Monday, 13 January 2014

Fat Woman and the manifesto

Instead of a "these are my resolutions, I am sharing them in the hope it will keep me honest" post, Fat Woman is outlining her priorities in 2014. These underpin everything Fat Woman does in her lifestyle and when Fat Woman feels under attack from people who are telling her that she's doing it wrong, she reminds herself that mostly they don't have a clue about what she IS doing. If you want Fat Woman to listen to your opinion please make sure you have read all three thousand plus words of this, the Fat Woman's Manifesto.

Fat Woman's Manifesto 2014
1. Stay awake
2. Do not smoke
3. Be functionally fit
4, Stay stable
5. Have a calorie deficit without feeling hungry

Priority number one: Stay awake

If staying awake sounds like something that you do naturally in the same way that you breathe then: lucky you. Fat Woman has an under-active thyroid with the associated auto-immune disorder, Hashimoto's Syndrome. This pleasing condition remained undiagnosed until Fat Woman was 25. After putting on a stone a year for her entire life it was a joy for Fat Woman simply NOT to put on weight and to know that it wasn't that she was stuffing her face with so much more food than everyone else. What was even more wonderful for Fat Woman is that with thyroid medication she is comparatively full of energy. When Fat Woman wakes up in the morning she feels she has finished with sleep. It used to be that Fat Woman could sleep 11.5 hours every day, and still feel exhausted when she work up. It took three years of dose adjustment to get Fat Woman on the right dose, including a horrible period when she was over medicated, which was worse than being under medicated, and then Fat Woman found that her dose needed to be correlated with bodyweight. Therefore Fat Woman would spend her time in a loop thusly:
  1. Be properly medicated. Have lots of energy and a healthy appetite and reasonable metabolism.
  2. Lose weight because of eating well and living reasonably.
  3. Thyroid dose is now too much. Body reacts by making Fat Woman put on weight until she is the right weight for her dose again.
Fat Woman went through this loop no fewer than four times in 2013, each loop taking approximately eight weeks. In the end Fat Woman gave up eating a calorie deficit for a while as it was too heartbreaking to lose the same eight pounds over and over. Eventually Fat Woman learned to run her dose at a slightly lower level than she felt perfect at to allow her time to change it before she became over medicated. Fat Woman has not quite got this down to a science as she may only have blood tests every two months (that is unusually generous for the NHS) but she is doing better. Of course, having Hashimoto's means that if the syndrome flares up then Fat Woman's thyroid itself could behave differently, which stuffs everything up. When your thyroid dose isn't right you get brain fog, you can't concentrate or remember or learn things as efficiently, and quite often the symptoms mimic depression, not to mention you have a whole host of physical symptoms. So staying awake is Fat Woman's topmost priority. Fat Woman would rather be fat and mentally functioning than walking around in a stupor, unable to concentrate on anything unless powered by adrenalin.

Priority number 2: Do Not Smoke

Fat Woman used to smoke. It was partly in self-defence as everyone she knew did it and it smelt disgusting unless you did it too, but also there was a vague idea that smoking stopped you eating and that made you thin. This was partially true initially and Fat Woman certainly lost a few pounds at one point at university when she was living off cigarettes and barely leaving the newspaper office, but actually it made Fat Woman short of breath and less likely to walk anywhere. Fat Woman gave up smoking for good the day she realised she was an addict. That was in 2003 and Fat Woman still won't touch a cigarette. This is made easier by the smoking ban and the fact almost no one Fat Woman knows smokes any more. Fat Woman is down to a crave once a year, but is ever-vigilant against slipping off the wagon. Giving up smoking still remains the hardest thing Fat Woman ever did.

Priority number 3: Be Functionally Fit

Fat Woman was always functionally fit, for some values of "functional", up until the 26th stone. That last stone was just too much and Fat Woman suddenly found walking incredibly hard. That only took a small amount of dieting to deal with, but there were more serious things to contend with.

Fat Woman took up swimming because it was a safe thing for a fat person to do, and hurt her back doing breaststroke, which meant she couldn't even swim. Swimming Coach may have been a bit of an arse on a personal level, but he knew his swimming and diagnosed Fat Woman as having a screw kick, and also said that breaststroke was really bad for making the back arch anyway. Fat Woman now does a lovely front crawl.

Fat Woman had terrible RSI all down her arms, caused by the muscles at the top of her spine not working properly and all the other muscles compensating for years. Fat Woman had always felt that what she looked like wasn't a problem in life as she could contribute in other ways such as in more intellectual things, but once she couldn't use a computer any more because of the sharp pain in her hands her life had to change. It took Fat Woman two years to face up to the fact that she had to give up her previous work completely and get better, but she was very glad she did.

