Thursday, the third day of the new year. Feeling the energy of the new year - was on fire yesterday. Today the monster list almost spills over to two pages. Another good thing - soon we'll feel the darkness lifting - I've always noticed that, by mid-January, it's discernibly lighter - such a relief cuz it's really weird to be running late afternoon errands in the dark.
So - Eugene. He and I have been having a lively, sometimes heated e-mail discourse about weight and obesity. He is fascinated by the subject and is working on a book to be published in China. Seems I am source material, having lost 115 pounds. He wants to crawl inside my head to understand my struggle - how I gained the weight to begin with, what the root causes were, what made me decide "enough is enough", how I've succeeded and more.
Eugene is an odd duck. I wrote about him several blog posts ago. As much as he's fascinated by me, I am equally fascinated with him. I mean, who wouldn't be? He's almost a super hero. Check out his bio. Even the exotic clothing he wears every day can be ripped off with one hand (velcro). It's as if he's prepared to leap into a phone booth (or the modern equivalent) and strip down to his super hero scivvies and respond to some damsel in distress. So, interesting that he's taking on the growing and international problem of obesity. I think he sees himself as an obesity guru heading up a new government initiative. He is passionate to discover root causes and effective solutions.
And yet......having him as an obesity tsar would be like having Hitler in charge of the Jewish Council for Education and Research. He absolutely hates fat people....finds them disgusting. Here is an excerpt from our correspondence.
On thinking about our discussion, I think my thought comes down to this; considering a person's past and the circumstances of their present, perhaps in spite of this, how can a woman or man, allow themselves to become obese and downright ugly?
Surely, we can see ourselves in the mirror? And when we do, we must be repelled by what we see, aren't we? I know I would be! I was once 190 pounds when my last child (daughter) was born and I didn't exercise for a year, just focusing on her. Then I saw myself in a photograph and I was so disgusted with myself to allow myself to be even 30-40 pounds over-weight! I immediately returned to my weekly training and all that flab melted off quickly!
Being repelled, doesn't that shocking fact, motivate us to do something, immediately, and with great urgency? It does for me! It did for me!
If we see that we are quickly becoming grotesque, with all that fat on our bodies, surely we cannot blot it out! And surely it must repell us enough to run to the gym and/or do something fast!
How could this not be so? Nobody wants to look like a fat, obese, monster!
That's what I don't understand? We all have eyes! We can see ourselves in our terrible state! Isn't that enough to act fast?
To me, it's like being on a sinking ship, I have to find a way to save myself, to live, to survive! I cannot live within a body of ugliness and obesity!
How could it be any other way?
How can we live with ourselves seeing ourselves becoming a grotesque semblence of how beautiful we were, we really are, and can be?
We must be extremely sick and crazy if we don't see ourselves in the mirror, becoming a grotesque monster! Then... it is a psychological disease! A state of blindness and pschophantic illusion? We've then accepted a state of gross denial bordering on deep mental illness! One-third of the world's population this way? It's sick! How can it be?
I don't get it?!
Please explain this...
Thank you, Sarah, for talking with me about this! This is really incredible of you! You must be a truly beautiful human being to have the guts to speak about this!
So, wow! I guess he has guts to write this way - admit his prejudice in such an unvarnished way but again, wow! I was horrified. This is some of what I wrote back to him.
Eugene, here are some of my thoughts about the subjects we’ve been pondering: · It makes sense that you are repulsed by ugliness and obesity – you have an aesthetic that is easily offended. Reminds me of the book, Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright. When he built Taliesin he robbed Peter to pay Paul and when the home was built, he ordered pianos, rugs and fixtures to furnish it. He had not paid his craftsman though. Having the beautiful fixtures was to him a necessity and he expected those around him to share his need for order and beauty, making sacrifices for art. Being at visual harmony in his surroundings was as necessary as breathing air for him. My sense is that it almost caused him physical pain to walk into a room and see ugliness. So I get it – the artist’s eye. You are driven and inspired by it.
· Here’s the downside to being a slave to your aesthetic – you miss really important stuff and you can also reach shallow conclusions that rob you of the opportunity to experience the less obvious (that ugly organic apple with sun speckles that turns out to be more ambrosial than its pretty cousin sitting next to it). On my last day of therapy, I described a dream I had to my analyst. It was horrific – there was a monster living inside of me that had to be killed. Only my mother could kill it and in the process I had to die too. The risk was that the monster could jump trans-generationally into my daughter’s bodies. My mother said it would be painless – she would stab the monster with a sharpened knitting needle through my eye. Kaveh, my therapist had the observation that it was only at the end of Ulysses’ life, when he went blind, did he gain true wisdom. Vision is a gift certainly but it also constrains us – thinking that, when we rely so much on that sense, we miss so much.
