A Tale of Two Lifestyles (in One Body)

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Long, long ago, in a galaxy (or, at least, a state) far, far away, I was married. My husband adored fast food — his eating philosophy was summed up by saying, “What I want is to drive up, point to a picture of something, say, ‘I want that,’ and have them hand it to me.” He wasn’t much for cooking, and had a serious aversion to washing dishes and other domestic tasks. (Not that there weren’t some legitimate reasons for all of this, which I’ll get to in a minute.) We were usually flat broke and overdrawn, and I was constantly stressed out and exhausted from working and running around trying to prevent our phone bill and such from being shut off and moving to yet another new apartment, and wasn’t up to doing all the cooking and cleaning night after night — so either we ate fast food, or nuked something, a lot more often than I would have liked. I drank a lot of soda, and ate a lot of stuff from convenience stores, and there was not a whole lot of goody-goody whole-grain organic-veggie goodness in my life at all. I got exercise here and there, but it wasn’t very consistent.

Fast-forward about 10 to 15 years. I’m now divorced and living with a domestic partner, and my life is as stable and healthy as it has ever been. I cook lots, eat lots of fiber and very little packaged or fast food, have discovered a whole slew of nutritious grains since quitting gluten for a year (my intolerance seems to have been of the temporary variety, about which more later), avidly attend farmer’s markets and shop for organics at the fabulous local chain New Seasons, and exercise about twice as much as I did in the old days. And there’s a lot less stress, for many reasons, not least of which is that I understand my own disabilities now and have learned to work with them rather than against them, and my partner actually demands very little of me, readily cleans up after meals and takes on many of the domestic tasks I have always sucked at. My soda and juice consumption has declined drastically also, and I sleep much better.

Now, given all this, would you guess I weighed more when I was married, or more now?

Since you guyz are so smart, you probably would guess what most people would not: I’m fatter now. By a lot. You see, I wasn’t taking Remeron then. Also, I’m getting old. Makes a difference.

Am I healthier now? I don’t know. I certainly feel much better mentally, and my stomach is a much happier place. But I don’t even know if there’s any such thing as “good health,” only the current presence or absence of diagnosis or symptomatology. Clinicians can miss your diagnosis entirely, and disease process can be happening even if you don’t feel or see a thing. Your car is highly likely to do some funny shit when your mileage hits the six-figure mark, and it could happen long before that, no matter how industrious you are about changing the oil and getting tuneups and rotating tires. And if you don’t have the money even to do that sort of basic maintenance, it greatly increases the likelihood of something going kablooey. Bodies are like that, too.

This is why I want to rip out what little is left on my scalp when people try to make health and weight all about choices and behaviors. Sure, I could have made the choice to get divorced sooner rather than later. Heck, I could have made the choice to stay single. It’s easy to say that now that I’m not living in a pit of longing and loneliness for someone, anyone, to love me, like I was before I met my XH. But truthfully, I was kind of a mess when I met him. I was always tired. I never had much energy or focus. I was always depressed and anxious. I was constantly dragging the undiagnosed aspie barge behind me, feeling like all I did was to try to get people to like me and to fit in someplace, and all I did was fail. I had to work my ass off every single minute to try to understand things that nonautistic people picked up by osmosis, and even then I never quite got there. Was all that my fault? I think not. So I don’t think “2012 me” is entitled to lecture “2002 me” from on high, and neither is anyone else.

As for my XH, as blood-curdling as his eating habits no doubt sound to the Fresher, Localer, and More Sustainable than Thou crowd, even this turned out to have some basis in biology. You see, he had undiagnosed disabilities, too, among them fibromyalgia and hereditary hemochromatosis, both of which put him in constant pain and completely drained his energy. If you’re not rich, it can be extremely difficult to get whatever health issues you have properly diagnosed, let alone treated; his HHC was discovered by a fluke by an emergency room doctor who correctly played a hunch when ordering some lab tests. Otherwise, he might be dead from cirrhosis now, despite drinking a lot less alcohol than the average man. How are you supposed to cook when even sitting at a table cutting up veggies wears you out? How are you supposed to sort out your food cravings when your blood is overloaded with iron and nobody tells you?

