Monday, December 18, 2006

This Just In... No More Meat, Rice, Pasta for Bochog!

It is a testament to my sad, sorry, defensive state that I am referring to myself in the 3rd person. As we all know, no one of sound mind does this. Let me amend that, no non-celebrity of sound mind refers to herself in the 3rd person. (I make this necessary amendment because I have heard through the grapevine that Ate Vi, bless her, calls herself "Vilma Santos." When asked to endorse a laundry bar, she apparently said, "Parang hindi naglalaba si Vilma Santos gamit ang kamay. Kung maglalaba si Vilma Santos, siguro gagamit siya ng washing machine." Let me take a moment to, in internet speak, ROTFLMAO. I don't know if this is true, and I don't particularly care. It's a hilarious story.).

But back to more serious matters, the kind that make people ponder metaphysical questions. In particular, what is identity? How is one's identity connected to the container one is housed in, ie one's body?

I ask these questions because I have just been told by the doctor to lose weight. Now, this is not a rare occurence. I have been told all my life to lose weight by doctors and non-doctors alike, by people I know and virtual strangers, by people who truly care and those who only care to expound on the virtues of being... not fat (in sum, that one would be more attractive and that from this increase in attractiveness, everything else will follow: boyfriend, husband, family, success, great life--hell, maybe even a spot in heaven!).

Most times, I am able to shrug these things off. I just tell people that I'm happy with myself and they are free to make of it what they will. This time, I couldn't dismiss the doctor telling me to lose weight because it wasn't so much being told to lose weight that bothered me, it was being told to, ahem, cut portions. Specifically, cut rice and pasta portions. And no pork, he said. Fish and chicken and veggies and fruits (except the ones that are too sweet) are all right. But no meat. No meat.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present... the Devil in a White Coat. Fancying telling me not to eat meat anymore. Not to cook pasta. The horror! Telling me to find another hobby besides food and cooking and eating. Que barbaridad! Even asking me if I have an eating disorder (his exact words were, "hindi ka ba yung tipong kumakain ng marami tapos isusuka?" Uh, you mean, am I bulimic? A great, big DUH!!! to you, Doc. If I were bulimic, that would suck 'cause, basically, all that purging obviously doesn't work and I'm still fat. A fat bulimic. That's a funny oxymoron right there. I'd be laughing my lardy ass off if it weren't my gastronomic future on the line). I told Doc Devil that I'm very well-adjusted, thank you. To which he said, "Mukha ngang masaya ka sa sarili mo." I don't know if he was being sarcastic but I take that as a compliment because I am happy with myself. It's just other people who sometimes aren't happy with me.

Don't get me wrong. Doc Devil wasn't mean. In fact, he seemed genuinely concerned. It's just that I feel that the minute he saw me, he automatically went on a crusade to get me to lose weight and virtually reduced my health issues to the fact of being big. And while I do think his dietary suggestions are valid (in fact, since Friday I have been eating no more than 1 cup of rice every meal instead of my usual, uh, 2 plates . I feel--quite rightly--self-congratulatory.), I think it was simplistic of him to blame my weight for my stuffy nose and scratchy throat. Another great, big DUHHH!!! Ever heard of a viral infection, Doc? No? Maybe you should go back to med school then.

I do know that I get very defensive when people comment and ask about my bigness. I get especially prickly when people tell me maybe I should lose weight. It's classical conditioning. People tell me I'm too big, which elicits a conditioned response of bristling resentment. People often talk about finding it hard to like and love themselves. I've never found it hard. I've always liked me, enjoyed my own company, thought myself deserving of anything I seek and work to have, and loved me. That hasn't been hard at all. It also hasn't been hard accepting the reality that not many people will probably like and love me to the same extent that I do myself. I have been ok with that fact. What I am not ok with and probably will never be ok with is the cavalier way with which people seek to impose their standards of beauty, sometimes disguised as concern for my health, on me when I take great pains to let them be. Be beautiful, be ugly. Be smart, be stupid. Be anything. (To illustrate: I don't tell people, "maybe you should try to be smarter." Or, "you'd be more attractive if you changed your face." That would be downright mean. What people don't get is that it's the same kind of mean to tell someone she'd be more attractive if she lost weight. Because then you assume that the person you're concerned about holds the same views about herself that you hold, ie that she is not smart enough, not pretty enough, not anything enough. Why would anyone make, let alone articulate, such harsh assumptions?).

I don't like being told what to do and how to be. I know this. It is almost pathological. My professor told me that things "told" me should be couched in egalitarian terms, terms that speak nothing of power imbalances, hierarchical relationships, and societal standards of being and worth.

I am trying to be pragmatic (for once in my life) and reasonable about it. Which means I have to take off my political/ideological lenses and view the matter from a more, er, neutral health perspective. (And no, I won't question the assumption that a health perspective is politically neutral. 'Cause this post is never going to end if I do that). I have a particular health concern, ie kabag (which is going away now, thank you). It may be an acute reaction to something (a virus or whatever) or it may be a symptom of an underlying digestive problem brought about by my fondness for food that's not, shall we say, optimal for health. What to do then? It pains me to say it but Food and I? We're gonna have to COMPROMISE.

