Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Punishment; or, My Victory Over My Fat Ass

I'm sick and I've no children around; thus, I'm supremely bored. The good thing about my laptop is that I can lie in bed with my electric blanket cranked up to high and blog when I'm sick. I could also read but that would require getting out of the warm bed to go in the living room to get my book and, lets face it, I just got up to grab my laptop, I'm not getting up again. Or, since I already have my laptop, I could do homework. But what fun is that? Blogging is funner (you see, even when I'm sick, I have that characteristic dry English teacher sense of humor).

Let us talk of bad habits. I just had this conversation yesterday and thought it was high time to have it here, as a sort of confession. Allusions have been made but I've never felt comfortable just talking about it.

I'm of the school that our bad habits are punishments we inflict upon ourselves. This is only if you view the habit as bad, not because others tell you it is. If you smoke or drink or hurt yourself or any other thing and you wish you didn't, you are punishing yourself. I'm going to elaborate by talking about mine.

My punishment is food. I don't intend for this to sound funny but it kind of is, upon remembrance. I have always been an over-eater. It didn't catch up with me (I was positively skeletal growing up) until after high school. My first memory of eating inappropriately is when I was in second grade. I was a latchkey kid and when I'd get home, I'd go straight for the silverware drawer and take a spoon into the utility room where my mom stored her off-limits-to-kids tubs of hot cocoa. I would eat spoonfuls of the stuff- I didn't even waste my time adding hot water.

That's the only case, though, where I can trace my eating habits to something that was forbidden. Other than that, food tasted good and I had an endless pit to fill. The vast majority of my life has been spent eating constantly.

I never saw it as a bad habit or came to terms with the fact that food was my "comfort" until I started putting on weight after high school. I recognized that the daily trips through the drive-thru, the general disdain for anything that was healthy, the constant need to be eating was beginning to show on my body. Eating made me feel badly about myself and, at the same time, it was my medication. "I hate that I'm fat, let me go get some fries and dip them in mayo."

For the better part of the past 10 years, I engaged in yo-yo dieting. I'd set a goal, I'd almost reach it, then I'd start eating again. Ice cream if I'm angry, extra butter on my popcorn if I'm happy, second helpings of a fat-laden dinner if I'm sad. It was all interchangeable, it's a bad habit and no matter what I was feeling, I was going to eat in response.

I got a grip on it about a year and a half ago and it really made me start to see bad habits for what they are. No matter how major or minor, it's punishment-plain and simple. Everyone has insecurities they try to mask with whatever they fall back on to feel comfortable. I'd feel down, so I'd go get a Blizzard to feel better. But the only thing that's ever really made me feel better is turning down the Blizzard. The only thing that's ever really given me control is conscious, deliberate action against punishing myself.

Today, I have control of the bad habit and, upon reaching my goal early this year, I've stayed there. It's a struggle every day, just like smoking or drinking. I have to make sure that if I'm taking my kids out for ice cream it's not because I'm depressed. Because, just like that one cigarette (I'm guessing) after several weeks of going smoke-free, if I eat to punish myself just one time, it's a free fall after that (I'll binge) and it is harder to pick myself up every time.

Perhaps I didn't put myself at risk for cancer or fry brain cells. Perhaps when you look at me, you'd never know. But, underneath my clothes, I have a body full of scars that remind me of what I did to myself. For the most part, these scars make me fiercely proud of how strong I am today. Sometimes, they still disgust me, I'm human after all, and they make me want to get in my car and go buy a tub of Ben&Jerry's. I'm not sure it'll ever go away. But, if it weren't for the testing, I'd not have the reminders of how good it feels (beyond the many physical aspects) to lose more than 60 pounds.

I worry sometimes about picking up new forms of punishment. I suspect they're already there and I know what they are and I avoid dealing with them. But I'm so much stronger than I was one year ago or two years ago and I've no doubt that, when the time comes, I'll slay whatever gets in my way.

Enough serious talk. I'm going back to the beginning of this blog. It's only punishment if you acknowledge it as a bad habit and don't like that you succumb to it. This is why Diet Coke is not a bad habit. It makes me feel good. Very, very good. Never bad. Except when I get the headache that is a telltale sign that I've gone without for too long. Diet Coke is not a punishment, it is a reward. For being awesome.

So, if you feel comfortable or just want to sound off, what are your bad habits, insecurities, and, do you think you punish yourself?

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