I have been spinning for a few years now. I can’t say I took to it right away, since the seat jabbed into my crotch and it was really quite uncomfortable. In fact I may have thought, “Why would anyone want to do this?” But after a few sessions, I was hooked. By hooked, I don’t mean that I always attend regularly. I have periods where I go several times a week, and months where I drop off. Currently I am going only once weekly. What I love about spinning is pushing my body to the utmost limits; watching drops of sweat fall first on the bike, then onto the floor; and of course the competition. Because I am racing every person in there, whether they know it or not. Also, I’m the fattest one in class, and have been nearly every class, for all three years.
When I told my spin instructor I needed her to take my picture for this article and what the article was about, she said, “No, you’re not.” I pointed out that yes, indeed I am in fact the fattest one. She said she had never thought about that. The truth is I don’t really think about it either. I proudly strut through the gym, my towel and two waters in my hands, toward the spin room and take a bike in the front row, center. Then I spin my ass off and at the end, when I’m stretching, I look around to see how much sweat everyone else has, and I think to myself, “I’m one of the strongest and fastest.” And it’s true.
So why am I writing this? It’s not because I want to be a fat activist. I don’t advocate for being fat. It’s because my life’s work is to own my shit, face my messy truth, live it, and help others do the same. It’s called acceptance. People often think of acceptance as complacency. “How can you possibly accept being fat? If you accept it, you’ll stay that way forever.” Untruth. Acceptance is a key ingredient to change. The simple formula for change is: seeing, owning, doing, or in other words: awareness, acceptance, action. I can be overweight and fully accept it, learn to live with it, not hate it, and still want to make it not so.
Being fat is a burden. Being fat is not a choice, for most people. Most people do not want to be fat. It is not an enjoyable thing for most of us. Personally, I can say that having an internal struggle between what I want and what I do that has been going on for the last thirty-seven or so years is not what I would choose. Not even close to what I would choose. Being judged, being looked at negatively, having assumptions made about me is also not something I would choose. Here it is: I have an eating disorder. Binge-Eating Disorder, otherwise known as BED. This means, for me anyway, that there are days when I will eat uncontrollably, mostly unhealthy food, mostly later in the evening. There have been times in my life when it’s been in remission, but for the most part it happens at least once, usually more, and up to seven times a week.
I recall seeing my ob-gyn back when I was about 28 years old and we discussed my weight. He asked me the usual questions: do you eat healthy? Yes, very, lots of vegetables. Do you exercise? Yes, I exercise regularly. Why do you think you’re overweight? Because I binge eat several times a week. Ah, he said. That’s a tough one. Indeed. It is a very “tough one.” I used to have a big old chip on my shoulder about BED. Like, why can’t I at least throw up after? People who have bulimia have it made, I would think. No one even knows they have it because they aren’t fat. Similarly, people with depression or anxiety, even schizophrenia don’t necessarily display their mental illness. But every single day, I get up and I wear my eating disorder. Sure, others don’t know exactly that it’s binge eating. But they know I have a problem controlling my food intake, and it’s seen as a flaw. They don’t see that I eat 90% vegan, that I exercise mostly regularly, or that what I put into my body is really very important to me. They see fat. Note to those of you struggling with other demons like the ones I just mentioned, I know that your journey is every bit as hard as mine. And I write this for you as well.
Awareness: I know that I binge and that it makes me gain weight and that makes me unhappy.
Acceptance: I fully accept that I have BED and that I am overweight. I choose to live my life in a way that honors who I am and all I do, despite BED.
Action: Sigh. If you’re overweight, you know how this one goes: The lifelong struggle of countless diet and exercise programs. I have read more books on how to lose weight and stopping binge eating than I care to even think about. Yet, still I binge.
The messy truth: being overweight is incredibly painful. Even as I write these words, I choke up. I have been essentially “told” since I was a little girl that fat was bad and since I am fat, the only determination I could make was Julie=Bad. Even after years of working on myself, training as a therapist, having a therapist, I still have a part that feels bad. And I know that many of you feel the same exact way. I have a client with BED. She equates being fat with being poor, and being thin with being rich. She has worked diligently to change that framework within her mind because of course life isn’t all bad or all good, and we are made up of different parts; some we find easier to live with and some that are more challenging.
And so I spin, in the front row. And I bike, and kayak, and travel and do lots of other things and I truly enjoy myself. I know that I’m talented in my work. I work incredibly hard and I find passion and excitement at many turns in life. But a part of me still feels broken. The work must continue and I accept this.