So I will try to cut my rice portions to 1 cup per meal and my pasta portions to a single serving (around 100 grams, according to most cookbooks). Our bi-monthly menu only includes 2-3 pork dishes, of which I hope to limit myself again to only one serving. (When I say single serving, I mean a normal-sized portion and not my usual family-sized portions.). I've actually been eating more fish, veggies, and fruits so that's not really a problem. As for exercise, I'm going to continue strutting my beautiful bum around my village, maybe just more regularly.

But I say this now, I don't plan to ever swear off pork and rice and pizza and pasta. Doing so would guarantee the failure of this compromise agreement. I love food and I'll never force myself to stop loving food. That's non-negotiable. Maybe it's a matter of loving not just with my heart and gut but also with my head.

Like I told my Ditchie and Claire, though, I see hard times ahead. I see possible bouts of anger and depression. I see philosophical railings and metaphysical meanderings all in the name of food and weight and identity and love. Such is the nature of a committed relationship, I guess. It evolves, and you have to make certain changes to keep it going. Of course, just writing this makes me sad all over again. Reminds me of Shakespeare's idea of love:

Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no! It is an ever fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Losing Eat

I was struck by a viral infection that rendered me housebound for the better part of November, with only enough energy to sleep a lot and eat a little. I'll say that again. Eat A LITTLE. Up to now, I still can't quite believe that I went through a period of time not feeling like eating. Not wanting food, or needing it, or loving it, or having any kind of emotion about it. This, to state the obvious (something that I like to do every now and then), was uncharacteristic of me. It had never happened, in fact. I've felt worse in the past and have actually been sick with gastroenteritis (which I believe is God's punishment for eating indiscriminately). But even during that hellish period of alternating nausea and diarrhea punctuated by 3 needle shots, I still found in me the will to eat. For about one week last month, I lost it. I lost the will to eat.

This is how it happened. My loving, generous mother came home from Hong Kong bearing the gift of Zhen de Shou, a Chinese herbal supplement that purportedly helps one lose weight. My mom, bless her, had taken it upon herself to help us, her three daughters, lose weight. Not that we were begging for help. In fact, not that we were trying to lose weight either. Well, maybe my two sisters. Kinda. It's just that my mother is one of those people who believe that people are more beautiful when they're not fat. She thinks we're beautiful, yes. But I think she believes that we'd be downright ravishing if only we lost a bit of weight (in my case, a LOT of weight). I don't have the heart to tell her that being downright ravishing requires not just a certain weight but also a certain mien, an oomph that not everyone who's beautiful and thin may have. (Case in point, Lani Mercado, objectively a beautiful woman but, also objectively, about as 3D, sexy, and ravishing as a thumb tack). I just don't have that oomph. Maybe my sisters. But me? Not so much.

But when your mother brings home a month's worth of herbal supplements that cost quite a bit of money, you do not say no. You do not go into a pseudo-feminist rant about restrictive standards of beauty. Instead, you say, "Ok. Thanks, Mama. Love you. This doesn't have side effects naman, di ba?" And even though you rarely pray these days, you say a quick but heartfelt prayer that this works. If not for you, then for your mom. Who's obviously desperate about YOUR weight.

So I took them pills for three days. And on the 3rd day, God created Bochog's Loss of Appetite, a state or condition characterised by a lassitude that cannot be accounted for by a simple viral infection. Such lassitude includes an alarming apathy towards food and a similar disinterest in any kind of activity that constitutes the concept of LIVING. I did not feel like moving, dreaming, thinking, eating. I did not feel like doing anything.

The Loss of Appetite terrified me and prompted me to quit taking the pills and go to the hospital. The doctors at the hospital thought it was just another symptom of the viral infection. But when I asked my sisters, they said they were also feeling the same inertia. Mine was just worse because I was already sick with the viral thingy (I just didn't know it). I think also that my experience was worse because you do not go from thinking the world of food to not having any kind of thought or feeling about it in zero seconds flat. That just doesn't happen. Needless to say, my sisters quit too. And Ate My urged Mama to stop taking the pills. Turns out, Mama was feeling those things too. Except she was attributing them to high BP. When Ate My told her what happened, she realized it was those bleeding Zhen de Shou supplements. They make you lose weight, all right. They do it by making you lose your joie de vivre and turning you into a zombie. Or an anorexic trapped in the body of a fat girl. To which I say, no thanks. I'd rather be fat, passably pretty, and happy. I don't need to be thin and drop dead gorgeous.

So now we have around a dozen unopened boxes of those blasted pills. I'm not even going to give them to anyone. They're horrible. My sisters and I have never been so happy about quitting anything. Quitting those pills was like quitting sadness. And I'll always quit that.