February 2016

Gaining weight: the taboo topic

I would like to discuss a subject that, in this culture, is rarely, if at all discussed: gaining weight.

I’m serious.

People write about losing weight all the time. They post before and after pictures, they post their meal plans, they vent about their struggles to limit themselves, to count calories, to be constantly conscious of what they’re eating.

And the support they receive is overwhelming.

The comments always have the same themes:

“Story of my life. I’ve got to get back on a diet.”

“Wow, I’m so inspired.”

“Think about how great you’ll feel! It’s worth it!”

Losing weight is talked about all the time. People mention it constantly, or at least subtly refer to it. And it immediately becomes a source of commiseration, an unhealthy way to bond.

But gaining weight isn’t talked about. And I haven’t talked about it, because I could anticipate the reactions:

“Lucky you, I wish that was my problem!”

“It must be so nice to get to eat whatever you want!”

“If only I weighed as much as you, I would be happy!”

And I knew that even if people didn’t write or say those comments, they’d think them. Because we live in a distorted culture where people believe those things and thrive off of the negative thought patterns. And so I have kept silent.

Except then it hit me: By keeping silent, I am perpetuating skinny-shaming. I am perpetuating shame. That goes against everything I believe in.

So I’m talking. In the spirit of being real.

I am at a point where I need to gain weight. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter the cause. Ask me if you’d like, because I’ll sure talk about it, but speculating and harping on the cause just supports that yes, we live in a distorted culture. Because, do people harp and speculate on why someone needs to lose weight? Right. The point is, just as someone may need to lose weight to be healthy, I need to gain it.

It’s not fun. It’s not pleasant. I too have to count calories. I too have to think about and plan all of my meals. Just as it may be frustrating to stop eating when you want to continue, it’s equally frustrating to force yourself to keep eating when your body is screaming at you to stop. I too can’t wait until it’s finished and I’m where I want to be and need to be. It’s not pleasant to ignore hunger signals. It’s disappointing to step on the scale only to be disappointed. It’s not pleasant to know your body is not as healthy as it was. It’s frustrating to want to work out or go to a hot yoga class and know you shouldn’t. It’s no different than trying to lose weight. The end goal is the same, the struggle is the same: get to a healthy place, for your body.

So please – I beg of you. Help me stop this double standard where it’s okay to move down, but not up. Where it’s congratulated for even talking about losing weight, but criticized for talking about gaining. Where people feel that they can’t commiserate about the struggle, because the struggle might be happening in a different directions.

And hopefully we’ll get to a point, maybe in this lifetime, where weight doesn’t even need to be talked about.

Help make that happen.

He told me

Joey is amazing. (You can read more about Joey here, here, and here.). He’s amazing all day every day, but tonight, in this moment, here is why he’s currently kicking some serious butt:

I wrote out the “Plan” of what we had to accomplish during our session. He read it and asked, “What do you mean ‘think of questions and give answers’?”

“Good question,” I replied. “So, we will read the book for number 1. Then for number 2, we’re going to use the question words and think of questions about the story. Then we’ll have to figure out the answers to the questions.”

He scrunched up his face. “I don’t get it,” he said.

This is so big. Please tell me you get how big this is. Years ago, maybe even months ago, Joey wouldn’t have told me he didn’t get it. And I don’t know why – maybe because his neurons didn’t yet have the association that a direction + a swirly foggy sensation = I’m confused + need to say something to convey that. But he would’ve nodded and smiled, and halfway through I would’ve realized that he had no idea what we were doing. Or seemingly out of nowhere I would’ve seen seemingly random behaviors – all a way of his brain trying to convey the confusion. But today? He knew. He knew and he TOLD me! Self-awareness! Self-advocacy! Communicating! Wait, it gets better.

So I wrote it down for him, just like I did on the whiteboard. I silently wrote:

-Read book
-Think of questions to ask about each page
-Answer questions

He silently followed along. He clarified (he clarified!), “You’ll write the answers to the questions. That’s fair.” And I agreed. And then he looked up at me, again, nodded, and confirmed, “Oh. Okay. I get it now.”