Fat Woman had problems in her left knee from the age of 11. Fat Woman remembers her knee going out from under her in registration one day. Certainly it was never looked at by the doctor again after that so Fat Woman accepted she had a weak knee. By the time Fat Woman started working with Personal Trainer she had horrible sharp pain whenever she tried to put all her weight on that knee. In fact, Fat Woman's one rule of the gym was that she wouldn't do anything that required her putting all her weight on one leg and hoiking the rest of her weight up on top of it. Eventually Osteopath diagnosed patellar tendinitis. Between Osteopath and Personal Trainer Fat Woman worked through patellar tendinitis, compressed cartilage, embedded knee caps, various strains on muscles and ligaments, problems with the iliotibial band, and finally a badly tracking left knee cap. Fat Woman can now go up stairs without screaming and will admit that the one-legged squats and the assisted stretching were worth it.

So Fat Woman is concerned that she stays functional. Fat Woman likes being strong and healthy, able to lift and move and do what she likes. Fat Woman is fitter across the board than lots of her friends are now.

Priority number 4: Stay stable

Fat Woman reached 26 stone without developing an eating disorder, which Fat Woman thinks is something of a miracle. Fat Woman thinks this is pretty damn impressive, but also that it highlights that things such as mindful eating only work for you if your body is in good order. Fat Woman was told to listen to her body, that her body would tell her what it wants. Fat Woman's body lies. Fat Woman's body wants cake. Nowadays that's occasionally, but really mindful eating isn't the panacea some people make out it is.

Fat Woman found that having enough thyroxine in your body gives you an appetite off-switch that she'd never experienced before. The second day that Fat Woman was on thyroxine replacement she looked at her dinner and in tones of wonder and amazement announced that she was full. The feeling was completely different. Before Fat Woman had eaten until she felt "full", that is, that her stomach felt physically full. Then Fat Woman went through leptin resistance. Suddenly Fat Woman felt satiated by much smaller amounts of food. Fat Woman could eat little and often and feel a correlation between the amount of calories she ate and how quickly again she needed food. Fat Woman has no proof that this was the case but it was five months after she started resistance training and several people that month remarked on how good her skin was, which is listed as a marker of coming out of leptin resistance. Having hormones acting appropriately means that Fat Woman doesn't feel like she's going crazy when things don't work for her the way they do for other people.

Fat Woman gave up diet Coke. Fat Woman had thought that at least there was one thing in the world that tasted great and wasn't doing her any harm and that she could drink without feeling guilty for consuming calories. Fat Woman never noticed any side effects from the aspartame even when she was drinking a two litre bottle a day. What did happen is that Fat Woman gave up Diet Coke for Lent. On Easter Sunday Fat Woman was looking forward to a nice cold can of her favourite beverage but found instead that she was drinking overly sweet brown water. Fat Woman has tried diet Coke again but the magic has vanished. Interestingly, Big D PT told Fat Woman about the effects Phenylalanine has on the blood sugar of some people and Fat Woman is convinced that this was a bit part of her problems; she would eat normally but would suffer huge blood sugar drops. These mostly ended up in Fat Woman dinging her car. Fat Woman has just got another car so the proof of this theory is going to be in the driving, or rather the not-hitting. Fat Woman certainly doesn't miss feeling normal one second and in the next second feeling that she'll kill someone if she doesn't get fed in the next two minutes.

Fat Woman's mother provided a pretty healthy home diet but did have the habit of regarding anything sweet as a "treat". Fat Woman spent the first year she lived with Thin Husband shaking off her mother's food issues and finding out what her own might be. Fat Woman certainly doesn't reward herself with food, although she does have a tendency to show affection in the form of cake. Fat Woman would absolutely show affection in the form of marketing consultancy, but very few people take her up on that. Cake happens to be one of the few things Fat Woman does well that not everyone can do. Fat Woman developed a protein bar for Personal Trainer when he was weightlifting and "on a cut" and now serves them as protein pops, on sticks with a nice plastic wrapper and a bow, so it's not about what the food is, more about Fat Woman sharing her skill. No one wants to hear Fat Woman play the clarinet.

Fat Woman won't eat out of obligation. Fat Woman still remembers the first time Thin Husband refused to even taste any of the cakes that Granny had made because he wasn't hungry. Fat Woman's jaw dropped as she was so conditioned into politeness and showing appreciation for someone else's efforts. Fat Woman is very good at the apologetic refusal and will take home packages of sweet things for Thin Husband, or for the round filing cabinet under the table.

