Veronica’s Still on Vacay

So, how’d that MRI go, when all was said and done?

Basically, everything went fine. The reading was all clear: no new areas of abnormality, so I’ve a clean bill of breast health till it’s time for my next mammogram.

The experience itself was, well, an experience.

Between last summer’s procedures and this latest scan, I’ve realized that I’m going to be spending time on the regular lying face down on medical tables with the girls hanging down through some sort of opening. Intellectually, I understand the use-value of this: gravity helps pull the breast tissue away form the rest of the chest wall, thereby making it easier to get a clear scan of the parts we’re wanting to scan.

Still, I feel as if some small part of my bodily dignity has died in this whole process, never to be resurrected again.

It is damn hard to feel like an empowered grown-up in this kind of set-up.

Continue reading “Veronica’s Still on Vacay”

Cruise Control

So one of the things that cruises are notorious for —

Wait, did I ever mention that The Trip was a cruise? I can’t recall and I’m too damn lazy to go look it up. In case this is new news, and just to get this down on the record: The Trip was a cruise.

Display on the first cruise day, in the Windjammer (the buffet restaurant)So anyhow, one of the things that cruises are notorious for is the quantity and quality of the food you’re served. Actually, I’m not enough of a hard-cross cruise traveler to know whether all cruises are known for having good food, or if it’s more like the same rep an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet has: food that’s notable  more for the available amount than for the flavor profile. (Even if most cruise ships have food that’s more adequate than exceptional, the ship we were on is on this list of the “best cruise ships for foodies,” so trust me when I say that not only was there tons of food available, it was tasty, tasty stuff.)

Now, there’s a whole lot of rhetoric out there about how it’s inevitable to gain weight on a cruise, with various fat-panic/fat-shaming suggestions on how to approach that “problem.” For example:

  1. controlling your on-ship behavior to minimize weight gain
  2. doing a little prophylactic weight loss ahead of time to build your “buffer zone”
  3. going on x, y, or z post-vacation diet plan
  4. deliberately infecting yourself with a parasite or the norovirus in order to stay skinny

(Okay, maybe I made that last one up. And, for once, no, I won’t be providing links to sources. I don’t feel like actively participating in Diest Culture, and you can find this kind of shit so easily with the simplest of google searches.)

It was an interesting comparison across the years, thinking back to the first-ever cruise Mr. Mezzo and I took back in 2007, right when I was at the verge of learning about fat acceptance and adopting that perspective for myself and my worldview. That first cruise also had lots of good food. I indulged, and I know I gained weight — though at this distance, I can’t recall what the number was. And I felt so ashamed for all of it. For my lack of dietary discipline, for my laziness in not becoming a cruise-ship gym-rat, and then for my inability to diet and lose the weight after I got back on land.

martinisThis time around, I decided adamantly against imbibing a guilt-and-shame chaser with any of the meals, martinis, or desserts I had while vacationing. I have no idea if my food was any less rich or sugar-laden this time around as in ’07. (I’d guess not much appreciable difference, then and now.) But I do know I’m feeling lots better than I did 7 years ago — if for no other reason than the fact that I’m not mired deep in a self-shaming and self-punishment cycle. ‘Cos honestly, when I let those voices loose in my head, it’s never to my benefit. Spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

Having said that, I am feeling a bit logy after-the-fact. I’m guessing, based on my HCG experience from the spring, that I’m mostly feeling the after-effects of the dramatic uptick in added sugar during those two weeks (read: desserts, martinis and Belgian chocolate). And I’m kind of fascinated by the way, as far as I can tell, that my spring detox journey helped me more attuned to my body so I could notice this change, but my history of fat acceptance work and my ongoing growth around overall self-acceptance has in a place where I’m not upset or blaming myself about it.

belgian-chocolateInstead, I’m just quietly moving back to some of the cooking routines and rituals I used during the spring, adopting something that’s closer to “clean eating” than I was doing recently. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not on some extreme ascetic kick. Beyond my own natural sense of fullness, I am setting zero limits on the quantity of food I’m eating.  I’m even having a little taste of “added sugar” each night after dinner (I say again: Belgian chocolate. You don’t think we were coming home without a small stash of that to enjoy, did you?)

I’m just trying to listen to my body. And if my body is craving greens and chicken rather than my cruise staples of pasta and red meat, I’ma good with that.

Plus a little of that Belgian chocolate. Yummy and absolutely guilt-free.