And not only that, as I discovered on my own food journey, your brain often rejects certain foods that are allegedly “good for you” because of previous bad reactions. IANAD, but my completely unscientific hunch is that the reason I was having all that trouble with wheat was because my gallbladder removal was a shock to my digestive tract; that it persisted many months longer than it should have could easily be chalked up to my Sooooper Sensitive System. (I was tested extensively for celiac and other digestive diseases by both scope and blood, all negative.) I still have problems digesting whole wheat and oats, but I have plenty of sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice in me to keep things moving. Raw or undercooked vegetables can still be a problem, as can certain fruits, and cow’s milk is still not a happy food, although I can tolerate very small amounts with some Lactaid now. But I would not have responded well to people telling me this was all in my head, or some other nonsense. The reactions were real.

When people have a bad food encounter, it will put them off that food, or at least that presentation of said food; that may be less likely to happen if they already have a history of liking it, but more bad experiences than good will tip the balance. If a mealy apple, a bruised banana, a bowl of mushy brown rice, or some broccoli that goes down funny is their first (or most recent) encounter with that food, it can be difficult to get them to try it again. And in some cases, maybe if they did try it again, they would still have an unpleasant reaction, because Bodies Are Weird (TM). The point is, it’s not someone else’s call to make, unless they’ve actually been asked for help — and even then, there’s always something about another person you can’t possibly know.

7 Responses to “A Tale of Two Lifestyles (in One Body)”

  1. Alexie Says:

    The takeaway for me from your article is that people need access to decent healthcare, that picks up blood disorders and so on very early, and not because someone stumbled into an emergency department for something else. Do you think all the hysteria that goes on about personal responsibility is entwined in some way with the reality that many people are excluded from the health system in the US?

    • Meowser Says:

      Oh, definitely. But I have to think that in many cases, even with continuous access to care, a lot of practitioners don’t think to test or look for certain things, especially if they’re relatively rare conditions or they’ve been conditioned to think “x kind of people don’t have that.” Better access and better clinician education are needed here in the U.S.

  2. Jadzia@Toddlerisms Says:

    I stopped Remeron because it gave me disturbing, haunting dreams that I couldn’t forget. (I don’t think it affected my weight one way or the other.) It was nice being able to sleep, though.

  3. Patsy Nevins Says:

    Amen. I have been doing some ranting this morning, in an email to a friend & somewhat in a comment on another blog, about the concept of ‘personal responsibility’, & also the idea that, if fat people are to be accepted & respected, we must constantly prove that we are ‘good’ people, that we eat ‘right’, that we are, in essence, trying to be thin, & the idea our culture fosters that if we get sick at all, especially if we happen to be fat, it is ALL OUR OWN FAULT. I am especially enraged at the nannying which goes on in this culture, the belief that everyone’s body is everyone else’s business & we all have the right to tell others how to live. Our bodies belong to us, how we live in them is our business. People of all sizes, shapes, lifestyles, eating habits, die young, or live to be 100. A lot of it is genetics, aging, & dumb luck. If we like processed foods & don’t want to exercise, it is no one’s business but our own. If we like to move a lot & eat organic, that is also our own affair. Life is difficult & complicated. We should be able to live our own way &, if we are unhappy & uncomfortable & want to change, to be able to find what works for us.

    And, yes, when we need it, we should ALL have access to caring, competent, unbiased health care. That is a nice dream, one I wish would come true. Unfortunately, that dream is far from reality in countries with nationalized health care either, so I am not sure what the answer.

    Meowser, I am glad that you seem to have evolved a lifestyle & an eating style which works for you. I wish you years of happiness & whatever health means to & is possible to you. We also place far too much emphasis on BEING “healthy” & being able to prove we are ‘healthy’ in order to be treated with respect & deemed worthy of the good things in life in this culture. Keep on keeping on in the way that works for you.

  4. Mike S. Says:

    Thanks for the post, it’s fascinating. I’m glad you have had at least some of your medical issues more understood now, even if you would have benefited from knowing what was wrong much earlier.