Fat Woman will not suffer abuse. Fat Woman did some training in trauma resolution. It turns out that the most traumatic experience in Fat Woman's young life was being denied food when she was hungry because she was a fat child and therefore didn't deserve to eat. Fat Woman got this particular traumatic incident seen to, but is keenly aware of the interpersonal politics around food. Fat Woman has to put up with the following:

  • People thinking that Fat Woman shouldn't be eating that BAD THING, as though single item is going to make the difference between Fat Woman remaining fat or suddenly become thin. This is stupidity and interfering and is a disjoint generally shown in elderly relatives, particularly those of the in-law variety.
  • People thinking that what Fat Woman considers to be part of her healthy eating is actually unhealthy and a BAD THING. Fat Woman has trouble getting these people to define the parameters of their arguments, usually because that requires investment and thinking about what they are saying, and they don't actually care about Fat Woman, they just want validation that their way is right. The only validation Fat Woman is going to give you is
  • People thinking that Fat Woman shouldn't be eating AT ALL, because fat people don't deserve food, they should stay in one room until they are thin. As all humans need food on a regular basis this is a dehumanising thing to think about anyone. Fat Woman likes being functional and not in pain from hunger thank you very much.
  • People who think that they know what is best for Fat Woman. Fat Woman knows what's best for Fat Woman, and is as far as she knows the only person with a full overview of her needs. Fat Woman is not going to work with anyone who doesn't respect her autonomy and the fact that this is not about them.
  • People thinking that they have some kind of moral superiority over Fat Woman because they are thin and she is not. Fat Woman likes what CS Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters about the inverse side of gluttony, delicacy. Fat Woman likens listening to these people to listening to someone boasting of how much money they make. You just shouldn't have to put up with it.

Of course, if people only thought these things it wouldn't matter in the slightest. It's the ones who let it leak out of them that that get up Fat Woman's nose. Fat Woman doesn't see why she should put up with bullying or control games from anyone, no matter how well they think they mean. Fat Woman is pretty sure that "meaning well" is a top-brain justification whilst your subconscious is actually getting its rocks off on your power games and sense of superiority.  Fat Woman is a fairly well-balanced human and likes to be strong enough as a person to consider the opinions of others rather than resorting to the defensive position of not caring what anybody thinks. It is now proved that fat shaming makes fat people fatter, which rather throws daylight on this controlling and abusive behaviour. Control is at the core of every abusive relationship. Now, if someone had been in an abusive relationship with a partner you'd understand if they were very good at spotting controlling behaviours, the red flags that signal abuse ahead. Fat Woman has had quite enough of these food-based abusive relationships over the years, thank you, and when she says that what you are doing is a micro-aggression and that is unacceptable, dollars to doughnuts she's right. Fat Woman isn't going to be in any kind of an abusive relationship, so she certainly isn't going to be in one with you over food. When Fat Woman says stop, she means stop. If you don't stop Fat Woman will push back, in as aggressive a way as is appropriate to get you to STOP. Fat Woman will protect herself as necessary from worry and hurt and any kind of mind game. Fat Woman now knows her food needs and has a right to manage them.

Staying stable means Fat Woman being able to take part in life, to join in outings and events where food is part of the occasion without her going into melt down, demanding changes in plans or denying herself. Fat Woman is a foodie and a social person and loves going out to dinner with friends or throwing dinner parties. Fat Woman doesn't want to have to stay on a tightly regimented diet with no joy or fun for the rest of her existence.

Priority number 5: Have a calorie deficit without feeling hungry

Fat Woman believes firmly in the idea that a calorie deficit means you will lose weight. Fat Woman knows that anything else is a violation of the laws of physics. Fat Woman is now skilled at eating a diet with a 500 calorie deficit each day without feeling hungry. Fat Woman could eat her entire calorie allowance in chocolate if she wanted to, but that isn't massively healthy and would also leave her hungry so she doesn't. Instead Fat Woman eats low GI carbs, and not very many of them, high protein, lots of fibre, some fat, and low sugar. Fat Woman denies herself nothing because that can end up working against priority number four, but makes her choices on a daily basis. It's about balancing needs, physical hunger with health and emotional needs. Fat Woman will eat salt, fat of all kinds, sugar, starches and anything else she damn well pleases. Fat Woman has parameters for her diet. Sometimes she keeps to them better than others, but that is what she works with.

Fat Woman hopes you can see that with all she has to worry about she hardly has time to be concerned about the long term effects of eggs on cholesterol levels or whether polyunsaturated fats are better for you than saturated fats. Fat Woman cooks mostly from whole foods, eats processed foods when she knows what they are made from or could conceivably make them herself and weighs and measures ingredients wherever she can. Fat Woman would be the Health poster girl for the NHS, if only she wasn't actually fat.

Fat Woman would like to congratulate anyone who got this far for their patience and interest. Fat Woman appreciates it and thinks you should have a cookie of whatever kind fits your macro. As this blog is hosted by Google you've probably had several already.

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