I love Jewel. Go f$%6 yourself. I love running to Jewel at the end of my workouts, cooling down while simultaneously basking in the imperfections of her folky, yodel-y, touchy-feely birdvoice. And I love the song Goodbye Alice in Wonderland; it is my story. As my bad knee started to kick in at the end of my run, and I rounded past the cemetery back to my apartment, her voice warbled into my ears,
Fame is filled with spoiled children
We grow fat on fantasy
And internally, I stopped;
because that was the story of my food addiction.
I grew up with big dreams. I dreamt of becoming a musical theater star, and of falling in love with the perfect man at 25 and having this perfect family that would make up for any trauma I experienced. I dreamt of leaving the little town I grew up in and never fit into, and moving to the big city and showing everyone that I was really meant for something bigger.
The problem with big dreams and being a big dreamer is that you often live not in the real world but inside your head, and you don’t seek outside help or opinions and ideas. You rely on magazines and images and other people’s injured self-esteem to tell you what is right and standard and spin a world so small that you can’t see outside of it.
Translation? I thought I had to do it all perfectly, and look like the 113 lb, 5 foot 11 chick in People (yes, they used to post their weights in the 90’s, and yes, I remember it because I will always have an eating disorder I am grateful for). And I did it! I lost 65 lbs in five months, because that’s what it took to fit in and be beautiful and be happy.
You see, I was “fat on fantasy”, just like Jewel said. Because things were sad, and disappointing, and just plain tragic growing up, I escaped into fantasy. It’s all I had, before I realized I could escape into food. I escaped into the glamorous life I would lead someday, being successful and perfect and beautiful and therefore worthy of some man’s love.
And in that fantasy, I despised fat. Fat meant failure and disappointment and wanting too much and loss. But I was wrong; physical fat isn’t bad; it’s just fat. Yellow, squishy fat. But what was bad and what was hurting me was the fat fantasy I lived on. I didn’t live in reality. Into my twenties, I lived in a world where I rehearsed social situations and scenes that never took place because I was scared shitless to step outside of it. Things were dramatic and romantic and dreamy in my head, and messy and unpredictable and scary outside of it. And the more I expected my reality to be like my fantasy, the more I starved and binged. It isolated me from that messy, unpredictable world – when I used behaviors, I didn’t have to feel anything.
I think I’ve gotten better. I know I’ve gotten better. When I first put down unhealthy behaviors, I could barely carry on a conversation for fear of what others thought of me; now I can banter a bit better. But my “fat fantasy” still remains in bits and pieces – it’s there when I expect my relationship to be perfect 24/7 in order for it to be long-term, or when I think everyone should act perfectly at a party I host. The fantasy still bugs me.
And poor fat! I projected all of this fantasy onto fat, this morally-meaningless substance and made it bad. When you know what? It never was. It just sat there. And it sits beautifully on me and others today. Today, I understand that a size 14 woman who is honest with herself is way better off than a size 2 who isn’t. It may sound trite, but it took me a long time to get there.
So to those who get annoyed by my truth-telling; I do it because it’s hard and because I can’t afford to grow fat on fantasy again. I do it because I see the world as it is, not as it should be or how my partner wants to see it or how it might look with an Instagram lens. I do it because it’s how we move forward. I do it to survive.
And I keep running.