· I’m also reminded of the end of life words of one wise woman who realized, at the very end of her life, that it was ALL beautiful, even the horrible and the ugly. In recent years I’ve focused on accepting people for who they are and, more importantly, who they’re not, finding joy in dark days, finding beauty in everything, having compassion for peoples’ frailties. A sense I get from you is that you haven’t taken that journey yet. I have an old Indian pudding bowl with two very noticeable chips on it. It’s an ugly bowl, yet one I use without apology (it is a good size, very serviceable and it has been in my family forever). Contrast that with the Sarah of her twenties. I had a china cabinet full of expensive crystal – beautiful pieces like Baccarat decanters, Waterford goblets etc. One night the top shelf gave way under the weight and it collapsed onto the next shelf which, in turn, gave away and collapsed to the shelf below. I was devastated and went through the wreckage. My then husband tried to convince me to save some pieces that had only minor damage. I would hear none of it – I wanted it all swept away immediately and put in the dumpster. Didn’t want anything with even the slightest imperfection in my life. This attitude also colored my parenting. Saddest example was when I realized Madeleine had an eating disorder (bulimia). I was repulsed by her, wanted her gone from my life, wanted to put her in the dustbin like the china. She was flawed and broken – it disgusted me.
· Things Carol has related (yes we talked about you!!) make me wonder if you are similar. How do you feel about the people in your life and their weaknesses and frailties. Does your aesthetic affect your ability to love things and people that are flawed and broken? Watch the movie American Beauty. There is a scene that is stunningly beautiful, poetic, graceful simplicity – beauty that takes your breath away. It is a plastic grocery bag dancing in the wind. Can there be anything uglier than a plastic grocery bag? And yet in the film it becomes an object of beauty.
· Last night I went to an amazing New Year’s party. I looked beautiful – took special care with my clothes and makeup. My hair was perfect. My nails long and sensual and painted with an overcoat of glitter. I walked into a room of people I had never met with confidence and gratitude for being included. I flirted with the host who had invited me – an amazing Pakistani man, doctor, restaurant owner, art collector. I was hit on by a beautiful young black woman, twenty years younger than me (she kissed me on the back of my ear and reached over and peered down my décolletage (I’m straight for the record – but flattered). I danced with my host’s son who didn’t want to leave my side (his father was a bit jealous). Eugene, to your eye, I am a disgusting, repellant monster of a human being. I am obese. I am at least 50 pounds overweight. When I look in the mirror naked, I see flesh that shouldn’t be there. I have loose skin from the weight I lost. I wear expensive bras that hike my gravity prone breasts up to where they used to live naturally. I have stretch marks. I could, if I let myself, hate myself. Instead, I smile to myself and say, “This is your life…this is who you are, right now….you’re not perfect but you’ve got something – a je ne sais quoi that draws people to you. What’s more, the lovers in my life find me sexy, even with the extra weight. I tell you this so that you can get a sense that beauty is sometimes not so obvious. I am beautiful. I am obese.
· Case in point – sumo wrestlers. I adore watching sumo wrestling and I find the wrestlers’ bodies thrilling. Don’t you? They are massive and powerful and graceful. They are obese though, right?
· Playing devil’s advocate here. Challenging you to examine your own biases. It is very juvenile to only embrace that which is new, shiny and unflawed. I get the fascination with the perfectness of nature and the perfectness of unwrinkled youthful skin. ‘Tis lovely to see unblemished youth. There is, though, more beauty to be had. Watch that movie, “Calendar Girls” – older gals who posed nude for a charity calendar. They were lush and mature like that wrinkly peach you find in the bottom of the vegetable drawer that you think might be too old to eat, but that you bite into anyway and have to eat over the sink because it is so juicy it drips down your arm.
· Expand your beauty lens Eugene. Enlarge your aesthetic. Right now you are not at all qualified to be taking on the obesity issue. Your position is colored by an undeveloped aesthetic, stunted black and white thinking, and a hatred for the people who you would purport to help. You’re the wrong man for the job!
Anyway, it's turned out to be an interesting discussion, one that's near and dear to me as I struggle to take the rest of my weight off. Probably a good topic to discuss given the New Year and the focus on weight loss - what works, what doesn't. My friend Carol and I are reading everything on the subject. New knowledge and discoveries (like the wheat effect) are coming fast and furiously. We seem to be in an age where we're finally cracking the nut on what makes brains and bodies tick. My goal in this blog is to sift through as much of that information I can get to and synthesize it here for your reading knowledge and interest.
Challenge today is taking stock of your own health issues/initiatives for 2013. Remember, no draconian resolutions! But how about a gentle approach to better health that incorporates all the things your body needs: a bit more sleep, more movement, less wheat, water and tea instead of soft drinks, no sweets. Even if you're as thin as a rail this is a good way to live.