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Image credits:

Fruit buffet: http://forsythfamily.com/caribbeancruise.htm

Martinis: http://zynkah.hubpages.com/hub/10-Best-Flavored-Martini-Recipies

Chocolate: http://www.moonlight-mile.com/belgian-chocolate/

 

 

 

 

Baby Jiu Jitsu

A Dance of Appreciation and Avoidance

Baby Jiu JitsuOne of my other weekend activities was to get a somewhat-overdue haircut (and a color touch-up, though that was more on-time).

I had a haircut scheduled two weeks ago, but my hairdresser got sick, and I just decided to grit my teeth and wait till the Saturday coloring appointment I already had on the books.

The upshot of all this scheduling information is that my last haircut prior to this one was the weekend before I flew down to begin the HCG protocol. So, my hairdresser hadn’t seen me since this whole journey began. And I guess I look different enough now for it to be noticeable.

“You look great! Have you lost weight?”

Welcome to the compliment minefield.

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[HAES/FA Basics Break]

Just for clarity, let’s recap some of the reasons why this particular “compliment” is deeply problematic and not very complimentary.

As a start, here’s Regan Chastain at Dances with Fat:

People who undertake weight loss attempts are often encouraged to motivate themselves by hating their current bodies.  When they are successful at short term weight loss, they are encouraged to look back at their “old body” with shame, scorn, and hatred.  And that’s a big problem.

Not just because at some point the person will probably start to think “if everyone is talking about how great I look now, how did they think I looked before?” but also because the vast majority of people gain back their weight in two to five years.  Then they are living in a body that they taught themselves to hate and be ashamed of, remembering all of those compliments. Yikes.

Tracy I at Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty unpacks some of the deeper implications of this compliment, and its collusion within a structure of the Foucauldian panopticon:*

It reinforces the idea that it’s okay to let people know that we are monitoring and judging their bodies. One thing that shocked my friend in the story I opened with was that she really didn’t even know the person who commented on her weight.  And yet the person felt completely entitled to say something. What kind of a twisted world do we live in where the state of our bodies is fair game for comments from whoever feels like making them?

Finally, here’s a meditation from Michelle Parrinello-Cason at Balancing Jane on the question of what exactly we’re praising when we compliment weight loss.

What if I say “Have you lost weight? You’re looking great!” to someone who has been starving himself for weeks. Now I’ve reinforced that behavior.

What if I tell someone she looks great when she’s actually suffering weight loss as a side effect from a deadly disease (as happened to this woman’s friend who was suffering from Lupus).

We don’t know what we’re praising if we’re only praising a result. If our goal is to encourage people to take care of themselves and to be healthy, then shouldn’t we make sure that we’re actually encouraging people to, you know, take care of themselves and be healthy?

If someone gets up an hour early and went for a run, we should praise that. That’s hard work.

If someone cooked healthy meals all week long for themselves and their family, we should praise that. That’s hard work. [. . .]

If we rethink the way that we give praise, we can begin to restructure our norms. If we praise hard work instead of outcomes and acknowledge beauty wherever we see it and the people who are doing that hard work don’t get any thinner, we’re still reinforcing positive, healthy changes. Isn’t that what we really want to value as a culture?

[/Break]

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For all that I agree with these multiple analyses about the problems behind my hairdresser’s statement, I also agree with Golda Poretsky at Body Love Wellness about the root cause of these “compliments”:

I think people are, in some ways, nearly literally blinded by weight loss culture. So when they read something or someone as beautiful they make an automatic connection between beauty and weight loss. I really don’t blame people for that. I think that most of us who have woken up from weight loss culture have been truly hurt by it (or have great empathy for someone close to us who has been hurt by it), so people who haven’t had that experience often just see our current weight loss culture as normal.

So the question becomes, what do you do in the moment? Depending on the context and your relationship to that person, you can handle the compliment of “You look great. Did you lose weight?” in many ways.

Among the options Poretsky lists are saying a simple thanks, setting a boundary against public discussion of your weight, or using humor to redirect the conversation. In the moment on Saturday morning, I didn’t select any of those precise options, though I feel as if I kind of rolled them all together, a bit.

I thanked her and said I’d been doing this detox diet for a number of weeks, limiting my food to lean proteins and fresh produce. I was sure some weight loss had occurred as a side effect of the detoxing, but that’s not my focus.

“Do you have an ultimate weight loss goal?”**

“Nope,” I repeated, “that’s not my focus.

And that’s where we left the topic. Me wanting to acknowledge and appreciate her desire to say something nice and kind, while also jiu-jitsuing my way out of the specific value proposition (thin=beautiful=virtuous; fat=ugly=lazy cow) she was unconsciously peddling.

