The Goddess Speaks
Note to self: Avoid the gym in Bulgaria
Three years ago, I was blissfully un-obsessed with my weight. Even though friends would call me "Stumpy" and say, "Nice transvestite legs" whenever I'd wear heals, insecurities didn't make my substantial list of mental problems.
Then I moved to Bulgaria, gained 15 pounds and became borderline obese by Bulgarian standards. My diet was almost vegan, I ran a marathon in Athens and I was in a healthy weight bracket, yet comments such as, "How do you run and STILL get fatter?" and "How can you stand to be so fat?" convinced me I was indeed overweight and that this was unacceptable.
Most often, women at the gym made these comments, and I feared the day when they might hold me down and pour Super Fat Burner Plus into my mouth, crisis-intervention style. I'd shudder with cultural incomprehension as ladies would lift their shirts and compare nonexistent fat rolls. "I'm like a Shar Pei," one would say, pinching a millimeter of taut skin. Only recently have eating disorders come out in Bulgaria as a mental health issue -- this is a place where women would go on the "Moon Diet" (not eating whenever the moon was in the solar system).
I had to move to Bulgaria to deeply understand the negative way healthy-size American women feel about their bodies. We say Nicole Richie and the Olsen twins (whose combined weight, including Nicole's unborn baby, equals mine) are grotesquely "too skinny" -- but I imagine many women would rather have their problem than struggle to get down to their own delusion of an "ideal weight."
EVEN after I left Bulgaria, my ideal weight would get lower with every pound I lost. I continued hearing Bulgarian voices in my head saying, "It's amazing how fat you are!"
I hated who I became in Bulgaria. I hated not being able to eat ice cream without feeling guilty. I hated that despite everything I knew about pathological eating behavior and dysmorphic body image, I couldn't out-reason myself from irrational self-loathing.
After seven months of being back in the motherland, I have finally stopped wasting massive amounts of psychic energy letting my weight define me. It has been incredibly difficult overcoming my post-Bulgaria fat disorder -- sometimes I slip back into old thinking.
I can't believe all the joy I let those voices steal -- the voices we all let steal our joy. Even if I was overweight -- that was an inane reason to feel so terribly (especially when you work with starving kids).
Trying to lose weight from a dark place is impossible. In a good head, without stress chemicals coursing through my blood, I have lost weight. When friends ask how, I say I eat more, drink excessively and run bimonthly -- most important, I do my best to kill every disgusted thought directed at my body. I am happier. And happiness weighs less.
Jennifer Meleana Hee
is a freelancer/housewife/ recovering Peace Corps volunteer. Read her blog at www.jennmeleana.com
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