My 19-Pound Cat's Back On a Diet (And, Uh... So Am I)

Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my partner in which I'd announced that I had decided that I was going to accept my body at this larger size if it meant that I could just live my life eating normally and he was fucking elated. Now I'm all like, "Uh, nevermindsies."
Publish date:
December 4, 2012
diets, body image, pets

We'll come back to the second part of that headline. First, let me distract you with a cute picture of me and my fat orange cat Jimbo at the vet on Saturday.

We were bored waiting for the vet to come in. Jimbo wasn't even freaked out like he usually is, I assume because living with a toddler has inured him to lesser terrors. I, however, was completely terrified, because I knew I was gonna be in serious trouble once they got that pile of fur on the scale.

You may recall that Jimbo was humiliatingly fat-shamed at his last vet appointment. To recap: The vet said Jimbo needs to lose weight. She patted his fat belly, I thought rudely. They further demeaned him by shaving a patch of his fur off while they were vaccinating him. We were told to put him on a paltry half-cup-of-chow a day diet, thus sucking much of the purpose from his life.

And we really did what we were told! We ignored his pathetic mewling, his blatant attempts to destroy the things we love by knocking them off high surfaces, the midnight toe bitings aimed at forcing us to get out of bed and give him MORE GODDAMN FOOD already. He even lost a few pounds. We were well on our way to a glowing review from that nasty ol' veterinarian.

Then we got a baby. Or, as I cutely put it at the vet, "Jimbo got a human brother this year." Yeah, I speak cat lady.

Jimbo was briefly neglected, then permanently ousted from his throne as the most pampered and fussed-over creature in our home. We are careful to spend a portion of time each day stroking and paying attention to solely him, but he knew. His reign was over, the new ruler had very cute feet.

It must have been painful, but he soldiered bravely on, even as the small despot began to notice him, then obsess over him, creeping up to his sleeping form in an attempt to grab great handfuls of fur while screaming CAT CAT CAT CAT CAT in his nearly unintelligible infant garble. He began to isolate himself in the kitchen, the one spot where a baby gate kept him safe from the small person's overzealous love. His world shrank; life as he had once known it was over.

And so we compensated with food.

I'm SORRY your new roommate is loud and boisterous and attention-sucking and also that he does not at all know what we're talking about when we say "GENTLE RUBS" -- HERE'S ANOTHER SCOOP OF FOOD. Sorry again.

And it was this series of little apologies that led to the number we saw on the scale on Saturday: 19.31 pounds, up from the 18 we were already in trouble for. SORRY.

So the cat's back on a diet, and here's the part I didn't want to tell you about at all -- so am I. And not because I've had any great reversal of perspective. Remember this guy?

I still believe in that guy. I still think it's impossible for me to truly recover from my food issues while on a traditional weight-loss plan. I still believe that being on a diet completely divorces eating from hunger for me as surely as binge eating does. I still think that dieting is for me a losing game that sets me up to binge and ultimately purge. I see that the cycle is endless.

And yet, a few weeks ago, I rejoined Weight Watchers. My vague plan was to keep it a secret from everyone I know forever and ever. But for someone whose last big secret was a daily cocaine habit, I know it's not a hot look for me. Plus, I kept wanting to tell you guys about this super awesome app WW has now where you just scan a product's barcode and the points pop up, and I COULDN'T because I wasn't supposed to be dieting! Torture!

Besides, I tell you bitches everything. So I'm coming clean, but I don't really have much to say for myself. I fully recognize that I am not making the healthiest long-term choice for me.

It's a little awkward -- Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my partner in which I'd announced that I had decided that I was going to accept my body at this larger size if it meant that I could just live my life eating normally and he was fucking elated. Now I'm all like, "Uh, nevermindsies."

I recognize that I have wasted an inordinate amount of time over the past decade losing and putting back on the same 20 pounds and that my life would ultimately be happier if I could just accept myself at the top of my range and skip the endless whittling and regaining. And I guess that's where I'm getting stuck -- if I could just accept myself.

I can't right now, ya'll.

I'm going through a feelings thing right now, and I just can't handle the additional noise in my head around this "extra" weight. Extra is in quotation marks since it's becoming obvious that this larger size is the natural state of my body and that the smaller size is achieved through extreme and systematic deprivation.

Intellectually, I can tell that I look fine, even pretty, as a size 14, just as I did as a size 10. Emotionally, I feel extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. It's difficult for me to walk down the street, to be seen by people at my current size. On bad days, my brain loops in a chorus of "DON'T LOOK AT ME I HATE MYSELF" from morning to night. To make matters worse, I feel self-loathing about the amount of self-loathing that I have been feeling about something so inconsequential.

I know that the self-loathing is its own kind of addiction, a way to block out the scary emotions like sadness and anger and loss, feelings that are scarier than the old familiar feeling of hating myself. But as an addiction, self-loathing is cunning and powerful and I don't know if I have the strength to battle it yet.

And if there's one thing I've learned as a cross-addict is that sometimes you have to focus on what seems like it's going to kill you first and put a bunch of other fucked-up shit on the back burner. And that the road to recovery is circuitous, that sometimes you need to try to quit something/almost quit something/quit something and restart it many times over before you manage to quit for good. This is a step back in my journey, but I'm still on the right road.

As Lesley put it in her last advice letter to me (I'm SORRY TO YOU MOST OF ALL, LESLEY), Weight Watchers is, for me, "a comfortable and methodical means of organizing [my] eating in a way that both satisfies the ED gremlin in [my] head, and does not challenge [me] to listen to [my] body’s natural hunger cues. Everything is laid out for [me]. All [I] need to do is obey."

The key word for me right now is "comfortable." For right or wrong, the diet feels like a safe place for me. I guess I need one right now.

@msemilymccombs is secretly dieting on Twitter.