Hunger-Roxane Gay

I have just finished ‘Hunger’ by Roxane Gay, and am feeling a plethora of emotions. I too have had a complicated history with food, created by trauma. I was on an eating disorder unit at fourteen, and rather than healing, I learnt a heap of new tricks to stave off weight. I chose to starve myself, in an attempt to deny the emotional pain of its sustenance. I also had bulimia. Some of my friends were frail, too weak to move out of bed. A few of my friends were at the other end of the spectrum, the weight providing a cocoon. One of my friends, Annie, had a complicated relationship with her abusive mother. A young woman in her twenties, she suffered the indignity of having to be weighed at the train station on their luggage scales. Her eyes were azure-blue, and boy, we had fun, making the best of a bad situation. She and I would have food fights in the day, and give each other facials of an evening. Annie was one of the most beautiful people I have ever known, taking this kid under her wing.

I learnt a lot about how it feels to carry extra weight, and the outrageous discrimination she faced. People didn’t really see her; they didn’t give themselves the chance to delight in the intelligence and compassion she conveyed in conversation. Over the months, the weight fell off her, but as we all know, the fight after the fight is the hardest of all. As she said to me, there was anger at those whom sought her out where once she had been discarded. It were as though they now deemed her worthy. The memories and emotions long suppressed, rose to the surface of her being, and now had to be dealt with. I lost touch with Annie after our time together, though think of her often.

As an adult, I have had friends who felt unsafe to sit in my dining chairs, lest they break, and I couldn’t blame them. I turned my chairs over, and noted that they were flimsy, a single bolt holding the structure together. I felt angry on their behalf. Life shouldnt be such a battle, and everything from airlines, buses, and cinema seating is so tiny, particularly when armrests are featured. I immediately replaced my seats, going to an op shop and buying a dining set made of solid timber. My guests can now sit and chat without being uncomfortable. Roxane’s book reiterates the challenges and judgements that befall a larger person. It shouldn’t be this way, not in this day and age. I long for the day when we really see each other and also our intrinsic worth.

 

Self-Acceptance

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I have had my weight remarked on twice in the past week. “Have you lost weight? You look like you have.” It was meant to commend me, most likely on an imaginary stringent diet and ruthless exercise regime. It had the opposite effect. Was I considered overweight before? Not as acceptable? My weight is like the tide, it fluctuates. I don’t weigh myself, nor focus on my weight. I couldn’t give a flying fig, frankly. I need to walk and do weight’s to combat insulin resistance and fragile bones. That is all.

I am a busy lady, and any available head space is filled with other concerns. I think of my friend with liver disease, who is doing everything in her power to keep well. The friend undergoing chemotherapy. So many friends enduring pain and illness. I think of friendship and shared meals and toasting with a good drop of wine. Weight is rarely stable for anyone. Surgery, illness, puberty, pregnancy, infertility treatments, menopause and a perfect storm of endocrine issues sees to that. My aim is to live and do it well. I remember being an adolescent, and feeling empowered by how underweight I was. Filling myself with water before the dreaded weigh-in, eating a dreadful concoction for breakfast that the other girls insisted set like cement and filled you up for the day. Walks were treks of pain, lasting hours. I can’t recall noticing anything of beauty on these hikes. That wasn’t the purpose of undergoing them.

Time has changed everything. I walk with my little girl, holding her hand. I actually take deep, fresh pockets of air into my lungs. I notice beauty. If I were to focus on my weight, I wouldn’t have time to live. I have been there, taking my pocket calorie counter to the shops, weighing and examining everything I encountered. I ended up sick and depressed. It was the opposite of life.