He told me. Again!

And so, I did my try-not-to-get-teary thing and told him how awesome it was that he told me when he was confused, and told me when it made sense in his brain again, and he wasn’t really into the mushy-gushy and was really just ready to read the book, so we moved right on, but really I didn’t move on because I’m still sitting here thinking about how awesome he is.

And how some small things are not small. Some small things are huge. And how the skills are there, and they come, and how they come in their own way, in their own time. And how we need to – always – meet them and their neurology halfway. And how I just feel so blessed and privileged to be the one who gets to witness these incredible successes.

Writer’s Block

I could write about the activities we’ve been doing in speech, but I don’t have anything new and innovative to talk about.

I could tell you the funny things my students have said, but it’s hard to convey the humor in written form.

I could write about how much I hate MCAS and PARCC but it’s nothing that others haven’t said.

I could tell you what’s been going on with Bella, and share the latest social story I wrote, but do people want to read that?

I could write the follow-up from my Musings post, but I’m avoiding it.

I could finish the post I’ve been trying to write about panic and anxiety, but I just can’t get it right.

I could write a “10 Reasons I Love My Cats” post, but really, who wants to read that?

I could do a book review of a great series that I read recently, but I don’t know if I’d do a good job.

I could try to write a fictional piece, but none have come to me.

Really, I just feel like this.

What should I write about? What do you want to read?

I’ll take it under advisement.

You know how sometimes someone gives you a thought or anecdote and you appreciate it, but move on, but sometimes someone gives you a random thought or idea and it REALLY sticks and kind of changes everything for the better?

This is that.

Several months ago, I sat in a therapy session discussing a really frustrating pattern I had been having lately.

“I KNOW it’s not a big deal if I wake up really anxious or really down,” I said. “But a part in me kind of panics and is like Oh my god this is a really big deal because what if you don’t ever feel better and what if this lasts forever and how will you ever get things done and be a good wife and be a good mother some day and we have to worry about this and solve it right away and only focus on this.”

“Well,” she responded. “It sounds like your Self is trying to say, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry’. But this other part of you is trying to protect you by ensuring you think about each possible horrible outcome. And it’s very sweet of that part to do so. The problem is, it’s creating fires where they don’t exist, and trying to solve a non-existent problem in a very unhelpful way.”

“YES!” I agreed. “Exactly. And my Self believes all those things: I can be where I am, feelings come and go, this moment is just this moment, but then I start to worry and spin and before I know it, I’ve only been awake for ten minutes and I’ve already come to all these dramatic conclusions about the probability of how successful I’ll be in my life and what the hell is up with that?”

“So, let’s acknowledge that little panicky part,” she said. “Because really, it has good intentions. It’s trying to protect you. But you don’t really need its constant chatter. So allow it to speak, hear what it has to say, and humor it. Respond to it and say, ‘Thank you for your concern. I’ll take it under advisement.’ It’s up to you if you actually take its content to heart and spend the rest of the day pouring over the worries it brought to the table. But this way it’ll be happy, because it got heard, and your Self is still the one making the decisions and calling the shots, so it’s a win-win.”

I loved it.

And I’ve been doing it constantly. Rather than getting upset when I have a thought, or a worry, or a fear, rather than immediately following its instructions (We need to worry about x, panic about y, analyze z) I calmly listen to the suggestion. Because after all, it’s a part of me. And has anyone really had success with internal hatred?

(Years ago, in the midst of a panic attack, I said to a friend, What the f***! I shouldn’t be feeling this way! I just need to snap out of it, this is so stupid!!  She responded with her loving sarcasm: Ohhh, so you’re going to berate yourself out of a panic attack? Yeah, let me know how that goes. Right. Point taken.)

So anyway, yes, I listen. And then I play the role of Leader of the Council Board, and I acknowledge it. Telling it, “Thank you for your concern. I’ll take it under advisement.”

Only, usually, I don’t spend any more time on it than just that. And I move on. Because I am the leader, and I call the shots, and while I am an excellent listener, I certainly don’t have to take all of the suggestions I am given.

Not anymore.

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