    One of my brothers thinks he might have hemochromatosis, based on an off hand comment about abnormal iron levels he heard from a physician during an emergency room visit. He’s in the process of applying for Medicaid so he can get that checked along with getting checked for celiac disease since two of our other siblings have been definitively diagnosed with that. I find it an interesting coincidence that you would mention those two diseases in the post.

    I think to some extent the desire to have condescending feelings towards other people is innate to humans. If we can’t find people to look down upon because of their skin color we’ll look down on them because of their religion. If we can’t look down on them because of their religion we’ll look down on them because of their sex or their sexual orientation. If we can’t look down on them for their sex or sexual orientation, we’ll look down on them for using tobacco. If we can’t look down on them because of tobacco we’ll look down on them because they eat meat (or maybe because they don’t eat meat). And now we’ll look down on them for being fat. I have no idea what the solution is, but I think heightened fat discrimination is partly a result of the fact that discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and vegetarianism or non-vegetarianism is becoming less socially acceptable. (I’m not trying to say any of those forms of discrimination are gone or even dramatically better than they were two generations back, but they are all at least a little better.)

    I don’t know who the new scapegoats will be when discrimination against fat people is finally lumped among the other forms of unacceptable behavior.

  5. LIronside Says:

    This reply is off-topic, so forgive me. I have been reading your blog obsessively for the past few days, and I have to say it’s enlightening. I guess I would consider myself a type 2 according to your “fategories”. I have been 40 pounds heavier, but even then my BMI was only 26. I had what I considered a hard time losing weight, but to be honest, I worked out alot so that I could eat buffet. It wasn’t until I got pregnant and suffered from hyperemesis that I lost a significant amount of weight, and that has since stayed off. I admit I am very lucky: my husband has a good paying job, so we can afford good quality and fresh food. I live in a military town in Canada, so fitness facilities abound. There are parks everywhere here. I am also lucky genetically. Although I can’t eat “whatever I want” and not gain weight, I do carry alot of muscle and am pretty liberal with what I eat. I do make an effort to eat healthy, especially to set an example for my daughter,but as I also a recovering bulimic, and NEVER EVER want my daughter succombing to this disease, we don’t practice restriction. I am also fortunate in that the SSRI I was prescribed to treat the bulimia actually balanced my hormones and I lost weight.
    I am telling all of this, because I am one of those people who never experienced weight bias, and actually never really thought it could be as severe as it is. If I am honest (and it makes me ashamed) its more likely I subjected people to a weight bias (especially since I would selectively screen anecdotal data: I know people who have lost weight, and kept it off, but forget about all those who I know who couldn’t lose weight or couldn’t keep it off). Truth be told, I had no idea this fat bias was so deeply ingrained or automatic in the way i judged people. To get to the point, this blog has really opened my eyes.

  6. Empress de Snark Says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this validating piece. I’m a 220-lb woman who has for many years filled her fridge with organic and local stuff whenever I can. I probably haven’t bought the non-organic milk since the turn of the millenium. I don’t eat fast food and I don’t constantly have my snout in a bag of chips. I love vegetables and fruits and will basically eat any vegetable except lima beans and mushrooms. I don’t eat fried food more than once a week, and I don’t cook it at home because I don’t enjoy cleaning up grease.

    At Easter service this year, I was trying to explain to the Church Busybody why I don’t have a man in my life, and why it’s not really a priority for me. She pulled me closer by my shoulder, and widened her eyes and looked intently into mine, imparting this fearsome secret: “Honey, I would never want to hurt you, but don’t you think the reason you can’t find a nice man is that you’re overweight? Have you ever thought about losing weight? You know Charlotte, my daughter, is a nutritionist, and she could teach you lots of things. You could eat healthy, fresh food, in controlled portions, and I bet in a year or so you’d be able to find yourself a fella.”

    Yeah. The assumptions. The assumption of ignorance. The assumption of poor health and poor choices. The assumption that I must shovel enormous quantities of McNuggets and donuts into my fat maw every waking hour. The assumption that I’m seeking advice about nutrition or reducing my body size, just because if you’re fat, you automatically must desire thinness. The assumption that I need or want to attract a partner even after I’ve clearly stated that’s not among my plans. Hoo boy, all the assumptions you can make about people just from the size of their body.

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