view of the feminine, never be that woman I wanted to be. Being a big fat man made it impossible, or at least to hard for me to try except fleetingly. I did over the years occasionally whittle down to say 225/235, but when people started to notice that (and I never did until I was told I lost weight) I would start piling the pounds back on almost instantly. My “trigger” was people complimenting me on my weight loss.
Sheesh, it’s hard for me to get to the point with this topic. But now that I’m someone who’s sub 200 lbs and has been such for a few years, suddenly it seemed so much easier to approach the Transgender issue again. I think it took me shedding that weight, and the blind gorging mindset that went with it to be able to even discuss being a Trans Woman, let alone doing it.
I see my starting to take my health more seriously as my step from the brink. I was slowly killing myself with sugar, fat, and whatever horrible chemical were in whatever “food” I was gorging. Some Trans people attempt suicide, I was doing a slow march of consuming everything I could find, as way to find comfort in a world without the female me. I also am a relatively tidy hoarder of books and other collectibles. That too has come under much better control, as I slowly transition from fat dude to comfortably chubby middle aged lady.
Not that the gorging or binging doesn’t still occur sometimes. The difference is now that I can see it, and name it and even sometimes stop it, while it’s happening. In the past it was such a blinding thing that it was impossible for me to step back and address it. lately I feel a bit like I’m falling off the wagon, too many bags of chips, boxes of crackers n’ dip during my much valued alone time in the evenings, weekends. I’ve never really addressed this aspect of my life, and have come to realize that right now, I have the odd fall back to the old me.
What the next step in my transition (which for my peace of mind began in that hospital bed while I cried myself to sleep two or three of those scary nights thinking that I’d eaten myself to death; and where I decided that whether I fail or not eventually I was going to try again with Transitioning to be the woman I always knew I was). The idea to transition didn’t really coalesce consciously then, but it grew quickly as the weight melted off through my radical diet of eating much, much less, and getting a bit more exercise.
I began to again see that woman in the mirror occasionally, instead of the sad angry fat guy. After a couple of years the idea that I should at least talk to somebody about the “Gender Issue” became forefront in my mind. Due to my bad karma with bureaucracy, and/or the fact that the so called “Liberals” running BC continue to cut funding to this area of health, along with every other area of health care, it took nearly two years for my name to come through the system and for me to hear back from a doctor.
I was fairly passive about it, during this time, I tried “being just a cross dresser,” keeping it to the bed room, and even being a dude who liked trans folk. Nothing rang true, trying on all these variations of who I might be, and all that for me was in hindsight horrible, if useful in terms of gaining self awareness, time.
The only positive I see in that two year wait was that I didn’t re-inflate to some obscene weight. I kept things even keeled, and in fact pretty healthy. I became in a sort of creeping way, more and more angry and sad, eventually to the point where my coworkers were starting to call me (and correctly) for being a bit of a douchebag, pretty much all the time. I was in such pain then, and didn’t feel like I had any outlet, as food, partying no longer did it for me, as ways of avoiding the inevitable.
If there was a time I was close to giving up and going back to gorging hugely, maybe developing a booze problem it was last autumn. But My co-workers (Especially Amanda and Torsten) were so awesome in their confronting of me, on the very day that I’d finally heard back from a gender clinic, that I really got it, that I didn’t have to be this angry sad man any longer, nor was it really anything to do with who I am. I broke down and told each of them, about finally getting accepted to a clinic, and that I was finally going to be able to talk to someone and find out if this was my path.
It was, and is my path. When I had that first appointment a month later, I was already completely sold on moving forward as Trans. I have no idea now where it’s taking me, but I feel like I finally have the tools to make it happen, and to fight the bad habits that drag me back to insecurity, anger and sadness.
The one area where my health and well being needs to improve at this point is something that until now my mind has not been ready for. I need to get more regular exercise. I definitely am more active than when I was huge, but even now I fall back to binging on food, drink too often with no physical activity to offset it. It’s something I’m more afraid of than wearing a sparkly dress to work, or getting the hair burned off my face. Exercise. Using my body in a way that builds muscle, controls my shape.
At first I was scared to get too manly, muscly, or at least I see that now. I went from being a sporty kid (though I loathed the organized sports mostly as a kid, could never handle the power structures and inherent bullying, stereotyping. I was a really decent baseball player, who was fat, so always got picked last, despite being better than many kids on the field) to a sofa bound fatso, who’s only real exercise for the last 30 years has been walking. I realized only in the last few years of not exercising quite enough (I’d be skinny if my exercise level matched my diet a bit better, I’m almost positive) I never wanted that man shape, of a man who is good condition, at least subconsciously. I rarely tried, because I always “knew” somehow I’d be caught out as not a man, or seen for the girl I was, and I was never ready for that until now. Like right now.
So yeah, I’m trying to whip myself up to the point where I will slow down the slide back to terrible eating habits (comfort breeds laziness) and also learn to like or even love my body enough to get it into good physical condition. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this, or if I will actually have the strength, mental fortitude to do so.
I’m scared to death of going to the gym and being judged, as a Trans person, and or someone who can’t do these exercises, whatever they maybe. I’m embarrassed home alone, trying to do sit-ups or push-ups. Going to a yoga class or some other gym thing scares me far more than putting on makeup and going out and about in the world. It really does. I feel like it’s my next step though.
I wanted to write a bout sex and romance in this blog, but food once agin consumed me, as much as I consume it. There is definitely a relationship, obviously between my horrible body image and my rather lackadaisical approach to sex and relationships. I’ve never loved my own body and have been pretty certain that no one would love mine, even or maybe especially when they actual said they did, or seemed to be into me. But that’s the next blog.
I’m more than happy to get suggestions for (low impact to start) ways for me to be a healthier woman, but don’t be hurt, please if I balk, or seem to be against whatever your suggestion might be. I’m very slowly getting there, and I tend to lash out sometimes when people offer help. It’s another thing I’m working on, accepting caring from others, and well meaning advice. “Man me” tended to see any advice as condescending, or irrelevant, as it wasn’t my own idea. Yes it’s a ludicrous stance, but it’s where I was/sometimes still am, sad to say, in terms of body image, issues.
I just couldn’t handle someone’s help. As a woman I have no idea why this was/is. It seems really counter productive, especially seeing and feeling all the effects, affects of all the help, love and support I’ve already been blessed to receive this early in my journey. So please call me on any balking or backtracking I may do on this issue, thank you friends!