* I stumbled across this blog tonight looking for good links to use here and I am already head over heels in love with Tracy’s intelligence and insights.

** You see, this bit shows as much as anything how deeply unconscious and blinded we are by the weight loss culture. When an otherwise lovely young woman hears a statement about how weight loss isn’t my focus and then without blinking an eye disregards that assertion to ask me my weight loss goal, there’s nothing else to call that but a symptom of cultural insanity.

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Image credit: http://www.groundnevermisses.com/2012/02/striking-grappling-traditional-mma.html

 

Back in My Yoga Pants

Today’s schedule is entirely in the care of my detox/consciousness center. Since I’m with family today, I am garbed in my usual course weekend ensemble of yoga pants, layers and a light sweatshirt. Very different from yesterday’s ensemble.

The doctors’ office down here we used to get my HCG prescription markets HCG through the weight loss lens. Despite that, I give them much honor for being energetically cleaner about it than the places I researched in Boston. To my perception, the tone on the Boston places was all about glamour and enhancing women’s attractiveness to the patriarchy — which is why HCG was bundled in with Botox and laser peels. The doctor here in Atlanta seems more to speaking from a place of saying “this is really good for your body and it’ll help you lose weight!”

Now, there are lots of problematics with any line of discourse that draws a strong connective line between “healthy behaviors” and “weight loss.”  This was pretty brilliantly deconstructed over at Dances With Fat back in January, so rather than rehashing the subject tonight, I’ll content myself to providing a link and a brief quote from Ragen’s insightful analysis:

There is so much confusion about weight and health.  That causes people to confuse weight loss behaviors with healthy behaviors and that, in turn,  causes people to do unhealthy things under the false belief that they will be healthier when they get thinner no matter what they have to do to make it happen.  The next thing you know someone’s doctor has convinced them that the healthiest thing that they can do is have their stomach amputated.

Still, the cultural delusion equating healthy behavior with weight loss is really strong, and there’s a deep deep assumption that almost any woman in this culture wants to lose weight — and, statistically speaking, that assumption isn’t all that far off. So, given the desire of the doctor’s office to stay in business, I get why their marketing plays into the weight loss thing. Honestly, it would be naive of me to expect anything else.

Coming straight out of that cultural construct, it’s not real surprising that my intake form asked various questions about my history as a fatty: highest weight, lowest weight, past techniques attempted  in the inevitable quest to be skinny*, when and how my “weight problems” began, and what my current weight loss goal is for the HCG.

When I got my intake form on Wednesday to fill out, I wasn’t especially surprised to see this line of questioning. Okay, let’s be blunter: I wasn’t surprised one iota.

Despite my utter lack of surprise, it was fascinating to watch how hair-trigger my defensiveness and anger was around that section of the form. There’s the one in me that bitterly knows the pain of being fat-shamed and all the subtle destructiveness of fat microagressions. As my eyes took in the start of these questions and as my mind processed the reality that yes, we were coming up against THAT section, I could literally feel that one armoring up. “Here it comes,” she said, steeling herself. Steeling myself.

I left most of that section blank when I filled out the form Wednesday night.

So yesterday morning, as I was getting dressed, I was super conscious of how I was deliberately costuming or armoring myself for the doctor’s visit. Great sweater, skinny jeans, rockin’ boots. A indisputably Good Look for me.

Nope, my clothes were saying. I am not your self-hating fatty caricature. I am a woman learning to love herself who knows exactly how to dress so I feel confident and centered in my skin.

And with that extra bit of protection, I was able to be calm and matter-of-fact when the doctor and I went over my intake form with all its lacuna in my “history of fatness.” I was absolutely plain-spoken and honest about having a focus on health and detoxing, and not caring what my number on the scale is (or what it’ll be 4 weeks from now). And the medical staff acknowledged that they have clients before coming from a similar place.

I’m doing a lot in this journey to let connection and care in, to practice where and how I can be vulnerable, rather than staying perpetually turtled up in the psychic armor I so often try to wear.

Yesterday was an fascinating reminder that sometimes a little bit of protection is the perfect dose of self-care: something that allowed me to face an unfamiliar and somewhat triggering circumstance for the purpose of starting this detox movement. In other words: allowing myself the armoring movement around the little thing (my distaste for the culture’s weight loss obsession) gave me the space to remain open to the BIG thing (the HCG journey and the larger detox exploration).

That’s a tradeoff I’m entirely at peace with.

* Because as I’ve observed before, to not want to be skinny is pretty damned inconceivable.