The great battle of dietary sensitivities, routine, & fixation.
It shouldn’t be challenging to gain weight; there are plenty of restaurants to choose from and loads of options for nutrient-dense foods. This is clearly the solution in mind for every person (read: guy) who decided I was too skinny and took it upon themselves to tell me to “eat a burger”. Besides the fact that just smashing a bunch of processed foods down your throat isn’t a healthy way to gain weight, as mentioned above I have dietary sensitivities–too many to be able to go out and eat at most restaurants. I’m fortunate to live in Portland, OR, where there are many gluten-free restaurant options (and even a dedicated GF brewery with delicious beers!–I’m lookin’ at you, Groundbreaker) as well as many restaurants that are vegan and offer GF options so I can easily manage my lactose intolerance as well. However, there’s generally a 90% chance there’s still nothing on the menu I can eat due to my SIBO (I don’t digest FODMAPs well and as a result a very wide range of foods cause me intense gastric pain and motility issues). Those physical sensitivities also trigger my sensory sensitivities, often causing me to shut down, which only makes it harder to feed myself. One poorly-scrutinized meal can mean several days of isolation, pain, and cognitive/emotional difficulties that contribute to reduced eating.
Add in the stress factor for which there is a direct correlation between its intensity and my resultant insistence upon sameness, i.e. the more stressed the ‘F’ out I am the more routines I develop and the more rigidly I must adhere to them (see my ‘Cado Toast for Dayzzz‘ post for an example) and you have yet another daily barrier to healthy eating and necessary weight gain. I’m already a creature of routine and habit (as most humans are) it’s just that when my routines are disrupted so is, then, my brain, and it’s harder to bounce back when I have too many that I rely on. It’s kind of like how it’s easier to catch yourself when you trip with empty hands as opposed to full ones. How does this affect my ability to feed myself adequately? Well, when my routines are disrupted my stress is amplified–I lose my appetite or I simply forget to feed myself because the missed step challenges my ability to carry out the rest of my day in a logical fashion. This becomes compounded by psychological factors because often the resulting anxiety of disrupted routines leads to irrational masochism; for example, if my days must begin with avocado toast and for some unforeseen reason I can’t have that particular breakfast, then my stomach basically goes on strike and my mind is quick to respond with wild emotions and panic; anxious negative thought patterns kick in, telling me that if I can’t have the toast then I shouldn’t eat anything at all because I should have set myself up for success in the first place. “I don’t need to eat if I’m too dumb to remember to get my food in the first place.” Anger, I’ve learned, is just a mask for sadness and truly what’s happening is that I’m just deeply sad–and scared–because I can’t have a thing that brings me much comfort and a sense of security, normalcy, and reliability in a world of chaos. It’s as if I feel like anything can go wrong at that point–like nothing is safe because the toast didn’t happen and that clearly means that I can’t look out for myself, either.
If routine and dietary sensitivities create roadblocks on one side, then fixation closes me in from the other. You see…I had inherited most of my mother’s clothes when she passed and during her last few years she fluctuated between a size 0 and a size 5. I, myself, had been used to being a size 7 and was at least expecting to fit into her size 5’s… But her 5’s were too big; her 2’s were too big, and finally her 0’s fit me with even a little room to spare. Zero. Zero is such a great ‘number’. I love doing math with zero because the answer is easy. Zero is round and I love round things, like bubbles and bouncy balls and balloons and marbles (OOH, MARBLES!). I was fascinated by zero. I fixated on it as a size. Zeros are round and circles are around and circles are perfect… You may be about to suppose–and if you are, you’d likely be correct: perfectionism is yet another struggle of mine. The number itself was a source of fixation but then I became fixated on what I saw in the mirror as well…
I’m not a tall girl–at only 5’5″ and genetically gifted with long legs for a shorty-pants my torso tends to end up being a tad shorter to compensate for that. As a result of this and my genetic propensity to gain weight on my hips and lower back (which only gives me more BANGin’ hips, really) I end up with smaller curves that unevenly alter the smooth, larger curves of my overall frame and this drives. me. crazy. I’m a big fan of symmetry and smooth lines, so when the smooth lines of my shape are “disrupted” (read: enhanced) by asymmetrical “hip-bulge” I’m agitated the way I would be agitated if I saw a painting was hanging off-kilter. *twitch* IT’S NOT SYMMETRICAL, AHHH!! Begin the yo-yo effect: I would hit 112 lbs and be proud, but I would see something ever-so-slightly asymmetrical about my body (my left side loves to gain fat faster than my right) and become agitated. My stress would ramp up and I’d lose my appetite. “Just lose a couple of pounds to get that symmetry back.” Coffee, alcohol. Repeat. (Don’t mistake the use of coffee as either a meal-replacement or appetite suppressant; it was quite the opposite because coffee actually stimulates my appetite by crashing my blood sugar, so I was always hopeful that the coffee would help me eat despite my loss of interest in food.)
My fixations can become worsened by a need for control that ramps up the more stress I’m under, so being that during much of this time I was also under stress from incessant masking and chronic over-stimulation at my job (read: autistic regression) I really struggled with letting go of that control of my shape as everything else spiraled into chaos. Even though I wasn’t modeling during this time it was as if my body was my current work of art that had to have every line be “perfect” just so I could control the outcome of something. Ironic considering my own art is not made with the objective of being “perfect”, I just create whatever comes out of me and call it good because it makes me feel good. Bob Ross taught me that! In addition to desiring symmetry I was also intent on getting rid of my flat butt and gaining a round peach that would “defy gravity”. We all have goals; thankfully at least my fixation on having a lifted, round booty served as helpful-albeit-superficial motivation in re-stoking the fire of weight gain. (Btw, nothing wrong with flat bottoms, they’re beautiful but just not the shape I’m going for at this time in my life.) Meanwhile my husband, ever supportive and wonderful, wrote in colorful dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror a message to remind me daily of what my goal should be. “I love you happy and healthy,” it reads to this day–a loving reminder that superficial goals can be fine but truly what matters is health and happiness.