body positivity · Health at Every Size · mental health · personal life

Why I Want to Change My Relationship with My Body & Food

Katie, a fat white woman, is laughing with her hand on her hip. She is standing outside and wearing denim shorts and a light purple top.

Trigger Warnings: Disordered eating, intentional weight loss, emotional abuse, self harm, suicidality, suicidal thoughts, mental illness.

When I was a kid, diet culture was a family tradition. Almost every adult around me had a toxic relationship with their body and food. I was surrounded by sugar-free candies, Sweet-N-Low, I can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, Skinny Cow, Crystal Light, and diet sodas. In fact, I really thought that Sweet-N-Low and Diet Sodas were “adult foods”. Like when you become an adult, you learn to drive… and bein putting Sweet-N-Low in your coffee and drinking Coke Zero instead of regular Coke.

Hating your body and having a toxic relationship with food was a normal part of adulthood in my eyes. I watched my grandmas and parents and aunts try Atkins and Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and go from Pilates Classes to Zumba classes. As a kid, I was always told that (despite being “chubby”) my body was perfect, but when you see the adults with body similar to yours doing everything they can to change them… even kids are smart enough to read between the lines.

When I finished meals, I would sneak food at night. I would quietly slip downstairs and binge eat whatever food we had. I had come to learn that the less food you could survive on, the better. So anything more was shameful and done in secret. This binge eating behavior was one that has followed me throughout my life.

It also didn’t help that as a preteen, my gramma brought me to Barnes and Noble, told me to pick whatever book I wanted, but then presented me with “The Diet for Teens Only”. True story. She also would insist on healthy snacks when my sister and I visited while my grandfather snuck us candies and ice cream. This was just more proof to me that eating foods like this was something that should be done in secret.

I’m not blaming my relationship with my body on my family. I truly believe that they were doing the best that they could, and diet culture is a cruel mistress. I just think that it set the foundation and core belief in my life that fatness is to be avoided at all costs. Of course, being bullied in high school and being very aware that I was the biggest of my friends throughout my life.

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In 2016, I lost a substantial amount of weight. And honestly, losing that weight felt like it was proving my beliefs true. Around the same time I lost weight, I was in my very first relationship, I had moved to a new state, I got to travel to Europe, I graduated from college, I was making new friends, I received more compliments about my appearance than I ever had before…

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And I began telling myself the story that I had bettered myself. I was better because I was thinner.

But life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed, even to me. My relationship was far from perfect, and to keep and maintain the weight loss, I was barely eating and exercising for hours a day, while still binge eating in secret. I asked my ex if he would still love me if I gained the weight back, and his response was “You won’t gain the weight back.”

Because of this, I was terrified to gain the weight back, and was doing everything in my power to continue losing the weight and keep it off.

But surprise surprise… the weight loss was not sustainable. Especially after experiencing trauma. I gained the weight back.

And in the years that have followed, I’ve gained more and more weight.

When I underwent more trauma in 2019, I gained weight. When COVID hit and I was isolated for almost six months, I gained more weight.

But despite this all, I don’t want to try to lose weight. What I’ve learned is that my story is not unique. Oftentimes, weight loss is not sustainable and the majority of diets are unsuccessful or unsustainable.

Something else I’ve learned is that when we talk about the importance of health, we need to include mental health in that conversation. Mental health IS health. If I push myself to try to lose weight, is there actually a war for me to do so without sacrificing my mental health? No. There’s not.

My relationship with food is still difficult. I still struggle with binge eating, specifically using it as an unhealthy coping mechanism. I’ve realized that emotional eating isn’t bad in itself, but when bingeing is used to excessively numb emotions… that’s the problem (at least personally.).

This leads to guilt and shame, and oftentimes, guilt and shame lead to more binge eating. It is such a vicious cycle.

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But this is why I am actively trying to improve my relationship with food and my body. My body has been through so much, and she does so much for me. She also happens to be fat. Why is it that society is so hyper-focused on the fat part instead of all that our bodies are capable of?

Why is fat considered one of the worst things a person can be?

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lgbtqi+ · personal life

Coming Out (Of My Cage and I’ve Been Doing Just Fine)

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. But it still feels strange to tell this as a story – it both feels new and old to my life at the same time. In Summer of 2019, I publically came out as bisexual. It was with a cute post on Facebook with some bisexual memes, and using *NSYNC lyrics (“It ain’t no lie, bi bi bi.” – I never can resist a good pun). I was both terrified and exhilarated when I posted it. But what many people don’t know is that the moment of coming out is nothing compared to the time leading up to when you actually come out. At least for me.

It all started around ten or so years ago. I was a young, very religious Catholic teenager. I went to youth group and mass every week. And I was sexually attracted to girls. And boys. I’m not exactly sure how I realized it, but I knew that I was attracted to both. And I felt broken and gross. I was against gay marriage and fully believed that God meant marriage to be between a man and a woman. So why did I feel this way? Why was I attracted to women? And not just women, but men too. I remember my mom making an off-hand comment one time when I was growing up. She was expressing her confusion and frustration with bisexuality. “Why can’t they just pick one? They just want to have sex with everybody.” She said of people who identified with bisexual. That comment stayed with me for years to come. I was dirty. Something was wrong with me.

I went back and forth between hiding how I felt, and flaunting it. I would talk about how yes, I was attracted to girls, but I was never going to act on the “urge” and was still a model Catholic, maybe even better than a model Catholic, considering this new cross I had to bear.

In high school, my favorite class was Creative Writing. My teacher was openly gay, and his classroom was decorated heavily with rainbows and signs indicating that he was a safe space for his LGBTQ+ students. He also was the teacher in charge of the Gay/Straight Alliance. He and I discussed Church teaching and homosexuality quite often. He was raised Catholic, but hadn’t practiced in years. He was so happy and secure in who he was. He had a husband, a job he was passionate at, and a dog. I was amazed at this, and I think part of the reason I flocked to his classroom multiple times a week, and took Creative Writing every single year, was because it was a comfort to see someone so secure in their sexual identity, when I was so confused about mine, and saw it as the enemy.

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When I was in college, I decided that I had made the whole thing up. I decided that I was experiencing hypersexuality (a symptom of one of my mental illnesses) and that my mom was right – I just wanted to sleep with everyone. I remember even mentioning casually to my friend, who was a lesbian, that for a while, I thought I was gay. But I wasn’t. I mean, I wasn’t wrong, I guess. I’m not gay. I’m bisexual. I’m queer.

After I graduated college, I got into my first relationship with my now ex-boyfriend. He was my first… everything. First kiss, etcetera. I loved him. I loved being with him. I was relieved to discover that I wasn’t gay – I was with a man! I loved him! I enjoyed being with him! It was all a phase.

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Except it wasn’t. I was still attracted to women in addition to my boyfriend. After we broke up, I dated a few men casually. I was attracted to and enjoyed being with all of them. Yep. Definitely not gay! Just… I thought women were super hot too?

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In February of 2019, on a work volunteer trip, it all of the sudden clicked that I was bisexual. I remember saying it out loud, and it felt like everything just fell into place, and years of questioning and pretending all made sense. I remember crying, because I felt such a sense of relief. I finally, truly was able to accept and come out to myself. I texted my best friend at the time and my mom that night and came out to them. I was kind of nervous about telling my mom, but she and I are very close, and I tell her everything, almost to a fault. She reacted with so much love, asking “Is there a special girl?” I felt so relieved that she responded so warmly. I even told her about how I struggled with accepting my identity due to the comment she made years prior. She apologized, and told me that she had grown and learned a lot since then, and didn’t think that way anymore. I know I am so, so lucky to have her.

But my fear stayed about coming out to other friends and family members. I come from a big, Irish and Italian Catholic family, and I was afraid of what they would say. Though I’m not religious any more, many of my closest friends still are, and my sister is a Catholic missionary. Would they shun me immediately? Should I still try to hide who I was?

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I decided to come out in person to my closest friends and sister, and asked my mom to tell some family members I was nervous about telling. I remember telling my sister, and she just smiled. She told me she had had a feeling for a long time. Apparently my “hypothetical” questions of “If I was gay…” that I had asked her when I was a teenager never fooled her. My closest friends all responded with such love and acceptance, and some with excitement and joy, because they could tell how important this was to me. Once I had told everyone that I wanted to, I decided to wait and see if I wanted to publically come out. Part of me wondered if there was a point. I wasn’t dating anyone. I thought that maybe I should just wait and see if I ever got into a relationship with a woman, and then come out. After a few months, I came to the conclusion that being publically out and upfront about being bisexual was a vital part in learning to fully love and accept myself.

And so… I came out. I’m so grateful that it was something I was able to do with complete clarity of who I am. But, I’m even more grateful (and extremely privileged!!!) to have such wonderful family and friends who surrounded me with so much love and support. I believe there are some people that used to be in my life that no longer associate with me because of my sexuality, but that’s okay. Something I realized while deciding whether or not to publically come out was that the people who saw me any differently because I was bisexual were not people I wanted in my life. Sure, it makes me sad sometimes to think that this was something so upsetting to people who were once so important to me, but I can’t control how they feel about it.

Coming out is a process. It’s a journey all in its own, and everybody’s journey is different. If you are struggling with deciding if you should come out or not, know that you don’t owe anybody anything, especially not your sexuality. When you come out, make ure you’re coming out for you. Only do it if you feel secure and safe and as an act of self-love. When you do come out, your story isn’t going to look like mine, because you aren’t me. You are worthy, whether you are in the closet or if you’re out. You are valid, whether you are in the closet or if you’re out. When you’re ready, we’re here. But until then, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.